Monday, 26 January 2009

Good start, keep it up

As someone who is officially disillusioned with Obama, I'm willing to satate I'm impressed with the start he's made. A lot of it has simply been deft image stuff - announcing the closure of Guantanamo on Day 2, even though it will be operating for up to a year. But when the image of a regime, and by association the country that it governs, is as tarnished as that of the US government's, even restoring that image is a worthy task.

So good the good stuff, with caveats:
  • Ordering the closure of Guantanamo Bay. Great, but we were expecting more following the buzz about it being done in the first hundred days, or shortly thereafter. Instead, the camp remains operation for almost four times as long - but so low had the US government sunk, even this feels like a courageous act of humanity (1).
  • Banning torture. Again, good. Only it shouldn't have been done in the first place. So once again, restoring the norm in a civilised country has the whiff of dangerous radicalism about it (2).
  • Closing the CIA secret prisons. See above (3).
  • Reversing Bush's ban on overseas abortion funding. THis is probably the best thing he's done, something that will have a huge impact on the lives of millions in the third world. And unlike closing Gitmo or stopping enhanced interrogation torture, it took real courage, as it will hand the Religious/Conservative fringe a big stick to beat him with: "Obama ... KILLS BABIES" (4).

With regards the final point, it should be remembered that anything that annoys the Religious/Conservative fringe is generally a Good Thing. In the USA, however, it takes rare courage to do something that is going to make them hate you forever.

So, a good start. But he needs to carry on. For there is an awful lot of debris from the Bush years to be cleared up, just to get the USA back to where it was at the end of the CLinton years. And even that won't be enough in the face of climate change, terrorism, peak oil and whatever else may be.

Final thought - selecting tags for this post, I was suddenly struck that this might be the first time I've applied the 'Human Rights' tag to mark an IMPROVEMENT - however slight - in how we're treating each other.

So once more, with feeling - KEEP IT UP.

1 - "Obama Orders Guantanamo Closure, Interrogation Changes," by Greg Miller and Julian E. Barnes, published in the Business Mirror, 23rd of January, 2009. (http://businessmirror.com.ph/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=5043:obama-orders-guantanamo-closure-interrogation-changes-&catid=23:topnews&Itemid=58)
2 - Op. Cit.
3 - Op. Cit.
4 - "Obama reverses Bush's ban on abortion funding abroad," unattributed CBC News article, published 23rd of January, 2009. (
http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2009/01/23/obama-abortion.html?ref=rss)

Irvingism I: "There is no Hitler order"

The much sought 'Hitler Order' is the direct arder, from Hitler, commanding the eradication of the Jews of Europe. Without it, Holocaust deniers say (1), there exist doubt as to whether the Holocaust, as organised policy, happened, and that Hitler knew anything about it.

I'm convinced the Holocaust happened and I'm convinced Hitler had knowledge of it. Why? Because he was a raving anti-Semite, who stated that he wanted to purge Europe of Jews. And, bluntly, he was the Furher. Claiming Himmler and Heydrich could have conducted the Holocaust without Hitler knowing anything is absurd.

Which brings us to the non-existance of the Hitler Order. But does it have to exist? It is reasonable to assume Hitler had knowledge of the Holocaust and it could not have happened without his authorisation, regardless of whether a physical copy of the order is ever located - unless good evidence to the contrary can be produced. If deniers going to argue that Hitler didn't know about it, they need to provide that evidence - and not just vague waffle and photographs of Hitler with Jewish Children (2). Something along the lines of an entry in Himmler's diary, reading, "Ordered the liquidation of Europe's Jews. Must remember to not tell Adolf, the damn Jew-lover is such a softy" would suffice. But that has also proved elusive.

This is where the Holocaust denier's 'logic' turns against them. They maintain that the lack of a Furhrer order shows that the Holocaust happened (assuming they grant that much) without Hitler's knowledge or approval - but they have no evidence to support this contention. The Holocaust undoubtedly did happen - there is a wealth of evidence that testifies to that. Claiming it occurred without Hitler's approval is a remarkable claim, and - to quote the 'hard core disbeliever' (3), David Irving, if they are going to make that claim, "The ball is in their court" (4).

From this double standard we can learn a lot about the psychology and the aims of the Holocaust deniers. This is something that happens over and again in the dark world of denierist nonsense - something as strongly evidenced as tha organised and deliberate slaughter of six million people is questioned, but an absurd and unsubstantiated claim that it might have happened without Hitler's knowledge and approval is immediately accepted as valid, even if there is nothing to support it.

So we canb say, safely, that anyone who puts forward the argument that there is no Hitler Order is attempting to confuse the issue. It doesn't matter that there is no Hitler Order. There doesn't need to be one. The onus is on them to provide positive evidence that Hitler didn't know about the Holocaust.
1 - "The Plum Cake," by John Weir, published on the website of the Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust, no date given. (http://www.codoh.com/revisionist/comment/tr08plumcake.html)
2 - Entry in David Irving's online journal, dated 29th of December, 2007. (http://www.fpp.co.uk/docs/Irving/RadDi/2007/301207.html).
3 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2009/01/david-irving-absolutely-stark-staring.html
4 - From "Introduction to The Leuchter Report," by David Irving, 1989. Reproduced on Irving's website (http://www.fpp.co.uk/Auschwitz/Leuchter/ReportIntro.html).

Irvingisms

I'm starting a new exemplary category, similar to Lurgee's Paradigm (1). The purpose of this is to provide useful examples of the phoney arguments deployed by Holocaust deniers. I'm naming these 'Irvingisms,' in honour of David Irving, the prominent 'hardcore disbeliever' (2), failed libel plaintiff (3), convict (4), and possible madman (5).

Most of the examples will have been dealt with more lucidly and in more detail than I will manage to do so here. But the purpose of the Irvingisms is not to provide detailed, painstaking rebuttal, but t show in broad stokes how flimsy and illogical many of the arguments used by deniers are. So when one of these examples is found in practice, the person making us of it can quickly be dismissed as a denier with nothing worthwhile to say.
1 - Lurgee's Paradigm provided examples of shoddy or disingenuous arguments concerning climate change. Anyone using such tosh to back up their argument could safely be ignored as either an imbecile or a liar. The principle and several examples of Lurgee's Paradigm a described on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/search/label/Lurgee%27s%20Paradigm
2 - Commenting on The Leuchter report, Irving stated, "... there is no significantresidue of cyanidein the brickwork. That's what converted me. When I read that in the reportin the courtroom in Toronto, I became a hard-core disbeliever." This can be found in the Transcript of the documentary, Dr Death, directed by Errol Morris (http://www.script-o-rama.com/movie_scripts/m/mr-death-fred-leuchter-script.html). Given Mr Irving's propensity for launching ill-advised libel actions, I will use his own words to describe his position. Thge coining of the term 'Irvingisms' to describe this category of specious nonsense is merely a tribute to the man who has done so much to discredit the Holocaust denial movement and in no way reflects negatively on the wit, wisdom, or probity of the man himself. I'll let him do that, as he does it far better than I ever could. I seek, in my own way, to emulate his achievements in making the so-called revisionists look like imbeciles.
3 - "Irving loses Holocaust libel case," by Steve Busfield, published in The Guardian, 11th of April, 2000. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2000/apr/11/irving.uk)
4 - "Holocaust denier Irving is jailed," unattributed BBC article, published by the BBC, 20th of February, 2006. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4733820.stm)
5 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2009/01/david-irving-absolutely-stark-staring.html

Saturday, 24 January 2009

I was, of course, right - Fatah fading while Hamas gains

One of the predicted consequences (1) of Israel's incursion into Gaza would be a long term strengthening of Hamas, at the expense of Fatah. Even if Hamas lost a few militants and some of the terrorist leaders of the organisation were killed, and the suffered material setbacks, overall the conflict with Israel would strengthen them.

A violent raid by Israel would lead to a lot of civilian casualties, and create a lot of bitterness and anger. Hamas would seem to be the outlet for this rage, so the organisation quickly recoups whatever it has lost. Also, the inability and unwillingness of Fatah to do anything, while Hamas at least wages the appearance of a fightback, would further strengthen the terrorists in Gaza.

It seems this is coming true more quickly than expected:
The Islamic movement Hamas is taking over from Fatah, the party created by Yasser Arafat, as the main Palestinian national organisation as a result of the war in Gaza, says a leading Fatah militant. "We have moved into the era of Hamas which is now much stronger than it was," said Husam Kadr, a veteran Fatah leader in the West Bank city of Nablus, recently released after five-and-a-half years in Israeli prisons.

"Its era started when Israel attacked Gaza on 27 December."

The sharp decline in support for Fatah and the discrediting of Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, because of his inertia during the 22-day Gaza war, will make it very difficult for the US and the EU to pretend that Fatah are the true representatives of the Palestinian community. The international community is likely to find it impossible to marginalise Hamas in reconstructing Gaza.

"Hamas has been highly successful in portraying itself as the party of the resistance, and Fatah and Mahmoud Abbas as the opponents of resistance at a time [when] the public wants to resist," said Ghassan Khatib, a former Palestinian minister of planning. He adds that Mr Abbas was badly damaged in the eyes of Palestinians when he blamed Hamas for Israel's assault on Gaza in the conflict's first two days. (2)
Which is, of course, why Hamas provoked the conflict in the first place.

The bottom line is that those who cheer on Israel's violevnce in Gaza haven't really got Israel's best interests at heart. Ultimately, only facing up to the issue of the refugees, reparations and dismantling settlements will make Israel safe. As Bruce Anderson pointed out (3) in the Independent a few days ago, the likelihood of Israel being confronted, in the course of the next hundred years, with an enemy armed with something more than a few feeble rockets and suicide bombers is very real. The current Israeli governments are setting their country on the road towards that disaster.

The resort to violence must be viscerally satisfying for a nation under attack - a mentality develops where a vioelnt response is required. Unfortunately, as is being shown in real time in Gaza, this doesn't really work. Both sides are locked up in it, their hatred and anger feeding off each other. Israel, as an organised, unitary nation, has the best opportunity to do somthing to break the cycle. Does she have the leaders? It seems unlikely. Most of the major parties vary only in a few degrees in their intransigance. They know that taking any real action against the West Bank settlements will hand power over to their opponents.

Could a united front be developed, where all parties agree to a set policy on the Palestinian issue and the West Bank settlements? I mean, a sensible one, involving the dismantling of the settlements. This would be worlkable, but it would require all the major parties to admit their policy until now has been wrong. Again, it is hard to see this happening. Israeli politicians aren't any different to any other politicians - some are bound to see the advantages in breaking ranks.

It worked for Ariel Sharon, after all.
1 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2009/01/fisk-on-israeli-invasion.html
2 - "Fatah fears Gaza conflict has put Hamas in the ascendancy," by Patrick Cockburn, published in The Independent, 23rd of January, 2008. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/fatah-fears-gaza-conflict-has-put-hamas-in-the-ascendancy-1513430.html)
3 - "Israel is in danger of fighting the last war, not the next one," by Bruce ANderson, published in The Independent, 5th of January, 2008. (http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/bruce-anderson/bruce-anderson-israel-is-in-danger-of-fighting-the-last-war-not-the-next-one-1225816.html)

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Dead Air by Iain Banks

Dead Air was published in 2003. I got excited about it, even though I had detected a falling off in Bank's output prior to that. Whit, The Crow Road and (as Iain M. Banks) the increasingly vapid sci-fi of Against A Dark Background, Look To Windward, Feersum Endjinn ... So Dead Air might not mark the exact point where Banks went bad (doesn't that trip nicely off the tongue?) but it is so remarkably bad that it deserves special mention - though it is hard to know where to start.

With that in mind, it makes sense to start at the beginning - right at the beginning, I mean, with the blurb:

A couple of ice cubes, first, then the apple that really started it all. A loft apartment in London's East End; cool but doomed, demolition and redevelopment slated for the following week. Ken Nott, devoutly contrarian leftish shock-jock attending a mid-week weddng lunch, starts dropping stuff off the roof towards the deserted car park a hundred feet below. Other guests join in and soon half the contents of the flat are following the fruit towards the pitted tarmac ... just as mobiles start to ring, and the apartments remaining TV is turned on, because apparently a plane has just crashed into the World Trade Centre ...
Sounds good, doesn't it? It sounds pretty intriguing, in fact - decadence and disaster, the high of petty wilful destruction supplanted by horror in the face of wilful destruction on a grand scale. Well folks, this is about as good as it gets, and to be frank I already have problems. Yes, with the blurb.

The apple, for example. Is it mere coincidence, or is the apple (which ends up splattered) ment to symbolise, in some cool and metaphorical way, the splattering of New York, the BIG APPLE. Maybe I'm trying too hard here?

But there's more - what about our characters name: Ken Nott. In Scotland, 'ken' is slang for 'know.' 'Nott' = 'naught' = 'nothing.' So we have a character called 'Knows Nothing.' Banks, it seems, has decided to yoke 11th of September, 2001 up with that stalest of literary conceits, The Voyage Of Self Discovery. Next week: Nick Hornby uses the genocide in Rwanada to illustrate how one man comes to terms with his divorce.

I don't have aproblem with his use of 11th of September, 2001, as the starting point of a novel. I don't expect that day to be pondered and discussed on sit-coms, but if you are writing a serious novel then it is okay to approach the big and terrible subjects. In fact, it is an obligation, especially if you're one of Britain's most ferocious novelists, intent on laying into the orthodoxy that it is okay to annihilate people as long as they are Arabs, and that Dubya is the defender of civilisation, then you might as well start at Ground Zero.

This isn't what Banks does, however. I was expecting something dark and terrible, exposing the hypocrisy of our leaders and our casual disregard for human lives other than our own - something akin to Complicity (an earlier novel by Banks that I still maintain is good), maybe featuring rightwing conspiracy, anthrax, asylum seekers and the realisation why all these civil rights curtailed after the 11th of September 2001 were important in the first place. I hoped for RAGE – if the horror 11th of September, 2001, and all that has followed it, can't jolt Banks out of his lethargy, what can?

But we don't get any of this.

What we get is the uninteresting life (social and sexual) of Ken Nott. He hangs around with black people (who have comedy accents) so we ken Ken is cool. He has sex with many people, far more than his apparent charms would merit. Must be that irresistible Scottish accent ... Banks can't be arsed with a proper plot, so instead he throws together three different strands, hoping this will generate some sort of narrative suspense, so that when bad things start happening we are meant to be on tenterhooks, waiting to find out who is behind it all.

So, plotless. Poorly written as well. When he can be bothered, Banks can write prose that seems to have a physical impact. Complicity, a similarly badly plotted, clunky thriller, was partially redeemed by the sheer fury that Banks vented through its pages. In Dead Air, the prose is just flabby and dull. There are two big scenes towards the end that are meant to thrill, but it is very hard to feel bothered. Banks rambles, he ambles. He can't resist making chortlesome asides and wry comments that drain any tension that describing someone in mortal danger might have had. He even has the cheek to steal from his own earlier books: he takes time out from his narrative to explain that the process of holding onto the edge of a wall and lowering yourself to the full extent of your arms before letting go is called 'dreeping' in colloquial Scots - very informative, but he had imparted the same information in Espedair Street. Likewise, he describes the 'Not Proven' verdict, unique to Scottish Law, in almost exactly the same manner as in Whit.

Credit where credit's due, however. Once, just once, Banks shows us a bit of the old magic. To save anyone else the chore of sifting through the whole book for it dross, I reproduce the offending material here. I expect it to be excised from future editions, leaving us with absolutely unmitigated crap:

... there was a reliable-sources statistic that Phil discovered the other day; that every twenty-four hours about thirty-four thousand children die in the world from the effects of poverty; from malnutrition and disease, basically. Thirty-four thousand, from a world, from a world-society, that could feed and clothe and treat them all, with a workably different allocation of resources. Meanwhile, the latest estimate is that two thousand eight hundred people died in the twin towers, so its like that image, that ghastly grey-billowing, double-barrelled fall, repeated twelve times every single fucking day; twenty-four towers, one per hour, throughout each day and night. Full of children.

And that's it. That really is it.

All of which has lead me to speculate: is Banks up to something? At times the book is so awful that I think it has to be deliberate. In some mad, incomprehensible way, is Banks actually trying to insult his readers, and the sentimentality and veneration already built up around 11th of September, 2001. Is he teach a lesson to those how bought the book because of the shiver of horror that date inspires, trying to punish them for their unseemly interest in the catastrophe?

Or following the logic of his diatribe, above, is 11th of September, 2001 only worth a crap book, whereas the 34,000 children might be worth something better? Is Banks really that spectacularly bonkers? It is tasteless to use the 11th of September, 2001 to give you shitty book an air of gravitas and urgency. How much more so how much more so to make your book deliberately shitty and irrelevant, to confound the reader's ghoulish interest in the tragedy?

If Banks is trying some sort of moral conjuring here, then he fails, managing to do a disservice to both the victims of 11th of September, 2001 and the thousands upon thousands who die everyday through our indifference. But surely, he isn't trying to do that. I must be mad to even think it. Please someone, tell me I am mad.

1 - This was written in 2003, a few months after the publication of Dead Air. It reappears here because it's original interweb home has ceased to exist.
2 - Dead Air, by Iain Banks, published byLittle Brown, 2002.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Fisk vs just about everyone, but absolutely right

Try to work out who Robert Fisk doesn't take a pop at in his latest column (1). But he is - as he usually is - right. Comparing the current actions in Gaza to the atrocities commited by Nazi Germany is wrong and stupid. Worse, it isn't going to help the situation at all.

Nor, of course, does turfing customers out of cafes in Invercargill, for the being Israelis (2).

If you want to make a stand, make sure it is an effective on. A donation to the ICRC would have accomplished far more (though not much) than victimizing a couple of hapless tourists. And if you want to say something about the disaster being visited on the Palestinians, try to make sure it is accurate, reasonable and constructive.
1 - "When it comes to Gaza, leave the Second World War out of it," by Robert Fisk, published in The Independent, 17th of January, 2009. (http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/robert-fiskrsquos-world-when-it-comes-to-gaza-leave-the-second-world-war-out-of-it-1418270.html)
2 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2009/01/collective-punishment-is-wrong-got-it.html

Friday, 16 January 2009

Collective punishment is wrong, got it?

It is always wrong to punish people for the actions of others. So the Turkish cafe owner who booted out two Israeli women for being Israeli was in the wrong (1). In doing so, he gave in to prejudice and imitated - in a tiny, tiny way -the hopeless, reactionary bitterness that has warped the recent history of the Middle East.

Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist organisations are wrong to collectively punish Israelis by murdering them with missiles and suicide bombs, the Israeli government is wrong to collectively punish the Palestinians for the crimes of the terrorists, and Mustafa Tekinkaya is wrong for inflicting his own microscopic version of collective punishment on Natalie Bennie and Tamara Shefa Mevlana for being Israeli.
1 - "Gaza Strip comes to Invercargill," unattributed NZPA article, reproduced on the TVNZ website, 15th of January, 2008. (http://tvnz.co.nz/national-news/gaza-strip-comes-invercargill-2442391)

Holder - Waterboarding is torture

From The Guardian:
Holder, facing a confirmation hearing in the Senate, said he and Obama had been disturbed by the practices at the US detention centre at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where prisoners picked up from the Middle East, Asia and Africa have been held without trial.

The vice-president, Dick Cheney, in interviews over the last week, has defended Guantánamo and continues to claim that waterboarding, in which drowning is simulated, does not constitute torture.

The CIA subjected at least three inmates at Guantánamo to waterboarding.

Holder was unequivocal yesterday: "Waterboarding is torture."

He added: "The decisions that were made by a prior administration were difficult ones. It is an easy thing for somebody to look back in hindsight and be critical of the decisions that were made. Having said that, the president-elect and I are both disturbed by what we have seen and what we have heard." (1)
Good. Now punish the people responsible.

1 - "Waterboarding is torture, says Obama's choice as justice chief," by Ewen MacAskill, published in The Guardian, 16th of January, 2009. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jan/16/waterboarding-guantanamo)

Thursday, 15 January 2009

David Irving - absolutely stark staring raving mad bonkers

It looks like David Irving has been treated very unfairly. He's been tried and convicted and jailed (for 400 days, as he points out several times), when he should have been judged not guilty by virtue of insanity. For, indeed, an interview with Johann Hari reveals the man is a loon:
“I made a great point of tracking down all Hitler’s surviving doctors,” he says, “and I identified Erwin Giesing as the doctor who treated Hitler after the bomb attempt on his life in 1944.” He tracked him down in the 1970s to Aachen in West Germany, and when Irving called, he claims Giesing said: “Yes, I’ve been expecting you.”

Irving arrived at Giesing’s surgery and, he says, was immediately handed a 400-page file. “Giesing said it was his diary [of his time with Hitler]. ‘That’s what you have come for,’ [he said]. I asked why, why me? Why haven’t you given it to Jacobson or Hilburg or any of the other great historians?” Giesing said the answer lay on page 385. Irving flicked to this page, and, he says, “it is August 1944 and he is treating Hitler – cauterizing his eardrum – and he says, ‘Mein Furher you realize that you have the same illness now in your inner ear that the Kaiser had?’ Hitler said ‘Yes that is true, how did you know that?’ And Geesing said he had read it in the biography of the Kaiser written by an Englishman, J D Chamier.” And he says Hitler replied: “One day, an Englishman will come along and write my biography. But it cannot be an English man of the present generation. They won’t to be objective. It will have to be an Englishman of the next generation, and one who is totally familiar with all the German archives.”

Irving sits back with an expression of beatific calm. “So [when] I phoned the doctor and he said ‘I’ve been expecting you,’ the Messiah had come. The one he had been waiting for all these years. And of course all the other historians hate that because they don’t fit.” I stare silently for a moment. To clarify: you actually think Hitler wanted you to be his biographer? “Yes. Yes and I am not ashamed of that. Hitler knew that. Hitler himself said that for fifty years they won’t be able to write the truth about me.” (1)
As Hari writes in the next line, suddenly it's all about what is wrong with the man, not what is wrong with his ideas.

Irving is someone I've loathed for years (See my previous comments here (2)). It isn't so much that he's a Holocaust denier - they are mostly beneath contempt - but because of the attitude he brings to the business, the supercilious, sneering tone he adopts. Maybe they are all like that, and it is just familiarity that has bred this contempt. But he's always stuck in my craw. Also, there is the intellectual fraudulance, the blatant, obvious manipulation and disingenuousness that taints almost everything he says. Add onto that the shrill ad hominen attacks he launches on anyone who disagrees with him.

Up until now, I've always thought it was deliberate and conscious, an attempt to influence others and pervert history. After reading Hari's piece, I'm no longer sure. Irving simply comes across as ... insane. He gloating recounts trying to get a copy of Main Kamff as a school prize, without realising admitting a Hitler fixation dating back to his school days weakens his claims to have based his assessments of Hitler and the Holocaust as sober judgements. He claims the publisher of his book on the Dresden bombings altered them without his knowledge, inserting passages condemning Nazi atrocities. Again, he doesn't seem to realise how ludicrous he sounds. Every piece of evidence that is presented supporting Hitler's anti-Semitism and knowledge of the Holocaust is dismissed as a cunning charade by the Furher.

The image that emerges is of a man who is actually incapable of distingushing reality and fantasy. Suddenly, it all falls into place - the Holocaust denial, Irving's ability to overlook mountains of evidence, and feast on morsels of ambiguity, the inability to actually face up to the undeniable facts of Hitler's evil. He is actually insane, a pitiable wreck of a man who never managed to work out that there was stuff going on in his head and stuff going on in the real world and those two things were not the same. As Hari confronts him about the fact that Irving's daughter - who sufferred from schizophrenia - would have been exterminated by the Nazis, the babble of words and random associations Irving puts out is almost painful to read. What it must have been like for Hari, sitting through it, is difficult to imagine. What it must be like to actually be David Irving is beyond comprehension.
1 - "David Irving: 'I'm Hitler's biographer,'" by Johann Hari, published in The Independent, 15th of January, 2008. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/profiles/david-irving-im-hitlers-biographer-1366464.html)
2 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/search/label/David%20Irving

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Trotter employing rightwing tricks

New blog, old crap from Chris Trotter (1). In the latest piece on Bowalley road, he borrows a trick often used by rightwing apologists for violence and militarism. Criticising Keith Locke's call for condemnation of Israel's current incursion (2), Trotter writes:

Hamas is anything but secular and quasi-socialist, and its dedication to the elimination not only of Israel, but of the entire Jewish people, is unequivocal. In the words of its own charter:

The Hamas has been looking forward to implement Allah’s promise whatever time it might take. The prophet, prayer and peace be upon him, said: The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him! This will not apply to the Gharqad, which is a Jewish tree.

The last time people talked about the Jews in this way, they were wearing brown shirts and jackboots. And the fate they had planned for the Jewish people gave new meaning to the word disproportionate".

Which is why I find it so hard to respond with any degree of positivity to Keith Locke’s call for New Zealand to stand up and be counted among the outspoken opponents of what is happening in Gaza.

Were Hamas a secular and socialist organisation dedicated to the creation of a secular and socialist state of Palestine: a state where all those with an historical and/or religious attachment to the Holy Land; Jews and Arabs, the followers of Judaism, Islam and Christianity – all the people of the Book – could live together in peace and harmony; well, then I might feel differently.

But it isn’t. (3)

What he is doing here is deliberately conflating the murderous terrorists of Hamas and the hapless Palestinians of Gaza. The latter are sufferring for the crimes of the former, and Trotter says this is okay because he doesn't like Hamas. Nerither do I. But I don't see why innocent people should suffer - massively and en masse - because Hamas are a bunch of murderous terrorist jackals.

This conflation of the criminal and the innocent is what apologists for pre-emptive violence usually do. The Israelis are doing it now, as they bomb the Gaza strip. The West did it when we bombed Afghanistan and Iraq, we'll probably do it again if we bomb Iran.

(And the fact that Hamas are not 'secular and quasi-socialist' does not make them fair game, as Trotter seems to imply. What sort of world does Mr Trotter live in, where its okay to attack - literally - people whose politics don't match yours. Probably, a world inhabited by the men in brown shirts and jackboots he mentioned.)

The anger being directed at Israel isn't about the violence being inflicted on Hamas, but on the Plaestinians in Gaza as a whole - colelctive punishment for the crimes of a select few. usually, this is justified by claiming that the terrorists are give support by the population, so all are complicit - yes, even the little children - and have lost whatever right they had to expect to be distingushed from the terrorists.

It's a rubbish excuse, a pathetic attempt to justify disproportionate, indiscrinate and criminal violence. It is disgustsing when the aplogists on the right use it. It is even more disgusting to find Trotter doing their job for them.

Because it isn't about Hamas, it is about the rest of the Palestinains. They aren't guilty or complicit, any more than the people murdered on the 11th of September were responsible for the actions of the USA government. When apologists for the Israeli government's terrorism in Gaza use this line of defence, they are using the same argument that Bin Laden and his ilk used to justify that mass murder. So the people currently trying to defend Israel's actions are using terrorists' logic.

This would, of course, be the same logic that Hamas would use whern they pack off a teenager with a Semtex vest to blow up a restaurant - all Israeli's are culpable for the crimes of the few. It's wrong when Hamas says it, it is wrong when Al Queada says it, it is wrong when the rightwing apologists for Israel say it and it is still wrong even when Chris Trotter says it is okay.

And it makes me mad because Trotter should know better. he isn't an troglodytic rightwinger dragging his knuckles along the ground, nor is he a ideologically closed off drone spouting whatever he's told to spout. He's capable off working it out himself, even if it wasn't for the legion of people pointing out the truth to him. So why isn't he?

My hunch is he's has taken this line in his continuing effort appear iconoclastic fearless in his challenging of leftwing shibboleths. But he's putting his preening and ego in front of the obligation to be honest and tell the truth - trying to use the suffering of the miserable refugees in Gaza TO MAKE HIMSELF LOOK GOOD. And that is low.
1 - "Disporportionate Response," posted by Chris Trotter on Bowalley Road, 10th of January, 2008. (http://bowalleyroad.blogspot.com/2009/01/disproportionate-response.html)
2 - "NZ Govt fiddles while Gaza burns," by Keith Locke, 2nd of January, 2008.(
http://www.greens.org.nz/node/20472)
3 - Trotter, op. cit.

It's over - I am officially disillusioned with Barak Obama

Okay, I was never that illusioned with him, but there is always aperiod in a new relationship when you think - usually against your better judgement and experience - that this one might work out differently, it might beat the odds and might be as good as it seems like it will be when it is merely a yearned for possibility.

Then reality kicks in, and it usually gives you an extra hard cuff round the ear for daring to be so foolish as to hope.

So I'm saying now that I'm officially disillusioned with Barak Obama. The reason for it is what Hilary Clinton said at her Senate confirmation hearing (1), and it came doewn to just one phrase: "Smart force."

What a sickening, cynical lie the idea of "Smart force" is. It's meant to suggest that the USA will use its massive resources in a clever and adroit manner. What it really means is, "We'll carry on bombing people, but we'll make it see like we're doing it in a nice way where civilians don't get blown apart ad mained by our super smart munitions and bombs that are smart enough to sniff out terrorists and obliterate them without anyone else getting hurt, even if they are in the same room as the evil terrorist obliteree."

"Smart force," meaning, "We'll be just as ruthless and wicked as the last lot, but we'll be smart enough not to make ourselves look like we're evil. Because this is "smart force." Not dumb force, like Dumb Dubya used and which made him look bad. We wouldn't use dumb force. We'll use "smart force," and we'll always look good, even as we carry on being as evil hearted as ever."

Business as usual in other words.

And more business as usual in the rest of her hearing. She calls for "A just and lasting peace agreement" in Israel and the Occupied Territories - but don't they all, and universally fail to deliver. She adds that "We cannot negotiate with Hamas until it recognises Israel, renouncesviolence and agrees to abide by previous agreements," (2) while not requiring the same of Israel, which has killed around a thousand Palestinians in the last few days, a death toll that the vicious thugs of Hamas's might dream of but are completely incapable of matching, and which has flaunted so many United Nations resolutions and exhortations, up to and including one this week. Yet the USA is not just willing to negotiate with Israel, they are willing to fund and arm them with the weapons currently maiming women and children - and the occasional terrorist, to be fair - in Gaza.

Same again for Iran, wher "no option is off the table" (3). So the Bush doctrine of randomly threatening and applying force (smart or otherwise) still applies. No change, in other words.

So it is back to the old game of hoping a new leader won't be as bad as the last one, rather than hoping for something truly great.
1 - "Clinton announces dawn of 'smart power'," by David Usborne in The Independent, 14th of January, 2009. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/clinton-announces-dawn-of-smart-power-1334256.html)
2 - Ibid.
3 - Ibid.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Two hearts, but just one mind?

Doing some google blasting on Hamas, I happened upon this article by John Pilger, dated the 28th of May, 2007, called "Children of the Dust." Considering the western media's coverage of the Lisrael-Palestinian conflict, he wrote:

A censorship by omission runs deep in western journalism on Israel, especially in the US. Hamas is dismissed as a "terrorist group sworn to Israel's destruction" and one that "refuses to recognise Israel and wants to fight not talk". This theme suppresses the truth: that Israel is bent on Palestine's destruction. Moreover, Hamas's long-standing proposals for a ten-year ceasefire are ignored, along with a recent, hopeful ideological shift within Hamas itself that amounts to a historic acceptance of the sovereignty of Israel. "The [Hamas] charter is not the Quran," said a senior Hamas official, Mohammed Ghazal. "Historically, we believe all Palestine belongs to Palestinians, but we're talking now about reality, about political solutions . . . If Israel reached a stage where it was able to talk to Hamas, I don't think there would be a problem of negotiating with the Israelis [for a solution]." (1)
My googling also uncovered an article penned by Yvonne Ridley, and published in The Tehran Times (2). A very similar article, with a few changes and a new title, was also published (here and here (3)). It was also put up on a blog she contributes to (4).

What caught my attention was that a key passage from the Ridley article matched the earlier Pilger article, almost word for word. This is what Ridley wrote - or claimed to have written - in late 2007:
As a journalist, I am deeply saddened by the censorship by omission which runs deep in Western media coverage of Israel, especially in the U.S.

Hamas is dismissed as a “terrorist group sworn to Israel’s destruction” and one that “refuses to recognize Israel and wants to fight not talk”.

The truth is that Israel is bent on Palestine’s destruction. Moreover, Hamas’s longstanding proposals for a ten-year ceasefire are loudly ignored, along with a recent, ideological shift within Hamas itself.

“The (Hamas) charter is not the Quran,” said a senior Hamas official, Mohammed Ghazal. “Historically, we believe all Palestine belongs to Palestinians, but we’re talking now about reality, about political solutions… If Israel reached a stage where it was able to talk to Hamas, I don’t think there would be a problem of negotiating with the Israelis (for a solution).”
The resemblance, as they say, is striking.

So who is Yvonne Ridley? The name was familiar to me, and Google soon told me why - she was very much in the news in 2001. Reporting for the Sunday Express, she entered Afghanistan illegally and was captured by the Taliban and held for eleven days. I remember the fuss at the time. Since her release, she has converted to Islam, worked briefly for Al Jazeera and other Islamic TV channels, and stood for election in Britain for George Galloway's Respect party (5).

Like him or loathe him, Pilger is a honorable journalist with an reputation for scrupulousness. He is also, on the evidence available to me, the most most likely original author of the words that subsequently reappeared, unattributed, in Ridley's work.

1 - "Children of the Dust," by John Pilger, published in The New Statesman, 28th of May, 2007. (http://www.newstatesman.com/middle-east/2007/05/pilger-israel-children)
2 - "Real Talks or Real Trouble," by Yvonne Ridley, published in the Tehran Times, 16th of December, 2007. (http://tehrantimes.com/Index_view.asp?code=159267)
3 - "Why Israel should start negotiating with Hamas," by Yvonne Ridley, published in Future Islam, January/March 2008 edition (http://www.futureislam.com/200801/leaders/louay_safi/End_Guantanamo_Disgrace.asp) and also in The Islamic Times, dated 12th of November 2007 [pdf] (http://www.islamictimes.co.uk/index2.php?option=com_content&do_pdf=1&id=774)
4 - "Talking to Hamas," posted by Yvonne Ridley on Open Minds blog, 6th of December, 2008.(http://www.openmindsblogspot.com/ContributorPageList/YvonneRidley/tabid/60/EntryID/82/language/en-US/Default.aspx)
5 - As per her biography on Wikipedia, viewed 12th of January, 2009. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yvonne_Ridley#Subsequent_career)

Apologies to Chris Trotter

It appears I have been a tad unfair.

Pompous Chris hasn't thrown a hissy fit and stalked off to brush his moustache. In fact, he is carrying on the good fight over on a new blog, glorying in the name of Bowalley Road.

I have updated the Bloglands listing to reflect this, though I notice Chris hasn't included lefthandpalm in his essential reading. I'm hurt, deeply.

Hopefully, in the move over from the Policy website, he's mislaid his thesaurus and he'll actually prooduce something worth reading. If any man ever needed to heed the words of George Orwell, it is Trotter:

... modern writing at its worst does not consist in picking out words for the sake of their meaning and inventing images in order to make the meaning clearer. It consists in gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else, and making the results presentable by sheer humbug. The attraction of this way of writing is that it is easy. It is easier — even quicker, once you have the habit — to say In my opinion it is not an unjustifiable assumption that than to say I think. If you use ready-made phrases, you not only don't have to hunt about for the words; you also don't have to bother with the rhythms of your sentences since these phrases are generally so arranged as to be more or less euphonious. When you are
composing in a hurry — when you are dictating to a stenographer, for instance, or making a public speech — it is natural to fall into a pretentious, Latinized style. Tags like a consideration which we should do well to bear in mind or a conclusion to which all of us would readily assent will save many a sentence from coming down with a bump. By using stale metaphors, similes, and idioms, you save much mental effort, at the cost of leaving your meaning vague, not only for your reader but for yourself. This is the significance of mixed metaphors. The sole aim of a metaphor is to call up a visual image. When these images clash — as in The Fascist octopus has sung its swan song, the jackboot is thrown into the melting pot — it can be taken as certain that the writer is not seeing a mental image of the objects he is naming; in other words he is not really thinking ... People who write in this manner usually have a general emotional meaning — they dislike one thing and want to express solidarity with another — but they are not interested in the detail of what they are saying. A
scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will probably ask himself two more: Could I put it more shortly? Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly? But you are not obliged to go to all this trouble. You can shirk it by simply throwing your mind open and letting the ready-made phrases come crowding in. The will construct your sentences for you — even think your thoughts for you, to a certain extent — and at need they will perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning even from yourself. It is at this point that the special connection between politics and the debasement of language becomes clear.

...

The inflated style itself is a kind of euphemism. A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline and covering up all the details. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics’. All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer. I should expect to find — this is a guess which I have not sufficient knowledge to verify — that the German, Russian and Italian languages have all deteriorated in the last ten or fifteen years, as a result of dictatorship. (2)

I am quite sure a quick look at lefthandpalm will show a lot times I haven't stuck to Orwell's rules. Spare your self the effort of looking.

Happy blogging, Chris.
1 - http://bowalleyroad.blogspot.com/
2 - "Politics and the English Language," by George Orwell, published in 1946. (http://www.orwell.ru/library/essays/politics/english/e_polit)

Going ...

From The Independent (1):

George Bush was in defiant mood yesterday for the final press conference of his little-mourned presidency, his face flushing red as he declared that only history would prove a fair judge of his leadership.


The banality of life after the Oval Office struck home as he described how he will soon be waking up, not to receive an intelligence briefing on terrorist threats six days a week, but to "make or fetch the coffee" for his wife, Laura. Mr Bush's final scheduled public event in office will be on Thursday, when he will deliver a televised farewell address.

I don't believe in kicking someone when they are down, unless they are truly heinous and evil on the scale of Robert Mugabe. George W. Bush, I suppose, did his best. He was totally unfit for the job, which he only got because of his family ties. I ssupose he genuinely believed he was doing the best, but it seems to me that almost every choice he made was the wrong one.

I'll wish him a happy retirement, though, and a long life, in the hope he'll find some time to read a couple of books.

1 - "Exit Bush, with a few digs at his critics – and himself," by Leonard Doyle, published in The Independent, 13th of January, 2008.(http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/exit-bush-with-a-few-digs-at-his-critics-ndash-and-himself-1332025.html). Image: AFP/Getty.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Trotter and Hooton - Missing in Action

It looks like the comedy double act at the Policy Blog have shut up shop. Pompous Chris, we're told, has called it a day, signing off with his rather childish piece about National's vicctory, where he actually had the nerve to describe John Key's win as equivalent of the 11th of September attacks on the USA (1).

Look Chris, I know it hurts that National won, but no-one died. That sort of berserk rhetoric only dimishes the person who produces it. Eat that, as a wiser and more dignified man than you once said.

Hooton, on the other hand, hasn't blogged since late November, so we can safely say he's decided to go and enjoy whatever baubles are coming his way (2).

Neither Trotter nor Hooton have gained much fromt heir foray into the bloglands. Trotter, in particular, came across as pompous and arrogant, and surprisingly empty of things to say. Even so, it is disappointing to see one of the public faces of the left go into retreat at a time when he might have been needed most. Hyperbole aside, the New Zealand left needs to work out what it is, where it is going, and who can carry these interests into parliament. I have doubts about Labour being able to do this, post Chinagate (3).

At best, Labour under Goff and (likely) under Shane Jones will offer only National-lite, a "me-too!" party that will shadow the ruling party in the hope that vters might decide to vote for a different bunch of ineffectual liars and hypocrites. Sound familiar? Yes, it worked nicely for National. They gained power by being Labour's shadow, the party that was all but Labour without the smugness, the baggage, the Winston Peters, the hostility generated by backing the repeal of Section 59, a good piece of legislation that offended the conservative opinion formers.

But it won't do for the left, because we don't want a party that is merely National's anemic shadow. Ultimately that's why Clark's government foundered - it wasn't proudly, brashly bolshie enough about its socialism. They though that by playing it down, the countervailing forces of conservatism would be appeased and not tear them to pieces.

How wise a strategy that was was revealed as soon as a National Party with a half-way electable leader managed to put aside its perpetuate internal wrnagling long enough to mount a campaign that wasn't actually embarrassing - that wasn't actually anything much, to be honest. It didn't have to be. It only needed to stay afloat while Labour - rudderless, holed by Winston Peter's arrogance, and without achart - foundered.

The left needs to reinvent itself, decides what it wants - other than to be in power, a pointless an immoral end in itself. There needs to be a debate, between the different shades of leftwing opinion, between the environmental movement and the left, with Maori. Whether or not to try an rehabilitate the Labour Party, or not, needs to be considered.

For all his faults, Trotter might have had something to say in that. Also, there is the matter of a new, rightwing government, whose actions need to be scrutinised and who need to be held to account. Instead of facing up to this challenge, Trotter has, apparently, turned his pen to fiction. Talk about bad timing. Perhaps in the world of his forthcoming novel, a centre-left government, aided by a moustachioed musketeer of the pen, rout the sinister forces of the right and rule in peace and harmony forever. All very nice, but not really useful, Chris.

Hooton is more straight forward. He simply confirmed the impression that most people who know the name already had of him - a shrill ideologue, without a moral sensibility. His blog reapidly became a locus for crack-brained conspiracy (4), vituperation (5) and general stupidity. By making it abundantly clear that Hooton actually has nothing to say, the experiment was worthwhile. thankfully, he seems to have realised this himself, and stopped say anything. We should be thankful for small mercies.
1 - "The night MMP couldn’t save us from ourselves," by Chris Trotter, originally published in The Sunday Star Times, reproduced on The Policy Blog: The Chris Trotter Blog. (http://www.policy.net.nz/blog/2008/11/11/chris-trotter-the-night-mmp-couldnt-save-us-from-ourselves/)
2 - As of the 11th of January, 2008. (http://www.policy.net.nz/blog/author/hootonmatthew/)
3 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2008/02/new-zealand-secures-infamous-first-fta.html
4 - "Deep Throat makes contact: Situation may be even worse for Peters," posted by Matthew Hooton on The Policy Blog: The Matthew Hooton Blog, 24th of October, 2008. (http://www.policy.net.nz/blog/2008/10/24/deep-throat-makes-contact-situation-may-be-even-worse-for-peters/)
5 - "Left desperate and delusional about polls," posted by Matthew Hooton on The Policy Blog: The Matthew Hooton Blog, 20th of September, 2008. (http://www.policy.net.nz/blog/2008/09/20/left-desperate-and-delusional-about-polls/)

Friday, 9 January 2009

Respect is due: Helen Suzman, 1917 - 2009

Astonishing woman, she was the sole voice of opposition in the South African parliament for years, and inspite of the opprobrium heaped on her - for opposing Apartheid, for being Jewish - she never let herself be intimidated. And she lived to be 91 years old. Who says only the good die young?

Still, the fact that they are dying raises a worrying prospect.

Just as we have seen those who support the Nazi and Facsist regimes in Europe grow in confidence as those who fought the regimes or sufferred from their evil dwindle in number, the thinning of the ranks of those who directly experienced or fought Apartheid may lead to a resurgence of supprot for that obscene idea. It is impossible for the white minority regaining the power it held democratically, but it is possible to envisage a terrorist underground of self-styled 'freedom fighters' being established as direct links to the bad old days - and direct contact with the people who brought them to an end - are lost.

Some detail on this remarkable woman:

Helen Suzman was renowned for her lone fight against apartheid in South Africa's parliament. An MP for nearly four decades, she waged her battle alone for 13 years, as the sole representative of the Progressive Party from 1961 to 1974, when the ruling Afrikaner Nationalist party was at the height of its power. She was insulted, mocked and condemned – for her views and because she was Jewish – but she never let up her fierce, informed criticisms of the policies of racism that the Nationalists imposed on the country and their authoritarian rule. She remained an MP until 1989, when the apartheid system was finally coming to an end.
...

The general election in 1961 marked a new low point in opposition to apartheid. The major black organisations, the African National Congress and the Pan-Africanist Congress, which were not allowed in parliament, had been banned the previous year. Now the Progressives collapsed: only Suzman was re-elected, scraping in with a margin of 564 votes.

During the years in which she was the single representative of the Progressive Party, Suzman grew into a formidable member of parliament. Backed by a small research team she tirelessly asked probing questions of the Nationalist government and spoke in one debate after another.

She was blind to colour and to political belief. Her concern was to fight against apartheid injustice. It did not matter who the victim was – whatever his or her skin colour, religion or politics. All that counted was that a person was suffering and needed help. This made her uniquely brave in those hard years, in which South Africans of colour were ignored except by only a few whites, and in which people of the left were feared and shunned. To be outside the confines of the white parliamentary system meant you were beyond the pale of acceptance.

But Suzman did not care. She fought for anyone and everyone who turned to her for help: Communists, African nationalists, left-wingers, liberals. There was an unending stream of people coming to ask for her help. The United Party's MPs were effete and useless and Suzman grew into a one-woman opposition in confronting and challenging the tide of Afrikaner Nationalist racist and discriminatory laws and practices and their enforcement through ever-harsher police and administrative action.

In 1963 she was the only MP who voted against the government's draconian legislation to institute 90-day detention without trial – which was later extended to 180 days and then indefinite detention. In 1965 she was the only MP who condemned the seizing of power by Rhodesia's whites. Her consistent voting against apartheid had virtually no success – but she was widely admired as a beacon of enlightenment in the South African murk. (1)

1 - "Helen Suzman: South African parliamentarian who waged a 36-year battle against the injustices of apartheid," by Benjamin Pogrund, published in The Independent, 2nd of January, 2008. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/helen-suzman-south-african-parliamentarian-who-waged-a-36year-battle-against-the-injustices-of-apartheid-1221039.html)

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Beyond evil

If this is true, it is beyond evil - it is not something that can be done by a nation that wants to be considered civilised, or one that seeks friendship or support of civilised nations:

The international Red Cross accuses Israeli forces today of failing to assist wounded Palestinians and of "unacceptable" delays in letting rescue workers reach a Gaza home where four small children were found alive next to their mothers' bodies.

Rescuers had been refused permission by the Israeli army to reach the site in the Zaytun neighborhood of Gaza City for days, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.

The neutral aid group's head of delegation for the region described the incident as "shocking."

"The Israeli military must have been aware of the situation but did not assist the wounded," Pierre Wettach said in a statement. "Neither did they make it possible for us or the Palestine Red Crescent to assist the wounded."

Rescuers eventually received permission to go to the site Wednesday, four days after it was hit by Israeli shells.

They found 15 dead and 18 wounded in three houses, including the children who were too weak to stand.

The ICRC said requests to be allowed to reach other destroyed houses in this neighborhood, reportedly containing more wounded, were refused by the Israeli army.

"The ICRC believes that in this instance the Israeli military failed to meet its obligation under international humanitarian law to care for and evacuate the wounded," the Geneva-based group said in a statement.

"It considers the delay in allowing rescue services access unacceptable."

A spokeswoman for the Israeli mission in Geneva said she was unable to comment on the incident at this time. (1)

I'm not surprised the spokeswoman did not comment. Surely even an appartchik of the Israeli goverment realises that there are some thing that can't be justified or explained away with blandishments and cliches and attempts to shift the blame from perpetrators to victims.

War may be necessary in some circumstances - though I think this is a conflict that is being waged because it is mutually convenient to Hamas and the Israeli government - and I realise that in war, sometimes, terrible mistakes can happen. But to refuse humanitarian relief to wounded civilians and starving, terrified children for FOUR DAYS is beyond any sort of toleration or understanding. It puts the IDF on the same level as the terrorist animals they claim to be seeking to destroy.
1 - "Red Cross slams Israel over access to wounded," unattributed AP article reproduced in The Independent, 8th of January, 2008. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/red-cross-slams-israel-over-access-to-wounded-1232472.html)

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Fisk on the Israeli invasion

Robert Fisk responds to the inhuman hypocrisy of our leaders, as they express 'concern' and call for the IDF to show 'restraint':
So once again, Israel has opened the gates of hell to the Palestinians. Forty civilian refugees dead in a United Nations school, three more in another. Not bad for a night's work in Gaza by the army that believes in "purity of arms". But why should we be surprised?

Have we forgotten the 17,500 dead – almost all civilians, most of them children and women – in Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon; the 1,700 Palestinian civilian dead in the Sabra-Chatila massacre; the 1996 Qana massacre of 106 Lebanese civilian refugees, more than half of them children, at a UN base; the massacre of the Marwahin refugees who were ordered from their homes by the Israelis in 2006 then slaughtered by an Israeli helicopter crew; the 1,000 dead of that same 2006 bombardment and Lebanese invasion, almost all of them civilians?

What is amazing is that so many Western leaders, so many presidents and prime ministers and, I fear, so many editors and journalists, bought the old lie; that Israelis take such great care to avoid civilian casualties. "Israel makes every possible effort to avoid civilian casualties," yet another Israeli ambassador said only hours before the Gaza massacre. And every president and prime minister who repeated this mendacity as an excuse to avoid a ceasefire has the blood of last night's butchery on their hands. Had George Bush had the courage to demand an immediate ceasefire 48 hours earlier, those 40 civilians, the old and the women and children, would be alive.
(1)
How does one practise restaint with a missile or a tank shell, incidentally? It's either not fired or fired, and if it is the latter, then it difficult for it to be restrained, any more than it ca be persuaded to discriminate in its targets.

Other than that, Fisk repeats a lot of material which he has described before:
The Sabra and Chatila massacre was committed by Israel's right-wing Lebanese Phalangist allies while Israeli troops, as Israel's own commission of inquiry revealed, watched for 48 hours and did nothing. When Israel was blamed, Menachem Begin's government accused the world of a blood libel. After Israeli artillery had fired shells into the UN base at Qana in 1996, the Israelis claimed that Hizbollah gunmen were also sheltering in the base. It was a lie. The more than 1,000 dead of 2006 – a war started when Hizbollah captured two Israeli soldiers on the border – were simply dismissed as the responsibility of the Hizbollah. Israel claimed the bodies of children killed in a second Qana massacre may have been taken from a graveyard. It was another lie. The Marwahin massacre was never excused. The people of the village were ordered to flee, obeyed Israeli orders and were then attacked by an Israeli gunship. The refugees took their children and stood them around the truck in which they were travelling so that Israeli pilots would see they were innocents. Then the Israeli helicopter mowed them down at close range. Only two survived, by playing dead. Israel didn't even apologise.

Twelve years earlier, another Israeli helicopter attacked an ambulance carrying civilians from a neighbouring village – again after they were ordered to leave by Israel – and killed three children and two women. The Israelis claimed that a Hizbollah fighter was in the ambulance. It was untrue. I covered all these atrocities, I investigated them all, talked to the survivors. So did a number of my colleagues. Our fate, of course, was that most slanderous of libels: we were accused of being anti-Semitic. (2)
Fisk is right to excoriate the Israeli government for its barbarous and likely pointless attack on the civilains refugees of the Gaza strip. He is also correct in that any one criticising the actions of the actions of the Israeli government runs the risk of being labelled 'anti-Semitic.' And he is also right that we will ask, when bloody atrocity is visited on us, "why do they hate us?" in genuine confusion.

Where Fisk misses a crucial point, however, which is that this situation hasn't come about soley through the actions of the Israeli government. Wars happen, as a rule, because two parties want them to happen. In this case, Hamas have also made as play as cynically brutal as that of the Israeli government. They allowed a ceasefire to lapse, and recommenced rocket attacks on Isreal. Israel used these pathetically ineffectual attacks as a justification for launching their own devastatingly effective counterstrike on Gaza. But Hamas are the party who gave them that justification. And they would have done it knowing what the likely response would be. After all, the IDF are still looking to reestablish their reputation, post-Labanon, 2006. A short, sharp, relentlessly brutal war against an irregular enemy, this time with the right result? How could they resist?

And from this we can infer that Hamas thought they had more to gain by embroiling Israel in Gaza than they would lose. Cynically, they would have figured the Palestinian refugees would be the ones that woul bear the brunt of Israel's wrath. And that will suit Hamas as much as it will the Israel politicians. They may be hoping for - at best - an opportunity to further humiliate the IDF - though if so, they will probably be surprised by the ferocity of the Israeli respons e- no chances will be taken here. Failing that, a brutal assault on Palestine by the IDF will reinforce Hamas's rasion d'etre - it exists negatively, thriving in the face of Israeli brutality and oppression.

Ultimately, it is likely both the IDF and Hamas will get precisely what they want from this conflict - but caught between these two equally ruthless, immoral and unscrupulous agents, what chance do ethe Palestinians have? What chance do the people of Israel have?
1 - "Why do they hate the West so much, we will ask" by Robert Fisk, published in the Independent, 7th of January, 2008. (http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-why-do-they-hate-the-west-so-much-we-will-ask-1230046.html)
2 - ibid.

Theresa May: Going, Going ...

So, Theresa May is in a bit of trouble.  Tories are scheming and plotting - which they do on any day that ends in a 'Y' - and rumour...