On Useful Idiots and Dictatorships ~ Part One ~ UpDate

March 25, 2011

by Dr Mark Hayes

“Therfore bihoueth hire a ful long spoon That shal ete with a feend.”

Geoffrey Chaucer, c. 1390

“If you’re going to sup with the Devil, you’d better bring a long spoon.”

UpDate ~ April 10, 2011

The London School of Economics (LSE) has set up a Site which contains its version and position on the Gaddafi Libyan funding scandal.

On my reading, typical of the very carefully worded official statements of this kind which really doesn’t fully explain or defend their ‘constructive engagement’ with the Libyan regime.

It does contain a Link to a personal statement by Prof David Held.

Meanwhile, Dr Anne Corbett, an honorary LSE Visiting Fellow, reflects on Fred Halliday’s vision of what a university ought to be and do, drawing from a 1998 lecture of his she attended. This has universal resonance.

UpDate – March 31, 2001

While Prof David Held hasn’t directly responded to Prof John Keane’s Open Letter – see below & links (at least as far as I know; always open to being proven wrong with supporting evidence) – Anthony Barnett, co-founder of Open Democracy, and a friend of the late Fred Halliday (who argued vigorously and unsuccessfully against LSE taking money from the Gaddafi regime) – does canvas the issues with this Post – Fred Halliday, David Held, the LSE and the independence of universities.

… the argument was not a dispute about whether or not to enter a “critical dialogue” with Saif. I never knew Fred Halliday decline a critical dialogue with anybody. The dispute was over what risks the LSE should be taking. Having a “critical dialogue” with Saif is one thing. Taking the regime’s money through him and then having him give a Miliband lecture is another. The more you have dialogue with representatives of a tyranny’s ruling clan, the more important it is not to be beholden to them. This was the warning Halliday repeatedly put.

Even now Held remains deaf to it, it seems, by suggesting that Saif never was a representative and his money was not official. As evidence for his belief in Saif’s “independence” from his father’s regime Held writes that Saif “turned down a number of offers to work directly at the heart of the regime”.

Original Post continues -

While following developments in the Middle East, including the continuing horrors in Libya, I’ve occasionally come across the continuing controversy surrounding the prestigious London School of Economics (LSE) and its fairly recent engagement with Libya.

Saif al-Gaddafi at LSE

The ABC’s Foreign Correspondent programme broadcast an excellent wrap story, entitled ‘Monster Makeover’ which brought together many of the elements of the rehabilitation of Libya in the closing years of the Blair Government, including touching on the LSE controversy. Well worth a look, and then catch up on the deeper, murkier, details of this significant angle to the continuing Libya story.

On February 25, 2011, BBC TV’s Newsnight programme also explored the connections between Saif Gaddafi and LSE.

The Guardian offers an entry point into this issue. The (London) Telegraph probes deeper into ‘The Real Scandal at the LSE‘. The Daily Mail adds a very good diagram of the webs of influence between the Gaddafi regime, LSE, and elements of the British intelligence community.

Sir Howard Davies fmr. LSE Director

By no means do I claim to be fully across all the details of the LSE business, which are now under external investigation, and which led to the resignation of LSE director, Sir Howard Davies, but I was drawn to look a bit closer by two posts to the British-based Blog and comment site, Open Democracy, which I follow quite closely.

It’s much deeper and murkier than just a very public spat between prominent intellectuals, spiced by its site, a prestigious British higher education institution almost at the Ox-Bridge level, or grievously, ill-advised, perhaps politically incited, and financially lubricated opportunism by a possibly cash strapped leading university and a high profile governance studies think tank.

On my reading of the issue, LSE, and its main actors in this scandal, cannot be lightly or easily dismissed or attacked for simply being naive, or worse, high grade ethically ‘flexible’ money or status grubbing opportunists.

This continuing scandal goes to the heart of issues raised anytime anybody considers “constructive engagement” with a regime of questionable legitimacy, especially though not exclusively if the “engagement” is financially greased.

I’ll return to global or regional pariah regimes, such as in Fiji in a later Post, though, I emphatically hasten to add, Fiji is absolutely nowhere near Libya, Burma, North Korea, or Zimbabwe on the International Loathsome or Pariah Scales. Fiji just happens to be the military dictatorship closest to Australia and New Zealand.

Prof David Held London School of Economics

The protagonists on Open Democracy are leading political theorist, professor David Held from LSE’s Global Governance center and professor John Keane,

Prof John Keane Uni of Sydney

an internationally respected scholar of democracy now based at the University of Sydney.

My main reason for keeping an eye on Open Democracy is that one of its main international affairs commentators is the Bradford University Department of Peace Studies professor, Paul Rogers, under whom I studied in 1980 and into 1981 when I did my MA there.

Prof Paul Rogers Bradford University

Prof Rogers’ highly focused, exceptionally informed, and acerbically dry commentaries, including his periodic SWISH Reports for the South Waziristan Institute of Strategic Hermeneutics to the al-Qaida Strategic Planning Cell (SPC), very usefully add to my general reading and cogitation upon world affairs. I thoroughly recommend his book Losing Control Global Security in the Twenty First Century (3rd Edition, 2010).

If ‘verification by reference to subsequent events’ is a good general test to apply to somebody’s theoretical and analytical commentaries, then Prof Rogers’ work amply passes that test.

No; Prof Rogers by no means is a real consultant to al-Qaida but he deploys his deep knowledge of international affairs, albeit from a British and Northern Hemisphere perspective, his significant experience as a consultant to several governments and NGOs, and a particularly dry, tongue in cheek, cynicism to his SWISH Reports. He’s also one of the scariest academics under whom I studied at Bradford so many years ago, thanks to his awesome, excoriating, rigor and unflinching peace researcher’s realism. I can still ‘hear’ his dry British accent today as I read his Open Democracy Posts.

He’s also briefly commentated on the continuing armed intervention in Libya, again most recently on March 24, 2011.

Back to the Libya – LSE issue, on my steadily more attentive following of it, the dynamics appear to have much in common with so-called ‘constructive engagement’ with most kinds or forms of authoritarian regimes, such as Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya, which seem to have undergone some sort of international or regional rehabilitation, or at least exhibit tolerable, or convenient, potential or possibilities for rehabilitation into the global or regional community of nations.

The ABC’s Foreign Correspondent story traverses this extremely well.

The Australian’s Greg Sheridan, on February 24, 2011 – to whom I usually reliably turn for something to get angry about if my day starts off looking moderately pleasant – didn’t disappoint by castigating the general to extreme left of Australian politics for their periodic engagement with Libya and Gaddafi, deploying his typically broad brush of ordure. I’m also always very suspicious when I see otherwise intelligent and/or well meaning people apparently endorsing or engaging with a regime or cause which, on closer scrutiny, looks actually or potentially ‘smelly’, but have always attributed my suspicions to my innate cynicism and aversion to demonstrative enthusiasms.

Mr Sheridan does deploy the phrase ‘useful idiots’, to which I will also return after attempting to summarize the Libya – LSE controversy ventilated through Open Democracy.

One of the supportive commentators of the LSE and professor David Held is the London Evening Standard’s Jenni Russell who, on March 7, 2011, labeled ‘These attacks on the LSE [as] a witchhunt’ and wrote:

What the LSE is actually being punished for is its failure to predict the future. It took an influential student who appeared to be interested in creating a more liberal future for his country, accepted his foundation’s money, and followed British government advice to help open up Libya to new influences by advising its technocrats and educating some of its people….

The LSE is being blamed for having dealt with a dictatorship at all. The money it received for providing education is described as blood money, tainted by coming from a repressive regime. But if that’s the basis on which funds should be rejected, then it is entirely illogical to single out the LSE; many other universities in England [irrelevant link edited] should be being criticised now.

One of the main ‘Libya engagement’ actors at LSE, significantly through Gaddafi’s son, Saif, was professor David Held, the then co-director of LSE’s Global Governance Center, who sought to defend his position on March 16, 2011, on Open Democracy along the lines of ‘Naivety, Complicity or Cautious Engagement’, though he writes:

There is no risk-free path in engaging with authoritarian regimes, but refraining altogether would also be a mistake. I think it was right to engage and to make a contribution to the dialogue about the democratisation of Libya. But with the terrible knowledge we have now, I would never have countenanced this funding option, nor would the Governing Council of the LSE. It was a mistake that is deeply regrettable.

And he concludes:

History has shown there are different paths to overthrowing regimes, which build up from pressures within as well as from the outside. It is usually the interaction of national and international conditions and processes which create revolutionary situations. This is the context which the Middle East is now in. Autocrats have been swept from power in Tunisia and Egypt and are teetering on the brink in Yemen and Bahrain. In Libya, the fighting has been intensive. Tribe, faction, and fragmentation intersect with the old Gaddafi regime in complex webs of stakeholders, competition and opposition. One can only hope that the Gaddafi regime comes to a swift end, but one fears it may not.

The comments to Prof Held’s Open Democracy post are well worth reading and give notable insight into the heat this matter has generated in the UK.

I was then drawn to emeritus professor Zygmunt Bauman’s comments on Social Europe Journal On Internet, Slander, and Irresponsibility, where he, on my reading, joins with other commentators, to attack critics of Prof Held hiding behind the Net’s cloak of anonymity.

Prof Zygmunt Bauman

I largely mention Prof Bauman because his work on ‘liquid modernity’ provides an exceptionally valuable corrective to the vapid nonsense generally celebrated as ‘postmodernism’ and its many, slippery, foul and noisome gets. A feature of ‘liquid modernity’ includes a flexible, ‘liquid’ position on what ought to be non-negotiable ethical and moral principles found at the core of modernity in its best and strongest moments.

Prof Bauman links to Social Europe’s editor, Henning Meyer, who also attacks critics of Prof Held who, again on my reading of Dr Mayer’s defence of Prof Held, suggest he, and relevant LSE authorities were, at best naive, or too trusting, of Saif Gaddafi’s motives when LSE accepted some funding and otherwise sought to ‘constructively engage’ with the Libyan regime to enhance civil society and the status of women:

As to the accusation itself [that LSE and Prof Held were either hopelessly naive or, much worse, Gaddafi regime stooges], I described above what the research grant was for. The research topics covered by it do not provide any evidence whatsoever for this serious allegation. They rather support the now obscured motive to set up the research project in the first place: trying to develop civil society and inspire positive reform in Libya. The trust in Saif Gaddafi to deliver such reform was certainly misplaced but this does not change the intention of the research programme itself.

Further cogitation on this kind of position might reveal a ‘liquid morality’ in play here too, though I digress.

Turning to Prof Keane’s Open Democracy riposte to Prof Held, Libya, intellectuals and democracy: An open letter to David Held, on March 18, 2011, for starters, it’s very elegantly written and erudite, so my precis of it cannot do it justice. Go read it, savor it even, though I would not place it on the same pedestal as Emile Zola’s J’Accuse intervention into the Dreyfus Affair. But rather than being a precision guided intellectual dismemberment of Prof Held, I detect an almost profound regretful sadness on Prof Keane’s part that Prof Held’s distinguished career and reputation have been terminally damaged by his engagement with Libya. The two have to have known each other for years, and may have even been friends.

Essentially, a major plank of Prof Keane’s argument is that the Gaddafi regime was, particularly after its significant rehabilitation from pariah status in the closing years of the Blair Government, extremely clever and subtle, as well as convincing, about how it went about recruiting scholars and intellectuals to further its legitimacy.

Our colleague Zygmunt Bauman has shown that fellow travelling, the bad habit of cuddling up to power, has long been a curse of our profession. But in your case the Libyan oligarchs went further, by offering your research centre big money for programmes on ‘global governance’, ‘civil society’ and ‘democratisation’. I read in the minutes of an LSE governing council meeting that you argued vigorously against those (was [the late] Fred Halliday [link added] a lone voice?) who were opposed to co-operation with Saif al-Islam. You insisted that a ‘public signing ceremony had been undertaken and a U-turn at this juncture might affect the School’s relations with Libya and cause personal embarrassment to the chairman of the foundation.’ And so the Faustian deal was struck.

Prof Keane puts a series of questions to Prof Held, including:

Can you rest content, safe in the arms of the conviction that your theories are fine but the practise of them, well, was ignored by the promising but wayward son of a fanatic? I don’t think you can. For have you thought that your ‘deeply regrettable’ attraction to the heir apparent of the Libyan regime was more than just a case of the pride and vanity of intellectuals, the generous perks and the acceptance of an oil tanker load of research money in a cash-strapped, near-bankrupt university system? In other words, might the most precious categories within the operative frames of reference of LSE Global Governance have had corrupting effects? …

The scandal reminds us of something that should be obvious, but is often forgotten: in scholarship on democracy, language really matters, sometimes to the point where the intellectual horizons it frames are pimped. The scholarly language we use to speak about democracy is never neutral. It always has consequences. It shapes the way we think. It determines what we can think about. So aren’t there times when it can be abused by others, for instance to fuel their dissimulation and to seduce us, along the way soiling our intentions? To put things crudely: was your consociation with the heir to the throne of the Libyan despotism oiled with the language that you and your colleagues loved to speak?

And Prof Keane concludes:

The purpose of this open letter is to raise fresh concerns about your ‘cautious engagement’ with a violent dictatorship, to convince you that there are still some unanswered questions about the foul nature of the Libyan regime, the political dangers of dissimulation and the corrupting effects on intellectuals of money, hubris and the scholarly language we use. I trust you will not be personally offended by the points I have raised. My hope is that you will see that in this letter, at every point, my aim has not been to vilify, but instead to clarify, to push you to give account of yourself, to explain more fully than you have done so far several matters that are vitally relevant for anybody who shares your concern with the past, present and future of democracy.

But the Comments to Prof Keane’s Post significantly castigate him as ‘pompous, self congratulatory, uninteresting’ and the first commentator writes: “… this is absolutely one of the lowest points: we arrived at the point where a theoretical rival of Held (and one who, perhaps undeservedly has had less academic recognition) claims that his very terminology is so conceptually vacuous as to make him vulnerable to be an instrument of totalitarian regimes”.

(Dr Hayes has another, ‘Huh???‘ moment.)

To my knowledge – and I always beg to be corrected, with supporting evidence – Prof Held has not directly replied to Prof Keane in public, though he was interviewed by the LSE Student’s Union organ, The Beaver, on March 22, 2011:

In a statement published last month, however, on the website of LSE Global Governance, Held retracted his support for Saif.

“My support for Saif al-Islam Gaddafi was always conditional on him resolving the dilemma that he faced in a progressive and democratic direction”, Held wrote, adding Saif’s “commitment to transforming his country has been overwhelmed by the crisis he finds himself in”.

“He tragically, but fatefully, made the wrong judgement”, Held wrote. “As a result, the LSE has stopped new work on the North Africa Programme”.

Even so, Held has continued to come under sharp public criticism for his mentoring and informal advising of Gaddafi during the years at LSE.

Held responded by stressing that his decision was “neither naive nor complicit”. Calling the termed the consociation “a risk worth taking”, given the potential benefits of what is now clearly a failing link.

Held told the Beaver the association was a “cautious form of engagement”, portrayed in an “utterly preposterous way”.

Held said he wants people to understand “the LSE doesn’t deal in arms, oil, construction, contracts in making money out of Libya”.

“We are engaged in the business of ideas”, Held told the Beaver.

“The aim was a democratic reform of the country”, he said, adding, “if only it was successful”.

Held has been quoted as saying the funding was used to “pursue research on changing governance patterns in North Africa, economic diversification, oil and sustainability, developing civil society, and the status of women”.

Commenting on implications of the media coverage on his personal academic reputation, Held said recent media criticisms have damaged his academic reputation.

“It has been very, very damaging”, Held said. “A bit like going through a car crash that allows two circumstances–to learn and move on, or give up and end it all”.

Are Prof Held and his supporters, as Jenni Russell observes, essentially being punished for their failure to predict the future?

LSE, and Prof Held and co, are internationally respected heavyweights, and, acting on very good advice no doubt – I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if discrete advice wasn’t sought or offered from MI6, HM’s Foreign Office, and major corporate intelligence and risk assessment outfits too -, went ahead with their financially assisted ‘constructive engagement’ with what was apparently a rehabilitating formerly pariah regime including through a son of the Libyan dictator doing his PhD at LSE.

Earlier in 2011, it all went horribly wrong.

Are their defenses or explanations of their actions really convincing, or are they just erudite weasel words deployed post facto, a form of intellectual public relations, damage control, and reputation protection?

To draw on Greg Sheridan’s deployment of the term ‘useful idiots‘, it describes people, often but not exclusively intellectuals, journalists, or celebrities, who are suborned or engaged, complicitly or naively, by authoritarian regimes to promote a more ‘informed’ or ‘balanced’ perspective of what’s ‘really going on’ in the country in question. At the very least, ‘useful idiots’ can be ‘enrolled’ to spread doubt about the generally otherwise negative international perception conveyed by the media or human rights NGOs such as Amnesty International.

In August, 2010, the BBC World Service ran a two part series on useful idiots which is well worth a listen.

The term is often, incorrectly, attributed to Lenin, though a feature of Soviet foreign and cultural policy did include the cultivation of Western intellectuals, journalists, or celebrities given sponsored tours of the Soviet Union but who never saw the Gulags and only met ‘approved’ locals, often at carefully staged events.

If one has ‘flexible’ or ‘liquid’ principles, or varying degrees of almost desperation to see the slivers of good or redemptive potential in an otherwise dire or appalling context, one is more likely, or at least amenable, to be cultivated or suborned to, in effect, become an apologist for an otherwise awful regime.

Make no mistake, loathsome regimes are not usually run by fools, whatever else they may be or appear to be.

Key supporters or agents have probably traveled widely, been educated overseas, perhaps on scholarships – colonial and post-colonial cultivation of promising local elites continues – have routine access to global media even if some in their countries still have limited access to electricity or mobile phones, so they usually really know their global, globalized governance, stuff.

They’re very clever, crafty, and ‘flexible’ when it comes to maintaining their domination locally, and seeking and obtaining support or positive recognition internationally. They’re always on the hunt for ‘useful idiots’.

I started this Post initially thinking the Libya – LSE scandal would prove to be pretty straightforward.

As I indicated near the beginning, on my reading of the issue, LSE, and its main actors in this scandal, cannot be lightly or easily dismissed or attacked for simply being naive, or worse, high grade ethically ‘flexible’ money or status grubbing academic opportunists.

This continuing scandal goes to the heart of issues raised anytime anybody considers “constructive engagement” with a regime of questionable legitimacy, especially though not exclusively if the “engagement” is financially greased, or oiled with status or access.

I nevertheless have to side much more with Professor Keane than with Professor Held and his supporters, and await with great anticipation any more fulsome response David Held might make to John Keane as the points raised really do deserve very close and highly informed and reflective attention.

A later Post will consider all this in the context of ‘constructive engagement’ with Fiji.

In conclusion, the Libya – LSE scandal more than amply confirms the import, indeed wisdom, of the very old caution -

“Therfore bihoueth hire a ful long spoon That shal ete with a feend.”

“If you’re going to sup with the Devil, you’d better bring a long spoon.”


Déjà vu all over again: Operation Oddity Awe

March 20, 2011

Well the inevitable overnight pounding of Baghdad Tripoli will teach that old foolish despot Saddam Hussein Muammar Gaddafi a stonking lesson in defending civil liberties the power of a wounded imperialist beast  that he will never forget.

But what next for the bold and staunch Security Council Unites States puppeteers? On the eighth anniversary of the shock and awe campaign against Baghdad – and we all know that’s ending well #FAIL! we see another attempt at “regime change by proxy”. Robert Fisk’s piece “First it was Saddam” is laden with  humour, irony and anger; but it reminds us “trust no-0ne”.

The logic of the US (UN proxy) argument against Gaddafi – that he is using the machinery of state to attack his own people who simply want him to move aside – means that US warships should also be firing missiles at several other royal compounds in the region.

A quick review of what’s happening in the Middle East and a brief look at the “who’s who” of dictators and general fucktards-in-charge would suggest that several kings have put themselves in the firing line by their recent actions.

Here’s a quick survey of the current news from Yemen and Bahrain, where pro-democracy protestors – just like the plucky Libyans – have been gunned down in recent days.

Oh hey, and don’t forget the House of Saudi, which is financing and supporting those pulling the trigger in Yemen.

The difference is plain though; Gadaffi is currently a “baddie” in the simplistic PR spin from the State Department, while the Saudi, Yemeni and Bahraini ruling elites are “friendlies”.

I am very disappointed with the news media over this issue. As soon as the “bang bang” starts the embedded knuckleheads in the compliant news media suddenly have deep amnesia.

They have forgotten all the lies that surrounded shock and awe and more importantly and more worryingly, the news media has conveniently forgotten its own disgusting, abject, grovelling and deceitful role in that sorry little saga of war crime, murder and mayhem.

This front page is a good example of what I mean. Instead of focusing on why the attacks and challenging them, the New Zealand Herald chooses instead to run this stupid line from one of Gaddafi’s rants as an excuse to paint the attacks as justified.

This is not good enough.

I’m out for a Sunday drive, more later.


Once again into the breach: Denouncing Israel is not anti-Semitic

June 2, 2010

Whenever there is an outrage like the Israel military killing unarmed protestors in cold blood there is international condemnation. Some of it is weak as piss (Obama’s “concern” etc echoed by Western leaders who fall in behind the US strategy of propping up the failed Zionist state), but consistently the socialist left and the anti-war movement denounces Israeli military and political policy.

When the left does attack Israel and Zionism the immediate response from pro-Israel forces is to condemn leftists as anti-Semites. I have talked about this before and I have experienced it first-hand again this time.

Why defending Palestinians is not anti-Semitic

Tumeke boycott a red herring

An old friend (now an ex-friend) defamed me several times in a post on my Facebook page. Firstly as an anti-Semite and then as an alcoholic to boot. He has no evidence for this latter claim, but no doubt takes exception to the “Martini” part of this blog’s title. He has not seen me drunk for at least 20 years and the last time I was in his company I had two glasses of red wine.

I can laugh that off; it really is like spilt wine water off a barman’s slop cloth duck’s back. But the charge of anti-Semitism is more serious.

I won’t go over all the arguments again; you can catch up with the previous posts or Google your own version of events, but I will link to two pieces which I think explain my position quite well.

The first is a piece by Alexander Cockburn written in CounterPunch:

Of course the rhetorical trick is to conflate “Israel” or “the State of Israel” with “Jews” and argue that they are synonymous. Ergo, to criticize Israel is to be anti-Semitic. Leave aside the fact that many of Israel’s most articulate critics are Jews, honorably committed to the cause of justice for all in the Middle East. Many Jews just don’t like hearing bad things said about Israel, same way they don’t like reading articles about the Jewish lobby here. Mention the lobby and someone like Fox will rush into print denouncing those who “toy with the old anti-Semitic canard that the Jews control the press.”

These days you can’t even say that New York Times is owned by a Jewish family without risking charges that you stand in Goebbels’ shoes.

The second is from antiwar.com and is by Justin Raimondo:

If anti-Semitism is not a problem, then that is a problem for the Zionist project, and so the idea is to provoke it, create it where it never before existed. One way to do that is to redefine “anti-Semitism” in such broad terms that it could include practically anybody but Norman Podhoretz.


Two Fairfax journalists held in Israel after flotilla attack. RSF calls for an end to censorship

June 1, 2010

Two Fairfax journalists from The Sydney Morning Herald are among the detainees taken into Israeli custody after the bloody attack on the Freedom Flotilla yesterday. According to the SMH, the pair are unharmed, but shaken by their experience.

It is understood Geraghty and McGeough are in an Israeli detention facility at Ashdod and were expected to be taken to another detention facility, about 70 kilometres away, in Beersheva. Herald editor Peter Fray said the Israeli government had not confirmed this. “We have had no direct communication with Paul or Kate since 11.53am Sydney time yesterday,” Fray said, adding he was grateful for the consular help provided by Australian and Irish authorities in Israel. “We are obviously very eager to make contact with Paul and Kate, who entered Israel as working journalists to do a legitimate job. “We hope that the authorities respect their right to do that job. And of course the welfare of Paul and Kate is of paramount concern to us at this stage.”

Earlier McGeough, who has more than 25 years experience as a foreign correspondent and was due to Skype with AUT journalism students yesterday, reported live to the Herald website as the Israeli military closed in on the aid convoy.

Reporters Without Borders has condemned the Israeli’s media blackout and the detaining of journalists who were put in harms way by the attacks yesterday.

Reporters Without Borders strongly condemns the censorship attempts that accompanied today’s deadly assault by Israel on a flotilla that was carrying humanitarian aid, 750 pro-Palestinian activists and several journalists to the Gaza Strip.

“We deplore this assault, which left a heavy toll of dead and wounded,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The journalists who were on the flotilla to cover the humanitarian operation were put in harm’s way by this disproportionate reaction. We urge the Israeli authorities to release the detained journalists and allow them unrestricted access to the Gaza Strip. The international community needs accurate information about this Palestinian Territory.”

However as RSF points out the Israeli military and government has form on this issue and constantly harrasses journalists trying to cover the Gaza story and the occupied territories.


The world is unbalanced: Zionist murders vs rancid butter – where’s justice?

June 1, 2010

Sea Shepperd activist Pete Bethune is fighting a potential 15 year jail sentence in Japan for throwing a bottle of rancid butter at a whaling ship illegally “fishing” in international waters.

On the high seas, Israeli commandos kill a dozen unarmed activists and the Zionist propaganda machine goes into hyper-drive complaining that the dead and injured humanitarians had the temerity to fight back with iron bars and hockey sticks against heavily-armed and heavily-disguised storm troopers.

Go figure! The world is unbalanced.

“]”]

Protestors in LA [LA Times photo

The Zionist state has been roundly condemned by everyone except the United States for the callous and unnecessary carnage inflicted on a flotilla of vessels attempting to break the Israeli’s illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip and the occupied territories.

Obama’s weak statement falls well short of condemning the Israeli’s murderous actions and instead calls for all the “facts” to be made public:

“The President expressed deep regret at the loss of life in today’s incident, and concern for the wounded, many of whom are being treated in Israeli hospitals,” the statement said.

“The President also expressed the importance of learning all the facts and circumstances around this morning’s tragic events as soon as possible,” the statement added.

This is Washington beltway code for giving the Zionist state time to get its story straight.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called the incident “murder committed by a state” and said Israel had “lost all legitimacy”.

But Israeli UN representative Daniel Carmon told the Security Council that some on board the ships had motives other than providing humanitarian assistance, and had tried to lynch Israeli soldiers. [BBC]

Hang on…”tried to lynch Israeli soldiers”. WTF? This sounds preposterous. In the middle of a raid and with activists hoisting the white flag of surrender, they tried to lynch soldiers. It doesn’t make sense, but it scares the children.

The Guardian: Israel accused of state terrorism That’s more like it.

Surely if there is to be justice then Pete Bethune should be home in New Zealand very soon and the Zionist state should be charged with crimes against humanity; piracy and murder most foul.

Don’t hold your breath.

There’s also a Kiwi woman in custody in Israel after taking part in the flotilla. According to the New Zealand Herald, the woman has not been named. Another detainee is an Irish political activist, Caoimhe Butterly.

But, we haven’t heard the last of the Israeli attacks. There are already protests globally and I would imagine that Israeli embassies in Turkey and other nations will be targets.

Burn, baby, burn.


Free Roxana Saberi

April 20, 2009

Freelance journalist, Roxana Saberi, was jailed for eight years in Iran this week on sham charges that she was engaged in espionage. Roxana is in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran where political prisoners are often held. [NPR Broadcast on notorious Evin Prison]

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Evin is a hellhole and inmates often subject to torture:

At least two journalists have died ‎there in the last six years amid circumstances that have not been fully explained, CPJ research shows.Omidreza Mirsayafi, a blogger serving a 30-month sentence on a charge of insulting religious figures, died at the prison in March under mysterious circumstances.In July 2003, Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi died from a brain hemorrhage that resulted from a beating at Evin Prison. An intelligence agent charged in the killing was acquitted after a flawed trial. Kazemi had been jailed because she took photographs outside the prison. [CPJ 18 April]

The CPJ [9 March] has launched a petition calling on Iranian authorities to release Roxana. Iran is also under mounting diplomatic pressure to free her. The petition is available for signature on Facebook Causes and so far has over 10,000 signatures.

Join the Facebook cause Protect Journalists

The BBC has an interesting profile of Roxana, who was born in America to an Iranian father and Japanese mother. In a weird little footnote, she is a former beauty queen and has a Masters degree from Cambridge. The Huffington Post has more coverage.

There’s a whole diplomatic “back story” to this incident that many are saying is linked to Iran’s attempts to push the United States into more concessions over its nuclear programme. Roxana is now a pawn, it seems, in this zero-sum game of brinkmanship.

The Asian-American Journalists Association has established a Free Roxana website that is being staffed by her friends and former colleagues at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

It is important to get Roxana out of Evin, but also to understand the brutality of the regime. The online Persian Journal – an outlet for dissident writings about Iran – has a first person account from a woman held in Ervin prison. It is not pretty.


Stefan – read this. Jews say no

February 14, 2009

No doubt these patriots  are “self-hating” people, IYHO,  but I’ve had enough. Shove this, sunshine

Not in our name

Seriously, you can be pious and not zious. Or better still, secular and left.

jsn

[Feb 17 update]

I just read a note from my Facebook friend Ido Liven who works as an independent journalist in the Middle East. He was confused about “IYHO” in the first line of this post. He thought that I thought that anti-war Jewish people were “self-hating”. I need to correct that.

IYHO is In Your Humble Opinion, not IMHO (In My Humble Opinion). In this case the “You” is refering to the Zionist lobby that argues Jews who oppose the occupation of Palestine and the use of phosphorous weapons against Palestinians are “self-hating” One such group is behind Zionismontheweb. There’s a good overview of the topic at Jewish Currents, which outlines why Noam Chomsky is often singled-out as a prominent “self-hater”. It really is just a way for Zionists to conveniently label anti-Zionist Jews, such as this group, Jews against Zionism.

Ido has also written on this issue “Our side or theirs“.


Gaza appeal creates row in UK media

January 27, 2009

The refusal of the BBC and Sky TV to broadcast a charity appeal for victims of  Israeli ground and air attacks in Gaza earlier this month (Jan 2009), is causing outrage in Britain.

Church leaders and MPs have joined in calls for the BBC and Sky TV to join Channels Four and Five in broadcasting the appeal video, produced by the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC).

The whole fracas raises some very interesting questions about the line between news and advertorial and the editorial independence of news organisations reporting on the controversial conflict between Israel and the Hamas organisation, which controls Gaza and has been firing Qassam rockets into Israeli settlements.

The video is available on the Guardian’s website.

The BBC’s Director-General, wearing his “editor-in-chief” hat, argues that broadcasting the appeal would compromise the organisation’s impartiality in the coverage of an ongoing news story. This seems, at face value to be a persuasive argument.

Read the rest of this entry »


CNN and BBC reporters enter Gaza

January 17, 2009

CNN reporter Ben Wedeman crossed into Gaza from Egypt.
Defiance amid destruction

RAFAH, Gaza (CNN) — Bloodshed, fear, privation and anger were all clearly visible in Gaza as we finally managed to enter the territory. Unsurprisingly, there were also displays of fist-shaking defiance, but what I had not expected was the high morale.

The BBC’s Christian Fraser is also in Rafah

…on Friday we finally made it into Gaza to see first-hand the destruction.

Rafah has been pounded throughout this conflict, the Israelis dismantling the network of smuggling tunnels that run beneath the border.

But there is plenty more that has been destroyed, too. [BBC]

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Why defending the Palestinians is not anti-semitic

January 16, 2009

In a recent post – my first on the Israeli’s attacks on Gaza – I mentioned my reluctance to get into the debate because of the tendency of defenders of the State (and territorial borders) of Israel to equate any criticism with anti-semitism.

This is just nonsense, but it strikes a chord because the Zionist propaganda machine has done a good job of guilting us into soft-shoeing criticism of Israel lest we be seen to be being racist, or religiously intolerant.

First of all being Jewish is not a racial thing, secondly not all Jews are Zionists and not all Zionists are Jewish. Third what part of the phrase “war crime” don’t these people understand?

The logic of the “attacking Zionism is anti-semitic” position is that if you are against the existence of Israel as a geographic and political entity in the Middle East you are of the same political ilk as the Nazis.

Bullshit!

Read the rest of this entry »


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