Saturday, January 17, 2009 

Ceasefire, weekend links and an extended worst tabloid article of the weekend.

As expected, Israel has announced a "unilateral" ceasefire. The thinking behind this is clear: never again will Israel accept a humiliating peace like that two years ago in Lebanon, making deals and coming out looking the loser. Instead they'll hold their head up high, having done what any other country under 8 years of rocket fire would, treating civilians with silk gloves and Hamas with an iron first. What's more, if Hamas then breaches this kind ceasefire, they'll be the ones betraying their own citizens when Israel has to respond.

The cynicism of this is obvious. This was always a war of Israel's choosing, and now it's ended it in the same way. It leaves Gaza devastated, 1,200 of its citizens killed and over 5,000 injured, and Israel has to all intents and purposes completely got away with it. It's thumbed its nose at the UN, mocked world opinion and made the world's media seethe, even while they reported all of the Israeli government's open propaganda and treated it as gospel. The siege seems unlikely to be lifted, Gaza's tunnels which helped those trapped in the territory to live have been destroyed, and all the funding to rebuild will once again have to come from international donors. How much more does it have to take before we declare Israel to be a rogue state, which is what it has quite clearly become?

On that thought, we may as well keep the theme and go with other comment on Israel and Gaza. A piece a couple of days old but still superb is Flying Rodent's channelling of the spirit of Ehud Olmert, Back Towards the Locus reports on a local protest, while Robert Fisk, Deborah Orr and DD Guttenplan on his reluctance to join last Saturday's march provide the MSM comment.

Elsewhere, Mr E, the Heresiarch and Jennie Rigg all mourn John Mortimer, Derek Draper rather ruins any pretence that LabourList is anything other than a stitch-up by his attitude towards Tim, the Bleeding Heart Show comments on the Tories' Low Carbon Economy green paper and Laurie Penny relates another meeting with our glorious Work and Pensions minister, James Purnell. In the papers, there's little of note other than Matthew Parris on speaking out before it's too late, and Howard Jacobson ruminating on the difference between a silly lad and a murderous racist.

As for the worst tabloid piece of the weekend, we truly are spoilt for choice. There's the Mail's charming description of the murder trial of Meredith Kercher, which it calls the "Foxy Knoxy show" on its front page, despite Kercher's own parents' attempts to have the trial held behind closed doors to prevent sensitive evidence being published and to retain their dead daughter's dignity. It seems remarkable the difference between the Mail's attitudes to trials in this country, which it seems hardly likely to have described in such terms even if someone as supposedly "glamourous" as the always referred to by nickname Amanda Knox was in the dock, and ones taking place abroad. It's almost as if it seems to imagine that because it's happening in Italy that Kercher's parents either have no feelings or inclination to see what the media at home is saying, let alone what Kercher's friends think about the way the media has reported her death.

The Mail though is notorious for not caring about things like intruding into grief. Any paper that was would surely have not published today's truly revolting comment by Amanda Platell, who of out all the other things she could have written about chose to focus her main energy on the tragic death of Rachel Ward, who died of hypothermia after apparently falling into a river. According to Platell, rather than this being a tragic accident, it's instead indicative "of the lives of many middle-class young women". Variously, her death seems to have been down to the following facts: firstly, that she was middle class, and therefore should have known better than to have been taking part in such working class pursuits as going on a skiing holiday and drinking whilst on it; secondly, that her friends abandoned her when she decided to go back to where she was staying on her own, therefore it's their fault too; and finally, that it's actually neither her own fault nor her friends' fault, but rather the fault of equality:

Sadly, in a world where women have fought for generations for equality, where they insist on their independence, where drunkenness and debauchery are actively encouraged, you can’t really blame a young man for failing to act chivalrously.

Yes, Rachel’s death was tragedy — but it was an accident waiting to happen.

There you are then girls - you weren't fighting for equal rights, you were in fact fighting for the right to die alone in a freezing river, because Amanda Platell says so. What a despicable cunt.

Amazingly, that isn't the worst tabloid piece of the weekend. Peter Hitchens has a reasonable effort too, claiming that "poverty is a lie the left uses to destroy the middle class". Good, but no cigar. No, the award must instead go to Julie Burchill, who writes a quite wonderful defence of George W. Bush in the Sun. Strangely, in her case for what a brilliant president he's been, the words "Iraq", "Afghanistan", "Abu Ghraib", "Guantanamo", "rendition" and many others which you can fill in yourselves don't make an appearance. No, instead Burchill concentrates on how he brilliant he's been for Africa (half-true, he has massively increased aid but also insisted on abstinence programmes to deal with AIDS), how brilliant he's been for black people, thanks to his promotion of first Colin Powell (who was ignored and sidelined and so enamoured with the Republicans that he endorsed Obama) and then Condoleezza Rice, doing so much that apparently without those two Obama couldn't have won the presidency, and finally how he signed "the Worker, Retiree and Employer Act which allows the rollover of pensions from a dead gay person to a partner without tax consequences — as has always been the case for straights". No mention of how he opposes gay marriage and how when asked whether he thought homosexuality was a choice answered that "he didn't know". With friends like Julie, who exactly needs enemies?

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Friday, January 16, 2009 

An end in sight?

If it wasn't for all the reports informing us that Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni wanted a ceasefire long ago, honestly, really, you could cynically imagine that from the very beginning there was a plan for the Israeli assault on Gaza. We already know that even prior to the six-month ceasefire with Hamas which even the Israelis admit they were first to breach, Israel was planning for the attack on Gaza which has filled so many with horror over the past three weeks. Why not then that the plan was to start the assault on the 27th of December, while the West is still caught up in its own post-Christmas feculence, blame it on Hamas ending the truce by goading them to fire barrages of rockets into Israel, and then spend the three weeks leading up to Obama's inauguration trying your hardest to annihilate Hamas and force them into a humiliating further ceasefire, ensuring that no longer can they smuggle weapons while also hopefully keeping up the siege?

Things haven't of course gone entirely to plan. Israel perhaps didn't plan on the ferocity of the response from Europe and other countries around the world, but it's managed to get by regardless. It perhaps hasn't done as much damage to Hamas as it would have liked, but it's probably destroyed the vast majority of the tunnels, killed two of their senior leaders, and Hamas hasn't put up anywhere near the sort of fight which Hizbullah managed in Lebanon in 2006, although whether this is because, as we've seen, the Israeli plan this time round has been overwhelming force and taking no prisoners, but regardless, it must still be tremendously pleased with the very low civilian and military casualties, especially when compared to the 1,100 Palestinians killed and over 5,000 injured. Where it has triumphed beyond doubt is with the United States in the very last days of the Bush administration. Not only did Olmert successfully intervene with Bush to stop Condi Rice from ending her monstrous period as secretary of state by voting for a security council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire, but they've got just the sort of agreement they want which binds the US to help with the monitoring of the Egypt-Gaza border, and all without apparently so much as consulting the incoming administration. Not a bad last day's work by any means.

Where this leaves Israel's standing in the world at large remains to be seen. The anger which the attack on an impoverished, prison like tiny territory has inspired not just on the streets of the Arab world but on western Europe's as well is quite possibly unprecedented in recent times. There were riots in Oslo, huge demonstrations in all of the major capital cities and dozens of the smaller ones as well, and also, sadly and frighteningly, a rise in anti-Semitic attacks. That was always to be expected when there are individuals that cannot differentiate between a people and a state, just as some cannot between Muslims and terrorists, but nonetheless all such violence, abuse and vandalism has to be condemned in the strongest possible terms. Smashing Starbucks' windows, let alone attacking a synagogue, is not going to change one thing in Gaza, let alone Israel, quite the reverse. Likewise, the overreaction of those who want to deflect attention from the carnage in Gaza has been as self-serving as always: witness Harry's Place, perennial defenders of Israeli aggression who have been vocal in their denouncing of protesters linking Israel to the Nazis, comparing the tiny number of smashed windows to... the Nazis and especially Kristallnacht, a photoshopped site banner conflating the two explicitly. Not only is this ahistorical in the extreme, it also demeans and debases the real suffering which those who lived in Nazi Germany during that period went through. A state organised and executed pogrom and an idiot with a brick shutting down a single bourgeois coffee shop from hell for a day are incomparable.

It's easy to see why some have been so quick to change the subject from Gaza itself to those on protests though; even the majority of them must recognise just how indefensible the attack on Gaza has been. Never before has the Zionist trick of screaming anti-Semitism at those criticising Israel been shown up to be so shallow and futile, Elizabeth Wurtzel's attempt to do just that on CiF completely monstered. For all Israel's attempts to win the PR battle, their single decision not to allow journalists into the Gaza strip itself produced a vacuum that could be filled only by the Palestinians on the ground themselves, the likes of al-Jazeera and the other Arab media profiting, the images of the hundreds of children injured filling the screens and newspapers every day now for nigh on 3 weeks.

It will however be the savagery of the Israeli assault which will live long in the memory. Most people might have given them the benefit of the doubt if they'd only managed to hit the one UN building, and believed the story of there being fire from within the compound; when you hit another school where people are sheltering and then finally hit the UNRWA headquarters itself, apparently with phosphorus shells which quickly turn the aid and food stored there into an inferno, it starts to look like it's either deliberate or that the IDF doesn't care what it hits. It's not just the phosphorus shells, which when used as a weapon as they apparently have been are illegal under international law, but also the apparent use of one of the newer discoveries in the world of armaments, DIME, or Dense Inert Metal Explosives. These bombs have the advantage of being more accurate and covering only a small radius, but the downside of completely eviscerating those that they come into contact with. Whether the Israelis are definitively using these weapons or not is difficult to know for sure, but the injuries that some of the doctors in Gaza have been seeing, where limbs have been effectively ripped off without suffering the shrapnel wounds associated with conventional shelling suggests that this might well be the case. Gaza may well be a testing lab for new weapons, being tried on a human and overwhelming civilian population. This is without considering the hospital that was hit, ambulances which have been targeted, the paramedics that have been killed trying to save others and the estimated $1.4 billion damage done to the infrastructure of the territory, not to mention the accusations of war crimes from the International Committee of the Red Cross and the demands for investigations into them by the UN and other governments.

What Israel will have achieved at the end of all this is difficult to know for sure. It probably won't save the Labour-Kadima coalition from being defeated, even if the spilling of Palestinian blood, which always seems to a vote-winner, has been taken to extremes. It might be able to win a "victory", by stopping the weapon smuggling into Gaza, not lifting the siege, declaring a unilateral ceasefire so they look like the good guys after all, and even turn a few Gazan minds against Hamas once the dust has settled and they see the devastation and decide that the sacrifice may not have been worth it. That however seems unlikely. In the worst case scenario for Israel, it could well end up having the opposite effect, showing the world that the real aggressors are not the terrorists of Hamas but those that don't apologise for killing hundreds of children, inspiring boycotts and continued protests, showing that Hamas are going to have to be dealt with if a peace settlement is ever going to be reached, and further establishing the spirit of resistance in a people that have been resisting now for over 60 years. Furthermore, they look set to have to deal with an Obama administration that at the moment is suggesting that it is willing to negotiate with Hamas, and that is also likely to be far tougher on Israel than the Bush administration has ever been, even if that isn't saying much. It's unwise to suggest that this might be one of the last gasps of a nation that has tried to enforce peace without a settlement and has failed, and one of the first of a nation that will have to do the opposite if it is ever to have complete security, but we can live in hope. Whatever happens, those killed in this latest senseless conflict will most certainly not be forgotten.

Labels: , , , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Thursday, January 15, 2009 

The only MP deserving of the label.

Is John McDonnell the only Labour MP left truly deserving of the title? You can't help but admire his furious reaction to the evasions, false promises and downright lies of Geoff Hoon, taking the mace (although not shown) as he explains to the BBC as it has been in the past to demand the right of MPs to vote on a new runway at Heathrow.

It is truly remarkable that Geoff Hoon is still in government, or rather, it's truly indicative of New Labour's political bankruptcy that he is. A man only distinguished by his mediocrity, he's crawled from one job to another, involved in the death of David Kelly along the way, his obsequious behaviour to both Blair and Brown enabling him to shift between the two without so much as the slightest recognition of his previous failures, let alone that of his superiors. The real reason for not having a vote is obvious: the government would either lose or come very close to losing, with both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats opposing the plans, and dozens of Labour MPs also opposed to any further expansion of the airport from hell.

The other reason is that as the Guardian reports, Brown views this as a "dividing line" between Labour and the Tories. As ever, his real interest is in his own political advantage: he doesn't care about how it affects the government's other policies on climate change, how it sticks two fingers up at everyone other than the business lobby and the unions that are similarly only self-interested, it's about how can he position himself come the general election, further evidence of how the Tories are a do-nothing party, unprepared to invest in the nation's economic prosperity. That his own policies have had a major hand in our current fall in prosperity is neither here nor there, nor is how every promise made about Heathrow ever has been broken. The really sad thing is that John, even with his 10,000 majority, might well lose his seat when his constituents punish the party rather than the man, betrayed by his allegiance to a party that lost its way a long time ago.

Labels: , , , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button


Scum-watch: More idiotic blaming of British Muslims

You would have thought that after relying on the dubious claims of Glen Jenvey for a front page lead story, only for it to have been withdrawn less than a week later might have made the Sun's journalists slightly more circumspect in accusing British Muslims of stirring up hate or targeting Jews.

Then you of course remember that you're dealing with the Sun, where few of the journalists in the first place have enough brains or probably the time to make a Google search before taking to slamming their keyboard and banging out another idiotic piece. So it is with today's banner boosting, potentially baseless claim, that "menacing texts sent ... by Hamas supporters" originated in this country:

MENACING texts sent to Israeli soldiers’ families by Hamas supporters were traced to Britain yesterday.

Scores of messages have been sent — warning that Israeli sons fighting in Gaza face slaughter.

Checks of the code from the sender’s number revealed the texts originated in the UK.

British supporters of the Islamic fanatics in the besieged Gaza Strip were assumed to be responsible for the scare tactics last night.

As is usual, the Sun's own story appears to based on one elsewhere, this report from Ynetnews:

After Hamas sent a text message in broken Hebrew to a number of Israeli cellular phones during the first days of Operation Cast Lead, the organization ahs now decided to try its luck in an English message.

"Come on into Gaza. A number of surprises waiting for your sons, the least of which is death. Hamas," read the SMS message received Wednesday by a number of Israelis on their cellular phones.

Attempts to call the phone number from which the message was sent, that appeared to have an British country code, was met with an automated message the number had been disconnected.

Helpfully, Ynetnews provides a grab from the mobile, giving the number from which the message originated, +447624803777, which does indeed appear to be a British number, the +44 being our country code. A simple Google search however quickly reveals that this is not as simple as someone sending out mass messages from a phone which they've then quickly disconnected:

hi all
i am from indonesia,everybody can use that number for sms, pls your try from here

for free sms pls visit my sites
free sms for all

Another site that offered free SMS messages originating from that number was, currently down, as set out here. It seems that the number is just a generic one, meant to confuse people into thinking it's a legitimate number, but is instead just a front, mainly used for mass spamming, as was the case here. A whois for only identifies that the domain is registered with Godaddy, and might well no longer be used. In the comments on the Ynetnews article someone claims to have traced it as an Isle of Man network number, which further distinguishes it as not necessarily being connected with the mainland itself.

In fact, the Sun might well have been cleverer here than first imagined. Their screen grab of a phone with the message has been conveniently cropped so that phone number itself isn't visible, nor the Hebrew lettering underneath it, although it is almost certainly the same source image. It might just have been cropped for space, or for another reason, but the fact that anyone can quickly Google the number and find out that it's been used for spam in the past and debunk the article suggests if not the hack, then a sub-editor might well have looked deeper into it.

The work done, the article goes on, first reporting bin Laden's latest predictable audio message, then reporting the similarly ludicrous claims that Jewish schools are recruiting extra security guards because of the rhetoric from one Hamas leader:

Meanwhile, Jewish schools across Britain are hiring squads of elite security guards after Hamas declared children to be legitimate targets.

Guards are sweeping classrooms for bombs and searching visitors for weapons.

The head of security at North West London Jewish Day School said: “Many of the security staff have served in armies around the world.”

What he in fact said was that as long as Palestinian children were being targeted that Jewish children were legitimate targets also. It was simply the familiar tit-for-tat nonsense which often erupts from leaders in times of war, and about as likely to be acted upon in this country as Kate Winslet giving a short, calm acceptance speech. It's only after all this information about the evil of Hamas and al-Qaida that the Sun finally reports what actually happened in Gaza yesterday:

The Israeli onslaught in Gaza continued yesterday as the Palestinian death toll in the 19-day war soared over the 1,000 mark.

More than 300 victims were children. Thirteen Israelis have died.

The comments on the story tell their own tale too:

This is truly scary stuff- there are Hamas terrorists in Britain drawing up hit lists of British citizens on British soil. Hamas are animals, and any of their representatives anywhere in the world deserve condemnation in the strongest possible terms.

Israel is fighting our war, a war against extremism and filthy civilian-targeting terrorist groups all over the world. The shocking truth is that nobody in the UK can see that, as they are too busy supporting the most 'fashionable' cause.

The story has now been twisted beyond simply domestic "hate-filled extremists" into Hamas terrorists. The Sun and Glen Jenvey should be congratulated on their spreading of such nonsense.

what do you expected? the UK is not for the British any more. look at what New Labor has done to that place!! I wouldn't live in the UK now if you paid me, and watch everyone leave!!!

We can be grateful for the small mercy that electropleb already has.

Also worth noting this disgusting racism from the Ynetnews comments:

To quote one of the posts in the Hebrew ynet: There is no way an ordinary Palestinian can write without any spelling errors, and certainly not manufacture a phrase like "the least of which", even after many years of studying English. No doubt a native Brit is involved here. But is anyone really surprised of this?

Yeah, Palestinians are obviously so fucking backward that they couldn't possibly master simple English sentence structure; it's simply beyond their grasp.

Labels: , , , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Wednesday, January 14, 2009 

Just another assault on civil liberties.

One of the things about New Labour and its insistent, constant apparent dedication to the slow sapping of our civil liberties is that it never knows when to stop. It's forced to back down one month, then the plans are reintroduced the next, or ever so slightly modified to make them slightly more palatable. Exactly this has occurred over the plans to hold inquests in private without a jury:

Jack Straw, the justice secretary, will today revive his plan to hold inquests that involve aspects of national security in private without a jury when the coroners and justice bill is published.

The controversial measure, which could be invoked in cases like those of British servicemen killed by American forces in Iraq and the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes on the London tube, was shelved last month when it faced severe criticism during the passage of the Counter-Terrorism Act.

Like so much else it has proposed in the past, it hasn't even began to make a case or explain why holding inquests in private might be necessary, and indeed, as embarrassing as the inquests into the death of Jean Charles de Menezes was, and as annoying as it is to be constantly reprimanded by upstart coroners over the deaths of troops, it still doesn't seem to merit holding them in private.

The question then has to be, does New Labour know something we don't? Is something even more damaging on the horizon which it needs to pre-empt? Or is this purely just in case, should the police shoot dead another foreigner while chasing suicide bombers, or the deaths in Afghanistan further ramp up in another futile war where troops are dying because of poor equipment?

That's the other thing with Labour. You simply can't work them out, even 11 years after coming to office. You can't fathom why they would put themselves through such ignominy and attacks from their own supporters, not to mention judges and opposition MPs, purely for something they might never have to use. Unlike with detention without charge, no one's going to blame them for not diluting the right to an open inquest, so what do they possibly gain except perhaps kudos from the security services or self-assurance? Perhaps they are just simply determined to cautiously but inexorably turn the country into an authoritarian state. Perhaps they're just utter bastards. Both are as reasonable explanations as the ones they're openly giving.

Labels: , , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button


Dyslexia is a myth, says PM Rtringes.

For the most part, members of parliament, regardless of their political views, are not complete idiots or dyed-in-the-wool ideologues convinced of the righteousness of their minority opinions. When they are, such as in the case of Nadine Dorries, they tend to expose themselves, if you'll pardon the expression, and even if not pilloried publicly, tend to become known for the eccentricities.

Few though deign to expose their ignorance quite so forcefully or as weakly as Graham Stringer, who in an article for Manchester Confidential doesn't just suggest that dyslexia is occasionally misdiagnosed or that poor teaching sometimes results in children failing to learn to read or write adequately, but that the entire disorder has in fact been invented by the teaching establishment to cover up for their inability to comprehensively offer Stringer's magic bullet, synthetic phonics, having earlier in the article declared they are no panaceas.

Quite apart from the fact that Stringer should perhaps take up his idea that dyslexia has been created by the "education establishment" with the numerous scientists and doctors that first established its existence and have since, as Unity points out on Lib Con, published somewhere in the region of 6,000 peer reviewed papers and articles on it, it would be nice if he could even begin to compare like with like. Spot the problem with Stringer's argument:

There are two simple reasons for being confident about the false nature of dyslexia. International comparisons and the fact that so called dyslexic children have no more trouble learning to read than other children, if the appropriate teaching methods are used.

If dyslexia really existed then countries as diverse as Nicaragua and South Korea would not have been able to achieve literacy rates of nearly 100%.

There can be no rational reason why this ‘brain disorder’ is of epidemic proportions in Britain but does not appear in South Korea or Nicaragua (it is also pretty damning that according to Professor Julian Elliot there are 28 different definitions of dyslexia).

What languages are primarily spoken and taught in South Korea and Nicaragua? Ah yes, that would be Korean and Spanish. Especially considering that Korean is a completely different system of writing altogether, and consists almost entirely of a phonetic orthography this is about as absurd a comparison as you could possibly make.

Stringer further doesn't help his cause by conflating dyslexia with illiteracy in general. He opens the article with comments about illiteracy and its connection with crime, claiming that 25% of the population in Manchester is "functionally illiterate". Quite where he gets this statistic from in the beginning is a mystery, the closest probably being a Telegraph article from 2006 which claimed that 1 in 6 adults lack the literacy skills of the average 11-year-old. This is substantially different both from complete illiteracy and from dyslexia itself; dyslexia is not simply not being very good at reading or writing, but can also additionally affect speaking and other functions. Dyslexia prevalence is estimated at between 2% and 15% of the population, wildly off his 25% scale, although not far of the Telegraph's 1 in 6. He then further confuses the issue, after his rant about dyslexia not existing, by introducing his "magic bullet" of phonics, by suggesting that that 25% could all be happily reading and writing effectively if only they had been taught properly in the first place. The trial he quotes in West Dunbartonshire has incidentally not just involved teaching synthetic phonics, but also a 10-strand separate intensive intervention policy.

If, instead of suggesting that "dyslexia is a cruel fiction", Stringer had instead wrote, rather more sympathetically, that the common perception of dyslexia is false, or even described it as a myth, as a Dispatches documentary a few years' back did, he would have been on surer ground, as there is certainly disagreement over its exact diagnosis and how to treat it. Instead he's completely confident that there is no such thing, which puts him in a distinct minority of the usual conspiracy theorists and cranks that also still believe that the MMR vaccine causes autism and that HIV doesn't cause AIDS. If Stringer had wrote his rant in the Daily Mail then perhaps you could take it less seriously, considering the space it gives other every day of the week to the latest pseudo-scientific gimmickry. You could also accept it more if Stringer himself wasn't decently educated, but he in fact has a BSc in Chemistry and worked as a chemist before becoming a politician. Consequently, we can rather confidently conclude that Stringer himself is more than something of a cnut.

Labels: , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button


Over 1,000 dead and still they go and watch.

Israel should be proud: it took the IDF exactly a month to kill nearly 1,000 people in Lebanon during the 2006 war with Hizbullah; this time it has taken them only 18 days. Lebanon however had a population of roughly 4 million; Gaza has a population of 1.25 million. All while the IDF has been pummelling Gaza, Israelis have been travelling to Parash Hill, near Sderot, to have an overview of what their military is inflicting on a population that it first sealed off, then attempted to starve, and is now finally trying to bomb into submission. We've already seen smiles and laughter, stories of picnics and ghouls saying that more could be done, now we have a CNN reporter smiling and laughing with two women as they discuss the carnage going on only miles from where they're sitting. There's the others openly celebrating as they look through binoculars as the air strikes rain down and the phosphorous lights up the sky. And then there's the mealy-mouthed others, those who've had their own homes hit by Palestinian rockets, offering insincere concern for the innocents that might also be suffering in Gaza, the ones whose homes will be unrepairable and the others that will never recover from their injuries.

The reports continue to come in of suspected atrocities, of deliberate targeting of civilians. The Times speaks to a soldier that says everything is being treated as hostile, that this is the most "aggressive line" that has ever been taken with the Palestinians, that even he is shocked by the devastation that they are discovering and which Israel has tried as hard as possible to stop being glimpsed by too many Western eyes. The BBC reports that women responding to an Israeli call to leave, additionally carrying white flags, were shot and one was killed, while others trying to find water were similarly shot and apparently killed. From a less reputable source is an even more shocking, upsetting story, of an 92-year-old man injured on the first day of the Israeli bombardment, only reached today, found decomposing with a white flag in his hand. If substantiated, it is such accounts that remain on people's minds for years to come.

So brutal has the assault on Gaza been that even those supposedly on the Israeli left, such as Yossi Alpher, co-editor of Bitter Lemons, are left looking for comparisons which play down the carnage which has been unleashed. Alpher alighted upon the final battle for Fallujah in Iraq at the end of 2004, where similar accusations of war crimes were made, but which reflects better on the IDF as there were suggestions that up to 6,000 civilians were killed, out of an insurgent force estimated at being between 3,000 and 6,000. Israel claims there are around 20,000 Hamas fighters in Gaza. Alpher fails to mention that even if it did calm Fallujah somewhat, all that it achieved was a dispersal of the insurgency from the city into Anbar province itself, with it only eventually being tackled by the rise of the Awakening programme, when the tribal sheikhs tired of the tyranny and bloodshed brought by their alliance with the likes of al-Qaida in Iraq. Furthermore, there's a rather larger inconvenient fact which Alpher strangely omitted from his analogy: the US army allowed a large majority of the population of Fallujah to flee the city before the attack. In Gaza no one has been allowed to leave, except for those holding foreign passports who wanted to, and the very few that have been transferred to Egyptian hospitals for treatment. If we accept the Israeli figures of 20,000 Hamas fighters, and add another 10,000 to account for the militants of Islamic Jihad and other groups, that leaves 995,000 civilians directly in the line of fire, with hardly anywhere to run to, far above the numbers that were left in Fallujah to face the US military at its most destructive.

As alluded to yesterday, it is indeed telling that it's Iraq that Israelis are pointing towards, for it's quite true that the war on Iraq now has even less justification than Israel's assault on Gaza. They talked of the "shock and awe" of the initial "surprise" attacks on the police and Hamas security officials, and doubtless they would like Hamas to be seen as the Islamic State of Iraq is in that country. You could at least however see the motives for attacking Iraq, whether it was to remove the supposed threat from WMD, to overthrow a tyrant that had been subjugating his people for decades, or to gain control of the country's oil, as being either somewhat noble or at the very least either defensible or achievable, as indeed the initial removal of Saddam Hussein was. The same cannot be said for the attack on Gaza. It won't stop the rocket fire without agreeing to the lifting of the siege, it won't turn the people of Gaza against Hamas, and it probably won't help either Ehud Barak or Tzipi Livni to win the election and keep the Labour/Kadima coalition in power. Just as we are now horrified by the spilling of blood in Iraq, it has to be hoped that eventually both sides in the conflict on Gaza will come to feel the same nausea, and reject the hate that both sides push. Before that though, the killing has to first stop.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Tuesday, January 13, 2009 

Time to boycott Israel.

The above is what the Palestinians of Gaza have now been living with for 17 days. Presumably a "bunker busting" bomb, which the United States only very recently sold Israel, the ostensible target is supposedly the smuggling tunnels out of Gaza into Egypt. Those tunnels, which do smuggle weapons, were also helping to keep Gazans alive by bringing in fuel, food and other essential products which were either in short supply or blocked from entering the Strip by the Israelis. If the blockade is not lifted and the tunnels are successfully destroyed, the people of Gaza will suffer more once this is over than before.

There were around 60 air-strikes on the Strip on Monday night/Tuesday morning, not all probably of the same horrifying, shocking power as that one but undoubtedly more than enough to utterly destroy countless buildings and the humans that may well have been inside them. One such strike targeted a Christian Aid health clinic that contained hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of medical equipment, desperately needed in Gaza. The attack was not a mistake, but completely deliberate: the owners were telephoned 15 minutes before and told to get out, along with the family that lived above it. Why an ordinary home and clinic were methodically chosen and given the OK to be destroyed is a question that will probably never be answered.

What is becoming clear is that as Israel repeatedly ignores calls for a ceasefire, the anger and reaction to the offensive in Gaza continues to grow. Perhaps most indicative of the realisation by many that first isolating a population, starving them and then finally subjecting them to a "shock and awe" style bombing for over two weeks is not how civilised democracies behave is that even the mainstream US press is beginning, however cautiously, to give space to those criticising Israel. The Wall Street Journal, owned by Rupert Murdoch, even gave over column space in its notoriously right-wing comment pages to a piece by George Bisharat which had the headline "Israel is committing war crimes". In a session only an hour-long after a statement by David Miliband, in which he seemed to have mixed up Hamas and Israel, having said that "Hamas have shown themselves over a number of years to be murderous in word and deed", whilst Israel was "a thriving democratic state with an independent judiciary", apparently having missed that two of the three Arab political parties were banned yesterday, while under the cover of the war on Gaza hundreds of protesters have been arrested and many of them indicted for expressing their views, MPs beyond the usual suspects spoke out against the attacks, with Sir Patrick Cormack declaring himself "ashamed of Israel" after previously being one of its friends, while Ming Campbell asked if "any other democratic state were behaving in that way, would we not by now be considering what other economic and diplomatic steps were available to us?"

Previously, the talk of boycotts, arms embargoes and other measures were made either by trade unions that wanted academic boycotts, boycotts I would have opposed as counter-productive and unlikely to have any real effect, or by left-wing groups that likewise have been repeatedly condemned and ignored. These are though, and now should be start to be considered as real, legitimate options that can be used against what is incredibly close to becoming a rogue state, completely unconcerned by and apparently beyond international opinion. Let's be clear: it is only by an absolute miracle and the almost unbelievable work of the otherwise collapsing health infrastructure in Gaza that only around 970 have been killed so far, with over 4,000 injured. Of that 4,000, hundreds if not more are going to have suffered amputations and other horrific injuries, to the extent where they will be disabled for the rest of their lives, if indeed they manage to survive. The boy in the top image was blinded, apparently by white phosphorus. 40% of the 970 are women and children, with a good percentage of the rest non-fighters or police officers who were deliberately targeted in the first couple of days of attacks. As Gerald Kaufman said in parliament, if Hamas had killed 970 Israelis in just over two weeks, the response of the international community and our own government would have been rather more damning that it has been up till now, even considering that our response has been more biting and quicker than it was during the Lebanon war when we openly colluded with the US and Israel in delaying talks for a ceasefire.

Tomorrow's Guardian leader considers the issue head on, another sign of just how seriously thoughts of potential boycotts and other direct action are being considered by the mainstream. Its main suggestion is that Israel's ambassador's presence should be requested by David Miliband, to show just how high feeling is running within government vis-a-vis his country's Gaza policy. It concludes by mentioning the other options, describing them as "not all appealing, nor should they be yet necessary", which is far from suggesting that they should be immediately dismissed. We know of course that hardly any of these things, even a request to see Ron Prosor, are likely to be taken. After all, if what Israel is doing in Gaza constitute war crimes, or a crime of aggression, where would that leave what we ourselves, in partnership with the United States, have visited on Iraq for what's now approaching 6 years, a war which Miliband and Brown both voted for? We don't even have the justification that Iraq had been firing rudimentary rockets into our territory; the best we could come up with, ignoring the fatuous argument regarding the prior UN resolutions, would be that Iraq did have some missiles that breached their agreements regarding weapons, but which were being destroyed by the UN weapons inspectors. That is almost certainly partly the reason why the criticism of Israel has not been as harsh as it was towards Russia over last summer's war with Georgia, where it was apparently felt we had more of a free ride, regarding Russia's authoritarian turn and rigged elections.

If however the government is unwilling to act, not even for instance imposing an arms embargo on Israel as suggested by Nick Clegg at the very least temporarily, then individually we should be prepared to either boycott Israeli produce or repeatedly demonstrate against what is being done by a supposed democratic state against a people as a whole. We need to be clear that Israel is not an apartheid state, although it is certainly approaching it, that it is not yet instituting a genocide on Gaza, and that comparing Israel to the Nazis is both ahistorical and deeply insulting, even if understandable in the circumstances. We should however be equally clear that as a country its treatment of the Palestinians is now so unbearable that it has placed itself outside the boundaries of civilised nations, and that until it changes its behaviour, we will impose personal sanctions upon it. Israel needs to know that even if other governments are not turning away from it as a result of such murderous cynicism, individuals and their businesses will.

Labels: , , , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Monday, January 12, 2009 

Scum-watch: TERROR TARGET SUGAR lasts less than a week.

As Tim notes, less than a week after publishing claims that Alan Sugar was among a number of "top Jews" due to be targeted by "hate-filled extremists", the Sun's front page article of the 7th of January has mysteriously vanished from the web. As it seems unlikely that the paper will have willing accepted that it was a tissue of lies from start to finish, concocted by its journalists with the help of a supposed former spy called Glen Jenvey, either lawyers have already made contact with the paper or the Press Complaints Commission is presumably investigating and has requested it be taken down for the time being.

The damage though has already been done, as previously stated. Hundreds of sites either reproduced or slightly altered the Sun's story without so much as even doing a cursory check of the facts, which would have only involved visiting the site and looking for the thread in question, which was hardly difficult to find. Those stories will remain up, even when the original has disappeared down the memory hole.

Update: Jon Swaine, who wrote the Telegraph's follow-up report on the Sun's story, emails in:


I thought it might be helpful to point out that my take on the Sun's story for is top of the Google News list linked to in your latest post on this subject.

And while your main point - that barely anyone bothered to check the details before ripping off the Sun - clearly stands, in fact I did wait until contacting Sajid at the forum and my story does make clear that it was a call to start a 'polite letter-writing campaign', rather than anything more sinister.

Given that my story is top of the list you link to, and may be read first by your readers, I thought there might be a better way of illustrating your point - eg linking directly to the Mail, PA, Guardian etc versions of the story, which indeed faithlessly reproduce the Sun interpretation.

More than happy to oblige.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button


Express and Prince Harry.

What a delightful little juxtaposition on today's Daily Express front page:

Yeah, Harry's going to be reprimanded for a racist slur, but what about these filthy foreigners stealing all our jobs, which is in itself a impossibility, going by the Express's sister's recent front page?

As for Harry himself, as Craig Murray points out, you could pass it off as barracks banter and just soldiers being soldiers, but this wasn't a case of Harry directly addressing the person he called a "Paki" or it being obvious that it was joshing, but him zooming in from a distance and saying "Ah, our little Paki friend Ahmed", without any real evident snide, but not exactly affectionately either. They could of course be great friends, but that also isn't instantly apparent. We shouldn't get too outraged about someone making something which certainly isn't for public consumption and making comments on it which others will find offensive, but we shouldn't necessarily dismiss it either. His use of "raghead" is more jovial, but carries more significance with it, especially considering that St James's Palace saw fit to justify it by describing it as a "term" for Iraqi insurgents or Taliban fighters, when it is of course disparaging to Arabs as a whole, although not as widely used here as in America, where it stands alongside "towelhead", "sand nigger" and "hajji", all routinely used as racist terms for Arabs or by soldiers for Iraqis. No one's going to mind if it is used purely to describe those that Harry fought against in Afghanistan in the heat of the moment, but routine usage is more troubling because of the suggestion that like previous racist terms for those being fought against, such as "gooks" in Vietnam, it becomes used to both demonise and dehumanise. That should be kept in mind before merely passing his language off.

Labels: , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo.

Quoting Craig Murray:

Lawyers Schillings, acting on behalf of mercenary commander Tim Spicer, persuaded my publisher to pull out of publishing my new book, The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known. Tim Spicer has made millions from the war in Iraq, and the UK has become notorious for the ability of the rich to close down criticism because of the massive costs - often hundreds of thousands of pounds - of defending a legal action.

There is access to the courts in big libel cases only for the ultra-rich. So much so that just a simple letter like this
can kill a book. This process is known in the trade as "Chilling". Schillings are the acknowledged leaders in chilling.

But the law was formulated in an age when a limited number of printing presses were the only means of mass communication. Not only does this not apply in the digital age, but by using the "Streisland effect" we can make sure that any attempt at "Chilling" results in ten times more people actually reading the book. Eventually this will discourage clients from using firms like Schillings, and hopefully put the leeches of repression out of business.

So as a lesson to Schillings and their potential clients, here is The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known. I am making it available across the internet, absolutely free to read. You can find it here: (PDF files)

Let me be clear: there is no libel in this book - it is all true and based on my own eye-witness account. It contains not libel, but rather truth some people wish to hide.

It is going online in the next 24 hours in over thirty jurisdictions - Schillings will have their work cut out trying to get all those taken down, and it would make a dent even in Spicer's bank balance to try.

So please read it, pass it around, copy it and post it to your site. You will be striking a blow for freedom, and you will ultimately contribute to making libel lawyers poorer.

If you want a hard copy, I have self-published and had some privately printed. You can buy it here.

I should be most happy if people wished to buy the book - you can widen the effect by giving it as a present! My last book, Murder in Samarkand was a non-fiction bestseller, so Schillings have cost me a lot of money. It will be more than worth it if we can get the truth out more widely, and strike a blow against the libel laws.

The blurb reads:

Craig Murray's adventures in Africa from 1997 to 2001 are a rolliciking good read. He exposes for the first time the full truth about the "Arms to Africa" affair which was the first major scandal of the Blair Years. He lays bare the sordid facts about British mercenary involvement in Africa and its motives. This is at heart an extraordinary account of Craig Murray's work in negotiating peace with the murderous rebels of Sierra Leone, and in acting as the midwife of Ghanaian democracy. Clearly his efforts were not only difficult but at times very dangerous indeed. Yet the story is told with great humour. Not only do we meet Charles Taylor, Olusegun Obasanjo, Jerry Rawlings and Foday Sankoh, but there are unexpected encounters with others including Roger Moore, Jamie Theakston and Bobby Charlton! Above all this book is about Africa. Craig Murray eschews the banal remedies of the left and right to share with us the deep knowledge and understanding that comes over 30 years working in or with Africa. Gems of wisdom and observation scatter the book, as does a deep sense of moral outrage at the consequences of centuries of European involvement: even though he explains that much of it was well-intentioned but disastrous.

And already Murray's book is making waves due its stinging criticism of the transformation of the Commonwealth Development Corporation, which has also been the focus of much attention in Private Eye of late:

Lady Amos, who was international development secretary and leader of the Lords in Tony Blair's government, has taken up a directorship with an African private equity firm, three months after it received over £15m from a Whitehall agency wholly owned by her former department.

The timing of Amos's appointment was described as "a coincidence" by the Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC), which approved the cash – amounting to nearly 30% of the funds raised by Travant Capital Partners, based in Nigeria.

Craig Murray, the UK's former ambassador to Uzbekistan, attacks the appointment in a new book published this week. He says: "It says everything about New Labour that CDC, which ... used to run agricultural projects to benefit the rural poor, was rebranded ... with a new remit to provide most of its funds to the financial services industry. It says even more about New Labour's lack of the understanding of fundamental personal ethics, of their embrace of greed, that they see no reason why one of their former senior ministers should not move to benefit personally from the DFID [Department for International Development] money – even if through a 100% owned satellite – thus invested."

Having not had much time to look at it until now despite Craig e-mailing it me around a month ago, just reading the first couple of pages immediately hooks you in, Murray's engaging prose and casual but endearing style an absolute treat that's well worth indulging. Sticking one up Schillings and help with the distribution, however slight, is the very least I could do.

Labels: , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button


  • This is septicisle



Powered by Blogger
and Blogger Templates