Posts Tagged ‘Left’
As student supporters of the NUS decision not to back the Kurdish struggle against Islamist genociders claim that the motion to commit them would “outsource” NUS campaigning to “MI5 and MI6″ we get the following claim,
the bottom line is that Malia promised to, and has, rewritten the motion to fully condemn ISIS https://www.facebook.com/malia.bouattia/posts/10154739200655331?fref=nf …
Well, it’s a claim, but her supporters seem a lot, a real lot, more concerned to “defend” Malia than to anything to defend the Kurds.
Now, this crops up.
From The Tab (October the 15th).
A motion was proposed at the Goldsmiths Students’ Assembly yesterday to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day and victims of genocide.
Education officer Sarah El-alfy urged students to vote against the proposal, rejecting it as “eurocentric”.
One student added: “The motion would force people to remember things they may not want to remember.”
Another suggested she couldn’t commemorate the Holocaust because she thought the Union was explicitly “anti-Zionist”.
One of the students present said the proposal should be voted against as it would affect the Union’s stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The unfortunately-named President Howard Littler said after: “Someone brought up Israel-Palestine out of the blue but I made a point of information and said I didn’t want to conflate the two.”
He later audaciously added that the whole thing is just “a storm in a teacup”.
This report should be treated with extreme caution but here is the following.
The Tab asks.
Would you vote for or against the motion? Read it in full and have your say
Motion for the Student Union to commemorate the victims of genocide, totalitarianism and racial hatred
The Student Union recognises the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust, of the other genocides, of totalitarianism and racial hatred. It further recognises that commemorating the victims of genocide, racial hatred and totalitarianism, and promoting public awareness of these crimes against humanity, is essential to sustaining and defending democratic culture and civil society, especially in the face of a resurgence of neo-fascism, racial hatred and neo-Stalinism across Europe.
The Student Union shall organise commemorative events for students and members of the public on Holocaust Memorial Day (27th of January), on the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism (23rd of August annually), on the Holodomor Genocide Memorial Day Act (4th Saturday in November, Annually) and on Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day (24th April annually).
The motion fell by one vote.
The report continues.
The SU have yet to release minutes as they agree on the contents for the next meeting on 18th November.
But those attending are encouraged to live-tweet the event using the hashtag “GSUAssembly”.
One student named T. Walpole, present at the Assembly, objected: “Our union is anti-Zionist.”
They added: “This is a colonialist motion. Vote it down.
“White people should not be proposing motions to condemn genocides without a lot of thought. This does not have that thought.”
Now let’s disregard these (reported) morally cretinous comments.
The fact is that Holocaust Memorial day is not just about the Shoah,
The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT) is the charity which promotes and supports Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD). 27 January is the day for everyone to remember the millions of people killed in the Holocaust, Nazi Persecution and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur. 27 January marks the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp.
The trust does not include the Ukraine (Holodomor) or the Armenian genocide (Turkey).
Bu Goldsmith does not include, Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur.
Or, something many consider a genocide, by Pakistan and its Islamist allies, Bangladesh in 1971.
In this light, and the complications that this could cause, and vagueness about ‘civil society’, the motion appears badly worded (Hat-tip Bob B).
But the issue of how to commemorate these mass killings, even by ‘white people’, and, by people of different political ideologies and faiths or none at all, is obscured by something which cannot be wished away.
This is what the College’s “Education officer” tweeted,
She now comments (I checked on the Tweet), with no further explanation whatsoever,
Goldsmith’s SU has a lot of answering to do.
More including some (evasive) ‘explanations’ from the union on the Huffington Post.
And by the Students’ Union.
On Tuesday night a Motion was voted down by a majority at Goldsmiths Students’ Union’s Students Assembly – a democratic meeting in which all students are invited to discuss and vote on issues that are important to them.
Subsequently The Tab wrote a piece entitled ‘vile SU refuse to commemorate Holocaust [sic]’. It is worth noting at this point that the article was co-authored by the proposer of the original motion, both of whose motions were voted down at the Student Assembly.
Many baseless claims are made, however the central tenet is that the Students Assembly and the Students’ Union opposed remembering the victims of the Holocaust. This is an insulting misrepresentation. We have in the past commemorated Holocaust Memorial Day and will in the future.
A nuanced discussion about how best to effectively and collectively remember these events was had at Students Assembly. Re-drafting motions and re-entering them at a later date isn’t unusual in Students’ Unions and shouldn’t be misinterpreted as opposition. Sarah El-alfy, GSU Education officer, offered to help the proposer re-draft the motion and bring it to the next Student Assembly and this reflected the positivity in the room about the motion with the ambition to strengthen it further. A motion that includes remembering the Holocaust will be brought to the next Student Assembly in November. We feel these facts have been ignored in the subsequent reporting.
We will be writing to the Editor of The Tab in due course to seek correction of many of the factual inaccuracies in the report. Seperately, The Tab, in their article misgendered one of our students. We would like to ask for this to be corrected along with the rest of the article.
Goldsmiths SU executive team
Misgendering is the least of their problems.
What about the Tweets, starting with the one by Sarah El-alfy?
IS= Fascism. Arms to the PKK and YPG!
A word of introduction.
There is a great respect in the broad labour movement for Counterfire activists.
They have helped, indeed initiated, the People’s Assembly. They have acted with selfless dedication to help create an important bloc of organisations that has brought together people on the left, trade unionists, and campaigners. The People’s Assembly is effectively the only mass movement in the UK challenging austerity and acting for a wide range of left policies and causes.
In view of this, and (some might say) breaking with the habit of a lifetime, this is not a sectarian attack but expresses some genuine concerns.
Last Saturday John Rees, a leading member of Counterfire, spoke at the London Demonstration in support of Kobane.
This protest was but one of the expressions of solidarity with Kobane that have been sweeping the world, from Turkey and Europe to Australia (the comrades at Shiraz signal how a local group can help).
Rees noted the manoeuvres of the regional powers, the unhelpful impact of the US-led intervention, and,.above all,t eh disgraceful stand of Turkey – sitting and watching as the beloved people of Kobane face the genociders of Isis.
Rees stated, very clearly “arm the Kurds!” (1)
As if to back this declaration up Counterfire published (October the 9th) this declaration by the Kurdish-Turkish Day-Mer centre,
“Nato member Turkey is effectively allowing Isis to destroy the Kurdish city of Kobane. This press release by Turkish Kurdish organisation Day-Mer, calls for international solidarity and for Turkey to allow Kurdish heavy weapons through to defend the city“
On the same site, pointedly marked “Opinion” we had this, from Lindsey German and Robin Beste (October the 12th), Ten reasons to oppose military intervention in Iraq and Syria. It concentrates on the reasons for the conflicts, blamed entirely on the ‘West’. Terrorism is apparently, the “product of the west’s disastrous foreign policies, endless wars and backing of barbaric regimes in the Middle East There is only one section dealing specifically with the Kurds . It reads.
The issue of the Kurds is central to countering Isis expansion in the region. The Iraqi Kurds are close allies of the west, but there is a very different attitude to the Kurds in Turkey and Syria. The PKK, which has been struggling for Kurdish self-determination for decades, is still listed as a terrorist organisation by the EU and the US. This is despite the PKK and its allies being prominent in the battle against Isis. Turkey has oppressed the Kurds for many years and will not help those in Kobane, now under imminent threat of seizue by Isis. Turkey could open its border to the Kurds, but refuses to do so, in contrast with its support for Isis in the past. Instead the Turkish parliament has voted to create a ‘buffer zone’ at the Syrian border which will involve the disarming of the Kurds.
Bombing (again no mention of US strikes near Kobane) will be “counter-productive” and not help anybody.
Their only practical demand is that,
Iraq and Syria should be flooded with humanitarian aid, particularly for the millions of refugees who have been fleeing the wars. The refugees should receive the aid and support they need, and not be treated as potential terrorists within Europe.
So, we are left in no doubt that some Kurds are “close allies of the West (bad), the PKK (good? it’s not explicitly said, ) and Kobane are threatened by Isis.
What the defenders of Kobane (and other Kurdish areas) should do (providing that is they are not “allies” of the West is left hanging in the air.
As are the Kurds facing the genociders of Isis.
It would seem that one part of Counterfire backs arming the Kurds and the other does not.
Meanwhile German’s isolated Stop the War Coalition has published a disgraceful morally corrupt article by a certain, Musa al-Gharbi.
One of its sections reads,
Finally, many Westerners have been horrified by ISIS’s persecution of religious minorities (especially crimes against Christians). However, the United States is complicit in this as well: US policies in Iraq helped spark this cycle of sectarian violence.
Meanwhile, its own armed forces were indoctrinated with anti-Muslim propaganda- complete with recommendations for servicemen to resort to “Hiroshima tactics,” in a “total war against Islam,” in which protections for civilians were “no longer relevant.”
Reflective of this mentality, the armed forces have been heavily infiltrated by white-supremacists, neo-Nazis and other hate groups who believe and act as though they are engaged in a holy war to begin in the Middle East and then be carried back into America.
This institutionalized misrepresentation of Islam and dehumanization of Muslims probably played a significant role in the aforementioned atrocities.
Musa al-Gharbi tries to deflect blame from those culpable of gencodical crimes by whataboutery.
His specious rhetoric about ” misrepresentation of Islam and dehumanization of Muslims” is not accompanied by any concern for the fate of the directly dehumanised Kurds.
Al-Gharbi is silent – there is no “Authentic Outrage” from this special pleader about the need for armed help for the beloved people of Kobane.
Well, he would be quiet, wouldn’t he?
(1) He also , hat-tip GH, “totally bizarrely called for Hamas, Venezuela, the ANC/SA, to arm the Kurds .. as if that could possibly happen!” But we let this pass.
Solidarity with the Kurds – Not in our Name Says NUS.
Saturday sees another day of demonstrations in support of Kurdish resistance forces in the Syrian town of Kobane.
The protest at 2pm on Parliament Square follow a week of demonstrations across London.
The campaigners have already visited the square this week with action on Wednesday shutting down Westminster Bridge as well as causing issues around Parliament Square and Downing Street.
Campaigners have been seen throughout the city this week, bringing Oxford Circus and Angel tube stations and the Eurostar terminal in St. Pancras to a standstill.
Alexia Akkaya, a mother and blogger from west London, said she wanted to “scream and shout” in frustration at the situation in Kobane. She explained her reasons for marching: “I cannot sit back and watch the slaughter of innocent people. I am angry at the apparent lack of empathy by the Turkish government and the hushed British MPs and other influential people who had so much to say about other conflicts. I am not Kurdish but as a compassionate and loving human being and it is my duty to stand up in solidarity with the brave resistance in Kobane.”
One group which has decided to “sit back and watch the slaughter” is the National Union of Students (NUS).
A move to get the students’ organisation (600 student unions) to back the brave Kurdish resistance against the Isis/Islamic State genociders was dismissed this week as “Islamophobic”.
This is the motion presented to the NUS National Executive Committee (NEC) which fell. (here.)
Proposed: Daniel Cooper
Seconded: Shreya Paudel, Clifford Fleming
NUS NEC notes
1. The ongoing humanitarian crisis and sectarian polarisation in Iraq
– which has resulted in thousands of Yazidi Kurds being massacred.
NUS NEC believes
1. That the people of Iraq have suffered for years under the sectarian
and brutally repressive dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, the US/UK
invasion and occupation, the current sectarian regime linked to both
the US and Iran, and now the barbaric repression of the “Islamic
2. That rape and other forms of sexual violence are being used as
weapons against women in IS-occupied areas, while minorities are being
NUS NEC resolves
1. To work with the International Students’ Campaign to support Iraqi,
Syrian and other international students in the UK affected by this
2. To campaign in solidarity with the Iraqi people and in particular
support the hard-pressed student, workers’ and women’s organisations
against all the competing nationalist and religious-right forces.
3. To support Iraqis trying to bridge the Sunni-Shia divide to fight
for equality and democracy, including defence of the rights of the
Christian and Yazidi-Kurd minorities.
4. To condemn the IS and support the Kurdish forces fighting against
it, while expressing no confidence or trust in the US military
5. Encourage students to boycott anyone found to be funding the IS or
supplying them with goods, training, travel or soldiers.
6. To make contact with Iraqi and Kurdish organisations, in Iraq and
in the UK, in order to build solidarity and to support refugees.
7. To issue a statement on the above basis.
A report on the meeting by Daniel Lemberger Cooper comments,
“The motion was opposed by Malia Bouattia, the NUS Black Students’ Officer, for astonishing and bewildering reasons. Bouattia argued that the motion was “Islamophobic” and “pro USA intervention” – (see Aaron Kiely, a fellow NUS NEC member’s, tweet during the meeting as reflective of the position). The motion then fell as large numbers of NEC members either abstained or voted against (including the bulk of the political Left on NEC). I think this says a lot about the current state of the student movement.”
Now observers may put part of this down to sectarian dislike of the movers of the motion, NUS internal politics, and simple snideness.
But this outweighs such a reaction:
It is hard to imagine, except with disgust, what “alternative narrative” to the “Western, racist” one that Aaron Kiely would spin about Isis.
We note, while passing on, that Kiely is “close” to the ex-Trotskyist sect, Socialist Action.
On the charge of ‘racism’ Cooper remarks,
“The “Iraqi solidarity” motion had been worked on with Roza Salih, a Strathclyde university student of Kurdish descent (she submitted an almost identical motion to the Scottish equivalent of the executive, the Scottish Executive Council, which I will post later, which, incidentally, did pass! One must ask Scottish executive members why vote for a motion in Scotland, but not in England?!).Pro-intervention?”
This is what Malia Bouattia (who seems to be involved with something called, perhaps misleadingly, the ‘broad left’) said after helping get the NUS to back the Palestinian cause,
‘So the struggle continues, but this victory alongside the global sea change of public opinion gives us new hope. The Black Students Campaign remains committed. We will continue to protest, march, boycott and campaign. And we will not stop until the rights of Palestinians are restored and Palestine is free.’ (from here)
Obviously freedom is not something the Kurds also deserve – unless it’s freedom from solidarity.
As the Kurds (increasingly joined by other supporters, including many of the left) gather, the NUS has decided to stand aside as Islamist genociders threaten the beloved people of Kobane.
In years to come the majority of the NUS executive, and particularly Malia Bouattia and Aaron Keily, will be able to say, “Solidarity with the Kurds? Not in our name!”
Support our Beloved Sisters and Brothers in Kobane! (ShenGal ROJAVA)
Kurdish protesters clashed with police in Turkey leaving at least 14 people dead and scores injured Tuesday as demonstrators in Brussels forced their way into the European Parliament, part of Europe-wide demonstrations against the Islamic State group’s advance on a town on the Syrian-Turkish border.
Turkey’s private Dogan news agency reported 8 dead in the eastern city of Diyarbakir and that the other victims died in cities in the east as police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse protesters who burned cars and damaged businesses.
The activists are demanding more help for the besieged Kurdish forces struggling to hold onto the Syrian town of Kobani. Some European countries are arming the Kurds, and the American-led coalition is carrying out airstrikes against the Islamic extremists, but protesters say it isn’t enough.
A demonstrator in Cyprus urged the coalition to “hit the jihadists harder” so that Kurdish forces can hold the town.
Tensions are especially high in Turkey, where Kurds have fought a 3-decade-long battle for autonomy and where Syria’s violence has taken an especially heavy toll.
Protests were reported in cities across Turkey on Tuesday, after Islamic State fighters backed by tanks and artillery engaged in heavy street battles with the town’s Kurdish defenders.
Police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse demonstrators in Istanbul and in the desert town of Kucuk Kenderciler, near Kobani on the Turkish side of the border. One person in Istanbul was hospitalized after being hit in the head by a gas canister, Dogan reported.
Some protesters shouted “Murderer ISIS!” and accused Turkey’s government of collaborating with the Islamic militants.
Protesters have returned to the streets of London as they rally in solidarity with Syrian Kurds in Kobani, the town Islamic State militants threaten to seize next. Earlier on Monday activists occupied one of the busiest Tube stations.
Hundreds of people march through London carrying banners which read: “Turkey stop supporting ISIS” and “Support Kurds resisting ISIS harassment in Kobani”.
Other banners call to “unite against ISIS”.
Armed police patrol at Heathrow Airport as Kurds protest against Isis
A terminal at Heathrow Airport has been occupied by Kurdish and Turkish anti-Islamic State protesters.
The campaigners have blocked ticket barriers in terminal two of the airport and have been occupying the airport since 12pm today.
A group of about 50 demonstrators are holding banners reading ‘Stop fascist attacks in Kurdistan’ and ‘Kobane’, following news the Islamic State flag was seen on the border of Turkey and Syria.
No flights have been affected and passengers are able to travel as normal through the airport.
A spokeswoman for Scotland Yard said: “We were called at 11.55am to reports of a demonstration at Heathrow Airport.
“Officers are at the scene and an appropriate policing plan is in place.”
A spokeswoman for Heathrow Airport said: “There is currently a peaceful protest taking place in Terminal 2 in the departures area. Heathrow supports the right for peaceful protest. There is no impact on operations and passengers can travel as normal through the airport.”
Passenger Adam Tuckwell said: “The protesters are in good voice but all seems peaceful.”
The same group of pro-Kurdish campaigners blockaded Oxford Circus tube station yesterday afternoon.
Transport for London were forced to evacuate the station for an hour as the demonstration blocked passengers passing ticket barriers.
I may be wrong but I do not see a single Stop the War Coalition (StWC) poster in photos of the UK protests, or any sign of support for the Kurdish struggle against Isis on their Web site.
Perhaps this sheds some light on the thinking behind their failure to stand up when you need to be counted.
Counterfire (whose leadership has great influence in running the StWC) carried an article (October 5th) stating.
The US-led bombing of Iraq and Syria will not save the Kurds. Western policy, its military and its arms are not there to save the Kurds.
Socialist Worker has wheeled out its tired old response to the tragedies now unfolding in Syria and Iraq,
The West wants to portray itself as supporting oppressed minorities such as the Yazidis or the Kurds.
But they will never support real struggles for self-determination. They just want to give a progressive gloss to the pursuit of their own imperialist interests
Islamic State grew out of the conditions created by the West’s last war on Iraq. We must go all out to build a campaign to stop their new war.
In other words (and we cannot find anything to suggest the contrary) these groups will do precisely nothing to back the Kurds.
We can confidently predict that these groups are waiting for Kobane to fall.
Then they can crow that it was all “imperialism’s fault”.
This is a more productive way to look at the Kurdish fight, (Four Things the Left Should Learn from Kobane).
The article begins, perhaps, misleadingly, with some doubtful claims.
That is, to criticise those who’ve recoiled in horror at the cruelty of the Islamic State/Isis..
There are very good reasons why the ‘West’ and lots of others, have a “fixation” with the Isis/Islamic state. They have created a mobile totalitarian genocidal regime. They deserve to be looked at and analysed in their own right.They have a strong basis in the history of modern Islamism, for all their “deviance” from the main trends and their origins in very specific chaos, the Syrian Civil War and Iraqi sectarian religious politics,
As a “discipline and punish” tyranny people how could anybody not be horrified?
The assertion that this is a simple “pretext” for Western intervention is therefore misleading. Not because it’s wrong to think that this is how the policy may have been decided on. But because it distracts us from looking clearly at what the jihadists have created.
So saying “..it is becoming increasingly clear that ISIS is little more than a pretext for NATO to pursue other geopolitical aims – namely removing Assad and destroying Kurdish autonomy.” diverts attention from this – the most important aspect of Islamic State/Isis: it is a mass murdering machine.
As we have indicated, the tyranny exists on its own basis, regardless of the geopolitics of the region. That, at any rate, is the way the Tendance would look at Islamic State/Isis.
But having said this, this, the rest of this thought-provoking post is a valuable reminder of the best way of looking at the present, Kurdish, issue.
Listen to Kurdish Voices
The Western left often suffers from a debilitating and orientalist tendency to overstate the agency of the US and relegate communities and societies affected by intervention to passive actors, not worthy of considered analysis. Indeed, it is striking the number of anti-imperialist commentaries that rely less on the experiences and dynamics of Kurdish communities and more on rehashed critiques of the logic of Great Power predation. On the one hand, this can cause the left to duplicate caricatures of ‘ugly sectarianism’ and ‘Islamic fundamentalism’ in ways that don’t seem too far off the arguments of Cameron and Obama (for some useful correctives see here and here).
On the other hand, it offers little consideration of the voices of Kurdish communities under attack since their intentions and actions simply don’t matter to opposing ‘imperialism at home’. The resultant politics can often be deleterious. We might wonder, for example, what the people of Kobanê would make of calls for ‘peaceful alternatives’ to war. This is especially important, since in Western Kurdistan (Northern Syria) Kurds are defending what is arguably the best hope for left politics in the region. Even the most cursory glance at the constitutional make-up and political achievements of Kurdish cantons would put most Western organisations to shame. Yet this week, while hunger strike sand solidarity demonstrations from Kurdish people were taking place in the UK and beyond, anti-war groups organised an entirely separate and potentially conflicting protest. The sooner the Western left abandons its penchant for reducing class to geopolitics, the sooner it can offer authentic solidarity to groups and communities that deserve and need it.
The PYD/PYD deserves a great, a really great, amount of respect for its actions in the fight against Isis/Islamic State.
We should also pay attention to their political project, which is very significant, a democratic socialist and sectionalised programme.
In one area above all the author also states we should not
close off the possibility of any non-state and anti-capitalist alternatives based on the PYD/PKK project of Democratic Autonomy.
Read the rest (via above link), on The Disorder of Things.
This should also be considered.
As Kobane Makes Last Stand, Ocalan Gives Turkey Deadline for Peace Process
ANKARA, Turkey – Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, warned that Turkey has until October 15 to act on peace with the Kurds, otherwise the process is dead.
Ocalan, whose comments came through his brother Mehmet, had earlier said that peace talks with Ankara would end if the Kurdish city of Kobane in Syria, across the border with Turkey, falls to the Islamic State (ISIS). There were fresh air strikes by the US-led coalition on Tuesday as the city teetered on the verge of falling.
In his latest comments from his prison cell on Turkey’s Imrali island, Ocalan told his brother on Monday that Ankara must act, or accept the end of peace talks.
“We can await a resolution till October 15, after which we can have nothing to do,” his brother quoted him as saying. “They (Turkish authorities) are talking about resolution and negotiation but there exists no such thing. This is an artificial situation; we will not be able to continue anymore.”
A peace process launched by Ocalan and Ankara in March 2012 has largely lagged, with the PKK accusing Turkish authorities of dragging their feet.
Commenting on Kobane, Ocalan said: “Our people in Kobane are going to resist to the end. Resistance will be manifested everywhere and every single Kurdish-populated area where ISIS is present.”
The PKK-affiliated People’s Protection Units (YPG) have been the main protection force in Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava), joined by Turkish Kurds fighting to defend Kobane.
“No concessions will ever be made to ISIS that is an artificial organization and will also cause trouble to the states, governments and persons supporting it,” Ocalan said.
“Whichever country is supporting ISIS will itself suffer damage. We will resist the ISIS to the end. Our people have to resist,” he said.
Turkey has angered its large minority Kurds be closing the border to fighters going to fight in Kobane. Ankara fears pro-PKK Kurdish citizens returning from fighting in Syria with combat skills, and has opposed any moves that would strengthen the Kurds in Syria.
Rudaw (Kurdish News Agency)
For the moment it is of the utmost importance to join with our comrades in the Middle East, people who are our kith and kin, in solidarity.
Islamism: Discipline and Punish.
To much of the world the British daily, the Guardian is the best known English-language paper of the liberal-left.
It is important to emphasise the word ‘liberal’ (the Guardian advocated voting for the Liberal Democrats at the last election).
But the hyphen attaching the word to the ‘left’ is indissoluble.
Guardian writers, above all in the Comment in Free Section, shows the limits of what this left believes in.
The section, (run between 2001 and 2007 by former Communist Party of Great Britain member Seumas Milne), are, in the majority, consensus believers in a number of liberal values.
Some of the principles these people stand for are admirable, such as freedom of speech, promotion of diversity, human rights, gender equality, social equality, and tolerance.
Their advocacy of liberty extends to letting a range of people expressing their opinions in the paper who have very different interpretations of these ideas.
But they are heavily modified when it comes to one political and cultural issue, the nature of Islamism.
A couple of days ago the daily published an article by George Monbiot, Why stop at Isis when we could bomb the whole Muslim world?
The author, who has previously compared European recruits to the genociders of ISIS to volunteers who defended the Spanish Republic, argues,
“Humanitarian arguments, if consistently applied, could be used to flatten the entire Middle East.”
Let’s bomb the Muslim world – all of it – to save the lives of its people. Surely this is the only consistent moral course? Why stop at Islamic State (Isis), when the Syrian government has murdered and tortured so many? This, after all, was last year’s moral imperative. What’s changed?
Nothing, according to Monbiot, the latest US-led bombing will all end in disaster, killing, and destruction by the “destroying angels of the west”. He ends his article with the observation that politicians “scatter bombs like fairy dust.”
Monbiot now deigns to mention that the group amongst the Syrian rebels, which he compared to the Spanish Republican democrats – Isis – has its faults, “the agenda and practices of Isis are disgusting. It murders and tortures, terrorises and threatens. As Obama says, it is a “network of death”(14).
But it’s one of many networks of death.
Worse still, a western crusade appears to be exactly what it wants.
So it’s just one of many. And attacking them would make them worse.
Monbiot then fails to mention any form of physical military reaction to Isis that he could support.
Sound the alarm, run to the hills, the world is about to be flattened!
We can’t do anything at all!
Today the Guardian publishes Seamus Milne.
He begins well,
Theresa May devoted over three quarters of her speech in Birmingham to Muslims and the threat of a catch-all “Islamist extremism”.
Drawing on the tricks of Tony Blair’s invasion-prone government and Thatcher’s failed campaign against the IRA, she promised yet more anti-terror laws: this time to ban nonviolent “extremists” from television and protests, and to proscribe groups with no links to terrorism.
The package amounts to a straightforward attack on freedom of speech and democracy – in the name of the “functioning of democracy”. It would alienate Muslims from mainstream politics still further and create a new, all-purpose collection of thought crimes, allowing the authorities to ban views or activities they deem likely to cause “alarm” or “distress”.
Milne is now a defender of free speech.
He would have done well at this point to oppose something he once backed, to make causing offence to religious faiths a crime. (1)
But he doesn’t.
And, in the wider news, perhaps I missed this bit,
The justifications were straight out of the Blair playbook too: from May’s insistence that we are at war with an “ideology” and that “they” hate our values rather than our violent interventions in the Muslim world – to the claim that Isis could develop weapons of mass destruction to attack us“within a few hours’ flying time of our country”.
Yes I did miss that one, because it’s from the far-right Daily Express’s spin on the May speech….
I suppose Islamic State’s tortures, rapes, genocide and the threat to hundreds of thousands of Kurds would have merited a mention from anybody with genuine left-wing feeling.
In a sense they do get mentioned,
Like Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya before it, the bombing has been sold as a response to a humanitarian catastrophe and imminent threat but already shows every sign of spreading the terror it is supposed to stop. Mission creep is already upon us, as Cameron softens the public up to join the US campaign in Syria. As in the past, the war is projected to last years, has been launched against our own mutant creation, and is fanning reverse sectarian cleansing on the ground. Revenge terror attacks at home are once again seen as almost certain.
Ah, “sold as a response to a humanitarian catastrophe”.
What Milne’s views on this catastrophe are, part from the fact that they have been “sold”, remain in decent obscurity.
One thing sticks out: no mention of the need to back the Kurdish and other fighters on the ground battling Islamic State/Isis!
But the prize for feeble-minded analysis of Islamism must go to a piece by Antony Loewenstein.
Speaking of how people treat recruits to the genociders in Australia he laments a “sudden terror panic“. Loewenstein uses a Muslim interlocutor to express the dismay.:
“There’s a lack of context, lack of spirituality and understanding, combined with impatience. Many Isis fighters are newly converted, newly pious … these men have grown a beard in three months and they don’t give Islam time to be understood.”
He is tired of having to defend his religion against bigots who take these instant Islamists to be the authentic representation of Islam.
“Keyboard warriors often ask: “Where is the universal Muslim condemnation of terror acts?” We’re distancing ourselves, so why do you keep asking? People just aren’t listening.”
“It’s been the same narrative of apology for decades and we’re sick of it. It’s like the probation the media is trying to grant me. I want to stand back, it’s got nothing to do with me and it’s nothing to do with Islam. I don’t need to come out and prove my innocence.”
Indeed, it is remarkable that those who trumpet their religious belief, in Islam and the Qu’ran, should be called to express disapproval of those who trumpet their religious belief in Islam and the Qu’ran – Isis.
As he continues in the vein we weary.
But there is some truth in this, though “dis-empowered” – an expression now confined to ageing social workers – is not perhaps the right word.
The pressure on the Australian Muslim community is immense, a feeling of being outsiders, exacerbated by a message that they’re different and under suspicion. Many Muslim women in particular feel disempowered and not trusted by the wider, white majority. Islamophobia is now unofficial government policy and some media’s central world-view
Muslims have ample reason to be sceptical towards government and intelligence services; real journalists would investigate why. Sadly, most in the media are failing in their basic duty to question.
Islamophobia is an ageing and muddled term as well: it tries to conflate opposition to islamism with prejudice, and offers no way to distinguish them.
This will not help clear up what ‘Islam’ is.
“Islam isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon,” Samir says. His religion, just like Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and others, is complex, contradictory and open to various interpretations – but figuring that out can’t be done in an instant.
I will, as will most readers, give up at this point….
Why does this matter?
We could say that a paper that publishes Richard Seymour is a fun journal, a good laugh, and that nobody takes the ideology in these articles seriously.
But what is striking is that not a single Guardian commentator has come close to analysing Islamism in any depth whatsoever.
That is a extreme-right-wing ideology, with a very material institutional basis, support in the pious Muslim bourgeoisie, and wider roots in the class structures of many Middle Eastern countries.
Or the rich critique of Islamism, democratic, socialist and secular, offered by the Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan groups such as the Worker Communist parties (Mansoor Hekmat) and other left individuals and organisations in the Moslem world.
We could, for those interested in ‘Gender and Queer’ studies, also look at Michael Foucault’s concept of ‘micro-powers’ – intimate oppressive apparatuses that create a religious prison, in para-states and actual states.
Foucault’s Discipline and Punish is perhaps a good starting point to the operation of the Sharia, along with Nietzsche The Genealogy of Morals. (2)
We could look at its (or rather), since Islamism is a plural formation, their patriarchal roots, and its creation of sexual apartheid.
We might even mention that every single form of Islamism is viciously oppressive towards gays.
That it is anti-democratic and ‘communitarian’ on the template of 1930s ‘organic’ far-right.
We might even consider that its religion is a load of utter cack.
But nobody in the Guardian’s comment articles says that.
(1) “But for showing solidarity and working with Muslim organisations – whether in the anti-war movement or in campaigns against Islamophobia – leftwing groups and politicians such as the London mayor, Ken Livingstone, are now routinely damned by liberal secularists (many of whom have been keen supporters of the war in Iraq) for “betraying the enlightenment” and making common cause with “Islamofascists”, homophobes and misogynists. The pitch of these denunciations has been heightened further by the government’s plan to introduce a new criminal offence of incitement to religious hatred. This measure would extend to the most vulnerable community in the country the very modest protection already offered by race hate legislation to black people, Jews, Sikhs and all religious communities in Northern Ireland. It is not a new blasphemy law; it would not lead to a ban on Monty Python’s Life of Brian film; or rule out jokes about Ayatollah Khomeini’s contact lenses; or cover ridicule or attacks on any religion (unlike the broader Australian legislation) – but would only outlaw incitement of hatred against people because of their faith.” Guardian. December 2004)
This bill was thrown up precisely because it was a new “blasphemy law”. Does Milne back its return?
(2) I am all too aware of Foucault’s morally cretinous welcome to Khomeini, What are the Iranians Dreaming About (1978). More relevant to Isis is the way their beheadings of hostages could be compared to the violent and chaotic public torture of Robert-François Damiens analysed in Discipline and Punish (1975).