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Syria: Air Strikes on the Way? How Should the Left React?

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Two RAF Tornado GR4's

Is ISIS massacre of 30 UK holidaymakers in Tunisia only the beginning?

Comments Paul Rogers on the Stop the War Coalition site.

He notes:

“..the great majority of people in the UK are hardly aware that this is a major war – and that Britain is at the centre of it.”

That,

While one intention was seriously to wreck the Tunisian tourist industry, leading to higher unemployment and more anger and resentment, providing a better environment for recruiting young people to the IS cause, it was probably part of a much wider intention to bring the conflict home to the coalition of countries now engaged in the air war.

This makes for uncomfortable connections, especially as most people in Britain simply do not recognise that the country is part of a large coalition that has been waging a major air offensive on IS forces in Iraq and Syria for almost a year.

He concludes,

One of the grim ironies of the Sousse attack is that the appalling loss of life might alert more people in the UK to the true extent of the war. Equally, IS will no doubt encourage further attacks on the countries at war with it; counterterrorism forces in countries as far afield as the US, Australia, Canada, France and Britain will accordingly be intensifying their work.

It is just possible that the Sousse massacre will turn out to be an isolated attack on British nationals, but it’s very unlikely. The reality is that the war with IS in Iraq and Syria is beginning to extend beyond those countries and the region – even beyond the established battlegrounds ofAfghanistan and Libya. What happened to the holidaymakers in Sousse may only be the beginning of a new phase.

 

If it is a “war” against Daesh we can be sure we know today where the UK government stands.

Consider Syria IS strikes, defence secretary urges MPs

MPs should consider allowing Britain to bomb Islamic State targets in Syria, the defence secretary is to say.

The RAF has been carrying out strikes in Iraq since September but Michael Fallon will say Parliament should look at the case for missions in Syria too.

The UK does not need the backing of MPs to launch raids but Mr Fallon has said the Commons will have the final say.

He will suggest terrorist attacks, such as Friday’s tourist murders in Tunisia, may have been planned by IS in Syria.

Thirty of the 38 tourists killed on the beach in Sousse on 26 June have been confirmed as British. Student Seifeddine Rezgui, 23, said to have had links to IS, was shot dead by police after carrying out the attack.

Prime Minister David Cameron later said IS posed “an existential threat” to the West, and its members in Iraq and Syria were plotting “terrible attacks” on British soil.

The Mirror also notes,

Britain edged closer to bombing Islamic State extremists in Syria after the Defence Secretary said it was “illogical” to attack jihadists in Iraq but not over the border.

Michael Fallon said a new Commons vote would be needed before the RAF carried out air strikes against Islamist fighters in Syria.

But he insisted there was no “legal bar” blocking Britain from attacking extremists in either country.

RAF Tornados and drones have been bombing the jihadists in Iraq since last September as part of a US-led alliance.

But Mr Fallon said: “ISIS is organised and directed and administered from Syria and there’s an illogicality about not being able to do it there.”

Where does the StWC stand?

Will it ‘defend’ the genociders of Daesh, and the European volunteers for its racist Einsatzgruppen from this bombing?

We say:

Another foreign intervention in Syria and Iraq is a bad idea, ethically and in terms of Realpolitik. The UK and the West have not opposed support for the reactionary forces of Al Nusra and other Islamist murderers. Their allies, such as Saudi Arabia, actively back these reactionaries. They have not stood against the threat of Turkish ‘Neo-Ottoman’ policy. They had not stood against Shia sectarian killings in Iraq.

The possibility that they will encourage any kind of democratic outcome to the civil war, and a replacement for the Assad regime with a progressive alternative is non-existent.

But to make opposition to this  bombing our chief objective is wrong.

We should be backing the democratic, largely Kurdish forces, of the People’s Protection UnitsYekîneyên Parastina Gel,, battling the genociders and their International volunteers on the ground.

There is little we can do in this tumult, but we are must use all the resources we can to help our Kurdish sisters and brothers who are fighting for dear life.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 2, 2015 at 11:28 am

Moazzam Begg: Back Islamists of Al Nusra and from Al-Qaeda to Defeat Daesh.

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Al-Nusra: Stopping Daesh Narrative, Says Moazzam Begg.

David Cameron will not engage the only people able to stop the IS narrative writes Moazzam Begg on the Middle East Eye (Tuesday 30 June 2015).

Hat-tip: David T.

In this article these are the sentences that matter:

Ahrar al-Sham – part of the Islamic Front coalition – and Al-Qaeda’s Al Nusra Front are the largest, most effective opposition forces in Syria. They have been at the forefront in the fight against IS. Thousands of their members have been killed in battle, tortured, beheaded and crucified. Despite Al Nusra’s confirmation that Syria would not be used as a launchpad for attacks on the West both groups have been bombed by coalition forces.

Arguably the most credible voices against IS have been Islamic clerics traditionally associated with Al-Qaeda. These include Jordanian scholars Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi and Abu Qatada. Cameron’s government fought very hard to deport the latter from Britain where he had been imprisoned on the basis of secret evidence, without charge, for over a decade.

In the end, Abu Qatada opted to return to Jordan, of his own accord, where he was acquitted of terrorism charges against him. During and after his imprisonment in the UK and Jordan Abu Qatada made repeated calls for the release of British aid workers and journalists held by militant groups – including IS. He declared their consequent murders unlawful and subsequently issued scathing fatwa [religious edicts] denouncing IS:

“This group [IS] does not have the authority to rule all Muslims and their declaration [the caliphate] applies to no-one but themselves. Its threats to kill opponents, sidelining of other groups and violent way of fighting opponents constitute a great sin, reflecting the reality of the group.”

Cameron must be wondering how many young Britons would have joined IS if Abu Qatada made these statements from the UK instead of Jordan?

Many people will consider Begg’s intervention as part of the effort to “re-brand” Al-Nusra (The rebranding of the Nusra Front.Mehdi Hasan).

But in this case it appears to be part of an attempt to extend this to elements within Al-Qaeda.

It’s not as if there is a lot to white-wash.

I am at present about half-way through this important book: Al Qaeda’s Global Crisis. The Islamic State, Takfir and the Genocide of Muslims. V. G. Julie Rajan 2015.

This book focuses on the crises facing Al Qaeda and how the mass killing of Muslims is challenging its credibility as a leader among Islamist jihadist organizations.

The book argues that these crises are directly related to Al Qaeda’s affiliation with the extreme violence employed against Muslims in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan in the decade since 9/11. Al Qaeda’s public and private responses to this violence differ greatly. While in public Al Qaeda has justified those attacks declaring that, for the establishment of a state of ‘true believers’, they are a necessary evil, in private Al Qaeda has been advising its local affiliates to refrain from killing Muslims.

To better understand the crises facing Al Qaeda, the book explores the development of Central Al Qaeda’s complex relationship with radical (mis)appropriations and manifestations of takfir, which allows one Muslim to declare another an unbeliever, and its unique relationship with each of its affiliates in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The author then goes on to consider how the prominence of takfir is contributing to the deteriorating security in those countries and how this is affecting Al Qaeda’s credibility as an Islamist terror organization. The book concludes by considering the long-term viability of Al Qaeda and how its demise could allow the rise of the even more radical, violent Islamic State and the implications this has for the future security of the Middle East, North Africa and Central/South Asia.

It would be very complex to go into the various alliances and conflcists between the different groups in Syria and Iraq – though there have no doubt been convergences between the so-called “opponents” of Daesh – Al-Nusra and the Islamic Front.

Perhaps a simpler way of dealing with Begg’s lies about Al-Qaeda and the Al-Nusra Front is to cite Patrick Cockburn in yesterday’s Independent.

 Because Isis publicises and boasts of its atrocities in order to spread fear, it masks the fact that official al-Qaeda affiliates, such as Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria or AQAP in Yemen, are just as dangerous.

Their basic agenda is very similar to that of the self-declared caliphate, with al-Nusra carrying out the enforced conversion of Druze and the massacre of those who resist. This attempted rebranding of extreme but non-Isis Sunni jihadis is opportunistic and often directed at making them more palatable as proxies for Sunni states such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

 There is more in Begg’s ideology: the reference to the importance  of the ‘Caliphate’.

He ends his piece with this distasteful observation:

…why did Seifeddine Rezguie kill 38 innocent tourists? Warped as his ideas must have been, he saw the tourists as representatives of Britain. Britain that had wanted to destroy the caliphate past, and, the caliphate present. The only ones who can successfully challenge the IS narrative, however, are the only ones the government will not engage with.

‘Caliphate John’ would doubtless agree.

Elderly working class tourists are indeed ‘targets’ for vengeance against the destruction of the ‘Caliphate past’, the “dismembered and occupied” Ottoman Empire.

But what exactly was this past?

The Caliphate – if we can condense so many different forms together,  as Begg does was marked by the treatment of   non-Muslims  as second class citizens and women as second class citizens. The caliphates were for most of their history based on slavery and landowner  exploitation. The Caliphate empires were grounded on the oppression of peoples, from Eastern Europe to North Africa. They regularly engaged in massacres of minorities, the torture and the murder of political opponents.

The clue perhaps lies in the word “empire“, not the word “Ottoman”.

Most people who are acquainted with the real – not fairy-story – history of the Caliphate, will feel sick in the stomach at  the thought that the Caliphate should be revived.

Whether it’s by Daesh or the forces Begg appears to favour, it is a potent symbol of tyranny, of class, sexual and religious oppression.

It is to hoped that this is the last time we will hear anybody on the left defending Moazzam Begg

End Austerity Now Demonstration: a Personal Report from Ipswich.

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Protesters flood Parliament Square (Photo: John Stillwell/PA Wire)

Protesters flood Parliament Square (Photo: John Stillwell/PA Wire)

End Austerity Now Demonstration: a Personal Report.

Around 80,000 people (the Tendance’s estimate) marched in London on Saturday. They protested against the newly elected Conservative government’s plans to continue, and deepen, austerity.

It’s unnecessary to list the faults of these policies. It’s enough to see the people begging in the streets, a few hundred metres from the office of Ipswich Tory M.P. Benedict Gummer. Without the response of the People’s Assembly, the unions, the diverse groups and parties on the demonstration, and the wider public, Cameron and Osborne will have free rein to create a mean-spirited free-market Britain.

From Ipswich and Stowmarket 42 people piled in our coach – there were more travelling to London by train. Up to 70% were under the age of 40, with a large percentage in their teens and twenties. This was reflected amongst the marchers, with a strong presence of young people.

While assembling by the Bank of England we were addressed by various speakers. Those advertised included Kate Hudson (Chair, Left Unity, CND) and Diane Abbott (Labour MP and candidate to represent the party for the London Mayoral contest). They and others made good, rousing, contributions on the need to fight austerity.

Weyman Bennett (SWP/Unite Against Fascism) linked people being rude to women wearing the Islamic veil to the massacre at Charleston and the heart-rending plight of migrants drowned in the Mediterranean. Lee Jasper (Respect Party), the ‘controversial’ former Director for Policing and Equalities under Ken Livingstone’s Greater London Authority Assembly continued in this vein.

Someone (one can imagine who) compared his peroration  unfavourably to Ali G.(1)  One Suffolk comrade remarked that on what she called the “shouting”.

It was to be regretted that there was nobody from the National Shop Stewards Network – a group which, whatever one’s political differences, represents a lot more than the former two users of the demo microphone – was not invited to speak.

The route of the protest, which began next to the City, took us from Ludgate Circus, down the Strand, past Trafalgar Square. This was the venue of a – poorly attended- commercial beano, a pop radio concert. It symbolised the use of public space for corporate gain.

Local People’s assembly groups (like Suffolk People’s Assembly) unions, Left Unity, anti-cuts organisations, disabeld rights groups,the SWP, the Socialist Party, and other (even) smaller left parties, the Labour Assembly Against Austerity , the Green Party …to Class War, were present.

In Parliament Square there were more speeches. Again there were solid well-argued arguments against the Cabinet’s plans, from Steve Turner (UNITE and the People’s Assembly) onwards. John Rees included a reference to the rights of atheists in a call for to defend the freedoms of different beliefs. His claim that the demonstrators were from all ethnic backgrounds was perhaps not fully substantiated by a glance at the overwhelmingly  white crowd.

Charlotte Church made an exceptional contribution.

The Mirror called it an “incredible speech“.

The Conservatives’ intention was to create a society around their principles, of private profit and public loss.

Describing the idea that Britain needs austerity as “the big lie”, Charlotte said: “They will sell off our schools and our hospitals. When it’s done, it will he hard to reverse.

“One aspect of this that really gets under my skin is that it’s all wrapped up in a proud-to-be-British package.

“I’m proud to be British because of the NHS and David Bowie, not because of the Union Jack.

“Be proud for the right reasons. We need to win back these young minds and save ourselves from years of yuppie rule.

“If you are ashamed that you have to use a food bank, because this Government would rather see you starve than put a note in your pocket, walk tall. You have the moral high ground.

“We are not afraid of national debt and we will not let our public services be attacked.”

She added: “What this country needs is economic stimulation – most economists around the world would say the same. We need to get the blood pumping.”

Earlier, she said: “I’m here today in a show of solidarity with everyone here – it is a massive turnout – everybody who thinks that austerity isn’t the only way and thinks it is essentially unethical, unfair and unnecessary.”

It was hard not to be moved by Charlotte’s clear and heart-felt words.

Her call for positive alternatives and hope will resonate across the country.

For many present, Jeremy Corbyn, standing for the Labour Party leadership, made a decisive call to make sure there is a strong left, anti-austerity,  vote in this election.

End Austerity Now was a success.

Where we go from now is the subject of serious discussion.

One way forward can be seen in the multitude of protests against welfare reform: from the continued campaign against the Bedroom Tax, Benefit cuts, Workfare, to the – still not fully implemented – psychological treatment of some claimants.

It is to be regretted that some parties see groups like the People’s Assembly as a recruiting ground.

In Suffolk the Green Party does not appear to publicise this:

Suffolk’s best-known Green Party politician has pulled out of the battle to become Ipswich MP in next May’s general election – because he hasn’t “got the heart” to take on Tory Ben Gummer.

Mark Ereira-Guyer, leader of the Green and independent group on Suffolk County Council and an experienced election campaigner, was chosen earlier this year to fight for the Ipswich seat, but has now dropped out.

“Although I find Conservative policies odious and overly focused on free market fundamentalism, crass cost-cutting measures and ecological destitution, I am of the view that the current MP Ben Gummer is dedicated and hardworking.

“I respect his honest endeavours for the town. And, therefore, I can’t drum up sufficient energies to really take him on. I like my politics to work on a human level, and not in a tribalist way.

Ipswich Star.

The day was an achievement for the organisers.

It was, as they say, only a beginning.

(1) This is what Jasper said (Charlie Hebdo and Europe’s rampant racism. 17th of January) about the massacre at Charlie Hebdo  (he doesn’t even mention the anti-Semitic murder at the Hyper-Casher):

“JeSuisCharlie in this context is nothing more than appeal from right wings white’s to be allowed to be racist without opposition in the name of free speech.  It’s a sort of ‪#WhiteLivesMatter statement particularly when viewed in the context of the tragic violence and world silence about the Nigerian massacre by Boko Haram.

This privilege allows them to disregard the social environment and political context of such satire and its consequences.  Writing in this flawed tradition is the perogative  of white, middle class Libertarian anarchists. Charlie Hebdo is for me,  a silly magazine and quintessentially an exercise in white privilege and arrogance.

Left Kurdish Party HDP Celebrates Breakthrough as Erdoğan’s Islamists Face Set-Back.

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Our Sisters and Brothers Celebrate Break-through of HDP Party.

The Kurdish news agency, Rûdaw, reports,

ISTANBUL, Turkey – Democracy won over dictatorship in Turkey’s general elections on Sunday, said Selahattin Demirtas, leader of the HDP that looks set to become the first Kurdish-rooted party to enter parliament.

“In this election, supporters of peace and the democracy won against dictatorship and autocracy,” Demirtas said at a news conference after initial results showed the HDP had beaten the 10 percent required to get into the 550-seat parliament.

“Our victory was the victory of the proletariat, the working class and the exploited people of Turkey,” Demirta said. “It was the victory of those who intend to raise the Kurdish question.”

Demirtas reiterated that he would stand by promises made during the election campaign.

“Whatever we said during the election campaign will come true. From now, the HDP is a real party in Turkey. Thousands of people have a share in such an outrageous victory.”

With 99 percent of the votes counted, preliminary results showed that the HDP had won 12.6 percent of the votes across Turkey. With 10 percent of the votes, the HDP would win about 80 seats in the next parliament.

The victory means that the HDP, which is a pro-Kurdish party, had managed to win the votes of many non-Kurds, ending the single party rule enjoyed by the AKP since 2003.

It also means that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who angered the political parties by going against the constitution and virtually campaigning for the ruling party, will not have the pliant parliament he wanted to change the constitution, place himself as head of government and obtain unprecedented executive powers.

“There was a high inequality and the attacks they conducted against our supporters during the election campaigns was against peace and democracy,” Demirtas said, referring to deadly bombings and attacks on HDP offices and rallies in the run-up to the polls.

Latest news on the results (Guardian),

Opposition party leaders appear to be in no mood to discuss forming a coalition with the AKP.

The pro-Kurdish HDP party, which won 80 seats have repeated its unwillingness to do a deal with Erodogan’s party. Its leader Selahattin Demirtas, said:

“We have promised our people that we would not form an internal or external coalition with the AKP. We are clear on that.”

More significantly the nationalist MHP is also in an uncooperative move.

MHP leader Devlet Bahceli said:

“Nobody has the right to sentence Turkey to an AKP minority government. Whenever there can be early elections, let them take place.”

The Republican People’s Party [CHP], which came second with 25% of the vote, says it is ready to form a coalition if the other parties honour their pre-election promises of not forming a government with the AKP.

This Le Monde headline sums up the results.

Législatives en Turquie : Erdogan voit son rêve de sultanat lui échapper.

Elections in Turkey. Erdogan sees his dream of a sultanate escape him.

As we have already  posted during the election campaign Erdogan has railed against the opposition with exceptional virulence.

The Guardian reports,

Even by his shaky standards, Erdoğan’s behaviour during the campaign was exceptionally boorish. As president, he is expected to adopt a neutral stance. Instead, he barnstormed across the country holding rallies in support of the AKP. The results thus look like a very personal rejection.

Erdoğan directed insults, accusations and threats at his political opponents, female activists, the media, non-Muslims, and ethnic and cultural minorities of all descriptions.

Last week Erdoğan dismissed the HDP as a party of gay people and atheists, a description apparently designed to pander to the prejudices of the AKP’s largely poor, devoutly Muslim working class base. He suggested the HDP supported terrorism and was in league with the PKK.

Erdoğan notably failed to condemn more than 70 reported violent attacks on the HDP’s candidates, rallies and offices. After bombs killed two people and wounded more than 200 at an HDP rally in Diyarbakir, in the mainly Kurdish south-east, on Friday, Selahattin Demirtas, the HDP leader, condemned Erdoğan’s silence.

“He should go to Diyarbakir. Is he not the president of 77 million people? He ought to leave flowers where people were killed,” Demirtas said in Istanbul. Erdoğan later offered condolences but said it was Demirtas who should apologise over Syria-related violence last October.

Erdoğan has also been engaged in a vicious slanging match with opposition media, accusing reporters and commentators who criticise him of being part of a conspiracy to undermine Turkey.

People with memories (and not long-term ones at that) will recall that Erdogon and the AKK have been lauded as the moderate face of Islamism….

Update: “The election represents a watershed in Turkish politics, writes Constanze Letsch Istanbul and Ian Traynor in an analysis of the success of the leftist Kurdish HDP.”

The election result brought forth an embryonic new Turkey, but not the one the president wanted.

It produced what is tantamount to a cultural revolution in Turkish political life. Women will pour into the 550-seat parliament in Ankara in unprecedented numbers, 98 up from 79. Openly gay candidates won seats for the HDP. Most of all, the long-repressed Kurdish minority (one in 5 citizens) will be properly represented in the parliament for the first time with 80 seats.

“This is the first time that feminists in Turkey actively supported a political party,” said feminist activist Mehtap Dogan. “Up until now we have always done politics on our own, away from parliament. But this time we ran a campaign supporting the HDP because we believed in their sincerity when it comes to defending the rights of women, LGBTs and ethnic minorities.”

The HDP is the first party to introduce a quota of 50% female politicians, and all party offices and HDP-run municipalities are chaired by both a man and a woman.

The party’s successful attempt to break out of ethnic identity politics and broaden its appeal well beyond the Kurdish issue owes much to leader Selahattin Demirtas’ magnetism and his message of outreach.

But the mass protest movement born in a central Istanbul park two years ago and which mushroomed into national protests which Erdogan crushed mercilessly also fed in to the HDP’s support.

“During the Gezi [park] protests, many got an idea of what Kurds had to go through for years: the violence, the repression, the unjust arrests. It opened our eyes to the Kurdish suffering,” said Dogan. “At the same time, we saw how the pro-government press tried to turn our legitimate, peaceful protests into acts of terrorism.”

Just as Erdogan branded the protesters two years ago “riff-raff”, “terrorists” and “foreign agents”, in the election campaign he stoked division and malice by repeatedly smearing his HDP opponents as “terrorists, marginals, gays and atheists.”

He asked religiously conservative voters not to cast their ballots for “such people who have nothing to do with Islam.”

The tactic backfired as many religiously conservative Kurds shifted their votes from the AKP to a party that promised to represent everyone’s interests.

Guardian.

Background:

The Peoples’ Democratic Party (Turkish: Halkların Demokratik Partisi (HDP), Kurdish: Partiya Demokratik a Gelan) is an anti-nationalist[3][10]left-wing political party in Turkey, acting as the fraternal party to pro-KurdishDemocratic Regions Party (DBP). It was founded in 2012 as the political wing of the Peoples’ Democratic Congress, a union of numerous left-wing movements that had previously fielded candidates as independents to bypass the 10% election threshold. The party operates a co-presidential system of leadership, with one chairman and one chairwoman. As of 22 June 2014, these chairpersons are Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ respectively. The HDP is seen as the Turkish version of SYRIZA and Podemos.[11]

The HDP is a democratic socialist party that adheres to anti-capitalism and aspires to end religious, gender and racial discrimination. The party has a 50% quota for women and a 10% quota for the LGBT community when fielding candidates. The party is also environmentalist, opposing the introduction of nuclear power in Turkey and also speaking out strongly in favour of the Gezi Park protests in 2013 that began as an environmentalist demonstration. It is said to resonate with liberal, middle-class Turks.[12] Despite their anti-nationalist stance, the party has been perceived by some to be a Kurdish nationalist party due to their affiliation with the Democratic Regions Party and their support for minority rights. While the HDP maintains that the party looks beyond the traditional ‘Turkish or Kurdish’ dichotomy, it has openly participated in talks with imprisoned PKK rebel organisation leader Abdullah Öcalan.

More background: Turkey: Kurds, the working class and the new left — interview with Erdem Yörük.

Do not forget this: 12 YEARS OF MASSACRES IN AKP’S TURKEY.

The bomb attacks against the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in Amed (Diyarbakir) on 6th June has once again revealed the Turkish government’s (AKP’s) plans to massacre civilians in order to stay in power. Erdoğan and his team came into power with a discourse of advanced democracy but committed 17,153 murders during their time in power.

Human Rights reports reveal that AKP has offered nothing but death and massacres to the public since it came into power in 2002. Human Rights Association, Turkey Human Rights Foundation, and Labor and Social Security Institution reports between 2002 and 2014 shed light on the 12 years of AKP history characterised by murders. The reports of these three non-governmental organizations show that a total of 17,153 people were murdered through unresolved assassinations, extrajudicial executions, custody and prison, and work accidents during AKP’s time in power.

An important detail from the reports reveal that these murders have been constantly increasing since Erdoğan and AKP came into power with the promise of advanced democracy, particularly in Kurdistan since Erdoğan acknowledged the existence of the Kurdish issue in 2005.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 8, 2015 at 10:45 am

World Press Freedom Day Sees List of Honour Back Charlie Hebdo as 145 Writers Join List of Shame.

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The List of Honour of those who Back Charlie and Freedom.

Not in our name: World Press Freedom Day 116 days after Charlie Hebdo.

On World Press Freedom Day, 116 days after the attack at the office of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo that left 11 dead and 12 wounded, we, the undersigned, reaffirm our commitment to defending the right to freedom of expression, even when that right is being used to express views that we and others may find difficult, or even offensive.

The Charlie Hebdo attack – a horrific reminder of the violence many journalists around the world face daily in the course of their work – provoked a series of worrying reactions across the globe.

In January, the office of the German daily Hamburger Morgenpost was firebombed following the paper’s publishing of several Charlie Hebdo images. In Turkey, journalists reported receiving death threats following their re-publishing of images taken from Charlie Hebdo. In February, a gunman apparently inspired by the attack in Paris, opened fire at a free expression event in Copenhagen; his target was a controversial Swedish cartoonist who had depicted the prophet Muhammad in his drawings.

But many of the most disturbing reactions – and the most serious threats to freedom of expression – have come from governments.

A Turkish court blocked web pages that had carried images of Charlie Hebdo’s front cover; Russia’s communications watchdog warned six media outlets that publishing religious-themed cartoons “could be viewed as a violation of the laws on mass media and extremism”; Egypt’s president Abdel Fatah al-Sisi empowered the prime minister to ban any foreign publication deemed offensive to religion; the editor of the Kenyan newspaper The Star was summoned by the government’s media council, asked to explain his “unprofessional conduct” in publishing images of Charlie Hebdo, and his newspaper had to issue a public apology; Senegal banned Charlie Hebdo and other publications that re-printed its images; in India, Mumbai police used laws covering threats to public order and offensive content to block access to websites carrying Charlie Hebdo images. This list is far from exhaustive.

Perhaps the most long-reaching threats to freedom of expression have come from governments ostensibly motivated by security concerns. Following the attack on Charlie Hebdo, 11 interior ministers from European Union countries, including France, Britain and Germany, issued a statement in which they called on internet service providers to identify and remove online content “that aims to incite hatred and terror”. In the UK, despite the already gross intrusion of the British intelligence services into private data, Prime Minister David Cameron suggested that the country should go a step further and ban internet services that did not give the government the ability to monitor all encrypted chats and calls.

This kind of governmental response is chilling because a particularly insidious threat to our right to free expression is self-censorship. In order to fully exercise the right to freedom of expression, individuals must be able to communicate without fear of intrusion by the state. Under international law, the right to freedom of expression also protects speech that some may find shocking, offensive or disturbing. Importantly, the right to freedom of expression means that those who feel offended also have the right to challenge others through free debate and open discussion, or through peaceful protest.

On World Press Freedom Day, we, the undersigned, call on all governments to;

  • Uphold their international obligations to protect the rights of freedom of expression and information for all, especially journalists, writers, artists and human rights defenders to publish, write and speak freely.
  • Promote a safe and enabling environment for those who exercise their right to freedom of expression, especially for journalists, artists and human rights defenders to perform their work without interference.
  • Combat impunity for threats and violations aimed at journalists and others threatened for exercising their right to freedom of expression and ensure impartial, speedy, thorough, independent and effective investigations that bring masterminds behind attacks on journalists to justice, and ensure victims and their families have speedy access to appropriate remedies.
  • Repeal legislation which restricts the right to legitimate freedom of expression, especially such as vague and overbroad national security, sedition, blasphemy and criminal defamation laws and other legislation used to imprison, harass and silence journalists and others exercising free expression
  • Promote voluntary self-regulation mechanisms, completely independent of governments, for print media
  • Ensure that the respect of human rights is at the heart of communication surveillance policy. Laws and legal standards governing communication surveillance must therefore be updated, strengthened and brought under legislative and judicial control. Any interference can only be justified if it is clearly defined by law, pursues a legitimate aim and is strictly necessary to the aim pursued.

PEN International
Adil Soz – International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech
Africa Freedom of Information Centre
Albanian Media Institute
Article19
Association of European Journalists
Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Belarusian PEN
Brazilian Association for Investigative Journalism
Cambodian Center for Human Rights
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
Centre for Independent Journalism – Malaysia
Danish PEN
Derechos Digitales
Egyptian Organization for Human Rights
English PEN
Ethical Journalism Initiative
Finnish PEN
Foro de Periodismo Argentino
Fundamedios – Andean Foundation for Media Observation and Study
Globe International Center
Guardian News Media Limited
Icelandic PEN
Index on Censorship
Institute for the Studies on Free Flow of Information
International Federation of Journalists
International Press Institute
International Publishers Association
Malawi PEN
Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance
Media Institute of Southern Africa
Media Rights Agenda
Media Watch
Mexico PEN
Norwegian PEN
Observatorio Latinoamericano para la Libertad de Expresión – OLA
Pacific Islands News Association
PEN Afrikaans
PEN American Center
PEN Catalan
PEN Lithuania
PEN Quebec
Russian PEN
San Miguel Allende PEN
PEN South Africa
Southeast Asian Press Alliance
Swedish PEN
Turkish PEN
Wales PEN Cymru
West African Journalists Association
World Press Freedom Committee.

Good on all who back this letter.

Vous serez honoré(e)s parmi toutes les Nations. 

Partisans de la ligne de Charlie, Moblisez-Vous!

Here is the declaration of Shame.

Junot Díaz, Lorrie Moore, Joyce Carol Oates, Eric Bogosian and Michael Cunningham are among the 145 writers who have signed a letter protesting PEN American Center’s decision to award its “freedom of expression courage” award to the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, because the award seems to endorse drawings of the prophet Muhammad and other images that “must be seen as being intended to cause further humiliation and suffering” among France’s embattled Muslims.

“It is clear and inarguable that the murder of a dozen people in the Charlie Hebdo offices is sickening and tragic,” the letter states, referring to the attack by Islamic extremists in Paris in January. “What is neither clear nor inarguable is the decision to confer an award for courageous freedom of expression on Charlie Hebdo or what criteria exactly were used to make that decision.”

By honoring Charlie Hebdo, the letter said, “PEN is not simply conveying support for freedom of expression but also valorizing selectively offensive material: material that intensifies the anti-Islamic, anti-Maghreb, anti-Arab sentiments already prevalent in the Western world.”

New York Times.

I’ve got a little list — I’ve got a little list…..

On the Ambiguities of ‘Islamophobia'; Debate Launched by Yves Colman and AWL.

with 13 comments

The supplement Anti-semitism and anti-Muslim racism in Europe, by Yves Colman (from Ni patrie ni frontières) is published by the Alliance of Workers’ Liberty. It is essential reading.

These are some comments on one section,  About the ambiguities of the “Islamophobia” concept.

The original title is perhaps more forthright: De l’usage réactionnaire de la notion d’« islamophobie » par certains sociologues de gauche et… Amnesty International. It is also, Yves notes, “a slightly different and longer version”. In French he refers to, for example, to claims about ‘hypersensitive’ Jews, by  French academic, Olivier Esteves (joint author of De l’invisibilité à l’islamophobie : Les musulmans britanniques (1945-2010) with  Gérard Noiriel. 2011).  I doubt if anybody outside of France would be greatly  interested in Esteves, although Yves’s annoyance at the use the writer makes of Maxime Rodinson would be shared by many on the left in the scores of countries where Rodinson’s works on Islam are read and appreciated.

This, nevertheless,  suggests a wider point. The political and cultural bearings of any discussion about Islamophobia – and anti-Semitism – are different in France and Britain. This is not just that different writers can be, or need to be, cited, but   that there are some deeper distinctions. Not only has continental Europe a more direct exprience of the history of the consequences of anti-Semitism, but France has a distinct relation to Islam (North African colonialism was more ‘immediate’ than, say the Raj), and a much stronger secular and radical left, which is hostile to the kind of religiously inspired fudging of these issues that exists in the UK.

Much of this may be well-known, but it is less appreciated in the UK, and elsewhere, just how far a large chunk of the French left just does not accept the same premises on these topics. It is  doubtless partly due to the efforts of groups like the SWP, who systematically turn reports on France to fit their own ‘line’, but also from other groups, who are themselves aligned with the various (minority) French groups who make up such bodies as the Collectif contre l’Islamophobie.

We have to begin, then,  by noting that in France, to a much greater degree than in the English-speaking world, the concept of ‘Islamophobia’ remains contested, above all on the anti-racist left. Houda Asal observes that it remains “champ de bataille ” (Battle field). That is, as a political issue of great importance, its content remains to be clearly defined (Contretemps). Above all, she notes, the identification of Islamophobia (a term she backs, as a supporter of the group cited above) as a form of racism, has met with sustained objections amongst important sections of the French left. A variety of objections have been made to the word, not least by important French left parties, such as the Parti de gauche of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who are firm secularists and fear a restriction on their right to criticise reactionary religious politics.  Apart from the obvious point that faith is not in the genes, this runs up against the idea that people can have their ideas challenged and that they should be free to leave their ‘birth’ religion. 

Yves Colman begins his article by giving some reasons why the word Islamophobia is not just ‘essentially contested’ but eminently contestable. This is is so not just in terms of French debates, but for the whole international left.

He begins,

I have tried not to use the word “Islamophobia” in this article and chose expressions like “anti-Muslim paranoia”, “anti-Arab”, “anti-African” and “anti-Muslim racism”, in line with what Sacha Ismail proposed in Solidarity.

Among many other reasons, I prefer not to use the word “islamophobia” for the following motives:

• The phenomenon involved is not a simple phobia (fear) but a paranoia, therefore much more serious than a simple fear;

• This concept is manipulated by Islamists and the 57 States of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to prevent any criticism both of political Islam and Islamic religion;

• It’s used by left militants and social scientists who refuse to criticise religion: for example, Clive D. Field 60 considers the rejection of sharia courts in Britain an “islamophobic” prejudice!

It remains to be seen if one can clearly distinguish paranoia and fear. Or, that there is any point in saying that because anybody intensely dislikes, say Boko Haram, they are imagining something about them.

Viewers of this week’s BBC 2 documentary Kill the Christians, might equally become fearful about Islamic religious intolerance and hatred towards non-Muslims.

It is hard to see what worse one could imagine about groups such as the Islamic State – Daesh.

Which is not to say that racists, of any stripe, are not capable of deluded fantasies about the objects of their loathing.

There are few more disgusting sights than listening to Nigel Farage speaking, and his views on Muslims are no exception.

UKIP is striking evidence of that – and spans a very wide variety of targets. ‘Populism’ in this case seems about very classical scapegoating, too simple in fact to need any sophisticated cultural, ideological/discourse analysis. However it does not have one clear target: it’s an heap of images, Polish, Gypsy, Muslim, Chavs, Africans, Caribbeans, idle British benefit claimants, Brussels,  single mothers, and, let’s not forget, the large Hindu and Sikh populations, to give a far from exhaustive summary.

But the deep rooted, all-embracing, hatred of one group has yet to take hold. There is not the obsessive loathing against Jews looked at in books such as Sartre’s  Réflexions sur la question juive (1946), with their institutional and political backing in National Socialism and other European extreme-rights, has yet to take hold in large sections of the population. There is no version of the Protocols featuring Muslim ‘Elders’. Éric Zemmour, who advocates expelling Muslims from Europe, does not lead a political party, even a groupuscule. 

These reservations should not obscure the principal point that  across Europe there is widespread intolerance against migrants and all ethnic minorities.

In this noxious mixture there are anti-Muslim strands.

How can this best be termed? Sacha Ismail’s list strikes me as right: there is “anti-Arab”, “anti-African” and “anti-Muslim racism” .  Though unfortunately one has to add a long list of other prejudices, xenophobic hatred, and biological racism to the tally. There is, though not at present of visible importance in Europe, intra-Muslim conflict, too well known to catalogue.

These qualifications said, Yves’s argument is extremely fruitful: it has implications for the left’s strategies to oppose this tide of prejudice.

The Left and ‘Islamophobia’.

As a first step we have to look at what we should not do. 

The line advanced in the pages of the Socialist Workers Party magazine, Socialist Review, by  Hassan Mahamdallie of the Muslim Institute (January 2015) gives some indications of very misleading approach.  (Resist the racist offensive against Muslims)

Mahamdallie works with this central premise,

Although the term “Islamophobia” is widely used to describe the phenomenon of hatred and discrimination against Muslims, we should regard it like other racisms as having historic roots, and a particular role to play in modern capitalist societies.

This is true in the west, whose governments are failing to deliver the needs of their working classes, whilst engaging in military interventions in regions they see as strategic. Muslims in the West are being used as scapegoats for a situation not of their making, and simultaneously being divided from the rest of the population, cast as alien, dangerous and thereby set apart from those with whom they have most in common.

‘Islamophobia’ is not at all reducible to the something that can be reduced to  a “function” or role in “scapegoating”. The expression is already flawed enough without this. But it’s the political consequences which Mahamdallie draws that are most ambiguous:

local initiatives include the vibrant campaign around the Trojan Horse affair in Birmingham; the work of activists to repulse the racialisation of child abuse “grooming” cases in towns such as Rotherham; and the defence of Tower Hamlets council and schools. This is a vital bulwark against Islamophobia, not only in demonstrating that Muslims can count on the support of others, but in radicalising a new generation of activists, Muslim and non-Muslim, who can feel that they can move from the defensive to the offensive, and by doing so making themselves active in changing the world around them for the better.

These are very far from clear issues. Anybody who ‘defends’ the Birmingham schools, to start with, is misled. Why Tower Hamlets Council leadership should be ‘defended’ without any qualification (or evidence in the courts) is equally questionable. Not to mention why the left should be deeply involved in the child abuse cases, which defy any kind of rational political intervention….

Indeed the words hornet’s nest barely cover the issues Mahamdallie baldly cites.

But, (we learn)

…there are bigger issues at stake, which means breaking out of the Good Muslim/Bad Muslim framework and championing the right of Muslims to practise their religion and to express themselves culturally and politically freely and without fear, to organise against war and injustice without suffering the fate of activists such as Moazzam Begg and to defend their communities and leadership without being labelled as “fundamentalist” conspirators.

It is natural that Britain’s Muslims should reach out for allies in this struggle. The responsibility falls on the wider movement against racism and imperialism, on trade unionists and socialists to actively demonstrate, without pre-conditions, that it will consistently unite with Muslims under attack. Only then can we begin to roll back the state repression and the bigotry and discrimination that are in danger of being embedded in British society.

No socialist can accept the phrase, “Without pre-conditions’, without, pre-conditions…..

We have just seen some reasons why; there are plenty of others.

Defending those who identify as Muslims, from racist assaults, is absolutely right, in general.

But what of  organised groups, political and religious associations? Every single Salafist? And is every individual to be backed? ‘Against’ the state, and ‘against’ what else? Every, well the word begins with a ‘J’……

There is a drift, ultimately, to the blanket ‘defence’ of every Muslim, which the SWP, and many on the left, make all too often – for all their ‘yes ISIS is terrible’ but…...

Yves notes, that Islamophobia is used, in this context above all, to protect a range of figures from criticism (from Islamists to ‘traditional’ leaders, ‘conservative’ – reactionary – clerics, academics and perhaps most important, would-be political leaders) , to encircle ‘The’ (as if there is ‘one’) Muslim ‘community’ and as Charlie Hebdo’s murdered Editor, Charb says, to encourage ‘identity’ against the ‘enemies’ of Islam (Lettre ouverte aux escrocs de l’islamophobie qui font le jeu des racistes. 2015(1)

Behind this is not a powerless body of migrants, but some wealthy and powerful countries, the 57 States of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

Does the left defend “without pre-conditions” all of these bodies?

Clearly not.

Multiculturalism. 

Yves takes us the critique of official multiculturalism”. He singles out

“….imaginary “communities” whose self-proclaimed representatives want to impose a “traditional” law on their cultural/religious group, we can’t just look away and forget the necessity of defending democratic rights for everyone… including Muslim workers.”

The comrade from Ni patrie ni frontières looks at Amnesty International’s report 63 (April 2012).

This asserts,

“States must take measures to protect women from being pressured or coerced by third parties to dress in certain ways, and in so far as social, cultural or religious norms prescribing dress codes are a reflection of discrimination against women, the state has a positive obligation to take steps to prevent such discrimination.”

He states,

Amnesty is right to criticise the discriminatory policies adopted by Western states: in the countries where the hijab ban has been implemented (outside Turkey and Tunisia, where these decisions were taken by Muslim governments), it has only served to expel young girls from the state-run, or “non-denominational” schools, which was a major setback; it has pushed them either to abandon their studies, or to follow long-distance education and remain isolated at home, and made them more vulnerable to (self-) indoctrination; and it has reinforced the influence of private schools and religious (Christian or Muslim) schools.

I disagree that the French law on wearing ostentatious religious symbols in schools is wrong. There is no reason why a public education system should be permitted to become a battleground in which personal religious symbolism, above all, religious standards of ‘modesty’ and ‘purity’, should be allowed to enter. The French concept of laïcité for all its obvious faults (notably, the failure to tackle class and other inequalities), nevertheless represent an advance in this area: schools should not be the place for the aggressive assertion of faith, either by the instructors, or by those trying to extend the  ‘micro-powers’ of religious observance.

To those who say that we not ‘defend’ the French state, I reply: schools are funded and run by the state. Unless you plan to take them away from the public authorities we are discussing about what should happen within them. Secularists want them to be secular. Obviously some on the left do not agree.

Anti-Semitism.

“The Islamophobia concept is sometimes used to counter the necessary struggle against anti-Semitism, the latter being presented, by the most extremists, as a “Zionist” tool to prevent any criticism against Israeli war crimes (see for example the opposition raised in the left by the working definition of anti-Semitism elaborated by an European Union commission which proposed to point the limits of anti-Zionism). “

In other words, everyone but the anti-Semites are responsible for…anti-Semitism.

There is another example of this in the  Parti des Indigènes de la République, and its leading figure Houria Bouteldja (admired by Verso Books and Richard Seymour amongst others).  Bouteldja has recently argued that there is a State philosemitism  in France (philosémitisme d’État). This state, apparently, ‘uses’ this, including the Shoah, as shields (boucliers idéologiques) to disguise its own racism. Thus, Arab anti-Semitism in France is…..a reaction to this State (racist) philosemitism. (François Calaret Combattre le philosémitisme » : impasse de l’antiracisme).

We wonder where this particular journey will end.

 In provisional conclusion: Yves Colman’s discussion and the major piece, Anti-semitism and anti-Muslim racism in Europe, are essential reading for everybody on the left. The AWL are to be congratulated on publishing it.

As the comrade says,

It’s never too late to recognise our errors and wage a clear fight against all forms of racism. For this we must understand their specificities, without negating the existence of any form of racism and without building an absurd hierarchy between them.

More articles by Yves on site Ni Patrie, Ni Frontières.

More on the increasingly overtly anti-Semitic  Parti des Indigènes de la République (PIR)Non au philosémitisme d’État » : un slogan indigne !  (Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peuples).

Update: RW points us to this translation of the speech that marked this turn by Houria Bouteldja, membre of PIR translated into English.

The most striking is this sentence, “Last question: what is it that prevents the « real left » from struggling against state philosemitism? I will answer unambiguously: the real left is itself, with a few exceptions, philosemitic.” (State racism(s) and philosemitism or how to politicise the issue of antiracism in France ?).

Yes, they like Jews those French leftists……

How awful.

(1) I am considerably more a “follower of the line of Charlie Hebdo” than Yves Colman.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 17, 2015 at 12:11 pm

Leaked International Socialist Organization Bulletins Show New ‘SWP’ Crisis.

with 12 comments

https://i2.wp.com/www.internationalsocialist.org/images/WeekX.jpg

ISO: Now Where Did they Get the idea for those Placards From?

Caliphate John was recently bemoaning the good old days on the left when internal debate was carried out through secret party documents so that, no doubt, his musings in support of Isis could be decently kept from the eyes of a prying public.

But it’s not only poor old John Tummon (ex-Left Unity leading cadre)  who whinges about the new Internet culture.

The American group, the International Socialist Organization, is also prone to whining about this.

Comrade Ross Wolfe informs the world of his latest findings from this group (which published on January the 19th Ian Birchall’s anti-secularist polemic with Tendance Coatesy as part of the ‘line’ on Charlie Hebdo).

 Leaked ISO Internal Bulletins Scandal.

Below you will find the latest batch of internal bulletins from the International Socialist Organization, a US Trotskyist sect. Multiple concerned members, troubled by the group’s lack of transparency and accountability, sent me the documents via e-mail. Like last year’s set, these are marked “for members’ eyes only.” Such secrecy is usually justified by dusting off passages from Lenin’s 113-year-old tome What is to be Done?, which sought to adapt Marxist organizational principles to the tsarist police state. Police infiltration, monitoring, and surveillance of radical groups certainly continues to be a problem, as documents from 2008 confirm, but I would be hard pressed to find anyone who believes this is some sort of new COINTELPRO or Okhrana.

…….

Following a recent row resulting from my disclosure of a reported rape coverup in Solidarity-US, which implicates a prominent “socialist feminist” initialed JB (Joanna Brenner?) in the obstruction of an internal investigation, Shaun Joseph of the ISO Renewal Faction reassured me: “Character assassination is basically how these people [leftists] work, as I know all too well. All this stuff about protecting the survivor’s identity is bullshit — it’s so transparently self-interested.” Shaun was expelled from the ISO a year ago, along with the rest of the Renewal Faction en masse. Last month people tried to claim I threatened to release information about the victims in the Soli case, which was, of course, a complete fabrication. They even led a “boycott, divestment, sanction, and unfriend” campaign against me (I’m not kidding), threatening to block anyone who still had mutuals with me on Facebook. It’s pretty sad that the most politically meaningful act anyone can imagine is an ultimatum to cut ties with some person on social media. Like cutting someone off from the leper colony of the contemporary Left is some great punishment. Most people outgrew this petty bullshit in middle school.

It’s essential to read the full Charnel House post (though one doubts if many with bother with the bulletins themselves)  but I note in passing that another enemy of Coatesim and all of its works crops up in this,

Using paranoia to crush criticisms or complaints is nothing new, though it’s a tradition more strongly associated with Stalinism than with Trotskyism. Time was that you could get rid of troublemakers in the party simply by suggesting they might be “wreckers” or “British spies.” Paul Heideman and Carlos Rivera-Jones insinuated I was an informant or a snitch. Not much has changed, it seems. But it’s hard to read lines like the following as anything other than a paranoid misogynist entrapment fantasy: “If the state were to attempt to harm our organization by making false claims via infiltrators, we can assume that they would most likely do so by having consensual sex with a member, and lying afterward to claim that the encounter was non-consensual.”