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After Fifteen Years Why Has the Stop the War Coaliton Foundered?

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After 15 Years what do they have to show for it all?

Lindsey German of the revolutionary socialist group Counterfire and the Convenor of the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) writes today.

Our conference next month marks the 15th anniversary of our movement. A time to say no to all the wars arising from the war on terror. And to continue our commitment to opposing the system our government is at the heart of, imperialism.

If the StWC is opposed to all wars “arising from the war on terror”, and it bases its opposition on being against ‘imperialism’ is the StWC simply an ‘anti-imperialist’ group.

The confusion that has lain for years over the StWC comes from this source.

It can be ‘against’ Western, and specifically UK, involvement in ‘bombing Syria’  but it has absolutely no answer to the multiple wars in that region, except being against the one force they identity as ‘imperialist’ – the US and its direct allies.

Who are opposed to Assad, who is backed by the Russian Federation, and Iran.

Who are not – officially – supported by the StWC because the StWC is against all ‘foreign’ involvement in Syria – even (they officially) claim those fighting ‘imperialism’, like Assad.

Who the US and its NATO allies oppose.

But even here, since some US allies, such as the Saudis and the Gulf states, back non-ISIS jihadist forces to the US against Assad and against…the Kurds.

Who, a progressive left force, are supported (in the shape of the YPG) by the Americans…

Who have been driven to oppose to Turkey, its ally, when they fight the Kurds..

Who are also…

Well, we could go on.

And on.

Stopping the War is clearly not on the cards in Syria, nor has the slogan any meaning in dealing with the fighting in Iraq.

StWC claims not to “take sides” in Syria, but somehow be to be against “war” without being pacifists – that it absolutely against any violence.

But the violence continues, and there is no such thing as a non ‘intervening’ side when not doing something is to let things, continue…

The incoherence of the position of the STWC is to imagine, or at least claim, that they are both  au-dessus de la Mêlée  and anti-imperialist.

But we all incoherent faced with the mass killings taking place.

But failing to stand up for human decency in the face of the genocides taking place and saying, in effect, “none of our business”, leave a nasty taste in the mouth.

Most people have simply walked away from this crew.

Let the Festivities Commence!

It would be churlish not to leave the StWC with some crumbs of comfort.

In a note of self-celebration and a much needed pat on the pat, German also states today,

We did a great thing collectively with Stop the War. We have maintained it as an organisation and in the past year have seen a considerable increase in support, despite (or perhaps because of) the attacks on Corbyn. We are, I think, the major anti-war movement in any Nato country. The attacks from the right over the Syria bombing vote in 2013 showed the legacy of the movement and what damage we did. Ditto the Syria vote last year, used as a vicious attack on Jeremy Corbyn (and joined in by the pro-intervention left). There are many issues to debate about our history, and still a job to combat interventions in the Middle East and through Nato expansion.

But no, let us continue churlishly.

In reality all that remains of this “great thing” is that the StWC struggled to get a couple of thousand  people at its last demonstration (November 2015) and barely more than a couple of hundred at the CND anti-Trident protest outside Parliament this July.

One notes who they chose as a speaker at the November event.

And this sprightly new face, before his more recent Brexit campaigning:

Image result for november 2015 stop the war coalition demonstration tariq ali

Irrelevance.

The major reason for their decline is that the StWC is  as we have just seen, an irrelevance in the face of the events unfolding in the Middle East.

Another is that  the group, no doubt caught up in what Counterfire calls the ‘actuality of the revolution’  feels free to expound on a variety of issues  with a less than direct link to war.

It published this tissue of lies a few days ago:

Liberté. Égalité. Fraternité…Unless You’re a Muslim Woman

These are some of the most shameful episodes in the treatment of Muslim women in France that I can recall. They are state sponsored bullying and racism pure and simple. Islamophobia is only one form of racism, although it is the major one in Europe today. But it is the only one which targets the behaviour and dress of women in particular, and tried to alter this behaviour in the most draconian way.

German shamefully tries to link the ban on the Burkini to French international interventions.

She can barely resist saying of the atrocities, “they had it coming to them…”

France has also been increasingly strongly involved in interventions in Muslim countries, most notably Syria and Libya, which have led to increases in the level of terrorism.

Without going into great detail about  the issue we simply note.

  • It was not the French ‘state’ which tried to ban the burkini, but right-wing local authorities on the country’s coastline.
  • The French ‘state’ in the shape of the Conseil d’Etat (Council of State, the clue being the second part of the name…) overturned the ban. It said it was incompatible with human rights.
  • It was kind of German to express concern for the mass murders carried out by Daesh supporters in France. But perhaps something a little more forthcoming than a reference to “increases in the level of terrorism” linked to “interventions in Muslim countries” might have been more appropriate for those close to the victims in  Nice, Paris and Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, to cite but the most recent atrocities.

Internationalist Volunteers Fight with Kurds Against Islamic State Genociders.

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Internationalists Back the Fight Against Daesh.  

There are many people, genuine internationalists, humanitarian progressives, those simply motivated by the need to defend humanity against the Islamist genocides of Daesh, fighting with the Kurdish forces in Syria.

This hit the headlines a few days ago.

British man Dean Carl Evans killed fighting with Kurds against Isil in Syria

Mr Evans, from Oxford, later added in a second posting: “I would like to say a massive big thank you to all my friends and family who sent their condolence for the loss of my son.

“He would have been very proud and would have regarded you all as his brothers and sisters, thank you again.”

Dean Evans was one of many foreign volunteers who joined the People’s Defence Units (YPG), the Kurdish military force fighting in northern Syria.

In a statement, the YPG described Mr Evans as a “martyr” who had a “revolutionary and combative spirit on the front lines and always fought without hesitation to protect the people of this region”.

He joined a unit of Kurdish fighters taking part in the Manbij offensive alongside Syrian Arab rebels and with the support of US airpower and Western special forces.

Konstandinos Erik Scurfield, 25, was described as a “martyr” by Kurdish forces in Syria, who called him a “daring and courageous companion”.

The former Royal Marine – who was of British and Greek nationality – travelled to Syria in 2014 to “fulfil his humanitarian goals”.

Mr Scurfield, who had appeared in the long-running TV drama Hollyoaks after launching an acting career, fought with the Kurdish People’s Protection Unit, known as the YPG, for three months before being blown up.

He had been part of a rescue operation that saved the lives of thousands of Yazidi people stranded on Mount Sinjar.

An inquest held in June heard that Mr Scurfield died while helping rescue refugees from an ISIS stronghold on March 2, last year.

British People’s Protection Units (YPG) volunteer Macer Gifford, who is on his second tour of Rojava, has sent a message about developments in Manbij, the strategic town being liberated from Islamic State (IS/ISIS) by Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Manbij Military Council (MMC) fighters.

In his message from the front line Gifford asks for urgent aid from Britain, Europe and America and calls for borders to be opened to Rojava.

Below we are publishing Mr Gifford’s message, which he shared with his followers on Facebook on 2 August 2016.

……

Low food and water, mixed with the stench of those that have died amongst the rubble is a morale drainer. It’s amazing to see SDF fighters coming off the front, to be given their first proper meal in weeks and then share that food with civilians leaving the city. There is a wonderful, ‘we are in this together’ feeling between the fighters and the civilians. It’s amazing to see civilians flash the victory sign at us and shout their thanks. People literally weep with relief when they get out of the hands of ISIS and into the care of the SDF. This is despite no help coming from any major charity or country.

We have to get British, European and American aid here now! We need the borders to open to all traffic, both economical and charitable.

There is not a tabur (battalion) in Manbij that isn’t fighting. The diverse peoples of Rojava will never give up and will never relent in the struggle to liberate Syria. ISIS are trapped like rats, the SDF noose is around their necks and I can feel their desperation as we squeeze it a bit tighter every night.

Manbij was a test case for both the SDF and ISIS. Although the fight continues, victory for the SDF Alliance is certain. The loss of this major city (twice the size of Kobane) proves that nowhere is safe for Daesh’s (ISIS) murderous thugs.

More on Kurdish Question site.

One cannot but be impressed by the simple courage and decency of those willing to risk everything for the cause of humanity.

These volunteers (below) are overtly left-wing and have shown true internationalism.

International Freedom Battalion

The International Freedom Battalion (Turkish: Enternasyonalist Özgürlük Taburu, Kurdish: Tabûra Azadî ya Înternasyonal‎) is an armed group consisting of leftistforeign fighters fighting alongside thePeople’s Protection Units in the Syrian Civil War in support of the Rojava Revolution and against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.[1][2][3] The formation of the International Freedom Battalion was announced on 10 June 2015 in Serê Kaniyê (Ras al-Ayn). The Marxist–Leninist Communist Party (Turkey/Northern Kurdistan) had been the main force behind the establishment of the group. Inspiration for the group came from the International Brigades of the Spanish Civil War.[4] The political ideologies among many of the fighters include Marxism–Leninism, Hoxhaism, Maoism, and anarchism.

Keep in touch with the fight of the YPG  and the Kurdish forces by reading the Kurdish Question.

This is what they are fighting:

The clear difference between Muslims and the corrupt and deviant Jews and Christians is that Muslims are not ashamed of abiding by the rules sent down from their Lord regarding war and enforcement of divine law. So if it were the Muslims, instead of the Crusaders, who had fought the Japanese and Vietnamese or invaded the lands of the Native Americans, there would have been no regrets in killing and enslaving those therein. And since those mujahidin would have done so bound by the Law, they would have been thorough and without some “politically correct” need to apologize years later. The Japanese, for example, would have been forcefully converted to Islam from their pagan ways. Had they stubbornly declined, perhaps another nuke would change their mind. The Vietnamese would likewise be offered Islam or beds of napalm. As for the Native Americans: after the slaughter of their men, those who would favor smallpox to surrendering to the Lord would have their surviving women and children taken as slaves, with the children raised as model Muslims and their women impregnated to produce a new generation of mujahidin. As for the treacherous Jews of Europe and elsewhere — those who would betray their covenant — then their post-pubescent males would face a slaughter that would make the Holocaust sound like a bedtime story, as their women would be made to serve their husbands’ and fathers’ killers.

Furthermore, the lucrative African slave trade would have continued, supporting a strong economy. The Islamic leadership would not have bypassed Allah’s permission to sell captured pagan humans, to teach them, and to convert them, as they worked hard for their masters in building a beautiful country. Notably, of course, those of them who converted, practiced their religion well, and were freed would be treated no differently than any other free Muslim. This is unlike when the Christian slaves were emancipated in America, as they were not afforded supposedly government-recognized equal “rights” for more than a century — and their descendants still live in a nation divided over those days.

All of this would be done, not for racism, nationalism, or political lies, but to make the word of Allah supreme. Jihad is the ultimate show of one’s love for his Creator, facing the clashing of swords and buzzing of bullets on the battlefield, seeking to slaughter His enemies — whom he hates for Allah’s hatred of them.

Ross Wolf at the Charnel-House who publishes these words, from the Daesh publication, Dabiq, comments,

Much of this is clearly meant to serve a propaganda function, the group’s genocidal aims laid out matter-of-factly, in keeping with their apocalyptic imagery. It would of course be foolish to dismiss it all as empty posturing. Daesh actually does systematically murder, enslave, and rape within its shrinking territory. Some of the lines excerpted here seem almost designed just to scandalize mainstream liberal sensibilities, which are identified with the West. For example, the standard boilerplate complaint about “political correctness” is something one frequently sees on Alt-Right and RadTrad forums and message boards. Here IS is daring them to take the green pill instead of the red, an even more heady traditionalist concoction than the one they’re already accustomed to fantasizing about.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 5, 2016 at 4:24 pm

After Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray: the Persecution of Christians in the Middle East Continues.

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Left must speak out about Persecution of Christians.

The murder of Père Jacques Hamel follows so many atrocities that it is hard to comment on them without being overwhelmed by sadness.

There are those who still wish to see in ISIS killings a response – a “blowback” –  to Western intervention in the Middle East. There are those who point to discrimination against Muslims in Europe. French Christians responded with dignity, calling, with representatives of other religions and secular figures, reminding people that the Priest called for a “un monde plus chaleureux, plus humain, plus fraternel. ” a warmer, more human, more fraternal world.

Giles Fraser in the Guardian has stated that, the sacrifice of the mass is the non-violent absorption of human violence” and that the “Eucharistic sacrifice” is  life-giving, which is not a helpful commentary on what is at stake at the present time and borders on the maudlin.

Instead of looking at these events through ready-made the explanations of  why murderers are attacking targets in Europe, it would be appropriate to begin by outlining what the violent strand of  actually existing Islamism is doing. One important aspect which few left or liberal writers look at is the way they have targeted Christians – well before the tragedy this week.

Yesterday le Monde published an article on the persecution of Christians in the Middle East: Les chrétiens d’Orient, cibles des djihadistes et otages des pouvoirs.

Christophe Ayad described  the kidnapping and murder of  Père Paolo three years ago, the ISIS’s desecration of Churches and the interdiction of public Christian worship in Rakka, and the expulsion of the entire Christian population of Mosul, the attack, in 2010, on the Baghdad Cathedral of Notre-Dame-du-Perpétuel-Secours, which left 50 dead, and the relentless pressure to expel all Christians from ‘Muslim’ land. There are few Christians left in Iraq. One could add many many other terrible atrocities.

Avad states that in many respects, despite a formal belief that followers of Jesus were ‘people of the Book’ and entitled, if they accepted a second class status and paid a special tax, to protection’ in the present wars the Christians were a soft target, a substitute for the ‘West’.

It would be important to indicate that in the sectarian conflicts which have devastated Syria and Iraq Muslims have been the majority of victims. And that the fate the Yazidis, not recognised as People of book, has left them facing slavery and genocide. That if we are in no position to gauge who is a “true” Muslim or not one thing is certain: the immense majority of Muslims have not just opposed jihadism, but that there are Muslims here and now fighting for dear life against the genociders of Deash.

But  before we talk of the present blood-stained actions of Deash, and other intolerant Islamists, such as the Al-Nusra front, as part of the fall-out from -Western intervention in Iraq Ayad reminds us of the  pogroms and persecution  of the Egyptian Copts.

In modern times these began in 1981.

Those wishing to read about this can find great, detailed, and extremely sad information here:  Persecution of Copts.

In what sense were these the result of deflected anger against ‘imperialism’, or acts against the ‘West’?

A few days ago this was published:

For Many Christians in Middle East, Intimidation or Worse Persecution extends beyond Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

The attack on a French church signals the arrival in Europe of a type of intimidation long familiar to Christians in the Middle East, whether from religious extremists, other armed groups or even secular governments.

In areas of Syria and Iraq under its control, Islamic State has seized churches, dismantling crucifixes and vandalizing paintings depicting scenes out of the Bible—considered to be idolatry in their hard-line interpretation of Islam. Many Christians flee when the militants sweep their areas; thousands escaped from northern Iraq when Islamic State took over in summer 2014.

Its branch in Libya killed 21 Egyptian Christians and 31 Ethiopian and Eritrean Christians in two separate massacres last year, slitting their throats and recording their deaths for Islamic State propaganda, which highlighted their religion as justification for the slaughter.

Islamic State’s Egyptian affiliate, Sinai Province, in late June claimed the shooting death of a Christian priest in the north Sinai city Al Arish. The group said the priest was targeted for being a “disbelieving combatant.” It has attacked hundreds of police and military personnel in the area since 2014.

Comrade Owen Jones wrote one of the best responses in 2014

Why the left must speak up about the persecution of Christians.

Those of us on the left – who advocate religious acceptance and diversity – must surely speak louder about the persecution of Christians. The suffering and oppression is real, and in many places, getting ever worse. If we do not speak out, the danger is it will be left to those with ulterior motives who wish to hijack misery to fuel religious hatred – with disastrous consequences.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 29, 2016 at 11:05 am

Honour and Glory to the Memory of Feminist Qandeel Baloch.

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Honour and Glory to the Memory of Qandeel Baloch.

Karachi, Pakistan – Pakistani social media star Qandeel Baloch, who was known for her daring posts, has been killed by her brother.

Al Jazeera. 

Police on Saturday told Al Jazeera that Baloch’s father, Mohammed Azeem, had filed a case against his son Waseem Azeem. The father also testified against another of his sons, who works in the army and reportedly encouraged his sibling to carry out the killing.

Waseem was in the family home in Multan when Baloch, whose real name was Fauzia Azeem, died.

Both sons went missing as news of the killing spread.

But late on Saturday, Waseem was found some 100 kilometres from Multan in Dera Ghazi Khan and arrested. Police presented him with his face covered during a press conference, during which he said he “killed for honour” and had “no regrets”.

Baloch divided opinion in Pakistan, a largely conservative nation, as she appeared on television to speak about female empowerment, often dressed in non-traditional, revealing clothes.

She began her career by auditioning on Pakistan Idol and soon after launched a social media enterprise, posting videos that went viral.

On her final, July 4 post to her Facebook page, which has almost 800,000 fans, she wrote: “I am trying to change the typical orthodox mindset of people who don’t wanna come out of their shells of false beliefs and old practices.”

Her apparent “honour killing” has caused outrage.

‘Honour killings are epidemic’

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, who won an Oscar for a film about honour-based violence, told Al Jazeera that such attacks were an “epidemic”.

“I’m very shaken up today. Activists in Pakistan have been screaming hoarse about honour killings; it is an epidemic, it takes place not only in towns, but in major cities as well.

“What are we going to do as a nation?”

Chinoy added that an anti-honour killing bill should be passed.

“It’s upon the lawmakers to punish these people. We need to start making examples of people. It appears it is very easy to kill a woman in this country – and you can walk off scot-free.”

Nabila Ghazzanfar, a Punjab Police spokeswoman, said that the initial post mortem showed that the 26-year-old’s nose and mouth had been pinned shut before she died, blocking off her airways.

More reports.

Pakistani authorities have barred murdered social media sensation Qandeel Baloch’s family from “forgiving” her brother for strangling her under an Islamic law, taking a rare stand against “honour killings”.

Police in Qandeel’s hometown of Multan confirmed that Section 311 of the Pakistan Penal Code had been added to her murder case, barring her family from pardoning the alleged killer under the “Qisas and Diyat” law.

City police chief Azhar Akram said the Islamic law, whereby the family or heirs of the victim can pardon the murderer, could not be applied in Qandeel’s case after police added Section 311, through which the state becomes the plaintiff.

Read: Cleric in selfie with Qandeel Baloch provoked her murder, alleges mother

Qandeel’s brother Muhammad Waseem drugged and strangled her on Friday in a murder that shocked the conservative Muslim nation, where the 26-year-old had titillated and outraged people with her racy social media photos and videos.

Waseem, after being arrested on Monday, said he had no regrets because his sister had dishonoured the family by making a controversial video with Mufti Abdul Qavi.

Read: Qandeel Baloch’s brother ‘proudly’ accepts drugging, killing her, has no regrets

Qandeel’s father would not be able to forgive Waseem and other suspects in his daughter’s murder if he decided to do so at any point, Akram explained. Under Section 311, the discretion of accepting a pardon from the victim’s family is left to the judge handling the case.

Hindustan Times.

What the “honour killing” of celebrity feminist Qandeel Baloch reveals about Pakistani liberals

KUNWAR KHULDUNE SHAHID

The cultural icon, known as “Pakistan’s Kim Kardashian”, was killed by her brother, in a country where more than 1,000 such murders occur per year.

Pakistani social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch was strangled to death by her brother at her residence early Saturday morning, in the most high-profile of the over 1,000 honour killings that take place in the country on average annually.

Qandeel, whose official Facebook page has 783,667 likes, gathered her huge following through her social media posts that had, over the past year or so, evolved from eccentric trolling of Pakistan’s patriarchal tendencies to a powerful feminist rallying cry

Written by Andrew Coates

July 20, 2016 at 12:34 pm

Absolute love and solidarity to the families and friends of the victims of Nice.

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Absolute Love and Solidarity to the families and friends of the victims of Nice.

At least 84 people have been killed after a lorry ploughed into a crowd attending Bastille Day celebrations in the French city of Nice on Thursday night, in what is being investigated as a terror attack.

France 24.

Here are the main developments so far:

  • A lorry ploughed into a crowd of people in the southern French city of Nice at around 11pm local time towards the end of a fireworks display to celebrate the Bastille Day holiday.
  • The lorry drove at a high speed for a distance of around 2km through the crowd, according to witnesses and officials.
  • The driver of the lorry was shot dead by police. He has been formally identified as a 31-year-old French-Tunisian citizen.
  • The death toll rose to at least 84 people, including children, with around 18 more critically injured, the interior ministry said Friday.
  • French President François Hollande said the attack was “clearly of a terrorist nature”. It is being investigated by France’s anti-terror unit.
  • Hollande said a state of emergency implemented after the November terror attacks in Paris and due to end on July 26 will be extended by another three months.

Attaque de Nice : 84 morts, trois jours de deuil national décrétés

Par LIBERATION 14 juillet 2016 à 23:31 (mis à jour le 15 juillet 2016 à 12:38).
Un camion a foncé sur des spectateurs du feu d’artifice sur la promenade des Anglais, faisant 84 morts et 18 blessés en urgence absolue.

• Jeudi, peu après 22h30, un camion a foncé dans la foule réunie pour le feu d’artifice du 14 Juillet sur la promenade des Anglais, à Nice.

• Un nouveau bilan du ministère de l’Intérieur vendredi matin fait état de 84 morts et 18 blessés en «urgence absolue».

• La préfecture des Alpes-Maritimes a évoqué un attentat et le parquet anti-terroriste s’est saisi de l’enquête.

• Le chauffeur du camion a été abattu par la police. Il a été formellement identifié.

• François Hollande a annoncé la prolongation de l’état d’urgence de trois mois et a déclaré un deuil national de trois jours samedi, dimanche et lundi.

Le Monde,

Un camion a foncé dans la foule qui était réunie sur la promenade des Anglais à Nice pour assister au feu d’artifice, jeudi 14 juillet. Au moins 84 personnes ont été tuées, selon le ministère de l’intérieur. Les témoins évoquent des scènes d’horreur et de panique.

« On a entendu des bruits. Comme il y avait les feux d’artifice, on ne s’est pas inquiétés. C’est après qu’on a compris ce qu’il se passait », raconte Auriane sur France Bleu Azur. Cette habitante du haut du boulevard Gambetta est restée cloîtrée chez elle, comme le recommandait la préfecture.

Initiative communiste-ouvrière

These words show great dignity.

15 juillet 2016

Un meurtre de masse a été commis ce 14 juillet, jour de fête populaire, à Nice. En fonçant avec un camion dans une foule de femmes, d’hommes et d’enfants qui revenaient du feu d’artifice, il s’agissait de tuer un maximum de monde dans un minimum de temps. Ce vendredi matin, on compte plus de 80 morts dont de nombreux enfants.

Il n’y a pas de mots pour exprimer l’horreur face à ce nouveau crime. Un tel crime ne peut qu’horrifier toute personne ayant un minimum de sentiments humains. Nous exprimons nos plus sincères condoléances à toutes celles et tous ceux qui ont perdu des proches, des amis ou des collègues dans cet attentat terroriste barbare.

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Written by Andrew Coates

July 15, 2016 at 11:52 am

From the antisemitism controversy to a new language?

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Opportunism, loud-mouths, and more than distasteful allegations have marked the anti-semitism controversy embroiling the British left, and the Labour Party in particular,  in recent days.

Some say, with justification, that the issue is being used as a stick with which to beat Jeremy Corbyn.

In our view Corbyn has responded with measured dignity, and John McDonnell has expressed the wishes of many.

For those – and there are great numbers of us – who follow what’s happening in Syria and Iraq, there’s a lot happening which is causing us burning concern.

It’s hard not to feel that with millions of refugees in the Middle East, many of whom are desperately trying to enter Europe, with Islamists from ISIS committing real genocide, with mass killings by the Assad regime, with murders by the Shariah enforcing A-Nusra Front, religious sectarian hatred involving the wholesale religious cleansing of the region, that this British row is irrelevant in the face of events  that really matter.

There are, nevertheless some deeply thought-out reflections on the controversy.

Ross Wolfe’s Reflections on Left antisemitism, towers over many analyses.

Bob makes the point about the famous ‘Brenner’ book: Lenni Brenner says Ken’s wrong. He links to an interview (IB Times) with David Rosenberg of the Jewish Socialists’ Group  who states, “”badly written and with poor scholarship – a piece of tabloid journalism glued together with selective facts and lots of conjecture”.

This is worth – critically – thinking about: The Livingstone Formulation – David Hirsh

Significantly for left as a whole Jon Lansman has just published an important piece on Left Futures which is headed, Why the Left must stop talking about ‘Zionism’

I would argue that it is time for the Left to start talking in a new language – one that expresses our views about Israel, about the policies and actions of its government and about the rights of Palestinians without alienating any of those who might agree with us. It is not necessary to abandon any non-racist criticisms of Israel, however robust they may be, in order to do so.

Clearly if need there were this is a case in point: “Normal service to be resumed as the UKs Zionist political class push the country towards the 19th century.

But it is not just language but politics which are at stake.

A serious argument is that, as John Rees argues, there is a case for a “secular, democratic state across historic Palestine (which)  has nothing in common with anti-semitism.” (Counterfire)

What the revolutionaries wanted was a democratic, free, non-oppressive and non-exploitative society. The Palestinian revolution is no different. It does not want to ‘drive the Jews into the sea’. In the founding statutes of the Palestine Liberation Organisation demanded a democratic, secular state in which Jews and Arabs could live in peace in the historic land of Palestine, as they did before the forcible exclusion of the Arab population that was the necessary precondition of the establishment of a religiously exclusivist state in 1948. The exclusivity of that state is nowhere more obvious than in the fundamental ‘law of return’ in which a Jew from any part of the globe, no matter if they have never had the remotest contact with the Middle East in their lives, can migrate to Israel and become a citizen, but no Palestinian refugee forced from their home can exercise a legal right to return.

That state, its extensions and colonial conquests, its racist laws, checkpoints, walls and settlements will have to be completely overthrown before that vision of a homeland for both Palestinians and Jews can be realised.

The often toted alternative, a two state solution now sadly and disastrously accepted by the PLO leaders, is actually a retreat in the face of the argument that Arabs and Jews must have racially exclusive states because they cannot live together. That is wrong, and so unworkable. It would, indeed it has, perpetuated war in the region, and will not abolish it.

It would be important, for this to be more widely accepted, for those who accept Ress’ view to clarify how they see the role of Hamas and Hizbollah in this overthrow. and the creation of a democratic secular state.

Socialist Worker published this, August the 5th 2014 which puts forward one position.

(This is an edited version of an article by Egyptian Revolutionary Socialist Mostafa Omar. Read the full version at global.revsoc.me/2014/07/towards-a-revolutionary-perspective-on-hamas)

We consider Islamist movements such as Isis in Syria and Iraq as reactionary to the core. Its racism wipes out the idea that the unity of the oppressed is fundamental to resisting dictatorship and colonialism.

We differentiate between such utterly reactionary Islamist movements, and Islamist movements such as Hamas and Hizbollah. The latter two movements came into existence to resist imperialism.

We consider Hamas to be a resistance movement against Zionism and imperialism.

From this perspective we unconditionally support Hamas when it is engaged in military or non-military struggles against Israel. This is because it weakens the Zionist state and terrifies the Arab regimes and the US.

It therefore strengthens the potential for class struggle in the Arab states against this imperialist system.

Our unconditional support for Hamas is not uncritical. Hamas’ strategy is to associate itself with regimes which are reactionary and conspire constantly to repress their people and suppress the Palestinian struggle.

Secondly Hamas adopts an elitist approach to dealing with the Palestinian masses. This weakens the capacities of mass resistance in the long term.

Like all colonised peoples, the Palestinians alone have the right to decide their destiny.

But our support is critical because the fate of revolutionary change in the Arab world and the fate of the Palestinian Resistance are organically connected to each other.

This is the rub: very very few people have the slightest confidence, let alone belief, that Hamas (a key actor on the ground in any future settlement, rather than the Lebanese Hezbollah), are committed to a “secular, democratic state”.

To say the least.

Yet those who use the language of a “resistance”  have locked Hamas into a fight with “Zionism” and “Imperialism” with their “unconditional” but not “uncritical” support.

Perhaps one of the many reasons why people look to the Two State position is that they cannot possibly see any democratic way out of the conflict which involves Hamas playing the determining role that Mostafa Omar supports. 

Written by Andrew Coates

May 3, 2016 at 11:21 am

Malia Bouattia: “Condemnation of Isis appears to have become a justification for war and blatant Islamophobia.”

with 25 comments

Anti-Jewish Riots and Killing in Constantine 1934.

Malia Bouattia, new President of the NUS,  stood on a radical grassroots platform and made headlines last year after opposing a motion to condemn Isis reports the Guardian.

The new president is a controversial figure among many students, coming to prominence in the national press after speaking against an NUS motion “to condemn the IS and support Kurdish forces fighting against it, while expressing no confidence or trust in the US military intervention”.

The motion failed to pass and Bouattia said she had objected to the wording, issuing her own statement expressing solidarity with the Kurds against Islamic State and condemning the group’s “brutal actions”.

“We recognise that condemnation of Isis appears to have become a justification for war and blatant Islamophobia,” she said at the time. “This rhetoric exacerbates the issue at hand and in essence is a further attack on those we aim to defend.”

Obviously this issue interests an audience on the left far wider than the student movement.

A particularly ridiculous response is offered by Lindsey German of Counterfire, who simply ignores the subject of the Kurdish fight and ISIS and states this,

Her most recent profile has been round a series of meetings opposing the government’s Prevent strategy. Her background as someone of Algerian descent gives her a first-hand knowledge of imperialism and racism. That means she understands the concerns of many of the students she will be representing.

The backlash against her has begun on day one. She will need all the support and solidarity that she can get. But today marks a victory for those who oppose war and racism. And a defeat for those who don’t.

Counterfire.

We note that anybody from an Algerian background, which saw a civil war in 1991 break out between the repressive Algiers state and violent Islamism (MIA, GIA, GSPC and the still active, AlQaïda au Maghreb islamique,  AQMI)  should express a position not just on imperialism and racism, and not only the blood-drenched Algerian military,  but on a very specific type of racism and persecution: that embodied in various forms of Islamism (Guerre civile algérienne).

This is what she says,

….describing how her family had been forced to flee civil war in Algeria when she was child .

“I know too well the price of terrorism, the consequences of racism and oppression,” said Ms Bouattia, a leading figure in the Students Not Suspects campaign against the Prevent anti-terrorism agenda.

“I saw a country ripped apart by terror and was forced into exile,” she explained, adding: “I know too well the damage done by racism and persecution.”

She explained how her university lecturer father was almost killed by a bomb and her school had been attacked by gun-wielding militia, causing her family to flee.

“I know many of you will have seen my name dragged through the mud by rightwing media, and might think I am a terrorist and my politics driven by hate,” she said, adding: “How wrong that is.”

THSS.

Bouattia comes from Constantine, Algeria. 

The city is also infamous for the French far-right Parti Social Français, PSF, and their successful efforts to incite Muslims against Algerian Jews that led to the antisemitic pogrom of 1936 (link gives another version of the causes) in which 25-34 Jews were killed and some 200 stores were pillaged. There is a long history of anti-Semitic activity in Algeria (by both pieds-noirs and Muslims) and the Vichy regime instituted official anti Jewish legislation.

In the present example 1941 around 18 to 20% of the City’s population were Jewish.

There have been no Jewish community in Constantine since the end of the Algerian war of Independence.

We would be interested to hear her views on this and more details about her – horrific – experiences in Algeria.

Indeed we would be curious  to know how the Algerian civil war was a creation of ‘imperialism’.

But it is about a contemporary Islamist movement, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria that the present controversy has erupted.

Here is the background: Report on that Motion (2014) by Daniel Lemberger Cooper

Two motions debated at NUS NEC

The meeting then turned to motions submitted by NEC members. Unfortunately this part of the meeting was no feast of reason. There are two motions I want to focus on: Iraqi solidarity and Israel/PalestineI urge you to read the motions before continuing.

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?!).

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.

(I must also put on record that after only a single round of speeches, Toni Pearce moved the debate on. This was wrong: there was no opportunity to respond to Bouattia’s allegations. I had my hand up to speak in response, but was not called.)

Let us look at Bouattia’s arguments: is the motion anti-Muslim or pro US intervention?

The motion was partly written by a Kurdish student activist, and presented by the International students’ officer, Shreya Paudel. I have looked again and again at the contents of the motion, yet I cannot track any Islamophobia or racism.

Pro-intervention?

The US occupation, and its aftermath, has been an utter disaster for the people of Iraq. Resulting governments, led by Nouri Al-Maliki, have been authoritarian and carried out virulent Shia sectarianism. A civil war in the mid 2000s killed 34,000 civilians. Today there are 1.6 million refugees.

The dynamics in 2014 are complex. ISIS, who have grown out of Al-Qaeda, have seized huge swathes of the country; there is a new, shaky, shia-sectarian government; and a Kurdish regional government, whose self determination I believe we should support.

The ultra-Islamist group ISIS is a threat to all the people of Iraq. It is repressing and persecuting minorities, including Christians, Yazidis, Kurds, and Sunni Muslim Arabs. On the 29th June it declared a “caliphate” (a religious dictatorship). It has carried out rape and other forms of sexual violence are being used as weapons against women in IS-occupied areas.

These developments have been exacerbated and driven by US policy deliberately fostering sectarianism.

The situation is desperate.

In this situation, it is fundamental that the political Left, trade union and student organisations, like NUS, show our solidarity with the Iraqi people, in particular the hard-pressed student, workers and women’s organisations, and those fighting for democracy and equality.

It is unclear whether Western forces (which congregated in Paris the day before the NEC meeting, on the 15th of September, to announce a “game plan” to defeat ISIS) will send boots onto the ground in Iraq. We know already that French aircrafts have begun reconnaissance flights over Iraq; and that US aid has assisted the Kurds and Yazidis. However it is unlikely they will want a re-run of a war that even they believe to have been a colossal failure. It may be more likely that the USA assists established forces from afar to defeat ISIS.

However, the motion cannot be clearer in saying that such forces cannot be relied upon to deliver democratic change in Iraq: “no confidence or trust in the US military intervention.” If one were to believe it is not sufficiently clear or that the motion is not worded strongly enough, fine: make an amendment to the motion; or seek to take parts to remove or strengthen a particular aspect. Instead, the whole motion – which calls for solidarity with oppressed forces in Iraq – was argued as wrong. This is a grave shame!

It is also true – and Left-wingers should think this over – that the Kurds and Yazidi’s thus far would not have been able to survive if it had not been for aid from the Americans. Calling simply for an end to this intervention is the same as calling for the defeat of the Peshmerga forces by ISIS. The policy is based on a negative criteria – opposing the US and UK – instead of positive criteria – solidarity with the oppressed.

Perhaps this is what Bouattia meant when saying that the motion is pro-intervention? Such a suggestion is arrived at only when one’s “analysis” becomes an issue of principle: that even within limited parameters, that to suggest that imperialism is not the only problem is somehow to “support” imperialism. This is the basis of “Stalinist” politics on international questions: that one considers forces that oppose the US as either progressive or, at worst, not the real issue -no matter how barbaric and reactionary and fascistic that force is. This is not a useful or effective way of looking at the world

The Alliance for Workers’ Liberty published a short time afterwards some important qualifications about this report: Fact and fiction about the Kurdistan row in NUS.

Daniel Cooper: I objected to Malia opposing the motion on Iraq proposed by me, Shreya Paudel and Clifford Fleming, and responded to her claims that it was Islamophobic and pro-imperialist. Some people have claimed I misrepresented Malia. The only justification I have heard for this is, firstly, that I did not state that Malia condemned ISIS. That is because it was so blindingly obvious: before the right-wing attacks on Malia, the idea that anyone on NUS NEC would not condemn ISIS had not even occurred to me. And, secondly, that I failed to report that Malia offered to support a different motion on Kurdistan at the next NEC if it fitted with her politics. Whether or not I should have reported this or not, it is hardly decisive! Does anyone seriously believe that if I had stated either of these things it would have prevented right wingers distorting and making use of what I wrote?

The AWL now comment,

The controversy surrounding Bouattia’s attitudes to Islamism and to anti-semitism over the last two weeks is not simply a matter of interpreting this or that comment at a meeting, or exchange on the internet. It has deeper political roots, which we are precisely attempting to sketch out here

Last year, Bouattia denounced a left-wing motion to NUS NEC in support of the Kurdish national liberation struggle as “racist” and “imperialist” and helped get it voted down. This sparked wide criticism from Kurdish and left-wing students, but when some right wingers including in the press noticed this and tried to whip up a storm against her by absurdly and shamefully portraying her as a supporter of Daesh, she responded by whipping up a storm against the proposer of the motion, Workers’ Liberty comrade Daniel Cooper.

We remind the movement of this because we believe that Bouattia behaved like a petty and unprincipled factionalist, putting her resentment at her bad luck, her prestige and the chance to attack a political grouping she doesn’t like above the massive issue of the Kurdish struggle. Although the NEC eventually, two months later, passed a motion about Kurdistan, NUS circles spent far more time and energy on the row than on supporting the Kurds. So much for anti-imperialism!

We have little confidence that an NUS led by Malia Bouattia would be more habitable for political minorities and dissenters, more democratic or more serious about political debate and discussion than one led by Megan Dunn.

There remain a host of other  issues about the new NUS President, not least the fact that some on this left backed her.

That is a matter for students.

The Gerry Downing-Socialist Fight  style  anti-imperialism of fools which led, and justified a rejection do support for the Kurdish people in their hour of need  signals a broader problem.

The central question for a wider activist public is: what is Bouattia’s stand on Islamism?

How does she qualify, judge and assess the different Islamist movements?

If she does not support the misguided state ‘Prevent’ strategy does she offer any other way of combatting and fighting these anti-working class, anti-liberal, anti-feminist, anti-left, and violent groups?

Written by Andrew Coates

April 21, 2016 at 12:04 pm