Tendance Coatesy

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Posts Tagged ‘Islamism

City of Ghosts: from Syria to Europe and the fight against the far-right.

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Image result for City of Ghosts

City of Ghosts was shown on BBC 4 last night.

This moving documentary about a group of Syrian activists, Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently.  (RBSS)

The hopes of an Arab Spring resounded in their home, the city of Raqqa in the north of Syria. Protests against the Assad regime were countered by violent repression. The arrival of ISIL, in April 2014, the country’s branch of  Islamic State, was followed by the rule of their version of Islamic ‘law’. There were public beheadings, firing squad executions, mock crucifixions and  Volkish placard shaming.

At great risk to themselves RBSS opposed the take-over in the only way they could. They reported and filmed undercover the regime of what became the de facto capital of Daesh.

The documentary showed images of clandestine protests against Daesh and the slaughters the jihadists committed. Perhaps the most disturbing moments were when the new rulers tried to bring the young into their fold. “Children are Isis’s firewood” they said, and we saw a band of joyful babes and youngsters following a bearded fighter chanting their hate. A near-infant was filmed being trained to stab and behead on a large teddy bear.

This backdrop confirmed the worst scenes in Peter Kosminsky’s The State.

Many RBSS activists left the city, though they kept a core group of courageous witness inside Raqqa.

They used social media and the Net to broadcast their message. ISIL devoted a great deal of time to trying to search their supporters out.

In May 2014, Al-Moutaz Bellah Ibrahim was kidnapped by ISIL and murdered. In July 2015, ISIL released a video showing two men being strung up on trees and shot. Though ISIL claimed the two murdered men had worked with RBSS, one of the founders of RBSS denied they were members. Another friend of the group was similarly executed. Hamoud al-Mousa, the father of one of the group’s founders, was killed in ISIL custody. On October 30, 2015, RBSS activist Ibrahim Abdul Qadir (age 20) and his friend Fares Hamadi were found stabbed and beheaded in Urfa Turkey. It was the first acknowledged assassination outside of ISIL controlled territory. (Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently)

The sight of Hamoud al-Mousa’s execution, followed by that of the same RBSS activist’s brother’s murder, being watched in a safehouse in Germany was harrowing.

City of Ghosts deserved the highest awards.

But above all the activists of RBSS, merit the greatest respect we can possible give to other human beings.

Avoiding fruitless debate about the essential nature of ‘Islam’ one of them says,

“It is not my Islam”.

Europe.

Towards the end of the documentary there were scenes in which the Syrians were  confronted by  the German far-right Pegida calling for the removal of refugees.

There was also  commentary on the actions of Daesh in Europe, including the Bataclan massacre.

This opens up the issue of how we should both support the fight of groups of democrats like RBSS and combat the racist far-right.

With the Tommy Robinson campaign in Britain this has become an issue of burning importance.

People have noted that the groups Stand up to Racism and Unite against Fascism are dominated by the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) (“Both these groups are front organisations of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and receive their political direction from its leadership.”  Socialist Resistance)

In 2014, as Raqqa fell to the genociders Socialist Worker published this article by Hassan Mahamdallie, co-director of the Muslim Institute.

There is resistance to this frenzy of Islamophobia

The beheading of US journalist James Foley by the Islamic State, formerly known as Isis, was horrific. But is the Nigerian military slitting the throats of 16 young men and boys any less horrific?

Or last week’s Israeli air strike that blew to smithereens the wife and seven month old son of Hamas military leader Mohammed Deif? Surely that was horrific and disturbing too?

..

In the 1930s radicalised young men from the same mining communities illegally made their way into Spain to take up arms against general Franco’s fascist army.

It must have been the fault of their Welsh Methodist upbringing.

But Howells’ drivel was modest fare compared to the truly millennial frenzy that was gathering pace.

In authentic End of Days tones, US secretary of defence Chuck Hagel said Isis represents “an imminent threat to every interest we have, whether it’s in Iraq or anywhere else.

“They’re beyond just a terrorist group. This is beyond anything we’ve seen, so we must prepare for everything.”

I much preferred the response of the spokesperson from south east London’s Lewisham Mosque.

The press asked him to condemn a tweet from a woman “Jihadi” in Syria who might have once attended the mosque.

He retorted, “The young woman’s desire to travel to Syria has nothing to do with the Centre. Unfortunately, the Muslim community are being subjected to a burden of proof based on a ‘guilty by association’ standard”.

He rightly attacked the press’s demand, as “loaded with an Islamophobic assumption that Muslims by default condone such brutality”.

It was good to see someone refusing to bow to the frenzy, a spark of resistance in a very dark week.

There was much in a similar vein, from the SWP and groups such as Counterfire, understanding the ‘radicalisation’ of those who volunteered to be part of Einsatzgruppen and concentrating their fire on the prospect of Western intervention in the civil war.

Unlike RBSS their criticisms of the Assad regime was fairly muted.

This ambiguity continued.

When Charlie Hebdo (12 deaths) and the Porte de Vincennes Hypercacher (5 deaths)  attacks took place  in 2015, the same forces took it upon themselves to understand why this “blowback” against France in general and the ‘Islamophobic” satirical weekly took place. Charlie “had it coming to them”. Counterfire railed against ” a crude and absolutist fetish of free speech”.

These people are unable to confront violent Islamism.

With such a tainted history these groups have no moral authority whatsoever.

There are many many people on the lest who do not back groups which fail to take a resolute stand against the jihadist Islamism, and against Assad.

The fight against Robinson’s supporters, many (from the Clarion to Socialist Resistance) suggest, should come from the mass organisations of the labour movement and the Labour Party.

We cannot unite around  “defeating fascism” as Lindsey German puts it, until we have a clear view that the violent jihadists and the mouvance around them, with roots in Europe as well as the Middle East and the Maghreb,  are also enemies of the far right.

And we need to back the Syrian democrats, whose heroism is so powerfully illustrated in City of Ghosts.

 

 

 

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Written by Andrew Coates

June 12, 2018 at 10:37 am

Stuart Jeffries Spits on Charlie Hebdo Graves: Guardian Review of “The End of the French Intellectual From Zola to Houellebecq by Shlomo Sand”.

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Verso and the Guardian Spit Again on the Grave of Charlie Hebdo Martyrs. 

Stuart Jeffries is an admirer of the French sovereigntist and nationalist “Je ne suis pas Charlie” Emmanuel Todd.

Todd : le liseur de cartes… qui préfère le FN à Mélenchon (2015)

Todd backtracked during last year’s French Presidential elections. Denouncing the leader of the FN, Marine Le Pen as xenophobic and a a vote for Macron as “soumission aux banques, à l’Allemagne, (subservience to the banks and to Germany) he abstained in the second round (Emmanuel Todd: «le FN ne veut pas le pouvoir»). Le Pen, he opined, is not a “true patriot”.

Jeffries is a staunch admirer of Emmanuel Todd.

After the Bataclan massacre, and in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo and Hypercacher killings, led to mass mourning,  he wrote in 2015,

Emmanuel Todd detects in his book was that these marches in January were not based on the grand old French revolutionary notion of fraternity. When Paris marches in solidarity with the murdered – as it surely will – it needs to march in true fraternity, rather than in the masquerade Todd anatomises. That is the kind of defiance that Paris needs now.

It is with little surprise that we read in yesterday’s Guardian that Jeffries finds much to agree with in Shlomo Sand’s The End of the French Intellectual a book built around Todd’s Qui est Charlie ? : Sociologie d’une crise religieuse. (2015).

This gives the flavour of the review.

Review – from Judeophobia to Islamophobia.

Sand starts his history with the Dreyfus affair and ends it, nauseated, in 2015, as the French establishment marches in solidarity with murdered workers at Muslim-baiting magazine Charlie Hebdo and there are calls for Michel Houellebecq to be inducted into the Académie Française for his novel Submission(one that imagines France busted down to a mere province of a Mediterranean caliphate). “The modern Parisian intellectual was born in the battle against Judeophobia, the twilight of the intellectual in the early 21st century is happening under the sign of a rise in Islamophobia,” Sand argues.

……..

 

Perhaps it takes an outsider Jew to diagnose the sickness of French intellectual life. Near the end of the book, Sand looks at a cartoon of Muhammad published in Charlie Hebdo, “a cruel-looking bearded figure wrapped in a white jellaba, his eyes hidden and holding a long pointed knife”. He has seen that image before. Where? In the Jew-hating cartoons published in the 1890s in La Libre Parole to whip up antisemitic sentiment during the Dreyfus affair. “It is surprising to see how much the ‘Semitic’ Jews of the past resemble the ‘Semitic’ Muslims of today: the same ugly face and the same long and fat nose.”

No wonder, then, that when some 4 million French people joined the march for Charlie Hebdo’s murdered court jesters three years ago, Sand was not one of them. He is not the kind of guy to sport a “Je suis Charlie” badge – his admiration for French intellectuals, such as it is, does not extend to self-identifying with Islamophobes.

After this it may  help to read this, in the Observer today: On 7 January 2015, terrorists burst into the offices of the satirical magazine, killing 12 people. In an extract from his new book, published to huge acclaim in France, here is one survivor’s astonishing story by 

Here is a proper review: (September 1, 2016 .)Scroll down to the section at the end on Charlie Hebdo.

La Fin de l’intellectual français? De Zola à Houellebecq. Shlomo Sand. La Découverte. 2016.

 

 

 

Internationally celebrated for The Invention of the Jewish People (2009) Shlomo Sand is a redoubtable controversialist. That study, which argued that those following the Jewish religion only began to consider themselves a “people” during the Middle Ages, continues to be debated. Sand’s assertion that most Jews owes their origins to religious conversion, and not to ancient Hebrew origins, was intended to strike at the heart of the “National Myth” of the state of Israel. How I stopped Being a Jew (2013) announced a wish to break with “tribal Judocentrism”. Warmth for the secular ideals of Israel, and for the Hebrew language, has not protected him from vigorous criticism from a wide variety of Zionist critics.

La Fin de l’intellectuel français has equally iconoclastic ambitions. Apart from frequent autobiographical notes, during which we learn he was once a Marxist who wished to change the world, it is no less than a charge, an accusation,against Europe, and against France in particular: that the Continent is lifting the drawbridges against the “Muslim foreigners”. A “contagious plague” of Islamophobia, uniting left secularists and traditional nationalists, has infected the Hexagone. For Sand, “media intellectuals” (intellectuels médiatiques) both circulate this “code” and pile up its symbolic property. “A une vitesse suprenante, une puissante intelligentsia médiatique s’est constituée pour qui la stigmatisation de l’autre’”… “La détestation de la religion musulmane” has become “le nouvel opium de l’intellectuel’ ‘antitotalitaire.” (Page 238) At an amazing speed, a powerful media intelligentsia  has been built around the stigmatisation of the Other. ” “The loathing of the Muslim religion” has become the “new opium of the anti-totalitarian intellectuals.”

Put simply, to the author the stars of the modern Parisian media salons, those setting the tone, the style and the substance are small in number. They include (putting them in British terms) Éric Zemmour (a ‘declinist’ second cousin to our historians nostalgic for the Empire with specific French gripes against the ‘héritières de mai 68’, ), Alain Finkielkraut (a ‘philosopher’ of the erosion of educational and grammatical standards, and what one might call “Parisianistan’, an even closer co-thinker to Melanie Phillips), Renaud Camus (a professional  indignant xenophobe railing at the ‘replacement’ of Europeans by foreigners, and potential Editorialist for the Daily Express), and Michael Houellebecq, who needs no introduction, even, one hopes, to dimwits.

The Intellectual.

The bulk of La Fin de l’intellectuel français consists of chapters on the historical role of French intellectuals, and considerations of their social functions, from Gramsci, Pierre Bourdieu to Régis Debray. There is mention of lesser-known writings, such as Harman and Rotman’s Les Intellocrats (1981) which highlighted the small Parisian world of publishing, and heralded the birth of the new “media intellectuals” that came to the fore in the late seventies with the nouveaux philosophes, André Glucksmann, Bernard-Henri Lévy and others, long forgotten, defying the totalitarianism they had freshly rejected.

As a pared down version of Michael Scott Christofferson’s Les Intellectuals contre la Gauche (2014 – French, expanded, edition), this history, a grand narrative, charges the French intellectual class with having abandoned Marxism and the left. Amongst many other faults it ignores that the left continued to exist during that decade. Mitterrand’s 1981 victory – initially ruling in coalition with the Parti Communiste français (PCF) – was supported by the mass of the intelligentsia, within which an unbroken critical, if minority, left – never once mentioned in La Fin – has continued its own way, up till the present. This indicates one of the many ways in which the dominance of ‘media intellectuals’, in, unsurprisingly, the media is not the same as the kind of more entrenched intellectual hegemony that Gramsci outlined.

Readers unfamiliar with the history of the term intellectual and the politics of French intellectuals, from the “critical collective intellectual”, Zola and his cohorts, that arose during the Dreyfus Affair, Julien Benda’s defence of disinterested universalism (La Trahison des clercs. 1927), Paul Nizan’s Leninist commitment to the “soldats de la plume” (Les Chiens de Garde. 1932), will find, at least some passages to reflect on.

The Collaboration, the Resistance, post-war ‘engaged’ thinkers, in the mould of Sartre, Beauvoir and Camus, receive particular attention. The less reputable aspects of the Existentialist couple’s war record and minimal participation in real resistance were, for Sand a stumbling block for his own hero worship. Those who have not stumbled across writings such as Carole Seymour-Jones, A Dangerous Liaison (2008) that portrays in more depth than La Fin de l’intellectuel français the worst side of the pair’s war-time treatment of their Jewish lover, Bianca Bienenfeld, may even now be shocked.

Sand is, while not widely known outside of specialised circles, is the author of a fine study of Georges Sorel, L’illusion du politique (1984) Based on his PhD thesis this intellectual biography demolished a number of misconceptions, including the idea that Sorel was a proto-fascist, while making the various writings and stages in Sorel’s thought as clear as is possible. He followed this (echoed in the present volume) with a dispute on fascism, with the Israeli historian Zeev Sternhell. Apart from demonstrating again that 1920s and 1930s French ‘non-conformist’ admiration for Mussolini, and then (to a lesser extent) Hitler, indicated just how far real fascism did not take root in France, Sand demonstrates analytical fineness. He even admits that the far-right (and most notorious intellectual Collaborator) writer Drieu la Rochelle had talent (Page 158). Indeed the text displays – against Sartre’s belief that no anti-Semitic novel had any merit – a serious acquaintance with the romancier’s (in our opinion) interminable and tedious Gilles. (1939) (Page 215)

Islamophobia.

None of this delicacy is offered in the concluding chapters of La Fin de l’intellectuel français. It is tale of French Islamophobia, of nationalism and bigotry masquerading as Universalist secularism that would have been lifted from the pages of Socialist Worker or the web site of Counterfire. It is with no surprise that we learn that his first salvo against Charlie Hebdo, appeared in the far from philo-semitic ‘wise-guy’ publication, Counterpunch (,A Fetid Wind of Racism Hovers Over Europe. January 2015) a site which has published articles contesting the pardon of…Dreyfus. (1)

Sand loathes Houellebecq, who is perhaps an acquired taste. This may be why he fails to pick up on one of the few funny jokes in Soumission, the creation of the “Indigenous European a direct response to Indigénes de la République” – one group of racists giving ideas to another. Je Suis Charlie, is not, as it is for many of, the emblem of love and freedom. For the nuanced connoisseur of French pre-War ideologies, it was a publication that produced, week in and week out, a “representation méprisante et irrespectueuse de la croyance d’une minorité religieuse”  a picture that shows disrespect for a religious minority. (Page 225). No doubt that explains why Muslims, frustrated, unhinged with only a fragile belief to cling to, decided to react with murderous folly (Page 227). Doubtless it also accounts for why they killed at the Hyper-Cacher….

That the middle class demonstrated on the 11th of January 2015 in solidarity with Charlie we do not doubt. But oddly, Sand does not deeply cite his authority on this point, Emmanuel Todd, for whom they also showed the spirit of Vichy, Catholic Zombies (walking unconsciously in the steps of their religious past), soaked in the ‘culture of narcissism’, objectively xenophobe, like the Parti Socialiste, and …pro-Europeans – the (Sociologie d’une crise religieuse. Qui est Charlie? 2015). So, with every one of his bugbears wrapped together, what next? Todd, we are not astonished to learn, despises this bloc, the MAZ, prefers those who rejected the Maastricht treaty, and….is himself a nationalist, or, as they call it today, a “sovereigntist” who wishes to reassert French Sovereignty over the economy, against the European Union….

Laïcité.

In his pursuit of allies in the fight against French laïcité Sand might consider a much deeper problem than hostile reactions to Islam or those who make summary judgements about ‘Islamo-gauchisme’. It lies in this sovereigntism: a nationalists turn with far deeper roots than religious or ethnic hostility: a true xenophobia, embraced not just by the Front National, but by the centre-right, and that section of the left which shares Todd’s loathing of the European Union, if not other European states (not to mention the US). There is a name for this, which we have already used, xenophobia, and the point where nationalism slides into racism.

One can accept that that anti-Muslim feeling is prejudice, that there is a strong dose of racist defence of “la terre et les morts” against all classes of immigrants but particularly Muslims, and Catholic Mayors suddenly discovering that are secular republicans. That one can pretend that specifically French forms of secularism are universal at one’s peril.

One can accept all of this, even some gestures towards the sub-existentialist phrases about fear of the Other …but, are there not some problems about violent forms of Islamism, some difficulties, as indicated in Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Iran, to halt just there. That amongst contemporary forms of Islamism, the status of the Kufur, the rules governing women, most visibly their ‘modesty’ and punishing the ‘immodest’, bedrock human rights issues, remain…issues.

Sand passes in silence over the ideas of the strongly left-wing and pro-Communist Charlie editor, Charb. Perhaps he should read his posthumous Lettre aux escrocs de l’islamophobie qui font le jeu des racists (2015). If that proves too much for him he has no excuse whatsoever for ignoring the mass of serious literature in French on Islam, and Islamism, from Gilles KepelOlivier RoyFrançois Burgat, Gilbert Achcar  in French.  The vast majority of these writings, are as nuanced, as profoundly researched as one could wish, with all due consideration for the immense difficulties of marginalised Maghrebian and African populations. I would recommend he begin with a genuine intellectual with knowledge of both the evolution of former Maoists towards ‘anti-totalitarianism’ and Islamism, Jean Birnbaum, and his Un Silence Religieux. La Gauche Face au Djihadisme. 2016. He is certainly not a sign of the ‘end’ of the species.

The secularist Ligue des droits de l’homme has been at the forefront of the fight against the ‘Burkini ban’ (l’Humanité) So much for Sand’s recent claim that “La laïcité, comme autrefois le patriotisme, s’avère, de nos jours, l’ultime refuge de l’infâme ” (Nouvel Obs. 24.8.16.)

(1) THE DREYFUS CASE, REVISITED: Israel Shamir sifts through the Dreyfus case: was he really a victim of anti-semitism?

Conspiracy theorists, Sarah Abdallah and Syria.

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Tweet by @sahouraxo: "Nobody is happier about Trump's illegal attack on #Syria than Al-Qaeda, Saudi Arabia and Netanyahu. McCain and Hillary too. #SyriaHoax"

‘Sarah Abdallah’. Followed by “supporters of pro-Palestinian causes, Russians and Russian allies, white nationalists and those from the extremist alt-right, conservative American Trump supporters, far-right groups in Europe and conspiracy theorists.”

Anybody with a Facebook or a Twitter account who’s got an interest in politics, let alone the Middle East and Syria itself, has seen conspiracy theorists posting in abundance over the last weeks.

There is a constant drip drip of  claims that the reports of chemical warfare come from doubtful sources, “jihadist groups” and the “white helmets” “funded by countries committed to regime change”. Opponents of Assad are, apparently, not to believed. They have an axe to grind. Unlike those reporting at length on the crimes of the jihadists, Western intervention and the misdeeds of all those who wish to get rid of the Baathist regime.

The Morning Star published this yesterday,

Inspectors unable to investigate alleged chemical attack due to Western missile strikes.

EXTERNAL inspectors visited the site of an alleged chemical attack in the Syrian town of Douma today.

Experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons arrived in the capital Damascus on Saturday but were unable to carry out investigations in Douma due to that morning’s missile strike by the US, Britain and France.

Syrian state media agency Sana reported the investigation team entered Douma last night.

France said it is “highly likely” that evidence disappeared from the site before the inspectors arrived in the area.

Britain, France and the US continue to say that they have evidence of a chemical attack which they insist was carried out by the Syrian government.

Their sources include jihadist groups and the White Helmets, founded by a former British military intelligence officer and funded by countries committed to regime change.

President Bashar al-Assad denies his forces have used chemical weapons and Russia has stated that it has “incontrovertible evidence” that British intelligence staged the attack to justify military intervention.

There are more systematic efforts to tie these threads together.

The ‘conspis’ (as French handily shortens this expression) have now got the attention of the BBC.

Syria war: The online activists pushing conspiracy theories

As the investigation continues into another alleged chemical attack in Syria, one group of influential online activists is busy spreading their version of events.

Inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) are attempting to access the previously rebel-held town of Douma, where medical organisations and rescue workers say President Bashar al-Assad’s forces dropped bombs filled with toxic chemicals in an attack on 7 April, killing more than 40 people.

The Syrian government and its key ally, Russia, say the incident was staged. But the US, UK and France – who support the opposition to Mr Assad – say they are confident that chlorine and possibly a nerve agent were used.

Despite the uncertainty about what happened in Douma, a cluster of influential social media activists is certain that it knows what occurred on 7 April.

They’ve seized on a theory being floated by Russian officials and state-owned media outlets that the attacks were “staged” or were a “false flag” operation, carried out by jihadist groups or spies in order to put the blame on the Assad government and provide a justification for Western intervention.

The group includes activists and people who call themselves “independent journalists”, and several have Twitter followings reaching into the tens or hundreds of thousands.

..

The network of activists includes people like Vanessa Beeley. She has more than 30,000 Twitter followers and writes for a news outlet that the website Media Bias/Fact Check calls a “conspiracy and conjecture site” that has “an extreme right bias”.

In response to a list of questions, she called BBC Trending’s story a “blatant attempt” to “silence independent journalism” and repeated unsubstantiated claims about alleged chemical weapons attacks.

But in the online conversation about Syria there are more influential activists, about whom much less is known.

Sarah Abdallah (@sahouraxo on Twitter) has more than 125,000 followers, among them more than 250 journalists from mainstream media outlets. Her follower count is comparable to BBC journalists who regularly report on Syria, such as BBC Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen (167,000) and BBC Chief International Correspondent Lyse Doucet (142,000).

In addition to pictures of herself, Sarah Abdallah tweets constant pro-Russia and pro-Assad messages, with a dollop of retweeting mostly aimed at attacking Barack Obama, other US Democrats and Saudi Arabia.

In her Twitter profile she describes herself as an “Independent Lebanese geopolitical commentator” but she has almost no online presence or published stories or writing away from social media platforms. A personal blog linked to by her account has no posts.

Her tweets have been quoted by mainstream news outlets, but a Google News search indicates that she has not written any articles in either English or Arabic.

She refused to comment several times when approached by BBC Trending and did not respond to specific requests to comment on this story in particular.

The BBC goes onto to underline this point:

The Sarah Abdallah account is, according to a recent study by the online research firm Graphika, one of the most influential social media accounts in the online conversation about Syria, and specifically in pushing misinformation about a 2017 chemical weapons attack and the Syria Civil Defence, whose rescue workers are widely known as the “White Helmets”.

They go on to observe,

Graphika found 20 million messages about the White Helmets, split between tweets in support and in opposition. Among the opponents, Kelly says, Sarah Abdallah was “by far the most influential”, followed by Vanessa Beeley.

The firm found that Sarah Abdallah’s account was primarily followed by a number of different interest clusters: supporters of pro-Palestinian causes, Russians and Russian allies, white nationalists and those from the extremist alt-right, conservative American Trump supporters, far-right groups in Europe and conspiracy theorists.

These groups were instrumental in making the hashtag #SyriaHoax trend after the chemical weapons attack in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in April 2017.

That hashtag, pushed by Sarah Abdallah and influential American conservative activists, became a worldwide trend on Twitter. Many of those tweeting it claimed that the chemical weapons attack was faked or a hoax.

Here is a sample of ‘her’ work.

She admires Robert Fisk,

Some are a lot blunter than the BBC about this creature,

The real Sarah Abdallah – Part I

Meanwhile:

Written by Andrew Coates

April 19, 2018 at 11:57 am

Oppose the Attacks on Syria, Oppose Marching with Assad Supporters.

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Can the left March with Assad Supporters?

Then there is the latest tweet from this:

 

Iran, the other prop of Assad with Putin, is a theocratic Islamist dictatorship with a  blood-stained record.

Its own militias (Islamic Revolutionary Guard CorpsQods For) and Lebanese allies, Hezbollah, are fighting for their own religious and political interests.

Or daily papers of the left (Morning Star)  that publish this:

Russia claims it has ‘irrefutable’ evidence chemical attack was staged by foreign intelligence.

MOSCOW claimed today to have “irrefutable” evidence that an alleged chemical attack in Syria was staged by foreign intelligence agents pursuing a “Russophobic campaign.”

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a press conference that an unnamed country was leading a campaign against Russia.

“We have irrefutable evidence that it was another staging and the special services of a state which is in the forefront of the Russophobic campaign had a hand in the staging,” he said.

Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov accused Britain of staging the attack.

“We have … evidence that proves Britain was directly involved in organising this provocation,” he said.

Mr Lavrov warned that a strike against Syria risked a similar outcome to previous wars in Libya and Iraq.

Not to mention this a few days earlier.

Image may contain: text

 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 14, 2018 at 12:17 pm

Christine Shawcroft quits over anti-Semitism case. What is anti-Semitism in the UK Today?

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Christine Shawcroft

Shawcroft: Facing Calls to Step Down from the NEC.

Christine Shawcroft resigns and becomes the first casualty of Labour’s new civil war. Stephen Bush.

Shawcroft is facing calls to step down early from the NEC, from Richard Angell, the director of the Corbynsceptic pressure group Progress, and Jennifer Gerber, head of the Labour Friends of Israel. She will be loath to do so as that would mean giving a position on the NEC to Eddie Izzard, who ran on the Corbynsceptic slate, but ultimately even if she is forced to stand down, it will make little difference to the balance of power on the NEC.

More important, though, is what it means for the composition of the vital NEC officers group, which among its wide powers has a vital role to play in selections, particularly selections in parliamentary by-elections. Shawcroft’s role as chair of the disputes panel gave her a seat around the NEC officers table, and although there is a “left” majority in the NEC officers, that is not the same as a majority for the Labour leadership and is different again from a “Momentum majority”. Shawcroft was the only true-blue Momentum representative on that group, with the major power brokers the representatives of three of Labour’s biggest trade unions: Unite, Unison, and the GMB.  Shawcroft’s departure may mean that the Momentumites find themselves shut out should a parliamentary seat fall vacant over the next few months.

That will put further pressure on intra-left relations in the Labour party. Shawcroft’s email was only sent to fellow members of the Labour left, and Jeremy Corbyn’s office had already backed sanctioning Bull. The leak, as well as doing further damage to Shawcroft’s reputation, comes at a time when the Labour leadership is under renewed pressure over the party’s failure to deal robustly with anti-Semitism in its ranks. That such unhelpful leaks are coming “from inside the house” as one senior Corbynite put it to me tonight, is a sign that while the Labour left may have won the civil war with the party’s right, its own internal battle may only just be beginning.

John McDonnell says Labour antisemitism will now be eradicated

McDonnell said: “We woke up to it two years ago when it was pointed out to us, we launched the Chakrabarti report, they [its recommendations] have not been implemented effectively. We have now brought in a new general secretary, they will be implemented.”

McDonnell added: “We will deal with it firmly and severely. We will not accept it, Jeremy Corbyn has made it clear. We are now meeting with the various representative groups of the community. We will be taking their advice, they will assist us in rooting out this problem and we will eradicate it from our party.”

Labour’s Disciplinary Chief Christine Shawcroft Quits Amid ‘Holocaust Denial’ Row

Shawcroft said she was “wrong and misguided” to have sent an email calling for Alan Bull to have his suspension lifted as she had not been aware of all the information in the case.

According to the Press Association, Shawcroft said: “I sent this email before being aware of the full information about this case and I had not been shown the image of his abhorrent Facebook post. Had I seen this image, I would not have requested that the decision to suspend him be re-considered. I am deeply sorry for having done so.

“This week we have seen a clear expression of the pain and hurt that has been caused to Jewish members of our party and the wider Jewish community by anti-Semitic abuse and language, and by the reality of anti-Semitism being denied and downplayed by others. In light of this, I have decided to stand down as Chair of the Disputes Panel to ensure my wrong and misguided questions on this case do not cause doubt or anxiety about our processes.

“We must eliminate anti-Semitism from our party and wider society. To do this we must make sure our processes are as robust as possible and have the faith and confidence of our members.”

Over a quarter of British people ‘hold anti-Semitic attitudes’, study finds.

BBC. September 2017.

More than a quarter of British people hold at least one anti-Semitic view, according to a study of attitudes to Jewish people.

The Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) said the finding came from the largest and most detailed survey of attitudes towards Jews and Israel ever conducted in Britain.

But it said the study did not mean that British people were anti-Semitic.

Researchers also found a correlation in anti-Jewish and anti-Israel attitudes.

The study found a relatively small number of British adults – 2.4% – expressed multiple anti-Semitic attitudes “readily and confidently”.

But when questioned about whether they agreed with a number of statements, including “Jews think they are better than other people”, and “Jews exploit holocaust victimhood for their own purposes”, 30% agreed with at least one statement.

Despite this, the researchers said they found that levels of anti-Semitism in Great Britain were among the lowest in the world.

The report said about 70% of the population of Britain had a favourable opinion of Jews and did not hold any anti-Semitic ideas or views.

Muslim views

The JPR’s researchers questioned 5,466 people face-to-face and online in the winter of 2016/17 – 995 of these were Muslims, although a smaller number of Muslims were included in the statisticians’ nationally representative sample.

They found more than half of Muslims (55%) held at least one anti-Semitic attitude.

Dr Jonathan Boyd, director of the JPR, said: “Our intention here was not to make any broad generalisations about the Muslim population and their attitudes towards Jews.

There does seem to be some relationship between levels of religiosity in the Muslim population and anti-Semitism.”

..

The researchers also questioned people about their views on statements about Israel and the conflict with the Palestinians.

Their report said fewer than one in five people questioned (17%) had a favourable opinion of Israel, whereas about one in three (33%) held an unfavourable view.

The report said: “The position of the British population towards Israel can be characterised as one of uncertainty or indifference, but among those who hold a view, people with sympathies towards the Palestinians are numerically dominant.”

Dr Boyd said: “Anti-Israel and anti-Jewish views exist both together and in isolation.

“The higher the level of anti-Israel attitudes measured, the more likely they are to hold anti-Semitic views as well.”

The study also revealed that anti-Semitic attitudes were higher than normal among people who classified their politics as “very right-wing”.

Among this group they were two to four times higher than among the general population.

The researchers said the prevalence was considerably higher among right-wingers than on the left.

So there are two groups, those who are “very right wing” and some Muslims who are a particular problem.

Contemporary anti-semitism cannot be reduced to these categories, as some of the “conspi” themes of the far-right have crept into a fringe of the left.

The classic far-right is well known and their anti-Jewish racism is part of a wider set of prejudices, against black people,  Muslims, and against all foreigners

But this is also important to look at the issue of Islamist anti-Semitism, both classically religious and in its modern Salifist and Jihadist forms.

The following caused controversy in  April 2016.

C4 survey and documentary reveals What British Muslims Really Think

Between April and June 2015, polling company ICM undertook research on the views of British Muslims for Channel 4 and Juniper Television, including polling of British Muslims on their attitudes towards Jews and antisemitism.

44%

of British Muslims think Jews have too much power in the business world

90%

of British Muslims do not know how many Jews died in the Holocaust

26%

of British Muslims think antisemitism is a problem, compared to 46% of the general British population.

The below is a critique of these findings.

Trevor Phillips’ research on British Muslims is dangerous and wrong. No wonder Islamophobia is on the rise.

Channel 4 irresponsibly released its deeply flawed study. To claim, without sufficient evidence, that British Muslims are a separate “nation within a nation” – that they are not, or do not perceive themselves to be British – is to suggest that Islam and the West are at odds.

This is not to deny legitimate concern about extreme levels of social conservatism, anti-Semitism or alienation from mainstream society within some western Muslim communities. But the consistent misrepresentation of European and North American Muslims is likely to increase a worrying trust deficit and the “clash of civilisations” that Isis and right-wing xenophobes are keen to promote.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 29, 2018 at 12:30 pm

As Jewish Board of Deputies Protests, Labour, the Left, Jeremy Corbyn and Anti-Semitism.

with 21 comments

Jewish groups attack Jeremy Corbyn over anti-Semitism

BBC.

“Enough is enough,” Jewish groups have said in a letter accusing Jeremy Corbyn of failing to tackle anti-Semitism.

The Labour leader has said he is “sincerely sorry” for the pain caused by “pockets of anti-Semitism” in the Labour Party.

Mr Corbyn said he would be meeting representatives of the Jewish community to “rebuild” confidence in his party.

However, the organisations behind the open letter are planning a protest outside Parliament later.

The letter – drawn up by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council – said there has been a “repeated institutional failure” to properly address anti-Semitism. (1)

It accuses Mr Corbyn of being unable to “seriously contemplate anti-Semitism, because he is so ideologically fixed within a far left worldview that is instinctively hostile to mainstream Jewish communities”.

The organisations refer to Mr Corbyn’s apparently supportive message to the creator of an allegedly anti-Semitic mural in 2012 and his attendance at “pro-Hezbollah rallies”.

They say the Labour leader has “sided with anti-Semites” either because of “the far left’s obsessive hatred of Zionism” or “a conspiratorial worldview in which mainstream Jewish communities are believed to be a hostile entity, a class enemy”.

The letter says those who push anti-Semitic material view Mr Corbyn as “their figurehead” and that he is “the only person with the standing to demand that all of this stops.”

Response.

Labour is an anti-racist party and I utterly condemn antisemitism, which is why as leader of the Labour Party I want to be clear that I will not tolerate any form of antisemitism that exists in and around our movement. We must stamp this out from our party and movement.

We recognise that antisemitism has occurred in pockets within the Labour Party, causing pain and hurt to our Jewish community in the Labour Party and the rest of the country. I am sincerely sorry for the pain which has been caused.

Our party has deep roots in the Jewish community and is actively engaged with Jewish organisations across the country.

We are campaigning to increase support and confidence in Labour among Jewish people in the UK. I know that to do so, we must demonstrate our total commitment to excising pockets of antisemitism that exist in and around our party.

I will be meeting representatives from the Jewish community over the coming days, weeks and months to rebuild that confidence in Labour as a party which gives effective voice to Jewish concerns and is implacably opposed to antisemitism in all its forms. Labour will work to unite communities to achieve social justice in our society.

Image may contain: text

Oppose antisemitism and malicious accusations by supporters of the Tory Party

Jewish Socialists’ Group statement

The Jewish Socialists’ Group expresses its serious concern at the rise of antisemitism, especially under extreme right wing governments in central and Eastern Europe, in America under Donald Trump’s Presidency and here in Britain under Theresa May’s premiership. The recent extensive survey by the highly respected Jewish Policy Research confirmed that the main repository of antisemitic views in Britain is among supporters of the Conservative Party and UKIP.

This political context, alongside declining support for the Tories, reveals the malicious intent behind the the latest flimsy accusations of antisemitism against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party. These accusations have come from the unrepresentative Board of Deputies and the unelected, self-proclaimed “Jewish Leadership Council”, two bodies dominated by supporters of the Tory Party.

Between now and the local elections the Tories would love to divert the electorate on to accusations of antisemitism against the Labour Party rather than have us discussing austerity, cuts to local authority budgets, the health service, and social care. Many Jews within and beyond the Labour Party are suffering from these policies along with the rest of the population, and oppose them vehemently.

Jonathan Arkush, the President of the Board of Deputies, was one of the first to congratulate Donald Trump on his election as President of the United States on behalf of the Board. This action was harshly criticised by many Jews he claims that the Board represents. He also gives unqualified support to Israel’s pro-settler Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who enjoys good relations with the very far right political forces in Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic who are fanning bigotry against minorities, including Jews.

Until very recently the Jewish Leadership Council was chaired by Sir Mick Davies, who was appointed Tory Party treasurer in February 2016 and is now the Chief Executive of the Conservative Party.

The Jewish Socialists’ Group includes many members of the Labour party, and we know many Jews who have joined or re-joined the Labour party enthused by the progressive leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.

Labour is the party that brought in anti-discrimination legislation at a time when many Tory members were open supporters of and investors in apartheid South Africa. The Tories are the party that have dished out the harshest treatment to migrants and refugees, especially when Theresa May was Home Secretary. Shamefully, they are still refusing to accede to the proposal of Labour peer, Lord Dubs, who came to Britain as a Jewish refugee on the Kindertransport, to take in a small but significant number of unaccompanied child refugees from Syria.

We have worked alongside Jeremy Corbyn in campaigns against all forms of racism and bigotry, including antisemitism, for many years, and we have faith that a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn and Labour-led councils across the country, will be best placed to implement serious measures against all forms of racism, discrimination and bigotry.

Some of us have long-standing views on the issues raised in this controversy.

For many on the left, including groups on the ‘far left’ there is a problem with anti-Semitism in today’s Britain and the rest of Europe.

That we consider that some parts of the more vocal left (notably those groups that run the Stop the War Coalition) in the name of ‘anti-imperialism, misunderstand the issues to the extent that they show a tolerance towards anti Semitism.

A stark example was given by the present Labour Executive Director of Strategy and Communications  Seumus Milne’s reaction to the Charlie Hebdo and the  Hypercacher massacre in 2015: The attacks in France are a blowback from intervention in the Arab and Muslim world. (Guardian January 2015)

Milne threw a few words around about nothing justifies the murders – except that it can be explained in the context of Charlie’s  ” repeated pornographic humiliation” of the ‘Prophet”.

He then went on to claim an insight into the origins of the killings, which singled out not just Charlie Hebdo but a Jewish supermarket.

“Of course, the cocktail of causes and motivations for the attacks are complex: from an inheritance of savage colonial brutality in Algeria via poverty, racism, criminality and takfiri jihadist ideology.

He concluded,

But without the war waged by western powers, including France, to bring to heel and reoccupy the Arab and Muslim world, last week’s attacks clearly wouldn’t have taken place.” 

Labour’s present head of spin not only ignored any moral responsibility in the killers themselves but failed to ask why “Amedy Coulibaly singled out a Jewish supermarket and  murdered four Jewish hostages, and held fifteen other hostages during a siege in which he demanded that the Kouachi (the gunmen in the Charlie attack) brothers not be harmed. The police ended the siege by storming the store and killing Coulibaly.”

Apart from this ‘anti-imperialism’ there is also the growth of “confusionist” politics, represented in the infamous Tower Hamlets Mural, which align anti-globalisation themes, classical hatred of Jews with conspiracy ideology on the New World Order.

Harry’s Place indicates one case today,

Antisemitism, homophobia and the NUS’s National Executive Council

Ayo quite proudly asks people to call him a ‘conspiracy theorist’ as he shares an antisemitic video about the “Rothschild’s master plan”. The video he shares goes on to talk about how the Rothschild’s run every central bank in the world (apart from North Korea, Iran and Cuba). It discusses how the Rothschild’s manipulate countries to go to war for them as they have an “unlimited amount of money and power”. The video suggests 9/11 was an inside job, carried out in order for the Rothschild’s to gain control of Afghanistan’s and Iraq’s banks. The video is quite simply a piece of antisemitic propaganda. Ayo tells people to “do a little research on this” – we did. Google “Rothschild’s master plan” and you will get taken into a world of antisemitic conspiracies, much coming from far-right, neo-nazi sites and forums.

It is true that limited parts of the left, and wider society, reflect these prejudices.

But to accuse Jeremy Corbyn of anti-semitism, as some in the Jewish community and commentators in the press are now doing (most openly on social media) is not only false, but beneath contempt.

Phil puts many related points in this post today.

Corbynism and Anti-SemitismPhil Burton-Cartledge

Unfortunately anti-semitism has yet again resurfaced and as everyone reading this knows, this time it’s Jeremy Corbyn who’s in the firing line for failing to notice the image above, which he commented on, was racist. In the world of social media there is a tendency to shoot from the hip without looking properly at what or who you’re commenting on/sharing. It’s happened to me enough times when posts shared on Facebook have been construed as supporting the Tories because of the titles (as such I was expecting some earache for Friday’s effort). And I’m happy to accept that Jeremy’s explanation that he wasn’t paying attention. After all, over the course of his career he has put his name to eight Early Day Motions attacking anti-semitism, and under his leadership Labour has adopted a line far harsher on anti-semitism than any of his predecessors. And still, this happened.

While the Labour Party does not have an anti-semitism problem distinct from the anti-semitism problem of society as a whole, unfortunately a section of the left does, particularly those that have historically prioritised anti-war and Palestine solidarity activity. We’re not talking conscious Jew hate a la neo-Nazis and assorted fash riff-raff, though some on the fringes of anti-war work order their conspiracy theorising with a side of anti-semitism, but rather a certain carelessness which, persistent and unchecked, amounts to anti-semitic behaviour. Cast your eyes over the Socialist Workers Party, for example. Previously the key organising force of Stop the War, Respect, and ‘official’ anti-fascism as per Unite Against Fascism, when it came to matters anti-war they tended to put a plus wherever the British establishment put a minus. They weren’t hard “defencists” (i.e. calling for the defeat of one’s own military and victory to whoever they are fighting), but in practice this meant tolerating far right Serbs on the small marches against the war in Kosovo, ditto with Islamic fundamentalists in the anti-war movement and, in the case of notorious anti-semite Gilad Atzmon, not just rubbing shoulders with but actively sponsoring his events. The SWP has a history of turning a blind eye to such characters. Sometimes this was for expediency’s sake, such as not wanting to threaten the “united front” of whatever bandwagon they’re riding at that moment. For others it’s because they are of some use. Atzmon was so promoted because a now disgraced former leading member was really into jazz.

The SWP have diminished influence these days, but their attitude to problem people is typical. For them, overlooking the foibles of allies could be justified in terms of their lust for the big time, which was always one more demo, strike, and paper sale away. For others not so invested in sect building, making episodic common cause with people who shouldn’t be touched with a barge pole was simply a fact of life of doing left-wing politics: you work with what you’ve got. Up until the sudden change of fortunes occasioned by the 2015 Labour leadership contest, self-described leftists were a small and dwindling bunch. The likes of Jackie Walker and Tony Greenstein, both of whom are prophylactics for socialist politics, were tolerated because there wasn’t exactly a massive pool of activists to draw upon. And it had been this way for a long time, so turning a blind eye was in many cases a condition of getting things done. Which also meant “left” anti-semitism wasn’t taken seriously – a culture of sensitivity was absent.

..

What should be done then? The party is now institutionally anti-anti-semitic, but there remains a persistent and stubborn layer of members who either believe there is no issue, don’t think it’s worth talking about, or is entirely a weapon used against the leadership by the usual suspects. Clearly, there is much political education to be done. I don’t mean every branch and CLP hosting its own diversity training or whatever, but rather a left declaration of war against anti-semitism specifically and the kind of thinking – conspiracy thinking – that incubates it and, in turn, finds a ready audience among large sections of Corbyn’s online support. As a rule, the so-called alt-left media sites are dismal failures in this regard and, indeed, stoke the fires of click bait conspiranoia. This has to be opposed by materialist analysis, of understanding the world as it is so we can make the world what we want it to be. This takes a concerted effort at building an intellectual culture that encourages comrades to think critically for themselves, and treat with extreme prejudice any and all explanations that place social ills, however they’re defined, at the feet of secret cabals working away in the shadows. Then, perhaps, the culture of carelessness can be overcome and “left” anti-semitism goes back to being what it should be: an oxymoron.

I do not think Corbyn is personally antisemitic, but it is evident that he has difficulty recognising that the problem takes a specific form on the left and the “anti imperialist” milieu. This stems from his own lack of political sophistication, his background in crude New Left “anti imperialism” and (possibly) with the fact that Stalinists are influential in his inner circle. Corbyn’s difficulty in recognising the problem is, sadly, typical of significant sections of the left.

What lies behind Corbyn’s difficulties with “left-wing antisemitism”?

(1) Full Text of Letter.

Today, leaders of British Jewry tell Jeremy Corbyn that enough is enough. We have had enough of hearing that Jeremy Corbyn “opposes antisemitism”, whilst the mainstream majority of British Jews, and their concerns, are ignored by him and those he leads. There is a repeated institutional failure to properly address Jewish concerns and to tackle antisemitism, with the Chakrabarti Report being the most glaring example of this.

Jeremy Corbyn did not invent this form of politics, but he has had a lifetime within it, and now personifies its problems and dangers. He issues empty statements about opposing antisemitism, but does nothing to understand or address it. We conclude that he cannot seriously contemplate antisemitism, because he is so ideologically fixed within a far left worldview that is instinctively hostile to mainstream Jewish communities.

When Jews complain about an obviously antisemitic mural in Tower Hamlets, Corbyn of course supports the artist. Hizbollah commits terrorist atrocities against Jews, but Corbyn calls them his friends and attends pro-Hizbollah rallies in London. Exactly the same goes for Hamas. Raed Salah says Jews kill Christian children to drink their blood. Corbyn opposes his extradition and invites him for tea at the House of Commons. These are not the only cases. He is repeatedly found alongside people with blatantly antisemitic views, but claims never to hear or read them.

Again and again, Jeremy Corbyn has sided with antisemites rather than Jews. At best, this derives from the far left’s obsessive hatred of Zionism, Zionists and Israel. At worst, it suggests a conspiratorial worldview in which mainstream Jewish communities are believed to be a hostile entity, a class enemy. When Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour Party, Jews expressed sincere and profound fears as to how such politics would impact upon their wellbeing. Our concerns were never taken seriously. Three years on, the Party and British Jews are reaping the consequences.

Routine statements against antisemitism “and all forms of racism” get nowhere near dealing with the problem, because what distinguishes antisemitism from other forms of racism is the power that Jews are alleged to hold, and how they are charged with conspiring together against what is good. This is not only historic, or about what Jeremy Corbyn did before being Party leader. It is also utterly contemporary. There is literally not a single day in which Labour Party spaces, either online or in meetings, do not repeat the same fundamental antisemitic slanders against Jews. We are told that our concerns are faked, and done at the command of Israel and/or Zionism (whatever that means); that antisemitism is merely “criticism of Israel”; that we call any and all criticism of Israel “antisemitic”; that the Rothschilds run the world; that ISIS terrorism is a fake front for Israel; that Zionists are the new Nazis; and that Zionists collaborate with Nazis.

Rightly or wrongly, those who push this offensive material regard Jeremy Corbyn as their figurehead. They display an obsessive hatred of Israel alongside conspiracy theories and fake news. These repeated actions do serous harm to British Jews and to the British Labour Party.

Jeremy Corbyn is the only person with the standing to demand that all of this stops. Enough is enough.

Board of Deputies of British Jews, Jewish Leadership Council

Afrin Falls to Jihadists and Turkish Army but Fight and Solidarity Continue!

with 18 comments

Turkish Backed Jihadists Demolish, “blacksmith Kawa, a legendary figure for the Kurdish movement.”

Just breaking….

Syria war: Turkey-backed forces oust Kurds from heart of Afrin

BBC.

Turkish-backed forces have taken full control of the centre of the Syrian-Kurdish city of Afrin.

Fighters waved flags and tore down the statue of a legendary Kurdish figure after claiming the city centre on Sunday.

The two-month Turkish-led operation aimed to rid the border region of a Kurdish militia that Turkey considers a terrorist group.

Activists say 280 civilians have died, although this is denied by Ankara.

Pictures and video footage emerged of forces tearing down a Kurdish statue with a bulldozer.

The monument depicted the blacksmith Kawa, a legendary figure for the Kurdish movement.

A statement on a Whatsapp group for the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces called it the “first blatant violation of Kurdish people’s culture and history since the takeover of Afrin”.

A Turkish armed forces Twitter page posted a video of troops displaying the nation’s flag in Afrin’s centre.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 18, 2018 at 12:04 pm