Sunday, October 31, 2004

Rubbing their noses in their own mess. posted by Richard Seymour

Here is a helpful reminder. Last year, Amnesty International declined to support the war on Iraq on account of what they considered the likely human cost. The following appeared on the front page of their magazine in March/April 2003:

"Iraq: The Human Cost Of War
50,000 civilian deaths?
500,000 civilians injured?
2,000,000 refugees and displaced people?
10,000,000 in need of humanitarian assistance?"


These and similar predictions were widely mocked at the time.

The Weekly Standard, in a brief, post-bellicus moment of euphoria, retorted that these and similar predictions had been "voodoo science" :

And on almost any street in Oxford, one can see the posters passed out by the British chapter of Amnesty International, entitled "Iraq: The Human Costs of War." The poster, which is careful to cover itself by using a lot of question marks, reads in part: "50,000 Civilian Deaths? 500,000 Civilians Injured?" Not quite, thank God.


The author of that article reserved most of his fire for Iraq Body Count , which he considered the worst of the bunch - he may now wish to eat his words and plant himself firmly in Marc Herold's lap, in the same way that many British commentators and politicians suddenly find themselves eagerly perusing and waving the statistics produced on the site.

Andrew Marr of the BBC was on similar form on the of the Saddam-statue-falling psyops:

"Well, I think this does one thing - it draws a line under what, before the war, had been a period of... well, a faint air of pointlessness, almost, was hanging over Downing Street. There were all these slightly tawdry arguments and scandals. That is now history. Mr Blair is well aware that all his critics out there in the party and beyond aren't going to thank him - because they're only human - for being right when they've been wrong. And he knows that there might be trouble ahead, as I said. But I think this is very, very important for him. It gives him a new freedom and a new self-confidence. He confronted many critics.

"I don't think anybody after this is going to be able to say of Tony Blair that he's somebody who is driven by the drift of public opinion, or focus groups, or opinion polls. He took all of those on. He said that they would be able to take Baghdad without a bloodbath, and that in the end the Iraqis would be celebrating. And on both of those points he has been proved conclusively right. And it would be entirely ungracious, even for his critics, not to acknowledge that tonight he stands as a larger man and a stronger prime minister as a result." (Marr, BBC 1, News At Ten, April 9, 2003)


Opportunities for a good nose-rubbing never cease to present themselves on that one, yet this is as good a time as any.

The Chicago Tribune also took the opportunity after the 'liberation' to mock "the ridiculous prewar casualty predictions". Martin Woollacott of The Guardian praised Medicin Sans Frontiere for refusing "to join other agencies in what turned out to be inflated predictions about the humanitarian consequences of combat, just as it had earlier refused to accept the huge figures which opponents of sanctions gave for infant deaths."

And so on. Will we ever hear of any of these wise-asses recant? Will Johann Hari ever provide us with a peek at those dodgy documents which allegedly prove that Saddam was planning on knocking off 70,000 Iraqis anyway, so the war 'saved lives'? Or, using his utilitarian logic, will he retract his support for the war? Answer: no.

5:12:00 pm | Permalink | Comments thread | | Print | Digg | del.icio.us | reddit | StumbleUpon | diigo it | Share| Flattr this

Reply from author of Lancet report. posted by Richard Seymour

The research published in the Lancet claiming a conservative estimate of 100,000 excess deaths as a result of the war on Iraq prompted innumerable 'ah but' replies, claiming that there was something wrong with the research or that it was shoddy or too vague, as well as criticisms of the Lancet from people who have no idea what kind of publication it is and would never in their lives have dreamed of picking up a copy of what is essentially a robustly conservative medical journal. Notable among the former was Fred Kaplan's piece for Slate . It contained many criticisms directed at points already accounted for in the report, but the key issue he raised was as follows:

The report's authors derive this figure by estimating how many Iraqis died in a 14-month period before the U.S. invasion, conducting surveys on how many died in a similar period after the invasion began (more on those surveys later), and subtracting the difference. That difference—the number of "extra" deaths in the post-invasion period—signifies the war's toll. That number is 98,000. But read the passage that cites the calculation more fully:

We estimate there were 98,000 extra deaths (95% CI 8000-194 000) during the post-war period.

Readers who are accustomed to perusing statistical documents know what the set of numbers in the parentheses means. For the other 99.9 percent of you, I'll spell it out in plain English—which, disturbingly, the study never does. It means that the authors are 95 percent confident that the war-caused deaths totaled some number between 8,000 and 194,000. (The number cited in plain language—98,000—is roughly at the halfway point in this absurdly vast range.)

This isn't an estimate. It's a dart board.


This would seem on the face of it to be quite a damning point - research producing conclusions so vague that settling on any one interpretation seems quite arbitrary. Unfortunately, and more or less as I expected, Kaplan did not understand the nature of the research. Correspondence with one of the report's authors has yielded the following:

By Richard Garfield, one of the study's authors.

On page five of the report. second to last paragraph, the authors do
give us
a margin of sampling error. They have not found a hard-and-fast 98,000
additional deaths, but a range from 8,000 to 194,000.


That is correct. Research is more than summarizing data, it is also
interpretation. If we had just visited the 32 neighborhoods without
Falluja and did not look at the data or think about them, we would have
reported 98,000 deaths, and said the measure was so imprecise that there
was a 2.5% chance that there had been less than 8,000 deaths, a 10%
chance that there had been less than about 45,000 deaths,....all of
those assumptions that go with normal distributions. But we had two
other pieces of information. First, violence accounted for only 2% of
deaths before the war and was the main cause of death after the
invasion. That is
something new, consistent with the dramatic rise in mortality and
reduces the likelihood that
the true number was at the lower end of the confidence range. Secondly,
there is the Falluja
data, which imply that there are pockets of Anbar, or other communities
like Falluja, experiencing intense conflict, that have far more deaths
than the rest of the country. We set that aside these data in
statistical analysis because the result in this cluster was such an
outlier, but it tells us that the true death toll is
far more likely to be on the high-side of our point estimate than on the
low side.


Further comment would be superfluous.

12:31:00 pm | Permalink | Comments thread | | Print | Digg | del.icio.us | reddit | StumbleUpon | diigo it | Share| Flattr this

Saturday, October 30, 2004

100,000 deaths a 'conservative' estimate. posted by Richard Seymour

"Here we have a conflict going on in a densely populated urban setting and populations are at risk."


Ordinarily you have to pay for access to this website, but I have cunningly cached it, and so you can access it here . It contains an extensive interview with one of the authors of the report published in the Lancet which estimated 100,000 excess deaths as a result of the war:

IRAQ'D: The number you're citing--100,000 Iraqis dead as a result of the intervention. There have been a number of studies by human rights organizations and other organizations that have put high totals of civilian casualties dramatically lower. The highest total I've seen is 30,000. This is a rather staggeringly high number, and I was wondering if you could explain how your model is a sound and responsible model, methodologically.

BURNHAM: Let me first say that at least in the public health model, we generally have two ways of collecting information. One, we have passive data collection, and that's like doctors turning in their reports, and the hospitals filling out their data sheets and so forth. And then we have active surveillance: You go out in the community and actually find what's going on--how many people have HIV, how many people have TB and so forth. Those numbers [between active and passive collection] are always different. Sometimes they're not so different, sometimes they're dramatically different, because a system just never captures all the things that are happening. That's why we have syntheses and those kinds of things, going out to find where people live and getting data from them directly.

...

Now, you can argue, is this increased mortality rate 70,000? Is it 60,000, is it 150,000, is it 200,000? Our best guess, on a conservative side, is 100,000. But it could be less and it could be more. Because just by the statistical nature of this thing, the kind of zone around this number where we are sure this answer truly lies is fairly broad. It's a national survey, it's a massive survey, but it's not a national census.

...

IRAQ'D: Was this study peer reviewed?

BURNHAM: Oh, my goodness, was it ever. [Laughs] First off, nothing, nothing ever gets in the Lancet without a vigorous peer review. It's heavily peer-reviewed. And in the case of this article, it went through the full editorial review board several times and they sent it out for multiple reviews. I've written a few papers for the Lancet over the years and I've never had anything like the scrutiny that this one had.

...

Here's a conflict situation. Militaries, by their very nature, do not count civilian casualties. You can't blame them for that, because that's just how they operate. Yet here we have a conflict going on in a densely populated urban situation and populations are at risk. Somebody needs to look at what the public health implications are.


This is a study, as the authors note, with many limitations which they have attempted to account for in presenting the results. It has been vigorously peer-reviewed. It has estimated 100,000 excess deaths on account of the war as a 'conservative' figure. Unsurprisingly, Downing Street and many helpful media outlets have already produced a series of accusations and "ah buts" based on limitations which the authors have already acknowledged and discounted for.

11:09:00 am | Permalink | Comments thread | | Print | Digg | del.icio.us | reddit | StumbleUpon | diigo it | Share| Flattr this

Blog wars: Kampf vs Kamm. posted by Richard Seymour

Check this out. And this , from Mr Kampf's latest:

Lachrymal troglodytes.
My recent article on Oxfam's disgracefully anti-American campaign on 'fair trade coffee' provoked the following unsolicited & terse response from their press office:

Dear Mr Kampf,

We have so far been unable to deal with your many requests for information as we have been inundated with queries from campaigners and media organisations. Let me take this opportunity to assure you that there was no question of us temporising, or seeking to 'cover' our 'flaccid fundaments' as you put it (and in the future we would prefer any correspondence to adhere to minimal standards of politeness)...

Disgraceful.

12:37:00 am | Permalink | Comments thread | | Print | Digg | del.icio.us | reddit | StumbleUpon | diigo it | Share| Flattr this

Friday, October 29, 2004

Hitchens on Zarqawi posted by Richard Seymour

Norman Finkelstein has suggested that Christopher Hitchens saw 9/11 as an opportunity to get out of the Left, a disaffiliation he had apparently been considering for some time. In his interview with Johann Hari , he describes how as early as the mid-1990s he found neoconservatives more inclined to his views on foreign policy than the left. He had also explained some years before 9/11 that the 'game of socialism' was over. If true, this would explain the jaw-dropping hyperbole, slander and fabulation that has characterised Hitchens' writing since.

To illustrate the former, I offer a few highlights from Hitchens' latest from the Mirror, entitled 'The New Enemy of Humanity':

1) "JUST try this thought: what if the battle against Abu Musad [sic] al-Zarqawi is now more significant than the hunt for Osama bin Laden?

Consider: bin Laden hasn't been heard of, even in one of those scratchy and inconclusive audiotapes of his, for many moons."

2) "The last part of that might be the most significant one: a letter carried by a known Zarqawi associate, with the excellent name of Ghul, was intercepted some months ago. It was addressed to bin Laden, and it proposed that the easiest way to destroy any post-war settlement in Iraq was to incite a civil war between Sunni and Shia."

3) "Until recently, it has been surprisingly easily accepted that there is scant evidence for any tie between Saddam and al-Qaeda. But it begins to look rather as if Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, in person and in action, IS that tie."


Several remarks suggest themselves, so I'll deal with them ordinally, as above.

1 Whatever one thinks of the hyping of bin Laden's reputation, the suggestion that the threat from al-Zarqawi is so great as to exceed that posed by Al Qaeda is palpably absurd. One way of expressing this point is to note that the Bush administration knew the whereabouts of Zarqawi's base in Kurdish controlled Iraq, had much greater access to it than anywhere else in Iraq, and chose not to destroy it. Further, of 3000 resistance attacks against occupation forces, only six can be attributed with certainty to Zarqawi . It is even questionable whether al-Zarqawi is actually operating in al-Tawhid wal-Jihad. Noone has claimed to see him alive since 2001. Tawhid wal-Jihad do not even account for the entirety of the 'foreign fighters' alleged to be operating in Iraq, but even those account for only 5-10% of the overall resistance force according to coalition sources. (This estimate was made before the dramatic growth of the domestic resistance in Fallujah, Najaf and elsewhere).

2 The reports of a letter on a CD being kept on or near the person of Hassan Ghul when he was arrested earlier this year have been contradictory, probably for the excellent reason that they are untrue. For instance, while the New York Times reported that the discovery of this document coincided with the arrest of Hassan Ghul, and was located in a suspected Al Qaeda 'safe house' in Baghdad (this was the line from intelligence officials) on its way to be delivered to bin Laden in Afghanistan, the reports :

Hassan Ghul, described as the most senior associate of Osama bin Laden found in Iraq, was picked up last week in the northern part of the country by Kurdish forces, the official said. "He was a senior facilitator who was caught coming into the country," the official said. [Emphasis added]


If he was on his way out of Iraq to deliver the letter, it seems strange that he was also sneaking into the country. This inconsistency, I might add, is replicated across several reports - and all of them cite intelligence officials. Further, for reasons I now come to, the idea that this one-legged, possibly dead Jihadist is serenading Al Qaeda is counterintuitive and highly improbable.

3 Even Donald Rumsfeld has given up on any connection between Hussein and Al Qaeda . The CIA report that they can find no compelling evidence of a link even between Zarqawi and Al Qaeda. But the story of Zarqawi, who is after all supposed to have been Al Qaeda's "ambassador" to Iraq, militates against such a view in any case. The first obstacle is the fact that Zarqawi has always operated independently of bin Laden, and, according to al-Tauhid suspects arrested in Germany in the late 1990s (al Tauhid was a group working under Zarqawi at the time), he is a rival of bin Laden, not an ally. That is, his goal was to provide an alternative to bin Laden's outfit, not to work with it. The most likely ideological difference is that bin Laden's group has disapproved of attacks on co-religionists - they have even gone so far as to issue apologies where their attacks have caused 'Muslim collateral damage'. Zarqawi, by contrast, appears to be profoundly anti-Shi'ite and, if he is indeed associated with Tawhid wal Jihad, could hardly be accused of going soft on his brethren. (Jason Burke, Al Qaeda: The True Story of Radical Islam, 2003, pp 270-1). The second hurdle is that, while Hitchens discusses Zarqawi's alleged activities in the Kurdish controlled North, he does so very much in the manner of Colin Powell in early 2003, ignoring the fact that the group he was then working with - Ansar al-Islam - was an anti-Saddam Islamist faction. Indeed, even Colin Powell has since paused to acknowledge that there was no 'smoking gun' about this alleged collaboration - uncharacteristically, Powell riots in understatement.

Indeed, intelligence experts have ridiculed the claims made in this regard by Bush administration officials, so devoutly echoed by Hitchens:

"Militarily, their statements are almost absurd," said Anthony Cordesman, a national security and military intelligence expert for the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "There is no evidence of activity … by extremist terrorist groups affiliated with al-Qaida."


Administration officials have admitted that there never was any solid evidence of such a connection. Indeed, the 9/11 commission went so far as to suggest that if bin Laden was interested in such an alliance, it was roundly rejected by the Iraqi government.


The only story that obtains here is that so far there is no solid proof that a) Zarqawi is even still alive, b) he operates in Iraq as a leader of Tawhid wal-Jihad, c) that he has ever had any contact with Saddam Hussein much less worked with him, d) that he has ever had any connection with Osama bin Laden. On the contrary, most reliable evidence suggests that a) if Zarqawi is alive and operating in Iraq, he represents a minute anti-Shi'ite bloc of extremist Wahabbis rather than a significant component of the resistance, b) he is bin Laden's rival, not his ally and, c) he worked against Hussein, not on his behalf. That, of course, is in the realm of hard evidence, now foreign territory to the once redoubtable Hitchens. Almost every single story that has emerged as 'final proof' of that ill-starred special relationship between bin Laden and Hussein is demolished in short order. There was no Prague meeting , as Czech intelligence officials confirmed at the time. Numerous other shocking tales have collapsed with similar speed.

It does not require even half an education to guess why Hitchens feels obliged to adduce flimsy evidence and extrapolate fanciful conclusions from it. At all costs, the 'war on terror' must be just, and how could it be more just than if the current war had been initiated by Hussein's perfidy, and if indeed the threat now posed within Iraq by Zarqawi is even greater than the menace of bin Laden. It is deflating to see Hitchens reduced to such lifeless shibboleths and gimcrack foolishness, and the only bright side is that his position as a Washington propagandist is so transparent that only the wilfully purblind could possibly be taken in.

4:26:00 pm | Permalink | Comments thread | | Print | Digg | del.icio.us | reddit | StumbleUpon | diigo it | Share| Flattr this

I feel pretty... posted by Richard Seymour

I guess I'm just in that kind of mood:

I feel pretty,
Oh so pretty
I feel pretty and witty and bright
And I pity
Any girl
Who isn't me tonight

I feel charming,
Oh so charming
It's alarming how charming I feel
And so pretty
That I hardly
Can believe
I'm real

See the pretty girl in that mirror there
Who can that attractive girl be?
Such a pretty face,
Such a pretty dress,
Such a pretty smile,
Such a pretty me

I feel stunning
And entracing,
Feel like running and dancing for joy
For I'm loved
By a pretty
Wonderful boy!

Have you met my good friend Maria,
The craziest girl on the block
You'll know her
The minute you see her
She's the one
Who is in an advanced state of shock

She thinks she's in love,
She thinks she's in Spain
She isn't in love,
She's merely insane

It must be the heat,
Or some rare disease
Or too much to eat,
Or maybe it's fleas

Keep away from her,
Send for Chino
This is not the Maria we know
Modest and pure,
Polite and refined
Well-bred and mature
And out of her mind!

I feel pretty,
Oh so pretty
That the city
Should give me it's key
A committee should
Be organized
To honor me

I feel dizzy,
I feel sunny
I feel fizzy and funny and fine
And so pretty,
Miss America
Can just
Resign

Leonard Bernstein - Stephen Sondheim


Normal service will be resumed tomorrow.

12:20:00 pm | Permalink | Comments thread | | Print | Digg | del.icio.us | reddit | StumbleUpon | diigo it | Share| Flattr this

Thursday, October 28, 2004

War kills 100,000 Iraqis. posted by Richard Seymour

From Reuters :

Deaths of Iraqis have soared to 100,000 above normal since the Iraq war mainly due violence and many of the victims have been women and children, public health experts from the United States said Thursday.
"Making conservative assumptions, we think that about 100,000 excess deaths, or more have happened since the 2003 invasion of Iraq," researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland said in a report published online by The Lancet medical journal.

"Violence accounted for most of the excess death and air strikes from (U.S.-led) coalition forces accounted for the most violent deaths," the report added.

...

"The risk of death from violence in the period after the invasion was 58 times higher than in the period before the war," Les Roberts and his colleagues said in the report which compared Iraqi deaths during 14.6 months before the invasion and the 17.8 months after it.

He added that violent deaths were widespread and were mainly attributed to coalition forces.

"Most individuals reportedly killed by coalition forces were women and children," Roberts added. [Emphasis added]


These deaths don't merely fall into the hands of those who waged the war, of course. Those who legitimised the war on the grounds of 'saving lives' and 'humanitarianism' are also culpable. Culpably culpable, in fact.

10:05:00 pm | Permalink | Comments thread | | Print | Digg | del.icio.us | reddit | StumbleUpon | diigo it | Share| Flattr this

Assassinating the President. posted by Richard Seymour

This isn't a compendium of helpful pointers. Let's face it, if you wanted to blow Bush's brains out, even from close range, you'd have to be a fucking good shot, and I don't know how to help you with that. I did train in the use of spud-guns for a few years, and my lasting regret when Diana kicked the bucket was that it wasn't as a result of one of my little nuggets of root vegetable. But I'm not here to mope.

No, I'm responding to the humourless, bizarre and utterly futile complaints about this humorous article for The Guardian's weekend Guide section. Dead Men Left has summed up more or less what I think about it, but I just have a few other comments to add.

Normblog doesn't attend the Tomb any more, for understandable reasons, but I still malinger round his place, stalking, sniffing the socks, slurping from milk bottles and so on. It feels homely, if slightly too staid for my liking. And I was dismayed to discover the following :

Except calling for a person's murder isn't OK: not in jest, not in general, and not - in particular - in the times we're living through.


For those not in the know, and too lazy to have pursued the link above, Brooker's article concluded with the words:

On November 2, the entire civilised world will be praying, praying Bush loses. And Sod's law dictates he'll probably win, thereby disproving the existence of God once and for all. The world will endure four more years of idiocy, arrogance and unwarranted bloodshed, with no benevolent deity to watch over and save us. John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr - where are you now that we need you?


Okay, so what is the thought here? Norm and the commentators he associates himself with (Marcus from Harry's Place among others) think that a) this can't be funny, because it calls for someone to be killed and b) this is particularly so "in the times we're living through". This rather narrow and limited sense of humour isn't for me to waste my time on, but one thought that suggests itself presents itself as follows - get a grip! What? Is some young fundamentalist who happens to read The Guardian going to scan through this article, fail to spot the irony, and think - "hmmm, good idea!"

It's ridiculous, this spew of offense, and I expect it has more to do with the desire in some corners to impute something vile to the "moral universe" of the antiwar Left. Just a thought.

Meantime, why not have a listen to some old Bill Hicks CDs? This guy knew who ought to have been killed. "Isn't it interesting how we kill the good guys and let the demons run amok? Martin Luther King, murdered. John Lennon, murdered. Malcolm X, murdered. Ronald Reagan - wounded."

Update: John Kerry favours the odd assassination joke; so do certain Republican senators . But, it turns out jokes about assassinations just aren't funny . And the following, translated from ancient heiroglyphs on the walls of the Tomb, are just completely out of order and there really is no need for it:

"There should be more US Presidents like Kennedy: dead."

"Bono has urged Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to be the 'Lennon & McCartney' of world politics - which at least gives us a fifty-fifty chance of Blair being shot."

Tsk! I haven't felt such a stab in the heart since Fanny Kaplan stuck a bullet or two in my direction.



1:21:00 pm | Permalink | Comments thread | | Print | Digg | del.icio.us | reddit | StumbleUpon | diigo it | Share| Flattr this

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Fabian's Hammer posted by Richard Seymour

Slavoj Zizek once argued that China was the perfect capitalist state - because it both provided the conditions for investment and development and also used its oppressive apparatus to break working class organisation in advance. As I am presently studying the rise of the modern state and its relationship to capitalism, I'll have more to say on this at another time.

However, I just wanted to draw readers' attention to Fabian's Hammer , a left-wing blog on matters relating to China. Now, I say left-wing - unfortunately, the author is a bit of a fan of the hawkish liberals who favour neoconservative wars. Well, don't let that deter you for a second, just let it inform your reading of what is otherwise an excellent and informative site. There isn't much to be said for the prose style, but it is concise and doesn't piddle around.

Although only a few political amoebas still try to claim that the Left owes the Chinese dictatorship some allegiance, it is good to be kept up to date on the workers' movement and its struggles with the atrocious government. Check it out.

Oh, and apologies to anyone who was angered by my indifference at John Peel's death. But give me a break, here - I live in a Tomb, for Christ's sake! Eh, eh?

10:05:00 pm | Permalink | Comments thread | | Print | Digg | del.icio.us | reddit | StumbleUpon | diigo it | Share| Flattr this

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Eminem vs Bush. posted by Richard Seymour

I got into hip-hop around the time I caught a glimpse of Eminem dressed up as Britney Spears in one of his videos. He just looked so damned inviting that I immediately stormed my local HMV, cursing a furious erection as I did, and picked up all the Eminem material I could find - two vicious, hilarious, misogynistic, drug-fuelled, subversive, hateful albums. I gobbled it up like ropes of milky protein.

All the while I prayed that this one-in-a-lifetime talent would ditch the misogyny and gay jokes and go political. Hence, my delight at this :

Eminem's upcoming album, Encore, due November 16th, features the fierce anti-Bush song "Mosh," which was leaked online today.
In the Dr. Dre-produced track, the rapper denounces the war in Iraq. "Rebel with a rebel yell, raise hell," Eminem raps. "We gonna let him know/Stomp, push, shove, mush, fuck Bush!/Until they bring our troops home." Later in the song, he adds, "Let the president answer on higher anarchy/Strap him with an AK-47, let him go fight his own war/Let him impress daddy that way . . . No more blood for oil."

"[Bush] has been painted to be this hero, and he's got our troops over there dying for no reason," says Eminem in an upcoming Rolling Stone cover story (on stands November 5th). "I think he started a mess . . . He jumped the gun, and he fucked up so bad he doesn't know what to do right now . . . We got young people over there dyin', kids in their teens, early twenties that should have futures ahead of them. And for what? It seems like a Vietnam 2. Bin Laden attacked us, and we attacked Saddam. Explain why that is. Give us some answers."

The thirty-two-year-old rapper says he has registered to vote for the first time -- but stops short of endorsing a candidate. "Whatever my decision is, I would like to see Bush out of office," Eminem says. "I don't wanna see my little brother get drafted -- he just turned eighteen. People think their votes don't count, but people need to get out and vote. Every motherfuckin' vote counts."

Hmmm. While I'm at it, I'd better register my complete lack of concern about this . Oh, shut up. Actually, I'll shut up. As my mother used to tell me "If you can't think of anything nice to say, I'll fucking kill you!"

Update: Watch the video . Doug Ireland is a convert .

8:37:00 pm | Permalink | Comments thread | | Print | Digg | del.icio.us | reddit | StumbleUpon | diigo it | Share| Flattr this

The Salubrious Mr Kampf. posted by Richard Seymour

Confession time. It's been a few months now, and not much response. I had expected a spot in The Guardian, an interview on BBC Newsnight conducted by a blushing Kirsty Wark. Even a gently mocking segment with Graham Norton in which he might make a few saucy comments. Not a bit of it. Pooter Geek has been nice, as has Dead Men Left and Charlotte Street . Nick Barlow gave it a mention. Squander Two linked to it. Bertram Online couldn't quite tell the difference from the original. The Shamrockshire Eagle gave it a plug. Even Oliver Kamm visited and had a look for about ten minutes, if his IP address provides a reasonable benchmark.

Well, much as it matters now, I am responsible for this . I was briefly ashamed of having taken any time or trouble to malign a fine, conscientious character from the right-wing of the social-democratic movement. Then, however, it occurred to me that at least I am not responsible for this .

About which, Charlotte Street has a few pertinent words .

If anyone out there resembles this character known as Mr Kampf, I am deeply, deeply sorry. I'm not sorry if you're offended, I'm just sorry that you are Oliver Kamm.

Update: For all my efforts, I could never have concocted anything as riproaringly hilarious, as desperately disingenuous, as feebly bourgeois as this . Must try harder.

12:09:00 am | Permalink | Comments thread | | Print | Digg | del.icio.us | reddit | StumbleUpon | diigo it | Share| Flattr this

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Stopping the war; ending the occupation. posted by Richard Seymour

Let's first of all be clear on what the stakes are. The occupation of Iraq is unpopular with Iraqis, and increasingly so with the populations of the occupying countries. In Britain, 71% of the public want the government to set a date for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, 'a big swing in public mood since May when 45 per cent of British voters told ICM the troops should remain in Iraq "for as long as necessary".' This is because the failure of the occupation is blazingly apparent except to the wilfully purblind ("give it a few more months, darlings, we'll settle the natives down!"). It is a failure because it is unpopular, because those conducting the war have promulgated policies that have made most Iraqis worst off. The dogmatic insistence on privatising whatever was public, the military suppression of dissidence, the fencing off of entire villages, the house raids, the indiscriminate bombing, the shooting up of cars - the result of all of this has been super-inflating unemployment, crime and instability, the complete erosion of any hope that the occupation might deliver, as a bare minimum, some peace and freedom. It has supplied resistance groups with anything between 20-50,000 active supporters . The news headlines have been dominated by kidnappings, but Iraqi Democrats Against the Occupation report:

The wave of kidnappings in Iraq reflects one small aspect of the deteriorating security situation under occupation. The predominant picture, however, is that of widespread resistance to US-British occupation of Iraq, resulting in more than 87 attacks per day on occupation forces, and of daily bombardment by US forces of Falluja and other areas of Iraq, killings many Iraqi citizens daily. These escalations seem to be in preparation for the next war against the people of Iraq, a war that Tony Blair and the US government have already started talking about.
They cite the left-wing Baghdad newspaper, Al Ghad :

The occupation forces instigated the present round of fighting, according to a plan to end the mass movement of the 'Al Sadr Current' with brute force in order to silence all patriotic opposition and to break the people's will and finally impose a regime which is to the liking of the USA. They used the local police to provoke the fighting, after their failure to rule Iraq directly; they introduced the Interim Governing Council, composed of some political parties, which collaborated with the occupation. These parties lost all credibility with the people. The occupiers presented the Interim Governing Council as a legal entity to the international community and followed that by the current interim regime and the so called interim Parliament, the members of which are chosen from the same parties. The occupiers are still waging war all over Iraq's other cities especially Al Thoura/ Sadr town east of Baghdad, Tell Afar, Fallujah and other southern cities.
Last weekend, up to 100,000 demonstrators rallied through London to demand an end to the occupation - this was a demonstration that had received very little advance publicity and (to my dismay) not a great deal of campaigning either. Many critics of the Stop the War Coalition (STWC) have pointed out that as a successful mass movement, it failed in stopping the war. Well, like the UN inspectors, we could do with a little more time. It was always going to be a difficult task to stop a highly ideological Prime Minister with water-spined backbenchers falling all over him from following through on plans he had long developed with his fundamentalist ally in the Whitehouse. But the STWC clearly still poses a threat to the Prime Minister, to MPs who supported the war and to those who wish to prolong the occupation. It still works, for all that has been said about it, and said against it.

Now, let's turn to the split rumours , which Doug Ireland has provided a compact summary of. Unison have allegedly threatened to quit the coalition, because of claims that it has been seeking to undermine Dave Prentis, the general-secretary. Before I go any further, I think it bears remembering the most Unison members are unlikely to support such a move. Mick Rix, the left-wing former head of Aslef, resigned from the steering committee because the STWC had criticised Abdullah Muhsin's role, as a representative of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU) in swaying the vote at Labour conference against the resolutions in favour of withdrawing British troops. Unison's deputy general-secretary also complains that:

"It's not for us to tell unions in other countries how to operate. We have to listen to what they want ... We have told the coalition we are considering our position."
He is perfectly aware, of course, that the criticism was directed at activities in this country, which were part of a stitch-up organised by the leadership of the Labour Party.

Muhsin, to his credit, has tried to deny his role in seeking to influence the vote - which at least displays some awareness of what a disgrace his actions were, particularly since his union is nominally opposed to the occupation. Unfortunately, Unison have already published his open letter to delegates, proving that he did. He had previously lobbied on Allawi's behalf - perhaps in part because the IFTU is the only legal workers' organisation in Allawi's Iraq .

Other trade unions in Iraq also sent a letter to the Labour conference , but it was not prepared and handed to delegates by the Labour party machinery:

Our appeal and demand from the TUC conference and the trade unions, and the freedom seekers is to support the other force which stands against the terrorist front by its radical and human banners. It was you who stood against the war on Iraq and it gave people of Iraq a great hope and proved that our world is not only terrorists’ grave yard, and it is not only warmongers’ world. However, there is a radical, human, and strong front operates in the political arena and if we get together and unite, then the world would change to a peaceful, secure, and well-being world. A world free of terror, and terrorism. An egalitarian world, and freedom for all.

We under the leadership of the worker communist party of Iraq, were a part of your movement. Our demand from your conference today is the demand of a movement which sees its destiny from your solidarity for a better world. The worker’s movement, and organisations in Iraq are in more need than any other time for your support. A support to enable the workers to establish a government that recognizes their freedom and workers’ rights and to save them from war, hunger, and unemployment.
I don't know how this can have got by those eager devotees of the Iraqi working class within the Labour Party.

The coalition were not the only ones to criticise the IFTU. Hani Lazim of Iraqi Democrats Against the Occupation explained :

THE IFTU claims that it speaks on behalf of Iraqi trade unions. This is not true. They are self appointed leaders.

There are four trade union movements in Iraq. The first one was a coalition of the left. The US, backed up by the interim president Iyad Allawi and his entourage, went in and smashed it.

Abdullah Muhsin lives in Britain. He is a political refugee and a leading member of the Iraqi Communist Party, a party that is collaborating with the occupation. The Communist Party has ministers in the interim governing council.

These people collaborated with Saddam in the 1970s, using violence against anyone who resisted his rule. They shouted their heads off in support of the Soviet Union in the 1980s. When the Soviet Union went, they jumped to the CIA.

Some trade unionists have officially invited Muhsin here. There is a question mark over some of the people who are promoting him and the sincerity of their stand on the war. The IFTU has to be opposed.

If you are part of a government that allows the US to bomb towns like Fallujah and the al-Sadr area of Baghdad, don’t tell me you oppose the occupation. It has allowed areas like Tal Afar to be emptied, and people are forced to live as refugees. Most parts of Iraq are very angry. People have had one and a half years with no chance of a job.
Now, whatever view you take of the IFTU, there is no reason on earth why their vigorous campaigning on behalf of the continued occupation of Iraq should not be criticised by the anti-occupation Left, particularly since that campaigning has included collusion with those who have been bombing Iraq not only since Spring of 2003, but for over a decade. There seems to be a view solidifying in the leadership of the TUC that the occupation should continue - which is exactly how they voted at Labour conference, despite the positions adopted democratically at their own conferences. As The Guardian reports:

The TUC is trying to raise cash for the federation, and seems to be increasingly supportive of its view that the troops are needed to prevent Iraq breaking up or an Islamic fundamentalist state being formed.
It is tempting to conclude that the union leaders are eager to find a way of breaking from their commitments and betraying the decisions of their members without appearing to do so. Hence, apparently baseless accusations against the STWC of attempting to 'undermine' Dave Prentis (as if he needed any help), and frothy-mouthed assertions about STWC "abuse" of Abdullah Muhsin.

So, my suggestion is this: those union leaders genuinely committed to ending the brutal occupation of Iraq will seek to resolve their differences with the STWC and dedicate themselves to supporting its efforts. Those eager to make a break for opportunistic reasons of their own (perhaps relating to that awesome Warwick agreement ) will continue to bleat about abuse and trump up bogus charges. The red herrings about past support for the Soviet Union will be dragged out (as if many pro-war leftists had not been ardent Stalinists at one time or another).

For the rest of us, there is ample public support to be working with. The arguments against the occupation are rock solid and the time is ripe to hit hard with them. It is time to get the troops out. The outspoken attacks on the Prime Minister by Paul Bigley, and by Rose and Maxine Gentle, have blasted that golden gloriole of his to shreds. Labour MPs who supported the war are fearful for their constituencies now that British troops may be deployed to help the US put down the uprising and take back liberated cities. It is time to end the shameful public displays of bitching and get down to the hard task of not only ending this war and occupation, but also making it nigh on impossible for a future government to secure sufficient consent for future wars. This is no time for more Life of Brian-style splitting.

Update: Dead Men Left has a blazing critique of the IFTU in a statement from Iraqi exile Sami Ramadani . It is quite long, but well worth the read.

11:18:00 am | Permalink | Comments thread | | Print | Digg | del.icio.us | reddit | StumbleUpon | diigo it | Share| Flattr this

Saturday, October 23, 2004

New Links. posted by Richard Seymour

Just to introduce readers to a few new links on the "New Blog Roll" section (and therefore divert your attention from my recent lethargy).

Doug Ireland is a quare Mick, and this is not the only felicitous personality trait he shares with Oscar Wilde. A friend and foe of Christoper Hitchens, sometime radical journalist and life-long member of the human race (not as statistically probably as it may seem), he is also a witty and erudite commentator on contemporary politics. He calls his blog, DIRELAND, which is not merely a compression of his delightfully proletarian name, but also an allusion to the land-mass on which he subsists. (What? Well, think about it... no, think some more... ah well, fuck off then!)

Bayou Ranter is yet another of those US conservatives I seem to periodically attract. I don't mind as such - in fact, I rather like their attention. Political conservatism is a strange animal, in that one often finds its professed adherents nodding enthusiastically at something espoused by a member of the Far Left. The neocons will often evince a demented concern for human rights (demented, because it usually involves suspending precisely those rights for some unfortunate group of people - Iraqis, Afghans, guests at Guantanamo). Paleoconservatives will mount principled arguments against imperialism and authoritarianism (except when it comes to the refinements of Cold War measures against the commies, at home and abroad). Tory wets will enthuse about social justice and inclusivity like simpering liberals. I don't know how to place the Bayou Ranter in all this, but his/her attention is welcome and you may as well pop in and say hello. It's only polite.


More to follow...

10:10:00 pm | Permalink | Comments thread | | Print | Digg | del.icio.us | reddit | StumbleUpon | diigo it | Share| Flattr this

Friday, October 22, 2004

Anti-Americanism & Iraqi Democracy. posted by Richard Seymour

Just links this morning. Over at Charlotte Street, there are a couple of excellent posts on America and its discontents. First, on anti-Americanism :

In fact the Anti-Americans and those who casually use the term ‘Anti-American’ are joined by a common error, a common inadmissible conflation. They make some particular object or attitude stand for the empty universality of ‘America’. It is noticeable that only certain things are conflated with “America’, nailed to this ‘master signifier’. Not jazz or the American novel, not the American Trade Union tradition, not New York or Abstract Expressionism and so on and so forth (see Arundhati Roy, below). You can love all these things, but be accused of ‘anti-Americanism’ if you then criticize the actions of a government who failed even to win the popular vote. I recall somebody making the above point, I forget where, but they mentioned the novels of Tony Morrison, James Baldwin; they mentioned Langston Hughes and the Beat poets and a myriad of other things that they loves even as they opposed the war. The reply, quite strikingly, was that non of the things she had mentioned were quintessentially ‘American’ – she had named fringe or oppositional phenomenon. The Republican tradition, on the other hand, was a central part of ‘American tradition’ and if you hated it then it followed that you hated America. This is transparently political of course. Ultimately, we are talking here about hegemony. It is hegemony which attempts to attach some particular content (eg The Republican tradition) to some abstraction, some ‘master signifier’ like America. It is the hegemonic operation which says if you hate x then you hate America (or whatever) or, alternatively, if you hate America you hate Freedom , which tries to make the identification between the master signifier and the particular content indissoluble, self-evident.


Secondly, on the smoldering Bush :

He is designated not by a proper name but by a letter, W., which signifies nothing but the sheer diacritical gap separating him from his Father. He lives in this space, the interstices of the paternal name, like some Lacanian allegory. Puling son of Noboddady, seemingly baffled by his own existence. The earpiece of the Symbolic Order introduces something foreign into his head – it is language. It passes through the refractory medium of his body and exits the mouth – only a few paralogical ripples betray the presence of the suffering body.

The blankness of Bush, his emptyness, the absence of distinctive qualities... these are not to be thought of in contradiction to his status as 'leader'. On the contrary, they are essential components. Bush is nobody and everyone, a template that any American might fill. He can act as a cypher, a mouthpiece for other's voices (and this is of course given an uncannily literal twist).


Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports that the Islamists are likely to win any future election in Iraq, that Allawi's support has plummeted, that more people blame the 'coalition' for violence in Iraq than 'foreign fighters' or even 'terrorists'. This must be quite a blog for the Post, which would rather be publishing CIA propaganda .

Finally, I know I shouldn't, but I had a little chuckle over this: culpable and whingeing , indeed! Anyone who relies on a report by the pitiful Con Coughlin in any context is obviously culpable in some sense, but whingeing? Remember what I said about projection...

10:57:00 am | Permalink | Comments thread | | Print | Digg | del.icio.us | reddit | StumbleUpon | diigo it | Share| Flattr this

Thursday, October 21, 2004

BBC: No foreign fighters in Fallujah. posted by Richard Seymour

Fallujah is being bombed because... well, we are told that al-Zarqawi is there, there are foreign fighters there, we have to uproot them etc. Apparently not :

I am not aware of any foreign fighters in Falluja.

If there are any foreigners here, they have blended in very well with the locals.

Foreigners used to frequent the city in the past, but many of them were forced to leave under a deal the city's leaders struck with the government.

Ninety-nine percent of the fighters here are Fallujans.

Local clan leaders are broadly opposed to any kind of foreign presence in the city because they fear they may be spies.


It is nice to know, however, that as the bombing continues it will cause even more suffering than might otherwise be anticipated because:

Hospitals have all but run out of supplies and most people know this ...

The Iraqi health ministry has not sent any extra supplies.

Food supplies are also running out. All shops are shut.

Some people who fled the city a few days ago have begun returning because they ran out of food.


The recent controversy over sending British troops to more dangerous parts of Iraq may seem, on the face of it, to be a distraction from the main issue, which is that tens of thousands of Iraqis have been slaughtered and they are continuing to be killed by both British and American troops. Some may see it as simple self-regarding nationalism etc. Now, clearly there are problems of consistency for anyone who supported the war, continues to support the occupation and hopes for its success, but somehow wishes to hold back support on this issue. That said, I think we on the anti-war Left have to be very happy that this has erupted in the way that it has. Because, aside from it manifesting the serious worries that backbench MPs have over their electoral base deserting them as the war goes even more pear-shaped, any moves that will limit the efficacy of 'coalition' operations in Iraq must be considered a good thing.

Troops out, Blair out, me in - I think I could run on that slogan and win.

8:05:00 pm | Permalink | Comments thread | | Print | Digg | del.icio.us | reddit | StumbleUpon | diigo it | Share| Flattr this

Racism and Conquest in Palestine: 1. posted by Richard Seymour

Early Zionist racism



Plan Dalet, the Zionist plan for the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from what would become the State of Israel, undercuts the mythology that Haganah and the Irgun were compelled by war to expel the Arabs and commit the massacres that they did. (Uri Milstein, an authoritative Israeli military historian, suggests that "every skirmish" in the 1948 war "ended in a massacre of Arabs"). And the reasons for this are reasonably well known - both Labour and Revisionist wings of Zionism were committed to the Greater Israel which would have fluid, biblical borders rather than be contained in a defined land mass. The Zionists had never any intention of accepting even the unfair division of Palestine proffered by either the Peel Commission or, later, the UN. Ben Gurion explained in 1937 that "Transfer [of Palestinians] is what will make possible a comprehensive Jewish settlement programme. Jewish power will increase our possibilities to carry out the transfer on a large scale." Later, he told the Zionist Congress, "we will abolish partition and spread throughout all of Palestine" (quoted in Benny Morris, Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, p. 24. See, for more on this, Avi Shlaim's The Iron Wall, particularly pp 16-19, or Ilan Pappe's The Making of the Arab-Israeli conflict, 1947-1951).

What remains to be explained is the ease with which these massacres could be carried out, what Norman Finkelstein calls "the unprecedented facility with violence demonstrated by the Jews who conquered Palestine. There is a particular, condescending kind of racism involved in Labour Zionism, for one. After all, David Ben Gurion had it that the "Hebrew worker [would] stand at the vanguard of the movement of liberation and reawakening of Near Eastern peoples". Elsewhere, he averred that the Arab workers would see the profit in the Zionist enterprise since they would see their lot improve by working with sophisticated European labourers who would teach them skills etc. This was mighty generous of Ben Gurion, for it was he who had also accused the Arabs of "destroying" the Land of Israel, even going so far as to claim that the earth had remained fallow for the entire time of the (mythical) period of Jewish Exile, writing of the "foul miasma" that arose from the earth after being "ploughed for the first time in 2000 years". (See Norman Finkelstein, Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, 1995, p111; John Rose, The Myths of Zionism, 2004, p14).

Of course, the racism on the Revisionist side was always more immediately noxious. Vladimir Jabotinsky, an admirer of Mussolini, believed simply in the superiority of the Jews as a people. The infamous Rabbi Meir Kahane, founder of the Jewish Defense League, once wrote that:

"We are different, we are a chosen one, and a special one, selected for purity and holiness. There is no reason to being a Jew, unless there is something intrinsically different about him. No, we are not equal to Gentiles, we are different. We are higher."


Anti-Arab racism had in fact been evident from the first wave of settlers in 1882, who (Anita Shapira reports) behaved as if "they were the rightful lords and masters of this land", while they believed Arabs "respected strength and that the language of physical force was the only idiom [they] understood". When any of the natives got out of line, the colonial instinct was to reach for the whip. Ahad Ha'am wrote in 1891 that the Zionists behaved "hostilely and cruelly to the Arabs, encroaching on them unjustly, beating them disgracefully for no good reason" - and they did not "hesitate to boast about their deeds". The Arabs were seen as 'sly', 'underhanded', 'cruel', 'cunning', 'immoral', 'lazy' and so forth. Hebrew writer Y H Brenner wrote, upon arriving at Haifa, "there's another sort of alien in the world that one must suffer from. ... Even from that filthy, contaminated lot, you have to suffer." Uri Zvi Greenberg, a Labour Zionist in the 1920s, was also the author of Hebrew hate literature against the Arabs, describing the Arab as "a murderer, knife honed and dipped in poison". Anita Shapira recalls that socialist Zionists like Ben Gurion were "not repelled" by Greenberg's "malevolent description of Arabs" because they "answered to their 'gut perceptions' of reality". Another Labour Zionist, Tabenkin, expatiated frequently on the need for peace, yet managed to pepper his statements with descriptions of Arab barbarism, and the insistence that they "understood one thing only, namely, force".

As the Arab revolt reached its peak, the labour Zionist press denounced the Arabs as "murderers", "bands of robbers", "desert savages", "jackals", "barbarians" and so forth. Eliezer Yaffe, an anarchist, derided the "savages of the desert, who live by the sword, by robbery". Indeed, as the Arab revolt went on, the fabled "purity of arms" (in which the Zionists would allegedly never harm Arab civilians) was quietly dispensed with and young Jewish men were recruited by the British. They inflicted collective punishment on Arab villages deemed to be hiding rebel gangs and were, as recorded in some posts below, quite ruthless in the use of torture and execution. (Norman Finkelstein, op cit, pp 111-4).

One recalls this correlation between anti-Arab racism and the Zionist "facility with violence" when Ehud Barak says that lying is a cultural trait of the Arabs , or when Benny Morris - a supposedly left-wing Israeli historian - finds the time to condemn Ben Gurion for being too soft on the Arabs and not expelling the whole ruddy lot of them from the entire land of Israel. Zionism is a racist ideology and a racist practise. Future posts will talk more about the structural racism of the Israeli state and modern racism against the Palestinians.

12:46:00 pm | Permalink | Comments thread | | Print | Digg | del.icio.us | reddit | StumbleUpon | diigo it | Share| Flattr this

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Israel is a racist state (redux) posted by Richard Seymour

Not only can you not say certain things, it seems, but soon they will be against the law (if you live in France). A report commissioned by the French government, endorsed by Dominique Villepin, has reached some disgraceful conclusions:


Pronounced anti-Zionism amounted to a form of anti-semitism and should be equally reprimanded, [Mr Rufin] said. "Anti-Zionism legitimises the Palestinian armed struggle even when it targets innocent civilians," he said. "Thus it could also legitimise violent acts committed in France. By the same token, accusations of racism, apartheid and nazism against Israel could by extension put France's own Jewish population in danger."

Among possible ways forward, Mr Rufin urged legislation specifically targeting anti-semitic and racist acts. French law generally views racial motivation as an aggravating factor in an attack, not as an offence in itself. The public expression of anti-semitic or racist views or insults is covered only by the highly complex and unwieldy 1881 Press Act. (Via Jews Sans Frontieres


For shame - opposing a racist state will now be considered anti-Semitic!

The nonsense of conflating criticism of Israel with Jew-hatred is not merely shameful because of the implications for free speech - it is a stain on the struggle of anti-racists everywhere who have always opposed all forms of racism, be it against Jew or Arab. For this reason, my next few posts will isolate the specifically racist themes in Zionist ideology and Israeli policy. For now, you can have a read of this .

8:56:00 pm | Permalink | Comments thread | | Print | Digg | del.icio.us | reddit | StumbleUpon | diigo it | Share| Flattr this

Nader bashing; Kerry delusions. posted by Richard Seymour

Surprisingly, today's Guardian has the usually excellent Gary Younge recycling the Democrats' favourite trope about Ralph Nader taking Republican money:

Many Democrats still loathe Mr Nader, accusing him of handing the election to Mr Bush in 2000 by taking potential votes from Mr Gore. Their contempt has intensified since he decided to run again and took money from prominent Republicans to do so. In the past year they have tried every possible legal means to keep him off the ballot in each state, advising Democrats not to sign his petitions and challenging the signatures he does get.


As my blogging comrade Dead Men Left pointed out when the Observer tried to peddle this nonsense, its a red herring:

[T]hese supposedly Republican backers gave more money to the Democrats: $66,000 for Kerry, $54,000 for Nader. Only 4% of Nader's funding has come from those also funding the Republicans ... And if Republicans have wanted to assist Nader's campaign...? As Lenin didn't say, "the capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them."


Younge also reports a conversation with someone who was interested in voting for Nader, but in the end cast an early ballot for Kerry:

"I liked what he had to say about healthcare, the war and the minimum wage. Nader is my ideal candidate. But Kerry would not appoint justices to the supreme court who would impact on abortion rights, and I decided that was more important to me."


Aside from being a rather miserable reason to vote for deputy dawg, this happens to be completely untrue, as I pointed out some time ago . Kerry has already said and repeated that he "would not hesitate" to appoint anti-abortion judges to the supreme court. Indeed, Kerry goes so far as to stipulate that he has voted for judges who are anti-abortion before. Bush's appointments, by contrast, have so far been impeccably pro-choice.

Younge also turns in a strange in accuracy:

Many of Mr Nader's most prominent supporters, including the film-maker Michael Moore, the academic Noam Chomsky and the campaigning journalist Barbara Ehrenreich, have called on him to stand down.


Moore's actions are a matter of public record, and an unfortunate blemish on a barnstorming radical career. Ehrenreich has attacked Nader's candidacy (suggesting as she did that if Dennis Kucinich failed to become the Democratic presidential candidate that she may have to reconsider her options). But Noam Chomsky has not called on Ralph Nader to stand down. While calling for a vote for Kerry/Edwards in swing states, he has indicated that he himself plans to vote Nader in his safe state and thinks that is "fine".

The fervour with which liberals in the US and UK media have wielded the stick against Nader certainly has something to do with Bush's unforeseen extremism. On the other hand, Kerry has done the old Clinton thang, triangulated, and found a way to repackage almost every element of the Bush gang's agenda in Democrat clothing. It is this latter fact that Kerry's left supporters have so far proven unwilling to confront - and, as it has become more and more obvious just what a dud Kerry is, the attacks on Nader have become more and more hysterical.

10:51:00 am | Permalink | Comments thread | | Print | Digg | del.icio.us | reddit | StumbleUpon | diigo it | Share| Flattr this

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Family resemblances and blood relations. posted by Richard Seymour

Zionism is not fascism and Ariel Sharon is not Adolf Hitler. That ends my tour of the patently obvious. I would now like to take you through some of the ideological overlaps between Zionism and fascism - simply because it needs bringing attention to. If you don't like it, discount for prejudice, and compare it to something else you find even more offensive:

The full gamut of the Zionist movement made much of what was dubbed the 'historical right' ([Anita] Shapira also refers to it as the 'proprietary right') of the Jews to Palestine. It was a "right that required no proof ... a fundamental component of all Zionist programmes". Steeped in German Romanticism, the claim was that because the forefathers of the Jewish people had originated and been buried in Palestine, Jews could only - and only Jews could - establish an authentic, organic connection with the soil there. Noting the 'German source', Shapira points to the 'recurrent motif' in Zionism of the 'mysticism that links blood and soil', the "cult of heroes, death and graves", the belief that "graves are the source of the vital link with the land, and they generate the loyalty of man to that soil", and that "blood fructifies the soil (in an almost literal sense)", and so on. Even so sober a thinker as Ahad Ha'am could aver that Palestine was "a land to which our historical right is beyond doubt and has no need for far-fetched proofs". The veteran Zionist leader, Mennahem Ussishkin, pushed the logic of the argument to its ultimate, if fantastic, conclusion, stating that "the Arabs recognise unconditionally the historic title of the Jews to the land".

This sort of 'historic right' was also siezed by the Romantic precursors of Nazism and, with a vengeance, by the Nazis themselves, to justify the conquest of the East. Germany was said to have legitimate claims on Slavic territory (especially but not limited to Poland) since it was "already inhabited by the Germans in primeval times", "fertilised by the most noble ancient German blood", "germanic for many centuries and long before a Slav set foot there", "teutonic-German Volksbloden for 3,000 years as far as the Vistula. ... In the 6th and 7th Century after Christ the Slavs pushed outward from their eastern homelands and into the ancient German land... - admittedly only for a few hundred years", etc. The Slavic 'interlopers', by contrast, were seen as 'history's squatters' who merely 'existed' in surroundings that they 'could not master' ... Thus in 1939, the eminent pro-Nazi historian, Albert Brackmann, portrayed Germany as Europe's 'defender' and 'bulwark' against the 'East', and the 'bearers of civilisation' against 'barbarism'. A half century earlier, Theodor Herzl portrayed the prospective Jewish state as Europe's "wall of defense against Asia", and an "outpost of civilisation against barbarism".

...

[T]he claim of Jewish 'homelessness' is founded in a cluster of assumptions that both negates the idea of liberal citizenship and duplicates the anti-Semitic one that the state belongs to the majority ethnic nation. In a word, the Zionist case for a Jewish state is as valid or as invalid as he anti-Semitic case for an ethnic state that marginalizes Jews. (Norman Finkelstein, Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, Verso, 1995, pp 100-1).


Zionism does not merely seek to create a Jewish state on someone else's land - in doing so, it internalises the anti-Semitic view of Jews as being somehow 'foreign' to Europe. Hence, the notoriously shameful behaviour of the Zionist Federation of Germany during the 1930s, and Ben Gurion's interesting thought as Jews were being gassed by the Nazis: "If I knew that it would be possible to save all the children in Germany by bringing them over to England and only half of them by transporting them to Eretz Israel, then I opt for the second alternative." Hence, the President of the World Zionist Organisation telling the world as far back as 1912: “each country can only absorb a limited number of Jews … Germany has already too many Jews”. Interestingly, the above argument often yields the old argumentum ad baculum fallacy - you cannot hold this view because it could easily lead to, or could be interpreted as, and may give succour to... Rarely is it argued against on its factual merits.

10:53:00 pm | Permalink | Comments thread | | Print | Digg | del.icio.us | reddit | StumbleUpon | diigo it | Share| Flattr this

"Israel is a racist state". posted by Richard Seymour

There are some things you just can't say :

"You say Israel is a democratic state, let me rapidly add that it is also a racist state...The law of return only concerns Jews. What is the basis of Zionism? It is to make a state for the Jews." - Alain Menargues, ex-head of news Radio France International.

9:18:00 am | Permalink | Comments thread | | Print | Digg | del.icio.us | reddit | StumbleUpon | diigo it | Share| Flattr this

Monday, October 18, 2004

One Palestine, Complete. posted by Richard Seymour

This posts serves as a prelude to a series of posts I will be writing about why I consider the idea of a 'two-state' solution in Palestine both morally and politically bankrupt. This doesn't involve an argument for any other proposition, but it emphatically also won't involve or allow for any suggestion that the Jews presently living in the state of Israel should be deprived of their right to live on that land in peace and security. My objection is to the polity that is based on ethnic exclusion, and about which I posit a number of theses. These will be, roughly, as follows:

1) Zionism has always been coextensive with colonialism and imperialism.
2) The ethnic cleansing of Palestinians was by design, not a product of war, a logical and necessary result of implementing the Zionist idea.
3) Zionism is in its articulation and practise a racist ideology.
4) Zionism has an inherent expansionary dynamic.

These seem to me to make the persistence of Israel as a state devoted to maintaining a dominative majority of one ethnic group untenable.

What follows is a potted history of the pre-Israel conflict, through which I hope to draw out some of these themes. I have written much of this before and a large amount of the material is drawn from David Hirst's excellent book The Gun and the Olive Branch.


Zionism: The Wonder Years.


In 1899, the Chief Rabbi of France and good friend of Theodor Herzl, Zadoc Khan, received a letter from Yusuf Zia al-Khalidi, urging the Zionist movement to withdraw their claim to Palestine. God knows, he wrote, historically it is indeed your own country. But since Palestine was already inhabited, the Zionists might find an almighty uprising facing them if they tried to make their state there.

When Theodor Herzl, the grand pappy of political Zionism replied to al-Khalidi, it was with reassurances and soothing unction. The Arabs had "nothing to fear" from Jewish immigration. The Jews would bring their civilisation and raise the quality of life for their Arab brothers. They were not backed by some "belligerent Power", and were not of a "warlike nature". (Central Zionist Archives, Jerusalem, H111 d 14, 1st March, 1889)

Herzl, however, was aware that an influx of interlopers into Palestine would "end badly...unless based on assured supremacy", which could only come through statehood. (Theodor Herzl, "The Jewish State", page 29). Herzl told his diaries that to this end, the Zionists would have to acquire the land of their choice by force. He himself was indifferent to where that land should be, but the prevalent opinion among Zionists was that Palestine was the homeland to which centripetal forces would drive the Jewish people. (Herzl, "Besammelte, Zionistiche Schriften", Volume I, page 114). To expedite this process, he sought the assistance of the imperial powers of the age. For instance, in 1901 he travelled to Constantinople seeking the establishment of a Jewish-Ottoman Colonisation Association in Palestine. He sought to agree the rudiments of a draft charter, Article Three of which would have granted the Jews the right to deport the native population. Many of the continuing themes of Zionism are evident here, the latter of which is rendered starkly eloquent by the Sharonist plans to "transfer" Palestinians across the Jordanian and Syrian borders under the cover of war on Iraq, while securing as much of the Occupied Territories for Greater Israel as possible.
(Adolf Bohm, "Die Zionistiche Bewegung", 1935, page 706).

Dissimulation was a crucial part of this project, as it often is when political projects involve the acquiescence or active involvement of people who are sure to lose out from the fulfilment of the ideal. Max Nordau, a close associate of Herzl, wrote that it was he who had coined the term "Heimstatte" (Homeland):

"I did my best to persuade the advocates of the Jewish state in Palestine that we might find a circumlocution... I suggested "Heimstatte" as a synonym for 'state'... to us it signified "Judenstaat" (Jewish state) and it signifies the same now..." (Christopher Sykes, "Two Studies in Virtue", 1953).

The enterprise begins


The Zionist project began in earnest in 1882, with the first 'Aliyah' or wave of immigration. At this time there were already 24,000 Jews in Palestine, mainly elderly indigents seeking expiry in the holy land. The new generation of migrants, while not devotees of the Herzlian grand narrative, were nevertheless "Lovers of Zion", intent on founding agricultural settlements as a refuge from East European and Russian anti-Semitism. From 1882 to 1914, the Jewish population in Palestine rose to 85,000 - dropping again to 56,000 as a result of the Great War. The reaction of Palestinians, of whom 75% were land-bound peasants, was one of apprehension: "Is it true that the Jews want to retake this country?" villagers were said to have asked Albert Antebi, an official of the Jewish Colonial Association. (Sami Hadawi, "Bitter Harvest", 1967; L. Oliphant, "Haifa, or Life in Modern Palestine", 1887; Neville Mandel, "Turks, Arabs and Jewish immigration into Palestine, 1882-1914", St Antony's Papers, "Middle Eastern Affairs", 1965).

Peasants were usually not present when their land was being sold off to the settlers, and often their first inkling of a sale was when the estate agents turned up to have a butchers and stake out the land. Consequently, one of the first examples of Palestinian resistance as when some estate agents observing the land recently purchased from the Sursock family of Beirut suddenly had the shit kicked out of them by angry villagers. Settlements and colonies were frequently attacked, harassed, robbed and viciously made fun of.

As each settlement overcame resistance and established itself as a "fact on the ground", Arabs were willing to reconcile themselves to its presence. (Mandel, op cit.) However, the next wave of immigrants was more ideological, armed with Herzl and Hebrew, spurred by anti-Semitism. The Jewish National Fund, established in 1901, stipulated that all lands bought with its cash were to remain the inalienable property of the Jewish state. According to the migrants, only Jews should own the land and only Jews should work the land. The drive to establish Hebrew-only labour was not always successful. Dr Ruppin, the first head of the Zionist bureau in Palestine, records in his memoirs that he should have liked to build Tel Aviv without Arab involvement, but he soon found their low wages - ahem! - experience invaluable.

The second generation of settlers were also socialists, or at least blended nationalism and socialism at a time when it did not seem such a lethal brew. Agricultural communities were erected in which only Jews were entitled to participate. Histradut, the Hebrew trade union, did not allow non-Jewish members. Indeed, two of their key aims were to protect Jewish labour on the one hand, and Jewish commerce on the other. Arabs were not to be allowed to sell in Jewish areas, or work on Jewish land if avoidable. The reasoning was that Arabs were peasants, only a "potential proletariat" to whom "the international brotherhood of the workers" did not apply. These enlightening sobriquets, combining mutilated Marxism and condescending colonial attitudes, expressed both the noble aspirations and the base goals of the Zionist conquerors. (Ro'i Yaacov, "The Zionist Attitude to the Arabs, 1908-14", Middle Eastern Studies, Vol IV, April 1968). The Arabs, at any rate, would benefit from their presence. So argued these migrants, Herzl before them, and Ben Gurion after.

The genesis of what Uri Avneri calls "gun Zionism" may be the founding of a group called "Hashomer" (The Guardian - a felicitous appellation as it turns out). The aim of this outfit was initially to replace Arab guards with Jewish guards, because after all it was Jewish property, and... In 1909, a secret organisation was founded, among whose luminaries was future President of Israel, Yitzhak Ben Zvi. Ben Gurion was among the first to acknowledge the inevitability of the militarisation of the Zionist presence in Palestine. In this world, he said, only force could win the argument. No argument has determinacy which is between friends. Armed foes settle much more quickly, with the vanquishment or death of one, and victory of the other.

The Palestinian response to this threat was two-fold – the majority of Palestinians looked to the Ottoman state for some kind of succour, while some argued for an organised armed response based around an attainable programme. Najib Nassar, a Christian from Haifa, said that the best response to Zionism was to mirror its purpose, skill and organisational zeal. Herzl, he said, had united a scattered people in just fifteen years, with a purpose, a doctrine and some apparently attainable goals. They had bought the best land in Palestine, and opened banks to finance the farmers on it. The Arabs, he said, could only win if they did likewise. From essentially apolitical eruptions of violence, the Palestinian resistance against the Zionist colonisers grew to become the core political issue in the country by 1914. Not just peasants, but small traders and professionals began to organise against the Zionists. The small traders in particular saw the incoming Zionists as potentially devastating commercial competitors.

Najib Nassar published a paper called Carmel, in which he began to document the genesis and goals of the Zionist movement. He was also instrumental in building a vigilante organisation which would attend ports and harbours, ensuring strict enforcement of immigration restrictions. And while some smaller Arab nationalist parties, such as the Decentralisation Party, sought compromise with the Zionists, the prevalent response was that the settlers should be fought with every energy and vigour available. Even if the moderates had represented the majority, the Zionists wanted no part of it. An agreement with the moderates would have involved the Zionists explaining "as far as possible by producing documentary evidence, the aims and methods of Zionism..." The Zionists were not up for that, since they saw little to negotiate over and were unwilling to lay bare the extent of their aims. They procrastinated and in the end were saved by the First World War.

The war proved a massive opportunity for the Zionists. The Ottoman Empire was collapsing, and lands taken from them would be divided up among the victorious powers. Joseph Trumpeldor and Vladimir Jabotinsky created the Zion Mule Corps, a Jewish fighting unit which served with the British at Gallipoli. Toward the end of the war, Jabotinsky also formed "The Jewish Legion", four battalions of Royal Fusiliers, 5,000-strong, fighting under the Union Jack. In developing the military strength and dexterity of the Zionist foot soldiers, both Jabotinsky and Aaron Aaronsohn hoped to create a military force capable of crushing the Palestinians, while at the same time breaking the sterile Gentile myth about the passive Jew. Jews, they wanted to prove, could be strongmen too. Jabotinsky, one of the most famous 'revisionist' Zionists of the time, was an unabashed reactionary, admirer of Mussolini and anti-Arab racist. He formulated the "Iron Wall" doctrine, in which he recognised that the Palestinians would never accede to the Jewish state unless they were FORCED to. Therefore, the Jews should build a vast, military 'iron wall' that would crush the Palestinian resistance until they HAD to negotiate. (Avi Shlaim, "The Iron Wall", 2001). Alexander Aaronsohn remarked that "[t]he Arab is a cunning fellow whose only respect is for brute force. He exercises it himself for every possible victim and expects the same treatment from his superiors." (Alex Aaronsohn, "With the Turks in Palestine", 1917). These 'revisionist' Zionists were more doctrinaire in their contempt for the Arab population, and also more willing to accept the human cost that would come with their project to seize Palestine.

Official Zionism, exemplified by the skilled diplomat Chaim Weizmann, was contemptuous of the revisionists. For, while Jabotinsky et al prepared for conflict, Weizmann negotiated painstakingly with the imperial powers to achieve what Herzl had been unable to: an international power agreeing the framework for a Jewish state in Palestine.

Two documents emerged in the war years, one in 1916 the other in 1917. The first was the Sykes-Picot agreement, in which Russia, Britain and France agreed to divvy up the Middle East between them. This document was made public by the Bolshevik hell-raisers, causing enormous embarrassment for the British who had made promises to "recognise and support" the independence of the Arabs in the Arabian Peninsula, Palestine, Transjordan, Syria and Iraq. The second document, somewhat of an extension of the first but much more significant, was the Balfour Declaration. 117 words long, the letter composed by Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Arthur Balfour to Lord Rothschild stands as the most significant piece of literature written on the subject of Palestine before the inception of Israel. It expresses the British government's sympathy with the Zionist goal of establishing a Jewish homeland, provided "nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine".

Balfour had been Prime Minister at a time when Jewish immigration was restricted by the Aliens Act (not a theatrical production). Jewish refugees had been the apparent target of riots and protest in London. The Declaration was therefore a fruit of both the meticulous diplomacy of the Zionists, who deserve credit for the framing and wording of the document, and also the British desire to get Jews to migrate to Jaffa rather than London. Weizmann was careful to avoid letting this document be interpreted in public as the basis of a Jewish state. Homeland, certainly, but not statehood. And he warned the revisionists that they should not violate "the legitimate rights of Arabs" while assuring the Palestinians that the Zionists had no intention of attempting to wrest control of "the higher policy of the province of Palestine". Nor was it their objective to "turn anyone out of his property". (Speech to 14th Zionist Congress, 1925; Khalidi, op cit).

At the same time, Weizmann told Balfour that "[t]he Arabs... worship one thing, and only thing only - power and success... He screams as often as he can and blackmails as much as he can...". (Does anyone else think it’s at this point that the Zionists started to sound like Bond villains?) The British authorities knew "the treacherous nature of the Arab" and would understand it if they tried to place "misinterpretations and misconceptions" on Balfour's Declaration. In public, Weizmann occasionally let the staat out of the bag. At one speech, he trusted to God that a Jewish state would emerge, and insisted that the Balfour Declaration was "the golden key which unlocks the doors of Palestine" so that such conditions "political, economic and administrative" may be created to enable the influx of "a considerable number of immigrants, and finally establish such a society in Palestine that Palestine shall be as Jewish as England is English and America is American..." (Doreen Ingrams, "Palestine Papers 1917-1922", 1972; "Chaim Weizmann; excerpts from his Historic Statements, Writings and Addresses", The Jewish Agency for Palestine, 1952).

Balfour was sympathetic:

"[I]n Palestine, we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country... The Four Great Powers are committed to Zionism. And Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder importance than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land..." (Ingrams, op cit).

The first stirrings


On May 1st, 1921, mass riots and violence erupted across Palestine. Concentrated especially in areas where Jewish immigration was greatest, the trouble appeared initially to emerge from an inter-Jewish clash. The Socialist Revolutionary Party (known as the Mopsi) was a tiny tributary of the Second International, and it had taken to the streets to celebrate May Day in defiance of an official ban. They urged Jews and Arabs to unite and bring down the oppressors from England. As they proceeded, they encountered an officially sanctioned demonstration by Ahdot ha Avodah, a social democratic party, and a fight broke out.

Arabs, normally bemused and put off by shows of Jewish labour disturbance, and certainly too respectful of authority to join in, this time went on a rampage. It seems that a crowd of them had gathered around the quarrelling demonstrators, while the British cops attempted to keep the two sides apart. Sadly, the British police officer had not at that time any lengthy experience dealing with the British football hooligan, so their performance was tragically exiguous.

The feasibility of the Zionist state was rendered problematic. The poetry of the future was starkly contrasted with what Merleau-Ponty called the "prose of the world". Utopia was beginning to resemble the European dystopia. The Mopsi were feared and loathed by conservative Arabs because they imported a European doctrine of revolution and workers power, heralding a future of heretofore unknown industrial strife. Another thing that could be imported from Europe, of course, was anti-Semitism. For many Arabs, insurrection and anarchy were genetically inscribed into the Jew. These "vagabonds and outcasts" came with an alien culture and a tendency to upheaval. Their presence on the streets aggravated the sensibilities of many Arabs, not just those of a conservative disposition.

However, this fact alone was insufficient to explain the riots. The Arabs, it seemed, would have absorbed this 'alien culture' had it not been the aim of the Zionists to make it the only culture. Thomas Haycraft's Commission, set up to investigate the 1921 violence, recognised this fear:

"It is important that it should be realised that what is written on the subject of Zionism by Zionists and their sympathisers is read and discussed by Palestinian Arabs..." The Commission cited many Zionist works and newspapers calling for Palestine to be made "'as Jewish as England is English, or as Canada is Canadian'", the only "feasible meaning of a Jewish National Home". Haycraft et al also cited "Palestine", the official organ of the British Palestine Committee which described "Palestine as a 'deserted, derelict land'. This description hardly tallies with the fact that the density of the present population of Palestine, according to Zionist figures, is something like 75 to the square mile".

Musa Kazim al-Husseini, President of the Arab Executive which represented the Palestine community in their dealings with the British, appealed to his compatriots to place their faith "in the government of Great Britain, which is famous for its justice, its concern for the well-being of the inhabitants, its safeguarding of their rights, and consent to their lawful demands". He really laid the shit on like peanut butter, this guy.

Outlining two broad approaches, al-Husseini indicated that the Palestinians could either take their case directly to the British authorities and work diplomatically for a formal renunciation of Balfour. Failing that, they could work for a representative government in Palestine so that the majority could put a stop to the plans of the Zionist majority. They would have gotten away with it too if it hadn't been for those meddling Brits. Their logic was that Britain had committed itself under the terms of the Mandate to developing self-governing institutions in the areas where it ruled. The more backward areas like Saudi Arabia had already been granted independence - why not Palestine? Churchill, as Colonial Secretary, stubbed both options out with his fat cigar when he paid a visit to the Middle East in 1921 and foreclosed on any notion either of representative of government or revoking the British government's support for Zionism. It was neither in his power nor his wish, he told them, to rescind Balfour and cease Jewish immigration. Although there was to emerge, by degree, a Palestinian parliament, it would come ever so slowly so that "our children's children will have passed away before that is accomplished". (JMN Jeffreys, "Palestine: The Reality", 1939).

Churchill's arrogant and strident refusal to consider the Arab view did give way to a few nugatory concessions. In 1922, he proposed a "legislative council" for Palestine. In a White Paper, whose contents he placed before the consideration of both Arab and Zionist representatives, his government affirmed Balfour, dismissed Arab doubts as based on "exaggerated interpretations" of the Declaration, but insisted that there would be no Jewish State. Chaim Weizmann told Churchill, and was backed by Lloyd George and Lord Balfour, that if these proposals intended equal representation for Arabs and Jews, they would spell an end to any Jewish Homeland in Palestine. So, the proposals intimated that alongside twelve elected members (8 Muslims, 2 Christians and 2 Jews), the council would include eleven appointees.

The Palestinians, sniffing a rather poorly concealed rat, rejected the proposals. Since Zionist policy was presently carried out illegally and against the manifest wishes of the people of Palestine, why should they assent to a constitutional form which would allow the Zionist programme to continue under the guise of legality and consent? (Neville Barbour, "Nisi Dominus", 1946). This is often taken to be a classic example of "Arab rejectionism", which cost more than it was worth. However, when the British government did propose limited self-government in 1935, which was still weighted toward the Zionists, though not quite so much, it was the Zionists and not the Arabs who pushed the 'Reject' button. ("Report on the Conditions in Palestine, 1935", HMSO, 1935).

The Arab Uprising


November 12th, 1935, a group of followers of the Muslim cleric Shaikh Izzedin Qassam gathered secretly in Haifa to plan operations. Within a week, they would be dead or captured, and yet their rebellion proved far more significant than some might have thought it had any right to be. Qassam preached nothing less than dedicated self-sacrifice in the service of ridding one's country of foreign occupiers. His followers, at their peak, must have totalled around 800, with 200 of those trained for military service. At night they trained in stealth, using guns and other weaponry bought by selling prized personal possessions. The plan was to spend the daytime living in caves up on the hills, praying and reading from the Koran. At night, they would mount attacks on the Jews and the British. The Mandate authorities, however, had been informed and swooped in with a force of British and Arab soldiers backed by reconnaissance planes. Qassam urged his followers to "die as martyrs", never to surrender for this was "a jihad for God and country". A few of his companions did knock off early, while the rest were captured. This was the M.O. of the fedayi, "one who sacrifices himself". While the authorities were bemused by this apparently insensible revolt, the Palestinian Arabs lost no time in recognising the significance of the uprising. Huge crowds gathered at Qassam's funeral to mourn and protest against British rule and the Jewish National Homeland. The police were stoned in a brutally hilarious manner. The Cairo-based newspaper al-Ahram said: "Dear friend and martyr, I heard you preaching from pulpits, calling us to arms, but today, preaching from the Bosom of God, you were more eloquent in death than in life." Which is pretty rotten luck. Eloquence does you no good when you're dead.

While the Arab leaders, a collection of chair-moistening pullovers and pushovers, were unmoved by the insurrection, Weizmann regarded it with horror. He saw in it the "barbarism of the desert", nothing more than a fusion of primitive stupidity, clerical fanaticism, and international Fascism. They assumed that the Arab leaders, some of whom praised Hitler's rise in Germany, were leading the masses awry. But, as the British historian John Marlowe points out, "the Arab rebellion was in fact a peasant revolt". He quotes GM Trevelyan: "'[T]he readiness of the rural population to turn out and die for their faith was a new thing... The record of this brief campaign is as the lifting of the curtain; behind it we can see for a moment into the peasant life. In that one glance, we see not rustic torpor, but faith, idealism, vigour, love of liberty, and scorn of death." As Orwell almost said, it would almost be worth being wiped out to have something like that written about you.

A general strike, the burning of settlement crops, and armed insurrection by small, poorly armed, peasant-based groups followed. Finally, come September, the British were sick and tired of having their asses kicked, and announced that they were sending in a division of new troops to quell the mutiny. The citrus season was coming. A continued strike, already showing signs of strain, would deprive Palestine of an enormous source of export profit. The Arab states sent three Magi to tell the Palestinians to cut it out, and finally the Arab Higher Committee asked the people to "put an end to the strike and disorders". This they duly did, and the tally stood at 37 British dead, 69 Jews dead and anything up to a 1000 Arabs in "the Bosom of God". As the promised Royal Commission left for Palestine, the British government decided to announce an unusually generous work schedule for immigrant Jews. The Arabs, in turn, boycotted the commission until its final week in the country. (Hirst, op cit).

The Commission's findings were a negation of everything that had been promised to the Arabs from Balfour onwards. The 'safeguards' which had been highlighted in the Balfour Declaration were valueless, because it was now decided that the best thing for Palestine would be partition, the effective road to a Jewish State. (The Peel Commission, 1936). It did, however, concede much of the arguments that Arabs had been making - namely that the attainment of Zionist ambitions was inherently prejudicial to the rights of Arabs, that the existing order was untenable and only capable of preservation through "the dark path of repression". The partition was not implemented, but all the factors which had caused the initial uprising continued unabated.
The rebellion therefore entered a second phase, with the shooting of a Mr L Y Andrews, who had been made district commissioner for Galilee. The second phase of the rebellion, having thus began, impelled Arab leaders to abandon whatever vestiges of moderation they had maintained. If moderate politics were impossible before, they were now comical. Those who did espouse moderation and pacifism were likely to find themselves on the wrong end of some extremist's gun. The British aggravated the uprising with some outrageous provocation, including the dissolution of the Arab Higher Committee, and the deportation of its members to the Seychelles (the British are forever sending their most hated enemies to lagoons of paradise, like Australia or some Pacific Island).

On October 14th, 1937, disorder erupted across Palestine. The rebellion had acquired greater coordination. Lessons had been learned from the previous uprising, among which was the idea that its best if more people die on the other side. The rebels, at their height numbering 15,000 men, were able to take most of the central mountain area, from Galilee to Hebron, Beersheba to Gaza. They set up their own courts and collected their own taxes. They were able to destroy a thousand acres of orange trees belonging to a settlement in a single night. By controlling the countryside, they conquered the towns. They created a hegemony that encircled several major cities. Hundreds of troops descended on Bethlehem, disarmed the local cops and then swanned off singing patriotic songs. In Nablus, they emptied out the contents of Barclays Bank twice, right under the noses of the British. In Beersheba, they knocked off seventy-five rifles and ten thousand rounds of ammo. Even as far as the coastal town of Jaffa, the Mandate Authority was mainly fictitious. Its 3,000 Jewish citizens were forced to evacuate, as well as Arabs who did not cooperate with the mutiny. Police stations were raided, stores were looted, many hilarious photographs were taken.

Bombs planted in various public places slaughtered many Arabs. Since it was presumed the culprits were Jewish, the rebels descended from Tiberias to kill as many Jews as possible. One October evening, a crowd of rebels attacked the Arab and British police barracks, while others set fire to Jewish houses and synagogues in a quite deliberate massacre which took the lives of nineteen Jews, some of whom were babies. (The Times, October 4th, 1938).

Had the British extricated themselves at this point, it is fairly safe to say that Israel would not exist today. The main guarantor and facilitator of the Zionist project was British rule. But the British were in no mood to take any shit from the backward residents of a "derlict, deserted land". By the autumn of 1938, they had over 20,000 troops in Palestine. They banned the use or public possession of firearms. Military commanders were placed in charge of several districts, while civil authorities acted as advisers. With modern technology including armoured cars and airplanes pitted against muskets, the British began to score hit after palpable hit. One Times article reported that two British soldiers had been killed and, by the way, between 40 and 60 Arabs also died. (The Times, 3rd October, 1938). Military courts enforced emergency regulations. The death penalty was meted out to 112 Arabs and one Jew. Sir Alec Kirkbride, who witnessed the hangings, felt "guilty and mean". (Sir Alec Kirkbride, "A Crackle of Thorns", 1956). Collective fines and demolitions were imposed.

In March 1939, the British murdered the rebellion's commander, Abdul Rahim al-Haj Muhammed. Other commanders began to flee the country. The uprising was effectively over, the Palestinians crushed. The score this time was approximately 5,000 Arabs, 101 British, and 463 Jews dead.

All, however, was not in vain. The British were put off their lunches by having had to pursue a policy that was so harsh and costly. Malcolm McDonald, then Colonial Secretary in the coalition government, reported to the Commons that the Arab resistance was actuated by a militant patriotism, adding that if he were an Arab he would feel the same. And while the Peel Commission had recommended partition, another inquiry headed by Sir John Woodward concluded that partition was as unworkable as the Mandate. After deadlocked meetings involving Zionist leaders and Arab leaders, the British produced their new policy. The McDonald White Paper of 1939 announced that it was no longer government policy that "Palestine should become a Jewish state". 75,000 Jews would be admitted over the next five years, but no more without the approval of Arabs. Land sales would be regulated, and self-governing institutions formed. Palestinians, although put off by some of the provisions, were impressed by the British recognition of their concerns.

The "beginning of the Jewish resistance".


The response of the Zionists was to go absolutely bonkers. The broadcasting station from which the new policy was to be announced was bombed, the transmission lines cut. The headquarters of the Department of Migration were set on fire. Government offices in Haifa and Tel Aviv were ransacked by crowd intent on destroying all files relating to immigration. Arab shops were looted. One British constable was shot dead. A general Jewish strike was declared, and meetings across Palestine promised that this "new and treacherous" policy would be defeated. A campaign of terror and sabotage was initiated. The Rex Cinema in Jerusalem was blown up, killing five Arabs. Five more were murdered in an attack on Adas. David Ben Gurion, the leader of Yishuv, described the violence as "the beginning of Jewish resistance" to the British betrayal. Gun Zionism had come into its own.

The influence of Jabotinsky had been growing in the armed wing of Zionism for some years. Even as mainstream Zionists pretended that Jabotinsky and the revisionists were "the lunatic fringe", their methods were the ones which eventually prevailed. One example of this tendency was the position of Chaim Arlosoroff, the Director of the Political Department of the Jewish Agency who, as early as 1932, had written to Weizmann suggesting that the evolutionary path to a Jewish state was no longer possible. "Under present circumstance Zionism cannot be realised without a transition period during which the Jewish minority would exercise organised revolutionary rule," he wrote. ("Jewish Frontier", October 1948).

Gun Zionism was the tendency and direction of Zionist policy for some time. Even during the Arab uprising, when Yishuv was officially committed to Havlaga, meaning "self restraint, the tendency was for Zionists to react against this. Havlaga was a Jewish tradition based on Jewish ethics. In many ways, Zionism was a reaction against the Jewish tradition. In the Spring of 1938, three young Revisionists fired at an Arab bus on the Acre-Safad highway. The men were caught, and the ringleader, a young Polish Jew named Shlomo ben Yussif, was the first and only Jew to be hung by the British. Jabotinsky ranked Yussif among "the heroes of Israel" and abandoned Havlaga. (Joseph Shechtman, "Fighter and Prophet, the Jabotinsky Story", 1961). In July, 1938, six seperate incidents resulted in the deaths of 100 Arabs. The last of this series of atrocities was a bomb planted in the Arab Melon Market in Haifa at 7am on July 26th, no more than three weeks after a similar bomb had gone off not far away. Fifty three Arabs were killed and one Jew.

Jewish newspapers, such as Davar and Ha'aretz, condemned these actions without equivocation. On the other hand, the condemnation was general, and if a finger of blame was pointed it was liable to be pointed at the Arabs. The Palestine Post could not believe that there would be "a Jew so insane" as to throw a bomb outside a Mosque in a crowded place, thus "spreading the seed of inter-racial war". (Palestine Post, 17th July, 1938) The author of this article rather seems to have missed the point about Zionism. Jabotinsky's biographer points out the "inestimable political and educational value" of these acts. They "taught the Arab terrorist bands a healthy lesson" while generating "a new spirit of militancy and self-sacrafice in the Jewish youth". (Schechtman, op cit).

For some, Haglava had been a means of winning the support of the British for a Jewish militia, and in 1936 it succeeded. The British authorised the formation of a Jewish supernumerary police, 1,240-strong. The British informed the Zionist leadership later that year that an armed special force of Jewish constables could continue to exist provided Haganah disarm. But, as Arab violence raged on, they tacitly dropped this condition. The force was expanded over the next two years so that by 1939, it numbered 14,500 men. The training, increasingly sophisticated, was passed on to thousands of others who were not included in the force. In the Special Night Squads, the Zionists benefitted enormously from collaboration with the British. In particular one British captain named Orde Wingate, who had become a dedicated Zionist, taught them the principles of surprise, offensive daring, deep penetration and high mobility which are the hallmarks of the present Israeli army. Moshe Dayan was among the many talented Israeli officers who had first done battle with the Arabs under Wingate. A British journalist named Leonard Mosley described the brutal methods of Wingate and his men:

"He went up to the four Arabic prisoners. He said in Arabic: 'You have arms in this village. Where have you hidden them?' The Arabs shook their heads and protested innocence. Wingate reached down and took sand and grit from the ground; he thrust it into the mouth of the first Arab and pushed it down his throat until he choked and puked.
"'Now,' he said 'where have you hidden the arms?'
"Still they shook their heads.
"Wingate turned ro one of the Jews and, pointing to the coughing and spluttering Arab, said 'Shoot this man'.
"The Jew lookes at him questioningly and hesitated.
"Wingate said, in a tense voice, 'Did you hear? Shoot him.'
"The Jew shot the Arab. The others stared for a moment, in stupefaction, at the dead body at their feet. The boys from Hanita were watching in silence.
"'Now speak', said Wingate. They spoke." (Leonard Mosley, "Gideon Goes to War", 1951).

8:15:00 pm | Permalink | Comments thread | | Print | Digg | del.icio.us | reddit | StumbleUpon | diigo it | Share| Flattr this

Search via Google

Info

Against Austerity cover

Subscription options

Flattr this

Recent Comments

Powered by Disqus

Recent Posts

Subscribe to Lenin's Tomb
Email:

Lenosphere

Archives

Dossiers

Organic Intellectuals

Prisoner of Starvation

Antiwar

Socialism