Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Lay Off MPAC

The usual scumbags are out in force to attack MPAC over the revelation that Asghar Bukhari once imagined that David Irving was an unfairly impugned anti-Zionist, and sent funds to him on that account. Irving is not, of course, simply an anti-Zionist being targeted by the state. Irving is a man who fabricates history in the service of fascism, and this has been proven in a court of law, in a case that he brought as a plaintiff against Deborah Lipstadt (who correctly referred to him as a Holocaust-denier). The messages sent by Bukhari to Irving were politically stupid. The language used about "the Jews" is preposterous. I don't think Bukhari intended to be antisemitic, in fact. Antisemitism is more than the arrangement of words: in its classical phase it was a structure of oppression promulgated through law and perpetuated through various social arrangements. There is nothing like this today: there is, however, a racist, expansionist state that purports to speak for the Jews. Some people who think they're defending Palestine, and start from that axis of oppression, will be open to language and arguments that reflect classical antisemitism. They will also be open to having those arguments challenged, and the fact that MPAC has repeatedly denounced antisemitism, while Bukhari has denounced Irving's views (which he didn't believe Irving held), demonstrates that this is so.

However, more importantly, The Observer did not make clear in its report that Bukhari's actions were in 2000, a couple of years before MPAC was formed. Hence, a sequence of blog posts (from people like the despicable apologists for Israeli state murder at Harry's Place and the inflatable Oliver Kamm) implying once more that MPAC is an antisemitic organisation. Kamm simply titles his post 'MPAC and David Irving' even though he is not commenting on any alleged relationship between MPAC and David Irving (he would not, of course, deign to check the facts before publishing, despite bloviating about the 'incompetence' of Bukhari).

MPAC is not an antisemitic organisation. I have all sorts of disagreements with MPAC's politics (which are too narrow), and with the cavalier approach to what sort of material may appear on their website (which is too loose), but the organisation is not antisemitic. The Observer allows you to think that MPAC is impugned here by following up its news with discussions about accusations of antisemitism against MPAC, including a disgraceful NUS 'no platform' policy pushed through by Labour Students and their supporters in 2004. And in that way, The Observer's piece is a straightforward smear. An organisation with more funds would probably sue, and win.

The main reason that MPAC is being targeted along with some other organisations is that it challenges the Labourite mosque hierarchy. It does so in the name of challenging oppression - of Palestinians, Iraqis and Muslim women in particular. It also challenges groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir and Al-Ghurabaa. But Labour is terrified of losing Muslim votes and wishes to chasten any sign of real militancy. The British ruling class has decided that, having so closely affiliated itself to the United States ruling class for fifty years, it's going to continue to support the ruthless destruction of the Middle East. If Muslim countries are the target of that, then Muslims will be the in the frontline of opposition, and so it becomes imperative to stigmatise and deligitimise that dissent. Strategically, the charge of antisemitism works best among liberals: they know this. If you were talking to Sun readers, you'd puff the Mad Mullahs angle. But when you're dealing with Labour activists and Guardian readers who might otherwise be on the antiwar marches, you stigmatise Muslims (yes, all Muslims, not merely MPAC or a few groups) as, barring a few progressive exceptions, the source of reactionary ideology, conservatism, misogyny, antisemitism etc. When MPAC emerged and started to work against Labour candidates who supported Israel (it emerged specifically in response to the assault on Jenin), the people working for the Labour leadership made a simple calculation: MPAC's politics are impeccably liberal, but their anti-Zionism leaves them vulnerable to attack as antisemites. One London newspaper recently referred to MPAC as a "hate" group. We've been here before, of course. During the 1960s, when the FBI was running its Counter Intelligence Programme, black civil rights groups were demonised in the official language as "hate" groups. Those who defend themselves are full of "hate", always and everywhere. And since the oppressed are no more perfect than bilious liberals are, they will be vulnerable to attack on some fronts.

Of course, no blog or newspaper that continues to side with New Labour, particularly in its murderous imperialist campaigns, has any right to talk about anyone else's standards. We know all about their standards: any fanatical bigot, liar and mass murderer will do, so long as he's killing darkies. We know how far Harry's Place will go to legitimise the murder of female civilians, so long as it is Israel that is doing the killing. We also know what pathetic smears the Guardian Media Group will allow Peter Beaumont and Emma Brockes to produce in defense of power, and in slandering the opponents of power. To put it politely, if you're in the business of supporting the murder of civilians so long as Western states do it, and so long as non-Western civilians are targeted, you aren't entitled to appropriate the language of anti-racism. (Nor, if you think it's okay for racist IDF troops to shoot at female civilian protesters, is it your business to talk for all the world as if you were a feminist offended by Islam's allegedly poor treatment of women). So, in the interests of being slightly less vile hypocrites than you already are, lay off MPAC.

Update: Asghar Bukhari replies...