Julian Assange and Racial Sensitivity

by Joseph W

Julian Assange’s attitude towards Jews has hit the headlines this week, following his conspiracy-theorising about London-based journalists being Jewish. The New York Times reported on the incident, following Assange’s comments to Ian Hislop reported in this week’s Private Eye.

Wikileaks released a statement on Twitter distancing itself from Israel Shamir.

Wikileaks’ statement said:

Israel Shamir has never worked or volunteered for WikiLeaks, in any manner, whatsoever. He has never written for WikiLeaks or any associated organization, under any name and we have no plan that he do so. He is not an ‘agent’ of WikiLeaks. He has never been an employee of WikiLeaks and has never received monies from WikiLeaks or given monies to WikiLeaks or any related organization or individual. However, he has worked for the BBC, Haaretz, and many other reputable organizations. It is false that Shamir is ‘an Assange intimate‘.

I disagree. Wikileaks paid Israel Shamir €2,000 to take cables to Belarusian dictator Alexandr Lukashenko, in order for Lukashenko to set up his own anti-democratic leaking project – all with Assange’s blessing.

For his part, Shamir raised funds for Assange’s visa in Russia, and claims to have spent a week with Assange in Norfolk, speaking to Assange regularly.

Former Wikileaks’ data analyst James Ball tweets:

The #Wikileaks statement on Israel Shamir ( is categorically untrue. I speak from firsthand experience.

According to the Swedish press, Shamir’s son has been approaching Scandinavian journalists reporting on the Assange trial, encouraging them to report on Assange in a positive light.

Further, before the Private Eye story run, Assange spoke in a very different way about Israel Shamir.

Assange told Agoravox that Israel Shamir was a bit like Salman Rushdie:

The BBC is one of our biggest adversaries. This media outlet has accused us of collaborating with the alleged anti-Semites like Israel Shamir who supports us. He’s a journalist and writer who was born in Siberia and later settled in Israel. He denied Judaism and became pro-Palestinian, and he later converted to Russian Orthodoxy. That is why he is hated in the same proportions as Salman Rushdie. He now lives in Sweden, and he has helped us for a while. The media accuse us of being anti-Semitic, and of providing documents to the Russians and having relationships with Lukashenka.

Would Assange deny saying this? I doubt it. It’s a pretty clear defence of Shamir, and an admittance that Shamir “has helped” Wikileaks “for a while”.

So I think Wikileaks has tied itself into a bit of a knot here.

In general, I think Assange flirts with racism quite casually, and is possibly unaware of how he comes across to other people. Plus, I’m not too sure about the way Assange talks about black people either.

Assange gave an interview to Brazilian bloggers last month. Pay attention to the final question. Ask yourself, is this the way you would expect a liberal hero to answer?

Hollywood announced that it will make a movie about your story. What is your opinion on this?

Hollywood could produce many films about WikiLeaks, as nearly a dozen books are to be published. I’m not involved in any film production at the moment.

But if we sell the production rights, I demand that my role is done by Will Smith. Our spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson would be played by Samuel L Jackson, and my lovely assistant by Halle Berry. And the movie could be called “WikiLeaks Film Noire.”

Assange’s statement here about an all black film version of his life isn’t horrifically racist, but it is a bit odd. Like David Brent‘s race jokes in The Office. It is as if he doesn’t ‘get’ racism. Perhaps that’s why he doesn’t see Shamir for what he is.

Unfortunately for Assange, however, Stephen Spielberg has opted to buy the rights to the Guardian’s book on Wikileaks, written by David Leigh and Luke Harding – Wikileaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy. This book goes into detail about Assange’s relationship with Shamir.

According to the bookies, Matt Damon is favourite to play Assange in the movie.

Now I wonder who could play Israel Shamir…

Oh yeah:

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