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Showing we are better than that

One point I neglected to make in my recent post about America’s erratic support for the advocates of liberal democracy in the Middle East is that such support– no matter how well-intentioned– was too often undercut by the horrors of Abu Ghraib and the reports of waterboarding and other forms of torture practiced with the Bush administration’s approval. The damage that did to the credibility of US support for democracy and human rights was massive, and it may take years to overcome.

That’s why it was so important that one of President Obama’s first actions was to order an end to coercive interrogation methods, declaring that “our ideals give us the strength and moral high ground” in the fight against Al Qaeda.

If oppressed people are going to take our stated principles seriously, we have to show, by deeds as well as words, that we are better than that.

Speaking of which:

A former FBI interrogator who questioned al-Qaida prisoners testified Wednesday that the Bush administration falsely boasted of success from extreme techniques like waterboarding, when those methods were slow, unreliable and made an important witness stop talking.

Ali Soufan, testifying to a Senate panel behind a screen to hide his identity, said his team’s non-threatening interrogation approach elicited crucial information from al-Qaida operative Abu Zubaydah, including intelligence on “dirty bomb” terrorist Jose Padilla.

Soufan said his team had to step aside when CIA contractors took over. They began using harsh methods that caused Zubaydah to “shut down,” Soufan said, and his team had to be recalled the get the prisoner talking again.

A telling exchange took place at the hearing between insufferable Bush administration apologist Sen. Lindsey Graham and Soufan.

Graham: “One of the reaons these techniques [i.e., torture] have survived for 500 years is apparently they work.”

Soufan: “Because, sir, there’s a lot of people who don’t know how to interrogate, and it’s easy to hit somebody than to outsmart them.”

Will Obama offend his host?

President Obama will make his promised speech to “the Muslim world” (an unhelpful term, but never mind) while in Egypt next month.

The speech will succeed only to the extent that it angers his host, the autocratic Hosni Mubarak, and heartens liberal Egyptian democrats who oppose Mubarak– dissidents such as Ayman Nour and Saad Eddin Ibrahim.

The Washington Post reports:

By selecting Egypt, Obama could expose himself to criticism in the Arab Middle East for showing tacit support for President Hosni Mubarak, who has governed the country for nearly three decades with scant tolerance for political opposition. The 81-year-old Mubarak, who is scheduled to meet with Obama in Washington this month, has used his security services to harass and detain political rivals and is preparing for his son to succeed him.

U.S. support for Mubarak and other unelected Arab leaders has been interpreted across the Middle East as a hypocritical element of American foreign policy, particularly in the past eight years, during which the Bush administration made promoting democracy the centerpiece of its diplomacy in the region.

Nour, a former presidential candidate who was recently freed after more than three years in prison, put it more strongly:

“America’s standing alongside authoritarian regimes is what created terrorism in the Arab world… It is what strengthened the thorn of extremism in the Arab world.”

You don’t have to agree with that analysis to realize that the more the Egyptian government represses people like Nour and Ibrahim (who is living is self-imposed exile), the more of an opening it creates for far less desirable opposition forces– like the Muslim Brotherhood.

Probably the wisest words President Bush spoke in his eight years in office (admittedly there wasn’t much competition) were the following:

Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe — because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty. As long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment, and violence ready for export.

In the end, however, despite occasionally hopeful signs, the Bush administration never could bring itself to stop excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom among such putative allies as Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Unfortunately the early signs from the Obama administration are not so good either. A recent Washington Post editorial raised some reasonable concerns:

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates earned modest headlines in the United States this week for playing down the possibility of a “grand bargain” with Iran after a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. But al-Jazeera, the leading media outlet of the Arab Middle East, focused on an entirely different piece of news out of Mr. Gates’s Cairo news conference. Asked whether U.S. aid to Egypt would be linked in the future to democracy or human rights, the Pentagon chief answered that “foreign military financing” for Mr. Mubarak’s autocracy “should be without conditions. And that is our sustained position.”

The Obama administration, which has rushed to embrace Egypt’s 81-year-old strongman, would do well to consider why al-Jazeera — not known for pro-American sympathies — would choose to trumpet that report…

…[A]s al-Jazeera well understands, Mr. Mubarak and his fellow Arab autocrats are widely despised across the region — and the United States is blamed for unconditionally propping them up. In fact, Mr. Bush won credit from many Egyptians for pressing for democratic change; he was criticized because he failed to follow through. Now, Arabs around the region are learning that the Obama administration is returning to the old U.S. policy of ignoring human rights abuses by Arab dictators in exchange for their cooperation on security matters — that is, the same policy that produced the Middle East of Osama bin Laden, Hamas and Saddam Hussein.

…The Egyptian ruler continues to pledge to stop arms trafficking to Hamas in Gaza, and to fail to do so. He keeps a cold peace with Israel, withholds an ambassador from Iraq and, as Mr. Gates tacitly acknowledged, opposes any broad rapprochement between the United States and Iran. He is grooming his son to succeed him, a step that could entrench Egypt’s autocracy for decades more — or maybe produce an Islamic revolution. Does all that really merit unconditional U.S. support?

The point– which supporters of democracy need to make repeatedly– is that the alleged divide between “realism” and “idealism” in foreign policy is a chimera. Supporting the brave people struggling for democracy under repressive regimes– even at the expense of offending “friends”– is realism in action.

Clapped out and exiled to Uttlesford

This is a guest post by Epping Forest BNP Watch

Loughton Broadway’s district councillor Sue Clapp’s poor performance in the council chamber has prompted the BNP to exile her to a political wilderness for the far-right in the moderate, liberal-minded town of Saffron Walden, where the party has just three members.

Epping Forest BNP Watch had already received insider information suggesting that the BNP was preparing to ditch Clapp in favour of former London mayoral candidate Julian Leppert for the Broadway seat in the next district council elections. Despite desperate efforts to keep up her profile, Clapp failed to impress in the nomination process and instead Eddie Butler was nominated for the Chigwell and Broadway ward.

Clapp has been notable for her numerous blunders. At the last Epping Forest district council meeting, she fluffed the lines that had been written for her, repeatedly referring to local young war hero Georgie Sparks’ ‘erotic sacrifice’ while giggling into her papers. Sitting next to her, BNP Councillor Peter Turpin looked on in embarrassment.

A likely poor electoral performance in Saffron Walden would be the nail in the coffin for Clapp’s political ‘career’. Speaking to Epping Forest BNP Watch, a Liberal Democrat councillor in Uttlesford said that the BNP is unlikely to achieve any success in the district.

He said: “There’s no truck with racist politics here. People don’t like extremists. They gravitate to the political centre, even within the Conservative party. In the last European elections the BNP got less than 1% of the vote. It’s upsetting when the BNP gets just one vote, but I don’t think they will get more than a handful.”

Other candidates in Uttlesford are also from Loughton, indicating that the party could not encourage one of its few local members to stand. The candidates include Councillor Turpin’s wife and all are regarded as lightweights, revealing that the BNP has little interest in seriously winning over support in this quiet rural district.

British Parliamentarians give encouragement to jihad

This is a guest post by Alexander Hitchens

I recently wrote an article in Lebanon’s Daily Star about Clare Short and Lord Alderdice offering a platform to Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, where I argued that they are serving only to encourage Hamas that they do not need to abandon jihadism.  Recently, the group issued a message which confirms just how helpful members of the UK government have been.


The NEFA foundation have today released a Hamas communique entitled ‘anti-Hamas approach fading’, where the organisation outline why they believe that there is a shift taking place in the international approach to Hamas, with some countries giving signs that the time has come to bring them into the fold.  Why on earth would they have gotten such an impression?  According to the announcement:

“There is simply a growing international perception…that the old ‘isolate Hamas’ approach is not working…

…The signs are unmistakable. Lawmakers from the UK and EU, travelling independently, have made widely publicised visits to the recently re-elected Hamas leader, Khaled Meshal in Damascus. And, last week, Meshal delivered a speech via a teleconference uplink to a closed parliamentary session at Westminster, further undermining the boycott.”


The UK lawmakers referred to here are presumably, Clare Short, Jenny Tonge, and a number of other British Parliamentarians who have been falling over themselves to appease the terrorist organisation.

The announcement has an almost triumphant tone, and Hamas boast that their anti-Israel stance is beginning to pay dividends, with them having to make barely any concessions:

“Alongside fiery Hamas declarations, such as that delivered last Friday in a Gaza mosque by a top Hamas man, Mahmoud Al-Zahar, in which he vowed the organisation would ‘never ever’recognise Israel, there are distinct signs of Hamas pragmatism. There has been an almost total lull in rocket fire from Gaza at settlements in recent weeks.

This pragmatism is meant to stem less from fear of Zionist retaliation and is geared more to bolstering the tentative gains in international credibility. Coupled with the uncompromising ideological stance against the Zionist entity, it seems also to serve in strengthening Hamas vis-à-vis a flagging Palestinian Authority.”

The reference to international credibility is crucial here, as this is what Hamas crave, and they think they are getting it thanks to the overtures coming from this country.  Furthermore, they have been led to believe that their ‘uncompromising ideological stance’, which is clearly laid out in their founding Charter, need not change in order for them to be considered by the rest of the world as a legitimate entity. 

Clearly, the UK ministers and Lords who have been telling Hamas that they do not need to change and will soon get the legitimacy they want, believe they are doing the right thing.  Their thinking goes something along the lines of “we can bring peace to the Middle East by giving Hamas what they demand, and in turn this will contribute hugely to a decline in international jihadist terrorism because all jihadists are driven by the plight of their Palestinian brothers.”  There are two major problems with this type of thinking.  First, to cite but a few jihadist terrorist groups, Al-Qaeda barely even mentioned Palestine before 9/11, the Bali bombers gave about 10 justifications for their murder of over 200 innocents, and Lashkar e-Toiba killed nearly 200 Indians and Europeans because they want to turn India into an Islamic state.  Thus, if we were to fix the Palestinian issue tomorrow, very little would change on the international jihad front.  The second problem with this approach is that it encourages groups like Hamas not to change their approach, but instead to persevere with killing civilians until they achieve their goals.

Whenever a suicide bomb goes off either here or in the Middle East, we need to stop asking “what did we do to deserve this?”, and instead start learning what the killers themselves say they really want

Taking The Peace

Let’s take another look at a man Brett has written about below (our posts crossed).

Tomorrow the Quaker meeting house in Huddersfield will host its annual “Quaker Peace Lecture”. The guest speaker is, um, Moazzam Begg.


Presumably Mr Begg is familiar to many readers here. His (contested) Wikipedia entry and its links are one place to start for anyone who wants to learn more about him.

This is from a Telegraph article published in 2003:

This newspaper has learned that Moazzam Begg had his first brush with the law in 1994 when he was arrested as he showed up for work at a benefits office at Small Heath, Birmingham. When Mr Begg’s home was searched, detectives found the night-vision goggles and a bullet-proof vest as well as extremist Islamic literature.

Mr Begg was initially charged with conspiracy to defraud the Department of Social Security along with Butt. Bank statements found at Mr Begg’s house linked him to Butt and officers found a photograph of the pair together in Afghanistan. At Butt’s home they found a picture of him in Afghanistan brandishing an AK47 machinegun.

The charges against Mr Begg were later dropped for lack of evidence but the case against Butt proceeded. After his release, Butt travelled abroad and in 1999 he was jailed for five years after being convicted of terrorism in Yemen along with Mustapha Kamil, the son of Abu Hamza, the hook-handed cleric fighting deportation from Britain.

Last night Azmat Begg confirmed that his son had been arrested and charged in 1994 but insisted that this meant nothing, saying: “He was just suspected: the case was dropped.

“The items they [the police] took had nothing to do with al-Qa’eda or anybody. They were entirely innocent. If I have night-vision goggles does that make me a suspected member of al-Qaeda?”

When asked about the flak jacket that was seized, Mr Begg said that his son was merely indulging a “hobby” – which included collecting weapons. “He liked to collect things like that since his childhood. Once upon a time I had a cellar and he had a lot of arms and things like that.”


Moazzam Begg’s own explanation of the night vision equipment was that he needed it to find his way around the dark streets of Bosnia, where he was carrying out “charity work”.

A bookstore in Birmingham where Begg was a co-owner and worker has also had its troubles, according to this Observer report from 2007:

Books and DVDs promoting suicide bombing, glorifying terrorism and advocating the killing of homosexuals have been on sale at the Birmingham bookshop raided by police last week as part of their investigation into an alleged plot to behead a British Muslim soldier.

Last year an undercover Observer reporter visited the store, Maktabah al-Ansar, and was sold a handful of extremist literature and DVDs.

Maktabah, which is Arabic for library, has been raided three times under the Prevention of Terrorism Act because of the inflammatory literature on its shelves and has links with several terror suspects. Nobody from the business has ever been charged with an offence.

One DVD, 21st Century Crusaders, begins by stating: ‘History remembers two colours: black, the ink of scholars; and red, the blood of martyrs.’ Footage is shown of the 9/11 atrocities with a poem that says: ‘Suddenly their storms arise to demolish their fortresses and proclaim to them we shall not stop our raids until you abandon our lands.’ Pictures of Jews are subtitled: ‘Brothers of pigs and monkeys.’

An interview with former Guantanamo Bay inmate Moazzam Begg is featured declaring that the US has begun a war on Islam. During a raid on the premises in 2000, Begg – who worked in the bookshop and is understood to have been its co-owner – was arrested under anti-terrorism laws. He was later released without charge.

I don’t know if Begg is still connected to it, but Maktabah is still in business, pushing jihadi preacher Anwar al Awlaki and other extremists.

One of the videos on offer – “21st Century CrU$Aders” – features Begg himself.

At 4:55 in the first tape on that page Begg offers this view on America’s fight with terrorists:

I think the United States in its initial appearance didn’t want to directly say that this was a war on Islam, but I think by blunders and behaviour towards the Muslim world in this respect it leaves few with little doubt that it is in fact a war against Islam.

This is utterly ridiculous talk. What is the faith of the Iraqi and Afghan soldiers fighting jihadis alongside US forces? Are they all bad Muslims, warring on Islam?

Furthermore, as reported here earlier this month, the jihadis who claim to be fighting for Islam are actually opposed by a vast majority of Afghans. A majority of Afghans also support the presence of coalition troops.

As for Iraq, in this February 2009 poll (pdf) for broadcasters ABC, BBC and NHK 35% of Iraqis named security as the country’s “biggest problem”, ahead of politics, the economy and social issues. There’s less confidence in US troops than in Afghanistan – two thirds of Kurds have confidence in them, falling to 25% among Shiites and just 7% among Sunnis. But the Iraqi army and police get the highest confidence ratings of several groups – 73% and 74%, respectively, far ahead of the national government, local leaders and militias. These are of course the very same security forces attacked by the “resistance”, cheered on by idiots in Britain.

And here is a little news story that further underlines just how absurd Begg’s poisonous “war on Islam” talk is:

KABUL, May 5 (Reuters) – Bibles in Afghan languages sent to a U.S. soldier at a base in Afghanistan were confiscated and destroyed to ensure that troops did not breach regulations which forbid proselytising, a military spokeswoman said.

“It certainly is, from the United States military’s perspective, not our position to ever push any specific kind of religion, period,” chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen told a Pentagon briefing on Monday.


At 9:00 in same tape, Begg says this of hate preacher Ali al Timimi:

He cannot be regarded as an extremist, fundamentalist, lunatic type terrorist scholar that they claim abound. He is one of the most reasonable and middle of the path scholars that I have come across, who not only make sense in everything that they say, but they back it up with evidence from the Qur’an.

Ali al Timimi has been convicted of terrorism offences in the United States. Here’s why:

Kwon recalled driving Al-Timimi home from the mosque Sept. 11, 2001 after the terrorist attacks. He said Al-Timimi and another scholar argued, with Al-Timimi characterizing the attacks as a punishment of America from God, while his fellow scholar decried the attacks.

That night, as they drove from the mosque, Kwon said Al-Timimi had a request.

“He told me to gather some brothers, to have a contingency plan in case there were mass hostilities toward Muslims in America,” Kwon said.

Five days later, Al-Timimi met with Kwon again, this time at the young engineer’s apartment where he gathered a small group of friends.

“He told me to unplug the message machine and turn off the phones.”

Then, Kwon said, Al-Timimi advised the group that the effort to spread Islam in the United States was over and that the only other options open to them were to repent, leave the U.S. and join the mujahadeen — the holy warriors preparing to defend Afghanistan against the coming U.S. invasion.

Four days later, Kwon was on the plane to Pakistan, embarking on a jihad that would land him in prison.

“I made the decision to go, but (Al-Timimi) was a big part of my decision to go,” Kwon said.

According to his indictment (pdf), the crash of the space shuttle Columbia was joyous news for al Timimi:

This morning, the world heard news about the crash of the space shuttle. There is no doubt that Muslims were overjoyed because of the adversity that befell their greatest enemy. Upon hearing the news, my heart felt certain good omens that I liked to spread to my brothers.

First: The Name of the Shuttle: “Columbia” is the name of the shuttle, called after the name of “Columbus,” the sailor who discovered the American Continent in 1492 after the fall of Grenada, the last Islamic stronghold in Andalusia. Historians know that, after discovering the two American Continents, the Romans (the Christians of Europe) exploited their wealth in order to be able to control the Islamic World. The Columbia crash made me feel, and God is the only One to know, that this is a strong signal that Western supremacy (especially that of America) that began 500 years ago is coming to a quick end, God Willing, as occurred to the shuttle.

Second: The Shuttle Crew: The Israeli Ambassador to the UN described the Israeli astronaut as someone carrying all the hopes and ambitions of the Israeli people. And so, God Willing, all these hopes and ambitions were burnt with the crash and the burning of the shuttle and one of its astronauts, the Israeli.

Third: The Crash Location: As soon as CNN announced the crash of the space shuttle nearby the city of Palestine, in Texas, I said to myself “God is Great”. This way, God Willing, America will fall and disappear (nearby Palestine). The State of Texas is also the state of the foolish, obeyed President Bush the son. And so we hope, God Willing, similar to the crash of the shuttle on his state, his nation would fall upon his head due to his foolish policy.

Fourth: The President’s Condolences to the American People: In the words that President Bush used to console his people, he referred to the Book of Isiah where there is a praise to God’s creation, His stars and planets. I said to myself, Praise the Lord, in this same Book of Isiah there are news about the coming of Prophet Muhammad and a warning of the destruction of the Jews at the end of time. [A citation from the Koran follows].And so, there are other signs that would take a long time to recount. For example, every time the Americans believe that they control the whole earth and the skies, and act as they wish, there comes a sign that reminds us that God, Almighty, is greater than his creatures, sitting on His Chair, handling everything, and that His angels act according to His commands. And so, he whoever will try to raise the Jews, who are a nation that God covered with humiliation and deserved God’s wrath, will be afflicted with divine humiliation and wrath as much as he supports them.

As I mentioned earlier, these are all ideas that came to me when I heard of the accident, and hopes that I wish God would fulfill, and God is the only One to know.

Yes, not extreme at all. Oh no. Too bad he’s not available for a Quaker “peace lecture”. Perhaps Begg can put in another good word for him tomorrow in Huddersfield.

The Man Who Knew Too Much

Moazzam Begg, now a columnist for The Guardian’s Comment Is Free (wooda thunk it!) writes today about the scepticism over the death of one Ali al-Fakhiri (“better known to the world” - apparently! – as “Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi”) , which I get the feeling he shares. Anyway, Begg says:

His capture in November 2001 wasn’t announced officially until January 2002, when US media hailed al-Libi’s capture as that of the highest ranking member of al-Qaida in US military custody. By the time I was kidnapped and detained by US officials and taken to the US detention facility in Kandahar, I had already heard rumours that al-Libi had been transported by the Americans in a coffin to some unspecified location.

Now this invites a nagging question. According to his Wikipedia profile (which Begg helpfully links to in his article), he “has always insisted that his move was to fulfill his dream of being a teacher, and he became a charity worker at a school.”  So, what circles was Begg moving in that he was party – by his own admission – to discussions about the means of transport and whereabouts of Al Qaida operative Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi?

Are the movements of international terrorists just standard dinner-table chatter for charity workers and school teachers in Kabul? Of this, I’m sceptical.

Should Avigdor Lieberman Be Banned From The UK?

These are the reasons that Quilliam says he should be:

Lieberman’s views:

 Recommends murder of Palestinian prisoners

In 2003, Lieberman, then Israel’s transport minister, opposed Ariel Sharon’s plans to release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, saying ”It would be better to drown these prisoners in the Dead Sea if possible, since that’s the lowest point in the world.”

 Calls for attacks on civilian targets

In 2002, Lieberman reportedly called for military attacks on Palestinian civilian targets, telling a cabinet meeting: “At 8am we’ll bomb all the commercial centres … at noon we’ll bomb their gas stations … at two we’ll bomb their banks” In 1998, Lieberman said that, if war broke out with Egypt, Israel should bomb Egypt’s Aswan dam which provides essential water and electricity to millions of Egyptians. Both of these attacks would have been illegal under international law.

Calls for trial and execution of Arab-Israeli MPs

In 2006, Lieberman called for Arab members of the Israeli parliament to be put on trial for treason and – if found guilty – executed for meeting with members of Hamas. He said: ”World War II ended with the Nuremberg trials. The heads of the Nazi regime, along with their collaborators, were executed. I hope this will be the fate of the collaborators in this house.”

Calls for forcible transfer of Arab-Israeli citizens

In 2004, Lieberman said: “If we want to stop the conflict, we must separate the two peoples. The main problem is the Israeli Arabs. I think separation has to include them. I am talking about a land swap as well as a population swap. This seems brutal and sounds brutal, but there is no other solution.” Such a transfer, carried out against the will of those transferred, would be a breach of international law.

Allegations of membership of extreme party

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz has also reported that Lieberman was formerly a member of Kach, an Israeli far-right party that is banned in Israel and the US under anti-terrorism laws. The newspaper reported that Yossi Dayan, the former secretary of Kach, had said that he was willing to testify against Lieberman were he to deny the claims.

Some, although not all, of these statements should be sufficient in ordinary circumstances to result in a ban on Liberman from the UK. In particular, I can see absolutely no distinction between this statement, and the the terrorist threats of Hamas and Hezbollah:

According to the report in the Yediot Ahronot newspaper, Mr Lieberman urged that Palestinians be told to halt all terror activity or face wide-ranging attacks.

“At 8am we’ll bomb all the commercial centres… at noon we’ll bomb their gas stations… at two we’ll bomb their banks,” Mr Lieberman reportedly told the meeting before Peres interrupted to say: “And at 6pm you’ll receive an invitation to the international tribunal in The Hague.”

Shimon Peres was right. The same can be said of the suggestion that Hamas prisoners be drowned. There are no circumstances in which this rhetoric is acceptable. I believe that it does have the effect of stirring up hatred. That is its purpose, after all. 

Lieberman’s position on land and population swaps, though objectionable, I think probably fall into another category. The Israeli government moved all Jews out of Gaza, and senior politicians talk about moving Jews from the West Bank all the time. It would be difficult to argue that merely talking about shifting populations around is, per say, a ground for banning. 

I am unsurprised to hear that he started out in Kach – a racist and terrorist party that is rightly  banned in Israel. 

Should this objectionable man be excluded from the United Kingdom?

The purpose of exclusion is to deny to a person a privilege – that of entering the country – in a manner which marks official disapproval of that person’s conduct. I support that process. 

There are, however, other considerations at play. We have to accept the presence in this country of the leaders and ministers of many states, who say or do objectionable things in one way or another. Wen Jiabao. Hugo Chavez. Bashir Al Asad. Silvio Berlusconi. The list goes on and on. That is because, Britain needs to engage diplomatically in the business of state with the executive of other countries. To exclude those individuals would prevent that business being done.  

Therefore, serving ministers should not be excluded from the United Kingdom, except in the most extreme of circumstances: for example, where we’re dealing with a tyrant on the scale of a Mugabe. 

Therefore, although I’d oppose a visit by Khaled Mashal to the United Kingdom, as the leader of a racist and genocidal political movement, were he to become a member of the government of a Palestinian state, there could be no argument against his admittance on official business to this country.  I’d also change my position Gert Wilders’ exclusion, were he to become the premiere of the Netherlands. 

To be frank, therefore, the time for excluding Avigdor Lieberman has probably passed. Although I would have supported his exclusion before he became a minister, as I did the exclusion of Feiglin, and would support keeping him out after he leaves power – if he continues to incite hatred –  I wouldn’t favour excluding him today.

Quiz Euro Candidates on Gay Rights

The Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA) has organised a special Hustings Meeting to be held on Friday 15th May 2009, 7:30pm at: Conway Hall (25 Red Lion Square, London, WC1R 4RL)

The meeting, which is free to all members of the public, will be addressed by Euro candidates for London from the main parties:
Jonathan Fryer – Guardian writer and broadcaster – Liberal Democrat Candidate
An academic at SOAS and an expert on international affairs, he writes for the Guardian and is a broadcaster for the BBC. He is also an out gay man, and a biographer of Oscar Wilde.

Mary Honeyball – Labour MEP
Labour member of the European Parliament for London since 2000. Staunch supporter of human rights, particularly women’s rights in Europe. Campaigns for a separation of religion and politics and is a prominent supporter of the British Humanist Association.

Jean Lambert- Green Party MEP
Jean has worked on many campaigns and has a strong record in relation to LGBT Rights and Human Rights. She is also a prominent member of the Lesbian and Gay Intergroup. Has previously spoken at IDAHO events.

Warwick Lightfoot – Conservative candidate
The Conservative party member of our panel has served as Mayor of Kensington and Chelsea, Special Advisor to the then Chancellor of the Exchequer and has 20 years experience as a councillor.

The European Elections which are being held in the UK on June 4th will be the most important yet for gay men, lesbians and transgender people. Apart from the vital economic issues that the EU has to address, Europe has become a battleground in the war of ideas between the supporters and the opponents of gay equality. Key issues voted on by the European Parliament recently have included:

  • The principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation
  • Calling for more persistent implementation of equality legislation across the EU
    Expressing concern at the rise of extremist parties motivated by  hatred and prejudices, including homophobia
  • Call for greater action against racist and homophobic violence 

Each of these was passed against substantial opposition from MEPs hostile to gay rights

At the same time there are specific threats to gay people, and other minorities.

  • Far right parties, traditionally anti-gay, stand to gain ground. In particular if there is the usual pitiful turnout in the UK then there is a high risk that the BNP could win seats for the first time, including in London
  • The Catholic Church, and other religious organisations with a homophobic record have been lobbying to increase their influence
  • The situation for gay people remains bleak in many of the Eastern European EU countries. Pressure from the EU is playing a vital role in encourage these countries to improve their poor record in protecting gay rights

There will be an opportunity to put your questions to the speakers.

Karl Marx: Radical Antisemitism

This is a guest Post by Michael Ezra

In a review of the recently published book, Antisemitic Myths: A Historical and Contemporary Anthology, edited by Marvin Perry and Frederick M. Schweitzer, David Hirsh has argued that it is a “standard misreading” of Marx to say that “Marx was an antisemite.” With this, he concurs with Robert Fine, who attempted to “explode the myth” of Marx’s antisemitism. As far as Professor Fine is concerned, those who believe this “myth” have an “inability” to read Marx or comprehend Marx’s “ironic style” of writing.

What truth is there in this argument? Marx’s essay, On the Jewish Question, originally published in 1844 contains the following:

What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money.…. Money is the jealous god of Israel, in face of which no other god may exist. Money degrades all the gods of man – and turns them into commodities…. The bill of exchange is the real god of the Jew. His god is only an illusory bill of exchange…. The chimerical nationality of the Jew is the nationality of the merchant, of the man of money in general.

Marx argues that, “In the final analysis, the emancipation of the Jews is the emancipation of mankind from Judaism. Larry Ray explains, “Marx’s position is essentially an assimilationist one in which there is no room within emancipated humanity for Jews as a separate ethnic or cultural identity.” Dennis Fischman puts it, “Jews, Marx seems to be saying, can only become free when, as Jews, they no longer exist.”

The British journalist and historian Paul Johnson has argued that “The second part of Marx’s essay is almost a classic anti-Semitic tract, based upon a fantasied Jewish archetype and a conspiracy to corrupt the world.” The American historian, Gertrude Himmelfarb argued that it cannot be denied that in his essay On the Jewish Question, Marx expressed views that “were part of the classic repertoire of anti-Semitism.” And so it goes on. Noted expert on antisemitism, Robert Wistrich, declared, (Soviet Jewish Affairs, 4:1, 1974) “the net result of Marx’s essay [On The Jewish Question] is to reinforce a traditional anti-Jewish stereotype – the identification of the Jews with money-making – in the sharpest possible manner.” In his book, Political Discourse in Exile: Karl Marx and the Jewish Question , Dennis Fischman comments that in the second section of his essay, “Marx seems fairly to bristle with anti-Jewish sentiments.” Even the anti-Zionist Joel Kovel, whose political views I normally have no time for, has said:

By anti-Semitism I mean the denial of the right of the Jew to autonomous existence, i.e., to freely determine his/her own being as Jew. Anti-Semitism therefore entails an attitude of hostility to the Jew as Jew. This is an act of violence, addressed to an essential property of humanity: the assertion of an identity, which may be understood as a socially shared structuring of subjectivity. To attack the free assumption of identity is to undermine the social foundation of the self. Judged by these criteria, OJQ [On the Jewish Question] is without any question an anti-Semitic tract – significantly, only in its second part, “Die Fähigkeit.” No attempt to read these pages as a play on words can conceal the hostility which infuses them, and is precisely directed against the identity of the Jew.

In fact, so commonly held is the view that Marx was an anti-Semite that in 1964, Shlomo Avineri, a leading commentator on Marx, stated (“Marx and Jewish Emancipation,” Journal of the History of Ideas, 1964) “That Karl Marx was an inveterate antisemite is today considered a commonplace which is hardly ever questioned.” Despite the opinions of numerous commentators, for Professor Fine, Marx’s stated views are not anti-Semitic but “witty” and “ironic.” In On the Jewish Question, Marx discusses the “practical domination of Judaism over the Christian world.” I am not sure whether this is “witty” or “ironic.” Perhaps Professor Fine would like to explain. Marx’s essay also contains accusations against the Jewish religion which Marx says has “Contempt for theory, art, history, and for man as an end in himself.” Witty? Ironic? I think not.

To the credit of Professor Fine, he does not exonerate the left: “modern, political anti-Semitism is a creature of the left as well as the right” but what he does seem to do is disassociate left antisemitism from Marx.

Ulrike Meinhof of the Marxist Red Army Faction posed the question “How was Auschwitz possible, what was anti-Semitism?” and stated the opinion that “Auschwitz means that six million Jews were murdered and carted on to the rubbish dumps of Europe for being that which was maintained of them—Money-Jews.” As far as she was concerned, hatred of Jews was actually the hatred of capitalism and hence the murder of the Israeli Olympic team, at 1972 Munich Olympics, was not only justified but something that could be praised. Whilst Meinhof’s explanation is perverse, it seems to me that such an interpretation can be explained if one’s understanding of how Marxists should view Jews is obtained from Marx’s own essay,On the Jewish Question.

When considering Marx and his views towards Jews, one must go further than his infamous essay, his correspondence also needs to be considered. Marx used the Bambergers to borrow money but showed contempt for them. In a derogatory fashion he referred to the father and son as “Jew Bamberger” or “little Jew Bamberger.” Similarly, Spielmann, whose name appears frequently in correspondence between Marx and Engels was referred to as “Jew Spielmann.” When on holiday in Ramsgate in 1879, Marx reported to Engels that the resort contained “many Jews and fleas.” In an earlier letter to Engels, Marx referred to Ferdinand Lassalle as a “Jewish nigger.” Professor Fine has not discussed this but I do not see such comments as “witty” or “ironic,” they are simply racist.

If they are not ignoring such expressions, apologists for Marx will even try and whitewash them. In a 1942 Soviet English language publication of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Selected Correspondence, 1846-1895, such terminology could not be ignored and the following note (cited by Diane Paul, “‘In the Interests of Civilization’: Marxist Views of Race and Culture in the Nineteenth Century,” Journal of the History of Ideas, 1981) was included:

With reference to the use of the word “nigger” which occurs in this book: Marx used the word while living in England, in the last century. The word does not have the same connotation as it has now in the U.S. and should be read as “Negro” whenever it occurs in the text.

The excuse seems to be along the lines of: “Yes, a racist term is used, but pretend that a non racist term was used instead.” It is a simply ludicrous excuse and it exposes the depths to which apologists of Marx will sink.

It was in his article, “The Russian Loan,” published in the New-York Daily Tribune on January 4, 1856, that the grotesque antisemitism of Karl Marx’s writing was on full display:

Thus we find every tyrant backed by a Jew, as is every pope by a Jesuit. In truth, the cravings of oppressors would be hopeless, and the practicability of war out of the question, if there were not an army of Jesuits to smother thought and a handful of Jews to ransack pockets.

… the real work is done by the Jews, and can only be done by them, as they monopolize the machinery of the loanmongering mysteries by concentrating their energies upon the barter trade in securities… Here and there and everywhere that a little capital courts investment, there is ever one of these little Jews ready to make a little suggestion or place a little bit of a loan. The smartest highwayman in the Abruzzi is not better posted up about the locale of the hard cash in a traveler’s valise or pocket than those Jews about any loose capital in the hands of a trader… The language spoken smells strongly of Babel, and the perfume which otherwise pervades the place is by no means of a choice kind.

… Thus do these loans, which are a curse to the people, a ruin to the holders, and a danger to the governments, become a blessing to the houses of the children of Judah. This Jew organization of loan-mongers is as dangerous to the people as the aristocratic organization of landowners… The fortunes amassed by these loan-mongers are immense, but the wrongs and sufferings thus entailed on the people and the encouragement thus afforded to their oppressors still remain to be told.

… The fact that 1855 years ago Christ drove the Jewish moneychangers out of the temple, and that the moneychangers of our age enlisted on the side of tyranny happen again chiefly to be Jews, is perhaps no more than a historical coincidence. The loan-mongering Jews of Europe do only on a larger and more obnoxious scale what many others do on one smaller and less significant. But it is only because the Jews are so strong that it is timely and expedient to expose and stigmatize their organization.

A Marxist website has provided a list of articles written by Karl Marx between 1852 and 1861 for the New York Daily Tribune. It does not surprise me that “The Russian Loan” does not appear on this list. When apologists for Marx’s antisemitism run out of explanations, they simply ignore his words.

Two rights, still wrong

Stephen Fry thinks the expenses issue is not what politics is about.

He is, as usual, right.

David Aaronovitch says that the great British Public (who he risks confusing with the morons who bother to text TV programmes at one point in his article) is a “public that becomes intoxicated by its own outrage, that wants democracy but doesn’t want to pay for it and whose preferred form of political engagement is tossing the rattle out of the pram.”

He is, as usual, right.

But as right as I can see they are, there is still enough wrong in the MP expenses saga to be dismayed. The culture of entitlement really sticks in the craw. Even now, there are MPs who seem to have normalised a standard of life they feel the public should expect them to hold, when the public are themselves struggling in an economic crisis. Perhaps three years ago the outrage would not be so high, but now?

Even if you think Fry is intellectually right in arguing that decisions about war and policy are more important than the trivia left on the trail of receipts, he is wrong. Fry notes, with regard to the concern that the BNP might be beneficiaries of this outrage, “democracy, is democracy, is democracy”. Part of a democracy is that the public can express outrage against politicians who they feel have cheated them, and let’s be clear they have. Fry might not feel that politics is about expenses, but he isn’t on £15,000 pounds a year, or worried about his job and house. He might have stronger feelings about the cleaning of moats, if he was.

Polly Toynbee is still basically right about the low level of corruption in UK politics, and Aaronovitch is correct to argue for changes that might include paying more money to MPs, but politicians have had the power to make the changes for years. They failed. Even though many of them must have known the type of scams being undertaken by either themselves or colleagues. They sailed on claiming morally unacceptable, if not legally unacceptable, expenses. If those changes are now harder to push through because of their previous inaction, then they have no-one else to blame but themselves.