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Nelofer Pazira on the shootings in Ottawa

First Glenn Greenwald decided to blames Canada for a recent incident in which a soldier was run over by an Islamic State sympathiser. Now Nelofer Pazira writes in similar vein about yesterday’s shooting at Canada’s parliament in which another soldier was killed as well as the shooter himself.

The first sentence deflects blame away from the actual killer:

The safest country in the world is no longer a safe place and many Canadians will be asking today whether this is because the Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper pushed Canada into joining the US-led war in the Middle East.

She goes on to explain that multicultural Canada ‘which prided itself on tolerance’ became ‘divided’ after the government put a number of Muslims on a watch list. Given that the man who murdered a soldier with his car was one of those under surveillance, it would seem that this move wasn’t completely unjustified. Another source of division, according to Nazira, was Canada’s decision to join the fight against ISIS. She then notes:

Canada has a large Muslim population – more than 2 per cent are Canadian citizens – but the word “radicalised” only came into use recently when the Harper government revealed it believed that about 30 young Canadians had gone to support Isis.

This suggestion that Canada had no issue with radicalisation until very recently isn’t true. For example the ‘Toronto 16′ plotted with Al-Qaeda back in 20o6.

She goes on:

Canada refused to join the UK-US war in Iraq in 2003. As a bargain, then Canadian Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chrétien offered to send troops to Afghanistan. Initially, Canadians were not told their soldiers were on a combat mission. Only when their bodies began to return home did it become clear that Canada was at war in a Muslim country. Canadians eventually forced Harper to withdraw their soldiers from Afghanistan.

Her emphasis on the fact Afghanistan is a Muslim country is interesting, as though that in itself explained, without any further analysis being required, why the decision to send troops to Afghanistan was a bad one. She goes on to express concerns that Muslims will now be viewed with suspicion in Canada, implicitly contradicting her earlier assertion that Canada was completely safe until very recent changes in foreign policy.

So what happens next? Will Canada’s Muslim community – which has existed for more than 100 years – now have to “re-prove” it is loyal to a country which is fighting in the Muslim world? There have been plenty of “plots” uncovered in the past – in one of which Muslim extremists were apparently threatening to kill MPs. Since 9/11, many Muslims in the country have offered to work in government security in order to prevent incidents like those this week.

She is fond of using quotation marks to imply a sneer of (unexplained) disbelief – as well as ‘plots’ in that paragraph, she stated, in relation to the car murder, that ‘the attacker was shot dead and identified as a Muslim convert influenced by “radical Islamists”.’ Just as there is no acknowledgement of the appalling events which caused action to be taken against ISIS, so any discourse or teaching (except Harper’s) which might have caused two men to become killers is scare quoted out of existence or importance, with an implication of dishonesty or exaggeration.

Her next, and last, point is intriguingly ambiguous.

How long this co-operation will continue now that Canada is in action in Iraq is another question.

Is she suggesting that Muslims will now withdraw their support, or that their presence will no longer be welcomed?

Hat Tip: Terry Glavin

Is a Pakistani Death Sentence for ‘Blasphemy’ Being Encouraged From London?

Cross posted from Joseph Weissman at the Huffington Post

This week, a death sentence against a Christian woman for “blasphemy” in Pakistan was upheld by the Lahore High Court, who rejected her appeal. Sadly the road to her impending death appears go through London.

Six years ago, Asia Bibi went to fetch water from a well in the field where she worked in the Punjab province. Her co-workers and neighbours clearly disliked her. This time, they told her that Christians such as herself had no place at a well exclusively reserved for Muslims. Backed into a corner and confronted unexpectedly, Ms Bibi is said to have compared the Islamic faith unfavourably to her own creed.

In any sane world, this dispute would have been recognised for what it was: an argument between co-workers, and no more. Instead, Bibi’s co-workers reported the “incident” to the Pakistani authorities. In court, Ms Bibi was accused of a capital offence of blasphemy and sentenced to death accordingly.

This travesty of justice prompted one of Pakistan’s finest politicians – governer of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer – to call publicly for her acquiittal. Taseer freely spoke his mind about his aspirations for progress and tolerance in Pakistan. Yet he wasassassinated soon after he sprang to Bibi’s defence.

Bibi’s accuser Qari Salam began to have pangs of guilt, and hesitated about pursuing Aasia Bibi in court. Pakistan’s Express Tribune reported in early 2012 that Salam was “convinced” not to change his mind – by a London-based organisation named Khatm-e-Nabuwat.

The Express Tribune explained:

“We will chase her through hell … don’t worry about the money, hiring best lawyers,” Salam told The Express Tribune, quoting the son of Khatm-e-Nabuwat’s London chapter’s leader. The leader’s son flew in to Nankana from London after hearing that Salam might not go to Lahore High Court (LHC) when the review petition against Aasia’s conviction is taken up. [...]Salam said Khatm-e-Nabuwat had hired Mustafa Chaudhry as counsel to fight his case in the higher court, and were ready to go to an extent to seek death for Aasia.

Were this reputable Pakistani media report to be true (at the time of writing, there has been no public challenge to this version of events by Khatm-e-Nabuwwat), it would suggest that a London-based organisation essentially has a free reign to persecute an innocent Pakistani woman, and hound her to death, whilst British authorities look away.

Who is even holding Khatm-e-Nabuwwat’s London office to account?

As things stand, an innocent lady will be hanged in Pakistan without committing a crime, whilst those who openly boast of “chasing her through Hell” and seek her death will not even be investigated in the UK.

Asia Bibi’s situation is symptomatic of the global onslaught against Christians in this decade. Prince Charles remarked last Christmas that Christians are facing ‘organised persecution‘ throughout the Middle East. Recently, Canon Andrew White lamented that ISIS are beheading Christians, yet people tend not to even believe the horrifying and harrowing accounts that White shares with his readers.

The proper response to the daily atrocities against Christians ought not to be helplessness, or shying away from the problem. The Asia Bibi case must cause us all distress. This distress ought not to be a lingering feeling that simply stays with the reader for a few minutes, until you get distracted. Rather, we should be sufficiently moved to sign petitions in support of justice for Asia Bibi.

We could be writing to our MPs, calling for any UK funding for Ms Bibi’s tormentors to be investigated and cut off, via the appropriate channels.

Particularly in a Western society which considers itself post-religious and suspicious of organised Christianity, it feels untrendy and unnatural to many, to take up the cause of oppressed Christians. Now the hounding of Asia Bibi may in part be directed from London – a first-world capital city.

There is still time to make a difference and stand up for Asia Bibi, but now is the time to act urgently. We in Britain owe Salman Taseer the decency of amplifying his message.

Indeed, whilst a brave politician lost his life in Punjab for his principled stance on Asia Bibi, the deadly ideology accusing Bibi seems to flow freely out of London.

Ignorant, Erroneous, Unjustified

Book Review:

Owen Jones, The Establishment: And how they get away with it, (Allen Lane, 2014).

Owen Jones, the Oxford-educated left-wing Guardian columnist, has written a book about the establishment. For Jones, the establishment comprises anyone he does not like. Its main activity is to conspire against the working class.

Some of his claims are simply startling. For example, he accuses the current coalition government of privatising the NHS. This might be news to anyone who has recently visited a NHS GP or hospital without being handed a bill for healthcare.

Commenting on the 1992 general election, he states: “the combined political power of the British media had been unleashed against Kinnock’s Labour Party.” Perhaps Jones thinks the Daily Mirror and his own paper, The Guardian, both of which supported the Labour Party, are not part of the British media. More notably, the paper widely read by establishment figures he despises, The Financial Times, backed Kinnock’s Labour Party.

Jones attacks the charitable status of private schools, saying that this benefits the wealthy to the tune of £88 million per year as a result of tax breaks given. This figure, if true, ignores the fact that the wealthy, by sending their children to private schools, are saving the rest of the population substantially more than this as they are not utilising the state system of education to which many would be entitled.

He provides support for the Financial Transaction Tax, claiming it would be a “tiny levy on transactions” that would promote “economic stability.” The truth is that it would be a disaster for the UK. The proposed levy of 0.1 percent on securities would mean a tax on $100,000 on every $100 million bond transaction. If a bond trader working in Dubai could call someone in London to do the trade and suffer $100,000 tax or call someone in an offshore jurisdiction where the tax is not implemented and not pay any tax, it is obvious where he will call. The telephones would stop ringing in London dealing rooms and redundancy notices would be issued.

Jones comments on the percentage of British companies owned by foreign investors – but there is no corresponding figure for foreign companies owned by British investors. Similarly, he mentions British companies now in foreign hands – but he does not mention foreign companies taken over by British companies.

Jones’s scholarship is sloppy. He provides an unsourced 1970s quote from Harold Lever. When, post-publication, he was asked for a source, he claims it came from an interview with Neil Kinnock. It is at no point clear that this quote is based on a decades-later recollection from someone else.

Of all the things that Jones despises, the City of London is at the top of the list. He cites a former City trader as saying the people who work in the City “are largely despicable, venal, greedy.”  Jones has no comment on ARK, a charity popular with City and hedge fund types, which, in one gala dinner in 2012, raised £14.5 million for children’s health and education around the world.

A central villain is Madsen Pirie of the libertarian Adam Smith Institute. Jones claims that Pirie’s ideological zeal is “shared by politicians of all parties.” But this leads him into a mass of contradictions. He refers to the bailout of the banks in the credit crisis of 2007-9 as “socialism for the rich on an epic scale.” If libertarian thinkers such as Pirie had as much influence as Jones imputes to them, then the banks would never have been bailed out in the first place. Pirie specifically argued against such state action.

Jones simply does not understand finance. The errors are embarrassing. He confuses exchange rates and exchange controls. He refers to the private-equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts as Italian, when it is headquartered in America and does not even have an office in Italy. He states: “Mortgage books that were in actual fact junk were rated as ‘triple A’.” In fact pools of subprime mortgages were securitized and sliced and diced into tranches; the most senior tranches were rated AAA and these were not junk. His claim that packages of mortgages “with very low actual chances of being repaid were rated as having a 99 percent repayment likelihood, if they were structured in a certain way” is false. Specific tranches of structured pools of mortgages were given a high chance of repayment likelihood because this was deemed to be fair.

Jones ends his book by calling for nationalisation of the utility companies, strengthening trade unions, increasing the top rate of tax to 50 percent “as a start” with an implication that 75 percent might be preferable, and by urging the people to “use their collective power to win social justice.”

Oddly, he never employs the words, “Workers of the world, Unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains.”

Where Exactly is Silwan?

The movement of settlers into Silwan this month has ignited a wave of controversy and everyone from Obama to Nir Barakat has waded in and stated their opinion. The international community and many in Israel are treating this as simply another case of settlers grabbing land. They’re wrong to do so.

If there was a land grab it was done in 1980 when the then Israeli government passed the Jerusalem Law stating that Jerusalem is and shall remain the united capital of Israel. One thing I haven’t heard is many people suggesting that the Old City stop being part of Jerusalem or that Jews going to live there are settlers.

So why Silwan?

No one other than Guatamala and El Salvador recognises the Jerusalem Law. Just about every country in the world says the diplomatic equivalent of “it’s complicated we’ll keep the embassy in Tel Aviv for the time being”.

The truth is that we here in Israel who are not well disposed to the occupation have become lazy in our knowledge of the Holy Land. The controversy that settlement to Silwan has caused looks more like a case of left wing organisations following the lead of Palestinian organisations and Western governments. It should be the other way around. Just because the Palestinian Authority is against something that doesn’t have to mean the left in Israel follows suit.

Although the movement of Jews within the municipal boundaries but from West to East Jerusalem is controversial I don’t see why such controversy should equal instant condemnation. This is far too complicated for that. Regarding the settlement in Silwan Peace Now has the following to say;

Settlements in East Jerusalem have never been about promoting coexistence or establishing equal housing for Israelis and Palestinians in all areas of the city. They are and have always been about creating facts on the ground in order to prejudice any future peace negotiations related to Jerusalem and, potentially, to block a future Palestinian capital in the city. If this effort succeeds, it will mean that the two-state solution is lost, and with it, Israel’s ability to survive as a Jewish state and a democracy.

This is pretty disingenuous on the part of Peace Now bearing in mind that polling of Arab residents in East Jerusalem has consistently shown that more residents would wish to be citizens of Israel than a Palestinian state (with a further 35% undecided).

At a time when the head of the Labour Party in Israel openly calls the Gush Etzion block as much a part of Israel as Tel Aviv one can’t help but ask exactly where the borders of the country are supposed to be?

The fact that the Jews who are living in Silwan are doing so with armed guards to protect them and the fact that any Arab selling his property to a Jew in Silwan is facing a death sentence are all worrying in and of themselves, but those aren’t reasons why Jews shouldn’t be living in Silwan. What is at the heart of this issue is the fact that municipal investment in Silwan and other neighbourhoods that form East Jerusalem is almost non-existent. We annexed the Eastern half of the city and allowed a situation whereby the people living there aren’t citizens of the country.

This has led to a situation where Arabs who are actually well disposed towards being Israelis are rioting. It stands to reason that if we talk about equal rights for Jews in terms of where they have a right to live we should also be talking about equal rights for Arabs in terms of the amount of investment areas predominantly Arab receive. They want the same level of infrastructure and support offered to the Jewish part of the city. I don’t blame them.

According to a report published by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) last year “Palestinian neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem (which host 30 per cent of the city’s population) received only 11.72 per cent of the municipal budget in 2003 (Margalit, 2006) and 7 per cent in 2009 (ACRI, 2009).”

Furthermore according to an EU HOMS report published earlier this year the provision of municipal services to the residents of East Jerusalem is so low that residents don’t even have proper sewage systems;

Palestinians constitute approximately 39 percent (approx. 372, 000) of the population in Jerusalem, but the municipal budget spent on Palestinian neighbourhoods is disproportionally lower, not reaching above 10%. Public services dealing with poverty, unemployment as well as healthcare in East Jerusalem provided by the GoI and Jerusalem municipality are insufficient (three offices in East
Jerusalem comparing to 18 in West Jerusalem,). Palestinian areas are characterised by poor roads, little or no street cleaning, limited sewage systems (shortage of at least 50 km of pipelines) causing health hazards and an absence of well-maintained public spaces – in sharp contrast to areas where
Israelis live (in West Jerusalem as well as in East Jerusalem settlements). Access to Israeli banking and postal services in Palestinian neighbourhoods is limited.

Furthermore despite the fact that the government has pledged investment of NIS 300 million into East Jerusalem, the lion’s share of this money will be spent on extra security measures including extra police and security cameras. This doesn’t address the fundamental causes of unrest so much as the symptoms of it. If anything residents of East Jerusalem are going to feel more like they are being discriminated against than before.

If Silwan is a part of Israel and a part of the capital of our country enough to allow the free movement of Jews in then it is also enough a part of Israel to allow for precisely the same amount of investment in predominantly Arab areas as in Jewish Jerusalem.

Clearly Jews should be able to live anywhere they like within the capital city of our own country. But by the same token the municipality must treat every citizen of East Jerusalem in the same way as it treats those of West Jerusalem.

Please note I slightly re-edited this piece after posting

Opening night of Klinghoffer faces protests and disruption

I’ve got a lot of sympathy for those who are protesting in New York because they consider The Death of Klinghoffer to be an opera which distorts politics and history, and find its depiction of Leon Klinghoffer exploitative.  People should of course be free to express such views about the Met’s production. Here’s Rudy Giuliani:

“The Met, and those who decide to go see this production, have every right to do so, and it would be hypocritical and anti-American for us to interfere with that and to stop that,” he said at the rally. “They have that right. But we also have a right, just as strong and just as compelling, to point out the historical inaccuracy and the historical damage this contributed to.”

But some want to go further than this and have the opera cancelled completely. (The plans for a simulcast were cancelled earlier this year.) According to the New York Times there have been threats against opera officials as well as online harassment of performers. Yesterday evening the opening night was disrupted by audience members who had to be ushered out – one was arrested.

Although disruption, rather than violence, was the order of the day, this was a disturbing perspective:

Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld, who was the rally’s master of ceremonies, said he did not expect protesters to react inappropriately. “But you can’t be responsible when the Metropolitan Opera advocates terrorism and incites violence — you can’t know what will happen,” he said. “And anything that happens, that has besmirched this Metropolitan Opera, and besmirched Lincoln Center, is to be laid at the foot of Peter Gelb.”

The opera is rather subtler than Wiesenfeld suggests – and different people will take different things from it. Here’s a reminder of what Alex Ross, commenting on my 2012 post, thought about a performance he saw:

My personal response to the Palestinian choruses is that they are rather abstract and vulgar. They are espousing a brutal and manufactured mythology – not anything worthy of deep human empathy. Compare this, for example, to the very down-to-earth and humane portrayal of the Klinghoffers – Leon joking that he “should have worn a hat”, prior to his imminent execution, always reduces me to tears. They don’t necessarily get the most etheral music but they have a sense of simple dignity.

This, for me, is the point of the opera. Pompous ideologies set against areal person killed by thugs and the tragic aftermath of his murder.

The New York Times juxtaposes two opposed perspectives:

One protester at the rally, Hilary Barr, 55, a pediatric nurse from Westchester County, said she believed the opera made excuses for terrorism. “By putting this on a stage in the middle of Manhattan, the message is, ‘Go out, murder someone, be a terrorist and we’ll write a play about you,’ ” she said.

Some people held a counterdemonstration. James Saslow, 66, a professor of theater history at Queens College, had a sign: “A work of art about a subject is not a work in favor of that subject.”

Although Barr’s point is rather crude and over the top, Saslow’s placard completely fails to engage with people’s objections to the opera.  No one is saying that a work of art must endorse anything it depicts.  But it may do.  In fact Klinghoffer cannot be described as a work ‘in favour of’ terrorism – but it is still morally and politically problematic, perhaps all the more so for being subtler than many of its critics are suggesting.  But, particularly given America’s commitment to freedom of speech, trying to get the production cancelled doesn’t seem right.

Here’s a review of last night’s performance.

Hamas leader’s daughter treated in Israeli hospital

It will be most interesting to see if any of the hundreds of media outlets, websites, Twitter accounts, etc., obsessed with the alleged inherent malevolence of Israel will report this:

An Israeli hospital confirmed Sunday that it had treated the daughter of Hamas’s top leader in the Gaza Strip, weeks after a brutal war between Israel and the Islamist group.

Avi Shushan, a spokesman for Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital, said the daughter of Ismail Haniyeh was hospitalized for “a number of days” this month. He did not disclose what she was treated for.

A spokeswoman for the Israeli military also confirmed the hospital stay. She spoke Sunday on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to release the information otherwise. Hamas officials were not immediately available for comment.

And how will Hamas and its supporters deal with the news that the “entity” they are devoted to wiping out and the Jews they are dedicated to slaughtering provided medical care to the daughter of one of their leaders? A flat denial may not do the trick this time.

Ebola and ODS

This is what ODS* can do to people. And sadly, there are at least hundreds of thousands of Americans, and some others, who live (virtually) within this particular echo chamber. One or two of them may even comment here.

I can only express my gratitude once again to Fox News’s Shepard Smith for his willingness to challenge this craziness head-on. I just wish he would name names.

And do I need to remind anyone of the Alex Jones-George Galloway connection? (At least Jones was just as insane when it came to George W. Bush. The others are more partisan and perhaps more cynical.)

*Obama Derangement Syndrome

The most equal society in the world

Cross-posted from Eric Lee

(Note: Eric Lee posted this on his blog last week for Blog Action Day, where the subject was “inequality.”)

I lived in a place where everyone worked, but no one was paid for their work.

All the essentials of life were free — housing, health care, education, food, travel. Even daily newspapers, televisions and radios, even a kettle for making tea.

For the things that were not free, there were individual budgets specifically for things like holidays and clothing.

Where I lived, people worked in all types of jobs — in industry, agriculture and services. But it didn’t matter what you did, no one had more than anyone else.

When luxuries of different kinds became available, such as newer housing, or larger refrigerators, or colour televisions, they were allocated according to a system we all agreed was just — usually based on seniority.

The unpleasant but essential jobs were shared as well, so on weekends everyone had to be ready about once a month to do something different just to keep the place running. For example, every fourth Saturday, I milked cows, though my day job was to work as a computer programmer. (Cows don’t have weekends, and need to be milked every day.)

We raised our children together, from birth, in children’s houses. They spent their days there and their nights too, coming home to visit their parents from 16:00 to around 20:00 every day. To most parents, that time was devoted to their kids, so everyone left work in time to get their children home and maximize those four hours together.

We ate together in a common dining room, and food like everything else was provided without money — everyone took what they needed. We had a shared laundry too, and our clothes were washed and mended for us without charge, every day of the week.

I’ve never forgotten a conversation I had with the man who was, at the time, the elected head of the factory. When I asked him about being a manager he corrected me and said he was just a “coordinator”; we didn’t believe in managers. His office was one of the only places in the factory that had air conditioning, so on hot summer days he’d leave the door open so that everyone could see he wasn’t using it.

It was not a perfect society, and over the years many of its values eroded and were eventually lost.

But equality was at its core.

And not only equality, because there are societies in which there is a certain degree of that, but they’re not places you’d ever want to live. Another key value without which we’d have found this unbearable was democracy.

We voted on everything. We rotated managers (or “coordinators”) regularly, so no one stayed in a position of power for very long. We had weekly meetings of the entire community at which all important issues were settled. We had more than 50 committees which regulated every aspect of our common lives, including culture, health, education, political activity, running our local economy, and so on.

That unique combination of rather extreme forms of equality and democracy created the kind of society that Karl Marx once described with the phrase “an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all”.

Though that phrase from The Communist Manifesto hardly described the societies which in the 20th century would call themselves communist, which were totalitarian hells, it very accurately described the place I lived.

So where was this egalitarian Utopia? A figment of my imagination? A dream?

No, it was very real and it was located in the shadow of Mount Tabor, in the lower Galilee region of Israel. The name of the community was Kibbutz Ein Dor, and for nearly 50 years, the description above fairly accurately describes how we lived there.

Ein Dor was part of a broader movement of more than 250 such communal settlements, all of which attempted to live according to these highly egalitarian and democratic values, with varying degrees of success, and for over 100 years. The kibbutz experiment was one of the longest and most successful attempts ever at the creation of a truly equal, socialist society.

Much of that is now gone, as the egalitarian and democratic values that underpinned the kibbutz model fell victim to a wave of “reforms” which have turned most of the kibbutzim into more ordinary, less equal villages.

But during their heyday, when I had the privilege of living there, there was no place in the world that was more equal.

Some thoughts on the Ebola crisis

This is a guest post  by Sally Becker

Five thousand people have died from Ebola with nine thousand thought to be carrying the disease, but it is only since it spread to Europe and the United States that the world has begun to sit up and take notice.

Ebola first appeared in 1976 in two simultaneous outbreaks – in Sudan; and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The latter was in a village situated near the Ebola River, from which the disease takes its name. Believed to be carried by fruit bats, the virus is spread from person to person through direct contact with blood or other bodily fluids or through contact with contaminated objects, such as door handles and telephones. It can take between two days and three weeks before symptoms develop and can last up to two months in semen after recovery from the illness. To make matters worse, a U.S. scientist, Peter Jahrling of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease believes the current Ebola outbreak may be caused by an infection that can spread more easily than it did before.

One cannot help but wonder why the latest outbreak wasn’t dealt with much sooner. After all, the first sign of a recurrence of the disease was in December last year when a 2 year old boy died in Guinea-yet 10 months on it has not been contained and we do not have a vaccine. When the outbreak was first declared in March, GlaxoSmithKline had discussions with the World Health Organization about accelerating the development of the Ebola vaccine, but between them they decided not to.

“No-one anticipated we would need a vaccine,” said Dr Ballou. “And so both internally and, I think at the WHO, we felt the best approach was to watch very closely”.

Seven months on, with the virus out of control, he now concedes: “I think in retrospect we should have pulled that trigger earlier.’

When HIV first came to light in the eighties people ignored that too, believing it to be a ‘gay’ disease. Did someone decide this was an ‘African’ problem and choose to ignore it, failing to see the impact it might have on the rest of the world?

That certainly isn’t the case now, for as the Head of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response stated in a briefing to the UN Assembly in New York,

“No country is safe.”

The United Nations says it believes the world can defeat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in six to nine months, “but only if a ‘massive’ global response is implemented.” Meanwhile UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon has criticised the international response, saying that a fund he launched to fight the disease has only raised $100,000 of its $1 billion target.

If we are to beat this disease the International Community must come together and provide financial support and medical and humanitarian assistance. Our scientists must share information and trials must be accelerated in an effort to create a vaccine capable of stopping the spread of the disease. Ebola doesn’t differentiate between people so whether you are a Muslim, a Christian or a Jew, black, white or even blue, you are at risk of contracting the disease. The only way to prevent millions of deaths is for us all to unite in an effort to save each other.

Student Politics: a round up

Some news and updates on three recent stories concerning student politics.

First, that post from a few days ago about the NUS’s refusal to endorse a motion condemning ISIS. Richard Seymour insists that this story has been misrepresented. He opens his piece:

Look.  If pressed, and if it will help anyone sleep better at night, I will condemn ISIS in the boldest and most strident terms.  But I will do so with some weariness.

This made me wonder if he ever wearies of condemning Israel.  Seymour is correct in saying that it is not entirely accurate to insist that the SU refused to condemn ISIS. He even acknowledges that the motion was not as bad as it might have been. Instead, he asserts, the students had a problem with one detail, an element in the motion which it was felt might encourage anti-Muslim bigotry and an atmosphere of distrust.  However this really doesn’t account for a comment made by Aaron Kiely on Twitter (linked to here):

Amazing speech by @maliaBouattia challenging the Western, imperialist narrative around ‘ISIS’! Overwhelming vote against the motion.

The words ‘challenging imperialist narrative around ‘ISIS” may not constitute condoning ISIS, but it reveals some very strange priorities, given that even Seymour couldn’t find too much wrong with the motion. Here’s a link to an embarrassingly evasive interview with Kiely.

Another recent story, this time relating to Goldsmiths SU, has also prompted some indignant responses. Here the SU voted down a motion urging a commemoration of the Holocaust.  Much was made, in the original report in the Tab, of the way the SU Education Officer, Sarah El-alfi, @Gsu_Education, complained that the motion was ‘Eurocentric’. Now, it is important to note that she did not state that HMD itself was Eurocentric.  It was the focus on a number of different events, all European, in this motion which was the perceived problem. It’s also perhaps worth noting that the person who wrote up the debate for the Tab was himself the proposer of the defeated motion.

However the response from Sarah El-alfi is still highly problematic.  Take the penultimate point:

With historical records and current news being in the hands of the privileged few, it is important we keep this in mind when passing such motions, i.e. a white male has to think of his privilege when talking about racial hatred.

This would be pretty crude in any context, but seems particularly iill-judged in the context of antisemitism, both because the victims are (generally) categorised as ‘white’ and because the history of the Holocaust has been the subject, notoriously, of hostile revisionism.  Within the SU El-alfi herself has at least a measure of control, of privilege, and might consider whether her apparent leading role in PalSoc in any way compromises her role as Education Officer.  And, following on from that, it’s interesting that she chooses to ignore completely perhaps the most shocking interventions in this debate:.

One student had suggested she couldn’t commemorate the Holocaust because she thought the Union was explicitly “anti-Zionist”. Another said the proposal should be voted against as it would affect the Union’s stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It’s a pity this racist ignorance didn’t seem to have inspired as much indignation as the ‘Eurocentric’ nature of the motion.  As Bob from Brockley concludes, with reference to assurances that the SU simply wants to improve the motion, ‘I think the key test will be whether new motion relativises Holocaust into triviality.’

Finally, a report on a Palestine Society meeting at Oxford by Richard Black. It makes pretty grim reading.

What I heard and saw genuinely shocked me. I’ve heard a lot in my time but this was by far the worst event I have ever attended. I can only describe it as a two hour hate fest of the variety described in George Orwell’s ‘1984.’ It went from the downright idiotic to the explicitly anti-Semitic – and often both. I heard a girl complain about the evils of ‘Zionist’ control in her native America – she even attacked ‘Zionists’ for controlling the make up she wore! No one challenged this girl’s delusions: they only reassured her that fighting Zionism must remain paramount. I heard numerous people glorify the ‘right of the resistance’ and reject non-violent tactics, even including an Oxford academic on the panel (Karma Nabulsi)

I have done what I can. I tried exposing rampant anti-Semitism in the Palestine Society at the start of this year and I was treated with ridicule. It’s time to take this stuff seriously. I saw many freshers at this event – freshers whose minds have been poisoned and given a wholly false narrative which demonises one people at the expense of the other, one that demonises the forces of peace and rewards the actions of hate and terrorism. I saw a room of intelligent, perhaps highly naive students, express the most hideous and morally warped trash. I saw no effort to condemn outright anti-Semitic prejudice when it was expressed. I saw pure intellectual fascism – people attending a talk to confirm their prejudices, and actively ostracising those that disagree with them.

Reading about these three incidents brings an expression coined by Norman Geras to mind – they exemplify the worst of the verkrappt left.

Thanks to Bob from Brockley, Andrew Coates, Mark Lott, Jay Stoll and others for observations and information.