The EDL, the Zionist conspiracy and what George Bush did next

September 29th, 2009 by Dave Rich

BNP leader Nick Griffin and his deputy Simon Darby have been pondering who might be responsible for the sudden emergence of the English Defence League, and have alighted on a familiar foe. Hope Not Hate takes up the story:

It is Simon Darby who begins to shine the light on those behind the EDL. “It’s been set up by a powerful organisation,” he tells his leader. “People with the power to manipulate, who are used to manipulating and have the organisational structure, the facility and the financial clout to promote it.”

“Let’s spell it out shall we,” Griffin responds.

Darby laughs, nervously. “Who’s going to do the spelling?” Obviously not him that’s for sure!

“I’m going to spell it out,” his leader adds pompously. He goes on to pin the blame on those he considers responsible.

“Spelling it out in simple terms, you look at the owners of the Daily Express, the Daily Star and their interests. This is a neo-con operation. This is a Zionist false flag operation, designed to create a real clash of civilisations right here on our streets between Islam and the rest of us.”

He rants and raves a bit more, before adding: “I’ve no doubt that this is something designed to spark physical clashes between Muslim communities en bloc and the people who are coming in to hold a demonstration. They are out of it. The people who are going to get it in the neck, who are going to get the blame when it all goes wrong, are ordinary white working class communities.

“The people behind this are pushing for a low level civil war.”

Now despite the impenetrable ramblings of BNP Legal Director Lee Barnes, it is no longer BNP policy to promote antisemitic conspiracy theories. Indeed, Griffin himself has castigated others on the far right for doing just that. So Griffin goes out of his way to clarify that when he says Zionists, he really doesn’t mean Jews:

I’m not using Zionist as a code word for ordinary Jews at all, I’m using it – the Zionist element exploits ordinary Jews. Huge numbers of ordinary Jews, particularly in Israel, are staunchly anti-Zionist and certainly are against their wars. So I’m not using it as a code, I’m talking about Zionists as a political element. Plenty of Zionists, especially in the United States – you’ve got the Christian Zionists, fundamental Christian lunatics around George Bush and so on, they’re all a bloody menace. Hitherto they’ve been a menace to peace and human survival in the Middle East, and now they’re at the same game here in Britain.

I did wonder what those evil neo-cons around George Bush were up to now that they are out of power. Those ignorant fools at the Wall Street Journal think they are still trying to influence American foreign policy; in fact they have all bought themselves football tops and balaclavas and are running round the streets of Luton, Birmingham and Harrow.

In the 1990s Nick Griffin authored Who are the Mindbenders?, an exercise in listing every Jewish-sounding name he could find in the various media industries. Even then he knew that he would be accused of conducting an exercise in antisemitic conspiracy-mongering, so he tried to explain that he didn’t mean all Jews:

Those Jews who are loyal to Britain, observe the laws of Britain and play no part in poisoning the minds of the people of Britain have absolutely nothing to fear from us. On the other hand, of those who are disloyal, break the law and/or play a part in poisoning the public mind – whether by means of the press, TV or any other medium – Gentiles are equally guilty as Jews and should be treated equally…Our quarrel is with the Mind-Benders in the media, not with law-abiding tailors and dentists.

It now seems that Griffin has spotted that if you talk about Zionists, not Jews, you are more likely to get away with this sort of thing. He is far from alone in trying to play the ‘I’m talking about Zionists not Jews’ card, but it never convinces.


Does Ahmadinejad read the Guardian?

September 25th, 2009 by Mark Gardner

The Guardian is Britain’s leading left of centre opinion maker. In recent years, the British left has displayed an increasing ignorance of what antisemitism is. These are not unrelated phenomena. 

The websites of the Guardian, the Times and the Telegraph all covered Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s 24th September 2009 speech at the United Nations in New York. The Times and the Telegraph both explcitly called Ahmadinejad’s speech anti-Jewish or antisemitic. The Guardian did not.

The Guardian interpreted the world’s most dangerous antisemite as ‘merely’ having attacked Israel in his speech to the UN. Compare what the Guardian wrote with how other newspapers covered the same story (all emphases added by the author):   

The Guardian  

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s renewed attack on Israel hastens walkout

The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, faced a series of walkouts at the United Nations general assembly last night after launching a renewed attack on Israel, which he accused of genocide, barbarism and racism.

Within minutes of his criticism of Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians, delegations from various countries began to rise from their seats and noisily left the chamber.

Many other countries had left before he even began, partly because it was the evening and partly in protest over his brutal crackdown on the Iranian opposition after June’s election and partly over comments last week again questioning whether the Holocaust had taken place.

…The Palestinians had suffered from attacks on defenceless women and children, seen their homes destroyed and faced an economic blockade in Gaza that amounted to genocide. He described Israeli attacks on Gaza as barbaric.

He suggested that Israel could get away with this because of extensive lobbying and political influence in the US and Europe. “It is unacceptable that a small minority should dominate large parts of the world through a complex network in the US and Europe to retain its racist ambitions,” Ahmadinejad said…

The Times

 Live: world leaders’ speeches at General Assembly

…Several delegates, including the United States and Costa Rica, walk out of the General Assembly Hall when Mr Ahmadinejad alludes to a supposed worldwide Jewish conspiracy. The offending comment: “It is no longer acceptable that a small minority would dominate the politics, economy and culture of major parts of the world by its complicated networks, and establish a new form of slavery, and harm the reputation of other nations, even European nations and the US, to attain its racist ambitions.”…

The Telegraph

Britain walks out of Iran’s Ahmadinejad’s anti-Semitic speech at UN

Britain walked out of a speech by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran at the United Nations on Wednesday night in protest at anti-Semitic remarks.

…South American delegations also marched from the grand hall at UN headquarters when the controversial leader denounced what he said was a global Jewish conspiracy, amid a long rant against capitalism and Western hypocrisy.

He denounced a “small minority dominating much of the world through a complicated network”, and went on to call Iran a “glorious, democratic nation”.

The United States, Canada and Israel decided earlier to boycott the speech before the annual UN General Assembly, after Mr Ahmadinejad repeated his denial of the Holocaust in a speech in Iran on Monday. He has also regularly called on Jews to leave Israel…

The Independent newspaper (like the Guardian, not exactly pro-Israel) also managed to see the wood for the trees, saying of Ahmadinejad:

He also delivered an oblique tirade against the Jews, condemning the “private networks” that he said largely ran the world. 

The headline in The Evening Standard quoted UK diplomats as having walked out over Ahmadinejad’s “anti-Semitic” speech. Nevertheless, the actual article referred to both criticism of Israel, and antisemitism, as the reason for the walkout: 

Britain joins walkout after Ahmadinejad’s ‘anti-semitic’ rant

British diplomats walked out during a speech by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over “anti-Semitic” remarks by the Iranian leader.

Mid-ranking UK officials at the UN joined their US counterparts as they left in protest at Mr Ahmadinejad’s comments about Israel in his speech to the UN General Assembly

A spokeswoman for the UK delegation said the walk-out was prompted by “anti-Semitic” rhetoric.

Mr Ahmadinejad condemned Israel for what he said was a “barbaric” attack on the Gaza Strip last winter.

…In his speech, the Iranian President accused Israel of “inhuman policies” in the Palestinian territories.

Mark Kornblau, spokesman for the US Mission to the UN, said: “It is disappointing that Mr Ahmadinejad has once again chosen to espouse hateful, offensive and anti-Semitic rhetoric.”

The manner in which the Standard slipped from antisemitic, to Israel and back to antisemitism is illustrative of many people’s confusion between the terms anti-Israel and antisemitism.

It also illustrates the genuine differences of opinion that people sincerely hold over when the two terms should be used. For the vast majority of people – especially on the left – this difference of opinion appears rooted in their attitude to Israel. Those who are hostile to Israel regard their own hostility as fair criticism and unconnected to antisemitism. Unfortunately, all too often, they ascribe their own self-image to that of other critics of Israel:  including those who are not merely critics, but those who believe in an anti-Zionist ideology that is rooted not in opposition to real Zionism, but in opposition to the Zionism of the antisemitic imagination.

This Zionism of the antisemitic imagination replaces the word Zionist for the word Jew and then regurgitates age old antisemitic imagery and themes in a contemporary “anti-Zionist” form. The Times, Telegraph, Independent,  Evening Standard, and delegates from many nations (inclduing the UK and US) at the United Nations get it. Sadly, the Guardian does not.


It is difficult to discern if the Guardian correspondent, Ewan MacAskill, actually heard Ahmadinejad’s speech; or if he knew (and ignored) that the UK and US delegates stated their walkouts were due to antisemitism.

The walkouts followed the previous pattern of what happened when Ahmadinejad addressed the UN anti-racism conference in Geneva on 20th April 2009. This speech followed an earlier diatribe from him at the UN General Assembly in New York on 23rd September 2008 (in which there was no mass walkout) when he said the following:

“The dignity, integrity and rights of the American and European people are being played with by a small but deceitful number of people called Zionists.  Although they are miniscule minority, they have been dominating an important portion of the financial and monetary centers as well as the political decision-making centers of some European countries and the US in a deceitful, complex and furtive manner.  It is deeply disastrous to witness that some presidential or premiere nominees in some big countries have to visit these people, take part in their gatherings, swear their allegiance and commitment to their interests in order to attain financial or media support.”

“This means that the great people of America and various nations of Europe need to obey the demands and wishes of a small number of acquisitive and invasive people.  These nations are spending their dignity and resources on the crimes and occupations and the threats of the Zionist network against their will.”

It is not known if either Ahmadinejad or his speech writers read the Guardian. There is, however, one sentence in the above section that bore a striking resemblance to a Guardian editorial that had been published only two months earlier during the US Presidential election campaign.

This is the sentence, “It is deeply disastrous to witness that some presidential or premiere nominees in some big countries have to visit these people, take part in their gatherings, swear their allegiance and commitment to their interests in order to attain financial or media support.”

And this is the Guardian editorial from 24 July  2008

Obama in Israel

The message that matters

When a presumptive US presidential candidate arrives in Jerusalem, he willingly dons a jacket designed by Israeli tailors. He is compelled to call the country a miracle, to visit the Israeli Holocaust Memorial Yad Vashem and to link the memory of the 6 million Jews who died in Europe to Israeli victims of Palestinian violence today

Now of course the Guardian would never mean it like that – well, not like Ahmadinejad means it anyway. And of course the Guardian would neither threaten another Holocaust, nor deny the last one.

Nevertheless, the Guardian as an institution – and as a consequence much of its constituency – has clearly allowed its hostility against Israel to erode both its understanding of antisemitism; and its vigilance against imagery that evokes deeply rooted antisemitic stereotypes. 

This is not so much a conscious decision, or some covert antisemitic conspiracy: it is simply what happens when, over time, basically decent people lose sight of the dividing line between criticism and hatred, and between scathing political comment and racist abuse. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule at both the Guardian and throughout the wider Left, but they are swimming against the tide.


Whilst Ahmadinejad’s readership of the Guardian is unknown, the BBC is certainly an avid reader: and it would appear to have caught the ‘see no antisemitism’ bug. 

The BBC coverage of another antisemitism-related controversy at the UN this week, over the leadership election to UNESCO, avoids mentioning that the Egyptian culture minister, Farouk Hosny blamed Jews for his failure to get the leadership of the international body. Rather, the BBC choose to report that Hosny said he failed to land the post because of “Zionist pressures”.   

The Associated Press coverage shows that this wasn’t all he said:  

“It was clear by the end of the competition that there was a conspiracy against me,” Hosny told reporters at the airport upon his return from Paris.

There are a group of the world’s Jews who had a major influence in the elections who were a serious threat to Egypt taking this position,” he said.

The AP coverage was carried in many newspapers, but Egypt’s Daily News was even more explicit:

Hosni said he was a clear winner since he received 22 votes in the first round, and the runner-up received only eight.

Then the Jewish game started by the US and big nations that claim democracy, and transparency. They all conspired against me,” he added.

“It was clear by the end of the competition that there was a conspiracy against me…There are a group of the world’s Jews who had a major influence on the elections and who saw a serious threat in Egypt taking this position,” he said.

Hosni also accused the American ambassador at the UNESCO specifically of working against him.

Hosni also lamented that he had had the Western press and “Zionist pressures against him every day.”

[With thanks to Arieh Kovler for having brought the Guardian’s 24.09.09 coverage to CST’s notice]

Doing your revision

September 25th, 2009 by Dave Rich

Harry’s Place has posted an amusing exchange of emails, from a Comment Is Free thread, in which a reader tries to pin down Anas al-Tikriti on his claim that several leading Hamas figures view the Hamas charter as “incorrect, inappropriate, inaccurate and certainly unfit for use”; and that “a complete revision of the Charter is underway, while the current Charter is in no way being cited as any kind of central document, reference or manual for the movement, nor has it been for over a decade.”

When Dave Rushmore, the author of the Harry’s Place post, queries this, Anas al-Tikriti admits that he has no knowledge of how, where or when this revision is taking place or will be concluded, but insists that “many Hamas leaders have publically rejected it [the charter] and many more have called on it to be revised and replaced.” Again, when pushed, al-Tikriti fails to identity a single example of a Hamas leader publicly rejecting the charter.

It is not a pleasant experience being pinned down by a tenacious commenter on a blog thread, so I thought I’d give Anas a hand and try to find some examples for him.  How about Mahmoud Zahar, a co-founder of Hamas, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and previously the Hamas Foreign Minister in Gaza?

Will you revise your charter?

No. This charter is not the Qu’ran, but it should not be changed because it is implementing the views of every Muslim everywhere.

Not him then. What about Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas Prime Minister in Gaza? There are some – former President Carter, for example – who have reported that he would be open to some sort of revision, although Haniyeh himself does not appear to have made a specific statement on the subject. The closest we have is a statement from his political advisor, Ahmed Yousef, who had been reported as saying that Hamas would distance itself from the Charter:

GAZA, (PIC)– Dr. Ahmed Yousef, the political advisor to Ismail Haneyya, the premier of the PA caretaker government, denied on Wednesday statements attributed to him by different media outlets that Hamas turned against its charter drawn up in 1988 and that it became part of the past.

“Those statements were certainly distorted and taken out of context  from a long TV interview conducted in English with the Palestinian news agency Ramattan; this incomplete extraction led to the twisting of what I meant,” Yousef explained in a press release on Wednesday.

The political advisor confirmed that Hamas is proud of its charter because it is a historic document and an important part of Hamas struggle against the Israeli occupation, pointing out that this charter has the credit for mobilizing the Palestinian street and maintaining the Intifada and national constants.

Oops. One last try – Khaled Meshaal, the leader of the Hamas political bureau and the man generally seen as the most senior Hamas figure outside Gaza. What does he have to say about it?

But he urged outsiders to ignore the Hamas charter, which calls for the obliteration of Israel through jihad and cites as fact the infamous anti-Semitic forgery, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” Mr. Meshal did not offer to revoke the charter, but said it was 20 years old, adding, “We are shaped by our experiences.”

Right – so the best we can find is that Hamas won’t change their charter, but everyone else should just pretend it doesn’t exist. You might think that this represents progress of sorts: a fudge from the Hamas leadership that allows them to save face while relegating the charter to history. It seems that Meshaal was well aware that people might interpret his comments in this way, and didn’t like it; so to clarify his position, he issued another statement to the Palestinian Information Center, which is the closest thing to an official Hamas website:

DAMASCUS, (PIC)– Khaled Mishaal, the political bureau chairman of Hamas, has denied that his Movement was about to change its charter or stop its resistance against occupation stressing that resistance was a legitimate right for any people under occupation.

Mishaal, in a press release on Tuesday, said that the New York Times did not quote him correctly and what was attributed to him was “erroneous”.

Regarding the question by the American paper on Hamas’s charter, he said that Hamas was not like others who change their charters to meet the demands of other parties. “This principle is not acceptable,” he said, pointing out that the others who changed their charter did not gain anything in return.

Sorry Anas, I tried.

How about the more general claim, that “the current Charter is in no way being cited as any kind of central document, reference or manual for the movement, nor has it been for over a decade”?

I’m afraid this isn’t quite correct either. Below is the frontispiece of a copy of the Hamas charter published in Qalqilya in 2004. So while “outsiders” are advised to ignore the charter, Hamas still publishes it for a Palestinian audience. You may recognised the moustachioed face on the top left; he is Saeed Hotari, the suicide bomber who murdered 21 Israelis, mostly teenagers, at the Dolphinarium nightclub in Tel Aviv in 2001.

Hamas charter

Dave Rushmore’s work in teasing out al-Tikriti’s evasions is terrific, but I’m afraid he got one thing wrong. Dave dates the idea that the charter would be revised to 2006, and points out that the work is still not complete after three years. In fact, the rumours of charter revision go back much further. An article [full version not available online] published in the Journal of Palestine Studies as long ago as 1993 advised readers:

One might note that recent rumors to the effect that Hamas is considering far-reaching changes in its charter have been vigorously denied, notably by Hamas leader Dr. ‘Abd al-‘Aziz al-Rantisi.

Sixteen years on, Hamas leaders are still denying that they will change their charter, no matter how many times they are asked about it. Despite this their supporters and apologists in the West insist that the charter will be changed, or that it is so old now that it should just be ignored; despite the fact that Hamas still publishes it in Arabic. There are good reasons for this: the Hamas charter is a foul document, which shows Hamas to be an utterly repellent organisation. No wonder Anas al-Tikriti and others wish it would go away. Their problem is that Hamas refuses to stick to the script.

Civil servant found guilty of racially aggravated harassment

September 24th, 2009 by Dave Rich

The Guardian reports:

A senior Foreign Office civil servant was today facing the sack after being convicted of racially aggravated harassment.

Rowan Laxton, who heads the South Asia desk, launched an expletive-ridden tirade against Israel and Jews as he worked out at a London gym.

A court was told the 48-year-old shouted: “Fucking Israelis, fucking Jews” as he watched a television news report about the death of a Palestinian farmer.

His fellow gym members Gideon Falter and William Lemaine overheard him and complained to gym staff.

Falter claimed he also heard Laxton say: “If I had my way, the fucking international community should be sent in, and if the Israelis got in the way, they’d be blown off the fucking earth.”

The incident, which happened during the conflict in Gaza last January, was described by Laxton’s counsel as a “moment of madness”.

“It is a cliche, but it’s a cliche that fits in this situation,” Julian Knowles told Westminster magistrates court. “It was a moment of madness for Mr Laxton, which is going to have very grave and long-term consequences.

“Whatever happens in court is secondary to the effect it will have on his career and his reputation. The real punishment is yet to come.”

Laxton, who earns £3,000 a month after tax, was suspended from his post after the outburst and could now be sacked.

Giving evidence, Laxton said: “I am embarrassed, to be honest with you.

“I offended somebody, I embarrassed the Foreign Office, I’ve caused anxiety to a number of friends and family and, in particular, I regret using foul language and I regret using imprecise language.

“I regret very much the way in which this case came out in the media and the suggestion that I am antisemitic or racist in any way. I am not.”

He said he fully accepted that his comments suggested everybody in Israel was “somehow responsible” for the farmer’s death.

Laxton was fined £350 and ordered to pay £500 prosecution costs and a £15 victim surcharge. Knowles said his client was “very disappointed” with the outcome and would consider “his next steps with his legal team”.

Laxton was suspended from his job earlier this year, and a misconduct hearing is likely to start this week.

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokeswoman said: “We can confirm that a member of FCO staff was convicted, on 24 September, of a public order offence.

“The FCO takes very seriously any suggestion of inappropriate behaviour by its staff.

“The case will now be considered under the FCO’s misconduct procedure. This is an internal matter, and it would therefore be wrong to comment further.”

What’s in a name?

September 24th, 2009 by Dave Rich

One of the dirtiest and  most transparent tactics used against Barack Obama before and after his election as US President, was the simple repetition by some of his opponents of his full name: Barack Hussein Obama. The racist implication, often unstated, was that he was (1) a Muslim and therefore (2) not to be trusted.

This tactic is quite common, especially when people want to signal a message about somebody’s identity, and therefore give a clue as the reason for their alleged behaviour, without leaving themselves open to allegations of racism. During the Labour party “cash for honours” scandal, profiles of Lord Levy often told readers that his full name is Michael Abraham Levy. Needless to say, it was much less common to be told the middle names of Ruth Turner, Des Smith, Jonathan Powell or any of the other people caught up in the scandal.

At Saturday’s Stop the War Coalition Student Conference, the coalition’s favourite rapper, Lowkey, added himself to the list of people who think you can infer an awful lot from somebody’s name:

[4:38] Personally, I am not surprised by Obama’s stance here, he has the same Defence Secretary George Bush had, Robert Gates, he has a Chief of Staff whose name is Rahm Israel Emanuel, I wonder how his masters at AIPAC would feel about a Chief of Staff whose middle name was Palestine.

Richard Ingrams  produced possibly the most infamous version of this name-spotting game, when he declared that he ignores any pro-Israel correspondence that comes from somebody with a Jewish name:

I have developed a habit when confronted by letters to the editor in support of the Israeli government to look at the signature to see if the writer has a Jewish name. If so, I tend not to read it.

He later explained:

A columnist has to sniff out the things that aren’t mentioned for one reason or another, and this is one of those things. Everyone is so hypersensitive about it, so the issue is left out of the discussion.

The flaw in Ingrams’ strategy for “sniffing out” Jews is that they have a habit of changing their names. This a problem that clearly vexed Tim Llewellyn, the BBC’s former Middle East editor:

Mr Llewellyn declared: “The Israelis appear in studios wearing suits. They’ve learned all sorts of tricks. They are wizards at communication; they speak 10 different sorts of English, from American to South African to Canadian.” Good English, he suggested, played better with the presenters than “a Palestinian speaking down a crackly phone-line from dusty Ramallah.” He added that the tone of complaints against those giving the Palestinian viewpoint was “vituperative, pestering and controlling.”

He also denounced broadcasters who invited the “insidious” former US ambassador to the Middle East Denis Ross, without fully identifying him.

Mr Llewellyn said: “What a lovely Anglo-Saxon name! But Denis Ross is not just a Jew, he is a Zionist, a long-time Zionist… and now directs an Israeli-funded think tank in Washington. He is a Zionist propagandist.”

Very cosmopolitan people, the Jews, with their 10 different types of English and their Anglo-Saxon names.

When people do discover somebody’s ‘real’ name, they often present it with triumphalism, as if it brings with it an entirely new understanding of everything that person says and does. This is George Galloway, on Denis MacShane, from Galloway’s I’m Not the Only One:

Now I know a lot about Denis MacShane, including the fact that he is not Denis MacShane. His is a family of Roman Catholic refugees from Poland who changed their name to blend in more successfully.

Now, whatever Denis MacShane’s family history, he is still the same person, whether he has changed his name or not. But note the phrasing: “he is not Denis MacShane“.

As should be clear, the habit of immigrants anglicising their names is not peculiar to Jews. People from all sorts of backgrounds have done it over the years as a way of aiding their integration into British society, particularly in the days before diversity and multiculturalism were embraced by government and mainstream opinion. Some people had professional reasons for adopting names that fell easier on the ears of English speakers: Issur Danielovitch became Kirk Douglas; Israel Baline became Irving Berlin; Yigal Gluckstein became Tony Cliff. Alternatively, many ordinary families who originate from non-English speaking countries will have a family story about how their name was changed for them by a flustered immigration official, on entry to Britain or America. This phenomenon was so commonplace as to be fictionalised in The Godfather, when the central character, entering America as a child immigrant, has his name changed for him in just this manner. But there is something quite nasty and belittling about the tendency to remind immigrants, or even worse, their children, of their original names or their (hidden) middle names, as if to say: you don’t belong, you never will, and don’t try to deceive us about who and what you really are.

It is no surprise that people who think that Jews should be easily identifiable, lest they enter parts of society where they do not belong, should bemoan the practice of name-changing; but sometimes it can even be difficult for Jews to see through the new identities of their co-religionists, and work out who is a Jew, and who merely likes a bowl of chicken soup. For the last word on this charade of Jew-hiding, Jew-spotting and the dangers of identity-disguising, I will hand over to Allen Konigsberg, better known as Woody Allen:

Real far Left opposition to antisemitism

September 23rd, 2009 by Mark Gardner

The British far Left comprises many diverse groups, bitterly divided by ideological detail and factionism. There are, however, certain things upon which they all agree. And one of the things upon which they all agree: is that they all oppose antisemitism. 

But wait, catch your breath and hold those hoots of derisive laughter for just one second…because there is actually one far Left group that consistently analyses the issue of antisemitism from a real world perspective. That group is Workers Liberty.

Workers Liberty understands antisemitism as a living, breathing, kicking phenomenon in which Jews – including Zionist and Israeli Jews – are real people, with real rights, and real fears. This does not prevent Workers Liberty from expressing solidarity with Palestinians. (And CST does not question its right to do so). Crucially, nor does it prevent Workers Liberty from regarding Zionists and Israelis as real human beings, rather than perverse dehumanised hate targets plucked straight from a Stalinist show trial. 

The reaction of Workers Liberty to the growing anti-Israel boycott movement within the Trades Unions Congress displays its usual clarity on the contentious issues of antisemitism and its inbred cousin, anti-Zionism. The article as a whole may be read here. It includes the following:

…The bottom-line argument is that if a boycott gains real momentum, then – whatever the intentions of many of the trade unionists now voting for boycotts – it cannot fail to become a movement to target, shun, and penalise conspicuous Israel-linked people and pro-Israelis in Britain, i.e. Jews.

It cannot fail to boost the occasional pickets now mounted by anti-Israel enthusiasts against Marks and Spencer shops. The “official” reason for these pickets is links between Marks and Spencer bosses and Israel. In fact what singles out Marks and Spencer among High Street chains is that it is the one well known to have been founded by Jewish businessmen.

It cannot fail to revive the mood on university campuses which for many years, from the mid-1980s, led to student unions banning student Jewish societies on the grounds that they would not foreswear all links with Israel…

…The boycott proposal, by presenting the Israeli Jews as a “bad people”, an illegitimate nation, a community to be shunned in a blanket fashion, functions as the thin end of the wedge for the idea that the Israeli Jews have no right of national self-determination, and that the Jews across the world who feel instinctive (though often critical) solidarity with Israel should be denounced as “Zionists”. The term “Zionist” in this context bears the same emotional charge as “fascist” or “racist”.

The TUC General Council statement overrode the FBU motion’s demand for a consumer boycott of all Israeli goods, substituting a consumer boycott of goods from the Occupied Territories… But neither the TUC leaders’ move to reduce it all to vague but safe impracticality, nor “Zionist”-baiting, is an answer.

What we need, and what would best help the Palestinians, is a difference [sic] campaign. One which makes the unions’ two-states policy an active guide to solidarity – on the lines tentatively started by RMT in 2008-9 – rather than an abstract preamble to motions which go on to recommend nothing but vague lobbying of the Government and individual consumer choices. And one which decisively rejects the “Zionist”-baiters.

Hate crime murders in Russia

September 22nd, 2009 by Dave Rich

The Huffington Post reports on a trial in Russia of a group of neo-Nazi youths, accused of a series of racist murders:

A prominent trial in Saint Petersburg risks going all but unnoticed, yet deserves all the attention it can garner because of its profound implications for Russia. Fourteen neo-Nazi youths are on trial for deliberately and systematically killing eight people, most of them not ethnic Russians. The victims range from a Jewish shop clerk to an internationally known ethnographer who served as a court expert on extremism and race studies. The verdict on the accused and, just as importantly, the overall conduct of the trial will tell us much about the Russian legal system’s ability to respond to a surge in racially motivated attacks that bodes ill for the health of the multi-ethnic Russian state. Over the last several years, the government has failed to bring justice in hundreds of cases of hate crime murders throughout the country.

So far, this landmark trial in the country’s second-biggest city is proving to be a showcase for neo-Nazi solidarity as much as a venue for examining the facts in the case. Friends and relatives of the accused routinely arrive at court sessions wearing Nazi paraphernalia, from belt buckles to swastika tattoos, according to observers from the human rights organization Memorial. Yet, lawyers representing victims say that repeated complaints to bailiffs about the intimidating atmosphere fall on deaf ears.

Why is this trial so crucial? For one, the sheer number of accused and their ability to carry out these violent attacks underscore the danger posed by neo-Nazi groups in Russia. The diversity of targets – from five countries and six ethnic groups – also suggests that nobody who appears to deviate from the “Slavic norm” is safe. This threat is especially relevant in St. Petersburg, Russia’s renowned “cultural capital” and leading tourist destination with 2.3 million foreign visitors last year.

Secondly, the outcome of the trial will signal the Russian justice system’s ability to send a strong message that it will not tolerate violent hate crimes against the country’s minorities and those who speak out on their behalf. That important message has been largely muted.

Finally, the trial is taking place at a time when human rights defenders – including those who defend the rights of minorities – in Russia are facing extraordinary challenges. The July murder of Natalya Estemirova is just the latest in a series of politically motivated murders of those investigating human rights abuses in the North Caucasus Russian republic.

According to the SOVA Center for Information and Analysis, whose director co-authored the Huffington Post article, 525 people were victims of racist or xenophobic violence in Russia last year, of whom 97 were murdered. They conclude:

Racist and neo-Nazi violence continues to escalate [in 2008], although it is becoming more difficult to uncover information about this. However, Russian society is clearly losing interest in such crimes and media coverage of them has decreased, the political authorities remain uninterested in making this information available, and often the ultra-right activists themselves do everything they can to disguise their racist activities as ordinary crimes, thereby ensuring they go unnoticed by outside observers.

The nature of racist attacks is clearly changing: we are more often seeing the use of explosives and firearms. Religious and ideologically-motivated vandalism is becoming more aggressive – perpetrators are more often turning from the drawing of insulting graffiti to arson and explosions. We have also witnessed the increased use of diverse provocations to fan xenophobic hysteria in society and to provoke discriminatory actions from the authorities. The number of xenophobic attacks committed by ordinary people (as opposed to organized groups) has grown, as has the number of mass fights which have grown into (or which have threatened to grow into) ethnic pogroms.

The main victims of xenophobic aggression are natives of Central Asia (49 dead, 108 injured) and of the Caucasus (23 dead, 72 injured). However, practically no one with non-Slavic features is immune to assault by racists, nor are representatives of leftist youth movements and alternative youth subcultures (punks, Goths, emos etc) whom neo-Nazis consider ‘traitors to the white race’.

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