Guardian partly alters Juan Cole article

August 28th, 2012 by Mark Gardner

The Guardian’s Comment is Free (CiF) wesbite has partly amended an article by Juan Cole, following CST’s intervention.

Cole’s article had been reccommended by senior Guardian figure, Brian Whitaker, as being amongst the “best blogs and analysis from the Middle East”. The Guardian had sub-titled the article as:

The Republican presidential hopeful is holding a fundraiser and playing war enabler in Israel – it’s wrong on so many levels

CST’s complaints were laid out on CST Blog the day that Cole’s article appeared on 30th July. Cole’s article consists of 10 points against US presidential candidate, Mitt Romney. We pointed out that Cole had provided insufficient proof for his dangerous claim at number 7, which alleged Romney is promising his pro-Israeli donors a war against Iran; and claimed that a similar war had been similarly delivered for Israel against Iraq. Cole had written:

7. Romney is promising his donors in Jerusalem a war on Iran. When George W Bush promised his pro-Israel supporters a war on Iraq, it cost the US at least $3 trillion, got hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed, destabilised the Gulf for some time, cost over 4,000 American soldiers’ lives and damaged American power and credibility and the economy. As Nancy Reagan said of drugs, so US politicians must say to constant Israeli entreaties that the US continually fight new wars in the Middle East on their behalf: “Just say no.” Instead, Romney is playing war enabler, and that abroad.

Now, the article’s sub-title has lost the “war enabler in Israel” sting. It is changed to:

The Republican presidential hopeful is holding a fundraiser – it’s wrong on so many levels

Number 7 has also lost some, but not all, of its sting. It has been cut to state:

7. Romney is promising his donors in Jerusalem a war on Iran.  

The foot of the article now carries this:

This article was amended on 28 August 2012. The original version commented on US involvement in the Iraq war in terms that were capable of misinterpretation. The relevant sentences have been removed and the standfirst amended accordingly.

So, the Guardian appears to stand by Cole’s assertion that Romney is “promising his donors in Jerusalem a war on Iran”: even if it is now, belatedly, removing the alleged photofit US war in Iraq in terms that were capable of misinterpretation”. The change is to be welcomed: but it should never have been necessary in the first place. Furthermore, its worth is compromised for having taken so long to implement and, of course, for retaining the Iran warmongers allegation. As we previosuly pointed out, Cole’s link for this promised war in Iran is an Associated Press report that falls short of the proof that ought to be required for such a succinctly overblown claim. The AP report ends:

He [Romney] later clarified his comments in a written statement, saying that the candidate “believes we should employ any and all measures to dissuade the Iranian regime from its nuclear course and it is his fervent hope that diplomatic and economic measures will do so. In the final analysis, of course, no option should be excluded.”

CST’s orginal piece noted the sad inevitablity of the Guardian getting its knickers in a twist about a right-wing American Presidential candidate raising money in Israel. We also noted that Guardian Comment is Free is “journalistically subnormal”

 

 

 

 

 

Iran’s UK fellow travellers.

August 17th, 2012 by Mark Gardner

Today is Quds Day, an annual demonstration of Iranian antisemitism throughout the world. The London version is one of its more sanitised versions. It will probably include warm fuzzy sounding words about protecting human rights for all (this, despite its usual profusion of Hizbollah flags and fevered denunciations of Zionism). 

So, it is most unlikely that the event organisers will be reading out the speech that President Ahmedinejad gave today in Tehran (broadcast on state TV), with its demand that every cancerous Zionist cell be eradicated from every last inch of Palestine: 

The Zionist regime and the Zionists are a cancerous tumour. Even if one cell of them is left in one inch of (Palestinian) land, in the future this story (of Israel’s existence) will repeat…A new Middle East will definitely be formed. With the grace of God and help of the nations, in the new Middle East there will be no trace of the Americans and Zionists

The organisers of London’s Quds Day and the supporting organisations are also unlikely to repeat the wildly antisemitic claims contained in Ahmedinejad’s speech. (As reported by AFP):

Ahmadinejad, in his speech, claimed that “Zionists” triggered the first and second world wars, and had “taken control over world affairs since the moment they became dominant over the US government.”

He asserted that major governments, banks and media were in thrall to a Zionist cabal whose aim was to “destroy the cultures, values and sovereignty of nations.”

In London, Quds Day also usually features the Jewish Neturei Karta sect as proof that Jews should not be hated – just Zionists; and this is really just yet another anti-Israel protest, honest guv.  

It is not. Today’s London demonstration sits squarely within the international Quds Day framework. Those organisations that allow their names to be associated with Quds Day are encouraging the Iranian leadership’s violent fantasies about destroying Israel: fantasies that are inching towards reality and pushing the region into war talk of the most dangerous sort imaginable. Then, there is the Iranian regimes’ support for the terrorist murder of Jews around the world; its Holocaust denial; and its blaming Jews for everything from junkies to the London Olympic logo. All of this, to say nothing of the regime’s treatment of its own minorities and dissenters; or its support for the murderous regime of President Assad in Syria.

So, step forward then, the following organisations, all of whom the London Quds Day organisers claim are supporting the demonstration:

  • Ahlulbait Islamic Mission
  • Aloha Palestine
  • Friends of Lebanon
  • Innovative Minds
  • Boycott Israel Network
  • Islamic Centre of England
  • Islamic Forum of Europe
  • Islamic Student Association
  • Jews Against Zionism
  • Lebanese Community UK
  • Neturei Karta UK
  • Muslim Association of Britain
  • Muslim Council of Britain
  • Palestine Legal Aid Fund
  • Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign
  • Stop the War Coalition
  • UKIM

Of course, some of these organisations are cosily in bed with Iran and really, really, really, couldn’t care less. Others, such as Stop the War, are supposed to be…err…something else…sort of…aren’t they?  

 

Nazism in Public Places and “No, no, no”

August 15th, 2012 by Mark Gardner

Two Nazi-themed controversies in recent days pose interesting questions about taste, art and freedom of speech. 

The first controversy at least has the advantage of being original – an Adolf Hitler crazy golf hole in Blackpool that shouts “No, no, no” and raises its arm in Nazi salute when you strike the ball through his midriff.

The second controversy is distinctly unoriginal – people dressing up in Nazi uniforms as part of World War 2 re-enactment groups. It is one of those things that arises year in, year out and this one concerns the Yanks festival in Saddleworth, Oldham, shown below. (There does not, however, seem to have been a repeat of what happened elsewhere this June, when a Jewish couple were asked to don yellow stars and pose as refugees.) 

Should this be illegal? Driving through town in a Nazi uniform, with a swastika pennant and an SS numberplate (as opposed to a ‘mere’ Wehrmacht army plate)? 

Should glorification of Nazism be a crime, similar to how the glorification of terrorism has been legislated against in recent years…and what actions would this driver, or the parade organisers, need to take in order to face (or avoid) prosecution? 

Is the man in the above picture perpetrating incitement to racial hatred and violence…does he fantasise about rounding up Jews for slaughter, or does he merely like to embarrass his kids and shock the neighbours?

Sadly, we do not know if the Nazi fancy dress enthusiast has made the one hour drive over to Blackpool in order to play the Adolf Hitler crazy golf hole. 

 

There will be many differing reactions to the above image. Some will be outraged, other reactions will range from hilarity to regarding it as ridiculous or utterly trivial.    

To put it in context, this is not a crazy golf course by a windswept promenade, featuring miniature concrete windmills, ramps and little humps with maddening holes stuck in the middle of them. It is actually part of an art installation at an Arts Council funded Adventureland Golf exhibition at the Grundy Art Gallery. (The full story may be read here.) Different holes are desgined by different artists and “holes range from statements on politics and life and death, to cheeky and fun challenges, making this very much a crazy golf course with a difference”.

Furthermore, the artists behind the Hitler hole, Jake and Dinos Chapman clearly do not mean this to be anything other than an anti-Nazi statement. Their previous work includes “Hell”, a vast diorama, with over 30,000 small model figures, many in Nazi uniform, engaged in acts of gross cruelty. (See here for one of numerous extreme examples that you may find disturbing.) 

Nevertheless, for all the cleverness that the crazy golf-themed art exhibition may well have on display, I am still disturbed by this picture of the Hitler hole in action: 

Who knows, perhaps the fact that the statue exclaims “No, no, no” whilst raising its arm to salute a successful shot is sufficient to teach these girls that Hitler is no laughing matter. Either that, or this anti-Hitler agitprop is too clever for its own good: but still, wouldn’t it be fitting if the middle aged men who parade in Nazi uniforms were compelled to shout “No! No! No!”, every time they passed a member of the public.

(Suggested related reading – the market for Nazi memorabilia; the Marc Garlasco controversy; and Hitler wine on sale in Italy. See here for photo of overweight men on East Lancs Railway dressed up as Hermann Goering.)

 

What is Al Quds Day?

August 3rd, 2012 by Dave Rich

Al Quds Day is an annual day chosen by the late Ayatollah Khomeini to call for Israel to be destroyed. It is normally marked on the last Friday of Ramadan by marches and demonstrations around the world, including in London; this year it will take place on Friday 17th August. Quds is the Arabic name for Jerusalem.

Iranian leaders are very clear that Quds Day is not just about supporting Palestinian rights or campaigning for an improvement in their situation: it is about destroying Israel. The latest to state this is the current Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad:

The Qods Day is not merely a strategic solution for the Palestinian problem, as it is to be viewed as a key for solving the world problems; any freedom lover and justice seeker in the world must do its best for the annihilation of the Zionist regime in order to pave the path for the establishment of justice and freedom in the world.

The organiser of the annual Quds Day march in London is the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC). The IHRC has provided a page on its website titled “What is Al Quds Day?” to help explain what it is all about. The first external link provided on this page is to a selection of quotes by Khomeini about “Palestine and Al-Quds”, which includes this quote:

We must all rise, destroy Israel and replace it with the heroic Palestinian nation.

The IHRC is advertising Quds Day on London buses. Looking at the advert, it would be easy to think this is just another pro-Palestinian demonstration.

But reading the words of Quds Day founder Khomeini that are linked to by the IHRC to promote the event, it is clear that Quds Day is not like any other pro-Palestinian demonstration.

Quds Day is for people who want to destroy Israel.

The IHRC’s webpage also has a list of external links titled “Further resources on Palestine”. The ninth link in this list (out of ten) is called “Zionism – the Greatest Danger“. This external webpage that the IHRC links to is overtly antisemitic. It uses “Jews” and “Zionists” interchangeably in clearly antisemitic ways, such as:

The greatest evil facing the Muslim community (Ummah)and mankind today is not AIDS, Pollution, or Nuclear War. It is international Zionism. It is the Zionist greed for wealth, lust for perverted sex, greed for power, domination, and economic exploitation that is causing AIDS, POLLUTION as well as threatening NUCLEAR WAR.

Zionist are behind every evil and conflict in the world today. Whether it is political, economical, social or moral.

[...]This same Yahud (i.e. Jews) tried to destroy the Holy Prophet (SAW) and his followers in Medina.

The same Yahud that killed Prophet Yahya (AS), that defied Prophet Musa (AS), that crucified Prophet Isa (AS).

Today this Zionist are doing their utmost to destroy`Masjidu’l-Aqsa’ (Muslim’s first Qibla). Their aim is to conquer all Muslim lands and grab the oil resources and destroy Islam completely. Because Islam is a challenge to their evil schemes and exposes them.

This should not be a surprise. Quds Day is an Iranian-inspired and Iranian-led event and antisemitic conspiracy theory is central to Iranian policy towards Israel. In his comments this week promoting Quds Day, President Ahmadinejad claimed that a Zionist conspiracy has controlled world affairs for 400 years:

Ahmadinejad added, “It has now been some 400 years that a horrendous Zionist clan has been ruling the major world affairs, and behind the scenes of the major power circles, in political, media, monetary, and banking organizations in the world, they have been the decision makers, to an extent that a big power with a huge economy and over 300 million population, the presidential election hopefuls must go kiss the feet of the Zionists to ensure their victory in the elections.”

[...]

The president pointed out that in order to evolutionize the status of the world decision making is needed, the forces must get united, and their ultimate objective must be the annihilation of the Zionist regime, emphasizing, “The Zionist regime is both the symbol of the hegemony of the Zionism over the world and the means in the hand of the oppressor powers for expansion of their hegemony in the region and in the world.”

So Quds Day is not just for people who want to destroy Israel; it is also for people who promote antisemitic conspiracy theories.

The IHRC’s webpage about the day provides links to reports of previous years’ marches which show lots of demonstrators carrying Hizbollah flags. The military wing of Hizbollah is a proscribed terrorist organisation in the UK.

Here is a photograph of the same flag, being held by members of Hizbollah’s military wing at a rally in Lebanon:

(Yes, they really are giving Nazi-style salutes).

Here is a clearer depiction of the flag:

This is the same flag that has been carried on previous Quds Day demonstrations, and presumably will be carried on this year’s as well.

Under the Terrorism Act 2000, it is an offence if a person “wears, carries or displays an article, in such a way or in such circumstances as to arouse reasonable suspicion that he is a member or supporter of a proscribed organisation.” As a layperson, it seems clear to me that when people on the Quds Day march carry the Hezbollah flag they are potentially breaking this law. Some people may suggest that this is the flag of the political section of Hizbollah, which is not proscribed in the UK. If that is the case I have two questions: (a) why do Hizbollah fighters use it? and (b) why does it have a gun on it?

CST’s report on anti-Jewish terrorism, Terrorist Incidents against Jewish Communities and Israeli Citizens Abroad 1968-2010 (pdf), identified 14 terrorist attacks (both attempted and completed) by Hizbollah against Jewish and Israeli targets outside Israel up until the end of 2010. The most notorious of these was the suicide bombing of the AMIA Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which killed 85 people. Since the end of 2010, Hizbollah has been implicated in terrorist plots against Jewish and Israeli targets in Cyprus, Singapore, Argentina and Thailand.

So Quds Day is not just for people who want to destroy Israel and who promote antisemitic conspiracy theories; it is also for people who support a terrorist organisation that targets Jews.

As well as the IHRC as organisers, these are the “Supporting Organizations” of this year’s Quds Day march in London:

  • Ahlulbait Islamic Mission
  • Aloha Palestine
  • Friends of Lebanon
  • Innovative Minds
  • Islamic Centre of England
  • Islamic Forum of Europe
  • Islamic Student Association
  • Jews Against Zionism
  • Lebanese Community UK
  • Neturei Karta UK
  • Muslim Association of Britain
  • Muslim Council of Britain
  • Palestine Legal Aid Fund
  • Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign
  • Stop the War Coalition
  • UKIM