Thursday, 28 April 2016

Spinning the web

The current wave of outrage about Ken Livingstone’s defence of fellow UK Labour MP Naz Shah is a media beat up of epic proportions.  The target isn't Shah - who has even been forgiven by some in the rightwing press because she has confessed her sins and issued a ‘heartfelt’ apology -  the target is Jeremy Corbyn and the left of the Labour Party. The media and rightwing politicos are directing yet another artillery barrage at Livingstone in the hope that it will also wipe out Corbyn.

Livingstone is a hostage to fortune on the Israeli-Palestinian issue in part because he refuses to condemn as anti-semitic (among other things) the often controversial and contradictory Muslim Cleric, Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradwi.  In light of the high probability that he would be attacked and anything he said taken out of context and used against him in the court of popular opinion, Livingstone would have been wise to have kept out of the debate. Had he done so we might have been spared the awful sight and sound of John Mann charging up to loudly claim the moral high ground. 

Livingstone also stated in his media interviews that Hitler had once been supportive of a Zionist plan to relocate German Jews to Palestine. In the line with current standards of media accuracy and impartiality, he was promptly accused of saying Hitler had been a Zionist. 

The overall tone of the rightwing media response is exemplified by this comment from The Independent: "A Labour MP has stepped down as an aide to John McDonnell after it emerged that she once backed a plan to relocate the state of Israel to North America".  

Since when has an obviously ironic and amateurish meme on Facebook constituted a 'plan'?  Only a rightwing journo, nose down in the dirt, in hot pursuit of an anti-Corbyn story could produce such arrant nonsense.   

As for the foolish man who is Communications Director for the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism who claimed that Shah's action was evidence of 'gross and brazen anti-semitism' and an "expression of extreme prejudice towards Jewish people" - may I suggest a regime of cold baths and deep breaths. 

I suspect there are few people who are more alert to, or critical of anti-semitism than me. I know how deep and widespread its roots are and how easily it can spring back into destructive life even when people think it has been killed off. I've been vociferously anti-anti-semitism for as long as I've been vociferously pro-Palestinian rights - ie for many decades. 

If I’d seen the meme - which was unearthed from Shah's Facebook page by right-wing blogger and Sun columnist Paul Staines (Guido Fawkes) - I may not have shared it because it has spelling mistakes and I am a pedant - but it is clearly meant to be ironic.  There is nothing in it to suggest it is anti-Jewish. It is a piece of anti-Israel and anti-American agitprop but however hard the right-wing contorts itself, there is simply no basis for arguing that being critical of the actions of the Israeli state automatically constitutes anti-semitism.  

Another charge against Shah is that she posted a link to an article which draws parallels between al Qaida and Zionism. I'm not sure if it was this one by Catherine Shakdam but if it was, it's worth reading. 

Rightwing Zionism and rightwing Islamism definitely have one thing in common - and that's a hatred of the political left. Israel and the US and their allies were totally opposed to and actively undermined the moderate leftwing Palestinian leadership.  As stated in Shakdam''s piece and elsewhere, there is evidence pointing towards the US and Israel having fomented extremist Islam as part of a wider move to 'Balkanise' the greater Levant region as part of Israeli expansionism. It's surely worthy of note that the extremists of Al Qaida and ISIL have not directly attacked Israel or Israeli interests - in fact most of their victims are other Muslims and it is Muslim countries which have suffered most from the unrest in the Middle East. 

The Israeli government and its supporters cynically and persistently use the accusation of anti-semitism to deflect and defuse criticism of Israeli actions.  In so doing, they are busy stripping anti-semitism of its political and historical meaning and significance.

The actions of the Israeli state with regard to Palestinians are indefensible. The irony and the tragedy is that that they are reminiscent of how Nazi Germany and all its collaborating states and peoples acted towards Jews in the 1930s. 

I've talked to young Israelis travelling in NZ after the end of their military service and been appalled at the unthinking racism some of them display towards Palestinians. It's an almost word for word replication of the bigoted supremacist ideology trotted out by white racists:  Palestinians are stupid and uneducable, they are incapable of running their own affairs, they are aggressive and untrustworthy and innately predisposed towards being thugs and terrorists. 

Those young Israelis didn't arrive at those ideas by themselves, such notions don't pop up out of a social vacuum - they are fed to the young through educational and religious institutions and military service. 

To create the sort of soldier-medic who can shoot a helpless young man in the head with as little thought or compunction as he might step on a bug, or the sort of crazed religious fanatics that can burn a family alive  - the 'other' has to be turned into a faceless, soulless, non-human being. The trouble is that the only way people can come to see the 'other' as faceless, soulless and non-human is to become those things themselves.

That is the horror of fascism.  

I abhor Muslim fascists as much as I do Jewish or Christian or Hindu or Buddhist ones. In fact I abhor any ideology that is founded on and perpetuates ignorance, irrationality and bigotry. And I abhor all people of violence - most of all those who dispense their violence from the safe distance and comfort of conference and board rooms. 

There are people - including a few who claim to be of the left - whose support of Palestinian rights owes a great deal to a hatred of Jews.  The political rightwing - the traditional home of anti-semitism - currently fears and hates Muslims more than it hates and fears Jews, except of course for those Muslims who happen to be part of the ruling elites of the likes of Saudi Arabia who are granted a temporary exemption.  Such people support Israel because, for the moment, they hate and fear people of another religion more.  Why and how much they hate and fear Muslims varies of course. For most it's ignorance, they have swallowed the toxic ideologies and political spin pumped out by the rightwing media, but for others it's a calculated and calculating strategy at the heart of which is the principle of divide in order to continue to rule.

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