The Labour Party are currently holding their leadership election following the resignation of Ed Miliband after he lost the general election in May. The four candidates are Andy Burnham, Liz Kendall, Yvette Cooper and Jeremy Corbyn, the last being the only left-wing candidate who has been widely ridiculed as a throwback to the early 80s and a certain election loser. Meanwhile, the others are being condemned as closet Tories at worst and uninspiring Blairite functionaries at best. As Corbyn is deemed the most likely candidate to lose the 2020 election, there has been a campaign to encourage Tories to join the party as “supporters” so as to get a vote in the leadership election. That the party’s rules allow this is pretty stupid; most parties (including, for example, the Tories at the time David Cameron was elected leader) do not allow new members to vote.
One of the themes that has been constantly repeated in the criticism of Corbyn and his supporters is that he represents a retreat to idealism, to the ‘freedom’ of being a principled opposition rather than having to make compromises to win and keep power, and a “delusion” that the party lost because it was not left-wing enough. Examples include Saturday’s piece in the Guardian by Jonathan Freedland, in which he claims that the Corbyn ‘tribe’ cares about “identity, not power” and about being true to themselves; Andrew Rawnsley in Sunday’s Observer suggests that the current debate reflects a party which has already resigned itself to losing the next election. Much as in the coverage of Lib Dem party members who opposed their MPs’ caving-in to the Tories’ coalition demands in the last parliament, we have the same language of maturity and of ‘sensible’, ‘realistic’ compromises versus ‘protest’ — a dirty word — and opposition. Freedland even talks of Blair and others who “tried to sit the kids down” and persuade them that Corbyn will never get elected.
Both raise the spectre of the 1980s, with Rawnsley opining that although 1983 was “a mathematically more severe defeat, in some ways Labour’s predicament is worse today”. How is it? In the 1980s Labour faced an infiltration from Militant; there is no such threat today; Militant are a spent force even on the hard left and even Socialist Worker are a shadow of what they were in 2005, let alone the 1980s, as a result of the rape scandal. There are still a few Marxists knocking around, but they are not regarded as the threat that they once were because the USSR no longer exists and cannot fund Marxist entryist groups abroad. So, the press can throw around a few insults but they cannot make left-wingers in the Labour party out to be a threat as they could in the 1980s; and as nobody under 40 remembers the early 1980s (or anything of the Cold War) anyway, the insults have much less resonance than they used to. The world is a totally different place, and it is not Corbyn’s supporters who are living in the past.
Rawnsley accuses Miliband of taking the party to the left “on the basis that the party’s 13 years in office were essentially a terrible mistake” while conceding that Blairites are “not being more vigorous or persuasive in defending their record”. But that’s the whole point. The Blairites have not learned the lessons of the mistakes of Blair’s time in office and in some cases regard them as Blair’s good points. Thatcher and Major fought two wars between them, both of which were popular and generally considered to be just wars. Blair (and Brown) also fought two, both of them (Iraq in particular) unpopular affairs which dragged on for years and did not achieve much. Blair scraped a win in the 2005 election, having won a landslide in 1997 and a respectable majority in 2001. The tendency to centralise everything and to slap down local leaders who make too much noise was already in evidence in the mid-1990s, and is what lost the confidence of Scottish voters in Labour (and in turn, costing the confidence of many English ones).
But by far the biggest New Labour flaw is its timidity, which is what led us into the Iraq war and into accepting humiliations like the 2003 extradition treaty, and it is really what stops the supposed Blairites from defending Blair’s own legacy. Let’s remember that when Blair was in office, there was no serious criticism of his and Brown’s handling of the economy except from people who were regarded as cranks. (The New Statesman carried adverts for books like Gordon is a Moron which predicted a dire economic future, but I don’t recall these books ever getting a review.) It’s generally understood that the deregulation of the banking industry both here and in the USA is what led to the failures of major banks that led to the 2008 crash or “credit crunch”, but despite a change of government, there has been no move to seriously reform the finance industry to prevent another crash. Now, we hear supporters of Liz Kendall, as on the BBC Breakfast programme the other day, claim that Labour have to convince the public that they can be trusted with the economy, which means going along with every ideological Tory benefit ‘reform’ and never challenging the lie, repeated so often in the media that people assume it is true, that Blair and Brown governed as socialist spendthrifts.
The neo-Blairites are very inventive in thinking for reasons why Labour supporters might want a leader who stands for social justice rather than just getting into power. It must be about purity, or identity, or about reducing one’s role in evil rather than reducing evil (which requires power, and thus compromise). Labour supporters usually did not join the party to change the colour of the government or to put some particular individual in office for its own sake. Red does not equal socialism. In the USA a “red state” is one that voted for Bush and then McCain, and in China the ruling party calls itself Communist (and flies a red flag) but implements capitalism, albeit in some respects state capitalism. They joined the party to fight for social justice, for people to have an opportunity to better themselves, for workers’ rights, for better education and healthcare. With three of the four current leadership candidates, people see these things slipping further out of reach as they refuse to defend even their former leader’s legacy and oppose Tory plans to shrink the state. The best we can hope for from them is that they will mind the shop for the Tories when they are down, maybe for ten or fifteen years or so, until the Tories regroup, as they did in the last term of Blair and Brown’s government. And it’s not much to hope for.
It could be true that Corbyn is unelectable. It could be that by 2020, the Tories might be discredited enough for any donkey with a red ribbon to win the election; this is, after all, why governments usually change (those elections in the 1980s were not only Labour losses; the Tories won, because enough people were satisfied with them — something critics of Labour so often fail to take account of). But if the so-called modernisers (who aren’t really all that modern, as Paul Bernal notes) fear Corbyn, they had better start offering a serious alternative. Much like the Liberal Democrats, they need to stop blaming voters and start looking at what they are doing wrong. They may win back a few extra votes in Middle England now, but their supporter base is drifting off in favour of disaffection or UKIP.
Image credit: “The People’s Assembly National Demonstration Jeremy Corbyn MP 21 June 2014 124” by DAVID HOLT from London, England - The People’s Assembly National Demonstration Jeremy Corbyn MP 21 June 2014 124. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
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A must read on lies and how the media/activists will push them. (h/t: J)
Everybody on earth knows that last week a deal on Iran’s nuclear program was announced. Everybody also knows that this apparent step toward peace launched a new stage in an old war: of propaganda. Proponents praise the possibility of a historic opening. Opponents — who include Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the Republican Party — warn of disaster. Both sides want to expand their constituencies. In Western countries, gay communities — small but politically influential — are more and more the target for just this courtship and recruitment.
The right-wing pundit Amir Taheri greeted the nuclear deal with a storm of tweets and screeds condemning it. One 140-character charge drew special attention.Anyone’s first reaction would be some version of “My God.” It sounded horrible. I wrote to Taheri asking for more information — and so, judging from Twitter, did at least three other people.
But the story quickly began to show cracks. Taheri didn’t reply to me, or anybody. I sat down that night with a Farsi-speaking friend and began searching for the story in the Iranian press: under the youth’s name, under various other key words. It didn’t turn up anywhere. I wrote to the Toronto-based Iranian Queer Organization (IRQO), a diaspora-based group of LGBT Iranian activists with which I’ve worked closely over the years. They searched the media as well and found no sign of it. They also reached out to contacts in Isfahan. On Friday morning, they told me no one there had heard of the story, either.
Amir Taheri lies a lot. Eight years ago, Jonathan Schwartz called him “one of the strangest ingredients in America’s media soup,” adding, “There may not be anyone else who simply makes things up as regularly as he does, with so few consequences.” An arch-conservative protege of the Pahlavis, an editor of the Tehran daily Kayhan under the Shah, he repeatedly fabricates stories about Iran to please right-wingers in his adoptive West. Most famously, in 2006 he claimed in Canada’s National Post that a new dress-code law in Iran would impose special clothes on religious minorities, including yellow badges for Jews. Many conservatives swallowed the story; even the Canadian Prime Minister repeated it. But it was a complete falsehood, and after a huge furor the National Post retracted it and apologized: “It is now clear the story is not true. … We apologize for the mistake and for the consternation it has caused.” (The Post also noted that Taheri went “unreachable” after his fiction was exposed, rather as he did on Twitter.) Undeterred, in 2008 Taheri concocted a quote from Ayatollah Khomeini, complete with a fake citation of an invented source; American neoconservative luminaries duly repeated it. In 2002, Taheri claimed that “Osama bin Laden is dead …. the fugitive died in December and was buried in the mountains of southeast Afghanistan.” The list of his duplicities goes on and on. In 1989, an academic reviewing one of Taheri’s books
detailed case after case in which Taheri cited nonexistent sources, concocted nonexistent substance in cases where the sources existed and distorted the substance beyond recognition when it was present. … [The reviewer] concluded that Nest of Spies was “the sort of book that gives contemporary history a bad name.”
Larry Cohler-Esses condemns Taheri as a “journalistic felon,” part of a “media machine intent on priming the public for war with Iran.”
There are ample grounds for skepticism about stories Taheri spreads.
But skepticism doesn’t make headlines. Propaganda’s best friend is the ambition of the press. On Thursday, a reporter for the UK-based Gay Star News also tweeted to Taheri.
Taheri didn’t answer him, either. I know this because the reporter didn’t wait for a source. About 25 minutes later, his story — “GAY TEEN, 14, ‘HANGED FROM TREE’” — topped the website of Gay Star News, and it said Taheri hadn’t told them anything. In other words, their entire account was based on one single tweet with no evidence behind it. This tweet was special, though. The topic of gay killings in Iran has shown its passionate drawing power over a decade, its ability to keep queers clicking. GSN wanted the clicks for itself.
In Britain, young Muslims are made to feel that they are on the wrong side, forced to constantly explain and apologise for extremism in which they have no part
At Eid prayers in a rainswept Aberdeen this month, the imam gave thanks to Allah Almighty for the blessings of life in Britain. We had successfully completed a month of fasting while Muslims in China were banned from observing Ramadan and in other parts of the world, many fasted through distressing circumstances of poverty and war. In the sports hall that was booked for the prayers, we listened to the imam in our rain-splattered best clothes before heading for our first morning coffee in a month and the candy floss on sale for the children.
Older, first-generation immigrants understood the logic of Britain being better and freer than “our own home countries”. But the young who were born and grew up in Britain would say that it is hard work being a British Muslim.
Before even being exposed to radicalisation, young Muslims are talked down to and told offContinue reading...
Australian federal police to allege Brookman willingly provided support to Isis while he was in Syria
A Melbourne nurse accused of working for Islamic State in Syria has been charged with terrorism related offences in Melbourne.
Adam Brookman was extradited to Victoria to face court after being arrested at Sydney airport on Friday night.Continue reading...
Far-right political parties are making huge gains across Nordic countries as new champions of a working class alienated by the cosmopolitan left
“The basis of the home is commonality and mutuality. A good home is not aware of any privileged or slighted, no darlings and no stepchildren. You see no one despise the other, no one who tries to gain advantage of others… In the good home you find compassion, cooperation, helpfulness.”
Per Albin Hansson, Swedish prime minister, 1932-1946Continue reading...
The BBC this week reported that what are believed to be amongst the earliest ever fragments of the Qur’an have been found at Birmingham University. The fragments have been carbon dated with a 95% probability to the period 568 to 645 CE ie. to a period that very closely corresponds to the time (610 – 632 CE) when the traditional Muslim narrative maintains that the Prophet Muhammad received the revelation of the Qur’an. This means, as Professor David Thomas of Birmingham University has observed:
“The person who actually wrote it could well have known the Prophet Muhammad. He would have seen him probably, he would maybe have heard him preach. He may have known him personally – and that really is quite a thought to conjure with.”
So, for Muslims, this finding will be received with immense joy as it confirms their belief in the historicity of the Qur’an and the manner of its compilation and preservation. But, what does this finding mean for Western scholarship about the Qur’an?
Back in the late 1970’s, Patricia Crone and Michael Cook (who both went on to occupy prestigious roles at Princeton University) published a book called Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World, which called for a radical revision of the traditional Muslim narrative and insisted that the Qur’an took shape in the 8th century to fulfil a need of the growing Arab empire. The authors claimed at the time that “…There is no hard evidence for the existence of the Koran in any form before the last decade of the seventh century…”
Well, as it happens, Crone (who passed away earlier this month) later changed her mind about this as evidence began to accrue that supported the Muslim narrative, but the revisionists’ influence continues to be felt.
Three years ago, the British writer and historian, Tom Holland, published In The Shadow of the Sword which I reviewed here on this blog at the time. Holland argued that much of the Muslim narrative about the history of Islam was unreliable and that Islam as we now know it was largely shaped by the Arab Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan. Holland added that the true location of the Prophet’s initial preaching was not the Makka that we know today, but much further north on the border with Palestine.
Accompanying the publication of his book, Tom Holland also presented a Channel Four documentary called “Islam the Untold Story” in which he outlined his case. But let’s return to his book for the moment. Holland’s book started off by posing some big questions.
“…how can we know for sure that the Qur’an dates from the time of Muhammad? How can we know who compiled it, from what sources, for what motives? Can we even be sure that its origins lay in Arabia? In short, do we really know anything at all about the birth of Islam?” (p43)
“Does the Qur’an really date from the Prophet’s lifetime? Where, if not in Mecca, might he have lived? Why are the references to him in the early Caliphate so sparse, so enigmatic, and so late?” (p55)
As I said at the time, you could have been forgiven for thinking that Holland had uncovered something shocking about the Qur’an. It was only over 300 pages into his book that you found out Holland’s actual conclusion about the Qur’an:
“The text of the Qur’an itself does seem to derive authentically from the Prophet’s lifetime…it is true, the Qur’an records a very specific moment in history: a moment that internal evidence, as well as tradition, identifies with the early decades of the seventh Christian century.” (p310-315)
So, after that intriguing build up, we were told that the Muslim narrative about the history of the Qur’an was accurate.
Interestingly, Tom Holland did not mention this rather vital fact in his C4 documentary. Why not? This was surely important and relevant in a documentary seeking to look at the historical foundations of Islam? In a Twitter exchange I had with Tom earlier this week, he said it was not necessary to explicitly mention that modern evidence supports the traditional Muslim narrative about the historicity of the Qur’an because his documentary simply assumed the Muslim dating of the Qur’an was correct.
Personally, I can’t help but feel that the more likely reason Holland did not mention this was because it would have severely undermined his entire thesis for the C4 documentary.
Still, let us let bygones be bygones. Looking forward, British Muslims have cause to be grateful that these latest Qur’an fragments have been found in the UK. They will be placed on public display initially at the Barber Institute in Birmingham in just over two months time. I can’t wait to go and see them.
Where is the sensationalist mass media coverage in response to this revenge plotter.
Where was he radicalized?
A man planned mass murder at his former college and a shooting spree on the Tyne and Wear Metro after building up an arsenal of weapons, a court heard.
Liam Lyburd, 19, admitted nine charges relating to making five pipe bombs on the first day of his trial.
But he denies eight charges of possessing the items with an intent to endanger life.
Newcastle Crown Court heard he told police he intended to “shoot a bunch of people” and blow up Newcastle College.
The jury heard a document found on his computer read “people will die”.
Prosecutor Nick Dry told the court that following concerns raised about posts he had made on Facebook in November under the name Felix Burns, police went to the house on Hamilton Place, Newcastle, where he lived with his mother and sister and searched his room.
Officers found items including a black handgun and canisters of CS gas, along with a black “kill bag” which contained a balaclava, safety glasses, elbow and knee pads and a number of pipe bombs with nails taped around them.
Laughing as he was transported to the police station, after being arrested, he told detectives that it had been a “fantasy that he had no intention of carrying out”, the court heard.
The jury was told Investigations revealed images of Mr Lyburd he had taken of himself dressed for combat, armed with a Glock and brandishing a knife.
Detectives also found conversations he had on Skype with a girl in Iceland in which he spoke of his desire to kill and had referenced Norwegian killer Anders Breivik, as well as Jaylen Fryberg who shot high school five students in the United States.
He also discussed shooting commuters on the Tyne and Wear Metro system, saying he would be on “Valium at the time, and how he would resort to using his machete if the gun jammed”, the court heard.
by Murtaza Hussain, The Intercept
This Saturday in New Hampshire, several leading Republican presidential candidates are scheduled to appear at a “National Security Action Summit,” hosted by the Center for Security Policy (CSP), a think tank led by notorious anti-Muslim conspiracist Frank Gaffney. Among the topics slated for discussion at the event are “shariah and the Global Jihad movement,” as well as border security and the “hollowing-out” of the U.S. military.
Among those listed on the event website as confirmed: Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, Carly Fiorina and George Pataki.
Donald Trump, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker are currently listed as “yet to confirm.”
Gaffney and the Center for Security Policy have a long and well-documented history of anti-Muslim conspiracy theories. In recent years, Gaffney has alleged that Muslims serving in the U.S. government are waging a “civilizational jihad” to undermine the country from within, famously accusing Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin of being a covert operative of the Muslim Brotherhood. In 2004, Gaffney leveled similar accusations of sedition against former DHS official and Republican political operative Faisal Gill, an individual later revealed to have been subsequently targeted for intensive government surveillance, as per documents revealed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and reported by The Intercept.
Following Gaffney’s participation in controversial hearings on Muslim-American radicalization in 2011, Linda Sarsour of the National Network for Arab American Communities observed that “Inviting such pseudo-experts to articulate views about Muslim communities in New York is akin to inviting David Duke, or head of the KKK to discuss African-American affairs.”
Gaffney’s Muslim conspiracies have ventured into even more paranoid territory in recent years, with claims that the U.S. Missile Defence agency logo had been altered by the Obama administration, and now “appears ominously to reflect a morphing of the Islamic crescent and star with the Obama campaign logo.” Such unhinged allegations have now earned him a listing as anti-Muslim extremist by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
For the first time in my life I feel like I don’t belong. British Muslim communities have so many worries about your plans to tackle extremism, so why don’t you communicate with us?
Dear Mr Cameron,
What did your speech on radicalisation this week actually mean to someone like me?
If my child’s passport is confiscated, will they then be labelled a 'non-violent extremist'
You completely failed to mention foreign policyContinue reading...
Susiya, a West Bank village under threat of demolition, has now made it into the pages of The New York Times news section, and we are permitted a view of how Israel wants us to see this disturbing story: All the fuss about Susiya is little more than the result of clever marketing on the part of the villagers.
Thus we find a story today by Diaa Hadid titled (in the online version) “How a Palestinian Hamlet of 340 Drew Global Attention.” This primes readers from the start to expect a tale of simple villagers who devised a winning media strategy, and it distracts from the real issue, which is nothing less than ethnic cleansing: Susiya is to be destroyed to make way for Jewish settlers.
High in her story Hadid writes, in a telling phrase, that “the cause of [this] tiny village” has become “outsized,” in other words overblown, as if Susiya, with its population of 300 or so, is not worth the fuss.
The village first got notice when “sympathetic” foreigners visited Susiya some 20 years ago and took up its cause, Hadid states. By that time the residents had been forced out of their original homes and were living near the centuries-old site that had belonged to their ancestors.
Jewish settlers had taken over the original village in 1986, she writes, and Israeli forces made them move on again them in 1990 “for unknown reasons.” They were expelled once more in 2001, according to Hadid, “as collective punishment over the shooting death of a Jewish settler.”
Her story omits a crucial detail: The authorities knew that the villagers were innocent of the killing but used the incident as an excuse to harass the Susiya residents once more. The Times account leaves the impression that a Susiya resident was responsible for the settler’s death.
Hadid quotes a staff member of B’Tselem, an Israeli rights group, who notes that residents “have managed to place Susiya on the international agenda in ways that other villages have not managed to do,” and her story goes on to say that “years of advocacy appeared to pay off when Susiya’s residents began warning early this month that their village was under threat.”
As a result, the story reports, Susiya received visits from a European Union delegation, Israeli activists and American consular officials. Then, a week ago, the U.S. State Department mentioned Susiya in a press briefing and urged Israel to spare the village.
The Times story suggests that Susiya has received this backing because of its skill in winning attention, and by imposing this angle on the story, the newspaper is attempting to divert readers from the real issues at play: the fact that Israel’s treatment of the villagers is blatantly racist and defies the norms of international and humanitarian law.
Also missing is the context of occupation and dispossession that is crushing Susiya and other villages. Hadid fails to give any sense of this. She writes only that activists have used the village as a symbol of how Israel “has sought to maintain control over large parts of the occupied West Bank.”
We find the word “occupied” here, as usual in Times reporting, but it is devoid of meaning. Readers do not hear that the West Bank is Palestinian territory; that Israel is there as an invading military force; and that the settlements violate international law, which forbids an occupying power from transferring its own population into the foreign territory.
The Times story makes no reference to international law, but it does quote an Israeli military spokesman who says Susiya “was built illegally.” Thus Hadid emphasizes the pretext of legality Israel draws over its defiance of international norms while she ignores the flagrant breaches of the Geneva Convention and other standards.
Readers can pick up some revealing details in the story: the ousted villagers’ descriptions of sleeping outside “in the wild, in the rain,” the fact that they can no longer access two- thirds of their original land because of the settlers, the expectation that if Susiya goes, other vulnerable villages will also fall to Israel’s greed for Palestinian land.
But the story glosses over these details to present the Susiya’s case as above all a successful publicity effort. The Times would have us believe that the real story here is how the village became an “outsized” international cause, through “years of advocacy.”
Susiya is just one of many villages in Israel’s Negev and in the occupied West Bank where Israel is determined to ethnically cleanse areas of indigenous inhabitants and install Jewish residents in their place. Times readers are finally learning about Susiya only because international attention has forced the newspaper to acknowledge the issue.
The village should have been known to readers long before now, just as they should also know of dozens more facing annihilation: Al Araqib, Umm Al Kher and Khirbet Yarza, to name just a few. In the South Hebron Hills alone, where Susiya is located, some 30 villages are faced with demolition.
But even now the Times can’t just tell the story of a village nearly helpless under the weight of Israeli might, a community faced with extinction after centuries of living on the land. Instead we find an effort to play down the tragedy, to present it as an overblown cause, not really worth our concern.
Filed under: Save Susiya Tagged: Israel, New York Times, Palestine, Save Susiya, West Bank