Deja Vu – Death, Gaza, and The BBC.

I am struck by a horrible feeling of deja vu as I watch, once again, Israel’s ultra-modern war machine pound the besieged civilian population in Gaza.  Yet again the death and suffering falls mostly on the Palestinian side – Israel killed more Palestinians in one day this week than Hamas have killed Israelis in 3 years – and once again the mainstream media, exemplified by the not-quite-impartial BBC, take great pains to obfuscate and lie by omission about the causes of the conflict.

The story, as provided by the BBC etc, acting as a mouthpiece for Israel, is that Israel is defending itself from rocket attacks.  Because only Israel is allowed to defend it’s citizens.  Palestine is not allowed that right.  It is noteworthy that the BBC and others say that “relative calm” prevailed before the recent upsurge in violence.  This “relative calm” is when Palestinians die quietly.  For Palestinians, every day is oppression, with shortages of water, food, medicines, the freedom to move, to travel, and just about every other thing you and I take for granted.  Gaza has been described as the world’s largest prison, as a refugee camp, and as an open-air concentration camp.  “Relative calm” for Palestinians is daily humiliation and death.  We, in the West, only notice when they dare to resist.  And that is only to tell them to stop, to, in effect, die quietly.

But the context is nearly always missing from media reports.  The history of the Israel/Palestine conflict did not start last week, or even last month.  It didn’t even start last year, or the year before.  Neither did it begin the last time Israel blitzed Gaza in 2008,  killing thousands, and nor did it start when the people of Gaza elected Hamas to be their government.

The occupation of Palestinian land by Israel has been going on for decades.  And they are taking more and more every year.  This ongoing criminal and immoral theft of land is the context that is regularly missing from media reports.  For example, when was the last time you saw this map on the BBC?

See how much land has been taken from the Palestinians?  They are being squeezed continuously into a smaller and smaller patch of land.  Their ever diminishing borders  and skies are controlled by Israel.  Israel controls how much food etc goes into the Palestinian territories.  Much is spoken about Israel’s ‘right to exist’, but rarely, if ever, will you hear about Palestine’s right to exist.  Palestine is slowly but surely being ‘wiped from the map’.  It is not going over the top, I think, to call it ethnic cleansing.  What else would you call what you see on the above map?

Israel occupies, blockades, settles, evicts, invades, destroys, brutalizes, bombs and kills.  Yet somehow our media always seem to pain it as the victim.  It is perverse, and an absolute travesty of the truth.

The incursion and bombardment of Gaza is not about destroying Hamas.  It is not about stopping rocket fire into Israel, it is not about achieving peace.

“The Israeli decision to rain death and destruction on Gaza, to use lethal weapons of the modern battlefield on a largely defenseless civilian population, is the final phase in a decades-long campaign to ethnically-cleanse Palestinians.

“Israel uses sophisticated attack jets and naval vessels to bomb densely-crowded refugee camps, schools, apartment blocks, mosques, and slums to attack a population that has no air force, no air defense, no navy, no heavy weapons, no artillery units, no mechanized armor, no command in control, no army… and calls it a war.  It is not a war, it is murder.

“When Israelis in the occupied territories now claim that they have to defend themselves, they are defending themselves in the sense that any military occupier has to defend itself against the population they are crushing.  You can’t defend yourself when you’re militarily occupying someone else’s land.  That’s not defense.  Call it what you like, it’s not defense.
Chris Hedges/Noam Chomsky.   Quote widely attributed to Chomsky, but turns out to be splice of Hedges and Chomsky.  The point remains.

Further reading –

Dissecting IDF Propaganda – The Numbers Behind The Rocket Attacks.

Analysis/Background from Jews For Justice.

Who is Jonathon Sacerdoti, the BBC’s ‘neutral’ expert on the Middle East?

Gaza Blitz – Turmoil and Tragicomedy at the BBC.

Latest Israeli Offensive Aimed at Destroying Chance of Peace.

Siding With the Powerful – UK Media Coverage of Assault on Gaza.

TIMELINE – Israel’s Latest Assault on Gaza.

Chomsky on Gaza.

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Poppy Pride and Prejudice.

It never ceases to amaze me at this time of year how bigoted, ignorant, and intolerant people can be to those, such as myself, who decide to wear a white poppy instead of a red one.  Just this week for example, someone I know very well posted a picture on Facebook that had the caption “if the red poppy offends you pack your bags and Fuck Off!”  Rational and civilised discussion are just not on the agenda it would seem.  There are none so deaf and blind, or dangerous, as those who willfully refuse to see or hear an opposing point of view.  We are not allowed to be heard.  It is their way, or the highway, which is sorta reminiscent of the fascism our ‘heroes’ apparently vanquished some 70 years ago, funnily enough.

As a long time anti-war activist, I have often heard variations on the theme, “but those soldiers died for your right to protest/freedom of speech”.  If I had a pound for every time I had been told that, I would be a very rich man indeed.   More than once I have been told, in effect, that “these soldiers died for your right to speak, so shut your bloody mouth…”

Though, of course, the Freedom of Speech claim is utter nonsense, especially in light of recent cases in the UK, where a man was prosecuted for something he had written on a T-shirt, disabled women are having their doors knocked at the dead of night by Police over Facebook postings, people being arrested for Twitter postings, and folk being arrested for heckling the Prime Minister.

Freedom?  Aye, for the rich and their peado friends maybe.

Lest we forget, Remembrance Sunday was originally called Armistice Day, to commemorate the end of The Great War, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.  Those who fought and died in the trenches thought they were fighting ‘The War To End All Wars’.  The Great War was supposed to be the Last War.  And this war was so horrific, so brutal, so pointless, that the general sentiment afterwards was of NEVER AGAIN.  That we have done it again, and again, and again and again, is a huge slap in the face to the millions who thought they were fighting in the last ever war.   Those that died in the mud of Flanders Field did not do so in the belief that their war was the first in a sequence.  The last 100 years have shown that they fought and died for nothing.  And that is not something to be proud of.

It seems obscene to me to take “pride” in events that have left millions dead and injured, and whole nations crippled and scarred.

Remembrance Sunday glosses over the details of various British military adventures, as if there is no distinction between WW2, Iraq, Kenya, WW1, the Falklands, Afghanistan or Ireland.  Ironically, Remembrance Sunday is not about remembering that our politicians regularly lie about war, or that war is mostly unnecessary, and evil.  It is only about remembering what is termed the “glorious dead”.  Details like causes and consequences can be forgotten.

And it is phrases like the “glorious dead” that also make me refuse to wear a red poppy.  Calling the dead ‘glorious’ serves only to glamorise and romanticise dying in war to our young.  It says, in effect, that it is a great, noble, and honourable thing to die in war.  Wilfred Owen railed against that thinking in his poem Dulce Et Decorum Est, and Harry Patch, the last UK survivor of the trenches, went further, calling war nothing but “legalised mass murder”.

I wear a white poppy to show my distaste with war, with the misery it causes, with the lies that cause it, with it’s utter futility and pointlessness.  War is terrorism writ large, and nothing about it should ever generate pride.  I shall wear my white poppy with sorrow, sadness, and a fair grasp of what war has meant for generations, from World War One to Iraq.

… The white poppy is a symbol of remembrance for all those who have died in war, not just one nation’s dead, or one nation’s fallen soldiers; but all deaths in all wars, civilian and soldiers, past conflicts and present. The death of one individual in conflict has the same worth and sadness attached to it as any other, and the white poppy promotes that.

The red poppy does not. It promotes one nationality, it promotes one profession, it ignores civilians, and worst of all it encourages collective silence in questioning British involvement in current conflicts that continue to see casualties week in week out, from all sides.

And if you don’t like that, argue with me, politely 😉

Further reading –
Lest We Forget 2012, by John Andrews.

The Cult of The Fallen Soldier by Matthew Vickery.

White Poppies Are For Peace.

Savile Vs Murdoch?

A very good point, very well made. I agree with every word.

Pride's Purge

(It’s not satire – it’s Rupert Murdoch)

I’ve not pulled any punches in my criticism of the poor handling by the BBC of the Jimmy Savile scandal and I’m not going to stop.

But I can’t stand the hypocrisy of the Murdoch press taking the moral high ground against the BBC any more.

Murdoch’s clever. He’s already managed to reduce the phone hacking scandal to one of a battle between ‘scumbag celebrities’ and a ‘free and open’ press.

But we’re in danger of allowing Murdoch’s spin to erase the memory of the abuse that was meted out to innocent people, in one case a murdered child, by his own press.

The phone hacking scandal isn’t about ‘scumbag celebrities’. It’s about the abuse by Murdoch of a murdered schoolgirl – Milly Dowler – and her family.

And while Murdoch and the rest of the UK tabloids drone on and on…

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America’s Vassal Acts Decisively and Illegally – Craig Murray.

THIS IS A REPOST OF AN ARTICLE FROM CRAIG MURRAY’S BLOG.  Craig Murray is a former UK Ambassador.  The original article can be found HERE.

I returned to the UK today to be astonished by private confirmation from within the FCO that the UK government has indeed decided – after immense pressure from the Obama administration – to enter the Ecuadorean Embassy and seize Julian Assange.

This will be, beyond any argument, a blatant breach of the Vienna Convention of 1961, to which the UK is one of the original parties and which encodes the centuries – arguably millennia – of practice which have enabled diplomatic relations to function.  The Vienna Convention is the most subscribed single international treaty in the world.

The provisions of the Vienna Convention on the status of diplomatic premises are expressed in deliberately absolute terms.  There is no modification or qualification elsewhere in the treaty.

Article 22

1.  The premises of the mission shall be inviolable.  The agents of the receiving State may not enter them, except with the consent of the head of the mission.
2.  The receiving State is under a special duty to take all appropriate steps to protect the premises of the mission against any intrusion or damage and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of the mission or impairment of its dignity.
3.  The premises of the mission, their furnishings and other property thereon and the means of transport of the mission shall be immune from search, requisition, attachment or execution.

Not even the Chinese government tried to enter the US Embassy to arrest the Chinese dissident Chen Guangchen.  Even during the decades of the Cold War, defectors or dissidents were never seized from each other’s embassies.  Murder in Samarkand relates in detail my attempts in the British Embassy to help Uzbek dissidents.  This terrible breach of international law will result in British Embassies being subject to raids and harassment worldwide.

The government’s calculation is that, unlike Ecuador, Britain is a strong enough power to deter such intrusions.  This is yet another symptom of the “might is right” principle in international relations, in the era of the neo-conservative abandonment of the idea of the rule of international law.

The British Government bases its argument on domestic British legislation.  But the domestic legislation of a country cannot counter its obligations in international law, unless it chooses to withdraw from them.  If the government does not wish to follow the obligations imposed on it by the Vienna Convention, it has the right to resile from it – which would leave British diplomats with no protection worldwide.

I hope to have more information soon on the threats used by the US administration.  William Hague had been supporting the move against the concerted advice of his own officials; Ken Clarke has been opposing the move against the advice of his.  I gather the decision to act has been taken in Number 10.

There appears to have been no input of any kind from the Liberal Democrats.  That opens a wider question – there appears to be no “liberal” impact now in any question of coalition policy.  It is amazing how government salaries and privileges and ministerial limousines are worth far more than any belief to these people.  I cannot now conceive how I was a member of that party for over thirty years, deluded into a genuine belief that they had principles.

On the London 2012 McOlympiCola Games.

To those of us who look beyond glittering surfaces and misleading headlines, the London 2012 Olympiad was a spectacular carnival of conspicuous consumption which demonstrated much that is wrong with what we like to call ‘civilisation’.

If aliens had visited Earth during this Olympic Orgy they would have been amazed to see stupendous sums spent on a largely inconsequential jamboree, while all around massive cuts are being made to vital public services that are central to the health, wealth, and happiness of human beings everywhere.  And while millions around the world remain at risk of starvation, thirst, hypothermia, disease, war, poverty or disaster, the hundreds of millions of pounds spent on these Games and the air of supreme importance attached to them, just cannot be justified in any sane universe.  In a time of so-called ‘Austerity’, when people are losing their homes, their livelihoods, and their lives, this extravagant luxury is pretty much offensive to me.  Somebody somewhere is making out like a bandit from these Olympics, and it sure as hell isn’t the taxpayers who subsidised the success of the UK athletes, to the tune of, according to this article, about £4.5 million per medal won.

I do feel a little sorry for the athletes though.  No blame can be attached to them for what the Olympics has become.  All that hard work, dedication, and sacrifice in pursuit of extraordinary feats of physical ability or endurance, only to find their efforts in effect hijacked by corporate and political vultures.  The athletes have become little more than pawns, or lures.  And indeed, in my own case,  I was lured into watching through the sheer brilliance of the athletic displays, despite my initial ambivalence.  In an ideal world sport would be just about sport, but sadly the ideal world is still some way off.

As David Cameron has admitted, the Olympics are about “more than medals”.  There are games being played around The Games, by politicians and businessmen.  For these people, the Olympics is not about the sport, it is about the opportunity to exploit the event for their own ends.  And their efforts in that regard are as single-minded and determined as that of any athlete.  But instead of a constant quest for Personal Bests, this is a  constant quest for power and profit.

And while we know already that Team GB enjoyed a heady yield from London 2012 in terms of medals won, only time will tell about the ‘return’ for the likes of the Coalition Government, and the host of corporate sponsors.  Already the indications are that the Games have served some of their political purposes.  The Sun claims that the Olympics has sparked a “massive feelgood factor”, whose “afterglow” will “help us through these tough times”.   Cameron is quoted in The Scotsman outlining exactly what the message of these games is supposed to be –

We do face a very tough economic situation and I do not belittle that at all.  It is a very tough economic world we are in.  But in a way, what these Games show is that if you work hard enough at something, if you plan something, if you are passionate enough about something, you can turn things around.  I think that is the lesson people can take from these Games.

What we have there is the reinforcement of neoliberal capitalist myths, that anyone can make it if they work hard enough, and that competition is good and healthy.  Never mind that most of elite sport in the UK is subsidised by the State, or from semi-nationalised Lottery funding.

The Independent claimed just before the opening of the Games that –

Mr Cameron will say he intends to devote his energy to drumming up business on the back of the global event, which will give the Government a chance to sell Britain to the world.

On other words to find investors for the public services he is selling off, and increase the profits of his buddies in major corporations.

In the Daily Mail, David Cameron is said to be pleased that the Games provided a “boost to the Union”, which no doubt will be useful to him when it comes to the referendum on Scottish independence.  The jingoistic coverage of the Games by the BBC will have, of course, played a large part in that.  All those lingering, loving shots of the union flag.  And of course, when the Conservative MP Aiden Burley tweeted “Thank God the athletes have arrived! Now we can move on from leftie multicultural crap. Bring back red arrows, Shakespeare and the Stones!“, it allowed Cameron, who had previously claimed “multiculturalism has failed”, to position himself as the soft, liberal and tolerant face of British nationalism.  In the same speech he claimed the UK “needed a stronger national identity”, and undoubtedly he is using the success of the UK Olympians to further that cause.

The sensational success of Mo Farah has already been utilised by David Cameron for propaganda purposes, namely to lend credence to the myth that the UK government is sincerely committed to tackling the problem of world hunger.  Millionaires Against Poverty don’t ya know?  It’s kinda like when in 2005 the Labour Health Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, claimed the Games would help advance the good health of the nation.  Presumably that is why McDonald’s, and major  environmental polluters like BP and Dow Chemicals ended up as major sponsors of the Games….?

Forgive me if I think it’s all a load of bollocks.  And dangerous bollocks at that.

There’s a lot more that could be said about this, the failure of the Olympic Truce – Syrian delegates were refused visas into the country,(incidentally, this article is a must read for the outrageously biased reporting), UK troops remaining on active service in Afghanistan, surface-to-air missiles on roofs in London, or the kettling, beating, and arrest of nearly two hundred Critical Mass cyclists at the same time as Danny Boyle’s feelgood Opening Ceremony was extolling the virtues of past protest in this country. But at least Boyle reminded us a little of that legacy.   One of solidarity in the struggle for a better tomorrow, won for us by the struggle of our dissenting foremothers and forefathers.  And that is the real legacy we should take from these Games, not some tawdry promises from the likes of  Coe, Cameron, or  Johnson.

We should not be content with bread and circuses.