The Antisemitism Circus Comes to Town

The last few days of Labour’s ‘antisemitism crisis’ have been a genuine education for me on many levels.  I had thought that Naz Shah’s retweeting of a crass twitter meme suggesting that Israel should be reestablished in the United States was a clumsy satire on the ‘joined-at-the-hip’ relationship between America and Israel which American politicians routinely boast about.

I now understand that her actions were antisemitic and intended to incite physical and verbal hatred towards Jews even though she has denied this.  I understand, thanks to David Cameron, that she advocated ‘transporting’ Jews to America, presumably in shuttered trains.

I also realize, thanks to John Mann,  that Ken Livingstone is a ‘disgusting Nazi sympathiser’.  Thanks to Guido Fawkes, Andrew Neil, the Guardian, John Piennar and so many others, I now know that the Labour Party is riddled with antisemites, nearly all of whom are Muslims and leftists.

I also understand that anti-Zionism is actually antisemitism, and that it is no longer legitimate to criticize Israel without being antisemitic, because the new definition of the term in former communities and local government secretary Eric Pickles’   Combating Anti-Semitism: A British Best Practice Guide, considers that antisemitism isn’t just about physical or verbal attacks on Jews; it also includes

 ‘manifestations … target[ing] the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity’, such as: ‘denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, eg, by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour; applying double standards by requiring behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation … drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis …’

Now some cynical voices might point out that the current chair of Conservative Friends of Israel would reach such conclusions, but I now know that even to suggest such motivation is also antisemitic.

I also know from Boris Johnson – he who once described black people as ‘piccanninies’ with ‘watermelon smiles’ and only last week suggested that Obama’s support for Bremain is due to his ‘Kenyan ancestry’ – that there is a ‘virus of antisemitism’ in the Labour Party.

Now Johnson has a long history of principled antiracist activism going right back to his days as editor of the Spectator, so I know if he says this, then it must be true.   I’ve also learned that the new NUS president Malia Bouattia is an antisemite, because she suggested that Birmingham University is a ‘Zionist outpost’ and because she criticized ‘Zionist-led media outlets’.

I now understand that that last phrase cannot be used, according to the BBC, because ‘  critics said [it] reflects anti-Semitic myths about Jewish conspiracies to control the media.

I don’t know who these critics are, but if the BBC chooses to mention them I assume that they are serious people without an agenda or axe to grind.    I’ve also learned something about myself.   I’ve learned, by stumbling across a website called ‘ The Real Face of Stop the War’ that an article I wrote last March criticizing Netanyahu’s rapturous reception in the US Congress was guilty of ‘insidious antisemitism’, according to the rightwing novelist and Internet obsessive Jeremy Duns.

Thanks to Duns’s profound philosophical insights, I now understand that I am antisemitic even if I don’t think I am, because if I say that Republican politicians are ‘glassy-eyed zombie-politicians…..sucking up Netanyahu’s fearmongering, warmongering poison like alien seed pods in Invasion of the Bodysnatchers’ and politicians who have ‘had their minds well and truly snatched’, I am not referencing 50s sci fi movies but well-worn antisemitic tropes, since

‘This idea of Jews having such influence over others that they practice a kind of mind control has long been a favourite theme of antisemites, and is still used today. The theme runs through this article by Carr.  No cartoons of Jews with hooked noses or references to a world Jewish conspiracy, but here where antisemitism rests just below the surface, it is truly at its most insidious.’

Exactly, and it’s no use me saying that Duns is a manipulative and intellectually dishonest fraud attempting to smear me and Stop the War into the bargain, because the thing about insidious antisemitism is that you don’t have to prove that someone is actually antisemitic, you merely have to extrapolate or insinuate it according your own needs and priorities, and this is what Duns has done to me – and what others like him have done to other people.

Never mind the piece I wrote only a week after that Netanyahu piece entitled ‘ Antisemitism: a blight that Palestinian solidarity doesn’t need’ – which Stop the War also published – Duns has seen my ‘ real face’ and Stop the War’s as well, and I have no doubt that he is a man with no agenda and no unstated motive for saying such things,  except for a passionate opposition to racism in all its forms.

I know that John Mann, Andrew Neil, David Cameron, Boris Johnson, Guido Fawkes and so many others are motivated by similarly lofty considerations.  I know that they would never cynically use a long-established Israeli propaganda trope for cheap domestic political purposes, in order to destroy Jeremy Corbyn and the movement that he represents, and undermine a politician who has stood out against racism again and again throughout his career.

I know that these beacons of the nation would never engage in such base gutter politics, or that they would willingly debase the concept of antisemitism for political advantage, even if in doing so they run the risk of actually increasing the phenomenon they purport  to despise.

I know that the media outlets which have transformed marginal and minor voices within the Labour Party into a fullblown ‘antisemitism crisis’ come from the same elevated moral plane, and that they have been subjecting this crisis to rigorously objective and disinterested intellectual analysis.

They want truth and justice, that’s all, just as they  really, really want peace in the ‘Israeli-Palestinian conflict.’  So faced with such a chorus of moral outrage, I can only conclude that I really am an ‘insidious’ antisemite, just as it was pointed out to me last year that I was a jihadist sympathiser and a supporter of Daesh.

And so I promise never to criticize Israel again, or suggest that Israel and its supporters – whether Jews or non-Jews – have any influence in any country anywhere in the world, including Israel itself.

Because I know that any such criticism would be insidiously antisemitic.  So  thank you, to all who made these realizations possible.

You make me ashamed of myself, but so proud of you.

 

Idiot Wind: Corbyn’s Fake Refuseniks

If my inadvertent involvement in last year’s media onslaught against Stop the War taught me one thing: it was the incredible mendacity,  political dishonesty and sheer venality of Jeremy Corbyn’s opponents inside the Labour Party. It is possible – within limits – to respect one’s political opponents when they uphold genuine principles that they sincerely believe in, and when they themselves have the decency to consider opposing arguments and actually think about them.

None of these conditions were present amongst the Labour politicians who entered December’s ‘debate’ over Stop the War.   From the outset Corbyn’s opponents on the Labour right wilfully misinterpreted and distorted Chris Floyd’s ‘reaping the whirlwind’ blog and my own, without any indication that they had even read or understood the two pieces concerned.

No one did this more relentlessly or more cynically than MP for Wolverhampton North East Emma Reynolds.   Throughout the week leading up to the (in)famous Christmas dinner, she was a ubiquitous public presence in the shrill and witless McCarthyist campaign  against Stop the War, as she poured forth a stream of fauxtrage about the ‘Stop the War blogs’ that accompanied it.

On the Radio 4 Today programme, Reynolds claimed that Stop the War

‘… blame Paris for reaping the whirlwind of Western intentions after the recent terrorist attacks. They compared ISIL/Daesh with the international brigades who fought fascism in 1930s Spain and they have failed to condemn Russia for its invasion and occupation of Ukraine and Georgia.’

Told by STW’s Chris Nineham that both posts had been removed, she responded:

‘ I think the mask is slipping on the real views of Stop the War.  I don’t believe for a minute that they don’t believe the views I’ve just outlined.  The posts were published on their website.  One of the authors Matt Carr is somebody who represents you on public platforms.’  

The day after her Today interview, she was on the Week in Westminster, debating John Rees, and declaring that

‘… Matt Carr, who wrote the piece comparing jihadism to the International Brigades that came together to fight against fascism in the 1930s, has also been a spokesman for Stop the War and has sat on different platforms representing the organization.’

In fact I have never been a member of Stop the War, and I have never represented the organization on any public platform.  Reynolds had clearly been briefed, and the most charitable interpretation that can placed on  her statements is that she was briefed incorrectly.  But I don’t think that charity is called for here, because she and Tristram Hunt were clearly acting in concert, as part of a political strategy whose essential aims were a) to make Floyd and me appear as depraved as possibly b) to portray us the authentic ‘voice’ of Stop the War and c) to tarnish and undermine Corbyn by association.

This pseudo-debate appeared to die down over the Christmas period, but yesterday it came back into the headlines as a new bunch of political zombies shambled off into the backbenches clutching straw men arguments in response to Corbyn’s chaotic and ill-managed reshuffle.

First up was Pat McFadden, MP for Wolverhampton South East, who was sacked as Shadow Europe Minister.  Not many people outside his constituency had heard of McFadden until yesterday.  Elected in 2005, McFadden has said that Britain shouldn’t be ‘imprisoned’ by the Iraq War, and he voted on eight occasions against holding a public inquiry into the war.

He also supported the extension of the bombing campaign to Syria.  During the debate he indirectly referred to Chris Floyd’s blog, when he posed the following question:

This question was as cunning and deceitful as Hilary Benn’s ‘International Brigades’ speech.  In the midst of the most important foreign policy debate since 2013, McFadden deliberately used a gross distortion of Floyd’s arguments in an attempt to undermine and humiliate his own party leader in front of parliament and the whole nation – and he even appealed directly to Cameron of all people to help him do it.

No wonder Corbyn sacked him.  The only surprise is that it took him so long.  Yet now McFadden has the unbelievable gall to claim that he was  sacked not because of his disloyalty, but as the result of ‘ a disagreement on substance and national security….I made the decision to serve in the best interests of the Labour Party. He (Corbyn) made the decision that my views on terrorism and national security mean I cannot continue.’

Yes that Corbyn is a monstrous autocrat, isn’t he?   And yesterday Shadow foreign minister Stephen Doughty, resigned in protest at McFadden’s sacking and cited his intervention in parliament as a a justification for it, tweeting:

‘I agree with everything @patmcfaddenmp said in these comments. Shocked if this why he’s been sacked.’

This noble gesture of solidarity was repeated by Shadow rail minister Jonathan Reynolds, who also resigned, declaring

‘I believe my colleague Pat McFadden was right to condemn those who would to any degree absolve ISIS for their actions following the atrocities in Paris.’

The very best that can be said about McFadden, Reynolds and Doughty is that they are completely obtuse, or perhaps lack the ability to think critically.  None of them appear to have read Floyd’s piece, which looks back on the history of Western involvement in the Middle East with more insight than any of them have ever shown, and which echoes an argument about the relationship between terrorism and foreign policy that many people have made, including the British government’s own intelligence agencies.

At no point did Floyd argue that the murderers in Paris were not responsible for their actions or that their victims had somehow deserved it or brought it on themselves.  On the contrary, his horror and disgust at their actions is absolutely transparent in the following passage:

‘I write in despair. Despair of course at the depravity displayed by the murderers of innocents in Paris tonight; but an even deeper despair at the depravity of the egregious murderers who have brought us to this ghastly place in human history: those gilded figures who have strode the halls of power for decades in the high chambers of the West, killing innocent people by the hundreds of thousands, crushing secular opposition to their favored dictators — and again, again and again — supporting, funding and arming some of the most virulent sectarians on earth.’

Floyd also added:

‘And one further cause of despair: that although this historical record is there in the open, readily available from the most mainstream sources, it is and will continue to be completely ignored, both by the power-gamers and by the public. The latter will continue to support the former as they replicate and regurgitate the same old policies of intervention, the same old agendas of domination and greed, over and over and over again — creating ever-more fresh hells for us all to live in, and poisoning the lives of our children, and of all those who come after us.’ 

Floyd is absolutely right.  And the faux-outrage displayed by McFadden and his fellow zombies only bears out his argument.   Like Emma Reynolds and Tristram Hunt before them, these politicians would like the public to believe that they are acting out of principle.

But there is nothing principled whatsoever about traducing and distorting the arguments of your opponents in order to fit a preconceived political agenda, or reducing a serious debate about the relationship between terrorism and foreign policy to a straw-filled travesty, simply in order to undermine the elected leader of your own party.

To behave like that you have to be operating at a very low level, somewhere near the lower reaches of the political gutter in fact.  Unfortunately for Corbyn, I fear that there are many more where this lot came from.  And they might fervently proclaim their ‘principles’, but they might more truthfully echo the words that T.S. Elliot once wrote many years ago: ‘We are the hollow men/We are the stuffed men/Leaning together/Headpiece filled with straw.’

 

 

 

Talkin’ World War III Blues

I know that the British media and political class have had a lot of important things to think and talk about recently, and far be it from me to distract from the seriousness of the debate that  has been taking place about our latest headlong leap into the Middle Eastern unknown.   Nevertheless, there are certain alarming events which I feel might just be worthy a nanosecond of our attention – just a smidgen and then we can move on, because I know that our politicians and journalists are men and women of real gravitas who don’t like to waste their time on trivia.

The first thing I wanted to mention is the curious fact that yesterday Saudi Arabia announced the formation of a 34-member ‘Islamic anti-terrorism’ coalition to fight Islamic State.   You in the back, stop laughing now.   Of course some cynics might think that a country that last year declared all atheists to be terrorists might not be the best state to be leading a coalition against Daesh.

It is true that Saudi Arabia has been mercilessly pulverising Yemen day after day in its war against Houthi rebels, regardless of the fact that its onslaught is pushing one of the poorest countries in the world towards the brink of total collapse – and all this with weaponry supplied by Britain, France and the United States.

But then we ought to remember that Saudi Arabia is the current president of the UN human rights council, thanks to a little support by the UK government, so I think you at the back should really stop that giggling and show a little respect.

Because today the Telegraph revealed that this coalition may send special forces into Syria in order to fight ISIS, with the approval of the British government.  According to the Telegraph:

‘British military sources told the Telegraph that while the UK would not provide boots on the ground, they were on standby to provide air support and ” command and control”. But any Gulf or other forces would clearly add to or take the place of the 70,000 “moderate rebels” whom David Cameron, the Prime Minister, wants to be the “boots on the ground” to displace Isil in Syria but who say they already have their hands full fighting the Assad regime.’

And equally significant:

‘The Saudis and their Sunni Muslim allies would also be intent on preventing any vacuum being filled by the Bashar al-Assad regime, or its Shia Iranian allies, against whom the Gulf is facing off across the region.’

So in other words Saudis and their allies – some of whom have been instrumental in financing and supporting Daesh and other Salafi groups in a variety of ways, are now proposing to attack IS, and provide ground troops in Raqqa and other areas that have been bombed by the coalition..

This surely explains why Saudi Arabia staged a conference of Syrian rebels – from which Syrian Kurds were naturally excluded – in Riyadh only last week in yet another attempt to forge the Syrian opposition into a unified front.  The Saudis are clearly intent on escalating the war no matter what the cost to Syrians or anyone else, and they aren’t alone in this. Because now the British government is proposing to provide air support and ‘command and control’ to a military offensive in Syria that will almost certainly pit the Saudi ‘anti-terrorism’ coalition – and the current bombing coalition that includes the United States, Britain, and France against Assad, Russia, and Iran.

A regional peacekeeping force in Syria that might safeguard a ceasefire and a political settlement is one thing, but there is nothing to suggest that Riyadh’s ‘Islamic antiterrorism coalition’ has any such intentions.  It is a Sunni coalition, not an ‘Islamic’ one – a carnival of reaction lumbering towards what even the Telegraph recognizes may ignite an all-out Shia/Sunni sectarian war – and our government appears to be disposed to go along with it and seems to regard it as a positive development.

So now we know where those 70,000 fighters came from, though none of this was mentioned when Cameron first made that claim.  Instead the Tory government, with the assistance of Hilary Benn and his conscience-stricken MPs, convinced themselves and the public that they were just planning a little recreational bombing, something to help us get our mojo back.

I don’t wish to be melodramatic or upset anyone, but this is how world wars start.    This is how entire regions as well as countries become battlegrounds. But all these possibilities were almost entirely absent from the ‘mature’ debate that so many journalists congratulated our parliamentarians upon.

Instead we talked about Stop the War, and whether Jeremy Corbyn should go to their Xmas dinner, and what two bloggers did or didn’t say.

And now we are sleepwalking towards what threatens to become a global conflagration, and we don’t seem to be talking about it at all.

 

On Heretics and Thought-Crimes

Bear with me readers, if I return to ‘InternationalBrigadegate’ one more time, because what I want to say is not really about me: it’s about us.  A lot of the writing I’ve done over the years, in books, articles, and blogposts, has been concerned with the subject of persecution.  I’ve always been concerned with the ease with which powerful societies can transform themselves into what the medieval historian R.I.  Moore once called ‘persecuting societies’.

These concerns have been present in all my books, from my history of terrorism to my novel The Devils of Cardona, which is due to be published next year.  Given these preoccupations, there has been a weird and bewildering irony about the events of the last week, which are still unfolding.

Today, for example I came across a leftist blog attacking my Hilary Benn piece.  After the usual foaming at the mouth at my supposed iniquities, the writer contemptuously referred to my book about General Sherman’s March to the Sea,  with this observation:

 ‘The only walk to the ocean most people would like to witness on Carr’s part is one which ends with him lying ten fathoms deep.’

In the opinion of this self-proclaimed  ‘critical marxist’ therefore,  it is legitimate to recommend my death because of a sentence that I wrote and a thought that he believed I had.

Now I recognize that this is an extreme reaction, even by the standards of the past week. Nevertheless day after day newspapers, journalists, and politicians repeat my International Brigades quote or cite fellow-blogger Chris Floyd’s ‘reaping the whirlwind’ piece, without any sign that they have read the pieces concerned, and with the kind of horror and disgust that you would now expect to be directed at Jimmy Saville’s memoirs.

I’m only surprised that these critics don’t brandish a crucifix or wear garlic round their necks.  Some of this, as I’ve said previously,  is clearly due to a blatantly McCarthyist campaign that is intended to destroy the Stop the War movement, and by association Jeremy Corbyn.

But what I find most shocking, and which I want to draw attention to here, is the fact that the hysterical vilification of Floyd and myself  is based entirely on our thoughts and words – regardless of whether or not they have been interpreted in the way that we intended them to be.

In this sense, the incredible momentum that this campaign has acquired reminds me of medieval and early modern attitudes to ‘heresy’, when certain thoughts and ideas were considered so dangerous to society that they could only be purged and kept at arms length otherwise society faced complete destruction.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t consider my thoughts to be so earthshaking that they threaten society or the established order, and I don’t regard myself as a modern-day heretic.  But whatever you think I said, or whatever you think Floyd said, the fact remains that the moral opprobrium that has been heaped upon both of us has been entirely due to the fact that we expressed thoughts and ideas that are now considered illegitimate and taboo.

Were this not the case, it would have been perfectly possible to disagree with either of us, to criticize us, to say that our ideas weren’t well-expressed or whatever.  Instead the two of us have been objects of a collective rage, hatred and disgust, in some cases by people who have never read what they are condemning.

Some of this outrage is due to the disgust and horror that ISIS incites through its endless massacres and atrocities, and the (false) assumption that Floyd and I somehow condone or minimize or even approve of these actions.   But ISIS itself cannot explain the knee-jerk responses of so many people to a sentence in a screenshot and a single phrase.

ISIS doesn’t explain why it is now becoming difficult to think or say anything about it beyond certain consensual parameters, and why a single phrase or sentence can be held up as evidence of evil intent or collusion.  It doesn’t explain why a British politician is hailed as a great orator if he compares the bombing of another Middle Eastern city to the International Brigades; or why George Osborne can tell a New York audience that the UK has ‘got its mojo back’ because it has bombed Raqqa.

Yet MPs now read the words of two writers and bloggers out in parliament as though they were reading an indictment, and ‘leftists’ can call for the death of someone whose words they don’t like.  And even when Floyd and I have tried to explain and clarify our intentions, these emotions have made no difference to many of those who have read them, and some have even seen them as confirmation of our original ‘guilt.’

And all that, my friends, suggests that we have a problem, and that it is not the one that has been raised so hysterically and so dishonestly during the last week.