Thursday, June 13, 2013

Blood on the streets

I have not had time to blog in the last few weeks. Here are just some of the things I've been reading and thinking about.

Everywhere is struggle, everywhere is #Taksim
The events in the last weeks in Istanbul - and increasingly in Izmir, Ankara and elsewhere in Turkey - are truly inspiring. With passing similarities to the Occupy movement, the protests have in fact been socially diverse, joined by trade unions, women in headscarves and a huge cross-section of the Turkish urban population. There are good accounts at The Centre Left; the Gezi Park/Taksim Protests posts at Istanbul & Beyond; and elsewhere.

The repression has been appalling. And Turkish media's reportage of it has been muzzled, of course - but the BBC has not given itself much credit in its repeated descriptions of protesters throwing Molotov cocktails, without mentioning the large amount of evidence pointing to the possibility the throwers were agents provocateurs.

Thankfully, noone on the left seems to have stooped so low as to support Erdogan. I keep expecting the SWP or Alexander Cockburn or Tony Benn or John Pilger or MRZine to jump up and call OccupyGezi "bourgeois" (as they did with Iran's Green Revolution) or the AKP "objectively progressive" (as they do with Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood). Ken Livingstone's buddy Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi has supported the AKP state, though, so perhaps they'll soon follow.

No, sadly, it is on the Zionist right that I found the worst response to the protests. Influenced by the Islamic sect of Adnan Oktar, the reactionary Yori Yanover makes a truly appalling case against the protests by a bizarre analogy with Israeli politics.

The sultans
Erdogan is an exemplar of the time we are living in: the age of the democratators, the elected leaders who bend state power to their authoritarian will, suppressing dissent, buying consent, chipping away at their constitutions to maintain their power. One of the hallmarks, taken to absurd degree in Erdogan, is the tendency to talk about themselves in the third person. Here are some extracts from Sultan Erdogan's recent speeches:

"If you call this roughness, I'm sorry, but this Tayyip Erdogan won't change."

"To those who... are at Taksim and elsewhere taking part in the demonstrations with sincere feelings: I call on you to leave those places and to end these incidents and I send you my love. But for those who want to continue with the incidents I say: 'It's over.' As of now we have no tolerance for them. Not only will we end the actions, we will be at the necks of the provocateurs and terrorists and no-one will get away with it."


"[They say] Tayyip Erdogan is a dictator. If they call one who serves the people a dictator, I cannot say anything... We will build a mosque in Taksim and we do not need the permission of the CHP [Republican People's Party, the main opposition party in Parliament] or of a few bums to do it."

putin-divorce-580.jpg
Other democratators include Morsi in Egypt and perhaps Maduro in Venezuela (whose friends recently bought the only TV station that would air interviews with the opposition, which oddly now doesn't) - but the archetype is surely Vladimir Putin. Luke Harding draws the Putin/Erdogan parallels well here. The taming of the media is another parallel.

I read the print version of this David Aaronovitch article about Russia and thought it was brilliant, but I can no longer remember what it says behind the Murdoch paywall, but I still recommend it. I remember the wonderful term "phallocrat" to refer to Putin.

PRISM
Looking at the repression of basic freedoms carried out by the Erdogan and Putin regimes, I find it hard to get excited by the data-mining carried out by the US NSA which has occupied the twitterati lately. The bizarre "whistle-blower", Edward Snowden, has taken in refuge in China, a country which locks up nearly as many journalists as Turkey, and Russia has suggested it might consider offering him asylum. (For how Putin's Russia treats whistle-blowers, see some of these articles by the great Miriam Elder.) The involvement of the vile Glen Greenwald in the whole affair makes it even fishier for me. And the data mining seems to me (and David Simon) like no big deal. Amidst the hype, I've only seen sensible commentary from Francis Sedgemore and, obviously, The Onion.


(Oh, and talking of "whistle-blowing", here is A Jay Adler on Bradley Manning. And, of course, we must spare a thought for the upstaged Julian Assange.)

Syria's agony
And as well as the democratators, we have the full-on without qualification dictators, such as Assad. It seems he would rather rule over a massive grave rather than let go of power. The numbers are staggering. Bombs falling on rebel areas daily. At least 80,000 killed (maybe many more). Up to five million internally displaced. Millions of refugees streaming into Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and beyond at a rate of thousands a day. And the "international community" looks on. And, as Peter Ryley writes:
...non-intervention has profound consequences. It is not a neutral act. Proposals for peace conferences that will not be respected, even if they take place at all, are merely a fig leaf to cover the embarrassment of the poorly endowed. And so, when discussing the worth or otherwise of any international conflict, it is not enough to point out what went wrong. It is also important to consider the consequences of doing nothing and to see that inaction is rarely cost-free.
Meanwhile, Russia (again) arms and enables Assad, and blocks action against him. Iran has his back. Hezbollah (remember "We are all Hezbollah", comrades?) slaughters Syrians and Palestinians in alliance with him.

And still the likes of George Galloway and the mis-named Stop the War Coalition continue to provide a moral alibi for him. And - it would be funny if the situation were less tragic - they have been joined by the BNP's Nick Griffin. Even I do not loathe Galloway enough to say Griffin is his mirror image, but there are certain parallels (a pornographic love of power, racial nationalism, a Lawrence of Arabia fascination with the Arab orient, an intense "anti-Zionism", paranoid conspirationism...). Read the three-part series by Dave Rich, starting here, on the intellectual roots of Griffin's position, in the "Political Soldiers" faction of the old National Front.

Against Islamism, against Islamophobia
Closer to home, and post-Woolwich, are the endless debates about who is to blame and how to respond. A pandemic of anti-Muslim violence has swept Britain, with the arson attack on a Muslim school in Chislehurst, outer SE London, being the most recent incident. British Muslims have started to get used to - as British Jews have for decades now - praying with guards outside the door. Living in such a society is sick. 

While Islamophobia's apologists, such as Douglas Murray, blame the Islamists (or, worse, Islam in general) for this blowback, a nasty streak of philo-Islamism exonerates terrorism by blaming us, "the West", for the gory vengeance taken upon us - which Sarah calls "Greenwaldian logic" and Howard Jacobson calls the logic of "Culpability Brown"

Greenwald has been ably taken apart by Zach Novetsky and A Jay Adler. Mehdi Hasan, a commentator I once hated but have increasingly come to admire, sadly takes one of the most left-Greenwaldian positions. Paul Stott has an excellent reply, on why Mehdi is half right and half wrong. Here is one of the key points:
For some on the left, making reference to problematic trends within domestic Islam remains a no-no. Some anti-fascist organisations have grasped this nettle – the anarchists of Antifa were probably first, whilst the anti-fascist organisation Hope Not Hate, under the leadership of Nick Lowles, has returned to this subject repeatedly. 
This remains a step too far for some on the revolutionary left, and broader organisations such as Unite against Fascism or the Stop the War Coalition. Here a condemnation of an attack such as Woolwich (or Toulouse, or 7/7) is quickly followed by a pivot into either opposition to the EDL/BNP or broader critiques of Western foreign policy. The Jihadists are then forgotten about, until the formula is repeated the next time. And the next.
Another excellent response comes from Dave Rich. And a sharper response from Dan Hodges.

In a related debate, Sunny Hundal wisely argues that the left must mobilise against the Islamist right as we mobilise against classical fascism.

And also

25 comments:

davidjc said...

David Simon's piece was written before the PRISM revelations, where it came out that actual content is being trawled.

In the comments under his piece, he comes out strongly against what is going on with that programme.

Your who-cares opinion was written after the PRISM revelations. Not the same at all, to be fair.

The Contentious Centrist said...

Just because Power was "denounced as a ZioCon by the leftist idiots and as an evil Israel-hater by the rightist idiots" it doesn't follow that "Obama might be making the right decision." What kind of argument is that?

I am not a Left or right idiot and I find much that is disturbing about her record when it comes to Israel. But I don't give her too long a time in her new job. She obviously cannot control the unfiltered and rapid passage of ideas from thought to verbal articulation that occurs in her mind when the right stimulus is applied (examples: divest from Israel and give billions to Palestinians, create a military force to protect the Palestinians from Israel's genocidal intents, Hilary Clinton is a monster, she personally vouches for Obama's full and resolute intention to confront the Turks about their genocidal history...), so I fully expect her to jump both feet into some plate sooner rather than later.

BTW, do you consider Martin Kramer to be a "Right" idiot?

Sarah AB said...

Sunny Hundal's piece on extremism was good, yes. Agree with you about Mehdi H too - I like a lot of what he writes now, so wouldn't leap to criticise him when he (in my opinion) is less right!

Anonymous said...

This ones for you Noga.

Germany Uses Special Label to Target Israeli Products

http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Peace/2013/06/10/Germany-Uses-Special-Label-To-Target-Israeli-Products

Any bets on a Yellow Star of David as the symbol?

EscapeVelocity

Waterloo Sunset said...

Thankfully, noone on the left seems to have stooped so low as to support Erdogan. I keep expecting the SWP

They have, however, thrown their (lack of) weight behind the Islamists in Bangladesh.

No, sadly, it is on the Zionist right that I found the worst response to the protests

You sound as if you're surprised by this? As I'd assume it's a lot of the same people who were all "Victory to Mubarak", it's entirely predictable. It's not really 'sad' either; it's how much of the right have always operated in geopolitical terms, from the Cold War onwards.

Looking at the repression of basic freedoms carried out by the Erdogan and Putin regimes, I find it hard to get excited by the data-mining carried out by the US NSA

Looking at the repression carried out by North Korea, I find it hard to get excited by authoritarianism in Venezuela. This is whataboutery to ridiculous levels. If you apply it consistently, it should lead to only caring about issues in a single country. You can argue that data-mining is no big deal, but that requires an awful lot of trust in the state apparatus. Even if, unfortunately, some of the people loudest on this have a seeming blind spot when it comes to private corporations (Google, Facebook et al) doing the same thing.

Waterloo Sunset said...

Paul's article is, as always, excellent. Nice to see Antifa getting recognition as the first anti-fascist group to organise demos against the Islamist far right as well. Hopefully, some of the developments that seem to be shaping in militant anti-fascism will see the issue pushed up the table again. (The big thing that led to it slipping is that Antifa are now,near moribund as an organisation, as opposed to a bag of political identification). It's interesting to note that a lot of the "but why don't anti-fascists mobilise against Islamists" ignore Antifa completely in their posturing. Although I'm willing to accept that's mostly going to be from ignorance (as most of the people in question are online warriors with no actual history of anti-fascist activism), as opposed to deliberate airbrushing.

One thing that Paul does quite rightly point out is that, actually, foreign policy does play a significant part in radicalisation:

It is entirely conceivable the Woolwich attack was motivated by both an unwise, unsustainable and unjust foreign policy, and the beliefs predominant within minority elements of British Sunni Islam, namely Salafi-Jihadis.

Largely, his argument with Mehdi Hasan is on what weight to place on both factors. I really don't think that the idea that there is not at least a correlation between foreign policy and radicalisation of Islamists is tenable. It flies in the face of every expert analysis out there. It's just political cowardice to deny it at this point, I'd go as far as to say that it's on a level with Global Warming denial. If you supported the Iraq War, the intellectually honest argument is to say "No, actually, I think that was worth the blowback", not to stick your head in the sand and deny reality.

Sunny's article is pretty good as well, especially for him. He manages to resist the urge to tell us that voting Labour (or the Lib Dems of the Ghost of Sunny Past) is the way to solve the issue.

The devil, as always is in the details. In order to win both the physical and the ideological battle against the Islamists, it's absolutely necessary to get Muslims, particularly young Muslims, on board. How we do that, I'm not so sure.

It's part of a wider issue. One reason for the rise of the Islamists is the associated decline of class based ethnic minority groups like the Asian Youth Movement and the Indian Workers Association. In the long-term, it's that which needs to be reversed. No easy answers, but Kenan Malik is probably the best starting point on this. (He's the only RCP/Spiked type I think is worth anything).

On Choudry, an observation. He has absolutely said a lot of stuff most people would have got their collar felt for and yet seems largely untouchable. I'm prepared to go on the record and say that, if he isn't explicitly a MI5 or SB asset (relatively likely, especially considering his political trajectory), he's definitely being left alone for strategic reasons.

Anonymous said...

Thought you might find this latest interesting Noga.

IRS: WE INVESTIGATE PRO-ISRAEL GROUPS FOR TERRORISM TIES

http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Peace/2013/06/17/IRS-We-Investigate-Pro-Israel-Groups-for-Terrorism-Ties

First they came for Western Conservative Tea Partiers, then they came for the Christian Pro-Lifers then they came for the Zionist Jews.

The sad thing is, I thing we could be passed the tipping point. There may be no way to stop the Leftist tyrannical tide, democratic institutionally, at least.

EV

The Contentious Centrist said...

Well EV I doubt very much that the Niemoller homily is really the most or even least, suitable or useful analogy here.

I do agree that there are different and new truisms that rule public awareness but I have to put my faith in democracy and in the expectation that at some point the pendulum will start to swing back from this madness.

bob said...

Thanks for all the comments. Very interesting. Sorry for slow reply - been off-line.

1. PRISM

Davidjc - Although I haven't been following this closely so I may be wrong, in which case sorry, but I don't think you've got your chronology or interpretation right. Simon's article was on 7 June, in response to the Greenwald article of 6 June. There were subsequent "revelations", but I'm not sure how any would make his view wrong. He engaged in argument with lots of people, and he did indeed modify his view. I am not sure, though, that he came out strongly against it; his basic view in the original article seems to be in place, but qualified. However, I haven't followed this all properly, so I might not be right.

Waterloo, this is a good point: This is whataboutery to ridiculous levels. If you apply it consistently, it should lead to only caring about issues in a single country. The fact that comparative to worse oppression makes it hard for me to be excited is, quite correctly, NOT an argument that the milder oppression is OK. But the whole thing smacks to me of "First World Problems". It just doesn't seem such a big deal. I don't like them doing it, but I suspect that if I understood what they were doing better, on balance I might find that I prefer them doing it and some terror attacks being stopped as a result. I say that as someone who was nearly a victim of a foiled attack http://brockley.blogspot.co.uk/2009/09/lessons-of-lucozade-plot.html

Oops, my kids are home early, no.2+ coming later...

Anonymous said...

Noga, it's going to take a cataclysm to shift direction. The permanent bureaucracies, academia, the media, and corporate HR departments, even the courts are all in on Politically Correct-Leftwing thought police, enforcing acceptable Leftwing thoughts

10 to 20 million new voters in the US will help solidify one party Leftwing tyranny. (As mass immigration across European Christendom).

On a side note, Israel has found a way to deport unwanted illegal immigrants via a third party state...getting around UN Convention on Refugees. The idea had already been widely discussed, but now Israel is leading the way in protecting it's citizens from invasion by hostile Others.

EV

Anonymous said...

Democracy is being subverted...by several means, but the major one being mass immigration of a third world electorate with lots of goodies and benefits on offer.

The Rule of Law is being subverted.

The Left is going to take down Western Civilization. We are going to have to defend ourselves and rebuild.

The pendulum swings after cataclysmic events.

bob said...

1. continued...

So, as I was saying:
You can argue that data-mining is no big deal, but that requires an awful lot of trust in the state apparatus. This is, I guess, the nub of it, in that my who-cares opinion is informed by a more ambivalent view of the state apparatus than I used to have. In my more thoroughly libertarian days, I basically saw state power and that of the citizenry as a zero sum equation: the more power it had the less we had. I don't see the state as essentially benign now, but I think it's more complex and subtle than I used to. And I also see that a range of non-state and para-state actors (e.g. al-Qaeda and its relatives) that have the potential for enormous coercive power that we need the state to defend us from, even if sometimes intrusively.

bob said...

2. Samantha Power

I guess I was being facetious, frivolous and provocative in my comments. Power's intemperate comments on Hillary (in the context of the 2007 Democratic primaries, I think, and the Clinton camp's muck-spreading about Obama?) indicate that she might not be appropriate material for a diplomatic job... although the US seems to have a different conception of what makes an appropriate diplomat than other nations!

As for her Israel comments, these seem to me to be cherry-picked, distorted and taken out of context by her critics. I don't believe she has ever described Israel as having genocidal intent. The video of the interview is here: http://youtu.be/oFdt6fjdHQw The point she is making is unclear and incoherent, but a lot less malign than you represent it here, CC. (The context for this - she uses the term "Sharofat" - was the Second Intifada, and the Passover Massacre at Netanya, Operation Defensive Shield, the Jenin operation, and in general a situation where the conflict appeared to be spiraling into a truly terrifying place.)

I haven't read what she said about Obama's intent in relation to Turkey's genocide. What did she say exactly?

bob said...

Oh, and Martin Kramer is certainly not an idiot. Worth noting some of the people who have defended her too: Max Boot, Alan Dershowitz, Joe Leiberman, John McCain. And the idiots who attack her: Noam Chomsky, CounterPunch, Truthout, Philip Weiss (who bemoans her "philosemitism"!), Electronic Intifada...

bob said...

3. The Zionist right and the AKP

You sound as if you're surprised by this? As I'd assume it's a lot of the same people who were all "Victory to Mubarak", it's entirely predictable. It's not really 'sad' either; it's how much of the right have always operated in geopolitical terms, from the Cold War onwards.

I am not surprised or saddened by the Zionist right being wrong on geopolitics. Many hawkish Israel-defenders, as you say WS, liked Mubarak for geopolitical reasons, despite his loathsome domestic repression, and some even like the even more loathsome Assad for the same reason. What surprises me (but I'm not sure why I said "sadly") is that part of the Zionist right defend Erdogan.

In general, the Zionist right have been excessive in their denunciation of him, playing up his Islamism and his anti-Zionism. They would prefer the Kemalist military, for the same reason they liked Mubarak. So, it is odd to see pro-Israel hawks being taken in by the smiley-face Islamists of the Oktar cult, who provide a Zionist-friendly alibi for the AKP's neo-liberal Islamism.

The Turkish spring, like the Arab spring, does a good job of exposing who is and who isn't a genuine democratic idealist in the broadly "neocon" camp, and how hollow the pro-democracy claims are of some of those associated with it.

Waterloo Sunset said...

And I also see that a range of non-state and para-state actors (e.g. al-Qaeda and its relatives) that have the potential for enormous coercive power that we need the state to defend us from, even if sometimes intrusively.

So rely on the likes of Bob Lambert?

I don't think you need to take a hardline anti-state position to recognise that the regulations of the security services to the Islamists has been ambivalent at best. That applies nationally but also internationally (Operation Cyclone etc.).

This isn't, to be clear giving any ground to 9/11 & 7/7 conspiracy truthers. (I know you know that's not my position Bob, so it's more aimed at other reasons). Merely a recognition that the security services have their own agenda which doesn't necessarily coincide with mine.

The Contentious Centrist said...

I think Bob you are being a bit less than your vigilant self when you scoff at the radical and extreme way Power dealt with the "thought experiment" she was invited to speculate upon. I hardly think you can cleanse that sheretz of a position by "contextualizing" it. You cannot blame Defensive Shield for her blithe ignorance and her rush to call for providing a military force to protect Palestinians!

If you disagree with my reading please give me your own paraphrase of what she was suggesting. I don't need you to "contextualize" her words. I'd appreciate direct engagement with what she actually said.

Here is the vid where she makes her worthless promises to the Armenian community:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yNt7XsV-Dg

bob said...

Re Samantha Power
I didn't mean to scoff. To be honest, as I was trying to say in suggesting her point is unclear and incoherent, I couldn't possibly paraphrase it because it simply doesn't make sense. It's unclear what real or hypothetical situation she is talking about, or exactly what she is proposing.

However, I think (a) it is clear she is not saying Israel is genocidal or even nearly so, but rather that it is/was/might be violating human rights, which you may disagree with but which is rather a different case; and (b) that she is not simply talking about protecting the Palestinian victims from the Israeli perps but also that the Palestinians are guilty too in some way.

I don't think the context exonerates her from her wrong-headedness. But I do think it is highly relevant. I'm not sure of the timing in relation to Jenin, but many, many people (including her erstwhile ally Ignatieff, as Kramer notes - altho he doesn't note they have now fallen out) believed in good faith that a massacre had occurred in Jenin. The dramatic images of destgruction of buildings affected global public opinion powerfully. It took some time for the real picture to emerge, a lag not helped by the Israeli exclusion of NGOs for some time, even though that may have been for a good reason.

It did seem to many at that time that an intransigent and belligerent Israeli leadership under Sharon (already associated with war crimes in the camps in the first Lebanon war) and an even more intransigent and belligerent Palestinian leadership under Arafat (in a Second Intifada that revealed a much more massively militarised and lethal Palestinian assault on civilians, as in the Netanya Passover attack) were escalating the conflict to a point when it seemed likely to become genocidal.

--

I will watch the Armenia youtube tonight.

bob said...

On the state apparatus

I totally accept that the different parts of the security state apparatus have their own complex, conflicting and murky intents and agendas, and have in many cases actively supported the most pernicious terrorists (most iconically, Osama against the Soviets in Afghanistan). I don't see them as an un-ambiguous force for good by any means.

However, the kind of data mining in the recent leaks seems to me simply a relatively teacup-sized storm as far as privacy violations go, especially factoring in the terror attacks which it has stopped. The anger at it seems radically disproportionate to me. Especially, as you say WS, in comparison to the scale of intrusion private corporations get up to, for a far less benign intent than those animating the NSA.

Anonymous said...

The terror attacks can be stopped by more direct means. Profiling the adherents of The Religion of Peace.

Instead we get shotgun approaches which infringe upon non-Muslim rights. TSA airport security, NSA broad based data collection.

This for the pleasure of having to combat Shariah law and Muslim supremacist immigrants inside your polities.

Strength through Diversity!

Scandanavian girls need to toughen up. They've had it too easy. Let's import hostile women disrespecting gang rapists from the MENA and South Asia to keep them on their toes.

Strength through Diversity!

EV

The Contentious Centrist said...

I don't understand you, Bob. At the height of the murderous intifada during which the Palestinians were killing Israelis indiscriminately, she finds is the best time to speculate that Palestinians need to be protected against Israel? And you regard this as no more outrageous than mere "wrongheadedness"??

Never mind. It sometimes seems impossible to impress upon you that Israelis are not such potential criminals that anyone accusing them of being genocidal (she certainly did suggest it; why else was there a strong military force needed to protect Palestinians? why else was she willing to risk alienating American Jews?) has to be taken as if there was some truth on their side that needs to be taken seriously.

I think Obama will come to regret this nomination.

Anonymous said...

I doubt Obama will regret his nomination. She is a fellow traveler, and largely in agreement with the broad Leftwing Third Worldist (neo-Maosist) worldview, that Obama likewise holds.

EV

Waterloo Sunset said...

@ EV

broad Leftwing Third Worldist (neo-Maosist) worldview, that Obama likewise holds.

Hahahahahahaha. You fucking loon.

bob said...

Re Samantha Power again,

Apart from the she and Obama are about as far away from Third Worldism or neo-Maoism as you can get (although maybe neo-Maosism is an accurate description)...

Obama may well come to regret his appointment, but probably not much. It is an odd peculiarity among liberal democracies that the US appoints highly partisan figures to its most senior diplomatic roles rather than career diplomats. I don't think there has been a US ambassador to the UK in my lifetime qualified to do the job by virtue of anything other than fund-raising for the president, while ambassadors to the UN are often polarising figures, most obviously John Bolton.

I simply don't think, though, that Power was suggesting Israel was genocidal, as she explicitly contrasts the human rights abuses she is talking about to actual genocide. I don't think she would argue that the US should only deploy military force when someone's being genocidal - the case for intervention in Libya was not that genocide was happening or about to happen, for instance.

--

By the way, what is going on when people religiously capitalise words like "Leftwing"?

Jenna Ride said...
This comment has been removed by the author.