Monthly Archives: January 2016

Adelson newspaper want Swedish foreign minister assassinated for questioning Israel

Margot Wallström3

SWEDISH FOREIGN MINISTER WALLSTRÖM MAY BE ASSASSINATED, SUGGESTS ISRAELI FORMER CHAIRMAN OF THE PEDAGOGIC SECRETARIAT OF THE EDUCATION MINISTRY.

The article by Zvi Zameret was posted as an op-ed in the rightist Sheldon Adelson-sponsored paper Makor Rishon (‘First Source’), under the title, “Margot Wallström’s source of inspiration,” referring to the Swedish Foreign Minister. As it is in Hebrew, I shall try to make some mention of its salient contents, without translating the whole due to time constraints.

The matter was now brought to my attention via a tweet by journalist Barak Ravid (Haaretz) and via post of journalist David Sheen and forwarded by PS Arihant.

The author first boasts about a friendship with a former member of the Stern Gang (one of  the most notorious Jewish terror groups, headed by later PM Izhak Shamir) member, Yehoshea Cohen, who lived in kibbutz Sdeh Boker (Ben Gurion’s kibbutz), and mentions that Cohen was one of Ben Gurion’s closest friends, as well as him being “one of the most ferocious fighters of the Stern Gang”. As is also stated in the article, Yehoshea was the actual murderer of Folke Bernadotte.

The article circles around the 1948 murder of Swedish Count Folke Bernadotte, UN special envoy, who was sent to mediate a resolution of the Palestinian issue in 1948, making recommendations for the withdrawal of Israeli forces and return of refugees – making him a target for elimination, executed by the Gang in Jerusalem in September 1948.

Zameret, the former director of pedagogy for the Israeli education ministry, seeks to set the focus on Bernadotte’s person, and a suggestion that he was an anti-Semite. He recalls an occurrence in 1984, when the author traveled to Copenhagen, and was “ordered” by his friend Cohen to meet with Dr. Johannes Holm, whom the author refers to as “the Danish Refugee Minister” during WW2. That is very strange, because from my search of him, I reached an article about Holm in precisely the relevant time, by the highly authoritative Danish newspaper Politiken, in which Holm is mentioned as the head of the Danish National Institute for Health Data and Disease Control.

In any case, Zameret tells that Cohen had read in a paper that Holm had written a book about the White Busses, where he claims that Count Bernadotte was an anti-Semite. The author tells how he met with Holm, and how the latter told him of a “regrettable incident” with Bernadotte from 1944: That the Count, who was vice chairman of the Swedish Red Cross, in his negotiation of the freeing of Scandinavian prisoners of Nazi Germany, “refused to include Jews within the exchange deal”.

Now I have not read the book, published in 1984, myself – but I have read a review which is written in very critical tone of Bernadotte, in the Flensborg Avis 18.6.2012, which refers to such an incident. And here it says that the issue concerned 400 Scandinavian Jews in Theresienstadt camp, and it was THE NAZIS who refused to allow the Jews to be transported together with other Scandinavians. Apparently, Bernadotte conceded unwillingly to this decree – and this was to be his cardinal sin according to the author and Cohen, marking him an anti-Semite.

Now Zameret tells of how upon return he met Cohen in Israel, when Cohen was visiting his sick wife, who was also a former Stern Gang member, in hospital at the eve of her death. He tells how Cohen did not say a word, only smiled, and how his wife Nehama responded: “Yehoshea, now it is clear that Bernadotte was an anti-Semite, the bullets that you shot him with were not [expended] in vain”.

The author continues with a long list of Bernadotte’s “chutzpah”, in his suggestions to resolve the situation by a withdrawal of Israeli forces, return of refugees and reinstatement of Jerusalem as a corpus separatum as intended by the UN Partition Plan of 1947. In Zameret’s account, Bernadotte’s chutzpah was his “annulation” of the partition plan, calling for a “confederate rule between Israel and Transjordan” involving an “economic, national and security treaty” (referring to Bernadotte’s June 1948 suggestion which he revised in September). Tarnishing Bernadotte for his ‘ignorance’, in having “no idea about the Arab dream and the Jewish mentality” the author claimed “both sides disliked him”.  He chides him for working on the behest of the British and the American State Department, who “did not believe in the possibility of the existence of the State of Israel” and ends his McCarthyite tour de force by referring to the American Secretary of State as being influenced by Yehuda Leib Magnes, prominent Reform rabbi and President of Hebrew University who had met with American officials — Magnes himself was pleased with Bernadotte’s positions.

Finally the author arrives at the summation of all the above, with a eugenics-vein, aimed at the Swedish Foreign Minister, who has suggested that Israel’s killings of many Palestinian attackers were “extra-judicial executions” and has called for an investigation of these cases.

“What do the things I have mentioned indicate about Bernadotte? [They indicate] covert anti-Semitism, ignorance and arrogance, cooperation with senior elements in the country and interests that play a decisive role. Has anything changed in the Swedish DNA [my emphasis] in the decades following Bernadotte’s death? Nothing has changed. The Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström, with her characteristic covert anti-Semitism, with her arrogance, ignorance, and her interest-bound speculation regarding her future Muslim voters – she too seeks to fight the foundations of the State of Israel. I am convinced and certain that her intentions will smoulder, just as all of the undignified count’s intentions did.

 

 

Putin’s war in Syria is Chechnya revisited

David Hearst writes

Nearly four months into its intervention, Russia is an active combatant in the Syrian civil war. This is not just an assertion. It is borne out by casualty figures and the refugee flows.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirm in their latest figures that Russian air strikes have killed more Syrian opposition fighters than they have Islamic State group fighters. The figures are 1,141 to 893 respectively. Both the Observatory and the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) put the civilian death toll from Russian strikes at between 1,000 and 1,200.

A similar picture is revealed by refugee movements since 30 September when the bombing campaign began. Over a hundred thousand refugees have fled to the Turkish and Jordanian borders. Between 5 and 22 October last year the UN reported that Russian air strikes led to the displacement of 120,000 people from Aleppo, Hama and Idlib.

The number of Syrians seeking refuge on the Jordanian border was 3,000 in late September. That reached 12,000 by December and 17,000 by last week. Brigadier General Saber Taha Al-Mahayreh, who is in charge on Jordan’s Syrian and Iraqi borders told Middle East Eye that the majority of refugees at Ruqban came “[in a] short period of time, when [the Russian] attacks intensified.”

The Russian military say that if a drone detects a weapons dump under a hardened cover, it is legitimate to bomb it, no matter whom it belongs to. It could always be sold on to IS. But even on targets defined as terrorist, the civilian casualty toll is great. A Russian strike recently on a prison run by Al-Nusra Front near a popular market in Idlib province killed almost as many civilians and detainees as it did Nusra fighters –  26 of the former and 29 of the latter.

More than 20 opposition leaders have been assassinated since the Russian intervention, mostly from Ahrar al-Sham, one of the biggest groups fighting Assad. Zahran Alloush, leader of Jaish al-Islam rebel group was the most high-profile victim, and his assassination by Syrian Army was thought to have been aided by Russian surveillance.

The list includes Abu Rateb al-Homsi, an Ahrar al-Sham leader in Homs area. Homsi was one of the men Assad released from Sednaya Prison to Islamise the opposition when it was largely secular and unarmed. Homsi went on to lead the Liwa al-Haqq rebel group before it merged with Ahrar al-Sham. In Riyadh, they signed an agreement supporting negotiations with the Syrian government, despite threatening to walk out of the talks.

The bombing raids and assassinations are both ways to re-arrange the chairs at the negotiating table before one has even been convened. Far from helping the peace talks take place in Geneva, the bombing campaign is killing them.

There is no agreement between Russia and America on whom in the Syrian opposition should live and whom should die, who is a “moderate” and who is a “terrorist”, who is legitimate and who is not. Russia reserves the right to decide for itself, although it has Arab allies in Jordan and Egypt who agree with it. There is no dialogue between Russia and Turkey, and therefore no agreement on which Kurdish groups should be represented at the talks. There is no possibility of an Iranian delegation sitting at the same table with a Saudi one. And even if the outer ring of combatant states agree, they lack control over the militias they arm and finance.

It is clutching at straws to think that Putin has bought himself leverage with Bashar al-Assad or indeed with Barack Obama after the sanctions imposed after the Ukrainian conflict. When Putin attempted to persuade Assad to soften his response to the unarmed uprising in Deraa in 2011, the Syrian leader ignored him. Now that the war has become a question of life or death for Assad, his wife and mother, there is little likelihood of that lever working more effectively now, even if we rashly assume that peace is on Putin’s agenda.

Obama is relaxed about letting Syrian fires burn, as any Syrian lobbyist in Washington will unhappily relate. He is deeply sceptical about the prospect of an early solution to the war. He knows Russia will get itself deeper and deeper into this conflict but he is not bothered. It was Putin’s fundamental mistake to think that he was.

What, then, led Putin to make such a fundamental decision on 30 September? He and Assad were contemporaries as heads of state, but they were never close. Assad ignored Putin for the first five years preferring visits to Western capitals instead. It was only when Russia came to a deal on Syria debt that the first Moscow visit materialised in 2005. Similarly, Syria was not on Russia’s radar until the Arab Spring and 2011 when Assad first crushed an unarmed civilian uprising in Deraa.

At the time, Putin would have listed his main regional allies as Turkey, Israel and Iran, in that order. When the Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu flew secretly to Moscow in a private jet to persuade Putin not to supply Iran with the latest surface to air missiles, Putin sacrificed his Iranian interests for his Israeli ones. The missiles were taken off the flat bed railway trucks destined for Tehran.

What prompted such a radical and risky decision ? Was it the imminent collapse of Assad? Was it part of a grandiose geopolitical project to restore a Soviet or indeed an Imperial Russian presence?

How Putin found his voice

One clue is a personal one, and it is to be found when Putin had no voice, no public record, and no following. 1999 was a bad year in Russia. Rival oligarchs were running riot. Not for the first time since 1992, the Russian state felt as if it was being shaken apart. Enter an unknown and untested hireling from Petersburg.

Putin, often described as a creature of the KGB, owed his rapid promotion to Moscow to the Family, Yeltsin’s self-serving band of oligarchs and neoliberal economists, which were thought of by Bill Clinton as Russia’s future. The nemesis of US’s plans to reshape Russia in its image did not emerge from the communist party, but from the bowels of the regime Washington was supporting. Putin’s career very nearly foundered on a scandal in which Petersburg lost $100m of food imports as barter for Russian timber, oil and other raw materials.

Putin needed more than just sponsorship to become known in times of turmoil. He needed something bigger like a war. Chechen militant attacks in Dagestan and around Moscow provided him with one.

Russia lost its first campaign in Chechnya and it sued for peace. An uneasy one followed. Aslan Maskhadov, the Chechen leader, ran out of money and the better financed and equipped Wahabi-influenced field commanders under the rival leadership of the warlord Shamil Basayev began to take over. Foreigners were kidnapped. A raid was staged in Dagestan and Russia was hit by a series of apartment bombings in which over 300 died.

In one of them, a group of FSB agents in a car with Moscow plates was caught by local police in Ryazan, a city outside Moscow, planting a device. The FSB said it was a training exercise. It was never proven, but the suspicion that the bombings could have been mounted by the FSB to justify a second war in Chechnya never went away either. The ex-Russian spy who joined MI6, Alexander Litvinenko, claimed to have more evidence on the apartment bombings. A British inquiry found that his poisoning was “probably ordered” by Putin.

Putin found his voice, which he took from the street: “We’ll get them anywhere. If we find terrorists in the shithouse, then we’ll waste them in the shithouse. That’s all there is to it.” That voice is still the one he uses today in Syria.

The Second Chechen war made the first seem restrained in comparison. The savagery was not one sided. The Nord-Ost theatre siege, the Moscow metro bombings were Chechen militant atrocities. Pure terrorism which in the case of Beslan, targeted Russian children. The savagery of Russian counter-insurgency in Chechnya was however sustained. The following is a taste of it.

The late and much missed Anna Politkovskaya described in her last book ” A Russian Diary” a video taken during a transfer of Chechen prisoners by the Special Operations Unit of the Russian Ministry of Justice. These fighters were allegedly “amnestied” after an assault on the village of Komsomolskoye in February to March 2000. Anyone interested in the fate of Syria should re-read this.

“The video is like a feature film from a fascist concentration camp. This is precisely the way the guards behave, their assault rifle at ready lined down a hill, at the bottom of which is the railway track with the waiting wagons. The men and boys (one is clearly 15 to 16 ) are flung from vans or themselves jump to the ground. They are all in bad physical shape, some being carried by their friends. All are wounded. Some are without legs, some without arms; the ear of one of them is hanging off, half-severed. The soldiers can be heard commenting: “Look they did not take that one’s ear off properly.” Many are completely naked, barefoot, covered in blood. Their clothing and footwear are tossed out of the vehicles separately. The fighters are completely exhausted. Some do not understand what is required of them and stumble about in confusion. Some are insane. On the video the soldiers beat them in a routine, automatic sort of way, as if they are doing it out of habit. There are no doctors to be seen. Some of the stronger fighters are ordered to pull from the vans the bodies of those who have died during the transfer and drag them to one side. At the end of the video there is a mountain of corpses of the amnestied prisoners by the railway track.”

Politkovskaya’s report is posthumous. She was to lose her life for reports like this, along with human rights activist Natalya Estemirova, the two members of the parliamentary commission investigating the flat bombings and a host of other honest souls. The trail of blood usually led back to the man Putin put in charge of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, the younger son of an assassinated Chechen rebel turned Moscow placeman.

Politkovskaya was the daughter of a Soviet diplomat, probably also a senior KGB man. As a child of the Soviet elite, she had the fearlessness of an insider. When she reported about abuses perpetrated by Russian servicemen, she also reported abuses on Russian soldiers, such as treatment terrified conscripts received from hazing. Politkovskaya was a Russian patriot.

George W. Bush had Putin’s back during this period, although the European Court of Human Rights in Strasburg was overwhelmed with referrals. It was a marriage of convenience. Russia supported the War on Terror, as long as Bush subsumed Russia’s campaign in Chechnya into it. The same process continues to this day, although there is more reason to conflate the insurgency in the North Caucasus with IS, as this is what the militants themselves do. The Russian response to Chechnya is a textbook example of how to breed a generation of suicide bombers. Russia went out of its way to assassinate the middle ground as it, and Assad, is now seeking to do in Syria.

The war that Putin restarted in 2000 has never left him, just as the Iraq invasion three years later has never left America or Britain. Russian military intelligence today claims there are 3,000 Russian Federation nationals and 4,000 from the post-Soviet space fighting Assad in Syria. That is 7,000 fighters ready to return and fight on the streets of Moscow. When Putin sees IS or Syrian opposition forces, he sees the same enemy that Russia has been fighting in the North Caucasus and in Tajikistan in Central Asia for the past three decades.

Libya

The second driver of his calculations in Syria is Libya. Dmitry Medvedev’s career has not recovered from his decision to abstain in the vote for the UN resolution that paved the way for the NATO intervention. When Gaddafy was killed (Russians claim with French and British involvement) a hue and cry went up in Moscow. Medvedev was denounced as traitor. A high-quality film appeared on the internet saying as much. Russia’s worst fears were realised when the Libyan state fell apart and they say they are determined not to repeat the experience in Syria.

“In general the issue of regime change, toppling regimes and promoting democracy or whatever, it was what Putin was afraid of. It was regarded as a form of pressure on behalf of the West, there was a regional balance in the Middle East, and to remove Assad, to destroy this country, it was regarded as a disaster. To turn Syria into another Libya was totally unacceptable. This was the thinking.” one Russian expert said.

Putin then is set not just on keeping the Syrian state intact. With this objective many would agree. He is also fighting against the Arab Spring in all forms and with all the means at his disposal. His praise of, and support for the military coup leader Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Egypt is based on nothing less.

What follows is a contest of wills, trench warfare, First World War style. The campaign will be fought as much on the economic as the military front. Putin claims he has the foreign reserves to see the current crisis created by record low oil prices out. He said in his last interview with Die Zeit, that his central bank has $350bn in gold and foreign currency reserves along with two reserve funds of $70bn each: “We believe that we will be steadily moving towards stabilisation and economic growth,” he said.

Russian economists such as Vladislav Inozemtsev and Stanislav Tkachenko are more sceptical. Tkachenko said the cost to Russia of severing ties to Turkey could exceed $30bn. “The fragile shoots of economic growth in Russia, after nearly a year of recession, would be torn out of the ground,” he added.

Saudi Arabia has bigger pockets than Russia, and several other reasons to keep the price of a barrel at records lows – squeezing shale oil out of them market and doing its best to hamper Iran’s re-entry into global markets.

All the signs point to a prolonged and protracted Russia military intervention. Look for accommodation blocks being built for the families of Russian pilots in Latakia. Six-week rotations will not do.

Each foreign intervention in Syria creates its own dynamic. Russia’s is no exception. Their bombing raids have left thousands more Syrian fighters with a score of their own to settle. They have TOW missiles and they pray for Russian tanks to come into range. The popular rage is great. Putin should not think he can re-arrange the Muslim House in Syria any more successfully than he has done so in the North Caucasus. If he were wise, he should plan his exit strategy now.

read at

http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/syria-chechnya-revisited-1819998438

The slow end of the Sisi régime

Amira Abo el-Fetouh writes

The coup led government in Egypt is at the peak of its weakness, even though it does not show it. The hand of oppression, brutality and oppression has extended to every component and group in society and it has kidnapped the youth from cafes and means of transportation. The latest incident was the kidnapping of five girls from a bus in Al-Matriyeh district. Others were kidnapped from their homes and places of work, including the doctor in Al-Faiyum who was killed at the hands of the police.

This is not including the cases of forced disappearance, which have exceeded 300 according to the reports of human rights organisations. They are recreating the time before the January 25 Revolution when the entire nation revolted against the tyrant Hosni Mubarak and he was deposed. However, unfortunately, they did not depose his corrupt regime and deep state. Instead, they attacked the nation and their great revolution with a bloody coup and counter-revolution organised by the intelligence agencies, funded by the Emirates and Saudi Arabia, and blessed by the US, Israel and Europe. They descended upon the fruit of the democracy born from the womb of a great revolution that impressed the entire world and shook the thrones of every king and leader in the region.

I also do not forget the role played by intellectuals who are considered elites and who tired us with their demands for freedom and democracy for many long years. However, when democracy brought their archenemy, the Muslim Brotherhood to power, they disbelieved in democracy and human rights and attack it instead. They rode the tanks and favoured injustice, oppression and violence.

The military managed to steal the people’s revolution and restore its rule with an iron fist. The closer the revolution’s anniversary becomes, the more panicked and vengeful they become. They take revenge on all the symbols and icons of the revolution. They increase their arrests and torture against anyone who supported or blessed the revolution because they know that they are a weak regime founded on the bodies and ruins of their people.

The case of Hisham Genena, head of the Central Auditing Organisation (CAO), is not far from this type of revenge. This man was a symbol of the judiciary revolution in 2006, which called for the independence of the judiciary after discovering the forgery of the elections. This revolution paved the way for the January 25 Revolution.

He was appointed head of the organisation during the rule of the legitimate President Mohamed Morsi due to his honesty and integrity. However, a fierce campaign was launched against him because he stated that the corruption in Egypt reached $77 billion in 2015. This caused a great ruckus because he referred to sovereign parties such as the army, intelligence, police and judiciary. Instead of questioning these parties and holding them accountable, they prepared to hang him and called for his dismissal, putting him in prison and prosecuting him for high treason.

The corrupt state is trying to cover its corruption, protect the symbols of the state and get rid of every pure and honourable individual in the country. It is as if the state is saying to these individuals: there is no place for you here. This is the corrupt state against which the people revolted on 25 January, but regrettably, its roots were not eliminated. Only the head of the state was removed. This was the greatest mistake made by the nation and now the entire Egyptian nation is paying the price for it. The same state has returned, with all of its institutions and agencies, with a new head. Now the rebels have learned their lesson and they are planning revenge against them in their next revolution. This is where the coup-led government’s fear, panic and horror from the upcoming revolution are stemming from.

read on

https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/23365-occurring-now-in-egypt

Sweden FM calls for probe into Israel’s ‘extrajudicial killings of Palestinians’

Margot Wallström2

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström on Tuesday called for a probe to determine if Israel was guilty of extrajudicial killings of Palestinians during recent violence, local Swedish media has reported.

Predictably, Israel’s Foreign Ministry said that Wallström was “giving support to terror and thus encouraging violence,” calling her statements “irresponsible and delusional.”

Sweden led the way by becoming the first EU member to recognise the Palestinian state in 2014; to-date, a total of 136 other UN member states, mostly in Africa, Latin America and Asia, have given such recognition.

The Horrifying Conditions in Madaya

‘People, but no life’

Madaya, in the mountains 25km (15 miles) north-west of Damascus, has been besieged for six months by government forces and their allies in Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement.

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-35295250

 

The lies of the Assad régime and al-Ja’afari its UN gopher

Bashar al-Ja’afari stood on a UN podium and lied through his teeth denying all the UN reports that Madaya, Eastern Ghouta, and many other Syrian have populations under siege by the Assad, dying of famine.

Human Rights Watch have collected all the evidence and it clear that genocide is being committed by both the Asaad régime and ISIS together.

According to the UN, Syrian government forces have 200,000 people under siege in Eastern Ghouta, Daraya, Zabadani, and Madaya; Islamic State (also known as ISIS) forces have 200,000 people under siege in Deir ez-Zour; and armed groups, including the al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front, have 12,500 more people under siege in Fu`a and Kefraya, in Idlib.

Madaya, 40 kilometers west of Damascus, the capital, has just over 40,000 people, of whom 17,000 have been displaced from neighboring towns and villages, the UN agency says. The area has been under the control of anti-government forces for almost two years and under siege by government forces since July 2015.

read the report:

https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/01/08/syria-give-besieged-areas-urgent-aid-access

In Turkey: The liberal left’s politics of fear

Burhanettin Duran writes

The public debate on secularism in recent years has been notably less polarized. As a matter of fact, secularism has not been a source of tensions in Turkish politics for quite some time. Still, reactions to the Prime Ministry’s decision to allow public servants to take time off for Friday prayers shows that Turkey still has a long way to go.

The opposition responded to the new regulations in various ways. Some petitioned the courts and others, whom I call conservative Kemalists, called on the people to resist the arrangement by boycotting Friday prayers.

More interesting, however, was that from the liberal left, which has marketed itself as a pro-freedom movement since the 1990s, accusing the government of “imposing an Islamic lifestyle on the people through politics.” To be fair, the same people had wrongly complained about “civilian authoritarianism” in recent years, as Turkey went through turbulent times. Crying Islamization in response to a regulation intended to challenge the old guard’s Jacobin secularism, however, is a new low.

Did they really think that the government would pay lip service to liberal values by lifting the headscarf ban and leaving the rest of Kemalism’s ultra-secular legacy untouched? It would appear that the liberal left had no genuine interest in challenging what they once called the destructive effects of this policy on society. Limited liberalization, they have been saying, was more than enough. The controversy surrounding the new lunch break regulations established that there were certain limits to the liberal left’s confrontation with the Kemalist legacy. Shooting for the bare minimum when it comes to religious liberties, they have no intention to challenge this Jacobin brand of secularism.

Let us, however, give them the benefit of the doubt and entertain the thought that they are merely concerned about the AK Party’s transformative power. For some reason, they might be opposed to this government implementing democratic reforms to address the Muslim community’s demands. As such, they seek to keep the fear of Islamization alive.

Until recently, intellectuals of the liberal left were able to set the tone for public debate on any issue. By criticizing the Kemalist legacy more harshly than others, they occupied the moral high ground and persuaded conservative Muslims to push for change. When it came to defining what the post-Kemalist future should look like, however, the liberal left assumed an uncompromising stance and lost all power over the AK Party’s voter base by transforming themselves from constructive critics to staunch opponents, leading to the claims of Islamization.

At the end of the day, the liberal left repeated the mistakes of the Kemalist establishment that they so harshly criticized. Whereas Kemalists reduced religion to a part of lower-class culture, the contemporary liberal left falsely believe that religious identity is a minor issue in everyday life. Having lost confidence in Turkey’s secular front, liberal intellectuals cannot get their facts straight. Most recently, a talking head claimed that globalization made it impossible for Islamic countries to observe public holidays on Fridays, although the truth was just a Google search away.

Read on

http://www.dailysabah.com/columns/duran-burhanettin/2016/01/13/the-liberal-lefts-politics-of-fear

Charlie Hebdo bullies

Glenn Greenwald writes

It’s been almost one year since millions of people — led by the world’s most repressive tyrants  — marched in Paris ostensibly in favor of free speech. Since then, the French government — which led the way trumpeting the vital importance of free speech in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo killings — has repeatedly prosecuted people for the political views they expressed, and otherwise exploited terrorism fears to crush civil liberties generally. It has done so with barely a peep of protest from most of those throughout the West who waved free speech flags in support of Charlie Hebdo cartoonists.

That’s because, as I argued at the time, many of these newfound free speech crusaders exploiting the Hebdo killings were not authentic, consistent believers in free speech. Instead, they invoke that principle only in the easiest and most self-serving instances: namely, defense of the ideas they support. But when people are punished for expressing ideas they hate, they are silent or supportive of that suppression: the very opposite of genuine free speech advocacy.

Days after the Paris march, the French government arrested the comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala “for being an ‘apologist for terrorism’ after suggesting on Facebook that he sympathized with one of the Paris gunmen.” Two months later, he was convicted, receiving a suspended two-month jail sentence. In November, on separate charges, he was convicted by a Belgian court “for racist and anti-Semitic comments he made during a show in Belgium” and was given a two month prison term. There were no #JeSuisDieudonné hashtags trending, and it’s almost impossible to find the loudest post-Hebdo Free Speech crusaders denouncing the French and Belgian governments for this attack on free expression.

In the weeks after the Free Speech march, dozens of people in France “were arrested for hate speech or other acts insulting religious faiths, or for cheering the men who carried out the attacks.” The government “ordered prosecutors around the country to crack down on hate speech, anti-Semitism and glorifying terrorism.” There were no marches in defense of their free speech rights.

In October, France’s highest court upheld the criminal conviction of activists who advocate boycotts and sanctions against Israel as a means of ending the occupation. What did these criminals do? They “arrived at the supermarket wearing shirts emblazoned with the words: ‘Long live Palestine, boycott Israel’” and “also handed out fliers that said that ‘buying Israeli products means legitimizing crimes in Gaza.’” Because boycotts against Israel were deemed “anti-semitic” by the French court, it was a crime to advocate it. Where were all the post-Hebdo crusaders when these 12 individuals were criminally convicted for expressing their political views critical of Israel? Nowhere to be found.

More generally, the French government seized “emergency powers” in the wake of the Paris attack that they originally said would last twelve days. It was then extended to three months, and there is now talk, as the deadline approaches, of extending those powers indefinitely or permanently. Those powers have been used exactly as one would suspect: to barge into places without warrants where French Muslims gather, shut mosques and coffee shops, detain people with no charges, and otherwise abolish basic liberties. They’ve also now been used beyond the Muslim community, against climate activists. If that sort of classic, creeping repression does not anger and upset you, then you may be many things, but a genuine advocate of free expression in France is not one of them.

Even before the Hebdo murders, prosecutions in Europe against Muslims for the expression of their political opinions were common, especially when those opinions were critical of Western policy. Indeed, a week before Hebdo, I wrote an article detailing that growing threat to free speech in the U.K, France and throughout the West. Those types of actions — carried out by the world’s most powerful governments — were, and remain, the greatest threat to free speech in the West. Yet they receive a tiny fraction of the attention that the Hebdo killings did.

Where were, and where are, all the self-proclaimed free speech advocates about all of that? It was only when anti-Islam cartoons were at issue, and a few Muslims engaged in violence, did they suddenly become animated and passionate about free speech. That’s because legitimizing anti-Islam rhetoric and demonizing Muslims was their actual cause; free speech was just the pretext.

In all the many years I’ve worked in defense of free speech, I’ve never seen the principle so blatantly exploited for other ends by people who plainly don’t believe in it as was true of the Hebdo killings. It was as transparent as it was dishonest. Their actual agenda was illustrated by how they invented a brand new free speech standard specially for that occasion: in order to defend free speech, one must not merely defend the right to express an idea, they decreed, but must embrace the idea itself.

This newly-minted “principle” is, in fact, the exact antithesis of genuine free speech protections. Central to an actual belief in free speech rights is the view that all ideas — those with which one most fervently agrees and those one finds most loathsome and everything in between — are entitled to be expressed and advocated without punishment. The most important and courageous free speech defenses have typically come from those who simultaneously expressed contempt for an idea while defending the rights of other people to freely express that idea. This is the principle that has long defined authentic free speech activism: those ideas being expressed are vile, but I will work to defend the right of others to express them.

Those who exploited the Hebdo murders sought to abolish this vital distinction. They insisted that it was not enough to denounce or condemn those who murdered the Hebdo cartoonists. Instead, they tried to impose a new obligation: one must celebrate and embrace the ideas of the Hebdo cartoonists, support the granting of awards to them, cheer for the substance of their views. Failure to embrace the ideas of Charlie Hebdo (rather than just their free speech rights) subjected one to accusations — by the world’s slimiest smear artists — that one was failing to uphold their rights of free expression or, worse, that one sympathized with their killers.

This cheap bullying tactic — trying to force people not merely to defend Hebdo’s free speech rights to but to embrace the ideas being expressed — has endured to this day (but only when it comes to speech critical of Muslims). A full year later, it’s still common to hear supporters of Western militarism falsely accuse portions of “the left” of having sanctioned or justified the attack on Charlie Hebdo solely on the ground that they refused to cheer for the content of Hebdo’s ideas.

This accusation is an absolute, demonstrable lie, an obvious slander. I’ve never heard a single person on the left express anything other than revulsion at the mass murder of the Hebdo cartoonists, nor have I ever heard anyone on the left suggest that the murders were “deserved” or that the cartoonists “had it coming.” I certainly did hear, and myself expressed, opposition to the relentless targeting of a marginalized minority in France by Hebdo cartoonists (that critique, just by the way, was most eloquently expressed by a former Hebdo staffer, Olivier Cyran: “The obsessive pounding on Muslims to which [Hebdo] has devoted itself for more than a decade has had very real effects. It has powerfully contributed to popularising, among ‘left-wing’ opinion, the idea that Islam is a major ‘problem’ in French society”). But objections to the substance of an idea quite obviously does not denote or even suggest a failure to uphold the rights of free speech for those who express that idea: unless you’re endorsing the noxious, deceitful, entirely novel concept that one can only defend the free speech rights of those with whom one agrees.

But this all highlights that free speech was not the principle being upheld here; free speech was just a weapon used by some tribalistic Westerners to try to force people into cheering for anti-Islam and anti-Muslim cartoons (not merely the right to publish the cartoons without punishment or violence, but the cartoons themselves).

And what even more powerfully demonstrates the sham at the heart of this post-Hebdo spectacle is that before the Paris march, and especially since, there has been a systematic assault on the free speech rights of huge numbers of people in France and throughout the West who are either Muslim and/or critics of the West or Israel, and the newfound Hebdo free speech crusaders have exhibited almost no opposition, and at times tacit or explicit support. That’s because free speech was their cynical weapon, not their actual belief.

https://theintercept.com/2016/01/08/where-were-the-post-hebdo-free-speech-crusaders-as-france-spent-the-last-year-crushing-free-speech/