Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What is History? And the party pooper gets serious again

Now, it is difficult to imagine that anyone who lists Andrew J. Bacevich's, 'Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War', Richard McGregor's, 'The Party: The Secret World of China's Communist Rulers', Slavoj Žižek's, 'Living in the End Times', Andrew Feinstein's, 'The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade' and Illan Pappe's, 'The Forgotten Palestinians: A History of the Palestinians in Israel', as their last five reads, can be the life and soul of the party.

Therefore, actually being quite a sociable chap, the author of this post turned to Julian Barnes's 'The Sense of an Ending' for a light hearted, not so cognitively challenging, read; a something to talk about when a little bit more than the state of English football was required, but, more importantly, a something that might be just a wee bit more fun to read than any of the above.

However, it is not always that easy and there on pages 16, 17 and 18 of Barnes's book, the ever so serious ego was distracted by one particular answer that the history teacher, Joe Hunt, elicited when he asked the question, "What is History"? "History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation," Adrian Finn answers. A good answer but with obvious limitations and the temptation is to advise any budding historian to read the dialogue that ensues between Hunt and Finn rather than the 158 pages in E.H.Carr's 'What is History?'

Almost everything we need is in these three pages and when Hunt explains that, "historians need to treat a participant's own explanation of events with a certain scepticism", isn't he only echoing E.H. Carr who wrote, "the facts speak only when the historian calls on them: it is he who decides to which facts to give the floor, and in what order or context"?  Nevertheless, while almost everything we need is in these three pages there is another factor that both Barnes's "Joe Hunt" and Edward Hallet Carr appear to have missed. What if, the historian calls on the facts but presents the facts in a context that we can only find morally reprehensible? What if, someone were not to deny the holocaust, but rather to argue that it was necessary? Would this not upset our sensibilities to such an extent that we had no choice but to put the book down?

And so it is with the Zionist historian, Benny Morris who correctly concludes that there was indeed an ethnic cleansing of Palestine. What a genuis! Unfortunately, he then argues that this was necessary in 1948 and that  David Ben-Gurion's failure to expel all Arab Israelis might mean that it might be necessary to finish the job in the future. Yes, Barnes's "Hunt" is correct whe he says, "historians need to treat a participant's own explanation of events with a certain scepticism", and Carr is, of course, correct when he says, the facts speak only when the historian calls on them: it is he who decides to which facts to give the floor, and in what order or context." However, what do we have when the historian puts ethnic cleansing into a context where it is morally justifiable?

Finally, if this has developed into another party pooper post, my apologies. However, if you are an undergrad who wants to get to that disco at the student's union on friday you might want to thank me. You may just have been saved the torture of reading not only the 158 pages of party pooping E.H. Carr, but also, and more importantly, you might just have added Benny Morris to your list of "historians to avoid. Anyway, I will now read Mr Barnes's novel as it is meant to be read, you can confine yourselves to pages 16, 17 and 18 of the book and enjoy the party.

关系 Bo Xilai might just have the Guanxi

We had a three day lull there during which Bo Xilai disappeared from the public eye and, with both he and the Mayor of Chongqing, Huang Qifan, missing an important city work conference on Thursday, speculation as to their both  being arrested was rife.

However, the latest news to come out of China is that on Friday he turned up to meet a Vietnamese Communist Party official in Chonqging, and, in stressing the importance of party cadres staying clean even in a corrupt environment, made his first public attempt at distancing himself from Wang Lijun.

Moreover, the fact that Bo is continuing to make public appearances would appear to suggest that the Beijing leadership has already drawn a line between Bo and Wang, even if it is no secret that both Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao neither supported Bo's red culture and anti-vice campaign, nor viewed the flamboyant Bo as a suitable candidate for the Standing Committee with its emphasis on collective leadership.

Of course, with Bo sending the Chongqing Mayor, Huang Qifan , and over 70 police cars all the way from Chongqing to Chengdu to blockade the US consulate and with those police then challenging the Chinese national security for the custody of Wang, there is at least an indication that Bo has something to hide. Therefore, we might ask the question why, at least for the time being, does he appear to be safe?

The simple reason being suggested is that Bejing is not ready to make its move with it being argued that, should Bo be forced to retire before the 18th Party Congress the party will be embarrassed before the all-important transition of power. There might be some truth in that. However, more importantly, there is very real evidence that as long as Bo remains in his power base in South West, where he has both popular support and support within elements the military, he is safe. Indeed, what can Beijing actually do at the moment?

Furthermore, there is a third very important factor that is tied to the support that Bo has within the PLA. In a country where "guangxi", the Chinese equivalent of the "old school tie", is all important, he is one of China's so-called princelings, the offspring of the communist party elite. Moreover, while neither Hu Jintao, nor Wen Jiabao belong, strictly speaking, to this group, Hu JIntao's designated successor Xi Jinping does and it is believed that there is already an informal alliance between him and the other princelings who are candidates for promotion.

Finally, while alliances such as this haven't always counted for much in China, what we now see is a situation where Bo's son, Bo Guagua, is at Harvard where he has a relationship with Chen Xiaodan, the daughter of second-generation princeling Chen Yuan, the head of China Development Bank, .... and guess who else is there ....... Xi Jinping's daughter Xi Mingze. The evidence would appear to suggest that, in today's China, it is not what you know, or even what you have done, but rather who you know and if Bo Xilai can keep out of Hu Jintao's clutches ..... This story is beginning to get interesting.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mr Hague criticises Iran’s “utterly illegal activities”

Doesn't he look like a comedian? He certainly is one; William Hague, the British Foreign Secretary, the pathetic pathos, puerile polemic, the pharisaicalness and today on the Andrew Marr show he talked about Iran's "willingness to contemplate utterly illegal activities in other parts of the world."

Well, you have to admire this little man's audacity in using"utterly" to modify the adjective "illegal". Not only is Iran willing to undertake illegal activities they are willing to undertake "utterly" illegal activities. Now, what activities might he be refering to; the maybe car bomb where an Israeli diplomat was slightly hurt, the mysterious case in Tblissi of a mysterious bomb being defused, or, perhaps, the guy who blew his own legs off and who apparently had an Iranian passport?

"Utterly illegal" is sending military and police equipment to Bahrain, which is then used to crack open the heads of and shoot demonstrators, as indeed is selling weapons to every Tom, Dick and Harry here, there and everywhere. "Utterly illegal" is trying to instigate regime change all over the planet in order to realise the geopolitical goals of the West and Israel, while, of course, turning a blind eye to the "utterly illegal" occupation of Palestine and the "utterly illegal" crimes of a Zionist regime that .... that Mr Hague has a fucking nuclear bomb.

Nevertheless, Mr Hague, I like the "utterly" and you are either "utterly mad", "utterly hypocritical" or "utterly stupid". Indeed, you might just be "utterly" all three.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

US says Israel should wait but that it will attack anyway

According to 'The Guardian', Obama has made it clear to the public and to Israel that we shoud continue to wait and see if the sanctions against Iran can contribute further to undermining that county's economy.  Of course, with the report emphasising that US officials believe the embargo is destined to ultimately fail anyway and that an Israeli attack on Iran is inevitable, we can easily deduce what this rhetroric actually means.
Firstly, the purpose of the sanctions is to further weaken Iran before the inevitable attack and, secondly, when that attack comes Washington will argue that it gave Iran every opportunity to avoid a conflict. One particular anonymous US official might claim that the White House today is different from the Bush White House and that it "wants to see sanctions work" but it is quite easy to see what sanctions working actually means here. Of course, it means that Iran is to capitulate on all fronts and maybe as a gesture of good faith they might want to sign their oil over to Israel.
In the meantime with the mainstream press reporting that Iranians in Bangkok were planning attacks on Israeli institutions, and this on top of the dubious attacks in New Delhi and Tblissi, Israel is already at work on accumulating a variety of "evidence" that will contribute to providing the pretext for an assault that can ultimately plunge us all into a war which will see no winner. Indeed, as Neil Clark points out it is a war that has already started in Syria where the so-called "rebels" are being supplied with Western arms and supported by French, British and US special forces in an attempt to remove Teheran's only real ally in the region (see map). Of course, there is the Hezbollah in the Lebanon but triggering off a civil war in that country to keep them occupied will hardly be difficult.
As the US accuses Iran of trying to build a nuclear weapon, Israel is in fact already a major nuclear power. While the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) carries out inspections at Iran's nuclear facilities and issues regular reports that are based not only on those inspections, but also on a variety of intelligence reports, and comes to the conclusion that Iran neither has nor is developing a WMD, Israel not only doesn't come under any scrutiny, but it also no longer bothers to deny that it has nuclear weapons. As the West pushes for regime change in Syria, Britain and America  turn a blind eye on, and even sell arms to, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa's in Bahrain. Palestinians are denied their basic human rights, in "moderate" Saudi Arabia women if woman complain too much about not being allowed to drive, they might just get their heads chopped off with a sword for being a witch. The hypocrisy knows no bounds and it is time to ensure that the hypocrites do not force us all into a war that nobody can possibly want.

Bo Xilai in trouble

It was interesting to read the 'New York Times' reporting Bo Xilai, the CCP Secretary in Chongqing. as a contender for the Standing Committee of the party’s Politburo and as "the closest China has to a Western-style politician." Well, with lawsuits for serious human rights abuses being filed against him in more than ten countries and with him beig accused of embezzlement, it might just be that he is indeed quite close to a number of Western politicians. However, it is neither corruption, nor the torturing of prisoners of conscience that is at the root of the political drama that is underway in China at the moment.

Moreover, with it being suggested that  Chongqing's erstwhile police chief, and Bo Xilai's right hand man  Wang Lijun,  knew that his plea for political asylum would be rejected when he went to the US consulate in Chengdu, and that he really went in order to land in the hands of he people who answer to Mr Bo's political rivals, we can be sure that a political drama is, indeed, being played out.
Bo's political adverseries might use the internationalisation of his human rights abuses, which have caused the party some embarrassment, and they might also gather evidence from those former associates in Chongqing who he might have alienated. However, as Cheng Yiaonong, the former Inegrated Research Office Directer at China's Economy Reform Institute said in reviewing the incident;
"Corruption is only an on-the-table excuse for CCP's handling of Bo and Wang. The real reason behind it is Bo's challenging of CCP's centralization. Bo broke the rules embodied by over-stepping the power line and other improper acts to the CCP."

Firstly, it is no secret that the party leadership in Beijing never supported Bo's red culture and anti-vice campaign. However, Hu Jintao, Wen Jiabao and Li Keqiang might even have ignored not only to the hypocrisy of a "neo maoist" who was in fact himself embezzling millions, but also his his attempts to revive a Mao mini-cult. It is not essentially Bo's leftist tendencies that worries the political leadership in Beijing but rather the both the obvious inability of the flamboyant Chongqing party secretary to fit into a system that, since Deng Xiaoping's death, puts the emphasis on collective leadership, and his contacts with the military.

That last factor might be perceived as a challenge to the CCP's centralized military control and it is this that might just have put the final nail in Bo Xiai's coffin. As recently as the 10th of February the Chongqing Party Secretary visited the 14th Army Group, an army group that has its origins in the New Shanxi Army, which was founded by Bo's father Bo Yibo, in Yunnan. It is, of course, easy to imagine how this particular development might be perceived by the Beijing leadership, especially with Wang Lijun in their custody. Furthermore, with Bo apparently also planning a huge rally in Chongqing to display his support among the masses and with him seeking support from friends at the highest level, Beijing might feel that it is still being challenged. Of course, there can only be one winner and while the real China experts might see his not being electing to the Standing Committee as his best case scenario, there is reason to suggest that, unless he eats humble pie, his fate could be much worse.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The mainstream media and the coming war on Iran

With Yigal Palmor, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, neither willing  to discuss who was injured nor the extent of the injuries "because it was a security matter" , we can only speculate as to how bad the injuries sustained by Tal Yehoshua, the 40 year old wife of an Israeli Defence Attache, who herself is a diplomat, were.

Nevertheless, with her not only being conscious yesterday, but also "talking to her family" (ibid), there is no need to assume the worst for her. That might be good news, but that is not how it is going to be reported and already we have the mainstream press moving away from 'Haaretz's', "moderately wounded" from yesterday to today's "critically injured" and having undergone surgery "to remove splinters from her spine and liver."

The media mood swing helps prepare us all for the coming war and not only in Israel. Germany's 'Bild Zeitung' is right up there with 'The Sun' when it comes to quality journalism and, with a circulation of almost four million, it is at least as popular. Today, we had the pictures of the burning car along with a story of a critical Israeli diplomat. We can almost expect a "serves them right" from Otto Normalverbraucher when the bombs fall on Iran. Of course, we might wonder if it officials didn't immediately known "whether the explosion was caused by a bomb", who decided it was and when did they decide?

The picture depicts 'Die Bild Zeitung' reporting "bomb terror and two instances of Israeli diplomats being attacked, the other one was the case of the defused device in Tblissi, with the burning car after the explosion.

Monday, February 13, 2012


The 'Guardian' reports:
"Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has accused Iran of being behind twin attacks on Israeli targets in India and Georgia on Monday in a move likely to further escalate tensions between the two countries and increase international pressure on the Iranian regime." 
 And then goes on to add that:
"Iran described the accusations as "sheer lies". Mehdi Nabizadeh, Iran's ambassador to Delhi, was quoted as saying by IRNA: "Any terrorist attack is condemned [by Iran] and we strongly reject the untrue comments by an Israeli official. These accusations are untrue and sheer lies, like previous times."

Moreover, with the Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, every bit as "certain" the Prime Minister as to who is behind the attacks, we mind start to worry about this, latest, development, after all according to Lieberman, Israel knows  "exactly who is responsible for the attack and who planned it, and we're not going to take it lying down." And, the proof that Iran is behind the attacks? Well according to 'Haaretz':  "The incidents on Monday come one day after the fourth anniversary of the assassination of Hezbollah's deputy leader, Imad Mughniyah, a killing the Islamist organization blames on Israel."  Nevertheless, pretexts, incidents, must, and will, be found no matter how absurd those pretexts are.

However, with the chances of a multi-sided civil war in Syria "with those groups that are being armed covertly by NATO via Turkey and Qatar having an advantage in hardware," increasing by the hour, and with that coming conflict leaving Iran bereft of its potential ally on the eve of an Iraeli attack,  even the most myopic of us should not only be suspicious when Israel starts to point the finger after a failed bomb attack in New Delhi and neutralized device in Tblissi, but also aware of who the real criminals are.

It is important that we are for with Robert Frisk reporting that the conflict in Syria has already spilled over into Lebanon,and with Israel and the West's continued "collective delusion of grandeur (and) illusion of the power to make reality ” we could very well be on course for a conflict that could indeed put us on the road to Armageddon (ibid).

Tears of Gaza

 In considering the posts from wednesday and friday, it is, perhaps, appropriate to give readers the opportunity to watch the Norwegian film actress and director, Vibeke Lokkeber's, documentary film, 'Tears of Gaza' .

As the Palestinian American author, Susan Abulhawa, quite rightly says; "Vibeke Lokkeberg has given us a monumentally important record of what happened in December 2009 to January 2010; so no one can ever say "I didn't know." (ibid). It is time to close that gap between what we can know and what we want to know.  Watching this film might just facilitate our achieving that.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Forgotten Palestinians

In his book 'The Forgotten Palestinians' Ilan Pappé argues that those Arab Israeli citizens who were trying to negotiate their own modus vivendi with the Israeli state by choosing a "third space" were faced with an even more determined Israeli Jewish polity that was "willing to discuss a compromise over the occupied territories, but was unwilling to accept the bi-national reality in the pre-1967 Israel." (Pappe: 155).

Of course, the "compromise" that the majority of Israeli Jews were, and are, willing to consider for the occupied territories has to be questioned and it might be concluded here that Pappe is refering to the Israeli Jewish polity, or body politic, in its widest sense for, as he himselves knows, there was never going to be any real compromise by the Zionists when it came to "their" "Judea and Samaria". Something that is further evidenced by the ongoing Orwellian "legal" efforts to legalise the illegal settlements.

The ethnic cleansing of all of mandatory Palestine, or of as much of it as possible, is a very real expression of Zionism's "Raison d'être". Indeed, while Pappe quite rightly says that,"the inevitable logic of Zionism and its ability, or rather inability, to accept another national minority in the midst of the Jewish state", (ibid) it has to be emphasised that the "Jewish democracy" has never defined its borders and has yet to legalise most of its annexations.

Mr Pappe knows this and none of it should detract from his worthwhile reminder of the Arab Israeli population's fate. However, it is a fate that that community shares, and will continue to share, with all Palestinians. Indeed, if there were any doubts regarding that fact they were dispelled as recently as four weeks ago when Israel’s High Court "upheld a law that specifically excludes Palestinians from applying for permanent residency or Israeli citizenship by virtue of marriage to an Israeli." Moreover, there can be no doubt that the Israelis being referred to are Arab Israelis, for, while the precise number of mixed marriages in Israel between Arabs and Jews is unknown, they are extremely rare.  It is, of course, a racist law.

Jonathan Cook, in his book 'Blood and Religion: The Umasking of the Jewish and Democratic State', provides us with a wonderful exposé of the racist state that would implement such a law and shows us how there will be attempt to redraw the Green line to create a state where only Jewish blood and Jewish religion count. The book was published in 2006 but with a population and territory swap, as part of an eventual peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians now being the subject of "normal" discourse among Israeli Jews, the author can hardly be accused of fanciful thinking. All the more so since, to varying degrees, a population transfer is now accepted by all major politicians from Livni to Lieberman with the latter going so far as to present his plan to the United Nations.

We should have no illusions; in 1940 the director of the Jewish National Fund's Land Department, Yosef Weitz, was provided with a Zionist perspective that is just as relevant now as it was then, when he said:
"It must be clear tht there is no room in the country for both peoples .... There is no way but to transfer the Arabs from here to the neighboring countries, to transfer all of them, save perhaps for Bethlehem, Nazareth, and the old Jerusalem. Not one village must be left, not one tribe. The transfer must be directed at Iraq, Syria, and even Transjordan." (Cook: 97)
Tomorrow the transfer will be directed at those Israeli Arabs who live in the triangle, while the project to judiaze the Negev and Galilee is already ongoing.

We need not doubt the fate of the Palestinians if the Zionist project is allowed to succeed. Those in the occupied territories will be joined in their "Bantustans" by the population of the triangle, while those living inside the "Green Line" will be confined, providing they sign a loyalty oath and recognize Israel as a Jewish state, mainly to Nazareth and parts of East Jerusalem. There will, of course, be no viable state on the West Bank and in Gaza and for those Palestinians whose right of return is affirmed by UN resolution 194 there will be ...... nothing. This is not about compromise, it is about basic human rights, for the Palestinians in Israel, in the Occupied Territories and in the diaspora. It is a matter which should concern all of us.