And the hits just keep on coming for Israel( and arguably for Diaspora-esp European_ Jewry as a whole see the front page of today's Guardian- www.guardian.co.uk, August 8, 2014). The Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn(North London) refused a submission from the UK Jewish Film Festival, noting that the UKJFF had accepted financial sponsorship from the Israeli Embassy(in violation of the Theatre's policy of avoiding any submissions that amounted to "propaganda" ie sponsored by a governmental entity- or "hasbara" as the Israelis term it).
Several commentators( such as the inevitable Melanie Phillips and Stephen Pollard) have virulently attacked this decision but I think they did the right thing.
Question for those who argue that the UKJFF is "apolitical"; how would you react to a Russian submission backed by Putin's government?
It is an open secret in Israel that organizers of films or cultural activities must in order to gain governmental subvention must show of "Israel's prettier face", thus making any film submission backed by the Israeli Embassy about as "apolitical" as Radio Moscow or Pravda during the Cold War!
Sometimes you read things online that make you drop your jaws in amazement. Case in point, Respect MP for Bradford, George Galloway who has publicly urged his constituency to become an "Israeli free" zone even to the extent of refusing services to visiting Israeli tourists.
Although I freely admit that I am no more a fan of Israeli PM "Bibi" Netanyahu's recent actions in Gaza than I am of Putin's annexation of Crimea and mischief making in the Ukraine, I would remind Mr Galloway( notorious for saluting Saddam's Hussein's "indefatigability") that refusing public services to people based on their ethnicity or nationality is against the law( see Race Relations Act of 1965 and later ones).
Given that he has not advocated withdrawing or refusing services to say, Russians in order to protest Putin's policies( BTW George what IS your policy on the annexation of the Crimea?) or called for Bradford to become a "Russian free zone"_, it seems that he is adopting a differential attitude to Israel than to say , Russia.
Even when I was most deservedly bitterly critical of the policies of the Bush Administration, I never allowed it to get in the way of my relations(esp friendships) with individual Americans.
My previous blog posts on the(arguably Kremlin instigated) Ukraine conflict may have aroused questions as to my ultimate stance on this issue(although my aversion to Vladimir Putin is a pretty obvious tip off) so I will nail my colours to the mast so to speak on this blog.
I believe that the so-called "rebels" have no more moral authority for their campaign of seditious violence than do ETA, The Baader Meinhof Gang or the Provisional IRA and that the duly constituted Ukrainian government is well within its rights to crush them. I also believe that Ukraine is a sovereign and independent nation and if it wants to join either the EU or for that matter NATO, then that is indeed its prerogative( now Mr Putin may NOT like this, but what of it,?: in international affairs as well as our personal lives we must all learn to live with things we disapprove of - chief amongst them being the policies of one Vladimir Putin!).
An old Spanish proverb runs :"there's no pot so ugly that it can't find itself a lid!"
No regime so barbarous or repugnant that it totally lacks for foreign apologists, such as Putin's "useful idiots" like paleocon Pat Buchanan (US), UKIP leader Nigel Farage or husband and wife Stephen F.Cohen and Katrina van den Heuvel, columnist and editor of the US leftist newspaper The Nation respectively(full disclosure: I subscribe to this periodical online although I totally disagree with Cohen's/Van den Heuvel's stance on this issue).
Paleocons such as Buchanan and Farage may swoon over the overt homophobia of Putin's regime but I for one fail to see how even the most addlepated leftist/liberal could find anything about Putin or his regime to consider worthy of support. Corrupt,authoritarian, virtually theocratic and quite literally reactionary( at least the Soviet Union had some claim to progressive thought in theory) to a sense not seen since that of the Czars- unless you think that "Anglo-American imperialism bad but Russian imperialism good!"(to quote George Orwell in Animal Farm) even if it imperialistic outlook of its own.
I suspect the reason for this surge of support for a regime that were it anything other than Putin's lies in the stupidest attitude of the far left(and extreme right)-namely that any regime opposing the West is de facto "anti-imperialist" and worthy of support due to its"progressive" character. Like a Bourbon sovereign, both extremes of politics seem to have learned nothing and remembered nothing from the Cold War.
It says much that even after a full century after it began, the causes of the first World War are as disputed as say the Cold War. I am reminded of an old newspaper cartoon in which two European kings- one of them Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany and another whose name I don't quite remember. One(which one is unclear and is besides the point anyway) asks "Hey, what caused it"-the war that is"- in the first place?!" "Ach, if only one knew!" was the weary reply.
The war may have been rationally defensible in the sense that Britain had to prevent Kaiser Wilhelm's Germany from dominating the European landmass( much as Napoleon's France, the Netherlands or Philip II's Spain or Russia- Czarist or Soviet- threatened to do) and hence the sea lines(very important considerations from a sea power like Britain) but the sheer human cost of the conflict, the millions not only maimed in body and mind, the economic, moral and political dislocations- which led first to the rise of Bolshevism in Russia,(1917) Fascism in Italy (1922) and ultimately Nazism in Germany, first a second World War, and then four -plus decades of Cold War, make any attempt to "celebrate" the outbreak of World War 1 not only dubious but pretty much ghoulish to my mind.
Just as well the tone of the commemoration is sombre reflection rather than the sort of "bugle in the blood" jingoism(often uttered by politicians and pundits who have never seen military service far less wartime combat) that makes me want to gag!
British based readers may have noted newspaper articles about the rash of anti-Semitic attacks directed against Jews(not just in the UK, but Germany, France and Italy), obviously inspired by the recent Israeli attacks on Gaza.
Whilst I agree that these are morally indefensible(no more so than the murder of a Saudi student a few months back or recurrent anti-Irish backlashes inspired by violence - Provo bombings on the mainland during the "Troubles"), I for one am cynical about the vapourings of the likes of Melanie Phillips on this issue. Israel and its media allies have used the phrase "anti-Semitic" or "self hating Jew" so often that they have almost lost their original meaning( as I once noted, if a given critic is a Gentile, he or she is " anti-Semitic", if Jewish, then "a self-hating Jew"- talk about heads I win and tails you lose!), repeatedly and cynically conflating the State of Israel and Diaspora Jews, so in a certain sense we should not be surprised if some take Israel at its word.
There , he finally said what I knew (or strongly suspected for quite some time)- the United States President admitted that "waterboarding" and other forms of "enhanced interrogation techniques" employed by the "Company"( CIA) or at the very least connived at in cases of "extraodinary rendition" amount to torture; something Americans(media and politicians at least expressly condemned unambigously when practised by the French in Algeria, us Brits during the NI "Troubles" as well as by Saddam's Iraq and Stalin's Soviet Union).
Some may argue that given the known ruthless brutality of the foe( Al Qaeda and its offshoots), they were hardly in a position to protest, but this is absurd.
Societies have put down terrorist insurgencies without recourse to torture and societies have used torture to fight terror and have lost( I refer of course to NI and Algeria under the British and French respectively).
Shortly after the abduction and murder of former Italian PM Aldo Moro, a local police chief was asked to sanction the torture of Red Brigades suspects, his reply?: "Italy can survive the loss of Moro but it will not survive as a civilized society with the introduction of torture!"
The big question is : where do we go from here? Personally I favour the discreet pink slipping of CIA officials who condoned or participated in such base tactics (taking early retirement et al with the promise of a Presidential pardon) and the prosecution in federal court of those Bush Administration officials (including "Dubya" himself) who signed off on such inhumane and fantastically counter productive tactics!
Now that the Kremlin has provoked the most far reaching economic sanctions seen since the Cold War's end due tis mischief making in the Ukraine and its all too evident attempts to cover up the circumstances of the shoot down of MH17, it is worth noting that at the end of the day if it dislikes these sanctions, then it has only itself to blame.
The first part was trying to prevent Yanukovych's fall from power by a justifiably outraged Ukrainian populace incensed by not just his tyrannical rule but his self evident venality(witness the palatial living quarters of the ousted President which were far more than could ever have been accumulated on his official salary).
The second part was playing with the fires of separatism in the Eastern Ukraine
(all right I admit that the East has always been more Russified than the rest of the Ukraine having dwelt under the Czars but cultural autonomy is NOT the same as political separatism) and the seizure of the Crimea-a blatant violation of the principle of not altering borders by force(full disclosure: my ancestral homeland of Guyana has a long standing border dispute with neighboring Venezuela; following Putin's logic what is to stop Caracas from seizure of the disputed part? Ditto for the Falklands Islands- or Las Malvinas as Buenos Aires insists on referring to them much to annoyance of both the islanders and British public opinion). I have long been of the view that those politicians who play with the fires of religious, racial and political extremism for the sake of narrow partisan advantage usually end up getting badly-and deservedly so-burned(pace the Tea Party and the GOP in the 2012 Presidential elections and quite possibly David Cameron and the Eurosceptics( both UKIP and his own backbenchers)).
Thirdly having irresponsibly fanned(tacitly or otherwise) the flames of extremism, it was inevitable that when the "rebels"( whom most regard as regular armed forces personnel of the Russian Federation or at least direct the "rebels") shot down a Malaysian Flight, the Kremlin repeated demonstratably fanciful claims that they had nothing to do with it( claims that thankfully mercifully few out side some isolated left wing websites and online magazines tke seriously never mind an unholy alliance of right wingers such as Pat Buchanan and the likes of Stephen F.Cohen and Katrina van den heuvel( husband and wife and commentator and editor of the US liberal weekly "The Nation"respectively).
The sanctions may not bring Putin's regime crashing down -but much like Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong's definition of being black in the "Jim Crow" Deep South- are "a damned inconvenience"
He is now faced with equally unpalatable choices- either back down and risk being viciously attacked by extreme Russian nationalists furious over the "loss " of "our Ukraine" and press ahead and risk even more painful sanctions.
Since he provoked the whole damn business anyway, forgive me if I am somewhat less than sympathetic!
Who says life never imitates art? I am currently working on a novel where a pair of Russian superheroes are being sued in federal court on civil grounds of wrongful injury.
Today's papers have suggested that relatives of those killed on Malaysian flight MH17 may sue Russian President Vladimir Putin(admittedly NOT a superhero, Russian or otherwise) for alleged support for the separatist "rebels" in the Ukraine who apparently shot down the jet in question in US federal court.
Although I personally would prefer to see Putin(along with crony Yanukovych) in the dock at the Hague based International Criminal Court, the alternative of a civil suit is not all that bad. Firstly unlike a criminal charge whereby the prosecutor/plaintiff must prove his/her case beyond a reasonable doubt, a civil suit relies on a balance of probabilities( ie has a lower burden of proof) and could tie up Putin(or his lawyers) in court for years- and if found guilty, he could have his assets(or those of the RF including his oligarch chums) ,seized, frozen and them distributed to the plaintiffs!
In a week in which ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) reportedly ordered Iraqi Christians(known as Chaldeans) who date back to Jesus's time to either convert to Islam, pay a prohibitively high poll tax(jizya), emigrate or accept martyrdom( to minimal comment from all save the Pope), it is salutary to reflect on the comparative Western media and official silence on the persecution of Christians in several countries of the world( apart from the "Bad Four" of officially Communist countries such as China, Cuba, North Korea and Vietnam, others such as Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Pakistan,Nigeria,Iran, Iraq and India also figure in this) By this I mean REAL persecution(in which priests and laypeople are arbitrarily thrown into prison on trumped up charges, churches are closed or permission for the construction of new ones refused and martyrdom-death for the faith is a real possibility).
There are many reasons why: firstly when the Cold War ended over a quarter century ago, many Western news agencies closed their foreign bureaux on the ground that "the end of history is nigh"( because we "won" the Cold War natch!), several of the countries mentioned above are majority Muslim and Western news agencies are mindful of the charge of "Islamophobia", secondly as Paul Vallely noted in today's Independent On Sunday (www.independentonsunday.co.uk, July 27, 2104), given the left/right ideological divide, Christians fall through the doctrinal faultlines- too religious for liberals and too foreign(presumably too black, brown or yellow as opposed to the comfortingly Caucasian Christians of the Cold War era I daresay) for conservatives.
Also any dwelling on their plight will lead undoubtedly to calls for some kind of military action- and given the unpopularity of both Iraq and Afghanistan, this is a "non-starter".
So what is to be done? Well for a start it would help a lot if conservatives quit belllyaching about faux claims of "persecution" and "oppression"( as if the positions of opponents of Obamacare could ever be really compared to societies in which Christians really ARE suffering for their faith) just as though it would help if liberals acknowledged that freedom to practice one's faith is a basic human right( irrespective of whether or not they themselves subscribe to any given faith) and is not some kind of "imperialist" or "colonialist" plot.
(NB this post was inspired by the "Law And Order "episode "Subterranean Homeboy Blues"(which in turn was evidently inspired by subway vigilante Bernhard Goetz. A white woman, Laura Di Biase( Cynthia Nixon) shoots two black youths on the subway, claiming that she feared being either mugged, murdered or presumably raped. At one stage Di Biase compares herself in effect to a woman of colour resisting racialized and sexist violence during the "Jim Crow" period of segregation and before that slavery in the old Deep South but ADA Paul Robinette-Richard Brooks- who is of course black, rejects this comparison. Despite this Di Biase is acquitted).
It has become the fashion in some quarters(not just avowedly white supremacist such as Stormfront but also conservative ones that "the wheel has turned full circle"- in effect white has become"the new black" (and a white person accused of killing an African American will receive no more justice than a black accused of murdering a white.(full disclosure: I am thinking of the prisonm drama "Orange Is The New Black")
In other words folks, the former oppressors and persecutors have become the persecuted and oppressed.
As with claims of "anti-Christian persecution " in America, to quote tennis star John McEnroe- "YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS!!!"
This claim is an insult to every member of a minority group that (pace African and Native Americans, to a lesser extent Hispanics and Jews) that felt the full force of a racially oppressive state- that was not only last hired but first fired and was the victim of unethical, inhumane and abusive medical experiments
(see "Medical Apartheid: The Dark History Of Medical Experimentation On Black Americans From Colonial Times To The Present" by Harriet Washington, Doubleday, 2007)!!!