At the end of October, 40 Nobel Laureates decided to collaborate with an overtly Zionist institution and write a dubious-at-best (Fisking will begin momentarily) public statement, denouncing the academic and cultural portion of the initiatives of the growing world-wide BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement. Their claims were not new to us, in the movement, nor did they inspire any serious debate, or new thought. Though the statement in itself merited no intellectual response, the mere stature of its authors elicited a response from PACBI (the Palestinian campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel). That said, in the spirit of the free exchange of ideas (and my obsession with taking talkbacks way too seriously), I’d also like to reply to the [n]obel Laureates.
On Ethics and Axioms
“Always shocked but never surprised” has become a mantra to me in the past couple of years. I’ve grown to understand my reality as a place (or rather a twilight zone) where shocking events often happen and ignorant statements are often made, and all without the blink of an eye. No guilt, no shame. No accountability.
One day after the US government declared ‘war’ on Wikileaks, hackers around the world have retaliated. They’ve already taken down the websites of Mastercard and the Swedish prosecutor. Others, such as Paypal and Visa are also under cyber attacks.
Have 250,000 leaks sunk the State Department’s ‘Internet Freedom’ policy?
by Roy Revie
As the fallout of Cablegate continues to consume column inches, gigabytes, and cabinet meetings across the world, the realisation that this is about more than one man, one organization, and one massive leak seems to be slowly sinking in. While some argue that stories and comment focusing on the process of the leak and the fallout for the organisation only distract from the stories contained within the cables themselves, it is clear that this element is as vital (in the short term at least) as the contents of the cables. We find ourselves in the middle of an unprecedented public debate on Internet freedom and the role of the state online. In this debate much has been written about the motives and background of Wikileaks (some bad, some excellent) while other parties involved have avoided the same scrutiny. Of particular interest in the current discussion is the role of the State Department which under Hillary Clinton’s leadership has played an important and contradictory role in the debate on Internet freedom.
Back in more innocent times, in January of this year, Hillary Clinton gave a speech at the Newseum (a 250,000-square foot monument to media complacency) in which she introduced the concept of “21st Century Statecraft” – a term referring to the recent State Department push for the use of social and new media for diplomatic and geopolitical ends. In this speech she affirmed the US’s commitment to the “principles of internet freedom”, a new Human Right for the 21st Century. Clinton waxed lyrical about the ethical, financial, political and practical reasons why freedom of access and use of the internet should be considered an absolute right – noting that America “stand[s] for a single internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas”. The State Department, it seemed, was committed to a comprehensive and open approach to online freedom and engagement, a new stance for a government which had hitherto tended towards a more iterative approach to interaction with the modern world.
As reported by the BBC.
by Tariq Ali
The Wikileaks confirm what we already know about Af-Pak. Pakistan is a US satrapy: its military and political leaders constitute a venal elite happy to kill and maim its people at the behest of a foreign power. The US proconsul in Islamabad, Anne Patterson, emerges as a shrewd diplomat, repeatedly warning her country of the consequences in Pakistan if they carry on as before. Amusing but hardly a surprise is Zardari reassuring the US that if he were assassinated his sister, Faryal Talpur, would replace him and all would continue as before. Always nice to know that the country is regarded by its ruler as a personal fiefdom.
Then we have the country’s military boss, General Kayani, sweetly suggesting that the Pushtun leader Asfandyar Wali Khan, a beneficiary of US funds, might be a possible president: confirmation, if any were needed, that the uniformed ones are the real power in the land, sharing it at the moment with the US Embassy.
by Jeremiah Haber
Fink – “an unpleasant, contemptible person”; “a strikebreaker”; “an informer”. The slang word is an Americanism, which may have Germanic roots, and is not common in England.
Move over Shylock and Fagin -there is a new star in the firmament of negative Jewish characters in English Literature, the anti-Zionist Jew of Howard Jacobson’s new novel, The Finkler Question. While he is in his anti-Zionist phase, Samuel Finkler has only two positive character traits: Like Shylock, he is concerned with the pursuit of justice (though not for his own people); like Fagin he is faithful to his friends (but not to his people, or his wife.) Until Finkler becomes disenchanted with anti-Zionism he is an odious fellow; selfish, arrogant, hypocritical. A professional philosopher specializing in ethics (since he is an amoralist he can rationalize cheating on his wife), Finkler relishes his role as public intellectual, talking head, and household name. He gladly accepts an invitation to appear on the BBC program Desert Island Discs, despite the fact that he knows little and cares less about music; for him the appearance is a “career move.” And when Finkler announces on the show that he is ashamed of being a Jew because of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians (after duly noting about how important Judaism is to him), he joins a club of “ASHamed Jews” — not because he has serious ideological affinities with the members but because some of them are quasi-celebs who admire his “courage” for speaking out. In the company of Jews who are ashamed about Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, Finkler finds his Jewish métier; indeed, only as a self-hating anti-Zionist Jew can Finkler be truly Jewish. As his wife, a convert to Judaism, puts it,
Have you forgotten that you don’t like Jews? You shun the company of Jews. You have publically proclaimed yourself disgusted by Jews because they throw their weight around and then tell you they believe in a compassionate God. And now because a few mediocre half household-name Jews have decided to come out and agree with you, you’re mad for them. Was that all it ever needed? Would you have been the goodest of all good Jewish boys if only the other Jewish boys had loved you earlier? I don’t get it. It makes no sense. Becoming an enthusiastic Jew again in order to turn on them…Remember what it is you really want, Samuel…Sam! And what you really want isn’t the attention of Jews. There aren’t enough of them.
by Julian Assange
In 1958 a young Rupert Murdoch, then owner and editor of Adelaide’s The News, wrote: “In the race between secrecy and truth, it seems inevitable that truth will always win.”
His observation perhaps reflected his father Keith Murdoch’s expose that Australian troops were being needlessly sacrificed by incompetent British commanders on the shores of Gallipoli. The British tried to shut him up but Keith Murdoch would not be silenced and his efforts led to the termination of the disastrous Gallipoli campaign.
Nearly a century later, WikiLeaks is also fearlessly publishing facts that need to be made public.
I grew up in a Queensland country town where people spoke their minds bluntly. They distrusted big government as something that could be corrupted if not watched carefully. The dark days of corruption in the Queensland government before the Fitzgerald inquiry are testimony to what happens when the politicians gag the media from reporting the truth.
These things have stayed with me. WikiLeaks was created around these core values. The idea, conceived in Australia, was to use internet technologies in new ways to report the truth.
by Tom Mills
In August the right-wing pressure group the Tax Payers’ Alliance revealed that the charitable wing of the BBC World Service, the BBC World Service Trust, had received £205,000 under the Foreign Office’s counter-terrorism programme. The money was provided to fund the Trust’s Afghan Woman’s Hour programme, which is broadcast every week in Dari and Pashto. Naturally the Tax Payers’ Alliance took this as evidence of wasteful government expenditure. What it overlooked though is the more worrying fact that a charity closely affiliated to the BBC was knowingly participating in a government propaganda project.
The BBC World Service Trust was set up in 1997 to train journalists and other media workers in the developing world and the former Soviet Union. It launched Afghan Woman’s Hour in January 2005 with the stated intention of empowering Afghan women and promoting their participation in Afghan society. The project was headed by Rachel Ellison, the BBC’s then International Project Director, who received an MBE for her work. Ellison now runs a Corporate Coaching and Media Consultancy with clients including HSBC, the Foreign Office and the investment bank Goldman Sachs which funds business training programmes for Afghan women.
J.M. Coetzee is notoriously private, so it’s a treat to find this video of him talking about his fiction, even if it’s from 8 November 2001.