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.
Today in the House of Commons Britain’s leading neoconservative organisation the Henry Jackson Society hosts the UK launch of the Friends of Israel Initiative. This new organisation is the latest of a number of well connected advocacy groups in the UK seeking to deflect criticism of Israel’s illegal occupation and repeated human rights abuses.
The Friends of Israel Initiative says it ‘aims to create a network linking private and public figures who agree with the idea of an Israel fully anchored in the West’. This network will not have to be built from scratch; rather Friends of Israel will be able to integrate itself into extremist networks already well established in UK politics.
The Friends of Israel Initiative is an international operation and was first launched in Paris on 31 May – the same day that Israeli soldiers boarded the Mavi Marmara in international waters and killed nine activists. The organisation was reportedly established by Dore Gold, an American born Israeli who heads the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and was formerly an adviser to Ariel Sharon and the current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Gold also has links with UK politicians. In January 2007 he led an Israeli delegation at a conference at the House of Commons debating possible measures against Iran. The conference resulted in an Early Day Motion signed by 68 MPs urging ‘the British Government to put forward a resolution at the United Nations Security Council demanding President Ahmadinejad be brought to trial on the charge of incitement to commit genocide’. The Motion was introduced by the neoconservative MP Michael Gove, a signatory to the Henry Jackson Society’s Statement of Principles and now a Cabinet Minister.
Spinwatch has uncovered evidence that an apparently London based organisation offering expertise on Iran to journalists and politicians is a covert propaganda operation run by a pro-Israel organisation in the United States.
The organisation, which is called Réalité-EU, has direct connections to the Israel Project, a hardline pro Israel organisation based in Washington DC. Both Réalité-EU and the Israel Project also appear to be connected to a Jewish organisation – B’nai B’rith International, which is also active in pro Israel campaigning
Réalité-EU was at one time linked to the former Shadow Security Minister Patrick Mercer, raising further concerns about the Conservative MP’s links to individuals and groups involved in exaggerating and even fabricating domestic and international threats for personal and political ends. These activities have previously been reported by Spinwatch as well as other sources.
Réalité-EU has claimed to be based at offices in London, but e-mails received from the organisation were sent from a mail server registered to the Washington offices of B’nai B’rith International. An expert from Réalité-EU who spoke to Spinwatch denied ‘any connection whatsoever’ with B’nai B’rith
Asked whether Réalité-EU receives any funding or direct support from the pro-Israel pressure group, the expert replied, ‘Definitely not,’ but added, ‘I’m not at all involved in any development [i.e. funding] questions so I really don’t know exactly who the individuals are and where they come from.’
Investigations by Spinwatch reveal that a group of freelance terror trackers who promote stories about the threat from violent Islamists have been involved in exaggerating and even fabricating such stories, which they then comment on in the national press and on network television and radio. The group – which has now fallen apart – was centred on freelance spy Glen Jenvey and Conservative Party member Dominic Wightman, who uses the pseudonym ‘Whiteman’.
The barrage of stories from official sources and from terror ‘experts’ suggesting that Britain is under serious and extensive threat from Islamists and that Islam as a religion is particularly prone to extremism has been boosted by some stories that have little basis in fact. These have included:
An alleged attempt to plant a story about terrorist grannies planning to blow themselves up in British supermarkets
An attempt to suggest – quite falsely – that campaigners against the Israeli attack on Gaza were actually planning to target British Jews
The creation of a fake allegedly Islamist website in a bid to entrap suspects.
Spying on Tamil activists in the UK.
A fraudulent fundraising effort in the 1980s which was claimed to be to aid the African National Congress
Israeli forces killed hundreds of unarmed Palestinian civilians and destroyed thousands of homes in Gaza in attacks which breached the laws of war, Amnesty International concluded in a new report published on Thursday. Operation ‘Cast Lead’: 22 days of death and destruction, is the first comprehensive report to be published on the conflict, which took place earlier this year.
“Israel’s failure to properly investigate its forces’ conduct in Gaza, including war crimes, and its continuing refusal to cooperate with the UN international independent fact-finding mission headed by Richard Goldstone, is evidence of its intention to avoid public scrutiny and accountability,” said Donatella Rovera, who headed a field research mission to Gaza and southern Israel during and after the conflict.
John Bolton, with his characterisic contempt for international law, writes in today’s Washington Post that ‘with no other timely option, the already compelling logic for an Israeli strike [on Iran] is nearly inexorable’. The article is reproduced in full below. It should, I suggest, be read whilst mindful of Article 2 of the UN Charter by which it was agreed that: ‘All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.’
Last year, you may recall, the Guardian columnist George Monbiot attempted a citizens arrest on Bolton. It was a futile but symbolic act; and a rare acknowledgment that this man is a war criminal by any decent standard – and an unrepentant one at that.
With Iran’s hard-line mullahs and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps unmistakably back in control, Israel’s decision of whether to use military force against Tehran’s nuclear weapons program is more urgent than ever.
Iran’s nuclear threat was never in doubt during its presidential campaign, but the post-election resistance raised the possibility of some sort of regime change. That prospect seems lost for the near future or for at least as long as it will take Iran to finalize a deliverable nuclear weapons capability.
Neil Clark has an article in The First Post warning of the neoconservative orientation of the inevitable Cameron led Tory government. The piece repeats similar arguments made by the author in the Guardian back in 2005. In my opinion Clark tends to overstate the neocon influence in the Conservative Party and exaggerate the divergence between the neocons and the more conventional right-wing Tories. After all, none of Cameron’s neocon friends have foreign policy related front bench posts, whilst those that do – William Hague and Liam Fox – are pro-war Atlanticists but not really neocons in the strict sense. Still it is worth reminding ourselves that the Henry Jackson Society neocons are as potentially dangerous as they are actually nauseating. Here is Clark’s article in full:
The Iraq war is widely discredited. George W Bush and Tony Blair are both out of office. Barack Obama has talked of a “new beginning” in his country’s relationship with the Islamic world. Surely it’s game over for the neocons, the small group of hardline hawks commonly held responsible for the US-led attack on Iraq in 2003?
Don’t bet on it. If, as bookmakers believe, an overall majority for the Conservatives in the next election is a racing certainty, then the proponents of ‘Shock and Awe’ will once again be back in the corridors of power in Britain.
To understand why the neocons would be in such a strong position if David Cameron does make it to Number 10, we need to go back to the autumn of 2005, the time of the last Conservative party leadership election.
Shaun Ley: The World This Weekend, this is Shaun Ley. Hello. Mahmoud Ahmedinejad has used a news conference this lunchtime to describe his re-election as President of Iran as an epic moment. There have been more protest by opposition supporters and criticisms from Iran’s neighbours.
Daniel Ayalon, Deputy Foreign Minister of Israel: It is now high time for the international community to stop immediately the very dangerous and relentless campaign of Iran to achieve nuclear capabilities.
That’s the view from Israel. We’ll be hearing a US perspective and the son of the former Shah joins me live.
Its a good example of how the selection of expertise on the BBC frames its news and current affairs output. As the listener pointed out in his complaint, none of Iran’s actual neighbours were in fact consulted by the programme. Only Israel, the US and the son of its former puppet.
For any readers in the London area, the Hackney Empire will be hosting a fund raising event on Wednesday for the Gaza Music School and Stop the War Coalition. The evening will include a performance of the short play Seven Jewish Children (see previous post on PULSE).
Why exactly did Britain lead a walkout of the UN anti-racism conference yesterday? True to form, rather than focusing on the obvious issue of what was said in the speech, and why the protesting governments considered it so objectionable, the media focused on the narrow diplomatic issues raised by the walkout itself. On BBC Newsnight Jeremy Paxman interrogated the UK Ambassador to the UN in Geneva in his usual manner, firing off innocuous questions masked in an aggressive and irreverent tone. First he why the UK government had attended the conference in the first place. He later accused the Ambassador of playing into the hands of the wicked Ahmedinajed. “What you have done today is exactly what someone like President Ahmedinajed wants,” Paxman complained, “He’s won today.”
One section of the interview however was revealing:
Jeremy Paxman: What is the difference between Zionism and racism?
Peter Gooderham: Well we see the two as being quite distinct…
Jeremy Paxman: Yeah what’s the difference?
Peter Gooderham: Well Zionism is a political movement related to the establishment of a homeland…
Jeremy Paxman [quietly]: So are some forms of racism.
Peter Gooderham:…a Jewish homeland, in the er…in what is now Israel and racism is something else. I mean racism is, I think we all know it when we see it and it’s not, it’s not that, and we have fought long and hard at the United Nations to keep that, to maintain that distinction.
So there you go. Zionism is not racism because we know racism when we see it and it’s not that. Just like we know terrorism when we see it, and it’s not this.