The Nobel War Prize

by Tariq Ali

Liu Xiaobo's empty chair the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony

Last year’s recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize escalated the war in Afghanistan a few weeks after receiving the prize. The award surprised even Obama. This year the Chinese government were foolish to make a martyr of the president of Chinese PEN and neo-con Liu Xiaobo. He should never have been arrested, but the Norwegian politicians who comprise the committee, led by Thorbjørn Jagland, a former Labour prime minister, wanted to teach China a lesson. And so they ignored their hero’s views. Or perhaps they didn’t, given that their own views are not dissimilar. The committee thought about giving Bush and Blair a joint peace prize for invading Iraq but a public outcry forced a retreat.

For the record, Liu Xiaobo has stated publicly that in his view:

(a) China’s tragedy is that it wasn’t colonised for at least 300 years by a Western power or Japan. This would apparently have civilised it for ever;
(b) The Korean and Vietnam wars fought by the US were wars against totalitarianism and enhanced Washington’s ‘moral credibility’;
(c) Bush was right to go to war in Iraq and Senator Kerry’s criticisms were ‘slander-mongering’;
(d) Afghanistan? No surprises here: Full support for Nato’s war.

He has a right to these opinions, but should they get a peace prize?

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Pakistani ambassador Husain Huqqani hosts an Israel lobby fundraiser

Pakistani ambassador Husain Haqqani at the neoconservative Foundation for Defence of Democracies

An investigation by Ali Gharib on Foreign Policy magazine’s Middle East Channel reveals that Pakistani ambassador Husain Haqqani recently hosted a fundraiser for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, an Israel lobby think tank campaigning for an attack on Iran.

Haqqani has a long association with the Israel lobby. He has worked for the neoconservative Hudson Institute and the notorious Islamophobe Daniel Pipes. Indeed, Pipes chose Haqqani to head his ‘religion-building’ project, a ‘pro-American’ Islamic think tank that would ‘go head-to-head with the established Islamist institutions’. In February 2004, he toured the United States with neoconservative propagandist Stephen Schwartz attacking mainstream Muslims organizations, and advising local Jewish communities on how best to enhance their lobbying power in Washington. In Cleveland, they told their Jewish audience that “[e]xtremists dominate all of the major Muslim advocacy groups”. According to the Cleveland Jewish News, Haqqani said:

There are 1.2 billion Muslims in the world and only 18% of them are Arabs, Haqqani points out. In the U.S., only 200,000 of the 4 million Muslims are Arabs. Furthermore, only one-third of the Arabs in the U.S. are Muslim. A little more than half of one percent of American Muslims are Palestinian.

Yet Muslim leadership in America focuses on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as its core issue.

Haqqani and Schwartz then went on to say:

The Jewish lobby has to organize, write letters, and continue to contribute to politicians to counter the Saudi lobby, which has extraordinary influence in Washington

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Zionist Dialectics: Past and Future

Excerpted from Israeli Exceptionalism (Palgrave: 2009).

by M. Shahid Alam

My God! Is this the end? Is this the goal for which our fathers
have striven and for whose sake all generations have suffered?
Is this the dream of a return to Zion which our people have
dreamt for centuries: that we now come to Zion to stain its soil
with innocent blood?”

Ahad Ha’am, 1921

This study has employed a dialectical framework for analyzing the destabilizing logic of Zionism. We have examined this logic as it has unfolded through time, driven by the vision of an exclusionary colonialism, drawing into its circuit – aligned with it and against it – nations, peoples, forces, and civilizations whose actions and interactions impinge on the trajectory of Zionism, and, in turn, who are changed by this trajectory.

It would be a bit simplistic to examine the field of interactions among the different actors in this historic drama on the essentialist assumption that these actors and their interests are unchanging. Instead, we need to explore the complex ways in which the Zionists have worked – and, often have succeeded – to alter the behavior of the other political actors in this drama: and, how, in turn, the Zionists respond to these changes. Most importantly, we need to explore all the ways in which the Zionists have succeeded in mobilizing the resources of the United States and other Western powers to serve their specific objectives.

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The Spirit Level

I haven’t read The Spirit Level yet, but in his last book Ill Fares the Land, the late Tony Judt quotes from it extensively. The authors Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett base their work on what they call ‘evidence-based politics,’ an approach I also favour (as opposed to the theology that generally passes for analysis on the left). That the book has had an impact is confirmed by the fact that recently a host of conservative and neoconservative think-tanks (led by the raving-mad Policy Exchange) have launched a concerted campaign against it. Here is an interview with the authors in which they explain the argument of the book followed by Robert Booth’s report in the Guardian about the right-wing assault on their work.

Bestseller with cross-party support arguing that equality is better for all comes under attack from thinktanks

It was an idea that seemed to unite the political classes. Everyone from David Cameron to Labour leadership candidates Ed and David Miliband have embraced a book by a pair of low-profile North Yorkshire social scientists called The Spirit Level.

Their 274-page book, a mix of “eureka!” insights and statistical analysis, makes the arresting claim that income inequality is the root of pretty much every social ill – murder, obesity, teenage pregnancy, depression. Inequality even limits life expectancy itself, they said.

The killer line for politicians seeking to attract swing voters was that greater equality is not just better for the poor but for the middle classes and the rich too.

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Why Jeff Goldberg Is Losing It

by M.J. Rosenberg

For two days, the Atlantic’s Jeff Goldberg has been calling Stephen Walt, John Mearsheimer and other critics of Bibi Netanyahu “anti-Semites.” Nothing new about that. For Goldberg, a major AIPAC neocon, all critics of Israeli policies are anti-Semites by definition. (See this good piece on Goldberg).

But why is he obsessing about Walt so much now?

It is because, in August, Goldberg is coming out with his big Atlantic piece calling on the United States to bomb Iran so that Israel does not have to.

But Goldberg has a problem. As an American who chose to serve in the Israeli army (he was a guard at a Palestinian prison camp), he fears that Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer — who accused the Likud lobby of promoting war with Iraq in their groundbreaking bestseller — will point out that Goldberg is just about the least credible advocate for war with Iran.

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Friends of Israel Initiative: The neoconservatives’ eastern front

by Tom Mills

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.[1]

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.[2]  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’.[3]  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.

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A net loss of freedom

by David Miller

When the anger of a prominent young thinktanker causes one of the world’s largest web-hosting companies to shut down a site that monitors lobbying and transparency, it is time to start asking questions about online free speech and censorship.

Last week, as Hugh Muir reported in the Guardian diary, the website SpinProfiles was taken down by the domain name registrar, 1 & 1 Internet, following a complaint from Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens, son of journalist Christopher.

SpinProfiles, run by sister organisation Spinwatch, aims to stitch together publicly available information to provide a detailed picture of who’s who in the shadowy world of lobbying. It features close to ten thousand profiles of think tanks, lobbying organisations and those associated with them.

The profile of Meleagrou-Hitchens, a 26-year old thinktanker and blogger, detailed his work for American and British rightwing and neoconservative thinktanks, blogs and magazines, and his particular interest in Islam. He is or has been associated with the UK-based neoconservative Henry Jackson Society Project for Democratic Geopolitics and with the two leading UK-based conservative thinktanks, Policy Exchange and the Centre for Social Cohesion.

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Dangerous game

Editor’s note: The campaign against Moazzam Beg and Amnesty International is led by the McCarthyite Harry’s Place, an Israel lobby operation that specializes in defaming critics of Israel and what it broadly labels as ‘Islamists’ (which according to its definition is any Muslim who is not Ayaan Hirsi Ali). It is also assisted by The Spittoon which is jointly run by members of the neoconservative Centre for Social Cohesion and the Quilliam Foundation. Like Harry’s Place, the Spittoon also uses the cover of anonymity to smear opponents. Both frequently crosspost each others material and coordinate their attacks.

by Victoria Brittain

Guantanamo jumpsuit detainees.

Two weeks ago in Leeds, I gave a peace lecture honouring Olof Palme, which ranged over wars old and new, the bombing of Dresden, Daniel Ellsberg, Wikileaks, Bloody Sunday, and the Turkish flotilla to Gaza. Afterwards I was approached by two young Muslim women. They wanted to discuss the issues raised in the lecture, but also to talk about how isolated they felt and how hard it is for them these days to talk about politics without fearing hostility and feeling that they are being seen as “terrorists”. In the following two days I talked with another young Muslim woman whose husband is on a Control Order, and who in desperation had broken its conditions and faced possible dire consequences.  I also went to see a Muslim woman whose husband is in prison accused of terror-related activities, and one of whose sons is in trouble. Three days…  four Muslim women…  The Leeds women came to my lecture because Moazzam Begg told them about it; the two London women I know because Moazzam Begg asked me to visit them some years back, to break their isolation; and he and I have visited the Control Order family together, with Home Office clearance.

Since he was released from Guantanamo, this has been his work – campaigning on behalf of those still held without trial or hope of justice, and doing what he can to help distraught wives and families.

At the centre of the bitter, feminist-led recent controversy over him and Amnesty International, is a completely false perception of his attitudes to women, based on the fact that he once worked in Afghanistan under the Taliban. Long-standing, complex and important debates on gender politics and religion have been shoe-horned into a simple demonisation of him.

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Rise of the Flexians

By Muhammad Idrees Ahmad

May 26, 2010 (IPS) – In 2005, ahead of the G8 summit in Gleneagles, Irish rock star and philanthropist Bono dedicated a concert to Harvard economist Jeffrey Sachs for his services to global poverty alleviation. Time magazine twice named Sachs one of its 100 Most Influential People. His 2005 book “The End of Poverty” was a New York Times bestseller. He has served as a special advisor to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the Millennium Development Goals. In 2007 Vanity Fair was moved to declare him the “savior of Bolivia”.

From the fawning sobriquets it would be hard to tell that Sachs was the architect of the “economic shock therapy” which in Russia during the transition years (1991-1994) contributed to a 42 percent rise in male deaths, and 56 percent in unemployment. His Bolivian “reforms” brought inflation under control but unemployment, inequality and the cost of living soared.Following a decade of unrest, Russia was only saved by an authoritarian nationalist leadership and Bolivia by economic populism. The neoliberal experiment was a failure.

If Sachs has today recanted his extreme free-market views, it is only because of a personal epiphany. At the peak of his power, he was constrained by neither public censure nor official accountability.He is an exemplar of a new breed of influencers who operate in the interstices of official and private power and exploit the ambiguity of their multiple overlapping roles to evade both public oversight and market competition. It is this emerging power that is the subject of social-anthropologist Janine Wedel’s indispensable “Shadow Elite: How the World’s New Power Brokers Undermine Democracy, Government, and the Free Market”.

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Zionists Against Zion?

By M. Shahid Alam

Zionists have worked hard and cleverly for their successes, but their cause has been greatly advanced at each stage by the logic of their colonial project aimed at the creation of a Jewish settler state at the very center of the Islamicate.

Most importantly, Zionism created a geopolitical realignment of great importance. It brought together two strands of the Western world, previously at odds – Christians and Jews – to join their forces against the Islamicate.

At every stage in its history, Israel has ratcheted its power by unleashing forces, even negative forces, that it has then turned to its advantage. Power, intelligence and luck have played into this.

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