Imperialism Resurgent

In “The End of Tolerance: Racism in 21st Century Britain”, Arun Kundnani writes, “Racisms are no longer domestically driven but take their impetus from the attempt to legitimise a deeply divided global order. They are the necessary products of an empire in denial.”

by Steve Bell
by Steve Bell

Commentators call for immigrants to be schooled in ‘our national story’, which includes hefty chapters on the beneficence of empire. Gordon Brown says, “The days of Britain having to apologise for the British Empire are over. We should celebrate!” Sarkozy urges France to be “proud of its history,” meaning its imperial history.

European empires did sometimes construct railways and drainage systems in the conquered lands. They did build law courts and disseminate a certain kind of cuture. But these questionable achievements must be understood against the larger ugly backdrop. Economies under imperial rule stagnated at best. Huge swathes of Africa were transformed from subsistence agricultural land to cashcrop plantations. When the value of the crop plummetted, or when the crop was grown more cheaply elsewhere, local people were left hungry and unskilled on exhausted soil. Africa has still not recovered from this deliberate underdevelopment. During British misrule, preventable famines killed tens of millions of Indians. Elsewhere in the empire, hundreds of thousands were forced into concentration camps, and torture was institutionalised. There were the genocides of indigenous Australians and Americans, by massacre and land theft as well as by disease. There was the little matter of the transatlantic slave trade.

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Nasrallah’s Turn

Nicholas Noe tracks the evolution of Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah’s rhetoric since 2006.

nasrallahOver the last decade and a half, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of Lebanon’s militant Shiite movement Hezbollah, has steadily moved front and center in the often vitriolic (and regularly under-informed) Western debate over the threat that ‘radical Islam’ is said to pose to the world at large.

Now, as Nasrallah appears ready to lead what could be a new majority in the Lebanese Parliament, the steady stream of accusations and threats have, somewhat predictably, turned into a deluge – with Arab states, Arab media and prosecutorial offices far and wide at the forefront of efforts to paint him as public enemy Number One.

A central reason for all the attention in the past, of course, has been that Nasrallah and Hezbollah have managed – for better or worse, depending on your perspective – to inflict a series of increasingly significant setbacks for US and especially Israeli interests: the ignominious, unilateral withdrawal from South Lebanon by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in May 2000, the failure of the Bush administration to vanquish Hezbollah and Syria in one go following the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri, and, of course, the July 2006 war – vigorously encouraged by the Americans and lost by the Israelis.

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Palestinian Refugees and Lebanon’s Election: Part II

Franklin Lamb continues with Part II of his series on Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon and the upcoming election next month. Read Part I.

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Syria Calling

Iran is a crucial factor motivating renewed Israeli-Syrian negotiations.
Iran is a crucial factor motivating renewed Israeli-Syrian negotiations.

The Obama Administration’s chance to engage in a Middle East peace. Seymour Hersh’s articles are always an event. In his latest he reveals among other things that Obama put pressure on Israel to stop its assault on Gaza for which Dick Cheney disparaged him as…well, ‘pro-Palestinian’. As usual, there is very little actual analysis in the report. Most of it is quotes from different high placed individuals, and Hersh very rarely alerts readers to the Israel lobby connections of most of his American interviewees. Over at MondoWeiss Jeff Blankfort observes that he is ‘no less sure than [he] was before that Israel does not want to negotiate a deal with Syria, only give the appearance of wanting to do so for global PR reasons. One of the reasons Erdogan was so furious at Peres is that two or three days before the attack on Gaza, Olmert had been meeting with Erdogan and that a deal between Syria and Israel had, according to him, been agreed upon and Olmert never said a word to Erdogan about the forthcoming attack even though he obviously knew about it and knew that it would be a deal breaker which was Israel’s intent and I believe one of the reasons for the attack on Gaza at that time. Assad knows all this and that is why he is so publicly willing to re-open the negotiations and to put the onus on Israel when it starts backing off. Assad is not about to turn its back on either Hezbollah or Hamas whatever happens because his support for both groups is the source of his prestige in the Arab world beyond the palaces of the Sheikhs. As far as Obama’s pressure on Israel to pull back before the inauguration, I’m not buying that as anything but an effort by the Repubs to damage him in the eyes of the lobby. Israel obviously intended to get the job over with quickly and before he took office and that he has still not pressured Israel to open its borders or hold back arms shipments tells me he is still in thrall to the lobby in keeping with the Democratic Party tradition.’

When the Israelis’ controversial twenty-two-day military campaign in Gaza ended, on January 18th, it also seemed to end the promising peace talks between Israel and Syria. The two countries had been engaged for almost a year in negotiations through intermediaries in Istanbul. Many complicated technical matters had been resolved, and there were agreements in principle on the normalization of diplomatic relations. The consensus, as an ambassador now serving in Tel Aviv put it, was that the two sides had been “a lot closer than you might think.”

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When did we stop caring about civilian deaths during wartime?

‘The mere monitoring of bloody conflict assumes precedence over human suffering’ writes Robert Fisk in his swipe at the BBC.

I wonder if we are “normalising” war. It’s not just that Israel has yet again got away with the killing of hundreds of children in Gaza. And after its own foreign minister said that Israel’s army had been allowed to “go wild” there, it seems to bear out my own contention that the Israeli “Defence Force” is as much a rabble as all the other armies in the region. But we seem to have lost the sense of immorality that should accompany conflict and violence. The BBC’s refusal to handle an advertisement for Palestinian aid was highly instructive. It was the BBC’s “impartiality” that might be called into question. In other words, the protection of an institution was more important than the lives of children. War was a spectator sport whose careful monitoring – rather like a football match, even though the Middle East is a bloody tragedy – assumed precedence over human suffering.

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