The Archbishop, Oedipus, and the Golden Ass

The British Labour Party is in the process of rehabilitating Tony Blair. In my latest for Al Jazeera, I follow Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s shot across the bow with one of my own, presenting irrefutable evidence of exactly what Blair knew before he joined Bush’s war against Iraq.

It is a fact that by early 2003, British intelligence had established that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction or a weapons programme. In several secret meetings in Amman with Iraqi intelligence chief Tahir Jalil al-Habbush, the head of MI6 for the Middle East Michael Shipster had already received detailed reports on the absence of Iraq’s weapons.

This story was confirmed by former MI6 chief Richard Dearlove to Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Ron Suskind who recounts it in considerable detail in his book The Way of the World. According to Dearlove, the meetings happened with the full knowledge of Bush, Cheney, George Tenet and Tony Blair. After the war, Suskind reveals, Habbush was resettled by the CIA and paid $5 million in hush-money to prevent him from undermining the official narrative.

The second claim – that Saddam had to be removed because he was a murderous dictator – would be less incredible if the person making it were not Tony Blair. Blair’s affinity for tyrants is well-documented. His cozy relations with Muammar Gaddafi are well-known; and it has now emerged that at the time Blair was contemplating war on Iraq, he was also considering a knighthood for Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.

You can read the rest here.

Cape Town hosts Russell Tribunal on Palestine

Judge Richard Goldstone recently tried to refute comparisons between Israel and Apartheid South Africa. But a man who has established a reputation for having views so malleable that they change from one day to another is perhaps not the most reliable authority on the matter. That, however, is not something one can say about the great Bishop Desmond Tutu, a man who has a far more consistent recording of challenging oppression and injustice. Let us hear then what the great man has to say about Apartheid in Israel.

Panellists at the tribunal also include Alice Walker, Ronnie Kasrils, Mairead MacGuire, Pierre Galand and the former French resistance fighter and Holocaust survivor Stéphane Hessel. Respect is due to our fried Frank Barat for another important initiative successfully realized.

Divesting From Injustice

Last week the University of Johannesburg, following a campaign endorsed by over two hundred of South Africa’s most prominent public intellectuals, voted “not to continue a long-standing relationship with Ben Gurion University (BGU) in Israel in its present form” and to set conditions “for the relationship to continue.” Though falling short of an outright boycott of BGU, the UJ Senate set an ultimatum of six months for BGU to comply with two conditions:

(1) that the memorandum of understanding governing the elationship between the two institutions be amended to include Palestinian universities chosen with the direct involvement of UJ;

(2) the UJ will not engage in any activities with BGU that have direct or indirect military implications, this to be monitored by UJ’s senate academic freedom committee

Interestingly, the AP report following the vote, reprinted in both the Jerusalem Post and Haaretz, fails to mention the second condition nor anything pertaining to BGU’s direct complicity with the occupation of Palestine. But as the tireless campaigner for justice, Desmond Tutu , notes: “Israeli Universities are an intimate part of the Israeli regime, by active choice. While Palestinians are not able to access universities and schools, Israeli universities produce the research, technology, arguments and leaders for maintaining the occupation.” (see Tutu’s full letter below the fold)

How subtle censorhip can be in the Middle East’s only democracy…

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South African Academics Call for Boycott of Ben Gurion University

A long brewing South African campaign at the prestigious University of Johannesburg to cut off academic links with Ben Gurion University due to its complicity and racist practices has won the endorsement of John Dugard, Desmond Tutu, Breyten Breytenbach, Allan Boesak, Mahmoud Mamdani and almost 200 other academics from 22 academic institutions in South Africa.

SOUTH AFRICAN ACADEMICS SUPPORT THE CALL FOR UJ TO TERMINATE RELATIONSHIP WITH ISRAELI INSTITUTION

As members of the academic community of South Africa, a country with a history of brute racism on the one hand and both academic acquiescence and resistance to it on the other, we write to you with deep concern regarding the relationship between the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU). The relationship agreement, presented as ‘merely the continuation’ of a ‘purely scientific co-operation’ is currently being reviewed owing to concerns raised by UJ students, academics and staff. For reasons explained below and detailed in the attached Fact Sheet, we wish to add our voices to those calling for the suspension of UJ’s agreement with BGU.

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Boycott Israel? Amitav Ghosh & the Dan David Prize

The call for academic and cultural boycott is clearly a way to encourage civil society to play a broader political role—that is why it has the support of wide sections of Palestinian civil society. One of the most significant questions that call poses to us is simply this: How could those of us who oppose apartheid, occupation, and colonialism not support such a call?

Dear Amitav Ghosh,

We wish to express our deep disappointment in your decision to accept the Dan David prize, administered by Tel Aviv University and to be awarded by the President of Israel. As a writer whose work has dwelled consistently on histories of colonialism and displacement, your refusal to take stance on the colonial question in the case of Israel and the occupation of Palestine has provoked deep dismay, frustration, and puzzlement among readers and fans of your work around the world. Many admired your principled stand, and respected your decision not to accept the Commonwealth Writers Prize in rejection of the colonialist framework it represented.

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