ModernityBlog

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln

Posts Tagged ‘Politics

Whisky, West Dunbartonshire Council And Fakes.

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In response to the symbolic boycott of Israeli products by West Dunbartonshire Council some people are organising a boycott of Scotch whisky.

It all seems to me a bit petty, given that West Dunbartonshire Council doesn’t actually import any Israeli products. Certainly, they use technology which is derived from Israeli know-how, that includes but isn’t limited to Intel chips, Microsoft XP software and Kinect.

However, the Council and the posturing Councillors are hardly going to inconvenience themselves by really boycotting Israeli technology, lest it proves too troubling, like giving up using Google (their key search algorithm was developed by an Israeli).

As for the retaliatory boycott, well I am not sure it makes the required point, but Drink Business Review explains:

“FJMC Executive Director Rabbi Simon’s boycott urge followed after Israeli-Anglo blogger and pro-settlement activist, Jameel Rashid publicized on his website a letter to several distilleries located within West Dunbartonshire.

In his letter he stated, the global counter boycott of Scottish whiskey products, distilled in the West Durbanshire council region, is beginning, and requested officers to cease the purchase of any goods that made or grown in Israel.

The West Dunbartonshire Council, while it has not responded publically to calls endorsing a boycott of locally manufactured spirits, has defended the decision which sparked the protest.

The council’s boycott only relates to goods ‘made or grown’ in Israel. The vast majority of mainstream books by Israeli authors are published in the UK, and are therefore not affected by this boycott. “

The intense interest in this issue has revealed an exceedingly unsavoury side to the instigator of the boycott, Councillor Jim Bollan.

Bollan seems perfectly comfortable contextualising the decapitation of a three-month old baby, as the JC reports:

“”Violence breeds violence. Have you any idea what may have motivated this man [Awad] to commit this crime? Could it have been because he may have seen Palestinian children slaughtered by the IDF?”

Udi and Ruth Fogel and three of their children were murdered in the West Bank settlement in March. The youngest victim, three month old Hadas, was decapitated.

Responding to another pro-Israel activist, Mr Bollan declared: “Hamas was elected and are freedom fighters alongside the Palestinians fighting an illegal occupation of Palestine by Israel.”

Mickey Green of Scottish Friends of Israel said: “I’m not surprised he has sunk to this level. This is a man with pre-conceived ideas and a mental block to reason. He is functioning at a nasty, visceral level.

Judy reports that the fake Gay Girl in Damascus had form, as, er a “anti-Zionist” or something like that.

Marko at Greater Surbiton points out the Guardian’s complicity in this issue, The Guardian’s disgraceful treatment of Jelena Lecic.

Over at Though Cowards Flinch, Carl has a superb post on Chavez, anti-Zionism, and antisemitism. It is noticeable how the thread is almost monopolised by a particular “anti-Zionist”, who is keen to quibble and nitpick on these issues, but he can’t see any anti-racism. Well, not when it is aimed at Jews, that is.

Finally, Tim Marshall has a provocative post, The ‘Arab Spring’ And The Conspiracy Of Silence:

“Across the Middle East from the Arab leaders you can hear the sound…… of silence. A similar sound emanates from many Muslim ‘activists’.

Take the most glaring example – Bahrain. The allegation, backed by human rights groups, is that the Sunni ruled state opened fire with live rounds on peaceful protesters from the majority Shia population, killed large numbers of people, then followed up with a wave of arrests which resulted in widespread torture.

The response from Arab leaders? In the Gulf, the 6 nation Gulf Cooperation Council quickly sent troops to assist in the repression whilst most Western nations, aware of the US military fleet based in Bahrain did little to upset the old order. Elsewhere, the Jordanians, Egyptians, Syrians, Algerians et al – just kept quiet.

During the Egyptian upheaval the House Of Saud was quietly horrified at how quickly the Americans let the Generals get their way and remove Mubarak. In private they let Washington know their displeasure, but to have complained openly would have been to do what you don’t do in the Arab political world in public (and to a lesser extent in our own systems) which is to tell the truth.

Update 1: This is a thoughtful perspective on Tom MacMaster, the fake blogger, Understanding #amina.

Another Weekend Of Assortments.

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The world is a busy place and events move on at a pace, so here are a few assortments I nearly missed:

Colonel Qaddafi sends a thank you note to some members of the US Congress.

Andy on the Australian Defence League.

Tel Aviv’s Gay Pride is very colourful, according to the Guardian.

Blogger arrested for filming a Council meeting.

And for the Polyglots amongst you, the EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism in many, many languages, including, but not limited to Mongolian and Estonian.

Jen Campbell’s blog is enjoyable. Book lovers will like her series, weird things customers say in bookshops.

The Atlantic Wire has picked apart many of Palin’s emails and it is as you might expect, stunning!

Top 10 trends on Twitter, not sure about this.

Washington Post finds that Palin had a third email account, which is amazing. It shows a hitherto hidden aspect to Palin, dexterity with a PC, who would have thought it?

Are the Iranian Revolutionary Guards helping to kill Syrians?

In Japan, an anti-nuclear protest.

Syria And Assorted News.

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The news coming out of Syria is terrible, Left Foot Forward covers it.

Amnesty International highlights the plight of medical staff in Bahrain that are scheduled to go on trial on Monday.

It seems that the Iranian state is getting people accustomed to the idea of a nuclear test, or at least that is one plausible reading coming out of this piece in the Guardian.

This extract is for Sally Hunt, UCU General Secretary lest she forget what institutional racism means. [Thanks to Flesh Is Grass.]

Apparently, a Tory MP has sexually assaulted a woman, and guess who he blames? The woman. Then he proceeds to cast doubt on the veracity of the victim’s account of the assault. I am sure if UCU members read the Indy article with a critical eye they will see a message there.

Another EDL thug.

An eyewitness account from Syria.

Finally, the Washington Post has a page on the Palin emails. I liked this bit, Sarah Palin emails hint at her governing style.

The Pain of Palin And Gingrich.

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It can’t be easy to be a potential party nominee to the Presidency of the United States. Aside from the intrusion, the fact you need millions and millions to run and years spent climbing the greasy pole there are other obstacles in the way of ultimate power, emails and ex-aides.

A vast treasure trove of emails from Sarah Palin have just been released and I am sure that we will hear much more about her idiocy, parochialism and self-conceit.

The Guardian, Slate, ABC News, New York Times and Huff Post are excited by what these, presumably self-serving, emails will tell us about Sarah Palin.

I can’t help thinking it will be very little, although they will probably confirm that Palin hasn’t read the US Constitution and the questions that Katie Couric asked were just too easy!

Newt Gingrich isn’t having it easy either, as his political aides resign en masse, the Atlantic Wires explains:

“Will Rogers: quit as Gingrich’s Iowa political director on May 31 Where He Griped: Also the Register

“I’d say, ‘Oh, great. Thanks for inviting us. We’ll get this sent up to the Washington, D.C., folks.’ … And then I’d send it to the D.C. folks and it would be radio silence. A few days later, you’d ask again and you’d ask again and you wouldn’t hear anything back. At first I thought it was the staff. And then I came to find out it was the candidate.”

“I decided I wasn’t going to continue to spend 60, 70 hours a week away from my family while begging GOP activists and friends around the state to be involved in the campaign.”

But the really bitchy stuff remains, of course, off the record. It also focused on Gingrich’s wife, Callista, portraying her has a Yoko Ono dividing the team and encouraging her man to fritter away his genius. It was Callista, they say, who insisted on the couple’s two-week luxury Greek cruise, the last straw for many staffers.

“He does whatever she wants,” a source complained to Politico’s Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman.

“She insisted on the cruise,” a source told Politico’s Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns.

“It’s how much time that his wife thinks that he should spend on this… It’s not a hobby. This is a full-time, 80-hour-a-week job,” a staffer told The Daily Beast’s Peter J. Boyer.

“The problem was the wife. Aides to Newt Gingrich have resigned from his presidential campaign in protest of what they felt was a takeover by Callista Gingrich… The euphemism offered by departing staffers was they disagreed with Gingrich’s ‘strategy’ for the campaign. Indeed, they did disagree. But it was a strategy–a part-time campaign, in effect–that Gingrich’s wife favored,” In fact, the Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes reports. “

How Newt Gingrich’s Campaign Imploded by Peter J. Boyer.

All most amusing, couldn’t happen to nicer people !

Update 1: One of the “almost” Palin quotes (really from Tina Fey, but you could imagine Palin saying it, “I can see Russia from my house):

A Thin Skinned SNP Councillor, The Middle East And Boycotts.

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I was going to forward a good letter on West Dunbartonshire Council’s boycott of all Israeli products to the Council and Councillor Jonathan McColl, but alas they are blocking communications on Twitter.

They seem naive and thoughtless, to imagine that their actions would not receive a response, but worse than that they haven’t really adjusted their positions. Instead they have become truculent and defensive, which is a pity for the Scottish National Party, as it makes them look small-minded and parochial.

This letter from Pete Tobias‎ to Councillor Jonathan McColl of the SNP is well worth a read:

” June 1st 2011

Dear Councillor McColl,

I have just watched your video blog on YouTube and would like to apologise for the abuse that you and your fellow council members have received from members of the public who are responding inappropriately to your council’s decision to impose a (somewhat selective) ban on goods produced in Israel. I shall refrain from commenting on your interesting views how items such as mobile phones purchased in stores Glasgow owe nothing to Israeli technology, or how you seek to avoid any accident that might require you to receive medical treatment pioneered in the country you and your council seem to have singled out as the sole perpetrators of human rights abuses and atrocities.

Please allow me to be slightly more constructive and make some suggestions as to how you might restore the image of your council as a legitimate and sensible authority rather than appearing to be anti-semitic by focusing exclusively on the State of Israel for your ‘symbolic’ gesture.

Why not propose a motion at your next Council meeting condemning the violent and oppressive treatment of the Syrian people by their own government? And in case you think what is currently happening is an isolated incident, check this out: http://bit.ly/mBGcr9 . Worth a symbolic protest of some sort, don’t you think?

Or how about the Democratic Republic of Congo? www.savethecongo.org.uk. Darfur? Burma? Tibet? Sadly, the list of places in which human rights abuses are perpetrated by one group of people against another is a long and painful one.

As a rabbi, I have consistently found myself being vilified by my own community for comments that I have made criticising Israel’s actions. We are, after all, a people who are taught to think of ourselves as ‘poor we us’, as you so rightly observe, and how dare one of the Jewish people’s own leaders dare to add his voice to those who demand no less than Israel’s destruction? But when I do so, I try to balance my arguments (eg http://bit.ly/kLFUky , http://bit.ly/bYbSAI) – and I also recognise that there are other regimes in the world worthy of criticism.

That last point, I am afraid, is where your claim that West Dunbartonshire Council’s venture into international relations represents a genuine concern with human rights smacks of the anti-semitism that you seek to deny. Your council’s actions are unbalanced, are directed towards one individual country’s failings, but do not even try to take into account the numerous other human rights’ abuses that exist in our troubled world.

Councillor McColl, if you are genuinely concerned about human rights, and you genuinely want to demonstrate that West Dunbartonshire Council is similarly dedicated to such issues, might I suggest that you seek out one or two other causes to champion in your Council Chambers, some different human rights’ violations over which to make a ‘symbolic’ gesture? Otherwise, I am afraid, your protests that you are not behaving in an anti-semitic manner founder on the knee-jerk reaction your Council has made to one situation while ignoring numerous others.

I look forward very much to hearing that West Dunbartonshire Council has passed a resolution condemning the actions of the Syrian government, the Libyan government, the Egyptian government, the Burmese government, or any other cause of your choice. If you are unable or unwilling to do this, then I am afraid you are guilty as charged, and your position in singling out Israel is indefensible.

Yours sincerely,

Rabbi Pete Tobias”[My emphasis.]

Wikipedia, Sarah Palin And Dodgy History.

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If you ever wanted an example of why Wikipedia is flawed, if occasionally informative then this Slate piece should do the job:

“This is a hell of a get by Charles Johnson. Starting on Sunday, as Sarah Palin kept explaining that her version of the Paul Revere “Midnight Ride” was historically accurate, Palin fans emerged on Wikipedia to “fix” the Revere biography. Palin’s taking heat for saying Revere “warned the British”? No problem: Just add the line in italics.

Revere did not shout the phrase later attributed to him (“The British are coming!”), largely because the mission depended on secrecy and the countryside was filled with British army patrols; also, most colonial residents at the time considered themselves British as they were all legally British subjects.

That revision is deleted with the explanation “content not backed by a reliable sources (it was sarah palin interview videos).” The people who keep cleaning this up are getting sort of bored now.

- I would strongly suggest locking this page until the Palin controversy blows over and her supporters lose interest in trying to rewrite the page to conform with her erroneous version of Revere’s ride.

- Wiki rules apply to Palin fans the same as anyone else; they are free to add material to the page as long as it is reliably sourced. IIRC, it does look like Palin’s supporters have a published source that partially agrees with her version of events, although the concept of relating Revere’s ride to gun control or 2nd Amendment rights is nonsense. However in her defense, I think Palin herself was using that as a metaphor – not a literal interpretation of this event. In any case,Palin doesn’t claim to be a professional historian so her words don’t belong on this page.

- If you mention Sarah Palin you’re doing it wrong. This article is about Paul Revere, a historical figure who died nearly two centuries before Sarah Palin came to prominence. She has absolutely nothing to do with the article. I would expect to see contemporary sources and theories proposed by modern historians, but Sarah Palin is neither here nor there.

- Sarah Palin is intent on destroying wikipedia, isn’t she? First we had huge wars over the blood libel article, now this. But Obama’s supporters do not support claim that there are 57 states! Amazing!

The original video, from Channel 7, really makes it look like Palin got a historical question she wasn’t expecting, and then flubbed it. The way she grits her teeth on the phrase “riding HIS HORSE THROUGH TOWN!” is agonizing, for all involved. And look, if someone asked me, on the spot, to explain exactly what happened during Paul Revere’s ride, I’d struggle a bit to access my elementary school memory banks. The twist, with Palin, is that she has a bona fide army of supporters who will sic themselves on anyone and anything that threatens to damage her image. One example: Last week I looked at the new CNN poll and made a mundane point about Herman Cain’s poll surge being more compelling than Palin’s narrow lead. This was interpreted in the Palinverse as “Exhibit A in the Stop Palin campaign.” “

Basically, Palin’s supporters wanted to change a Wikipedia entry to match the contents of one of her rants, then claim she was accurate as Wikipedia said so. Loopy.

Leaders’ Judgment?

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I wanted to cover more of events in Syra and Yemen, but this piece in the New York Times is very relevant.

So I am not the only one with a low opinion of Binyamin Netanyahu:

“Journalists recalled that Mr. Dagan, who had refused contact with the media during his time in office, called a news briefing the last week of his tenure and laid out his concerns about an attack on Iran. But military censorship prevented his words from being reported.

“Dagan wanted to send a message to the Israeli public, but the censors stopped him,” Ronen Bergman of the newspaper Yediot Aharonot said by telephone. “So now that he is out of office he is going over the heads of the censors by speaking publicly.”

Mr. Dagan’s public and critical comments, at the age of 66 and after a long and widely admired career, have shaken the political establishment. The prime minister’s office declined requests for a response, although ministers have attacked Mr. Dagan. He has also found an echo among the nation’s commentators who have been ringing similar alarms.

“It’s not the Iranians or the Palestinians who are keeping Dagan awake at night but Israel’s leadership,” Ari Shavit asserted on the front page of the newspaper Haaretz on Friday.

“He does not trust the judgment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.”

It was Mr. Shavit who interviewed Mr. Dagan on stage at Tel Aviv University this week. And while Haaretz is the home of the country’s left wing, Mr. Shavit is more of a centrist.

“Dagan is really worried about September,” Mr. Shavit said in a telephone interview, referring to the month when the Palestinians are expected to ask the United Nations General Assembly to recognize their state within the 1967 border lines. The resolution is expected to pass and to bring new forms of international pressure on Israel. “He is afraid that Israel’s isolation will cause its leaders to take reckless action against Iran,” he said.

Nahum Barnea, a commentator for Yediot Aharonot, wrote on Friday that Mr. Dagan was not alone. Naming the other retired security chiefs and adding Amos Yadlin, who recently retired as chief of military intelligence, Mr. Barnea said that they shared Mr. Dagan’s criticism.

“This is not a military junta that has conspired against the elected leadership,” Mr. Barnea wrote. “These are people who, through their positions, were exposed to the state’s most closely guarded secrets and participated in the most intimate discussions with the prime minister and the defense minister. It is not so much that their opinion is important as civilians; their testimony is important as people who were there. And their testimony is troubling.”

This concern was backed by a former Mossad official, Gad Shimron, who spoke Friday on Israel Radio.

Mr. Shimron said: “I want everyone to pay attention to the fact that the three tribal elders, Ashkenazi, Diskin and Dagan, within a very short time, are all telling the people of Israel: take note, something is going on that we couldn’t talk about until now, and now we are talking about it. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark, and that is the decision-making process. The leadership makes fiery statements, we stepped on the brakes, we are no longer there and we don’t know what will happen. And that’s why we are saying this aloud.” “

Update 1: Letters From a Young Contrarian does a great job, The Arab Spring into Summer: Today’s Events.

Update 2: Not forgetting Left Foot Forward’s Arab Spring latest: Murder, civil war and motor racing.

Questions for West Dunbartonshire Council.

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One of my readers, Penny, has some excellent questions for West Dunbartonshire Council:

“I haven’t time or space right now to pick up on every issue so I’ll just mention two statements that I found troubling and which I’ll post separately. I trust the councillor –should he read the posts – will see them as constructive criticism from one who has done the job herself.

In my opinion the following statement is very unfortunate:

“West Dunbartonshire Council remains committed to our boycott of Israeli goods and our resolve has only been strengthened by the torrent of vile abuse threats of violence against our families that has come from people who claim to be peace loving people.”

So, what has actually been said here?

There is no mention of Israel having exacerbated the situation that existed in 2009. Yet the council’s resolve has been strengthened. Why? According to Cllr McColl this is because the councillors have experienced a very negative reaction from some members of the public.

What a very bizarre way to approach policy!

Has the Councillor considered how this might be interpreted by residents in Dunbarton? Because what this position seems to be saying is that a) if the council votes on a contentious issue and that vote causes public protest, outrage and threats and b) this public reaction then results in councillors becoming hurt or otherwise emotionally distressed then c) those councillors will not only stick with their original decision but will strengthen their resolve to do so! This isn’t professional and it isn’t very democratic either.

A councillor is most unlikely to complete his/her term without some form of public disapproval. I certainly didn’t! But if a decision creates such outrage – and I daresay distress – then shouldn’t the councillors first course of action be to listen to the people, undertake a proper and professional review of the issue and do all that is necessary to maintain the good name of their council rather than viewing it only through a prism of self-defence and acting on that alone?

Reading the motion and listening to the video has not convinced me that there has been an honest and in-depth appraisal of the situation with further research undertaken. One would have thought that before strengthening resolve some consideration might have been given to Judge Goldstone’s retraction – which weakens the original case.

Given that this issue has been discussed on several blogs in the UK and has reached American sites, I would have thought that the best way forward would be to convene a meeting between the council and an organisation able to represent the Israeli perspectives. At least that way some academic information might surface and the council could be seen to be doing its best to understand both the issues and the outrage.

Furthermore, if councillors are receiving abuse/threats then such a move would go a long way to stopping that. Which is an awful lot better than going on the attack, sending out warnings and mentioning the police straight away. These types of actions are not the best way to shape the public’s view of a council and although the police take threats seriously, personally, I think it might be better to instigate other measures first in order to support police resources.” [My emphasis.]

Boycotting Israelis, Playing The Victim And West Dunbartonshire Council.

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West Dunbartonshire Council and the man, that made a critical amendment of the motion to boycott all Israeli goods, has now released a video on the matter.

Why the deputy leader of West Dunbartonshire Council, Councillor Jonathan McColl, decided to make this video is a mystery to me.

I would have thought that Cllr McColl and West Dunbartonshire Council might have learnt the expression, when in a hole stop digging, but alas, no.

I suppose, being charitable, that Cllr McColl wants to get his point across, but from my brief viewing it doesn’t do them any favours.

The tone and content of the video suggest that West Dunbartonshire Council and Cllr McColl didn’t understand or appreciate the sensitivity of the term “boycott” when applied to Israelis or Jews. Moreover, there is an attempt within the video to play the victim, to gain pity and say that people have said terrible things to them.

It is quite possible that members of the public vented their understandable anger at Cllr McColl or West Dunbartonshire Council, presumably the lesson to learn is, don’t go posturing about issues that you barely understand and sensitivities that you couldn’t.

The sight of politicians whining about how people have said nasty things to them, in this instance, is unedifying. They might do well to remember that Israelis and Jews have faced far, far worse things than a bit of name-calling.

I think that they could have spent their time more profitably by reading, thinking and understanding that Europeans posturing about the Middle East is both condescending and decidedly unnecessary, it achieves little and potentially aggravates many.

I would suggest that the councillors of West Dunbartonshire Council make an effort to read up on antisemitism, in depth, and the history of Poland and Germany in the 1920s/1930s in particular. If the libraries in West Dunbartonshire Council don’t have books on the topics I am happy to provide a reading list for said councillors.

Any way, please do view the video and let me have your comments. I have taken the liberty of posting Cllr McColl’s full comments as a public record:
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West Dunbartonshire Council, Israel And Political Posturing.

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The West Dunbartonshire Council is boycotting all things Israeli, or so they say:

“The Council’s boycott does not in any way seek to censor or silence authors and commentators from Israel.

The Council’s boycott only relates to goods ‘made or grown’ in Israel.

I can’t imagine that aside from medical technology, computer chips, Microsoft’s operating systems and various other bits of modern equipment that West Dunbartonshire Council actually import much from Israel, directly or indirectly.

The Council, readers will remember, is about 20 miles from Glasgow, a small municipality with a population of approximately 90,000 [2009 figures] and relatively poor, with low attainment levels in education.

From their statement, it is clear that West Dunbartonshire Council’s determination to boycott Israeli goods is merely posturing. It is not, as if, they get many tins of Israeli chickpeas or Israeli chicken soup sent to them. Over time they have probably imported, none. Therefore their boycott won’t mean a damn to the local residents or the Council, really, but it is a fine political distraction from the many serious problems in the locality. A bit of political posing.

If they were truly serious then they would stop using all of that sophisticated Israeli medical equipment, computer technology and finally Google, which uses a search algorithm developed by an Israeli.

The Council could stop using all of that computer technology from Intel and Microsoft, all developed with Israeli know-how, but they won’t, because it would be a hindrance to them. West Dunbartonshire Council’s supposed boycott is just a pose, a piece of political theatre as they won’t inconvenience themselves, really, for the sake of their alleged principles.

So they don’t import anything from Israel, haven’t banned anything in two years and basically it means nothing to them, but here is the Council’s statement, make your own mind up:

“West Dunbartonshire Council utterly refutes recent media claims that it has ‘launched a boycott on Israeli books’.

The Council’s boycott does not in any way seek to censor or silence authors and commentators from Israel.

The Council’s boycott only relates to goods ‘made or grown’ in Israel. The vast majority of mainstream books by Israeli authors are published in the UK and are therefore not affected by this boycott. Only books that were printed in Israel and transported to the UK for distribution would be potentially boycotted.

In the in the two and a half years the boycott has been in place there has never been a case when the library service has been unable to purchase a book it wished to as a result of this boycott.

Contrary also to recent media reports the boycott is not retrospective and absolutely no books have been or will be removed from our library shelves as a consequence of the motion.

Councillors of West Dunbartonshire Council voted to introduce the boycott in 2009 in response to the disproportionate use of force used against Palestinians and resulting loss of life.

The full motion is:

‘This Council deplores the loss of life in Palestine which now numbers well over 1,000. This Council also recognises the disproportionate force used by the IDF in Palestine and agrees to boycott all Israeli goods as a consequence. Officers should immediately cease the purchase of any goods we currently source, which were made or grown in Israel. Officers should also ensure we procure no new goods or produce from Israel until this boycott is formally lifted by WDC.’ ” [My emphasis.]

Update 1: Hunting around I found an original minute of the meeting dealing with it, in the Google cache. I am reproducing it, as matter of public record, it is fairly long:
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by modernityblog

23/05/2011 at 22:41

Thoughts On The Middle East.

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Blake Hounshell looks at events in the Middle East in a critical way, and I think he’s correct, that Netanyahu will do nothing. Any halfway competent statesman would realise this is an opportunity to grasp, but not Netanyahu. The only quality he has an abundance is mediocrity, which will doom Israelis and Palestinians to more misery:

“Even more awkward for the United States, Netanyahu is due to visit Washington in a few days in what will likely be one long exposition of the words, “I told you so.” If he is smart, he will announce a serious plan for peace and get out ahead of the most serious threat to Israel’s security since the 1973 war. If he is true to form, he will use the opportunity to double down on his argument for the status quo.

President Obama has planned two speeches for the coming week: one for Thursday, billed as a disquisition on the Arab Spring, and another an address at the AIPAC conference. With George Mitchell’s resignation, the peace process is officially dead. The Arab street now understands its power — people clearly aren’t going to sit around quietly waiting until September for the U.N. General Assembly to pass a resolution recognizing a Palestinian state. The BDS movement (“boycott, divestment, sanctions”) is gaining steam internationally. There will be more marches, more flotillas, more escalation, more senseless deaths.

Hitchen’s And Chomsky.

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I couldn’t have done better:

“As far as I know, only leading British “Truther” David Shayler, a former intelligence agent who also announced his own divinity, has denied that the events of Sept. 11, 2001, took place at all. (It was apparently by means of a hologram that the widespread delusion was created on television.) In his recent article for Guernica magazine, however, professor Noam Chomsky decides to leave that central question open. We have no more reason to credit Osama Bin Laden’s claim of responsibility, he states, than we would have to believe Chomsky’s own claim to have won the Boston Marathon.

I can’t immediately decide whether or not this is an improvement on what Chomsky wrote at the time. Ten years ago, apparently sharing the consensus that 9/11 was indeed the work of al-Qaida, he wrote that it was no worse an atrocity than President Clinton’s earlier use of cruise missiles against Sudan in retaliation for the bomb attacks on the centers of Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. (I haven’t been back to check on whether he conceded that those embassy bombings were also al-Qaida’s work to begin with.) He is still arguing loudly for moral equivalence, maintaining that the Abbottabad, Pakistan, strike would justify a contingency whereby “Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic.” (Indeed, equivalence might be a weak word here, since he maintains that, “uncontroversially, [Bush's] crimes vastly exceed bin Laden’s.”) So the main new element is the one of intriguing mystery. The Twin Towers came down, but it’s still anyone’s guess who did it. Since “April 2002, [when] the head of the FBI, Robert Mueller, informed the press that after the most intensive investigation in history, the FBI could say no more than that it ‘believed’ that the plot was hatched in Afghanistan,” no evidence has been adduced. “Nothing serious,” as Chomsky puts it, “has been provided since.”

Chomsky still enjoys some reputation both as a scholar and a public intellectual. And in the face of bombardments of official propaganda, he prides himself in a signature phrase on his stern insistence on “turning to the facts.” So is one to assume that he has pored through the completed findings of the 9/11 Commission? Viewed any of the videos in which the 9/11 hijackers are seen in the company of Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri? Read the transcripts of the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called “20th hijacker”? Followed the journalistic investigations of Lawrence Wright, Peter Bergen, or John Burns, to name only some of the more salient? Acquainted himself with the proceedings of associated and ancillary investigations into the bombing of the USS Cole or indeed the first attempt to bring down the Twin Towers in the 1990s? ” [My emphasis.]

(H/T: John-Paul Pagano)

Written by modernityblog

10/05/2011 at 00:40

Netanyahu, A Complete Failure.

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I really should be blogging on other subjects, the repression in Bahrain, murder in Syria and why does Ed Miliband look like such a weak leader, etc

From the corner of my eye I have been following events in the West Bank and the progress towards Palestinian statehood, which I fully support.

Along with that has been my bemusement at the Israeli government response: incoherent, belligerent and inept.

Fortunately, I find I am not the only one that has noticed Benjamin Netanyahu’s complete failure to tackle these issues politically, in any mature way. Instead Netanyahu stands like a modern King Canute, arguing against the inevitable in a sour and unhelpful fashion.

Snoopy sees the problem as well:

“The last time that the skies smiled at Binyamin Netanyahu was, probably, when Shimon Peres asked him to form the next government, after Tzipi Livni had despaired of her chances to win the support of the Knesset majority.

Since that day it all went downhill for him. Overtaken by the events, outmaneuvered on the right and (less) on the left by his frisky coalition partners, Bibi seems to be continuously surprised by what is happening in the world in general and in the Middle East in particular. Since his Bar Ilan speech, where Bibi announced his support for two state solution, which in fact wasn’t the first time for an Israeli leader (Sharon has already done it) and was made under pressure coming loud and clear from the White House, Bibi is drifting with the flow of the current events, all his moves no more than feeble responses to the outside irritants.

So far the Palestinian leadership appears to be much more adept and sophisticated in manipulating the world’s public opinion as well as in gaining the all around political and diplomatic support. The growing number of the governments that recognized the Palestinian state is the best indication of the failure of Bibi’s “wait and respond” behavior. ” [My emphasis.]

PS: Readers will remember I am no fan of Netanyahu or his racist ministers.

Update 1: Jeff Goldberg ponders the incredibility stupid notion of an Israeli preemptive strike on Iran’s nukes:

“I asked Alon Pinkas, a former diplomat and military correspondent, what he thought of Dagan’s speech. He said: “Dagan believes that high-technology-based covert operations are far more effective and carry significantly less risk in terms of possible ramifications and consequences than an air strike.” He went on, “He is also genuinely warning against what he thinks would be a reckless military action underlined more by political expediency than by a cost-effective analysis.” “

Noam Chomsky, 9/11 And Wiggle Room?

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Pundits and commentators throughout the world are giving their opinions on the demise of Osama bin Laden.

Now one of the world’s leading intellectuals, Noam Chomsky, has seen fit to do the same.

Noam Chomsky: My Reaction to Osama bin Laden’s Death:

“It’s increasingly clear that the operation was a planned assassination, multiply violating elementary norms of international law. There appears to have been no attempt to apprehend the unarmed victim, as presumably could have been done by 80 commandos facing virtually no opposition—except, they claim, from his wife, who lunged towards them. In societies that profess some respect for law, suspects are apprehended and brought to fair trial. I stress “suspects.” In April 2002, the head of the FBI, Robert Mueller, informed the press that after the most intensive investigation in history, the FBI could say no more than that it “believed” that the plot was hatched in Afghanistan, though implemented in the UAE and Germany. What they only believed in April 2002, they obviously didn’t know 8 months earlier, when Washington dismissed tentative offers by the Taliban (how serious, we do not know, because they were instantly dismissed) to extradite bin Laden if they were presented with evidence—which, as we soon learned, Washington didn’t have. Thus Obama was simply lying when he said, in his White House statement, that “we quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda.”

Nothing serious has been provided since. There is much talk of bin Laden’s “confession,” but that is rather like my confession that I won the Boston Marathon. He boasted of what he regarded as a great achievement.”

I feely admit that I find Chomsky’s writings less than clear. His use of compounded clauses in sentences is annoying and for a linguist he doesn’t communicate terribly well, often you are left trying to work out what he was actually getting at.

A cynic would suggest that Chomsky leaves himself wiggle room, lest he completely puts his foot in mouth.

Reading the above you are left wondering if Chomsky thinks that Al Qaeda committed 9/11? Or perhaps something else, when he says:

Thus Obama was simply lying when he said, in his White House statement, that “we quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda.” “

Does anyone really know what Chomsky is on about concerning 9/11?

Who knows? Frankly, who cares? We know from what he said that Chomsky is not a fan of Obama.

I suspect Chomsky’s tortured prose will end up in the dustbin of history, along with the remnants of his more peculiar views.

Written by modernityblog

07/05/2011 at 15:31

Gut Feeling On AV.

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Looking through Twitter can often provide an imperfect, but relevant sampling of people’s preoccupations. Scanning through the entries it seems to me that the metropolitan elites are drawn towards voting Yes to AV.

I can’t say that is the case, irrefutably, but that’s the impression I’m getting.

Certainly Norm is pro-AV and the Guardian. The Green Party is pushing for a Yes to AV too.

The Right-wing media are for the status quo, and saying No to AV.

As far as I can see much of this Yes to AV sentiment is based on the notion that there is a malaise within the electoral system and that AV will change that, or at least that is the hope.

I can’t quite see the evidence behind it, or how it will galvanise a largely cynical population to vote for mostly useless politicians with their own agendas. I think that the problem of electoral participation in Britain and many other countries is more deeply seated than the choice of voting system. There is a significant disenchantment with bourgeois politics in general, and voting specifically. I suspect the problem of voter participation has more to do with the social hegemony and class nature of a society than the selection and use of any particular voting system.

My sense is that in Britain there will be a low turnout for this referendum, those particularly keen on AV will vote for it and will make the effort to vote. Those disenchanted won’t bother, many others voting against it as the Yes to AV arguments don’t seem to have won people over. My gut feeling is that it will fail.

I would like to think that the political consequence of a defeat of AV could be the eventual disintegration of the Tory-Lib Dem coalition, but we’ll see.

Written by modernityblog

05/05/2011 at 15:23

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