Here’s something you won’t read on Shiraz Socialist

Remember when the apartheid entity and the Zionist entity were different entities? The Daily Telegraph brings us this extraordinary tale from the land of the sad oranges, where it seems the courts take a rather South African view on miscegenation:

Palestinian jailed for rape after claiming to be Jewish

A Palestinian man has been convicted of rape after having consensual sex with an Israeli woman who believed he was Jewish because he introduced himself as “Daniel”.

A court in Jerusalem has made international legal history by jailing Sabbar Kashur, a 30-year-old delivery man from East Jerusalem, for 18 months.

He was convicted of “rape by deception” following a criminal trial that has drawn criticism from across Israel.

The court heard accusations that Mr Kashur misled the woman, whose identity has not been disclosed, by introducing himself with the traditionally Jewish name during a chance encounter on a street in central Jerusalem in 2008.

After striking up a conversation, the two went into a top-floor room of a nearby office-block and engaged in a sexual encounter, after which Mr Kashur left before the woman had a chance to get dressed. It was only later that she discovered Mr Kashur’s true racial background, lawyers said.

Although conceding that the sex was consensual, district court judge Tzvi Segal concluded that the law had a duty to protect women from “smooth-tongued criminals who can deceive innocent victims at an unbearable price”

“If she hadn’t thought the accused was a Jewish bachelor interested in a serious romantic relationship, she would not have co-operated,” Mrs Segal said as she delivered her verdict.

A conviction for rape by deception on the grounds of racial misrepresentation is believed to be internationally unprecedented, according to British legal experts.

The charge is rarely used in the West. In 2007, a Syrian pilot walked free from a court in Swansea after being accused of tricking a woman into intercourse by saying it could cure her of a sexually transmitted disease.

A court in Massachusetts also acquitted a man who allegedly masqueraded as his twin-brother in order to have sex with the man’s wife.

While forced sex by deception is an offence under Israeli law, legal experts say it is a charge used sparingly in cases involving protracted deceit and a promise of marriage.

Kashur was originally accused of violent rape and indecent assault, but later accepted the lesser charge under a plea-bargain after prosecutors received evidence suggesting the encounter was consensual.

Kashur’s lawyer, Adnan Aladdin, said he had filed an appeal to ensure that the verdict was not considered precedent-setting, adding that otherwise “many men would find themselves in jail.”

Israeli legal experts said they found the verdict disquieting.

“In the context of Israeli society, you can see that some women would feel very strongly that they had been violated by someone who says he is Jewish but is not,” said a former senior justice ministry official.

“The question is whether the state should punish somebody in that situation. It puts the law in the position of what could loosely be described as discrimination. I would feel intuitively uncomfortable about prosecuting someone for something like that.”

Asked whether his client was the victim of racial discrimination, Mr Aladdin said he “would rather not comment”. Others, however, were scathing.

Gideon Levy, a leading liberal commentator, said: “I would like to raise only one question with the judge. What if this guy had been a Jew who pretended to be a Muslim and had sex with a Muslim woman. Would he have been convicted of rape? The answer is: of course not.”

Israeli human rights activists said that Kashur’s actions reflected the deceits many Palestinians practise when in Israel in an attempt to avoid official and private prejudice because of their background.

“It is very well known that Israeli-Palestinians living in Israel disguise themselves,” said Leah Tsemel, a human-rights lawyer. “You change your accent and you change your dress because if you look like an Arab you face harassment.

“If you want to enter a pub, you’d better not look like an Arab and if you want to have sex with an Israeli girl, you had better not look like an Arab.”

The prosecutor in the case was unavailable for comment and officials in the Jerusalem district attorney’s office declined to discuss it.

Well, Jim and Max, what say you?

US, Israel perturbed at Iranian alliance with Cybermen

This is from BoingBoing, so you’ve probably already seen it, but I just found the picture irresistible. Yes, it looks to the casual viewer as if Mr Ahmadinejad is involved in high-level discussions with Marvin the Paranoid Android, but apparently it’s the president getting a look at the latest product of Iran’s burgeoning robotics industry. You may laugh, but you’ll not be laughing when Ahmadinejad’s secret army of killer robots are deployed to hunt down Jim Denham.

From the same source, attentive mining of IRNA press releases indicates the ayatollahs’ fashion division banning Iranian men from growing mullets – perhaps proving the Tehran regime isn’t so irrational after all – and the critical question of the day is posed. Namely, is Kim Jong Il a fan of Justin Bieber?

Getting your point across

Something that’s come to mind in respect of the Israeli state’s Pirates of the Mediterranean performance this last week has been the issue of media. Liam has a pithy take on Israel’s hasbara maestro Mark Regev, the cause of many a broken TV screen, not least in the early hours of Monday’s news from the Freedom Flotilla as BBC News 24 seemed to have Regev and other Israeli spokespeople on a permanent loop and facing softball questioning – it took quite a while for countervailing voices to appear, and initially they were from Hamas, with everything that implies.

The other piece that caught my eye was Andy’s one on whether the BBC is institutionally biased on the Israel-Palestine question. It’s an important discussion to have, because it raises the question of how activists can use the media. This was the subject of a long ongoing conversation that both Andy and myself amongst others have been having with Madam Miaow, whose views on this issue I would give quite a lot of weight to given her chops earned by her brilliant press work for Stop the War. I take her points on board, and there are plenty of activists who could benefit from paying attention to her insights. (Especially in a situation like this, where there’s someone who has a proven ability, who has been doing work behind the scenes, and whose skills the left resolutely refuses to use.)

The reflections that follow, though, are my own responsibility though very much informed by what Anna has been saying to me. Further disclaimer: I’m not in the loop as regards Viva Palestina and don’t have inside knowledge of the media work that was actually done. Rather than casting about for blame in this instance – those who do have the inside knowledge are best placed to make any criticisms – I’m interested in what can positively be done to sharpen up our act.

Firstly: being quick off the mark. Obviously, since the Israelis attacked the flotilla, they were prepared in advance. So what? There are these wonderful things called contingency plans. So, if you know it’s possible that there might be a violent confrontation – and you can never rule out violence on the part of the IDF – you prepare for the eventuality. One thing that struck me for much of Monday was that neither the British government nor the media seemed to be aware that there were Brits on board – William Hague was talking about “if” there were Brits on board. In fact there were around thirty British citizens and another ten or so British residents, but it took a while for this to filter out.

Now, as I say, I’m not in the loop, and hadn’t been following the flotilla particularly closely, but even I knew that Kevin Ovenden was on board. (And I’m very glad he’s all right.) But this took quite some time to get into the public domain, thanks to his name being circulated on Twitter and then being picked up by the Guardian‘s live blog at 3.32pm. (Anna to the rescue again. Given the resources the organised left should have been able to bring to bear, that it should be up to an individual working on her own, without any acknowledgment from the left I should say, is outrageous.) Had I been involved, it would have seemed natural to have a list of the Brits on board, together with potted biographies and photos – just in case anything happened. It’s also good PR, because the media will always be interested in Brits in peril.

This is quite elementary. It’s understandable that TV in particular will want images – and the Israelis played up to that by videoing the assault while confiscating phones and cameras from their prisoners. You need to be able to offer the media something in return, and raising the question of “what’s happening to the Brits?” is a good one.

This leads me on to Andy’s point about BBC bias. It’s true that in certain circumstances, usually when there’s a crisis, the Beeb can be susceptible to Israeli pressure. But this isn’t constant – for instance, Jeremy Bowen’s reporting is usually very good, and the BBC does take a lot of flak from Israel and its British supporters over his work. More important, I think, is that the macro-level decisions like Mark Thompson blocking the screening of the charity appeal for Gaza are not necessarily reflected in hour-to-hour coverage, especially on an outlet like News 24 where there is an awful lot of airtime to fill. Most journalists are not all that ideological – they take news as being product – and BBC journalists in particular are hardwired to look for the other side of the argument. We’re not talking here in terms of “they have Melanie Phillips and we have Seumas Milne”, but of the jobbing journos – not the op-ed writers – whose brief is to cover the story. If you get in there quickly as representing the other side of the argument, you can make some impact.

We learned this from the experience of Stop the War, which not only had a great press officer who was damn good at spotting cracks in the system to take advantage of but managed to do what it did due to breaking with the old attitudes of the left. It’s worth remarking of StW that, despite its recent rewriting of its history, it was not founded in 2001. It was founded in the late 1990s by Paul Foot and made no impact whatsoever in the media – it was just another one of the SWP’s off-the-shelf campaigns. What changed between 2001 and 2003 was not only a heightening of the political atmosphere around Afghanistan and Iraq, but also a complete change in attitude that led to StW getting out there and becoming a live part of public debate – directly because of that sharp press work. That meant, in the first instance, an end to the defeatism that said that, since the media were biased, there was no point in even trying.

What was proved in that instance was that, if you’ve got something to say and you’re willing to put the work in, they won’t necessarily ignore you. To be honest, the impact made then put to shame all the NUJ members who are hanging around the left and who had failed to make that impact in previous years. And, and this is important, it wasn’t just a question of flair and imagination – it was a matter of doing the basics in a field that isn’t rocket science. Getting professionally composed press releases out, building up relationships with journalists and editors who’ll then know where to go for an opinion, having your list of people who can do media appearances, spotting an opportunity to grab a headline – none of this is particularly baffling, and even I can spot on these occasions what needs to be done even if I don’t have the skill set to do it myself.

So, when the flotilla was ambushed on Monday morning, it should have been clear what needed to be done. A lot of people were very angry, of course. There were the impromptu demonstrations, which were great, and lots of people were blogging and tweeting throughout the day. What I didn’t get any sense of was any coordinated media effort from our side. Not just that there was nobody appearing in the studios for interviews, but that there didn’t seem to be a concerted push to get the right talking points out. The “where’s Kevin?” line would have been a good one to take, not only because we didn’t know for some considerable time whether he was alive or dead, but also because, as I’ve said, Brits in peril abroad go to the top of the bulletin, and being at the top of the bulletin was the safest place for Kevin and the other hostages to be.

Observing from the outside, I got a strong sense of a vacuum, and a vacuum is something that can’t be afforded. You see, those of us who have some involvement in pro-Palestine activity work on the assumption that Mark Regev is telling outrageous lies, but he can be quite charming and fluent, especially if the interviewer isn’t well briefed, and is helped along by Israeli control of the footage coming from the flotilla. When you think about what the punter in the street will make of the news coverage, bear in mind that a vacuum is dangerous because bullshit will expand to fill the space available. You need people on there from the PSC or Stop the War or Viva Palestina who are briefed in advance, who can hold up under questioning and who can put the other side of the argument convincingly. Because even if the propaganda battle is unequal, you can’t use that as an excuse for not taking part in the battle. Think of the way the Tory press monstered Neil Kinnock in the 1980s – at one point Kinnock had had enough and decided to just not talk to the papers any more. Understandable on a human level, but much good did it do him.

There has to be a break from the bad old ways when things are this important – and, if comrades are going to put themselves in harm’s way, it doesn’t get much more important. The left does have a horrible track record of not only being awful in how it approaches the media; there’s also the aspect of how this fits in to bad habits in left organising. I know for certain of people who were assets to our side who were deliberately undermined for reasons of organisational rivalry or simply crabby egos; and of talented people being moved out of vital positions while being replaced by people who were blatantly unsuited for the job but had the right connections. I could go on at length, and sometimes do. If this is how the left acts internally, no wonder its external work too often looks like amateur hour.

Listen, I don’t want to be unremittingly negative about this. I think, for instance, that Viva Palestina is a brilliant initiative, and wish more people knew about it. The left is still very good at organising demos. What we need is to brush up on trying to frame the public debate – starting with disadvantages, sure, but there’s certainly plenty of talent knocking around the left if it can be properly utilised. That means two things. It means setting the egos and rivalries aside when there are important issues at stake. Regular readers will know that I’m far from uncritical of John Rees, but if John is appearing on Newsnight to discuss Gaza then I really want him to do well.

It also means building up a cadre of people who know how the media work, who can do press and who can coordinate amongst themselves. The idea of a united left press centre is far too grandiose, but certainly there should be a pool of good people doing this work, they should be expanding the pool and they should have enough lines of communication open to make sure that whoever is taking the lead (it may be, for instance, PSC or StW on something like this) takes the lead and gets backed up. Crucial to this is spreading the knowledge, which is something recognised on one level as so many left conferences have media workshops.

The late Tony Cliff used to talk about Socialist Worker being a paper with three thousand reporters. For various reasons too boring to go into, that never really transpired. But the democratisation of the media through cheap technology and the internet mean there are greater opportunities now than ever before for activism to enter into public debate. The missing link is a smart approach to the mass media, which is where most people will get their news. Is there the will, or the nous, to do something about this?

Many thanks again to Anna for her insights on this issue, as someone who can see with absolute clarity what needs to be done. The interpretation and any mistakes are of course my own.

PFLP statement on Israeli piracy

From the PFLP:

PFLP condemns the murderous crimes of the Israeli pirates and salutes the heroes of the Freedom Flotilla

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine condemns the latest Israeli massacre on the high seas, in international waters, the brutal assault on the international Freedom Flotilla to Gaza on May 31, 2010. The Israeli state terror pirates, said the Front, attacked the humanitarian aid and international solidarity ships with firearms and commandos; the Front said that this is the latest crime against humanity committed by the occupation state, illustrating its blatant disregard for international law.
The Front saluted all of the members of the Freedom Flotilla, particularly the martyrs and wounded, saying that these are martyrs of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian cause, and of the struggle of people everywhere for liberation, justice and freedom, and will be immortal in our struggle, and that the Flotilla’s prisoners are with the prisoners of our Palestinian Arab nation, prisoners of freedom in the hands of a terror occupation state.
It called upon the Palstinian movement in Palestine and in exile and all progressive forces around the world to continue and escalate their actions at Israeli embassies and consulates around the world, including emulating the example of the Turkish people in occupying the Israeli embassy in Anakara, and demanded an immediate end to any so-called indirect or direct negotiations with the murderous regime.
The Front demanded that all Arab nations end their relations with the occupation state and cut off diplomatic ties, demanding serious international action at an official level to bring the criminal leaders of the occupation state to justice in international courts and severely punish them for their crimes. Furthermore, the Front said that the United States government and all silent and complicit governments bear responsibility for this latest crime as well as all of the ongoing crimes of this occupation state against the Palestinian Arab people.
The Front pledged to hold fast to the examples of these activists, the latest martyrs of the great struggle of people for liberation and return and for justice in the face of an occupier and invader. They shall live on, the PFLP pledged, in the determination and resistance of the Palestinian people to see justice and freedom and end the crimes of the terror state.


M’lud, the government of Israel, in connection with the charge of piracy on the high seas, asks for a previous offence to be taken into consideration:

The USS Liberty incident was an attack on a United States Navy technical research ship, USS Liberty, by Israeli jet fighter planes and motor torpedo boats, on June 8, 1967, during the ongoing Six-Day War. The combined air and sea attack killed 34 crew members (naval officers, seamen, two Marines, and a civilian), wounded 171 crew members, and severely damaged the ship. At the time, the ship was in international waters north of the Sinai Peninsula, about 25.5 nmi (29.3 mi; 47.2 km) northwest from the Egyptian city of Arish.

But hold on, wasn’t that all sorted out long ago?

The Liberty Veterans Association (composed of veterans from the ship) states that U.S. congressional investigations and other U.S. investigations were not actually investigations into the attack; but, rather, reports using evidence only from the U.S. Navy Court of Inquiry, or investigations unrelated to culpability that involved issues such as communications. In their view, the U.S. Navy Court of Inquiry is the only actual investigation on the incident to date. They claim it was hastily conducted, in only 10 days, even though the court’s president, Rear Admiral Isaac Kidd, said that it would take 6 months to conduct properly. The inquiry’s terms of reference were limited to whether any shortcomings on the part of the Liberty’s crew had contributed to the injuries and deaths that resulted from the attack. According to the Navy Court of Inquiry’s record of proceedings, four days were spent hearing testimony: two days for fourteen survivors of the attack and several U.S. Navy expert witnesses, and two partial days for two expert U.S. Navy witnesses. No testimony was heard from Israeli personnel involved.

And again:

Dean Rusk, U.S. Secretary of State at the time of the incident, wrote:

I was never satisfied with the Israeli explanation. Their sustained attack to disable and sink Liberty precluded an assault by accident or some trigger-happy local commander. Through diplomatic channels we refused to accept their explanations. I didn’t believe them then, and I don’t believe them to this day. The attack was outrageous.

Retired naval Lieutenant Commander James Ennes, a junior officer (and off-going Officer of the Deck) on Liberty‘s bridge at the time of the attack, authored a book titled Assault on the Liberty (Random House, 1980; Ballantine Books 1986; Reintree Press 2004) describing the incident during the Six Day War in June 1967 and claiming, among other things, it was deliberate. Ennes and Joe Meadors, another survivor of the attack, run a website about the incident. Meadors states that the classification of the attack as deliberate is the official policy of the association, to which all known survivors belong. Other survivors run several additional websites. Citing Ennes’s book, Lenczowski notes: Liberty‘s personnel received firm orders not to say anything to anybody about the attack, and the naval inquiry was conducted in such a way as to earn it the name of “coverup”.

Indeed it was covered up by the Johnson administration, and survivors were ordered under military discipline not to talk about it. The incident should be well known, certainly much better than it is.

Well now. The Israeli government has previous on this sort of thing, and Flying Rodent nicely captures the sheer batshit belligerent insanity involved in the outrageous attack on the aid flotilla to Gaza. Is insanity too harsh a word? Note that a Turkish-flagged ship in international waters is legally Turkish territory, and thereby Israel has effectively declared war on a Nato member state, not to mention its main ally in the region. Then again, back in 1967 they did actually sink a US Navy ship without facing any repercussions. Imagine the reaction if Iran or China had done something like this.

That said, even the Berlusconi government in Italy, usually very close to Israel, has issued a condemnation. Even William Hague, a longstanding member of Conservative Friends of Israel, has called for the lifting of the blockade on Gaza. The White House, which has already had to put up with Netanyahu swaggering about Washington like an emperor surveying a vassal state, can’t be terribly pleased. Which again prompts the question – does Netanyahu think he can get away with literally anything? More to the point, is he right?

A dozen or more Rachel Corries created in one night, executed for the crime of trying to bring humanitarian aid to a population suffering a horrendous level of collective punishment because they elected the wrong government. Nice one, Bibi. If you wanted to prove that you don’t understand anything but sheer brutality, you’ve just done it.

And not a great day for the BBC, who I know don’t have access to those on the flotilla, but all the same, the “Have you anything more you’d like to say, Mr Regev?” atmosphere got to be a bit much. As luck would have it, their online report invites comments. (h/t)

Statements from the IPSC, Workers Party, Sinn Féin, éirígí, Socialist Party, SWP; and more at Cedar Lounge, amongst many other places.

Colonial settler regime demands tribute from vassal state

Did I just mention the Phoenix? Page 9 of the current issue has a long and interesting article on the diplomatic fallout from the use of forged Irish passports by Mossad assassins. Which is to say, although Micheál Martin remonstrated with the Israeli government in rather strong terms, the DFA has no plans to tighten up of Section 10 of the Passports Act 2008, where you will find the loophole whereby intelligence operatives of “friendly” states (Brits, Yanks, Israelis) use Irish passports to go about their dodgy business, and the Dublin government doesn’t make things difficult for them. The quid pro quo is that a small state without much in the way of an intelligence-gathering operation gets to piggyback on intel gathered by the CIA, MI6, Mossad et al.

And therefore Minister Martin’s outrage is entirely without consequences, much like David Miliband’s expulsion of a solitary Israeli diplomat. Israel-firster commentator Stephen Pollard said on News 24 that this was just a bit of pro forma stuff, and I suspect he was right. Sending the Israelis to the naughty step doesn’t work, because sooner rather than later they’ll be back doing the same thing. Six years ago, when Mossad were caught doing the same thing with New Zealand passports, the Kiwi government actually did take tough action, and eventually got a clenched-teeth apology, and if Mossad have tried it on with NZ passports since, they’ve been extremely discreet about it.

Anyway, talking of Ireland and Israel, in the last couple of weeks we’ve had a good illustration of who has diplomatic clout and who doesn’t. As usual, almost the entire Irish political class, north and south, headed over to Washington for St Drunkard’s Day with the aim of sucking up to Barack O’Bama. In fact, a couple of minor party leaders from the north (Margaret Ritchie and Reg Empey) were extremely miffed at not being invited into an Teach Bán so they could suck up to the Emperor in person. Theoretically, the enormous Irish diaspora plus the purchase of Irish culture (well all right, kitsch paddywhackery) could afford an Irish government with a bit of diplomatic zing some opportunities to advance its interests. And this might be a possibility, if you had a government with a few ideas and a positive foreign policy, such as we had under de Valera. But no, for as long as anyone can remember it’s all been about sucking up. That’s a clear example of the dog wagging the tail.

For an example of the opposite, you just had to take a look at last week’s Aipac conference, one of the main events of the Washington political calendar, when administration officials and most of the membership of Congress compete with each other in vigorously sucking up to the Zios. And not without reason – when you look at the way Cynthia McKinney was done over, it’s not surprising that few elected officials have the balls to stand up to the Lobby. Aipac, by the way, is completely unabashed about this – shit, they’re proud of it. I don’t understand how anyone could dismiss as a conspiracy theory Mearsheimer and Walt’s impeccably researched book on the power of the Israel Lobby, because there very obviously is an Israel Lobby, and moreover one that actively boasts about its political clout.

And into this jamboree strides none other than Bibi Netanyahu, with his grisly sidekick Ehud Barak in tow. And lo, to look at Bibi swanking about Washington as if he owned the place, you would wonder who exactly the Emperor was. Then you got to Bibi’s speech, which was delivered with all the high-octane bullshit quotient you would expect from an insurance salesman, which is what Bibi used to be.

Milking the memory of the Holocaust? Check. Banging the drum for war with Iran? Check. Criticism of Israel the same as anti-Semitism? Check. Double standards applied to Israel? Check. Our 4000-year attachment to Eretz Israel? Check. I call on Abbas to come to the negotiating table? Check. The living standards of Palestinians thriving under the occupation? Check. The Goldstone Report equivalent to blood libel? Check.

God, it’s wearying stuff, and you could write it yourself. Although to be fair, it was slightly less bellicose than what the AWL puts out.

Meanwhile, relations between Washington and Israel are said to be at a low ebb. Why is this? Well, Joe Biden was recently in Israel promoting Washington’s peace plan, which involves a freeze in settlement building. Bibi announced more construction while Biden was in the country, which can only be interpreted as holding up two fingers to the Yanks. Biden was miffed, and said so; the Israelis waxed wroth about Biden daring to be miffed.

So, how bad are those relations?

As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in Washington this week absorbing the full wrath of the Obama administration, the Pentagon and Israel’s defense establishment were in the process of sealing a large arms deal.

According to the deal, Israel will purchase three new Hercules C-130J airplanes. The deal for the three aircrafts, designed by Lockheed Martin, is worth roughly a quarter billion dollars. Each aircraft costs $70 million.

The aircrafts were manufactured specifically for Israeli needs, and include a large number of systems produced by Israel’s defense industry. The deal will be covered by American foreign assistance funds.

Yeah, Bibi, how do you like that wrath? Ain’t no way you’re going to have business as usual after snubbing the Yanks like that!

Those charming Zios are at it again

From Haaretz:

Jewish extremists have urged supermodel Bar Refaeli not to marry her actor boyfriend, Leonardo DiCaprio, because it would dilute the Jewish race, according to media reports.

In a letter to Refaeli, far-rightist Baruch Marzel wrote on behalf of nationalist group Lehava, which aims to fight assimilation among Jews: “It is not by chance that you were born Jewish.

“Your grandmother and her grandmother did not dream that one of their descendants would one day remove the family’s future generations from the Jewish people,” the letter continued. “Assimilation has forever been one of the enemies of the Jewish people.”

Lehava in Hebrew means “flame” but it is also an acronym for “Preventing Assimilation in the Holy Land.” According to the group’s Facebook page, it aims to provde assistance to Jewish girls in relationships with non-Jews, and especially Arabs.

Marzel told Refaeli that he “has nothing against Mr. DiCaprio, who I have no doubt is a talented actor.” Still, he urged Refaeli: “Come to your senses, look forward and back too – and not only the present. Don’t marry Leonardo DiCaprio, don’t harm the future generations.”

Via. Don’t hold your breath waiting for HP Sauce, the AWL et al to pick up on this.

Arrest this man!

With fascinating stuff going on locally, I haven’t been paying much attention to the Iraq inquiry over in Britland, except to marvel at how remarkably uncurious the panel are. Anything of interest seems to have aris from witnesses’ desire to unburden themselves – or, in Campbell’s case, to continue acting out this weird psychodrama where he attaches himself to a father figure (Maxwell, Blair) and then defends them to the death.

Anyway, Mr Tony himself is giving evidence tomorrow. Apropos of which, Madam Miaow not only gives us a pen portrait of the inquiry panel – not only establishment to the core, but not a lawyer or military man among them – but also draws attention to George Monbiot’s appeal to raise a bounty for anyone willing to make a citizen’s arrest of Blair as a war criminal. I’d be very careful about trying it – make a grab for the Vicar and you run the risk of getting shot – but in publicity terms this is a very good idea on George’s part, and deserves to get more of an airing in the left blogosphere. Just remember when Peter Tatchell made his splendid attempt to arrest Bob Mugabe, and the massive impact that had.

I’d like to finish with a bit of a moan, but only a mild one. I’m sure Stop the War, despite being banned from protesting outside the QE2 Centre tomorrow, are putting in a lot of energy and organising plenty of events. But I do get the feeling there’s a trick being missed in terms of all the media interest. There are antiwar voices on the news, to be sure – some of the military families have been brilliant, and the aforementioned George Monbiot has just performed well against Nick Cohen on the wireless – but I’m not hearing much from the antiwar movement as such. Now would be a nice time to show some flair and imagination, and I really hope they do.

Much more on this story on a regular basis from the indefatigable Craig Murray.

Have you heard the one about the Jew who did well for himself in Iran?


Oh, I just love this:

A photograph of the Iranian president holding up his identity card during elections in March 2008 clearly shows his family has Jewish roots.

A close-up of the document reveals he was previously known as Sabourjian – a Jewish name meaning cloth weaver.

The short note scrawled on the card suggests his family changed its name to Ahmadinejad when they converted to embrace Islam after his birth.

The Sabourjians traditionally hail from Aradan, Mr Ahmadinejad’s birthplace, and the name derives from “weaver of the Sabour”, the name for the Jewish Tallit shawl in Persia. The name is even on the list of reserved names for Iranian Jews compiled by Iran’s Ministry of the Interior.

That’s another one up for Jewish enterprise, I think, and probably explains a few things about the irrepressible bubeleh Ahmadinejad. It will also confirm the feeling of the more conspiracist element in Tehran that those Jews get in everywhere. And you realise, of course, that under the Law of Return, Dinner Jacket would be entitled to claim Israeli citizenship and get himself a nice little tract house in a West Bank settlement. They let Avigdor Lieberman in, so they couldn’t very well keep Mahmoud out…

Sports roundup: Our Wee Country to host colonial settler state

UDA Israeli flag

In the normal run of things, I don’t pay too much attention to the Norn Iron football team. Even if I was that way inclined, their form or lack thereof could cause the most patriotic Ulster Scot to lose interest after a while. But tomorrow night there’s a treat on at Windsor. Yes, as part of a bumper round of international friendlies, the north is hosting Israel. Definitely a match in the “can’t they both lose?” category.

This was being discussed on Talk Back earlier, since the good folks of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign were not, it’s fair to say, altogether enamoured with the fixture, and were protesting outside the IFA headquarters. In response to this, we had interviews with a representative from the IFA, and that mad loyalist with ginger hair who’s always being interviewed on behalf of the Norn Iron supporters. Both of them were adamant that they wanted politics kept out of sport. This was, they said, their bedrock principle. But I don’t think it entirely works like that.

As a rule, I’m a bit cautious about sporting boycotts. If athletes don’t want to go to Zimbabwe or China, of course that’s a matter for them and they have every right to follow their conscience. On the other hand, deadbeat politicians are in the habit of calling on sportsmen to take this or that action as a fig leaf for their own inactivity – see the Foreign Office’s antics over England playing cricket with Zimbabwe. Historically, though, South Africa was a different case as sport in South Africa was run on racist lines. Once segregation and white supremacy were removed from SA sport, so too was the boycott.

That was an example of a good reason. There’s a good reason too in this case, which is a good deal more immediate than disapproval of this or that Israeli policy. You see, there is a Palestinian national football team. Via the Palestine Football Federation, it’s a member of FIFA, and has been recognised by the world governing body since 1998. Yet the team faces severe ongoing problems, most notably an inability to play either home or away fixtures as a result of restrictions imposed by the occupying power – surely that counts as bringing politics into sport. That, it seems to me, is a good enough reason to think twice about playing fixtures against Israel. Indeed, Brazil has refused to play Israel on precisely those grounds.

Worth mentioning, also, that we’re not talking here about a World Cup or Euro qualifying fixture, where you have to play whoever you’re drawn against. We’re talking about a friendly, which is taking place because the IFA issued an invitation to its Israeli counterpart. And of course, having done so, the IFA will not want to lose either face or revenue, so the match will go ahead. Well, at least there is a fair stockpile of Israeli flags in loyalist areas of Belfast. Should make the away supporters feel welcome.

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