Tag Archives: international

How does deliberate misrepresentation help promote understanding?

The debate raging over anti-semitism is confusing at the best of times. Generally speaking I have quite a lot of time for the argument that it is creeping back into fashion by the back door and that we should be less tolerant of lazy rhetoric that blurs the lines between judaism, zionism and the state of Israel. This quote by Sue Blackwell taken from Hirsh’s own website illustrates the scale of the problem quite succinctly:

…increasingly these days I find myself having acrimonious exchanges, usually by email, with people whose messages start by expressing their support for my stand on Palestine and then continue with ‘I think you ought to read this.’

‘This’ often consists of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which for a document over a hundred years old has weathered remarkably well. It crops up everywhere on the internet, including the weblogs of people who claim to be campaigners for Palestinian rights. I had a graduate student in my office not long ago, a highly intelligent young man who is a member of a socialist party in the UK. He told me in all seriousness that I really ought to read this incredible exposé of a world Jewish conspiracy, which was apparently new to him.

Dave Hirsh however crosses the line into batshit craziness. I would have agreed with him if his argument about this article by Chris Davies MEP should not have made crass comparisons between Jews being burnt in Auschwitz with the Palesinian situation. Why does the fact that 6 million Jews were wiped out by the Nazi’s make it incumbant on any Jews to behave with more humanity than anyone else? There’s also a wider double standard here that sneaks into lazy thinking (which I’m not accusing Chris Davies of): the horrors of the Holocaust are supposed to have taught the Jews a lesson on how to behave, while the comparatively less horrific (though doubtless intolerable) experience of the Palestinian ghetto, according to some, lets suicide bombers off the hook.

Unfortunately though, Hirsh decides to overegg the pudding quite appallingly. Not content with a mere critique, he comes up with the extraordinary premise that if you squint a little bit, take a quotation out of context and disengage your critical faculties for a second, what Chris Davies is actually saying is that all Jews, not the state of Israel, “appear not to care that they have themselves become oppressors.” This is transparent nonsense. Whatever my doubts about the efficacy of raising the Holocaust it is quite clear that Davies is referring to Israel and not “all Jews”. In fact, he doesn’t use the word “Jews” anywhere in the article. Despite this, Hirsh puts “Jews” in quotation marks in this article a grand total of eight times. This is a wilful misinterpretation, and given this and the fact that Hirst is explicitly calling him racist, I suspect that Davies would have quite strong grounds for legal action.

How does this sort of over the top nonsense actually help anything? By all means be critical of Davies here – I have – but screaming “RACIST!!!” at the drop of a hat does nothing to help understanding on either side. It is quite simply pathetic, a partisan broadside that is intended to cause a ruckus.

In Hirsh’s commentisfree profile, he states that he “endorses the manifesto.” Yes, in Hirsh’s world, the Euston Manifesto – in less than a fortnight – has become THE manifesto, suggesting that he is not only obnoxious, intellectually dishonest and lazy, but quite unbearably pretentious as well. If this is the sort of rot that the “new left” comes up with, I don’t fancy its chances.

Beyond our Ken

This is possibly the most offensive thing Ken Livingstone has said in years, yet who wants to bet that the Standards Board afficionados don’t make a complaint about it?

“In the same way that Trafalgar Square has had an interesting history, not always a peaceful one, there’s a very clear parallel.

“We’ve had some interesting riots in Trafalgar Square – I mean, only 20 years ago, the poll tax riots, and flames licking up.”

To be fair, he does go on to mention Peterloo, which is a more comparable example. But the Poll Tax riots were an example of how protest can actually effect change in an open society. The Tiananmen Square massacre was unfortunately, precisely that. Equating the two in any way is absurd and is to spit on the dead.

I really do wonder why Labour keeps him in the party. He’d be much better suited in Respect. Goes to show how the only thing they really value is winning elections.

Lib Dem Peace and Security Group Hustings

This doesn’t appear to have been put anywhere else online, so I thought I’d post it here. The LDPSG (or whatever they’re called) asked the three candidates three questions. These are their responses, which I am adding here without comment:

Ming Campbell

As you will know, the Government is at the early stage of reviewing the post-Trident options and I have been leading some preliminary work on our side in the Foreign Affairs and Defence teams.

I respect the fact that members approach the debate from different perspectives and that there are many opinions within the party about whether or not we should have a nuclear deterrent, never mind replace it. In line with our manifesto commitment last year, I have always argued for multilateral disarmament and the retention of a minimum deterrent in the meantime. Under my leadership of the foreign affairs team we have been strong critics of the GovernmentÂ’s failure to achieve meaningful progress on disarmament.

The debate on the future replacement of Trident offers us a new opportunity to consider all of the relevant issues. Clearly the strategic context has altered significantly since the end of the Cold War. The idea that Britain needs a deterrent against an attack from Russia at present stretches credibility beyond breaking point. I also reject any notion that a nuclear capability would deter international terrorists.

However, I do believe that we have a responsibility to consider the world 15 – 20 years hence, when we would be replacing Trident, and think through which other countries may be a threat to us and what would be the best way to deal with them And beyond this strategic context, we must also consider the types of replacement which are feasible, the costs associated with them and the alternative uses to which these scarce resources could be put.

An obvious question which must be answered by those advocating smaller mobile missile systems is whether this might have the unintended effect of lowering the threshold for missile use and even increase the rate of proliferation of smaller systems.

This decision cannot be taken overnight and will not be resolved in the course of the leadership contest, whatever others might suggest. We have pressed the Government to publish a White Paper on the subject and will continue to do so: we all have a right to know the options being considered by the cabinet and the information on which they are based.

Within the party, we must have a full debate and I am pleased that the conference committee has asked FPC to establish a process which will allow this to take place over the next year. The timescale will ensure that we consider all the issues thoroughly and reach a proper conclusion. In the meantime, I do not believe that we should be signing up to the positions being taken by Michael Meacher or anybody else. The party must form its own policy, not be led by others.

I appreciate that my long held views on the nuclear deterrent are already known to you, but I want to stress that I am committed to a full debate on all the issues. It is a once in a generation decision and it is important that we get it right.

Simon Hughes

What is your personal opinion on whether or not Trident should be replaced with a new nuclear weapons system?

Whilst a decision on Trident is not needed now, my strong instincts are to go for a substantial reduction in our nuclear arsenal, and to look very seriously at the potential for using a reduction in, or elimination of, the UK nuclear force as a lever to generate genuine worldwide disarmament.

Replacing Trident would certainly be seen as an act of provocation given the current international debate on the development of nuclear capability by countries such as Iran. The role of an independent nuclear deterent has been changed given that there is now only one world superpower and that any replacement for Trident would be purchased from that superpower – which would make it not very independent! Many of the greatest threats to our security come from shadowy terrorist groups who we can hardly threaten to annihilate in a nuclear exchange. The debate has moved on and it is time for the Liberal Democrats to demonstrate how we would use the £billions that would otherwise be spent on replacing
Trident, by investing in our communities and their services.

Do you think that Party Conference should have a defining role in deciding Lib Dem policy on this issue?

Absolutely. The Parliamentary Party must remember that they are merely 62 members of the party. The role of the MPs is important of course, but Conference is the sovereign body of the Party and should define policy in this and all areas.

Would you encourage Lib Dem MPs to sign EDM 1197 Replacement for Trident Weapons (Michael Meacher)? It calls for a full public debate on the subject leading to a Green Paper considering all options including non-replacement; and ‘further calls on the Government not to conclude any agreements, or to engage in preparations to build a new generation of nuclear weapons, until after this debate and a deciding vote held in Parliament.’

I have a lot of sympathy with Michael Meacher’s EDM but would prefer that the Liberal Democrats took the lead on this and submitted our own motion setting out our own priorities and principles.

Chris Huhne

What is your personal opinion of whether or not Trident should be replaced with a new nuclear weapons system?

I cannot see the justification for the replacement of a system designed before the end of the Cold war in a world where we faced a real threat from an aggressive Soviet Union. The world has changed, and our policy needs to reflect the new challenges of peace-making and peace-keeping in the context of our obligations to the United Nations and the European Union. There must be a full parliamentary and public debate on replacement: I am not against replacement of Trident by a minimum deterrent, but I cannot believe that a full-scale replacement is necessary or desirable.

Do you think that party conference should have a defining role in deciding Lib Dem policy on this issue?

Under our constitution, party conference has the defining role in our policy on this as every other issue following a report drawn up by a policy commission set up by the Federal Policy committee. That is right and proper in a democratic party, and any party leader who ignores that fact is asking for trouble. We must not go back to the bad old days where party leaders
ignored conference and treated activists with disdain. I have personally been involved in many policy-making areas over many years, and I have never been afraid to argue my case on the conference floor, and I am not about to change the habits of a political lifetime now!

Would you encourage LD MPs to sign EDM 1197 Replacement for Trident Weapons (Michael Meacher)?

Yes, and I have signed it myself. One of the most worrying features of the current situation concerning a Trident replacement is the mounting evidence that the Government may be pre-empting a public debate by private decisions taken behind closed doors. This was the pattern with the replacement of Polaris by Trident in 1994. Already, there has been an announcement of a substantial upgrading at Faslane where the Trident warheads are stored, and work has also begun that could potentially be the basis of a new nuclear weapons system at Aldermaston. This is entirely unacceptable, and we must make common cause with all those in the Commons who want an open and honest public debate on the new threat assessment and our responses to it. There is much less reason for official secrecy in this area than people think, as the Americans repeatedly show with a much more open debate on the renewal or replacement of weapons systems.

Offensive Cartoons

You know, when I first started Quaequam Blog! 1.0, one of my objectives, such as I had them, was to tease out the intersections of politics and comics. Over the past two years I have to say I’ve found myself getting less interested in comics – I’m finding it increasingly difficult to find anything that has anything new to say. As such, my posts on the subject have slowed down to a trickle. But it would be remiss of me not to comment on the latest row over the Danish “Mohammed” cartoons.

My own view is that this episode highlights everything that is wrong with the collective mindset of Islam. As I commented on Will’s blog yesterday, who is committing the greater sin? The non-Muslim cartoonist who is reliant entirely on their imagination when picturing Mohammed? Or the Muslim who sees Mohammed in a jumble of lines and colours? Surely the devout response is to not recognise these cartoons as having anything to say?

Secondly, all these protests, all this outrage, is completely over the top. Far worse atrocities are committed on a daily basis by Muslims. I don’t need to hear Muslim voices condemning these – it goes without saying. I do however need to hear even greater outrage over, for instance, the kidnapping of Norman Kember from anyone who thinks a couple of pictures is worth burning a flag over.

But I won’t. The problem isn’t these cartoons. It is a set of values that places honour over and above liberty and mutual respect. The West has treated the Middle East appallingly over the past century or so. But the Middle East has treated itself far worse. More to the point, it is precisely this set of values that means that terrible mistakes like invading Iraq leads to suicide bombing. It isn’t just the invasion that should be condemned; it is the mindset that reacts by lashing out blindly.

I don’t believe there is anything inherent in Islam that is forcing this; Christianity was in a similar state 500 years ago and it still is in many parts of the US. But it does need to break free of these cultural restraints. Every time an idiot like Jack Straw indulges such crass sentimentalism, or the government gets carried away with Religious Hatred laws, we are only letting them off the hook. There are plenty of voices within Islam itself that despises this medievalism – we should be helping them not their opponents.

There is something wrong with our own culture that we seem to have internalised the moral lesson within the Emporer’s New Clothes and yet are incapable of applying that to other cultures. Cultural relativism does no-one any favours.

Consistency? Please?

An interesting story from Yellow Peril:

British Iranians protest outside Lib Dem HQ in protest at a leading party member’s attitude to the repressive, Islamist, regime in power there.

A small point that Harry’s Place and KK could do well to remember: Emma Nicholson is one of the few outspoken supporters of the Iraq War in the Lib Dems. That didn’t make the Lib Dems pro-intervention then and it doesn’t make the Lib Dems pro-Iran now.

If you want the Lib Dem line on Iran, you only need to go to the party’s website.

Perspective? Please?

What kind of a world do we live in where John Howard can be winning a poll as the “worst abuser of democracy” over Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by a factor of 7:1?

I have no brief for Howard, who is extremely bad news and bears considerable responsibility for the riots currently going on in his country. But come on!

It is desperately sad that the Left has degenerated into two factions: one that thinks that Tony Blair is as bad as Hitler and the other that thinks that George Bush is the Second Coming. Anyone who fits anywhere between the two stools is dismissed as that worst of all possible worlds, a liberal.

Socialism has never been more irrelevant than it is now.

Humanitarian Intervention Index

Matthew Turner has updated his Humanitarian Intervention Index (I don’t remember him doing a first version).

While satirical in intent and fascinating to examine, Matt should be careful here. Think of King Cnut and his commanding back the waves stunt. Think of Michael Young and his criticism of what he identified as “meritocracy”. In both cases people completely misunderstood what they were saying and the satire came to be viewed of as policy.

A hundred years from now we could all be ruing the day when John Reid went websurfing.

(Incidently, one change I would make to the index is on military spending. Surely you should aggregate all the military spending of all the countries that are bound by treaty to intervene in the case of an invation – eg. NATO?)