Peoples Geography — Reclaiming space

Creating people's geographies

Meet the Unpeople

“Until lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter.”
— African Proverb

“And though tyranny, because it needs no consent, may successfully rule over foreign peoples, it can stay in power only if it destroys first of all the national institutions of its own people.”
— Hannah Arendt, The Origins Of Totalitarianism

Why are some lives made to count more than others? This is and has always been the essence of racism, colonialism and Empire. From slaves once being counted as “three fifths of a person” in colonial America to the existence of slavery in human trafficking today, this process of racism, whether criminalised or institutionalised or internalised, can be seen in how people’s worth are regarded according to their race, sex, creed, ethnicity or other forms of identity.

It can be seen today in the forcible removal and the denial of return of inhabitants from their homes in Diego Garcia by the British government, it can be seen in the cultivation of racist entitlement and sense of superiority over Palestinians by Zionists in Israel, it can be seen in the callous disregard of peoples of the Middle East by the Likudnik drenched imperial designs of the neocons in Washington as in Tel Aviv.

unpeople-cover.jpgMark Curtis uses the term ‘Unpeople‘ to describe those whose lives are seen as expendable in the pursuit of Empire’s economic and political goals, focusing on how Britain has been complicit in deaths around the world of millions of people. He has calculated that Britain bears significant responsibility for around 10 million deaths just since 1945 (in a period when its empire was on the wane), including that of Nigerians, Indonesians, Arabs, Ugandans, Chileans, Vietnamese and many others, and, in contemporary focus, Iranian and Iraqi lives.

Moreover, through its own intervention, and its support of key allies such as the United States and various repressive regimes, Britain has been, and continues to be, a systematic and serious abuser of human rights. While this is not new, the policies responsible are often still unknown or under-reported to the public and remain under-researched by journalists and academics. These sins of Empire constitute lies of omission as well as commission. How many of us know the case of Diego Garcia in the the Chagos Archipelago, forcibly depopulated so that the US military could use it as a military base and then to operate the Global Positioning System (GPS)?

Does this mean that human life is not also disregarded elsewhere? No. One sees the treatment of untouchables in still caste-based India, or the invisibility of women in Saudi Arabia, or the treatment of the Australian Aborigines in Australia. The difference is one of scale and rhetoric. The brokers of imperial racism cloak this barbarism in the language of “liberating”peoples and “bringing democracy”; the west holds itself up to be the pinnacle of progress and civilisation even as the ongoing project of Empire attempts to impose a vile vision on what are implicitly regarded as subject peoples, on an unprecedented scale across the globe. The difference is that any and all abuses should be equally scrutinised and regarded as such, to enable us to move forward.

The treatment of women, immigrants and guest workers, returned servicemen and women, the ill or mentally or physically incapacitated — often the weakest and most vulnerable in our society and international community — usually serves as an accurate barometer of how truly progressive and civilised we are.

History has not come to an end with the false triumph of liberal democracy as even Francis Fukuyama now concedes after he first posited this notion in 1989. (And “liberal democracy” applied only insofar as it pertained to characterising liberal democratic institutions domestically, that is, it hardly extended to foreign policy).

The ideals of liberty, equality, self-determination and freedom still glow in hearts across the globe. “I am not worth less, I am not a subject of Empire, I am not a terrorist, I am not expendable.” I am a human being with dignity and in possession of inalienable rights, and human beings are inherently equal. It might be useful, its always a good time to recall these principles as we have collectively enshrined them in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Selected press picks, followed by quotes of the zio-racist variety:

* Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich, Partner in Crime, ICH (2 April, 2007)

* Eric Margolis, West Has Bloodied Hands, Toronto Sun (19 Dec 2004)

* Priyamvada Gopal, It is contradictory to condemn slavery and yet celebrate the empire, Guardian (2 April, 2007).

Zionist Quotes

These will not be new to some people, but I reproduce them here as these are apposite to the topic. Sources on the web are numerous and these quotes well documented, see here, here, here, here and here

“There is no such thing as a Palestinian people… It is not as if we came and threw them out and took their country. They didn’t exist.”
— Golda Meir Statement to The Sunday Times, 15 June, 1969.

“We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries,while denying it any employment in our own country …. expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly.”
— Theodore Herzl (from Rafael Patai, Ed. The Complete Diaries of Theodore Herzl, Vol I)

“… it is the duty of the [Israeli] leadership to explain to the public a number of truths. One truth is that there is no Zionism, no settlement, and no Jewish state without evacuating Arabs, and without expropriating lands and their fencing off.”
— Yesha’ayahuBen-Porat, (Yedi’ot Aharonot 07/14/1972) responding to public controversy regarding the Israeli evictions of Palestinians in Rafah, in 1972. (Cited in Nur Masalha’s “A Land Without APeople” 1997, p.98)

“One million Arabs are not worth a Jewish fingernail.”
–Rabbi Ya’acov Perin in his eulogy at the funeral of mass murderer Dr. Baruch Goldstein.

“Every time we do something you tell me America will do this and will do that . . . I want to tell you something very clear: Don’t worry about American pressure on Israel. We, the Jewish people, control America, and the Americans know it.”
— Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, October 3, 2001, to Shimon Peres, as reported on Kol Yisrael radio.

“We declare openly that the Arabs have no right to settle on even one centimeter of Eretz Israel…Force is all they do or ever will understand. We shall use the ultimate force until the Palestinians come crawling to us on all fours.”
— Rafael Eitan, chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, quoted in Yediot Ahronot, April 13, 1983, and The New York Times, April 14, 1983.

“[The Palestinians] are beasts walking on two legs.”
— Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, speech to the Knesset, quoted in Amnon Kapeliouk, “Begin and the ‘Beasts,”‘ New Statesman, June 25,1982.

“We must do everything to ensure they [the Palestinian refugees] never do return.”
— David Ben-Gurion, in his diary, July 18, 1948, quoted in Michael Bar Zohar’s “Ben-Gurion: the Armed Prophet,” Prentice-Hall, 1967, p. 157.

“We must use terror, assassination, intimidation, land confiscation, and the cutting of all social services to rid the Galilee of its Arab population.”
— Israel Koenig, “The Koenig Memorandum.”

The fact of the matter is that three times as many Palestinians have been killed, and a relatively small number of them were really militants. Most were civilians. Some hundreds of children.”
— Zbigniew Brzezinski

“We must expel Arabs and take their places.”
— David Ben Gurion, 1937, Ben Gurion and the Palestine Arabs, Oxford University Press, 1985.

“A voluntary reconciliation with the Arabs is out of the question either now or in the future. If you wish to colonize a land in which people are already living, you must provide a garrison for the land, or find some rich man or benefactor who will provide a garrison on your behalf. Or else-or else, give up your colonization, for without an armed force which will render physically impossible any attempt to destroy or prevent this colonization, colonization is impossible, not difficult, not dangerous, but IMPOSSIBLE!… Zionism is a colonization adventure and therefore it stands or falls by the question of armed force. It is important… to speak Hebrew, but, unfortunately, it is even more important to be able to shoot – or else I am through with playing at colonizing.”
— Vladimir Jabotinsky, founder of Revisionist Zionism (precursor of Likud), The Iron Wall, 1923.

34 comments on “Meet the Unpeople

  1. Servant
    5 April, 2007

    Yet another great day in humanities class. The best on-line course I’ve taken ever. And free too. I have to find a way to compensate you.

    For now just accept sincere thanks.

  2. Pingback: Random Ramblings « Forever Under Construction

  3. unitedcats
    6 April, 2007

    Michael Savage now refers to illegal immigrants as “infiltrators.” And of course if other people are less than human, why it’s OK to commit atrocities against them. All too sad for words, thanks for posting. —Doug

  4. Monte
    6 April, 2007

    “And though tyranny, because it needs no consent, may successfully rule over foreign peoples, it can stay in power only if it destroys first of all the national institutions of its own people.”
    – Hannah Arendt, The Origins Of Totalitarianism

    How astute this is! Perhaps this is why neo-conservatism so consistently wages war on constitutional rights in the US.

  5. Graeme
    6 April, 2007

    wow, bookmarkable post. The millions that the West has killed goes virtually unnoticed.

    Children are still dying in Laos today because of the Vietnam war.

  6. Jack
    6 April, 2007

    Hi Ann,

    What do you think of this article:

    Palestinian “Right of Return“?
    By Michael Medved
    Wednesday, April 4, 2007



  7. Servant
    6 April, 2007

    What do you think of it Jack?

  8. bereans
    6 April, 2007

    Hi Servant!

    I don’t really know. I am by no means an expert and I try to listen to all sides of an issue. It seems to me that either side has both valid and invalid points, with little compromise. It seems to be an either/or situation for most, or at least this is the way I read it. Ann is much more read on this topic than I am, and posts regularly, so I have taken an interest in it. In my research I am running into both sides of this seemingly complicated issue. I value Ann’s opinion because of her character, so I felt she was better able to evaluate what was being said than I.

    What are your thoughts, Servant?



  9. bereans
    6 April, 2007

    Servant, its situations like this that make me wonder who/what to believe:….


  10. unitedcats
    6 April, 2007

    Interesting links Jack, I’ll try to blog on them both.

  11. peoplesgeography
    6 April, 2007

    Hi Doug,

    Well noted — what we call people informs how we treat them, and the term “infiltrator” is telling. I also prefer calling immigrants, legal or not, just that rather than ‘aliens’, to me that is really quite demeaning. I also found Jack’s links interesting and value the opportunity to respond to the contents shortly, and look forward to your post on the topic as well.

  12. peoplesgeography
    6 April, 2007


    I agree, I thought Arendt’s observation perceptively notes how inhumanity and racism inherently turns in on itself, and this applies macrocosmically as it does microcosmically.

    Its Good Friday — so Happy Easter by the way!

  13. peoplesgeography
    6 April, 2007


    Good observation. The ripple effects of so many atrocities and conflicts that are ultimately based on a racist, chauvinist cosmology are still being felt.

    My hope is that change and reform at the worldview level that informs policymaking will ultimately transmute this. Already this is happening with recognition of greater interconnectedness in both cutting edge science as well as spirituality and religion (the original teachings and precepts therein).

  14. peoplesgeography
    6 April, 2007


    Thanks for the links and I welcome the opportunity to consider and comment upon the article contents.

    Mr Medved claims the Palestinian right of return as misleading, yet I would say misleads in his own (mis)characterizations. Let’s take a look, and I’ll proffer my own comments.

    Israel should accept untold millions of Palestinians who would relocate into Israel itself, rather than making their homes in the newly created Palestinian State..

    This is simply not true on a number of counts. It is misleadingly framed as Israel somehow accepting, or having imposed upon it “untold millions” in its territory. First, which Israel are we talking about? It is the only country in the world that refuses to define its own borders. Its illegal settlements are eating into a future Palestinian state in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPT, the West Bank and Gaza Strip) so does it deem them its own territory/ “Israel” now too? Second, “untold millions” is an ambiguous scare phrase that defies specificity. Third, if there are reasonable limits put on this right of return to original Palestinian townships and homes (many of which have been bulldozed and are still being bulldozed), there should be a corresponding reasonable limit placed on this notion of aliyah, the idea that any Jew around the world can and should be a citizen of Israel and in the process potentially (likely) displace the rights of Palestinians who have been living there for generations.

    The Israeli establishment can’t have it both ways. Peace negotiations and settlements require compromise, and to date they haven’t been willing to give an inch in anything approaching meaningful compromise. Yet, Medved projects this intransigence on to the Arabs and Palestinians who are on record as stating their willingness to accord full recognition to Israel, when he states: “Today, the insistence on a “right of return” shows that the Arabs still refuse to accept Israel as a sovereign nation, entitled to control its own destiny.”

    The issue is not Israel’s right to control its destiny, it is removing its stranglehold on the destiny of Palestinians under occupation and their right to a state and peaceful co-existence. Israel already has a state, nuclear armed, its hardly under threat. It now has a peace offer agreed to by all the Arab states. The right of return may well be a bargaining point, but it must be addressed and some terms agreed to, and it shouldn’t be a spanner in the works or used as an excuse not to move forward towards a resolution. Even Medved concedes that Israeli PM Olmert’s blanket refusal and rejection was inappropriate.

    The easiest thing to refute is Medved’s attempt to reassure the reader that Israel’s demographic balance worries are not racist. He writes of the:

    ridiculously distorted description of Israel’s point of view carries the connotation that the objection is purely racist: that the Israelis feel that the continued existence of their “Jewish State” is so precarious that they can’t even consider admitting non-Jews (Actually, thousands of non-Jews arrive in Israel every month, prominently including workers from Thailand, the Philippines, Rumania and other nations).

    Actually, there is ample evidence that many in Israel do feel that the Jewish demographic majority is threatened and the openly racist deputy PM Avigdor Lieberman (and others) openly call for expulsion of the Arabs who are Israeli citizens. And the non-Jews Medved mentions are mostly guest workers — funny how it can accept them but not the indigenous Palestinians!

    If some of the Palestinians who were expelled, bullied out and intimidated into leaving by the nascent Israeli state end up going into two locations, it is neither by greed nor by their design but because of the settler mentality, racism and intransigence of the Israeli state that has created these piecemeal bantustans and rejects the reasonable demand that it stop uprooting Palestinians, adhere to international law and numerous UN resolutions, and stop illegal settlements that violate Palestinian sovereignty. And lifting the numerous curfews, restrictions, withholding of tax credits, hundreds of checkpoints and sanctions that make the OPT a living hell and open air prison for its inhabitants would be nice. It is thus disingenuous in light of aliyah and the rights Israeli Jews claim for themselves that Medved writes:

    In other words, they demand not one Palestinian homeland, but two: one of them east of the Jordan, and the other one west of the Jordan. As part of the ludicrous “peace proposal,” Israel would give up two of the basics of national existence: the right to control entry into the country, and to define citizenship.

    The only ludicrous thing is that these are the very things Israel insists upon for itself: more than two homelands, it claims for itself the right to offer automatic citizenship to, and be the country for, all jews everywhere, both within an undefined Israel and in encroaching illegal settlements. So it insists upon this “right” of any diaspora Jew to “return” to Israel, whether indigenous to the Middle East or not, at any time, while simultaneously denying even visitor visas to Palestinians and preventing family reunions with Israel Arabs. What possibly gives Israel the entitlement to do this whilst denying rights to the indigenous inhabitants?

    Israel actively encourages aliya as it is in fact afraid that Israeli Arabs will eventually outnumber Jews on current birth rate projections and that Jews will lose their imposed majority. Yes, Jews have always lived in the Holy Land, but not by imposed majority. There are numerous racist laws that actively discriminate against its own Israeli Arab citizens, breaking up families and preventing family reunions. This is a glaring fact Medved does not even acknowledge, let alone address.

    It is not, not has it ever really been an issue of Israel’s existence being under threat or not being recognized, only about its heavy-handed hegemony. Its about time it recognizes its neighbors, accepts this real chance for peace, and renounce violence and occupation.

    In returning to the spirit and intent of this post, I quote from Mazin Qumsiyeh who writes in Sharing the Land of Canaan:

    Lord Balfour wrote in a memorandum to Lord Curzon, his successor at the Foreign Office, on 11 August 1919 (two years after the Balfour declaration): “In Palestine we do not propose to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants… Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long tradition, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land.” While this statement grossly underestimated the number of native people in Palestine at the time, it is significant in its colonial language. As events unfolded later, there was good reason for the fears of the native population. This was especially after Great Britain twisted arms at the league of nations to acquire a “mandate” in Palestine appointing a Zionist to carry Zionist dreams which were contrary to the founding charter of the league of nations which called for self-determination. Ironically history repeated itself when the US and the Soviet Union (replacing England and France as dominant superpowers) lobbied for partition of Palestine in 1947 even when this was contrary to the UN charter, which is clear on issues of self-determination.

    From Israel’s first Prime Minister:

    “it must be clear that there is no room in the country for both peoples . . . If the Arabs leave it, the country will become wide and spacious for us . . . The only solution is a Land of Israel, at least a western land of Israel (i.e. Palestine since Transjordan is the eastern portion), without Arabs. There is no room here for compromises . . . There is no way but to transfer the Arabs from here to the neighboring countries, to transfer all of them, save perhaps for Bethlehem, Nazareth, and the old Jerusalem. Not one village must be left, not one tribe. The transfer must be directed at Iraq, Syria, and even Transjordan. For this goal funds will be found . . . And only after this transfer will the country be able to absorb millions of our brothers and the Jewish problem will cease to exist. There is no other solution.” (cited in Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestine Refugee Problem, Cambridge University Press,1989, p. 27 & Nur Masalha, Expulsion Of The Palestinians, ibid pp. 131-132)

    The Palestinians have every right to live on their land and to resist the violent dispossession the ongoing settler project entails. This is not to condone violence nor terrorist acts by either side, who should be looking to peaceful resolution for mutual benefit. As an established state and as the stronger player, the onus is particularly on Israel to take responsibility for its past atrocities and to move forward.

    Accepting Palestinians as humans, not as a demographic ticking time bomb or demographic “problem”, is the first crucial step, as is seeing Israel as necessarily part of the region, not alien to it or one that disdains or feels superior to it. Lebanon is also a modern democracy with both eastern and western influences, and so Israelis should jettison this chauvinistic attitude that their state is “the only democracy in the Middle East”. That is demonstrably false.

    Clearly, the self-determination of a state can not be achieved by the violent negation of the self-determination of another. What makes one more “worthy” as humans over another, more entitled to land or resources and to get away with theft and murder in order to do so? Not all Zionists are racist supremacists and some are horrified at how Zionism is being invoked and applied, but whether a progressive Zionism is in fact possible, whether its exclusivity and supremacism can be reformed, will have to be the topic of a forthcoming post.

    Let us recall that the Palestinians weren’t responsible in any way for the Holocaust. Jews and Arabs Christians and Muslims had long coexisted well before the creation of the state of Israel. A two state solution is fast being rendered impossible due to Israel’s deferment of meaningful solutions. Palestinians have historically not had a problem co-existing with Jews nor did they insist upon separateness, so why do Jews insist upon it (Jewish excusivity/ artificially maintained majority) in the state of Israel? Much of that answer, I would suggest, revolves around colonial racism.

    Its time for a sensible one state solution, with a Holy land shared by all three Abrahamic religions alike, and not simply claimed almost exclusively for and by Israeli Jews.

    Archbishop Desmond Tutu is an ardent supporter of justice in the Palestinian cause and has notably said: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” In light of numerous human rights infractions and US shielding Israel from international law and vetoing the international consensus that calls for Israel to end the occupation and allow the Palestinians to develop and be accorded their inalienable human rights, Archbishop Tutu and many others, including Israelis themselves are calling for divestment campaigns and boycotts of Israel until it does decide to join the international community as a normal state. This is not even to much go into the US bankrolling of Israeli belligerent militarism, which claims a third of the US “aid” budget (conservative figures). In light of the peace offers from the Arab world, how long can Israel claim that it lives in a hostile region? It might start being a good neighbor. It might be surprised with Arab magnanimity and legendary hospitality.

    I welcome further comment. This is a quick response and obviously I don’t claim to be comprehensive. I may come back to embed relevant links, time permitting. I will also get to the J-Post article (J-Post is generally regarded as a government mouthpiece).

    Happy Easter, Jack!

  15. peoplesgeography
    6 April, 2007

    Mr Savant,

    Your presence and valued involvement is my gift. ;) Thanks for the encouragement and for the 3/5ths link. I’m fascinated by early American history and learned much. Muchas gracias.

  16. Servant
    6 April, 2007

    Gotta love her. She just raaaaaaaaaaaawks.

  17. Pingback: A last bit of unpleasantness before the weekend, including Palestine, Pelosi, Iraq, Iran, Olmert, and Bush. Yikes. « Doug’s Darkworld

  18. unitedcats
    7 April, 2007

    I have now blogged about this essay and some of the links in the comments:

    Doug’s Darkworld


  19. David Baldinger
    7 April, 2007

    I began to read the excrement produced by Medved’s word processor but couldn’t get past the first paragraph. It is Michael Medved, after all. Why bother? Those of us who know his politics know exactly what he will write. What I found even more appalling than Medved’s “opinions” are the comments beneath the article. Americans can be such disgusting jackasses. As Ben can attest, I am in a foul mood concerning the USA and its inhabitants. If I could fucking emigrate, I would! (excuse my profanity but I felt the emphasis was called for)

  20. Richard Carey
    7 April, 2007


    That’s a quick response? Okay, so you’ve set the Israelis in their place. What about Hamas? What about having a little understanding for the Israeli position? Or are they non-humans? You talk about “past atrocities”, but not one mention of any atrocity against the Israelis.


    could you explain in what way the British were responsible for deaths in Vietnam? and Chile? I should be grateful, I suppose, you didn’t blame the British for the 70 Million Chinese Mao Zedong killed (or maybe they were complicit, after all they didn’t stop him did they?). And for all your zionist quotes, don’t you think you could find quotes from the other side of the conflict just as bad if not worse?

  21. peoplesgeography
    7 April, 2007

    David, the comments in those sources are pretty dismaying, aren’t they? Ben’s online Daily Kos diary comments on the zionist article and art he featured attracted the most banal irrelevancies. When they weren’t loud and obnoxious, the commenters were spamming on everything but the content of the article. I find the ones in the Jerusalem Post the worst (I think they preference the ones that support the outlook of the paper — they’re moderated), and Ha’aretz only slightly better.

    I can see why people who do want to take the issue seriously are just turned off and don’t bother. That creates an illusion of false consensus to the uninitiated, as if “everyone” who comments feels this way. I know I’ve quoted this gem from Carl Becker (1938) before, but here ’tis again:

    “Whether arguments command assent or not depends less upon the logic that conveys them than upon the climate of opinion in which they are sustained.”

    And right now the climate of opinion especially in the US on this topic is … well, it needs a lot of work. Its the climate change we do need.

    To be fair, I also often feel the same way about Australia, in the last six or so years anyway. With the awful policies of this current government (not adhering to Australia’s own law in defence of one of its own citizens in Gitmo, locking up children as well as adults in indefinite detention, lying about refugees throwing their children overboard, in cahoots with their US and UK neocon counterparts to unconscionably invade Afghanistan and Iraq and participate in the destruction) many of us haven’t been given much reason to be proud of our governments.

  22. peoplesgeography
    7 April, 2007


    Right off the bat, a little clarification is in order — I think you have your persons mixed up. First, the long response was posted by Ann, not Jack. I signed off saying “Happy Easter, Jack” referring to Jack, not signing off as him. Second, I’d be happy to address British complicity in deaths in Vietnam and Chile, but be aware, as clearly set out in the article, that the research I present and review is by Mark Curtis, and not mine. His focus is on Britain, not China. There are many books and articles on China and you are directed to that body of work if you are so interested. You are also referred to Curtis’s substantial body of work, much of it based upon declassified documents, for further information.

    On choice of focus, I would suggest to you that Mark Curtis is no more required to also look at Chinese human rights abuses than I am compelled to focus on acts of terrorism by the Palestinian side here. You can no more circumscribe the subject of my post than I yours.

    In any case, two wrongs do not make a right, and if you read back carefully, you will see that in my own words, I do not absolve any party from violence nor deny that racism exists elsewhere, simply that my choice of focus here was Curtis’s work on Britain, followed by my own insertion of zionist quotes that demonstrated how the Palestinians were regarded as unpeople, with British complicity.

    On the I-P conflict, it is the Israeli position that is overwhelmingly disseminated and trumpeted in the mainstream press, almost completely eclipsing the Palestinian narrative in some quarters, and just dominating or disproportionately receiving coverage in others. If I choose to not present the Israeli narrative here, it is in substantial part because of this failure for even handedness in the corporate press, so the alternative press often is compelled to act as a corrective and counterweight due to the almost exclusive exposure of the Israeli version only. If the alternative press appears to be pro-Palestinian, it is because the corporate press is mainly Israel-first. It is my contention that it is the Palestinian side that that is not getting a sufficient airing, not the Israeli. My chosen brief is batting for justice in this asymmetric conflict rather than being pro- one or the other, joined by and featuring many Israeli dissidents, such as Uri Avnery, Ilan Pappe, Amira Hass, Gideon Levy, and many other Jewish voices of conscience. They are all on display at this site and I would suggest that a just resolution to this conflict is in Israel’s interests, too.

    Second, the whole point of the post was to demonstrate how groups are regarded as unpeople, to draw attention to this in order that all lives be considered equal. Nowhere are we suggesting that any group should actually be considered as unpeople, which makes your faintly accusatory suggestion rather deplorable and disingenuous (“Or are they non-humans?”).

    I would contend that in the last fifty years, any act of retaliation against Israelis, such as suicide bombers, has been as a direct result of dispossession and the longest military occupation in modern history. These acts of violence, which I do not condone, are not carried out because Israelis are Jews. They are despicable acts of violence that occur as a direct result of the dispossession and continued abuses perpetrated by the state of Israel.

    You would also be aware, I’d wager, of the asymmetric nature of this conflict, with a ratio of 1:4 deaths. Yet is the coverage anywhere near reflective of this?

    To be clear, seeking to understand the causes of violence is not tantamount to condoning it.

    From the Likudnik worldview and news coverage you’d be mistaken for getting the impression that Arabs are somehow congenitally predisposed toward violence, naturally backward or unable to govern themselves, and inherently hateful of Israeli Jews rather than understandably desirous of defending their homes, their identity, their dignity and their freedom and resisting dispossession and the brutal Israeli occupation.

    For any writing and utterances that are truly anti-Judaic (I do not use the word anti-Semitic since it almost rendered meaningless and a misnomer for any legitimate criticism of Israel), I wholeheartedly condemn it. I do not deny that this racism exists, but that it is grossly inflated by the proponents of “Israel right-or-wrong” and inappropriately leveled to shut down debate about and criticism of Israel.

    Now, to British foreign policy toward Vietnam and Chile; glad you asked.

    First, on Vietnam. The official view is that Britain decided not to send troops to Vietnam, in fact refused to do so. But this is not the extent or only measure of British military involvement. Declassified documents reveal that the British government provided important private backing to the US at every stage of military escalation, and played a critical covert and military role. Mark Curtis concludes from his research that “The reality is that Britain was complicit in the aggression against Vietnam and shares some responsibility for the massive human suffering that resulted.”

    This took the form of covert operations (secret British air flights from Hong Kong to deliver arms, napalm and five-hundred-pound bombs) and counter-insurgency programmes, based on extremely brutal measures in the British counter-insurgency in Malaya in the 1950s. As Curtis states, the British government has never admitted that British forces fought in Vietnam, yet the files confirm that they did (the Noone mission). Several remain censored.

    Curtis writes: “The British files show the degree of secret support Prime Minister Harold Wilson gave President Johnson, at every stage of escalation, often kept private given major British public opposition to the war – a good example, as currently with Iraq, of how the public threat is dealt with by private understandings among elites on both sides of the Atlantic.”

    This is complicated by the fact that Britain at the time co-chaired the Geneva Accords, with the Soviet Union, and were invested with the responsibility to uphold them. Yet the British connived with the US, promising not to raise the issue. ‘As co-chairman, Her Majesty’s Government are prepared to turn a blind eye to American activities’, the Foreign Office secretly stated. This intervention was a complete violation of the 1954 Geneva Accords that stipulated limits on the number of US military forces in Vietnam.

    The British provision of arms to the US for use in Vietnam was also done in the knowledge that it breached the Geneva Agreements. In September 1965 the Foreign Office exported 300 bombs intended for the US Air Force ‘for use in Vietnam’, saying that ‘there must be no publicity’ and that ‘delivery should be in the UK’. The previous month the Foreign Secretary similarly provided the US with 200 armoured personnel carriers for use in Vietnam on the proviso that ”delivery took place in Europe’ and that there was ‘no unavoidable publicity’.

    Please feel free to read an excerpt from Curtis research on British government involvement in Vietnam, from which this is drawn, here.

    Britain not only backed the US military invasions to the hilt with no concern for the victims (labelling human beings as communists or terrorists is the surest way to designate a population ‘unpeople’) but actively supported this stance by supplying arms, personnel and military intelligence.

    On Chile — the original Sept 11 atrocity and in which Britain welcomed General Pinochet’s brutal coup, why not read Mark Curtis work directly on this topic? In fact I’m grateful to you, Richard. In doing a quick search to ensure I was accurately representing Mark Curtis’s research, I have discovered that he also has a blog hosted at WordPress (smart man). So here’s a dedicated link on Chile for you, in addition to the links previously supplied.

    We obviously disagree but I welcome corrections of fact as well as dissenting opinions. Thank you for your comment. I hope you do follow up on the content of some of the links I’ve embedded.

    best wishes,

  23. Jack
    7 April, 2007

    Hi Ann!

    I have SO much to digest in the comments that have been posted, so I will be back with my thoughts.

    First, though, thank you so much for the information. I have printed it out, and I will definitely learn from it. I posted the following comment to Doug’s blog on the issue.

    Hi Doug,

    First–thanks for filling me in on your thoughts on the matter. I always find differing perspectives interesting.

    I can’t say on the issue of Israel I agree or disagree with you. I am much too ignorant on it, although I am trying to educate myself. A point I made to “Servant” on Ann’s blog was that it seemed that the whole issue was defined by absolutes–either the Israelis are absolutely in the wrong and the Palestinians absolutely right or v.v. In issues like this, I have always been a little leary of absolutes, because there are so many variables to every story that I am unaware of. Rarely in this world are things so clearly delineated. For example, I have a hard time considering the Palestinians as innocent victims when I see the current terrorism they engage in and the activities of the PLO, and the dispicable acts of Yasser Arafat(whom many on the left seem to see as a hero). You know me well enough by now, to realize that I am not much of a moral relativist, and I can’t see targetting women and children as something necessary to bring about social change or autonomy, or whatever. It also seems that the Palestinians also have a propaganda machine in the western media (if we want to use that term). It doesn’t matter what happens, the western media always seems to side with the Palestinians and demonize the Israelis. A bomb can go off in an Israeli market place killing babies, children, and innocents, and the media will somehow spin it. I am very wary of western media, and this makes the issue suspect for me. As you pointed out, Michael Medved’s article may be Israeli propaganda. I don’t know. He made admissions in his article of wrong-doing on the Israelis part, something I rarely see in articles supporting the Palestinian position. Because of that, I am a little more willing to take it seriously, because it does seem to temper its absolute either/or position. The point I got from Medved’s article was that activistic insistence seems to be hampering the peace process rather than helping it.

    What I don’t understand, is that we Americans (westerners) do not like any nation telling us what to do and yet we are very nosy in the affairs of others. We poke our noses into places like South Africa (reducing it in the process to a third world nation), and Israel, Iraq–always telling other countries what they should or shouldn’t do. We are also very selective in what we champion. Palestinian human rights seems a righteous cause, but we happily turn our heads and buy the products of a depraved and communist nation who grossly persecutes thier Christian population.

    The problem, Doug, is that I don’t see much consistency of principle in the causes westerners adopt. To me, it has always smacked of flavor-of-the-day activism, or trendy anti-semitic, anti-west, anti-capitalism, anti-American, the enemy-of-my-enemy type mindset.

    For this reason, I can’t easily dismiss articles like Medved’s as “just Israeli propaganda” any more than I can just dismiss Slate mag’s latest article supporting the Palestinians as just so much “Palestinian/Western left propaganda.”

    Doug, all I know is what people tell me-and there are always two sides to every story. Rarely in this world are there innocent parties. I haven’t been to Israel in over 20 years, so all I can go on is what our media reports, what Palestinian media reports and what Israeli media reports.

    Another note. I appreciate your words. I have little concern for agreement or disagreement–the important thing is the education. I learn SO much from people like you, Ann, and other bloggers with whom I share a wonderful relationship. In my mind, just because I disagree, doesn’t mean that I feel I am the right one–and even at my age I can still learn! I have been blogging for almost 4 years now, and you will not believe how much it has tempered or changed my viewpoint on many issues.

    Again, thanks again for the post and the information.


  24. Richard Carey
    7 April, 2007


    thanks for the clarification (sorry Jack).

    As for Mark Curtis, as a historian with a leftwing bent he focuses on exposing the evils of Britain on the international stage. Fine, plenty to write about, as he would have if he was French writing about France post-1945, ditto American, ditto Russian, ditto Chinese. As far as History goes, there are few good guys. Mark Curtis would perhaps like to see himself as valiantly challenging the “orthodox” “establishment” view that Britain has only ever made the world a better place. Unfortunately for Mark, he’s chasing a fox that was shot a long time ago. Mark’s views are the establishment views. As long ago as the 1930’s and 40’s George Orwell was writing of the British intelligencia’s hatred for patriotism and all things British. At the time they were a small minority, but they have triumphed. The only thing about the British Empire a schoolchild learns in Britain is that it was cruel and used slavery. To find examples of nefarious and shady deals involving British interests is not difficult, and Mark Curtis is shooting fish in a barrel.

    The actions of British interests during the post-war period did not happen in a vacuum. This was the time of the Cold War. (You may care to reflect on the Soviet backing of Syria and Egypt during the wars with Israel – it was never a foregone conclusion that Israel would prevail militarily). Regarding Vietnam, it doesn’t look to me that British involvement was significant. Supplying one afternoon’s worth of bombs for the Americans didn’t exactly change the outcome. Likewise for Chile. Allende was overthrown by his own military, yes with CIA backing, yes no doubt to the satisfaction of British capitalists. The influence of the British over this was close to zero.

    As for Israel/Palestine, I don’t see the pro-Israel bias that you see, unless by this you mean Israel is not treated as a pariah state like South Africa was under apartheid? When you support Palestinian self-defence, does this extend to firing rockets out of Gaza? You also describe suicide bombings as “despicable acts of violence that occur as a direct result of the dispossession and continued abuses perpetrated by the state of Israel.” Do you deny to the Palestinians their agency in choosing to do this? Are you not here blaming the suicide bombs on the Israelis, as if the Palestinians are “non-people” , constrained to act in this way? Following a suicide bombing, when the Israelis, for instance, assassinated a leader of Hamas, how do you describe this? A despicable act of violence occurring as the direct result of a monstrous crime against the Israelis? Or do you chase all acts of violence back to the original – Israeli – source when attributing blame? Does this also apply when Palestinians are killing each other like in the recent fatah/Hamas feud? My point is, being a person and not a non-person means being accountable for what you do. I do not deny the profound constraints upon the Palestinians, but the ultimate non-person is the suicide bomber – most often a young, impressionable, brainwashed and dehumanised killing machine. This is not the direct result of the Israelis’ actions. An indirect result maybe, but to call it a direct result implies there is no other result possible, which is not the case.

    I thank you for your courteous response to my earlier post. You may conclude otherwise, but I am neither rabbidly pro-British nor pro-Israeli. I don’t deny Britain’s involvement and complicity in many shameful things. But look at Darfur and the inaction of the World. We all know terrible crimes are being committed, yet the World stands idly by. Guilt and complicity are not confined to the Anglo-Saxons.

    As for Israel, in the past I was vociferously on the side of the Palestinians, but the more I read the less one-sided I could be. In the end the question for me was “in the present position, what can the Israelis do?” Whatever they give up will not guarantee their security, either personal or collective. What do you offer them?

    “its time for a sensible one state solution, with a Holy land shared by all three Abrahamic religions alike, and not simply claimed almost exclusively for and by Israeli Jews.”

    In other words, the destruction of the state of Israel. Why on earth do you expect Israelis to accept this?

  25. peoplesgeography
    8 April, 2007

    Thanks for the rejoinder, Richard. Please refresh the page if you see this right away, I’ll post the comment but come back to embed links.

    First up on your last point, was the end of South African apartheid the “destruction” of South Africa? You and I presumably both see Israel’s long term security as being contingent upon a just resolution of this conflict. How are illegal settlements part of Israel’s security? How is refusing to define its own borders somehow critical to its wellbeing? Israel wants to be treated as a normal state but refuses to act like one. States define their borders. How is maintaining a brutal occupation and starving people into submission, curtailing their movements and arousing their natural resentment (pregnant women, the infirm and invalids outrageously refused passage at checkpoints, mothers dying in childbirth there, the daily bulldozing of homes). How would you and I feel if our homes were bulldozed, would we not be naturally resentful, to say the least?

    Like many I am inclined toward a two state solution but Israeli actions are fast making them impossible. That is, its land encroachments and “fluid” borders have resulted in territorially discontiguous bantustans that would be the dubious basis for any future Palestinian state. These deliberate accretions are the results of colonial design, not accident. How can Israel actively make the two state solution increasingly impossible, yet cry foul when the one state solution is increasingly being proposed, from people like Virginia Tilley to Ali Abunimah? A creative bi-national vision has also been proposed by Israeli Arab leaders.

    You contend that Israel is getting nothing in return: (“Whatever they give up will not guarantee their security, either personal or collective. What do you offer them?” ) What in fact has Israel given up? Even when it finally evacuated the settlements from the Gaza Strip under Sharon, it didn’t end its occupation or tight control! As for what is being offered the Israelis, the renewed Saudi peace initiative offers unprecedented full formal recognition from all Arab states and all the implicit diplomatic ties and peaceful relations that implies. Yet it is stalling. What does Israel want? Uri Avnery suggests that the Israel establishment has actively resisted any meaningful peace initiatives because it prefers the status quo, one that entails endless war.

    In terms of agency, I agree with you that agency and accountability are inextricably linked. I do not deny the minority of Palestinians who engage in this any more than I do the agency of IDF soldiers shooting on defenceless Palestinian schoolchildren. The difference is that one type of terrorism is backed by a state apparatus armed to the teeth and bankrolled by the world’s superpower. Nor do I deny the positive agency of Hamas in upholding a ceasefire for over eighteen months even in the face of continuing Israeli aggression and occupation. Nor do I deny the agency of choice of many international supporters who engage in numerous daily acts of non-violent civil resistance that have often been met brutally by the IDF.

    Has the Palestinian leadership been exemplary and above board? No, they have often been corrupt megalomaniacs. That’s largely why Hamas was elected. Do you deny the Israeli government their agency in boycotting this democratically elected government, in influencing the EU to do same, in refusing to even talk to them?

    So in apportioning blame, both sides get some in my accounting, as I presume yours, though one column in mine might be weighted differently than yours. And it is because the Palestinians operate in constraints determined by the Israelis. Being constrained to act hardly means I am saying they are non-people, in fact it is their denial of agency by the Israelis that makes them unpeople. You seem to be suggesting that my very suggestion that their agency is constrained is tantamount to my suggesting that they are un-people. This observation does not make it so, the Israeli actions and their active campaign of denial and dispossession make it so.

    You then query the Fatah-Hamas fighting and whether the trail of blame goes back to Israel there too, in my books. This is often served up as an example of people “blaming everything on Israel”. This is a simplification and distortion. First, let’s take your excellent point in the Vietnam section that British complicity didn’t happen in a vacuum, it happened during the Cold war. I would agree with that. Similarly, the internal feuding here also didn’t happen in a vacuum, it happened in an intense pressure cooker created by the Israeli occupation: conditions where much of the population is cut off from electricity when Israel struck Gaza’s electricity plant, where there are next to no social services, where international aid is not allowed in, where development is not allowed to happen (Israel refused to let in Palestinian-Americans like developer Sam Bahour on even a 3 month visa—why?), where movement is severely restricted, where it is the most crowded place on earth with malnutrition and unemployment unacceptably high—-sounds like a living hell to me! In my study of social conditions, of course tensions are going to be rife. And are we forgetting the perennial policies of divide and conquer and open strategies of courting a quisling by the US in arming and funding Abu Mazen? An excellent piece on this is by Amira Hass in Ha’aretz: Can you really not see?

    In any case there is now a unity Palestinian government, with pending recognition of Israel — yet the US and Israeli governments continue to apply draconian economic sanctions and boycotts — why?

    I largely agree with you here:

    The actions of British interests during the post-war period did not happen in a vacuum. This was the time of the Cold War. (You may care to reflect on the Soviet backing of Syria and Egypt during the wars with Israel – it was never a foregone conclusion that Israel would prevail militarily).

    Are you saying the intelligentsia are “self-hating Brits”?:

    As long ago as the 1930’s and 40’s George Orwell was writing of the British intelligencia’s hatred for patriotism and all things British. At the time they were a small minority, but they have triumphed. The only thing about the British Empire a schoolchild learns in Britain is that it was cruel and used slavery.

  26. peoplesgeography
    8 April, 2007

    Continued — response to Richard (scroll down for message to Jack):

    How does pointing out to the great gulf between rhetoric and reality in foreign policy and claims of liberation and democratisation make you a despiser of all things British?! I happen to like a lot of things British, and American too for that; how does decrying colonial policies make you a “hater”? Yes, there might be a disdain for cheap jingoistic patriotism, but I hardly think the British intelligentsia of any age or political persuasion hated their whole country. We see this type of curious charge leveled at American dissenters as well: if they criticize Bush they must “hate America”!

    Yes, “(g)uilt and complicity are not confined to the Anglo-Saxons”, certainly, but as any student of international relations knows, the hegemons or world powers do often bear greater scrutiny for it is they that are enabled with the greater power to act. They do have greater agency, going back to that point. Whether Sweden or Canada would act the same or follow the same rise-decline-fall trajectory as a Pax Romana or Pax Americana were it in their shoes might well be a worthy study of the behaviour of hegemons, their cultural differences and of hegemony in world order.

    I think the work of Mark Curtis and others goes towards highlighting the misuse of hegemonic power and the discrepancy between its ideals and claims on one hand and its actions and abuses on the other. The significance of this perhaps is so that we may move toward a more equitable arrangement of world order, and recognise the victims of injustice that so often go unnoticed and undocumented in the western media. This is important in no small part because our refusal to document this goes towards “blowback”, in Chalmers Johnson’s phrase. Chalmers Johnson happens not to be a left wing historian; I value the historical scholarship of both these historians whether they are right or left of centre. Being the latter doesn’t disqualify or invalidate Curtis’s findings.

    You may therefore hold the opinion to which you are entitled that “it doesn’t look to me that British involvement was significant. Supplying one afternoon’s worth of bombs for the Americans didn’t exactly change the outcome” but this would seem to be a reductionist assessment—JMO. The whole point Curtis is I think making, is not that the British government changed the outcome but that the British input made them indirectly complicit in the deaths of millions of lives (when the conflicts are aggregated), in a number of ways as previously outlined. This has not in fact been acknowledged previously because the documents are only gradually becoming declassified.


    To Jack,

    Many thanks for your comment. As it was addressed to him, I’d invite Doug to respond in the first instance and then I would be happy to do so (and would invite anyone to jump in, if they wish).

  27. Richard Carey
    8 April, 2007


    in no particular order…

    “Are you saying the intelligentsia are “self-hating Brits”?” – by and large, yes. As Orwell observed (I think in “the lion and the unicorn”)

    “In left-wing circles it is always always felt that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman and that it is a duty to snigger at every English institution, from horse racing to suet puddings. It is a strange fact, but it is unquestionably true that almost any English intellectual would feel more ashamed of standing to attention during ‘God save the King’ than of stealing from a poor box.”

    This is just as true today as when he wrote it. The difference however is that this is now the prevailing mentality of the establishment (the media, the political elite, education etc), not just a handful of marxist professors.

    Regarding South Africa (and I don’t accept there’s much in common between these two situations), no the end of apartheid didn’t mean the destruction of that country (although it has serious problems that shouldn’t be ignored)
    but your solution does indeed mean the end of Israel. I accept you are not advocating the destruction of the Jewish people in Israel but you are, unless I have misunderstood, proposing the end of the “zionist entity” AKA Israel.

    In any case in South Africa you had two sides prepared to talk to each other. You cannot equate Hamas with Mandela.

    As regards America and Britain and their (in Britain’s case historic) role as “hegemons”, surely if the Iraq war shows anything, it is that “hegemons” cannot control the world? I have no problem with historians washing my country’s dirty linen in public, and have no doubt over the disparity between stated philanthropic aims and crooked means that are employed by the powers that be in this world of ours.
    This is no more true of America/Britain than of other powers. Look at communism/socialism. Look at the idealistic vision. Compare to the reality of concentration camps, gulags, reigns of terror. And still people will wear Che Guevara teeshirts, in total ignorance of what he actually did, such as executing (I understand) hundreds of political opponents in Cuba. As for Canada or Sweden and whether they would be as bad given the chance, I can’t speak for the former – and the latter ask the Norwegians, they might have some things to say! As to complicity, as I say above, what about Darfur? While we argue about the past, crimes are going on now, and the only question the western leftists will ask is “can we blame America for this?” and as they can’t they’ll ignore it.

    I’m not going to justify Israel’s policies in the West Bank, but as with your point about the Hamas/Fatah feud not being in a vacuum, Israel/Palestine is not in a vacuum. If you’re talking about “right of return”, what about the Iraqi Jews? What about the Syrian Jews? Is it not the case that the Palestinians have been used as pawns in the game against Israel? Why else are they still living in refugee camps 60 years on? If you go to Germany you don’t find refugee camps full of people from Danzig.

    It’s a confusing business. I don’t claim to know the answer. Here’s a couple of interesting articles I proffer as grist to the mill, one of an Egyptian/American writer, one from a “liberal” Arab writer on the Saudi peace initiative.

    Happy Easter!
    Richard Carey

  28. peoplesgeography
    8 April, 2007

    And a Happy Easter to you, Richard.

    Are you reducing all learned Englishmen and women to one writer’s characterisation several decades ago? As great a writer as Orwell is, I can not take this proposition too seriously.

    The well-educated English may dislike their government’s imperial misadventures, that’s not to say they hate everything English or dislike everything about themselves.

    Indeed, arguably, what they are contesting is the authorship to construct what is English — and there are many applaudable things they can claim, here, one need not equate it with just negative, oppressive things. If they reject one part of what is constructed to be English, that needn’t mean they reject Englishness or hate it. That would mean that they accept by default the very categories and characterisations that they are contesting, wouldn’t it?

    MEMRI is little more than a selectively sourced propaganda tool started by former Israeli intelligence officers. At the start of almost every new discussion with a zionist, I am presented with Arabs for Israel, entirely consisting of a sole co-opted woman. Non-starter.

    You had two sides willing to talk to each other in South Africa? Not without a lot of agitation and after much struggle. And the Palestinians are willing to talk to the Israelis. Its the Israeli side that rebuffs meaningful talks over and over, if it even agrees to any talks at all. Yes, one can not equate Hamas with Mandela, one is an individual, the other a group, a party.

    Your dismissal that western leftists ignore problems outside the ambit of “can we blame America for this?” is reductionist and unfounded. I care about the existence and resolution of a problem for itself, not whether I can blame America. Causality is never that simple. This mono-causality is also reflected in your reasoning, I daresay, that leftists somehow only care about problems if/ when they can blame the US. That is demonstrably not true. If some causality is usually laid at the door of various US administrations, it is usually for very good reasons!

    I’ve seen a number of good left-wing treatments of Dafur. Conversely, all I see on zionist sites are huge banners about Dafur while ignoring the glaring Palestinian problem, not to mention the genocide in Iraq.

    Che Guevera is only one iconic figure who has been appropriated by mass culture. Heck, he and Lenin have also been used for commercial advertisements, are you going to take those companies and advertising agencies to task as well for commodifying figures who advocated and participated in violent uprisings?

    Glad you raised the Syrian and Iraqi Jews. Some of these were expelled only after the creation of the state of Israel and corresponding dispossession of the indigenous Palestinians, but they were also spirited out, often violently, by the zionists themselves, who needed desperately to quickly populate the nascent state of Israel.

    What “game against Israel” do you speak? I can think of a lot of other compelling reasons the Palestinians are still in refugee camps, and while the puppet regimes in the Arab world may have a hand in it, I’m not entirely blaming them, either.

    Like you, I’m not claiming to have all the answers. But I disagree that it is confusing. There is a clear consensus now about the injustices perpetrated against the Palestinians, and now there is a credible, wide-ranging and unanimous peace offer on the table. Whether the Zionists in Israel can muster up the courage and willingness to embrace peace remains to be seen.

  29. Richard Carey
    8 April, 2007


    I stand by my comments regarding the British intelligencia. and by the Orwell quote, which is merely one apple plucked from the tree. You say:

    “Indeed, arguably, what they are contesting is the authorship to construct what is English”

    Perhaps. And then they seek to impose their construct on the rest of us. I’m not going to convince you, but I know what I speak of. Here’s an example of a leftist teachers union scrapping with a leftist government about Britishness.

    I have no truck with either side. They are both wrong and deluded in my opinion. The government have done what you say and constructed their version of Britishness. The Union fights it, because even the name belies racism (or nationalism or fascism, whatever). Now that the left has triumphed, the cultural wars are between their various factions.

    You dismiss Memri, but it’s pure ad hominem. So what if they have ex-Israeli security people working for them? It doesn’t mean their translations are inaccurate. They are selective? What isn’t selective? They translate what they think is relevant and interesting, namely extreme voices and moderate voices. Can you find another translation of Gaddafi’s recent speech in Niger? No doubt there is one somewhere, but not on the mainstream media I checked. Truth is truth, no matter who says it.

    You say you’ve “seen a number of good left-wing treatments of Dafur.” Maybe so, but words are not actions. Words in the media, whether the msm or the blogosphere do not stop a militia burning down a village and murdering or raping the inhabitants. In the era of mass communication and mass media we also have mass complicity. C’est la vie.

    You talk of the “unanimous” peace offer (except Hamas and Syria who abstain). Let us hope it leads somewhere. You also talk of “puppet regimes” – aren’t these the people making the offer?

    As I’ve said before, I don’t justify the actions of the Israelis in the West Bank nor deny the suffering of the Palestinian people. But you need to see it from the Israelis point of view as well, and although you deny it’s confusing, I fear this is because you reject the suffering on the other side of the war. You seem to justify the victimisation of Middle Eastern Jews on the the grounds that Palestinians had already suffered. You allege that these Jews were forced by Israel to relocate, and again it seems all roads of blame lead to the zionists. I’ll leave it to you to google Iraqi Jews and read their history. Here’s one place:

    More than once, you accuse me of “reductionist” thinking. I suggest you are doing this very thing. By focusing on the one tree of Israeli misdeeds, you don’t see the forest.

    As for Che Guevara, his image is iconic, and in this sense no different from Marilyn Monroe or Mick Jagger’s lips, or anyone else Andy Warhol might have painted. But as a man, he was a cold-blooded murderer. I’m sure the intelligencia love him.

  30. peoplesgeography
    8 April, 2007

    Richard, I appreciate your response. Taking it from the last point. Correct me if I’m off here: it sounds like you are casting aspersions on the intelligentsia, suggesting that they generically love coldblooded murderers. Do you count other leaders, such as Churchill (who gassed the Kurds well before Saddam) and Bush, in this scenario? Or how about the person who ordered the nukes on Japan, which history has shown didn’t in fact “need” to happen to end the second world war? I’m presuming the intelligentsia of whom you speak are quite critical of these leaders, but in your reckoning, they’d love them because they were mass murderers, or is that incidental to their criteria for lionisation?

    Second, I apologise for labeling your reasoning as reductionist. In a forum such as this, while we can proffer much by way of argument, it also doesn’t exactly lend itself to nuanced thought. Most points will necessarily be reductionist and simplify the kaleidoscopic complexity of events into digestible points. I accept that. Going back to the Israeli narrative, I also stand by what I said earlier about this chosen focus acting as a counterweight, and that batting for justice and highlighting the Palestinian side does not preclude an awareness of the genuine and keenly felt insecurity and trauma on the part of Israeli Jews. Sometimes this has been glossed over or entirely discounted. You may be surprised to know that it is Arab scholars I have read who have pointed to this and argued that the Arab world needs to understand this history and legacy. I will search for the articles in question (they are not the ones below), meanwhile, this may interest you:

    Azmi Bishara on the Holocaust

    but also
    Chris Hedges, Coveting the Holocaust
    Eliahu Salpeter, The State We’re In Today, Ha’aretz

    No, I do not reject the suffering of Israelis, particularly in the northern towns. It is within Israel’s greater agency to have this violence stopped by ending the brutal military occupation. Does this mean that the Palestinians who launch the rockets don’t also have a critical agential responsibility to end their violence? No, it does include both; the point I’m making is that as the stronger partner the onus is on the Israeli government to meet the Palestinians halfway at the very least, in good faith. To date, I would suggest that they have not done that.

    We can acknowledge violence done to both sides and offer condolences all day, the point is to stop it.

    And neither side has a monopoly on the victim space (you’d be forgiven for thinking that some in the Israeli side claim they do). So what if much of the blame does appear to go back to the zionists actions? Credit where credit is due, blame and responsibility where they’re due. Those who piece together this chain of causality are not responsible for enacting it.

    What I and others do reject is the framing of legitimate resistance as somehow a threat to Israel, as an existential crisis. That’s not fooling people. The Likudniks are belligerently calling for another war, including against Iran. And for what? President Ahmadinejad never saidwipe off the map“. This is an idiom in English, not Persian.

    Yet it is framed as yet another existential crisis. Jewish fears are deliberately played upon to whip up fear and hysteria. This is unconscionable. We have had Netanyahu recently calling Ahmadinejad Hitler and Iran 1938 Germany, this is of real concern to sensible people everywhere. Does rejecting this extreme war mongering belligerency somehow constitute “rejecting the real suffering of Israelis”?

    Pray tell, exactly how do I justify the victimisation of Middle Eastern Jews on the the grounds that Palestinians had already suffered? I condemn their victimisation, and merely say their victimisers were not just Arab governments as you seem to do, but that it was also the Zionists who used underhand and often brutal means to spirit them out. It was a combination of expulsion (Arab governments) and coercive manipulation (Zionists), not just one or the other. I’m endeavouring to point to both.

    On that, thanks for the link. I find this part of history fascinating. Only a hundred years ago, one third of the population of Baghdad was Jewish. That says a lot to me, it offers hopeful reminders that religious groups can co-exist (the number of Iraqi Christians, too, has dwindled, due to emigration). I consider the Jewish communities there as testament to coexistence and acknowledge their suffering in being forced to leave their longstanding homes after the creation of the state of Israel. Lest we forget that there is still a Jewish community in Lebanon, and a much larger one in Iran (at least 25 000).

    Similarly, please explain what exactly your point is if some of the participants in the Arab peace initiative are characterised as puppet regimes or client states? That does not preclude them having a stake in finally bringing an end to this. US ally Saudi Arabia (as well as Libya’s Gaddafi and Iraq’s Talabani) have been quite critical of the US recently:

    These actors, though pro-US, are not automatons. I suspect even they are obliged to state the obvious when things are this bad, particularly in Iraq (a war Israel wanted and pushed for).

    On MEMRI. I do dismiss it because of its extremely narrow selectivity and distortion arising from this. You counter with “what isn’t selective” — yet you use the converse to level a charge of not seeing the forest for the trees in my choice of focus. I would suggest that MEMRI can not see the forest, and that contrary to your claim that it much features reasonable and moderate voices, every time I have gone to their front page, without fail they will feature the most abhorrent and incriminating examples of intolerance in the Middle East, as if nothing else existed. Yet their stated brief is to provide a wide-ranging translation of Middle East media, not simply of selective sources. Can we draw a reasonable and informed picture of British or western society by highlighting only their negative and sensationalist voices as MEMRI does on its front page? I’m not saying its translations are invalid because of its Israeli intelligence connection, merely that it is a good idea to check the ownership, origins and agenda of any media outlet. Just as truth is truth, an agenda is an agenda. I suspect we may have to agree or disagree on this one, but I do support in principle a translation service to foster understanding, allow scrutiny and promote accountability. There are also Hebrew-only articles that often appear I wouldn’t mind reading, such as this one by Israeli Laureate Shulamit Aloni.

    Finally, on British identity: an interesting link, thanks for inserting it. On a quick skim, the article starts off sensationally (“The first ethnic minority president of the National Union of Teachers has said ministers fuel racism by ordering schools to teach “British values”), then delves into the finer points which actually sound a bit more reasonable. (imposed notions of Britishness by sectional interests). I’m not saying I entirely agree with the NUT President, perhaps she has come over inappropriately and forcefully and it might also have a bit to do with establishment defensiveness and over-sensitivity at Britain’s overtly colonial past. Just musing out loud. As you know, identity is multilayered and becoming more so. It is disrupting more established and monolithic notions of what our identities can and should be. We often learn most about a society from the perspective of those at the margins — they compel and allow us to scrutinise taken for granted notions. We should be heeding how and why they are feeling alienated or excluded. Rather than taking umbrage at the outspokenness of the NUT President, may we not listen to her and reflect upon her perspective? It may or may not be objectionable — I’m hardly saying that coming from an ethnic minority insures one against the same scrutiny — but at least consider it.

    As someone with a different background, I may have a different perspective to yours, and likewise you may offer insights from your perspective that I could not otherwise come to from mine. That’s the beauty of contemporary British society, its laudable openness and cross-fertilisation of people and ideas. Whatever we may think of multiculturalism (different conceptions therein, it too is not a homogeneous concept) vs identifying what are uniquely national values, recognising and obviating institutionalised privilege and racism and batting for opportunity for all is not the sole preserve of lefties. It should be a British, nay a human, value.

    Thanks again, sincerely, Richard, for this dialogue.

  31. unitedcats
    8 April, 2007

    Well, I hardly know where to begin. Or more accurately, I know where to begin but I don’t think I can go much further than that. Just a couple of quick observations that occurred to me as I read the above:

    Israel has never been seriously threatened by its Arab neighbours. Even in the 48 war the IDF was much larger, better equipped, and better trained that the Arab militias and police forces they were fighting. Since then the situation has gotten far more unbalanced, Israel is one of the world’s foremost military powers, and the supreme military power in the Middle East…with its own nuclear arsenal and backed by the mind numbing USA military arsenal. Arab sabre rattling notwithstanding, there is not not nor has there ever been any chance that Israel would be destroyed militarily by its neighbours. As to whether this apparently widely held fear is psychological or the result of propaganda I will not comment on.

    MEMRI is accorded the status of a “news” outlet by few if any mainstream news feeds. Without fail they translate only the most hateful voices in the Arab street, and often twist, mistranslate, and misrepresent what they do feature. All news sites have their bias no doubt, but at least on some level they are trying to be balanced. MEMRI is not even trying, they are an anti-Arab propaganda site masquerading as a news site.

    Just my two cents, Peace to All this Easter. —Doug

  32. Jack
    10 April, 2007

    Wow! This may have gotten way out of my league! I was busy hunting easter eggs yesterday, but I’ll be back.

    First, though, congrats Ann on an awesome post and discussion–32 comments and counting.


  33. peoplesgeography
    10 April, 2007

    Thanks for the comments and lively discussion. I managed to read, though not rescue, a follow-up comment that went to my spam folder by mistake that was from Richard. I had cleared them en masse before Richard’s legit message caught my eye, but was able to read it by pressing ‘back’ on my browser (though this doesn’t of course allow the comment to go through).

    Basically Richard responded to Doug‘s characterisation of MEMRI and his charge that they have mistranslations. I agree with Doug, with the qualification that it is not so much sins of commission as omission and the ideological agenda MEMRI follows than allegations of deliberate mistranslations (I do watch Arabic television, and not only think much of it is fair, but you are able to watch material you’d rarely or never see in the sanitised and compliant corporate MSM here. Its a pity American households are not able to access the English version of Al Jazeera, for example.

    Thanks for your comment Jack and I do look forward to a further consideration and engagement with these issues after the Easter Egg hunt.

    You write “It also seems that the Palestinians also have a propaganda machine in the western media (if we want to use that term). It doesn’t matter what happens, the western media always seems to side with the Palestinians and demonize the Israelis. A bomb can go off in an Israeli market place killing babies, children, and innocents, and the media will somehow spin it.” I couldn’t disagree more, my friend. I too am wary about the mainstream media, but can not see any evidence of a Palestinian propaganda machine, nor a spinning of suicide bombing — and let’s not forget the equal value with Jews of human lives on the Palestinian side, with many more babies, children and innocents being killed, maimed or devastated daily. Both are abhorrent, the loss of human life anywhere.

    This US media list, written by Eric Alterman, a Jewish-American journalist, might interest you. Its a few years old but still indicative. A couple of interesting references that pertain to the British media, the other major source of English language news, then follows.

    All best wishes, Ann


    George Will, The Washington Post, Newsweek and ABC News

    William Safire, The New York Times

    A.M. Rosenthal, The New York Daily News, formerly Executive Editor of and later columnist for, The New York Times

    Charles Krauthammer, The Washington Post, PBS, Time, and The Weekly Standard, formerly of the New Republic

    Michael Kelly, The Washington Post, The Atlantic Monthly, National Journal, and, formerly of The New Republic and The New Yorker

    Lally Weymouth, The Washington Post

    Newsweek Martin Peretz, The New Republic

    Daniel Pipes, The New York Post

    Andrea Peyser, The New York Post

    Dick Morris, The New York Post

    Lawrence Kaplan, The New Republic

    William Bennett, CNN

    William Kristol, The Washington Post, the Weekly Standard, Fox News, formerly of ABC News

    Robert Kagan, The Washington Post and The Weekly Standard

    Mortimer Zuckerman, US News and World Report (Zuckerman is also Chairman of Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations )

    David Gelertner, The Weekly Standard

    John Podhoretz, The New York Post and The Weekly Standard

    Mona Charen, The Washington Times

    Morton Kondracke, Roll Call, Fox News formerly of The McLaughlin Group, The New Republic and PBS

    Fred Barnes, The Weekly Standard, Fox News, formerly of The New Republic, The McLaughlin Group, and The Baltimore Sun

    Yossi Klein Halevi The New Republic

    Sidney Zion, The New York Post, formerly of The New York Daily News

    Norman Podhoretz, Commentary, Jonah Goldberg, National Review

    CNN Laura Ingraham, CNN, formerly of MSNBC and CBS News

    Jeff Jacoby, The Boston Globe

    Rich Lowry, National Review

    Andrew Sullivan, The New Republic

    Seth Lipsky, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Sun, formerly of the Jewish Forward

    Irving Kristol, The Public Interest, The National Interest and The Wall Street Journal Editorial Page

    Allan Keyes, MSNBC,

    Brit Hume, Fox News John Leo, US News and World Report

    Robert Bartley, The Wall Street Journal Editorial Page John Fund, The Wall Street Journal OpinionJournal, formerly of The Wall Street Journal Editorial Page

    Peggy Noonan, The Wall Street Journal Editorial Page,

    Ben Wattenberg, The Washington Times, PBS Tony Snow, Washington Times and Fox News

    Lawrence Kudlow, National Review and CNBC

    Alan Dershowitz, Boston Herald, Washington Times

    David Horowitz,

    Jacob Heilbrun, The Los Angeles Times

    Thomas Sowell, Washington Times

    Frank Gaffney Jr, Washington Times

    Emmett Tyrell, American Spectator and New York Sun

    Cal Thomas, Washington Times

    Oliver North, Washington Times and Fox News, formerly of MSNBC

    Michael Ledeen, Jewish World Review

    William F. Buckley, National Review

    Bill O’Reilly, Fox News

    Paul Greenberg, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

    L. Brent Bozell, Washington Times

    Todd Lindberg, Washington Times

    Michael Barone, US News and World Report and The McLaughlin Group

    Ann Coulter, Human Events

    Linda Chavez, Creators Syndicate

    Cathy Young, Reason Magazine

    Uri Dan, New York Post

    Dr. Laura Schlessinger, morality maven

    Rush Limbaugh, radio host


    The New Republic (Martin Peretz, Michael Steinhardt, Roger Hertog, Owners

    Commentary (American Jewish Committee, Owner)

    US News and World Report (Mortimer Zuckerman, Owner)

    The New York Daily News (Mortimer Zuckerman, Owner)

    The New York Post (Rupert Murdoch, Owner)

    The Weekly Standard (Rupert Murdoch, Owner)

    The Wall Street Journal Editorial Page (Peter Kann, Editor)

    The Atlantic Monthly (Michael Kelly, Editor)


    Thomas Friedman, The New York Times

    Richard Cohen, The Washington Post and New York Daily News

    Avishai Margolit, The New York Review of Books

    David Remnick, The New Yorker

    Eric Alterman, The Nation and

    The New York Times Editorial Board

    The Washington Post Editorial Board


    Robert Novak, The Washington Post

    Pat Buchanan,, formerly of The Washington Times and CNN

    Alexander Cockburn, The Nation and New York Press

    Christopher Hitchens, The Nation and Vanity Fair

    Edward Said, The Nation

    As can be seen from this list of lists, the entire anti-Israel contingent of the punditocracy does not add up to a single George Will or William Safire, much less a Wall Street Journal or US News. It remains to be seen whether unqualified support for all of Israel’s actions is really in that tortured nation’s best interest in the long run. Sometimes the bravest and most valuable advice a trusted friend can give is: STOP. Someone is going to have to stop first if this unending catastrophe is ever to end.

    NB. I don’t agree with his characterisations in the last list about being Pro-Palestinian reflexively and “regardless of circumstance” — I think it has a lot to do with circumstance (and Hitchens is certainly no longer in the last list), but the list gives you the general idea: the American mainstream media is overwhelmingly Israel-first and really has failed, in the main, to show the Palestinian perspective.

    In the British media, a landmark study on media coverage of the I-P conflict was conducted by the Glasgow University Media Group, well worth your investigation. There are excerpts from the study at this link, including their major findings, the foremost of which is that:

    “There is a preponderance of official ‘Israeli perspectives’, particularly on BBC 1, where Israelis were interviewed or reported over twice as much as Palestinians. On top of this, US politicians who support Israel were very strongly featured. They appeared more than politicians from any other country and twice as much as those from Britain.

    Another reference:
    Tim Llewellyn, The story TV news won’t tell, The Observer

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Timely Reminders

"Those who crusade, not for God in themselves, but against the devil in others, never succeed in making the world better, but leave it either as it was, or sometimes perceptibly worse than what it was, before the crusade began. By thinking primarily of evil we tend, however excellent our intentions, to create occasions for evil to manifest itself."
-- Aldous Huxley

"The only war that matters is the war against the imagination. All others are subsumed by it."
-- Diane DiPrima, "Rant", from Pieces of a Song.

"It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there"
-- William Carlos Williams, "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower"