Sunday, February 20, 2011
Coverup at pro-Left, pro-Muslim Amnesty International
As Oliver Kamm said last year: "Disastrously for itself and those who depend on its support, Amnesty is no longer the friend of liberty". More on the moral decay of Amnesty here
Human rights group Amnesty International has paid more than £500,000 in a secret pay-off to its former chief, it was revealed yesterday. The organisation paid out another £300,000 to its deputy leader, who quit at the same time in December 2009. Amnesty declined to discuss the payouts to former secretary general Irene Khan and her deputy Kate Gilmore. But the scale of the payments throws a harsh light on the group’s management decisions following years of increasing criticism.
The charity runs appeals for donations from the public, which include attempts to inspire money-raising campaigns among young people and in schools.
The payment to Bangladeshi-born Miss Khan, who has a reputation as a campaigner against poverty, was more than four times her annual salary of £132,490.
Peter Pack, chairman of Amnesty’s international executive committee, said: ‘The payments to outgoing secretary general Irene Khan shown in the accounts of AI (Amnesty International) Ltd for the year ending March 31 2010 include payments made as part of a confidential agreement between AI Ltd and Irene Khan. ‘It is a term of this agreement that no further comment on it will be made by either party.’
Miss Khan, the first Muslim to lead the organisation, has been criticised from the political left for her failure to do more to protest about abuses by American and British troops in Iraq, and notably for a muted response to the Abu Ghraib torture scandal.
Other critics accused the 54-year-old of doing too much to highlight abuse at Guantanamo Bay and too little to expose its inmates alleged links with the Taliban and terror groups.
Miss Khan also failed to impress all of Amnesty’s supporters with her emphasis on alleviating poverty. She insisted that human rights can only follow economic rights, but some believed Amnesty should have concentrated on political rights. Miss Gilmore ran into controversy in 2007 when Amnesty appeared to suggest that abortion was a human right. Roman Catholic supporters turned against her. Miss Gilmore insisted abortion was a right for women who had been raped.
Palestine an obsession of radical West, not Arabs
"UNTIL the Palestinians are given back their rights we're going to have instability throughout the Middle East," declared John Pilger on ABC1's Q & A last night. "That is central to everything."
Yet, one of the most striking things about the uprising in Egypt was the lack of pro-Palestine placards. As Egypt-watcher Amr Hamzawy put it, in Tahrir Square and elsewhere there were no signs saying "death to Israel, America and global imperialism" or "together to free Palestine". Instead, this revolt was about Egyptian people's own freedom and living conditions.
Yet on the pro-Egypt demonstration in London on Saturday, there was a sea of Palestine placards. "Free Palestine", they said, and "End the Israeli occupation". The speakers had trouble getting the audience excited about events in Egypt, having to say on more than one occasion: "Come on London, you can shout louder than that!" Yet every mention of the word Palestine induced a kind of Pavlovian excitability among the attendees. They cheered when the P-word was uttered, chanting: "Free, free Palestine!"
This reveals something important about the Palestine issue. In recent years it has moved from the realm of Arab radicalism, where Egyptians and other peoples frequently demanded the creation of a Palestinian state, and has instead become almost the exclusive property of Western middle-class radicals, such as Pilger.
Emptied of its nationalist vigour and militancy, the Palestine problem, it seems, is now of little immediate interest to protesting Arabs and is instead the ultimate cause celebre for Western liberal campaigners who like nothing more than having a victimised people they can coo over.
The power and allure of Palestine in Western radical circles is extraordinary. Palestine is the only issue they get excited about. But there is nothing progressive in their pro-Palestine fervour. It is not driven by future-oriented demands for economic development in a Palestinian homeland in the West Bank or Gaza. Instead it is driven by a view of Palestinians as the ultimate victims, the hapless and pathetic children of the new world order, who need kindly, wizened Westerners to protect them from Big Bad Israel.
Today's pro-Palestine leftism is more anthropological than political. It treats Palestinians less as a people who ought to have certain democratic rights and more as an intriguing tribe to be prodded and preserved. Some Western radicals have even adopted the fashions of their favourite tribe. Step on to any university campus in the West, or join any left-wing march, and you'll see concerned-looking youths wearing the Palestinian keffiyeh scarf, a politically correct version of blacking up.
This is the politics of pity rather than solidarity. Groups of Western middle-class youth have taken Palestinian pity holidays in the West Bank and Gaza. They turn up and marvel at the dignity of this beautiful besieged people, like those wives of old Victorian colonialists who discovered they rather liked the African tribes they had been sent to Christianise. "I've never met people like the Palestinians. They're the strongest people I've ever met", gushed British peace activist Kate Burton, who hit the headlines in 2006 after being kidnapped by a Palestinian faction in Gaza.
Of course, Westerners have often gone on moral adventures overseas, whether as missionaries or revolutionaries. What's different about Palestinian pity tourism is that these Westerners seek neither to convert Palestinians to a religion nor to take up arms with them, but simply to empathise with them, to immerse themselves in what they consider to be the ultimate victimhood experience. One pity-tripper wrote in the New Statesman about her experience living "under siege" in Bethlehem. "I'm beginning to understand what it must be like to be a Palestinian," she said.
That is the ultimate aim of these empathy tours, to have an experience that makes real the politics of victimhood that so many of these Western activists subscribe to. Where some bored Western youth who feel their everyday lives lack zest go on bungee-jumping trips in Peru, Western leftists who feel politics at home has been zapped of urgency go on tank-stopping trips in Palestine.
There is a profound narcissism in the pity-for-Palestinian movement. When American activist Rachel Corrie was killed by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza in 2003, it gave rise to a play called My Name Is Rachel Corrie. The killing of British peace activist Tom Hurndall in Gaza in 2004 led to a film called The Shooting of Thomas Hurndall.
This is clearly all about Us - the good and pure Westerners who went to find themselves in Palestine - rather than about Them, the actual Palestinians.
There's now also a ship called the MV Rachel Corrie, which was one of those attacked by the Israel Defence Forces as it sailed to Gaza last year. Everyone who's anyone in Europe's liberal set is desperate to sail in her. MPs, thinkers, Nobel Peace Prize laureates, novelists . . . all have taken the MV Rachel Corrie to Gaza, super-keen to promote their whiter-than-white decency by standing, Kate Winslet-style, on the deck of a ship that is Against Israel. Because being "for Palestine" today is ultimately a self-serving way of advertising that you are Good, Decent, an opponent of the modern-day "Nazism" being practised by the Israeli state.
For these historically ignorant campaigners, Israelis are the New Nazis and Gaza is the new Warsaw Ghetto. As the title of a recent talk in London put it: "A New Hitler for a New Age? The Rise of Israeli Terror."
Palestinian pitiers have no time to think about the inconvenient fact that Hamas is an intolerant political entity that has no time for gay rights or women's equality. Instead, everything gets reduced to a Narnia-style story of wicked witches v happy fauns, because this is ultimately about providing vacuous-feeling Westerners with some much-needed momentum in their lives, not about untangling a messy political reality.
It's very revealing that Palestine has become less important for Arabs and of the utmost symbolic importance for Western radicals at exactly the same time. With the Palestinian people somewhat deflated, the Palestine issue can become perfect political fodder for the victim-oriented, fancy-dress radicals of the modern West.
Payback time for grasping British prisoners: Inmates to pay £76 costs each as judge throws out vote-ban compensation claim
Almost 600 criminals trying to make money out of the voting ban on prisoners were slapped down by a High Court judge yesterday. They had sought £5,000 each compensation for being unable to vote at the last election. Instead, Mr Justice Langstaff ordered them to PAY £76 each towards the costs of their action.
In a decision hailed as a rare legal victory for common sense, he ruled that European judgments should never be allowed to trump laws passed at Westminster.
It was a decisive blow for the authority of Parliament over the European Court of Human Rights – and the legal vultures demanding millions of pounds in compensation for prisoners.
Tens of thousands of prisoners had been expected to try to sue the Government because it has not bowed to Strasbourg and presented them with the right to vote in elections. Government lawyers had estimated an eventual bill to the taxpayer of close to £150 million. But that threat evaporated following yesterday’s ruling.
None of the 588 prisoners involved had been able to keep the services of lawyers to represent them because they were denied taxpayer-funded legal aid by the Legal Services Commission and no lawyer was willing to take on the case on a no-win no-fee basis.
Similarly, without legal aid they must pay the costs of their lost action themselves. The risk of having to pay costs appears to have affected the willingness of prisoners to pursue their claims once they realised they would not be given legal aid.
The case was heard in the name of Paul Hydes, a 36-year-old heroin addict serving life for burglary, firearms offences and violent robberies from lone women on a canal towpath in East London. When he was summoned from his cell at Pentonville to the High Court hearing, he refused to get into the prison van.
Mr Justice Langstaff was scathing about the claims made by the 588 who had joined the line for compensation over last April’s election. He said English laws, last restated by Parliament in 1983, said they should not vote. There were no legal precedents to change the law.
And, the judge said, even Strasbourg had refused to compensate the prisoner who won the 2005 test case over the voting issue which launched the wave of compensation claims – axe killer John Hirst. ‘There are no reasonable grounds in domestic law for bringing a claim for damages or a declaration for being disenfranchised whilst a prisoner,’ he said. ‘On the law as it stands the claim by Mr Hydes cannot hope to succeed.’
He said the Ministry of Justice’s costs for the case, of almost £46,000, were ‘entirely reasonable’ and each prisoner should pay a share. The £76 payment would take two months of prison work to raise.
Douglas Carswell, Tory MP for Clacton, said: ‘What will be most surprising about this judgment for most of my constituents is that we still have judges with common sense.’
The ruling has led to a deepening row between Westminster and Strasbourg. David Cameron – who said the idea of giving prisoners the vote made him sick to the stomach – first tried to limit voting to those serving less than four years. Last week MPs decided overwhelmingly on a free vote that Strasbourg’s ruling should be rejected and the prisoner vote question is a matter for the Westminster Parliament.
Britain could defy European human rights judges over prisoner voting with minimal risk of any penalty, ministers have been advised.
There is only an outside chance of serious punishment for any politician who decides to defy outright the judgments of Strasbourg.
Government lawyers who drew up the leaked analysis for Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said it was unlikely that Britain would be thrown out of the Council of Europe, the 47-nation European organisation that runs the European Court on Human Rights.
EDL: a wet dream for purposeless lefties
The English Defence League has provided an easy target for politicians and campaigners in search of a cause.
You could be forgiven for thinking it was 1936 all over again. Unite Against Fascism is rallying the troops against the English Defence League (EDL), declaring: ‘It’s time now to make a stand. We cannot allow racists to rampage through our towns, threatening and attacking Muslims or anyone else.’ Politicians are drawing comparisons between today’s situation and Oswald Mosley’s fascist marches in 1930s East London. And the media is publishing reams about the EDL’s ‘visceral, violent, anti-Muslim hatred’.
Are we witnessing the rise of twenty-first-century blackshirts? In a word, no. The EDL is not fascist; it doesn’t subscribe to a fascist ideology or, indeed, any ideology at all. Yes, it is obsessed with radical Islam and argues that the worst examples of Islamist ideas and actions are fundamentally problems of Islam itself. The EDL’s mission statement luridly argues that Islam is responsible for ‘the denigration and oppression of women, the molestation of young children, the committing of so-called honour killings, homophobia, anti-Semitism, and continued support for those responsible for terrorist atrocities’. Yet while the EDL’s beliefs about Islam are reactionary, and some of its members may well be racist, it is also a quite different organisation to far-right groups like the National Front or the British National Party.
The EDL’s appearance in towns across England, and further afield, doesn’t mark a major resurgence of the far right. The attempt to understand the rise of the EDL by reference to zombie categories both confuses the issue and exacerbates the problem. The EDL needs to be understood on its own terms in the social and political context of today, not through lazy comparisons with events that occurred 80 years ago.
The first question to ask is why is this happening now? In many ways, the rise of the EDL is an understandable response to the marginalisation of vast swathes of the white working classes in the UK. In the past, there existed a number of institutions that could represent their voices and interests; these are notable now by their absence. Once-vibrant trade unions, for example, now exist mainly as hollowed-out shells, obsessed with health-and-safety legislation and more interested in dampening down militancy than in pursuing industrial action. The modern trade union is more concerned with offering practical guidance and therapeutic support when members face redundancy than in fighting for its members’ interests.
Worst of all is the traditional mouthpiece of the working classes, the Labour Party. In recent decades, the Labour Party has become utterly dislocated from the working classes. In 1959, Labour’s support among the manual working classes was 62 per cent; by 1983 it had dropped to 38 per cent. Since then, it has been largely staffed and supported by the middle classes. So it’s no real surprise that New Labour makes no bones in revealing its contempt for the working classes, who have been stereotyped as football-obsessed, beer-swilling thugs. New Labour is no longer interested in representing workers’ interests and instead attempts to remould them into ‘acceptable’ citizens, pressuring them to eat healthy food, cut down on smoking and boozing, and to become cultured through, among many other things, the social engineering that is immigration policy.
As Brendan O’Neill has outlined previously on spiked, New Labour actively turned immigration into an elite weapon for the ‘social good’ of the country, in ‘a subconscious attempt by a disoriented elite to renew Britain, to redefine it, through altering the social make-up and elevating the virtues of the migrant above the virtues of traditional British nationalism and the native working classes’.
Today, any disgruntlement among the working classes is seen as the ‘bigoted’ response of a class going the way of the dodo, that ought to be silenced and re-educated through diversity-awareness classes and other such initiatives. At the last General Election in 2010, discussion of immigration was treated as taboo, with politicians even agreeing to sign pledges promising they wouldn’t mention the ‘I’ word when electioneering lest it stoke racial tensions and awaken the inner fascistic tendencies presumed to lie barely dormant in the white working classes.
Against that background, is it really so hard to understand why the working classes are organising themselves into groups like the EDL, when the organisations that traditionally represented them now treat them with such contempt and, indeed, have forced them to feel like outsiders in their own country? At a time of great alientation, when working-class white people are looked upon as strange creatures, and when they are forbidden from talking about immigration, the emergence of a group like the EDL has a perverse logic to it.
This leads to the second question: why is the EDL making such a big splash? The EDL is being blown out of all proportion. Labour MP Sadiq Khan has even accused David Cameron of ‘writing propaganda for the EDL’ with his recent speech on the failure of multiculturalism. The hysterical response to the EDL shows it has become an all-purpose tool for liberals, fascist-hunters and politicians, who want to carve out a sense of identity and purpose and re-enforce their smug sense of moral superiority over Others.
Where British National Party leader Nick Griffin has attempted to make his party more respectable, replacing skinheads and bovver boots with suits, the EDL ‘thugs’ are a liberal’s wet dream. They are a picture of everything liberals would imagine fascists to be: rowdy men, often with cropped haircuts, taking to the street and singing slurred, boisterous chants, wrapped in the St George’s flag and wearing hoodies. One liberal commentator has chastised the Daily Star for publishing ‘crude propaganda’ about the EDL, claiming its readers would be brainwashed like mindless, ill-educated drones: ‘Who can blame a reader who, after reading such a skewed version of events, is gripped with anti-Muslim fervour?’
From this standpoint, it seems clear that many liberal observers view the ideas of the EDL as contagious, and thus believe that EDL members should be quarantined, censured or censored, lest they infect other, dim-witted working-class people.
Meanwhile, the more radical left uses the EDL to gain a sense of purpose. And as has long been the case, the left is seriously censorious towards anything that is stamped as ‘fascistic’. The EDL can barely announce a public appearance without immediate attempts to stop it, with campaigners out on the streets with petitions for the home secretary to ban EDL demonstrations in the name of ‘protecting our communities’. Activists also complain to the BBC for giving the EDL airtime on Newsnight and name and shame pubs that let the EDL meet on their premises. All of this reveals a far more authoritarian instinct than anything exhibited by the EDL to date.
The EDL is trapped in a vicious circle. It exists largely because its members have no way of expressing their ideas or interests, yet when they do express them they are shouted down. To recognise that there is a basis for discontent does not mean that the EDL is right. There is much scaremongering by the EDL about the imminent threat of Sharia law being introduced in the UK - a nonsensical notion. However, when you listen to some of the concrete concerns of the EDL’s members, they don’t sound unreasonable. At the Luton march in February, EDL founder Tommy Robinson complained about schools banning the St George’s cross, lest it offend people, about council land earmarked for affordable housing being sold below its market value for a mosque to be built, and about the local shopping centre building a ‘multi-faith centre’ when ‘it’s been there for 40 years without one’.
These concerns do not really expose any problematic rise in extreme Islam but rather speak to the intrusive social engineering of the New Labour years, which has made many working-class white people feel marginalised. One woman who addressed the crowd on the EDL march in Luton announced to loud applause: ‘For many centuries, Englishmen have claimed and successfully fought for the rights of free speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of conscience… We must stand up and reclaim our ancient liberties.’
The greatest threat to these liberties comes not from radical Islam, but the odious triad of smug observers, censorious left-wing groups and interfering politicians, who in equal measure both despise the EDL and are dearly thankful for its existence as it gives them a sense of purpose. Challenging these elitist views is something that would be worth taking to the streets for.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.