Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Is Harperson praising the Tories here?
The Tories have had two female prime ministers only because women in the party are not seen as a threat by men, Labour grandee Harriet Harman claims.
The former Labour deputy leader claimed it was ‘easier to be a woman at the top of the Conservative Party’.
The feminist campaigner said that, although Labour was the ‘party of women and equality’, its female MPs had not yet led the party because they were seen ‘as a subversive force pushing for change’.
The 66-year-old admitted it was ‘galling’ Labour has not had a woman leader.
But she said: ‘The reason they have had two female prime ministers and we have not is because women in the Tory party are not a challenge to power relationships and gender relationships.
‘They are not a subversive force pushing for change and therefore they are not felt as a threat by men in the way that Labour women who are self-consciously trying to change the system are felt to be much more of a threat.’
Speaking at the Women of the World festival in London on Saturday, Ms Harman also accused Theresa May of failing to stand up for women’s rights and insisted ‘she has not been a sister’.
This was, Ms Harman said, because Mrs May had opposed the 2010 Equality Act. She said: ‘She objectively has not been a sister.
How the ’68ers became warmongers
The political evolution of the 1968 generation is often understood in terms of the journey that some older people take pleasure in predicting for the young: that from naive idealism to the realism of maturity.
In the case of leading ’68ers who have gone on to wield considerable influence – notably Joschka Fischer, foreign minister of Germany from 1998 to 2005, and Bernard Kouchner, France’s foreign minister since 2007 – that journey also tends to raise a question: have political principles become compromised in walking the corridors of power instead of marching through the streets? These two men emerge as the key figures in Power and the Idealists, Paul Berman’s intellectual biography of the 1968 generation; Berman worries away at the question throughout.
It is posed particularly sharply by the divisions among former ’68ers over Iraq, when Kouchner and Fischer appeared to be on opposite sides. For Berman, wishing to rescue liberal interventionism from the wreckage of the 2003 invasion, it is supporters of the war like Kouchner who have remained ‘steadfast’ in their adherence to the spirit of 1968. Opponents such as Fischer are seen as having betrayed their former radicalism and grown too close to the establishment.
Famously, Fischer very publicly rejected US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s arguments for war with Iraq, telling him emphatically: ‘Sorry, I am not convinced.’ For Paul Hockenos, in Joschka Fischer and the Making of the Berlin Republic, this was a ‘symbolic’ moment which dramatised how the influence of the ’68ers had ‘contributed decisively to Germany’s remarkable transformation… into a healthy, democratic country’.
Weaving together a biography of Fischer with an ‘alternative history’ of postwar Germany, Hockenos argues that while the ’68ers certainly changed as they grew older, in their ‘long march through the institutions’ they also changed the world around them, creating ‘a Germany that reflected the 1960s cultural revolution’.
Both Berman and Hockenos tend to romanticise 1960s radicalism and, in different ways, seek to carry its legacy forwards into the present. A critical appraisal of the careers of Kouchner and Fischer, however, suggests that their ‘radicalism’ has nothing to offer – not so much because they have compromised their principles, but because their politics were flawed to begin with.
As student radicals who believed ‘Anything Is Possible’, we rattled our elders in the heady year of 1968. But looking back, it seems the real driving force of Sixties radicalism was the crisis and cowardice of the elite itself.
In the story of the 1968 generation as told by both these authors, the Second World War is even more important than opposition to Vietnam as a formative influence. Hockenos suggests that it was through confronting the Nazi past that the students of the 1960s defined their own political stance and, ultimately, reshaped contemporary German democracy. Questioning the values of their parents, the postwar generation asked themselves whether they would have been collaborators or resisters.
‘Vietnam is Auschwitz’, said the German anti-war activists. Hockenos presents this as a peculiarity of German politics, but Berman sees it as a much wider phenomenon. Inspired by Kouchner, the French ‘New Philosopher’ André Glucksmann, for example, declared himself an enemy of both ‘totalitarianism’ and famine: ‘[T]o all extreme dictatorships and catastrophes he attached a single name: Auschwitz.’ Indeed, in Berman’s telling, the entire student movement of the 1960s was at root motivated by a fear that Nazism had not been defeated. One may doubt whether that is really true, but it does seem to capture something about the politics of leading figures such as Kouchner.
Viewing everything through the filter of the Holocaust hardly makes for clarity about the present. Instead, as discussed below, it has led time and again to moralistic posturing in support of dubious causes. Part of the fascination with the Nazi era was that, as Berman notes, the 1960s students were trying to live up to the generation who had fought the historic anti-fascist battles of the 1930s and 40s. Compared with the wartime résistant generation, the student radicals suspected that they might be ‘the generation of the second-rate… résistants with nothing to resist’.
Berman is right that many ’68ers were on the lookout for a grand cause to equal that of wartime anti-fascism, but what he misses is that in their rush to get to the barricades many were also looking for a way to avoid the difficult business of politics. Thinking that the workers had been seduced by the consumerism of the postwar economic boom, many young radicals doubted that the romance of revolution was close at hand.
There were, to be sure, sporadic attempts to ‘go to the factories’. Fischer worked on the Opel assembly line for a time as part of one such exercise undertaken by his group Revolutionary Struggle. The organisation’s anarchist politics made little headway and the radicals came away complaining bitterly of ‘workers who absolutely must have a colour TV, the new car or bedroom’. Alternatives to the slog of building support and winning people over seemed far more attractive.
One such alternative was to look for a ready-made revolutionary vanguard in the national liberation struggles of the Third World. If one could somehow attach oneself to a movement elsewhere, its moral authority might rub off. This was the route taken by Kouchner in September 1968, less than six months after the squandered promise of the May événements, when he signed up as a Red Cross doctor in the Nigerian civil war.
Doctor to the World
In at least two key respects, Kouchner’s stint in Nigeria set the pattern for much of his subsequent career. Firstly, it afforded him exactly the opportunity he was looking for to replay the anti-fascist struggle with himself in the lead role. The Nigerian government, he thought, was committing genocide against the predominantly Ibo population of Biafra, a province which had declared independence in 1967, by imposing a blockade which caused widespread and appalling famine. Kouchner felt compelled to speak out against the ‘genocide by starvation’, but was prevented from doing so by the Red Cross’s traditional neutrality. To Kouchner, it seemed like a sinister echo of the organisation’s failure to expose the Nazi death camps. ‘By keeping silent’, he later recalled, ‘we doctors were accomplices in the systematic massacre of a population.’ (1)
Indeed, he could not keep silent: Kouchner established a Committee Against Genocide in Biafra to campaign on the issue. Yet while there was certainly terrible suffering in the region, there was no genocide. This should have been clear at the time, since there were seven million Ibo people living ‘without persecution in government-held regions’ (2). It looked like a genocide to Kouchner and other activists because they wanted it to. They fantasised that they were not stuck in the midst of a dirty civil war but rather were standing on the stage of History. This was their new anti-fascist struggle, to match the historic period that their parents lived through.
Kouchner repeated the performance in 1993, when he thought he had discovered more new Nazis committing genocide, this time in Bosnia. Again he felt compelled to speak out: his Doctors of the World organisation proclaimed that it could not ‘remain silent’ in the face of ‘mass executions’, and so it ran a $2million advertising campaign to publicise the Serbian concentration camps. One poster set photographs of Hitler and Serbian President Slobodan Milošević side by side, while another juxtaposed an image of a watchtower from Auschwitz with a contemporary picture of Bosnian Muslims being held in a detention camp.
Again Kouchner was seeing what he wanted to see. After the war, when Kouchner interviewed Bosnian President Alija Izetbegović, the topic of the camps came up again. ‘They were horrible places, but people were not systematically exterminated. Did you know that?’ asked Kouchner. ‘Yes’, admitted Izetbegović, offering the excuse that ‘I thought that my revelations [about the camps] could precipitate bombings’. One wonders what Kouchner’s excuse might be.
As the Greens’ foreign minister of Germany from 1998, Fischer’s readiness to deploy the armed forces was remarkable even for a pugnacious ecologist like him. When he took office, German troops were already stationed abroad in Bosnia and Georgia. Under Fischer they were sent to no fewer than nine further countries and, most significantly, were deployed during the Kosovo conflict in an active war-fighting role for the first time since 1945.
Kosovo truly was, as Berman says, the ’68ers’ war. With a former member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament as British foreign secretary (Robin Cook), a NATO Secretary-General who had once been an anti-NATO campaigner (Javier Solana), and a US president (Bill Clinton) who had avoided the draft and marched against the Vietnam War, Fischer was hardly exceptional. Nor were the terms in which he sought to reconcile his anti-militarist Green party with bombing: they were pure Kouchnerism.
In response to critics who reminded him that Germany had sworn ‘Never Again’, the foreign minister retorted that ‘Never Again Auschwitz’ took precedence over ‘Never Again War’. Fischer argued that he had discovered a new genocide and that, as a veteran anti-fascist in the former home of Nazism, he had a special responsibility to stop it. To prove his case, he even revealed secret documents outlining a premeditated Serbian plan, codenamed ‘Operation Horseshoe’, to commit genocide in Kosovo. It later transpired that the German government had faked the documents: the supposed blueprint for genocide had been fabricated, complete with an invented name and maps drawn up by the German Defence Ministry (5). Like Kouchner, Fischer made sure he saw what he wanted to see.
Tensions rise ahead of Dutch elections
The "far right" in the Netherlands has demanded that all 400,000 ethnic Turks there be stripped of their dual citizenship amid rising tensions before the country’s elections on Wednesday.
Geert Wilders, leader of the Freedom Party, described Turks as a “fifth column” as the Netherlands and Turkey became embroiled in a race row that resulted in rioting, diplomatic deportations and verbal insults.
The Netherlands sought to block loyalists of President Erdogan from trying to rally electoral support among the 4.6 million Turkish expatriates in western Europe before a referendum next month that could grant him sweeping new constitutional powers.
The dispute deepened after the Turkish foreign minister travelled to France for a pro-Erdogan rally in the northeastern city of Metz yesterday in the hope of securing the votes of 700,000 expatriates there.
Far-right parties in the Netherlands and France seized on the Turkish campaign yesterday as evidence of the creeping influence of Islam on their way of life. Dutch riot police sought to crack down on the rallies after the authorities expelled a Turkish minister who was hosting the campaign and denied a visa to the foreign minister.
As Mr Erdogan accused the Dutch government of acting like “Nazis” and threatened harsh sanctions, Mr Wilders, who has campaigned against the “Islamisation” of Europe, said: “We have a fifth column in the Netherlands. If your loyalty lies elsewhere then get out. No dual citizenship anymore. And shut the borders.”
Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Front in France, said: “Why should we tolerate on our soil what other democracies refuse? No Turkish election campaign in France.” François Fillon, the centre-right Republicans presidential candidate, was also critical. “The French government should have banned this meeting,” he said.
The French foreign ministry had said that “there was no reason to prohibit the meeting”.
In the land where Jews are welcome, anti-Semitism is on the rise
by Jeff Jacoby
THIS WEEKEND, Jews the world over celebrate the festival of Purim, a highlight of which is the public reading of the biblical book of Esther. In 10 fast-moving chapters, it recounts the first recorded attempt at a Jewish genocide. The Persian emperor Ahasuerus (known to historians as Xerxes I) allows himself to be persuaded by Haman, a powerful courtier, that the Jews are a disloyal and disobedient minority who ought to be eradicated. The emperor signs an edict authorizing Haman and his followers "to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all the Jews, both young and old, women and children, in one day." But the plot is foiled thanks to court intrigues involving Mordechai, the leader of the Jewish community in the imperial city of Shushan, and the courage and faith of Esther, the young Jewish heroine who becomes Ahasuerus's queen.
On the Jewish calendar, Purim is a joyful day. Families distribute gifts of food, alms are lavished on the poor, children (and even adults!) wear costumes — and at every mention of Haman's name during the reading of Esther, the congregation breaks out in a raucous din of boos and noisemakers.
It's easy to celebrate Purim with hilarity when Jews feel safe and welcome, and in modern times there is nowhere on Earth they have felt safer and more welcome than the United States.
Last month, the Pew Research Center released the results of a survey showing Jews to be the most warmly regarded religious group in America. It was Pew's second such survey in three years, and both times the finding was the same. "We love our country, and America loves us right back," wrote David Suissa, the publisher of the Los Angeles Jewish Journal, after the Pew numbers came out. Jews, who know only too well what it means to be a hunted minority, have been blessed to find in America a degree of benevolence, respect, and freedom unparalleled in their long and precarious history.
But Purim arrives this year amid an alarming surge in anti-Semitic menace.
Since January, Jewish community centers and organizations nationwide have been targeted with anonymous bomb threats — at least 140 such threats to date. At Jewish cemeteries in Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Rochester, N.Y., hundreds of gravestones have been toppled or smashed. In Evansville, Ind., a gun was fired through the window of synagogue classroom.
During the recent election cycle, Internet trolls from the so-called alt-right unleashed repugnant attacks on Jewish journalists who questioned or criticized the rise of Donald Trump, often suggesting that they prepare to die in a new Holocaust. Equally horrific anti-Semitic eruptions have come from the left, especially on college campuses, where virulent hostility toward Israel often boils over into undisguised hatred of Jews.
Thus the paradox: In the nation where Jews are more welcomed than ever, animosity toward Jews is more palpable than ever.
To many on the left, the upwelling of anti-Semitic incidents and rhetoric is plainly connected with Republican politics. Trump's strong appeal to white nationalists, the anti-Semitic memes and tropes that showed up in his ads and social media, and his seeming unwillingness until quite recently to explicitly condemn anti-Semitism — while Trump may harbor no personal ill will toward Jews, he has too often enabled, and pandered to, those who do.
To many conservatives, meanwhile, it goes without saying that contemporary anti-Semitism is overwhelmingly a product of the hard left, which seethes with bitterness toward the Jewish state. The anti-Zionist boycott campaign, the Israel "apartheid" slander, the ominous atmosphere in academia — all of it has had the effect of moving bigotry from the fever swamps on the fringe ever closer to the mainstream.
Haman's plan to exterminate the Jews of ancient Persia was thwarted by the courage, faith, and shrewdness of Esther, the Jewish heroine for whom the biblical book of Esther is named.
Both camps make a legitimate point. Jew-bashers can be found on the left and the right; often it is the only thing they have in common. In our hyperpolarized political atmosphere, it isn't surprising that anti-Semitism has become one more excuse for partisans to point fingers at each other. But history's oldest hatred has never been limited to one party or ideology or worldview.
Anti-Semitism is an intellectual sickness, a societal toxin that is endlessly adaptable. Jews have been tortured and tormented for not being Christian and for not being Muslim. They have been brutally persecuted for being capitalists, and just as brutally persecuted for being Communists. They have been hated for being weak and easily scapegoated — and hated for being strong and influential. Jews have been killed for their faith, for their lifestyle, for their national identity, for their "race."
A key teaching of the Book of Esther is that once the plague of Jew-hatred gets in the air, almost any environment can nourish it. Another is that Jew-hatred does not subside on its own. It must be confronted, denounced, and defeated.
"We love our country, and America loves us right back." That has been manifestly, wonderfully true for decades, but will it continue to be? Elsewhere, the post-Holocaust taboo on overt Jew-hatred has long since shattered. Can that now be happening in the United States? Pray this Purim that the answer is No. For if America succumbs to the anti-Semitic derangement, it isn't only Jews who will suffer.
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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.