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Published: June 17, 2017 Last modified: June 17, 2017
Maybe the so-called Special Relationship gets extra spirit from the Tory “understanding” with the DUP. In both Washington and London, the purported leaders of their countries do not have a mandate from a majority of the electorate, but both depend on the votes of bigoted anti-Diluvian evangelists, who do actually believe in the Flood described in The Bible, but do not believe in the flood lapping around their feet from sea ice melts.
The former Ian Paisley’s degree from the Bob Jones University did not endow him or the DUP with the ecumenism of modern American Evangelists who have now expediently forsworn their traditional anti-Papism to ally with reactionary Catholic Bishops against their common enemy – modern tolerance.
And both the DUP and Republican evangelical right in the US share an apocalyptic Christian Zionist view that makes them support Netanyahu and the far right in Israel. It is worth remembering that theological roots of this are not based on some sentimental philosemitism but on a reading of the book of Revelations that sees the gathering of the Jews in the Holy Land as a necessary precursor to the rapture, Armageddon and the Second Coming. It is only good for the Jews if you regard being converted to Christianity or being thoroughly smitten by a vengeful deity as a blessing.
Sadly, Trump’s unbounded admiration for Nigel Farage seems to have inhibited him from tweeting support for May. We can assume that a blessing from the US president might have lost her even more seats. Domestic resistance, even in his own party, tempers some of Trump’s policy eccentricities at home but the presidency’s powers over foreign policy give him more leeway abroad, although, even there, the foreign policy establishment has inhibited some of his wayward options. For example, although like so many previous presidents he promised to move the US Embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as Congress has mandated, the State Department’s residual attachment to international law has forced him to postpone it yet again.
However, Farage notwithstanding, the Trump administration has even less time than Obama for the so-called special relationship with Britain, a phrase very rarely heard in the US media except when Washington is looking for London to send sepoys to lend international flavour to yet another military folly.
However, we sometimes forget that the “special relationship” was very much a Labour invention. After fighting World War Two alone for over two years Ernest Bevin wanted NATO to cement an American commitment. Churchill condemned Attlee’s permission for US bases in Britain as a derogation of sovereignty while Attlee committed troops and treasure to support the US in Korea, even if that was mandated by the UN.
Suez showed who was in charge of that special relationship. Indeed, forgotten now, but newsworthy at the time was that Senator Joe McCarthy (and his sidekick Robert Kennedy) had Winston Churchill and the UK in their sites for trading with China during the Korean War. They pointed out that the tangential British contribution to the Chinese war effort probably equalled the value of the British input into the Korean war itself.
While on the one hand, Brexit adds cogent geopolitical reasoning for keeping friendly with the Americans, since the UK is now again just an isolated off-shore island, on the other hand Trump’s silence on the matter has devalued the US commitment to NATO’s common defence. Recent Tory miscalculations, on the referendum and the election do indeed suggest that belief in fairies is a strong component in conservative politics, but can even they believe that an isolationist Trump administration feels any special regard for Britain?
Geoffrey Howe at a UN briefing once explained that British foreign policy was the same now as in the days of Pitt – to ensure that no combination of powers could arise in Europe that could threaten our island, and I suspect that most conservative governments did indeed thwart and sabotage European unity with that in mind. EU foreign policy has almost always been a joke, depending as it did on consensus and thus effective abstention on controversial issues. Britain lost its empire and found a role as Washington’s Trojan horse in Brussels.
The current chaos suggests other possibilities. Perhaps it is time to audition for a new role, or rather resume the position of supporter of the UN Charter and international law. It is something that Labour should be thinking about, taking up where Robin Cook left off.
George W Bush once complained that he was “misunderestimated.” You can almost sympathize. Donald Trump has made Bush Jnr seem a towering giant among commanders-in-chief. Yes, like Trump, Bush was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but he absorbed a microscopic residual sense of noblesse oblige from it, while there is no scintilla of nobility or obligation in Trump.
Real estate and gambling, Trump’s prime avocations, are all about skimming money as it’s churned, not actually creating and making things that people might need. He has been one jump ahead of his creditors for years. And while he might have once installed gold-plated bathroom fixtures, you can be sure that the people who sold and installed them were cheated of some or all of their pay. While posing as an entrepreneurial genius, he drove casinos into bankruptcy, bought, renamed and lost the Trump Shuttle airline, the Trump Plaza hotel and finally got into his stride by adding his brand name to buildings financed by people with insufficient taste and intellect to appreciate that in early modern English “trump” meant “fart.” Be serious, how do you lose money with a casino?
So, Trump is indubitably guilty – but of what? The Russia thing evokes deep reservoirs of historical prejudice in the Democrats, but has amazingly little traction with the Republicans and Trump supporters. Did he have business dealings with the Russians? Almost certainly, and very likely they financed his dubious projects. After all, Russian kleptocrats are the Saudi oil-sheiks of our day, with lots of spare money and no accountability. And Trump and his team are incredibly incompetent. The Clinton’s were discreet in collecting the dinars from the Sheiks; Trump appointees have been caught lying about their chats with Russians.
But there is something worrying about all the fuss. Firstly, how can any detached observer keep a straight face when American pundits wax indignant about foreign interference in US elections? The world is spattered with countries from Iran to Chile whose elections have been overturned by US subterfuge and conspiracy – not to mention those where the Marines just went in to adjust the outcome.
US “interference” played a large part in empowering Boris Yeltsin and the consequent collapse and looting of the Russian economy. And you don’t have to be a Chomskyite conspiracy theorist to see the US funding and advice behind many of the so-called “colour” revolutions around the globe. Even if you accept, as I would, that most of these risings were justified and mainly fuelled by local anger, there is ample evidence of American funding.
So, were the Russians hacking during the election? Almost certainly, but no one claims that they interfered with the famously vulnerable American electronic voting machines. Nor did they produce “fake news” or falsified emails, leaving that to Fox and Breitbart, although their ‘bots might have turned out the Trump vote the same way that foreign donors are attacking Corbyn in this election. However, the main charge is that Russian inspired hackers exposed correspondence between the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Now amid all the Clinton camp’s squawks of indignation blaming the Russians for losing her the election, there is not the tiniest hint of contrition for what was actually revealed, which was that DNC apparatchiks and Clinton conspired to ensure the defeat of Bernie Sanders. It is indeed an unusual role for Putin’s revived KGB, but they were revealing rather than concealing or distorting facts. If the facts showed Hillary in bad light that was because what she was doing was bad!
The election was indeed stolen, but it has been a prolonged hegemonic heist. The Bolshevized conservative wing of the Republicans has been pursuing the long march to power while the Clintons and their plutocratic pals were hollowing out the Democratic Party and concentrating on big donors to get themselves in the Senate and the White House. With centralized Leninist discipline, the avowed right took over the Republican Party and won power in states, counties and cities across the country. They used it to gerrymander districts, purge voter rolls and ensure that even if people vote in the face of all the contrived obstacles, it is their local officials who count the resulting ballots. They have deployed their people in the courts, not least the Supreme Court, and are set to add even more.
Hillary was right to say there was a vast right-wing conspiracy, but she flattered herself to think she was the main target. These guys are serious about reconstructing the US as some Ayn Rand dystopia – and frankly the Clintons have never posed much of an obstacle to it, as their steps at dismantling of the New Deal demonstrated.
Be warned: it is coming soon to a House of Commons near you. While they have been too clever to acknowledge it, the Tory Party has clearly been studying the techniques of voter dissuasion and boundary reform as gerrymandering.
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs,June/July 2017, pp. 32-33
United Nations Report
Emulating the Settlers He Supports, Israeli Ambassador Danon Seizes U.N. Territory
By Ian Williams
Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the U.N., speaks to journalists, May 11, 2017. (U.N. PHOTO/MARK GARTEN)
FOR A LONG TIME, Israeli right wingers have scorned and reviled the United Nations and all its works—apart, of course, from General Assembly Resolution 181 partitioning Mandatory Palestine.
As an Israeli right-wing settler supporter himself, Ambassador Danny Danon, the state’s permanent representative to the U.N., surprised many Israelis when he took the position, which Netanyahu had offered him as a way to get rid of a domestic rival. The ambassador, however, has exploited his position well. In the U.N., occupied territories, seizing ground wherever and whenever he can and then expanding from there.
Even though his grandstanding in the General Assembly is aimed less at winning over other U.N. members and more at amassing potential future contributors for his political ambitions back home from affluent American supporters, it does indeed have the effect of softening up the institution, whose staff have seen what happens to people who utter inconvenient truths.
In the halls of the U.N. itself, the Americans had to bully the West European and Other Group some years ago to accept Israel as an associate member of their regional bloc. It is now a full member, and a majority of the group successfully placed Danon as chair of the U.N.’s Legal Committee—the U.N. equivalent of putting Goldman Sachs in charge of banking regulation. If the poacher keeps on poaching, any arguments about promoting him to gamekeeper lose some validity, but it’s a measure of the success of Israel’s PR push that the West Europeans could vote for a state that has a record-breaking run of scofflaw behavior standing in defiance of innumerable U.N. resolutions.
One cannot help but suspect that the de facto axis that has developed between Saudi Arabia and Israel against Iran has also contributed to the successful “normalization” of Israel in the international system. As we saw, the Saudis explicitly claimed quasi-Israeli privileges when they successfully censored a report on the effect of their horrifying bombardment of Yemen, and they continue to evade successfully examination of the effect of their sanctions on Yemeni civilians.
It has to be said that while the defection of reactionary Arab regimes might enhance the Palestinians’ moral high ground, the Israelis and their friends almost have a point about the U.N.’s special treatment of Israel. In reaction to their military and economic impotence, Palestine and its remaining friends have generated innumerable resolutions against Israeli behavior, each of them separately well merited. But the overwhelming number has tended to devalue those issues that matter, and of course the nature of the complainants leaves much to be desired.
At one time the resolutionary road to liberation was an attempt by Palestinians to fight on the only battlefield that they had a chance of winning, but now it is almost counterproductive—although the reactions of Israel must be gratifying.
The UNESCO board, for example, pointed out the legal truth that West Jerusalem is not under legal Israeli sovereignty, even if it has parked the Knesset there. Trump’s promises notwithstanding, that is why there are no diplomatic missions there. And innumerable resolutions condemn the continuing Israeli presence in “the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem,” which of course galls them almost as much.
The Israeli response has been to enlist the U.S. externally, and lobbies internally in many countries, to soften their positions so countries will now abstain on resolutions that they used to support, and in some cases—notably the Anglo-Saxon axis of Canada, Australia and the UK—to move closer to the U.S. on Middle East questions. Once again, the Saudi dimension is important. Margaret Thatcher, for example, did not care in the slightest for Palestinian rights—but she cared deeply about arms sales to the Gulf states and looking after their petrodollars banking for them. The new British Prime Minister Theresa May is equally concerned about arms sales—but it is now clear the possibility that British diplomatic positions could veer toward Israel now weigh much less heavily in Riyadh than in the past.
So it is against this U.N. backdrop against which Ambassador Danon is now screening his hasbara (propaganda) events, most recently using a U.N. committee room for a forum to pillory the Palestine Authority for payments to the families of alleged terrorists. In particular, Danon has used his office to book the U.N. General Assembly Hall to sponsor “Ambassadors Against BDS” mass rallies where the usual suspects among pro-Israeli organizations bused in their supporters to fill the hall. Although the Assembly has been available for private hire in the past—when, for example, the Church of Scientology rented it—U.N. officials carefully covered U.N. insignia so the organization’s integrity would not be compromised.
On this occasion, the podium with the U.N. badge formed the backdrop for Danon’s photo-ops, with thousands of supporters waving Israeli flags. Interestingly, apart from Danon there were few ambassadors actually present, but billing U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley as his guest speaker doubtless helped intimidate any U.N. officials who remembered U.N. decisions on the Middle East.
Haley is of Indian origins and is close to the current Indian government. But one would never guess the role played by boycotts in the India independence movement, which targeted government salt and British manufactures in an effort to get rid of the colonial yoke. Indeed, one would never guess the iconic role played by U.S. agitators in boycotting tea imports in times past in Boston.
One cannot help but wonder why other states, like South Africa, do not join hands with the Palestine Mission for a conference on the essential role played by civil society organizations in BDS movements against apartheid and other repressive regimes. In case the flood of Israeli indignation clouds the view, one should perhaps remember that the BDS movement is an attempt by civil society to enforce international law and U.N. decisions on the government that has been defying them for 50 years!
APARTHEID REPORT WITHDRAWN
Perhaps most symbolic of the march of Israel through the institutions is the withdrawal of the report from the Economic Social Commission for West Asia (ESCWA) on Israeli Apartheid, which brings together all these strands. The impassioned torrents of outrage from Israeli supporters about BDS and comparisons with apartheid have intimidated commentators across Europe and America, despite their essential validity. The white regime in South Africa was, after all, a close collaborator with Israel in sanctions busting, arms trading and, it would appear, even nuclear weapons development, so quite why the comparison should have become odious to the point of “anti-Semitism” is a mystery. After all, few, if any, of the people now so outraged objected to Israel’s aid and support for the apartheid regime.
There was a dilemma for ESCWA. Prof. Richard Falk has an outstanding record in international law and human rights, but like anyone else who submits critical reports on Israel he has been demonized and vilified. But not to use his expertise would be to bow down to politically motivated slander, so he was commissioned, along with Virginia Tilley, anyway.
The ad hominem slurs were wheeled out immediately—think poor Judge Richard Goldstone—and cries came for the report to be withdrawn. New Secretary-General António Guterres had just taken office and the biggest item on his agenda was relations between the U.N. and the new U.S. president, Donald Trump, who had adopted a strong anti-U.N. and pro-Israel stance, so when the U.S. asked for the report to be removed, he folded. Despite the U.N.’s withdrawal of the report, it is still available online, at <www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/26223/un-report-establishes-israeli-apartheid;-fallout-b>, and it is still valid. It is reassuring that Rima Khalaf, ESCWA’s director, resigned in protest at being forced to take down the report.
The report meticulously demonstrates the apartheid-like conditions Israel imposes—and one should remember that there is a binding International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid—which, like the earlier Genocide Convention, commits states to action about it.
Indeed, that is one of the reasons Israeli leaders get so upset about the comparison, since although the blow to their reputation can hurt in PR or political terms, such charges carry international legal weight, not least with the International Criminal Court hovering around. Similarly, they might have physical possession of the occupied territories (and East Jerusalem, of course!), but without legal title that only the U.N. can give them, their behavior is subject to potential jurisdiction of the ICC and other tribunals adjudging the Geneva Conventions.
However, as a resounding footnote, the report also answers the question Israeli supporters keep asking: why is Israel singled out so often at the U.N.? The report explains: “the situation in Israel-Palestine constitutes an unmet obligation of the organized international community to resolve a conflict partially generated by its own actions. That obligation dates formally to 1922, when the League of Nations established the British Mandate for Palestine as a territory eminently ready for independence as an inclusive secular State, yet incorporated into the Mandate the core pledge of the Balfour Declaration to support the ‘Jewish people’ in their efforts to establish in Palestine a ‘Jewish national home.’ Later United Nations Security Council and General Assembly resolutions attempted to resolve the conflict generated by that arrangement, yet could not prevent related proposals, such as partition, from being overtaken by events on the ground. If this attention to the case of Israel by the United Nations appears exceptional, therefore, it is only because no comparable linkage exists between United Nations actions and any other prolonged denial to a people of their right of self-determination.”
And that, dear reader, is why the international community keeps going on about Israel—it is the world’s own guilty conscience. ◙