Lenten Meditation 2009 (for Bloor Street United Church)

In February 2009 I was asked to contribute a short text to a collection of Lenten Meditations that members of the congregation of Bloor Street United Church in Toronto were bringing together. (The invitation came, I suppose, because in the preceding several months I had delivered three public lectures at the church, two of them in the Reel Activism series organized by Karin Brothers.) The terms were quite strict: meditations were to be less than four hundred words in length, were to incorporate reflections on one or more of three set scriptural passages (in my case, Jeremiah 26: 1-16, Romans 11: 1-12, and John 10: 19-42), and were to be followed by the author's name and a short prayer. The result was this rather elliptical text—which I supplemented, some months later, with an Afterword which unfolds some of its implications. The present version incorporates a small correction in the third paragraph, for which I'm grateful to Lia Tarachansky. The Afterword has not previously been published.


In late 2002, one of my students, knowing that I had been speaking out in public against the impending American invasion of Iraq, sent me, as encouragement, a quotation from the Talmud: “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”

I found this moving. Perhaps because I knew my efforts to help expose the fraudulence of the coming war would likely be futile, I valued all the more this incitement to courage and stamina, with its reminder that what counts—what is obligatory—is our participation, now, in an unassuming practice of justice and mercy.

Though my student didn’t say so, this Talmudic text is a midrashic expansion of words ascribed to the early-second-century Rabbi Tarfon, in the Pirkei Avot (or Ethics of the Sages), 2:16. Tarfon is elsewhere said to have debated with Rabbi Akiba the question of which was greater, ma‘aseh (deeds or action), or learning. Tarfon said action, and Akiba said learning; they concluded that learning is greater, because it leads to action (Kiddushin 40b). The same ethical imperative seems again to be implied.

This may seem a peculiar way to enter a meditation on the texts proposed to me: Jeremiah 26: 1-16, Romans 11: 1-12, and John 10: 19-42. But I would note that all three passages represent, as action, an undaunted proclamation of a message that the speaker takes to be both true and obligatory. Jeremiah is threatened with death for prophesying (bar penitence) the destruction of Jerusalem; Paul, quoting Elijah, implies that his own life has been sought for proclaiming the fulfillment of prophecy; and John represents Jesus as threatened with stoning for his proclamation of divinity.

These texts cluster around experiences of historical catastrophe. Jeremiah anticipates (or his redacted texts remember) the destruction of the kingdom of Judah. Paul—Saulus before his conversion—served the Temple authorities in repressing the messianism that culminated in the rising of C.E. 66-70 (and Romans 16: 11 suggests a link to the colonial elite, the Herodians). John, writing a generation or more after the cataclysmic siege of Jerusalem and destruction of the Second Temple, is striving to revision events that preceded a war of genocidal intensity.

Rabbi Tarfon, one might add, lived through the final convulsion of the Bar Kochba revolt against Rome in C.E. 135-36.

Michael Keefer is a professor in the School of English and Theatre Studies of the University of Guelph; he lives in Toronto with the novelist and poet Janice Kulyk Keefer. The prayer he would suggest is from Act III, scene iv, lines 26-36 of Shakespeare’s King Lear. In this scene, the dispossessed Lear insists that his Fool enter ahead of him the hovel that his few loyal followers have found for him as shelter from the storm:

In boy; go first. You houseless poverty— 
Nay, get thee in. I’ll pray, and then I’ll sleep. 
[Exit Fool into the hovel.] 
Poor naked wretches, wheresoe’er you are, 
That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm, 
How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides, 
Your looped and windowed raggedness, defend you
From seasons such as these? O, I have ta’en
Too little care of this! Take physic, pomp; 
Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel, 
That thou mayst shake the superflux to them
And show the heavens more just.


An Afterword

Though there wasn’t space in Bloor Street United Church's Lenten booklet to say so, this is an unusual prayer. Instead of invoking some higher power, Lear addresses his words to the homeless, the abject, the defenseless. He reproaches himself for failing to attend to their needs when he had the means to do so. And he exhorts those who now have position and power to learn about the suffering of the wretched of the earth—by sharing it, as Lear himself is being forced to do—and then to transform what they have learned into action by another kind of sharing, a distribution to the needy of “the superflux,” what they possess beyond their own needs.

The last line is perhaps the most startling: Lear is telling us that our sense of the justice or injustice of the cosmos arises out of our own human enactments of justice or injustice. The idea feels modern, so we may be surprised to encounter it in a play written four centuries ago.

But perhaps Rabbi Tarfon (or his midrashic commentator) was on to something similar one and a half millennia earlier. You want to live in a world governed by justice and mercy? Do justly, now. Love mercy, now.

The words of King Lear suggest that to act upon these imperatives we must first learn experientially what it means to suffer injustice and oppression. Lear proposes no more than a modest sharing out of superfluities, but declares, realistically enough, that action of this kind needs to be impelled by an empathetic understanding of what people who are oppressed and impoverished have to endure.

Yet as Rabbi Tarfon and Rabbi Akiba seem to have recognized when they debated the matter, another kind of learning is equally necessary as the basis for just action. What, for contemporary purposes, would this learning have to incorporate? Ethical principles, to be sure, but equally importantly, an understanding of what is actually going on around us.

Take the example of Haiti. Canadians would no doubt like to think that we are, collectively, behaving justly and with mercy towards Haiti: after all, on a per capita basis, Canada is by far the most significant donor to that tragically impoverished country.

Would it alter our perceptions to know that in 2004 the Canadian government organized, and Canadian troops participated in, the overthrow of Haiti’s democratically elected government and its replacement by a reign of terror? That Canadian, American and French troops occupied Haiti with an illegal Multinational Interim Force, one of whose first actions was to shut down Haiti’s only medical school and turn its buildings into a barracks? That the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) gave generous support to a corrupted human rights organization which fabricated atrocity charges against senior members of the overthrown government, and that CIDA paid the salary of the deputy minister responsible for the appalling prisons in which these and other political prisoners of the coup regime were confined? That the RCMP took responsibility for training the Haitian National Police, which over the next two years repeatedly sent out sniper teams to murder participants in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations? That Canada continues to support a Haitian electoral system which denies participation to the Fanmi Lavalas, the party of the poor that commands the support of an overwhelming majority of the Haitian electorate?1

How just and merciful, to take another prominent example, has been the collective engagement of Canadians with the people of Gaza? Would most Canadians be proud to know that since 2006, when the Palestinians democratically elected a government of which our government disapproves, Canada has participated in an aid embargo against Gaza, and has provided diplomatic support to an Israeli blockade that has destroyed the local economy and deprived an already desperate population of food, fuel, medical supplies, and the materials needed to repair collapsing water supply and sewage systems?

And what of the fact that during the Israeli assault on Gaza in December 2008-January 2009, which subjected defenceless people to a storm of bombs, missiles, artillery fire and white phosphorus, killing 1,400 and wounding many thousands more, leaving tens of thousands homeless and wrecking their life-sustaining civic infrastructure, the Canadian government gave loud and unequivocal support to the aggressors?2

One remembers that Rabbi Tarfon, after exhorting us to do justly and love mercy, invites us to “Walk humbly, now” as we set about the work that we are not free to abandon.




1  For documentation, see the materials collected in Press for Conversion, issues 60 (March 2007), 61 (September 2007), 62 (May 2008), and 63 (November 2008), available at http://coat.ncf.ca; see also http://www.haitianalysis.com, http://www.haitiaction.net/, http://canadahaitiaction.ca, http://pih.org/inforesources/reading.html#Haiti, and http://www.ijdh.org.

2  For evidence that the Israeli Operation Cast Lead was unambiguously an act of aggression, see Avi Shlaim, Israel and Palestine: Reappraisals, Revisions, Refutations (London: Verso, 2010), pp. 311-17.   

Silenced Dissent: Four Short Texts on Israel/Palestine

The four short texts reproduced here, which date from 2002, may be of interest as samples of the routine exclusion by the Canadian media of voices dissenting from a pro-Zionist political orthodoxy. These texts have not previously been published.


1. Margaret Wente and Ariel Sharon: Letter (unpublished) to The Globe and Mail, 9 March 2002

To the editor, Letters Page:

Margaret Wente enlists support for the Sharon government by claiming that Israeli “fair-mindedness and compromise have led to a murderous dead end” (“Why they booed Bill Graham,” March 9).

Would she describe as “fair-minded” the processes of expropriation, settlement and cantonization that went on under South African apartheid? Why does she find similar processes acceptable when applied to the Palestinians of the occupied territories?

As for “compromise,” it was the Sharon government that closed down all negotiations. Twice in recent months when lulls in the violence opened the possibility of renewed talks, Israel launched renewed attacks (including targeted assassinations that might fairly be described as “murderous”).

Wente paints a dismaying picture of Muslim anti-Jewish sentiments, and of Yasser Arafat's duplicity. Given the enormously greater power held by the Israeli Prime Minister, his record is rather more dismaying. Sharon's paratroop unit perpetrated well-documented massacres of civilians in 1953, and there is compelling evidence that the appalling 1982 massacres in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila were carried out under his orders.

Current Israeli reprisal attacks upon civilians reveal a willingness to repeat this behaviour on a massive scale. Canadians should unequivocally condemn these acts of state terror.


2. Phone-In (not broadcast) to the Talk-Back line of CBC Radio's As It Happens,” 11 March 2002

This is Michael Keefer calling, from Toronto. I'd like to respond to the claims made on your show by the scholar from the “conflict resolution” institute at Bar Elam University in Israel whom you interviewed yesterday.

The violence on both sides of the Israeli-Palestine conflict is sickening, but there's no need to misrepresent historical facts as he did. Since 1977—that's twenty-five years ago now—the PLO has repeatedly offered to renounce violence and to recognize Israel's statehood in return for a Palestinian state in the occupied territories. It's a fact that the Sharon government unilaterally shut down all negotiations. It's a fact that the Israeli occupation, the building of settlements, the bombing of civilians, and the bulldozing of houses are all violations of international law.

And finally, there's good reason to believe that Prime Minister Sharon is guilty of war crimes. This is the man who oversaw the massacre of 2,000 civilians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in 1982.

It looks as if he's up to his old tricks again.


3. Rex Murphy's Abuse of NDP MP Svend Robinson: Letter (unpublished) to The Globe and Mail, 20 April 2002

So what is it exactly that Rex Murphy finds so contemptible and absurd about Svend Robinson? The state of Israel is enforcing its continuing illegal occupation of territories conquered in the war of 1967 by deploying overwhelming military force against Palestinian cities, towns, and refugee camps. Not merely are Israeli forces rocketing and bombarding civilian populations; they have also attacked hospital facilities, ambulances, and medical personnel. Civilians injured by Israeli military action have been actively prevented from receiving medical assistance, and left to die in the streets. There is mounting evidence that hundreds of civilians have been killed, and that Palestinian fighters and civilians captured by Israeli forces have been tortured and summarily executed.

These policies are being directed by an Israeli Prime Minister who provoked the present intifada eighteen months ago by invading the precincts of the Dome of the Rock with a large “protective” force of police and soldiers; who sabotaged and cancelled the already faltering peace negotiations as soon as he came to power; and who has, in addition, a well-documented record as a war criminal that now stretches back almost a half-century. (Ariel Sharon's responsibility for the massacres of civilians in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in September 1982 is well known—but he first made a name for himself in August and October 1953, when the paratroop Unit 101 which he commanded massacred over 100 civilians in night-time “reprisal” attacks on the El-Bureig refugee camp and on the Jordanian village of Qibya.)

In the face of George Bush's declaration that Prime Minister Sharon is “a man of peace,” Svend Robinson is one of the very few politicians in this supine country who has had the guts to speak out against Israeli state terrorism, and to make the more significant gesture of travelling to the places where war crimes are still being committed to speak out against them there.

Robinson must have guessed that many in his own party would be too confused or too cowardly to follow his lead; he must have anticipated that Canadian supporters of Israel would attempt to smear him as an antisemite; and I'm sure he knew that his principled acts would be subjected to ridicule by every oily orthodox pundit in the country.

I honour Svend Robinson for his courage in defending human rights and international law.

(Professor) Michael H. Keefer


4. Incitement to hatred: Letter (unpublished) to The Toronto Star, 2 December 2002

I am writing in response to Rosie DiManno's grotesquely one-sided column (“Latest attack on Jews,” 2 December 2002), to express my shock that the Star would print what amounts to an incitement to sectarian and racial hatred.

One premise of DiManno's column is entirely correct: people everywhere, no matter what their religious or political commitments, should be prompt in condemning terror attacks upon civilians. She is thus right to criticize Muslim authorities who have failed to condemn the murderous attacks upon Jews in Kenya.

But let us pretend for a moment that the old notion of journalistic balance has some meaning. DiManno characterizes Palestinians as “bleat[ing]” when they plead for justice in the face of an illegal occupation in which they are subjected to Israeli state terror—which includes ethnic cleansing, indiscriminate attacks upon civilians, and a systematic denial of medical assistance to the victims. When has DiManno ever raised her voice against these crimes? Would she dare to describe as “bleating” the outcries of Israeli civilians who have been injured or bereaved by suicide bombers?

DiManno compares violent Islamicists who commit acts of terror against civilians to “cockroaches.” Would she dare to describe as vermin those members of the Israeli Defense Force who have committed acts of terror against Palestinian civilians? Would she, for that matter, apply to Judaism or to American Evangelical Christianity the same analysis that she applies to Islam?

Whether one believes, with DiManno, that Islamicist terrorists are motivated by an irrational hostility to the West and to Jews, and only opportunistically took up the cause of the Palestinians, or whether one sees a connection between the state terrorism inflicted by Israel upon the Palestinians and the retail terrorism practised by violent Islamicists, there can be no excuse for speaking of an entire people in language normally reserved for farm animals.     

In Defence of Jenny Peto - A letter to Dalton McGuinty

In December 2010, three members of the Ontario legislature, one of them a minister in the provincial government, took the extraordinary step of denouncing a recently accepted University of Toronto Master of Arts thesis in the legislature as being “shockingly antisemitic,” “disgusting,” “hateful and poorly researched,” a “piece of garbage,” and an “attack on Ontario's Jewish community.”

I had read the thesis in question, and had formed a very different opinion of its qualities. I was struck by the indications both in news reports and in their own language that none of the three MPPs had read the thesis—despite which they were willing, under the protection of legislative immunity, to slander the author and the supervisor of the thesis (both of whom happen to be members, if dissident ones, of Ontario's Jewish community).

Taking advantage if the fact that the Liberal Premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty, had been a student of mine three decades earlier at the University of Ottawa, I addressed this open letter to him. It was published by Independent Jewish Voices/Voix Juives Indépendentes (17 December 2010), http://ijvcanada.org/racism/new-antisemitism/in-defence-of-jenny-peto-a-letter-to-dalton-mcguinty/, and at four other websites, among them PULSE Media, in 2010-11. I was unaware when I published this text that Eric Hoskins, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, is a doctor: I have altered the text, where appropriate, to recognize that title.


The Right Honourable Dalton McGuinty, 
Premier of Ontario. 11 December 2010.


Dear Mr. McGuinty,

I am writing to you as a senior member of the teaching profession in Ontario’s college and university sector. I began my teaching career at Centennial College in Toronto nearly forty years ago, resigned from my position there in order to pursue doctoral research in England, and returned to Ontario in 1980—where I was taken on by the English Department of the University of Ottawa in time to have the pleasure of being one of your professors there in 1980-81.

I have taught at the University of Guelph since 1990—and have done external work as well, including service for one year as Chair of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada’s research grants adjudication committee in Literature, and for two years as President of the Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English.

Please forgive this recitation of ‘street-creds’—but since I'm addressing you on a very serious matter, I would like to hope that this letter may receive your personal attention.

I am prompted to write by an extraordinary episode that occurred in the Ontario Legislature on December 7th. Two MPPs, Mr. Steve Clark and Mr. Peter Shurman, rose in the Legislature with questions addressed to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, the Honourable Eric Hoskins. Both MPPs denounced, in the most strenuous terms, a Master of Arts thesis recently accepted by the University of Toronto. Mr. Clark called it “shockingly anti-Semitic” and “disgusting,” and asked, “What are you doing as Minister of Citizenship to stop the rising tide of anti-Semitism?” Mr. Shurman called the thesis a “hateful and poorly researched paper,” and invited the Minister to “speak up on behalf of Jewish groups who have been so deeply hurt by this piece of garbage and condemn it not as an academic paper but for the hate that it actually is.”

Responding to his questioners with expressions of appreciation, Dr. Hoskins said, “I join them in condemning this attack on Ontario's Jewish community.” His responses also included a double reference to the pride he felt “earlier this year when the Legislature came together to condemn anti-Semitism on our campuses....”

I would like to draw several issues to your attention.


1. Mr. Shurman is reported in the newspapers as acknowledging that he had not himself read the MA thesis that he denounced in such inflammatory terms. Dr. Hoskins appears not to have read it either—and the wording of his first response would suggest that he believed Mr. Clark also derived his opinions about it at second hand: “I too, was greatly disturbed and in fact disgusted when I read the immediate reports as well.”

In contrast to your colleagues in the Legislature, I have read Ms. Jenny Peto’s MA thesis, The Victimhood of the Powerful: White Jews, Zionism and the Racism of Hegemonic Holocaust Education. I believe that the language used by the two MPPs and by the Minister to characterize this thesis is very seriously misleading. It is in my opinion a well-researched study with a clearly-defined ethical focus; it makes thoughtful and interesting use of critical race theory to construct a persuasive interpretive framework, and it arrives through close critical analysis at conclusions that could lead into further productive work at the doctoral level.


2. The central argument of Ms. Peto’s thesis—alluded to by Mr. Clark and Mr. Shurman—is that two particular Holocaust education projects, the “March of the Living” and the “March of Remembrance and Hope,” are making instrumental and political use of the appalling history of Jewish martyrdom and suffering in the Shoah, and thereby perpetuating claims to victimhood that, in Ms. Peto’s words, “are no longer based in a reality of oppression,” but rather produce effects that benefit “the organized Jewish community and the Israeli nation-state.”

Harsh though Ms. Peto’s language might seem to some readers, this is in fact an issue that is being vigorously discussed within Israel—perhaps most movingly and brilliantly by the film-maker Yoav Shamir, in his documentary Defamation. In that film’s climactic sequences, Shamir accompanies a group of Israeli teenagers who are being taken to Poland by one of the Holocaust education programs that Ms. Peto’s thesis discusses. There is a sequence in which these adolescents, having toured the site of the death camp at Auschwitz, are overwhelmed by the horror of the place and the appalling scale of the atrocities inflicted there; they huddle together in little groups, weeping. This scene is unforgettable. But scarcely less so is the new hardness that some of the young people then immediately express in relation to the sufferings of the Palestinians living in the territories illegally occupied by their country since 1967.

Shamir’s documentary leaves viewers with a clear sense that this hardness toward the Palestinians is an intended effect of the state-organized program whose workings he has shown us. (I would urge you and your colleagues, Mr. Premier, to watch this film: it is available online at http://www.defamation-thefilm.com/html/home_english.html. Mr. Clark, Mr. Shurman, and Dr. Hoskins may find it instructive that the argument they object to so vehemently in Ms. Peto’s work is unambiguously supported by Yoav Shamir’s documentary footage.)


3. Arguments similar to those of Ms. Peto’s MA thesis have recently been made by a distinguished Israeli politician, Avraham Burg, in his book The Holocaust is Over, We Must Rise from its Ashes. For a brief account of this book’s relevance to current political debates in Canada, see Gerald Caplan, “A Mideast reading list for Tories willing to learn,” The Globe and Mail (27 August 2010). Noting that Burg, the son of a prominent Israeli cabinet minister, has himself been “a leader of the Labour Party, speaker of the Knesset, and chairman of the Jewish Agency and the Zionist Executive,” Caplan writes that “From the heart of Israel itself, Mr. Burg has the courage to accuse his fellow Israelis of deliberately exploiting the Holocaust as an excuse to treat Palestinians deplorably.”


4. In their remarks in the Legislature on December 7th, the two opposition MPPs and your cabinet colleague agreed that Ms. Peto’s MA thesis is an expression of antisemitic hatred, and an attack on the Jewish community. I would argue that it is crucial for members of the Legislature to recognize that the issue of antisemitism has become heavily politicized in Canada—and that claims made on this subject have with increasing frequency been motivated by a desire to silence legitimate criticism of the actions and policies of the state of Israel by branding them as antisemitism and as hate speech.

Claims motivated in this manner have often taken the form of assertions that Canadian civility and decency are menaced by a “new antisemitism,” in which the traditional antisemitic loathing of Jews and Judaism has mutated into hatred of “the collective Jew” and now takes the form of attempts to demonize and delegitimize the state of Israel.

However, many distinguished contemporary scholars of Judaism and antisemitism have rejected attempts to expand the category of antisemitism by conflating it with criticisms of Israeli state policy and actions. These scholars include the late Raul Hilberg, whose magisterial three-volume work The Destruction of the European Jews (1961) is acknowledged as the seminal study of the Shoah; University of Oxford philosopher Brian Klug, whose writings on antisemitism include “The Collective Jew: Israel and the New Antisemitism,” Patterns of Prejudice (June 2003), and “The Myth of the New Antisemitism,” The Nation (February 2004); Yakov M. Rabkin, Professor of History at the Université de Montréal, whose book Au nom de la Torah: une histoire de l’opposition juive au sionisme (2004) was shortlisted for a Governor-General’s Award; and Marc H. Ellis, Director of the Center for Jewish Studies at Baylor University, a theologian whose nearly two dozen books include The End of Jewish History: Auschwitz, the Holocaust and Palestine (2005).

Their principal reason for rejecting the conflation of antisemitism with criticism of Israeli policies is that its obvious purpose is to deflect attention away from Israel’s systematic violations of international law, including the Geneva Conventions, in its treatment since 1967 of the people of the Palestinian Occupied Territories.

A secondary reason is that this conflation actually detracts from the struggle against real antisemitism. As Professor Yanis Varoufakis of the University of Athens has written, “[W]hen a worthy cause, like that of ‘zero-tolerance to antisemites’, is appropriated by a regressive campaign whose purpose is, in effect, to terminate any critical engagement with the subjugation, repression and expropriation of another people, the Palestinians, then the worthy cause suffers. Antisemites rejoice when criticism of Israel’s Wall in Palestine is equated with antisemitism. For they are suddenly included in the wider community of fair minded people for whom the collective humiliation, mass harassment and disconnection of a whole people from their own backyards, not to mention the rest of the world, constitutes a hideous state of affairs in need of urgent redress.”


5. I have myself published on these subjects. I am the editor and part-author of Antisemitism Real and Imagined: Responses to the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism (2010), a book described by Gerald Caplan, in the same Globe and Mail article in which he introduced Avraham Burg to Canadian readers, as “indispensable” and “important.” I would note that two matters raised in the Legislature, the first by the comments of Mr. Clark, and the second by Dr. Hoskins’s responses, are dealt with at some length in my book.


6. Mr. Clark asked Dr. Hoskins: “What are you doing as Minister of Citizenship to stop the rising tide of anti-Semitism?” But is there actually, as B’nai Brith Canada has repeatedly asserted, an alarming resurgence of antisemitism in Canada? Recognizing this as an important question, I devoted a long chapter to it in Antisemitism Real and Imagined (“Data and Deception: Quantitative Evidence of Antisemitism,” pp. 165-205). My conclusion, after detailed comparative analysis of the available statistical evidence, was that although Canadian Jews continue to be disproportionately victimized in hate crimes, antisemitic attitudes have declined steadily in recent decades, and Statistics Canada and Toronto Police Service data show declines in antisemitic hate crimes. It would therefore have been appropriate for Dr. Hoskins to reply by expressing a due determination to act firmly against antisemitism and all other forms of racism—and then to have added that according to the best available evidence, there is no “rising tide” of antisemitism in Canada.


7. The second of these two matters was evoked by Dr. Hoskins’s double reference to the pride he felt “earlier this year when the Legislature came together to condemn anti-Semitism on our campuses....” He was alluding to the vote taken in the Legislature on February 25th, 2010, in the presence of just thirty MPPs, to condemn Israeli Apartheid Week as “odious.”

It would have been more appropriate for Mr. Hoskins to feel shame over that vote, which revealed a remarkable level of ignorance among members of the Legislature.

The term “apartheid” was applied with clinical accuracy by Marwan Bishara in 2001 to describe what Israel had done in the Occupied Palestinian Territories from the early 1990s onward, “physically and demographically divid[ing] up the West Bank and Gaza into islands of poverty, or bantustans, while maintaining economic domination and direct control over Palestinian land and natural resources” (Palestine/Israel: Peace or Apartheid [2001], p. 4). The term was re-used by former US President Jimmy Carter in 2006 (Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid)—a usage validated in 2007 by Israel Prize laureate and former Israeli Minister of Education Shulamit Aloni (“Yes, There is Apartheid in Israel,” CounterPunch [8 January 2007]). And in January 2010, Henry Seigman, the former Executive Director of the American Jewish Congress and current President of the US/Middle East Project of the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote that Israel’s “relentless” construction of new settlements “seems finally to have succeeded in locking in the irreversibility of its colonial project. As a result of that ‘achievement’ [...] Israel has crossed the threshold from ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’ to the only apartheid regime in the western world” (“Imposing Middle East Peace,” The Nation [7 January 2010]).

More conclusively, in May 2009 the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa published a report produced by a team of South African and international jurists and entitled Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid?: A Reassessment of Israel's Practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territories Under International Law (http://www.hrsc.ac.za/Document-3227.phtml). This report came to the conclusion that Israel’s rule in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is “a colonial system that implements a system of apartheid.”

Dr. Hoskins is proud to have condemned as unacceptable and hateful any application of the term “apartheid” to the structures of land theft, cantonment, and racialized subjugation, separation, and oppression of a subject-population that characterize Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. But South African legal scholars have had direct and bitter experience in their own country of the realities of apartheid. Are we to believe that members of the Ontario Legislature know better than they do what apartheid is?

* * * *

I would propose, in concluding, that the issue at hand is not one of whether we should provide Holocaust education to our children. I have strong feelings on this subject: I have traveled widely in Poland, and during those travels have walked on what I regard as sacred ground—in the vacant spaces that are all that remain of synagogues in Lodz and Lublin, in the surviving Old Synagogue in Kazimierz, in the gas-chamber at Majdanek, and in the hillside monument of shattered gravestones that is Kazimierz Dolny’s only memorial to the fifty percent of the town’s population who were murdered in the Shoah. What is at issue is not the question of whether our children should know this history, so they can dedicate themselves to ensuring that horrors of this kind can never be repeated: all of us, surely, believe this should be the case.

What is at issue, rather, is our right to subject the various representations of and responses to that history to lucid criticism and analysis—and to speak out openly when it appears that they are being used, not to bring young people into a determination to stand up against injustice, but instead to desensitize them to present-day actualities of dispossession, oppression, and suffering.

Ms. Jenny Peto has exercised that right in an MA thesis that in my opinion deals courageously with difficult and painful materials. I honour her for it.

I hope, Mr. Premier, that you and your fellow leaders in the Ontario Legislature—the Speaker of the House, the members of your cabinet, and the leaders of the two opposition parties, Ms. Horwath and Mr. Hudak—may be able to provide the appropriate leadership to bring other MPPs to an understanding of the principles of university autonomy and academic freedom, and the underlying principle that the intellectual work of universities must not be constrained by political interference.

I hope you may be able as well to inculcate a fuller recognition among members of the Legislature of the meaning of parliamentary decorum. Behaviour reminiscent of the denunciatory antics of Senator Joseph McCarthy in the early 1950s does not enhance the dignity of our Legislature—and there is reason to believe that the statements made by Mr. Clark, Mr. Shurman, and Dr. Hoskins amount to an abuse of parliamentary privilege. It would appear that none of the three MPPs had direct knowledge of Ms. Peto’s MA thesis, and Mr. Shurman’s remark, reported by the National Post on December 9th, is particularly shocking in its casualness: “He hasn’t read the paper, but nonetheless owes it to his largely Jewish constituents to defend Israel on their behalf, he said.”

All three MPPs made statements which, if spoken outside the Legislature, without the protection of parliamentary privilege, would be recognized under Canadian law as libelous. I believe there are good grounds for rejecting these statements as irresponsible, ill-informed, and untrue. I would recommend, then, that the Legislature exercise its own collective parliamentary privileges—which include the power to discipline its members—by requiring Mr. Clark, Mr. Shurman, and Mr. Hoskins to withdraw and apologize for their remarks.

Yours sincerely and respectfully,

Michael Keefer
Professor, School of English and Theatre Studies, University of Guelph.  

Desperate Imaginings: Rhetoric and Ideology of the ‘New Antisemitism’

This text was first published as chapter three in Part Three of Antisemitism Real and Imagined. The pagination of this chapter in the book (where it occupies pp. 207-41, with the notes on pp. 241-59) is indicated numbers in square brackets inserted into the text.


Antisemitism Real and Imagined (2010), Part 3, Chapter 3


This chapter offers an account of the rhetorical turns by means of which supporters of Israeli policies have sought to deflect criticisms of even the most flagrant crimes and illegalities, libeling human rights activists as antisemites and representing victimizers as victims. I begin by drawing upon the work of Norman Finkelstein for a quick outline of the principal means by which this libelous inversion is carried out—the ideology of the so-called “new antisemitism,” which I concur with him in recognizing as fraudulent.1

A related inversion of actuality is apparent in the CPCCA’s claims about the academic victimization of Jews. Stories of Jewish students being subjected to abuse and intimidation on Canadian campuses turn out to be seriously exaggerated: the reality is that critics of Israel in Canadian universities, and in American and Israeli universities as well, are the ones who most commonly have had to face slanders and vituperation—as well as the threat, and sometimes the actuality, of administrative sanctions, expulsion, or loss of employment.

But the CPCCA’s interventions may yet turn out—depending on how we respond to its explicit targeting of free speech and academic freedom, and depending on what the Canadian people make of the issues it has raised—to have been beneficial. This chapter concludes with some remarks about how we might, as a nation, take meaningful action against real—rather than imagined—antisemitism.


The “New Antisemitism”

As we have seen, the ideology of the “new antisemitism” rests on a rhetorical strategy that deals with criticisms of Israel by re-describing them as no more than [208] revivals of the traditional tropes of antisemitism. Reports of Israeli war crimes against Palestinian civilians, for example, are transformed into blood libels and denounced as vile and abusive. As in the example of the Community Security Trust’s smearing of Johann Hari, this rhetoric does away with the material evidence, slandering as antisemites those who report and analyze violations of human rights. Moreover, by identifying criticisms of Israel as evidence of a “new antisemitism,” it produces the illusion of a widespread resurgence of Jew-hatred, thereby legitimizing further aggressions as self-defense.

The pattern is one of a perverse feedback loop. Israel is treated as effectively indistinguishable from world Jewry—a point made forcefully when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was introduced at the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly in Washington, DC in November 2009 as “the leader of Israel and the leader of the Jewish people,”2 and again when he himself declared in January 2010, at a ceremony commemorating the liberation of Auschwitz sixty-five years ago, that “From this place, I swear as the leader of the Jewish people, never again shall we allow evil to hurt our people.”3 (The many Israelis who voted against Netanyahu, and the many diaspora Jews who regard him as a violent and dangerous hypocrite, were not asked what they thought of these Mosaic pretensions.)

How is it possible, within this ideology, to interpret thoroughgoing criticism of the state led by such a politician as anything but antisemitic? Of course, the deeper that state plunges into apartheid policies, the more vocal become the criticisms of its behaviour—and the more persuasive therefore the evidence is that not just Israelis but Jews worldwide are beset by antisemites, whose evil desires “to hurt our people” must be combated by all means available.

Another complementary (and equally perverse) feedback loop is set in motion by this one—a loop in which the vile prejudices of a real if residual antisemitism find confirmation in the lawless violence of a state that the antisemite believes, because ideologues like Netanyahu tell him so, is acting on behalf of Jews worldwide. Of course, this second loop also amplifies the first one: any increase in real, and not just imagined antisemitism that may be prompted by the state of Israel’s words and deeds is grist to the “new antisemitism” propaganda mill.

* * * *

As Norman Finkelstein has remarked, “the allegation of a new anti-Semitism is neither new nor about anti-Semitism.”4 Over the past thirty-five years the term has been persistently advanced in books by national leaders of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL): Arnold Forster’s and Benjamin Epstein’s The New Anti-Semitism (1974), Nathan and Ruth-Ann Perlmutter’s The Real Anti-Semitism in America (1982), and Abraham Foxman’s Never Again? The Threat of the New Anti-Semitism (2003); and their work has been supplemented by a chorus of [209] other writers, among them Phyllis Chesler and Gabriel Schoenfeld, authors, respectively, of The New Anti-Semitism (2003) and The Return of Anti-Semitism (2004).5

Where there is so much smoke, there must be fire—but lit by whom, and for what purposes? Finkelstein argues that the intention of these books, and of the “meticulously orchestrated media extravaganzas” that have accompanied them, “is not to fight anti-Semitism but rather to exploit the historical suffering of Jews in order to immunize Israel against criticism.”6

The principal target of Forster’s and Epstein’s polemic was not the New York Times or the Washington Post, which they castigated for going easy on antisemites; or Norman Jewison, whose film version of Jesus Christ Superstar they attacked. Rather, as Finkelstein shows through extensive quotation, it was “criticism directed at Israel after the October 1973 war, when new pressures were exerted on Israel to withdraw from the Egyptian Sinai and to reach a diplomatic settlement with the Palestinians.” Interpreting this criticism as “hostility” to Israel, Forster and Epstein defined it as “the heart of the new anti-Semitism.”7

In the Perlmutters’ book, the “real” antisemitism is similarly defined, Finkelstein observes, “as any challenge inimical to Jewish interests”:

“Essentially [the Perlmutters write], this book’s thesis is that today the interests of Jews are not so much threatened by their familiar nemesis, crude anti-Semitism, as by a-Semitic government policies, the proponents of which may be free of anti-Semitism and indeed may well—literally—count Jews among some of their best friends.” Practically, this meant pinning the epithet “anti-Semitic” on domestic challenges to Jewish class privilege and political power as well as on global challenges to Israeli hegemony. American Jewish elites were, in effect and in plain sight, cynically appropriating “anti-Semitism”—an historical phenomenon replete with suffering and martyrdom, on the one hand, and hatred and genocide, on the other—as an ideological weapon to defend and facilitate ethnic aggrandizement.8

It is telling that the Perlmutters allied themselves with the openly antisemitic, and yet pro-Israel, ideologues of the religious right, while regarding the liberal Protestants of the National Council of Churches, whose leadership in opposing antisemitism they acknowledged, as opponents because of their criticisms of Israeli violations of international law.9

In Abraham Foxman’s 2003 book, Finkelstein argues, the ideology of the new antisemitism arrived at its mature form and “reveal[ed] its true essence”—for in this book, despite chapters on “The Rift between American Blacks and Jews,” and on the racism of right-wing extremists, “all pretenses were dropped that it was about anything except Israel.” Finkelstein briskly outlines Foxman’s logic:

[210] [T]he reasoning is that, since Israel represents the “Jew among nations,” criticism of Israel springs from the same poisoned well as anti-Semitism and therefore is, by definition, anti-Semitic. And since the last major outbreak of anti-Semitism climaxed in The Holocaust, those currently criticizing Israel are fomenting a new Holocaust. “Very quickly,” Foxman portends in Never Again? “the actual survival of the Jewish people might once again be at risk.” The transparent motive behind these assertions is to taint any criticism of Israel as motivated by anti-Semitism and—inverting reality—to turn Israel (and Jews), not Palestinians, into the victims of the “current siege” (Chesler).10

As can be seen from other recent texts—among them Pierre-André Taguieff’s Rising from the Muck: The New Anti-Semitism in Europe (2004), a translation of his La nouvelle judéophobie (2002); Fiamma Nirenstein’s Terror: The New Anti-Semitism and the War Against the West (2005), translated from her L’Abbandono (2003) and Gli Antisemiti Progressisti (2004); some of the essays collected by David I. Kertzer in Old Demons, New Debates (2005); Alan Dershowitz’s The Case Against Israel’s Enemies (2008); and Globalising Hatred: The New Antisemitism (2009), by Denis MacShane, the Labour MP who chaired the British All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism—claims about a new antisemitism continue to be vigorously advanced.11 But though each of these texts adds new flourishes and new examples, the basic line of argument remains the one laid out by their ADL precursors.


Rhetorical Turns

The tropes of traditional antisemitism that we encountered in the preceding chapter—the conspiracy trope, the trope of dual loyalty, the trope of defilement, and the blood libel—have a degree of rhetorical complexity that may be worth reflecting on.

The conspiracy trope, with roots in New Testament fictions about the behaviour of Caiaphas the High Priest and his Sanhedrin in the trial of Jesus, took shape through the same passion for symmetry that seats an infant Antichrist in the lap of Satan, in direct imitation of the infant Jesus with the Virgin Mary, in the great 12th-century Last Judgment mosaic in the Italian cathedral of Torcello. Antisemites found it tempting to conceive of a demonic Jewish equivalent to the Pope and his College of Cardinals—and what could such a body concern itself with, if not a demonic parody of the papacy’s claim to universal spiritual regency? From here it’s not a great distance to the fantasies elaborated in that grotesque late-19th-century forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

The same process of mimetic projection and inversion gave rise to that most revolting of antisemitic tropes, the blood libel, which evidently stemmed from reflection on the image of the Christ child, the future crucified Redeemer [211] whose blood would be shed to atone for human sins.12 The disbelief of Jews in this Messiah was generally thought to exclude them from the community for whom Christ’s blood was spilled; through a sick projection and inversion, this conviction prompted accusations of ritual murder involving the crucifixion of a Christian child in a demonic parody of the Christian narrative of redemption.13 Further extensions of the same process led to elaborations including a parodic kosher butchery of the victim, whose blood would then be incorporated into Passover matzohs in a blasphemous mockery of the Mass.14

The conspiracy trope and the blood libel represent the obviously dominant Christian community as victimized—and the blood libel was clearly aimed at inciting the ‘victims’ to take revenge, in the form of judicial and mob violence against Jews. The full pattern, then, is one in which mimetic projection and inversion produce an illusion of victimization and consequently an incitement to persecution and violence.

While these antisemitic tropes displace structures of Christian belief into forms that provoke persecutory social action, the rhetoric developed by the ideologues of the “new antisemitism” involves a further act of displacement—one in which the antisemitic tropes are used as an overlay or re-description that serves to occult or erase actual present-day social actions.

The material reality may be that AIPAC, with an estimated budget of $40 to $60 million, is indeed the most powerful and most effective lobby on Capitol Hill;15 and that, as former U.S. President Jimmy Carter as written, “Under AIPAC pressure, there are few significant countervailing voices in the public arena, and any balanced debate is still practically nonexistent in the U.S. Congress or among presidential hopefuls.”16 But when such perceptions as Carter’s are re-described as mere revivals of the trope of a Jewish world conspiracy, the putative material reality becomes unspeakable—except by those willing to court being branded as antisemites.

Accusations, however well substantiated, of Israeli atrocities against Palestinian civilians, can similarly be re-described as no more than a renewal of the ancient and despicable blood libel. Thus in March 2009 Jonathan Kay of the National Post complained that “From the opening days of the Gaza campaign, the blood-libels of ‘massacre’ and ‘genocide’ have flown thick and fast”; and on the same day, his English counterpart in unwavering support for Israel, Melanie Phillips, went so far as to accuse the Israeli newspaper Haaretz of a blood libel for having reported the testimony of Israeli soldiers that they had witnessed and participated in war crimes against Gaza civilians.17 In August 2009 a Human Rights Watch report that documented the murder during Operation Cast Lead of eleven Palestinian civilians holding white flags was dismissed by an American pro-Israel blog as “a blood libel disguised as an investigative report.”18

But by mid-September 2009, when the Goldstone Report, Human Rights in Palestine and Other Occupied Arab Territories: Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, was released, with its meticulous and [212] scrupulous documenting of war crimes, the blood-libel tactic seemed to be losing its effectiveness.

Harvard law professor and Israel apologist Alan Dershowitz let out all the stops in denouncing Richard Goldstone, the principal author of the UN report, as “a full-fledged member of the international bash-Israel chorus” whose name “will forever be linked in infamy with such distorters of history and truth as Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein and Jimmy Carter. The so-called report commissioned by the notorious United Nations Human Rights Council and issued under his name is so filled with lies, distortions and blood libels that it could have been drafted by Hamas extremists.” 19

In the extremity of his rage, Dershowitz is unwilling to concede even that the “so-called” report is a report.

There are multiple ironies here: Goldstone is, like Dershowitz, a very senior member of the legal profession, a Jew, and a lifelong Zionist. The difference between them would appear to reside in the fact that Goldstone’s personal and judicial integrity has led him to face up to realities—in the case of the attack on Gaza, appalling realities—of a kind that Dershowitz has spent most of his adult life concealing, distorting, or defending.

* * * *

One of the more influential voices among what I have called the ideologues of the new antisemitism is that of Irwin Cotler, Professor of Law at McGill University, former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, and co-founder of the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism, at whose February 2009 meeting the Canadian delegation of which Cotler was the co-leader decided to form a Canadian branch of this international body, and to follow the British example of conducting a parliamentary inquiry into antisemitism.

In the presentation he made to a conference in Jerusalem in 1999, Professor Cotler expressed his outrage over international condemnations of Israel for human rights violations. He identified some poignant ironies in this situation, writing that

there is a clear symbolic—if not symbiotic—relationship between Israel, the United Nations, and human rights. For if the commitment underpinning the Genocide Convention is “never again,” then Israel is a state born of that commitment; and if the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was designed to be the Magna Carta of humankind, Israel was to be, in the words of its founders, “a light unto the nations”; if the Geneva Conventions of 1949 were to be commemorative of international humanitarian law, the genocide of European Jewry was the paradigmatic basis for the “grave breaches” of the laws of war as set forth in the Geneva Convention.20

[213] Cotler found it paradoxical, to say the least, that

a state which advocated fifty years ago for the establishment of an international criminal court to bring war criminals to justice—and pioneered in the development of international criminal law—now finds its settlement policy characterized as a serious war crime under the draft Treaty to establish an International Criminal Court; and a state committed to the pursuit of peace becomes the only state singled out for condemnation as a “non-peace loving nation” by two Emergency Sessions of the UN General Assembly under the Uniting for Peace Resolutions.21

One might expect some recourse to historical evidence on the part of a writer interested in challenging condemnations of Israel’s human rights record—but it is clear that Cotler is not interested in historical actualities. No responsible scholar approaching the issues on which he was touching could fail to have been aware that the myth of the untarnished, heroic birth of the state of Israel as “a light unto the nations” had been effectively demolished by historians like Michael Palumbo and Benny Morris, whose books documented the atrocities involved in the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians in 1948.22 And the bland description of Israel as “a state committed to the pursuit of peace” appears more metaphysical than historical in character: for the period since 1971 especially, its falsity is quickly exposed by any honest recourse to the historical record.23

Cotler’s wording suggests, moreover, that this expert in human rights law does not recognize the international consensus according to which it is clear from Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, together with UN Security Council Resolutions 446, 452, 465, 471, and 476, that Israel’s settlements are indeed serious and flagrant violations of international law.24

Cotler takes it as axiomatic that criticisms of Israel must be false. On the basis of this dogma, his paper defines and distinguishes between old and new antisemitisms, analyzes the identifying features of the “New Anti-Jewishness,” and proceeds to a “case-study” of its operations in the UN, in the course of which he offers the striking image of Israel as being, in UN representations, the international “poisoner of the wells.” This is, by now, a familiar rhetorical turn: if we know a priori that UN condemnations of Israel’s behaviour are simply revivals of a disgraceful antisemitic trope, then there is no need to bother with any of the evidence on which they might be based.

Cotler is effectively extending the peculiar doctrine of American exceptionalism to cover the state of Israel as well. Most Americans have imbibed from childhood a mythic, religiously-inflected representation of their country as the culmination of a world-historical story of human liberation and material progress. And since to be the end-point, the goal or telos of a story of such grandeur is also in a sense to escape from the story—the New Jerusalem or [214] the City on a Hill is not a city like any other, merely historical one—they have found it easy to believe that their own uniquely virtuous country somehow stands outside the structures of socio-economic causality and grubby Realpolitik that motivate other nation-states.25

Not surprisingly, exceptionalism gives free play to hypocrisy and self-deception. As Lewis Lapham has put it, “The doctrines of American exceptionalism forbid American politicians to see any contradiction between what they practice and what they preach. America is always and everywhere innocent, a country so favored by fortune that its cause is always just.”26

Exceptionalism amounts to a form of American civic religion. And as Cotler made clear in a widely-cited version of this paper that he published in the Jerusalem Post in 2004, it is in similarly quasi-religious terms that he sees the conflict between Israel and the United Nations. One manifestation of political antisemitism, he says, is

discrimination against, denial of, or assault upon the Jewish people’s right to self-determination […]. To the extent that Israel has emerged as the “civil religion” of world Jewry—the organizing idiom of Jewish self-determination—this new anti-Semitism is a per se assault, in contemporary terms, on the religious and national sensibility of the Jewish people.27

Cotler proposes that another manifestation of political antisemitism, “the ‘demonizing’ of Israel,” needs to be understood in relation to a different form of secularized religion:

This [“demonizing”] is the contemporary analogue to the medieval indictment of the Jew as the “poisoner of the wells.” In other words, in a world in which human rights has emerged as the new secular religion of our time, the portrayal of Israel as the metaphor for a human rights violator is an indictment of Israel as the “new anti-Christ”—as the “poisoner of the international wells” […].28

Two comments are called for here. First, the criticisms of Israel’s human rights record in UN forums have been based, not on metaphor, but on considerations of legality and of material evidence. It is Cotler, and not the UN, who wants to reconfigure this issue as a problem of rhetoric, rather than a matter of persistently illegal actions that have caused irreparable harm to large numbers of people.

Indeed, his evocation of “new-antisemitism” tropes of metaphorical well-poisoning and of Israel as a “new anti-Christ” looks uncommonly like shadow-boxing. Since it is Cotler, and no-one else, who produces these tropes, and since he gives no evidence that they have actually figured in UN deliberations, one may be tempted to conclude that any injury resulting from their use is self-inflicted.

[215] Secondly, Cotler’s framing of the matter in terms of a sacralized Israeli state facing off against a secular religion of human rights is in several respects unfortunate. If his remarks on Jewish self-determination are meant to imply that there exists any real threat to the continued existence of Israel as a state, they are a serious exaggeration.29 If, on the other hand, Cotler wishes to imply that a Jewish right to self-determination extinguishes, a priori and forever, the right of Palestinians to a parallel self-determination,30 then he is putting his own reputation as an upholder of human rights at risk.

And what of Cotler’s claims on behalf of “world Jewry”? Setting aside the fact that for some communities of orthodox Jews a concession of religious value to any state is blasphemous, many Jews worldwide regard a commitment to debate, vigorous dissent, and dissidence as a central feature of their culture and their spirituality: the very name of Israel was conferred upon the patriarch Jacob for wrestling with his God.

Large numbers of such people, while feeling a deep and abiding affection for the country, Israel, are vehemently opposed to the policies into which that nation’s ruling elites, aided and abetted by American Zionism,31 have led it. They would object to any even implicit sacralizing of those policies, and would resent any insinuation, however indirect, that their sensibility as Jews—whether religious, national, or bound up with ethical, familial, and ethnic-cultural traditions—could be “assaulted” by the universally binding principles of human rights, even if Professor Cotler wants to represent these as having become conflated with a “new antisemitism.”32


How Episodes of Academic Antisemitism Have Been Invented

During the early and mid-1990s, the North American news media were awash with scandalous stories about an alarming and systematic suppression of academic and intellectual freedoms in American and Canadian universities: sane and decent academics and students alike were being terrorized by radical “politically correct” literary scholars—feminists, Foucauldians, deconstructionists, new historicists, cultural materialists—and their student acolytes, who together made up a rampaging horde denounced by right-wing pundits as “cultural storm troopers,” “moral vigilantes,” “Red guards,” “academic Brownshirts,” “new puritans,” and “PC thought police.”

Scholarly analysis of the evidence revealed, however, that in the vast majority of cases, the abusive behaviour so noisily denounced in the media was either fabricated wholesale or else a product of grotesque and malicious exaggeration. The real problem was that a coalition of powerful forces in government, in right-wing corporate-funded think-tanks, and in the corporate media had discovered (somewhat belatedly) that wide-ranging forms of ethically oriented cultural criticism were gaining a foothold, not just in literary studies [216] but throughout the human sciences, with the result that academic disciplines which had formerly been reliable upholders of the status quo were becoming places where critical analyses based on issues of colonization, settlement, gender, race, and social class were widely approved.

The so-called “political correctness debates”—more accurately referred to as the “culture wars,” because they produced more vituperation than debate, more heat than light—were primarily an attempt by these powerful forces to tame and purge dissident elements within the academy. The rhetoric with which “anti-PC” polemicists sought to drum up public support for this project by creating a state of moral panic made heavy use of lurid narratives of victimization. Where such narratives were not available—and they very seldom were—polemicists simply made them up wholesale.33

There is good reason to think that contemporary accusations of a widespread “new antisemitism” within North American universities—which an article in the National Post devoted to recent events at York University suggested can only be cured by a systematic purging of “hateful elements”34—are an attempt to repeat this pattern.

In 2002 Todd Gitlin, professor of journalism at Columbia University, expressed dismay over an apparent return of the “rough beast” of antisemitism. His primary evidence was a widely-circulated email message from Laurie Zoloth, then-director of Jewish Studies at San Francisco State University. Zoloth denounced her own university as “the Weimar Republic with brown shirts it cannot control”—the purported neo-Nazis being “an angry crowd of Palestinians,” an “out of control mob” who launched a “raw, physical assault” on “praying students, and the elderly women who are our college participants, who survived the Holocaust,” while the police looked on and did nothing.35

Had Gitlin taken the trouble to check his source (as he presumably teaches journalism students to do), he might have discovered, Norman Finkelstein writes, that

the consensus among Jewish spokespersons in the Bay Area, including Dr. Fred Astren, current director of Jewish Studies at SFSU (and a personal witness to the alleged incident), was that Zoloth had a penchant for “wild exaggeration,” born of a mindset nurtured in “Marxist-Leninist” politics—except that she’s in thrall not, as in bygone days, to the Soviet Union, but to “the Jewish State of Israel, a state that I cherish.” The police didn’t intervene because nothing happened warranting their intervention.36

Other similar stories—a claim in late 2003 that “A Jewish student wearing a yarmulke at Yale University” had been “attacked in his dormitory by a Palestinian,” and a report in 2004 that at the University of Chicago “a university-appointed preceptor told a Jewish student he would not read her BA paper because it focused on topics related to Judaism and Zionism”37—turned out to be groundless fictions.38

[217] Three recent episodes, one at UCLA and two at Toronto’s York University, invite more extended consideration. In all three cases distortions and falsifications can be traced, and all three were marked by interventions from member organizations of the very powerful Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC), which gathers together thirty American pro-Israel organizations, among them AIPAC, the American Jewish Committee (AJC), the American Jewish Congress, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), CAMERA, The David Project, Aish HaTorah/Hasbara Fellowships, Hillel/The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, the Jewish National Fund (JNF), Media Watch International, StandWithUs, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), as well as five affiliate members, including Simon Wiesenthal Center Campus Outreach. At York University there have also been interventions from member organizations of a proportionately no less powerful Canadian umbrella organization, the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy (CIJA),39 as well as from B’nai Brith Canada and, more disturbingly, from the terrorist-vigilante Jewish Defence League.

* * * *

Professors David Theo Goldberg and Saree Makdisi have written at some length about the consequences of interventions on California university campuses of the Israel on Campus Coalition—most particularly in relation to a January 2009 panel discussion on “Human Rights and Gaza” hosted by UCLA’s Center for Near Eastern Studies in which they took part, Makdisi as a panelist and Goldberg as a member of the audience.40 They describe an academic event marked throughout by civility, even by occasional applause and laughter from the audience, despite a somewhat “heated and contentious” question and discussion period.

However, on February 1, 2009 Roberta Seid, the research director of StandWithUs, published an article entitled “Reviving 1920’s Munich’s Beer Halls at UCLA” which was laced with malicious falsehoods,41 and which set off an ascending spiral of further distortions. Seid said that the four panelists “expressed hope that Israel would lose against Hamas,” and claimed that in response to one panelist’s answer to a question, “The audience roared with laughter and some began chanting ‘Zionism is racism’ and ‘Free Free Palestine’.”

Two days later, ardently pro-Israel UCLA professor Judea Pearl, writing in the Wall Street Journal, described the panel as “a Hamas recruitment rally” conducted by “terrorist sympathizers.”42 This motif was picked up by Tom Tugend, who wrote in the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles on February 11 that “outraged critics across the country” were characterizing the symposium as an “‘academic lynching,’ a ‘one-sided witch hunt of Israel,’ a ‘Hamas recruiting rally’”; at the same time he inflated Seid’s account of the discussion period by saying that the panelist’s answer “was met by audience cheers and chants [218] of ‘Zionism is racism,’ ‘Zionism is Nazism,’ ‘Free, Free Palestine’ and ‘F…, f… Israel’.”43

A week later Judea Pearl wrote in the same journal that “the panelists […] bashed Israel, her motives, her character, her birth and conception and led the excited audience into chanting ‘Zionism is Nazism,’ ‘F---, f--- Israel’ […].”44 In this article, Pearl expressed outrage that “the word ‘terror’ and the genocidal agenda of Hamas were conspicuously absent” from an account of the panel discussion, entitled “Scholars Say Attack on Gaza an Abuse of Human Rights,” that had been published by the campus newspaper, the UCLA Daily Bruin. One might wonder why a news report should focus on matters that appear to have been conspicuously absent from the event itself. But Pearl’s complaint is simply an extension of the slanders of his Wall Street Journal article: from the notion that “terrorist sympathizers” were taking part in “a Hamas recruitment rally,” he draws the insinuation that they must also have been engaged in incitements to genocide.45

Of course, neither Tugend nor Pearl had been present at the UCLA event. Goldberg and Makdisi, who were there, insist that there was no chanting, and no invective directed by audience members or panelists “at Israel or at any other state.” They invite readers to compare podcast recordings of the panel with the claims made by hostile interpreters—at the same time regretting that distortions and fabrications “have become the public record of note, the ‘truth’ of the matter.”46

By the time Pearl returned for a third time to the attack, writing in mid-March in the Los Angeles Times that the event was a “hate-fest” in which “the excited audience reportedly chanted ‘Zionism is Nazism’ and worse,”47 the subject had indeed been successfully changed. The questions of human rights law and human rights abuses analyzed by the panelists had largely disappeared from public discussion; the issue instead had become one of whether or not the panelists and their audience were guilty of disgraceful outbursts of antisemitism.

* * * *

As Dan Freeman-Maloy has shown in a carefully documented essay, somewhat less civil student-organized events at Toronto’s York University in February 2009 were subjected to a similarly cynical process of falsification.48 On February 11, 2009, the Jewish student organization Hillel and the Israel advocacy group Hasbara Fellowships (both of them well-funded members of the ICC) called a press conference to publicize their campaign to impeach the leadership of the York Federation of Students (YFS), which in January had passed a resolution condemning Israeli attacks on educational institutions in Gaza. There are competing accounts as to whether pro-YFS students were deliberately barred from the press conference or excluded because of the size of the room that had been booked. Believing the former to be the case, [219] supporters of YFS demonstrated noisily outside the press conference room, with chants including “Shame on Hillel,” “Zionism is racism,” and “Racists off campus”—“Not messaging everyone can get behind,” as Freeman-Maloy comments, “but hardly anti-Semitic.”

Accounts of this student confrontation were published by York’s student newspaper, the Excalibur, by an alternative left campus newspaper, the YU Free Press, and by the Globe and Mail, all of which had reporters on hand; another response by a Jewish student who had attended the press conference was published online by Jonathan Kay at the National Post. The sheer numbers of students outside the press-conference room (and subsequently the Hillel office) alarmed Hillel members, and the author of the National Post article records having been frightened by the stare of a pro-Palestinian student wearing a Kaffeiyah scarf over part of his face. But as Freeman-Maloy remarks, “No quotes from Hillel spokespeople are relayed in any of these stories alleging specifically anti-Semitic statements.”

On the next day, February 12, 2009, a demonstration of some 150 students condemning Israeli attacks on Gaza in York University’s Vari Hall was confronted by a Hillel counter-demonstration of equal or larger size—whose participants included Frank Dimant, the leader of B’nai Brith Canada, together with some of his colleagues, and reportedly also Bernie Farber, the head of the Canadian Jewish Congress. If the aim of this counter-demonstration was to disrupt the pro-Palestinian event and drown out its would-be speakers with counter-chanting, it appears to have succeeded. Freeman-Maloy writes that he was present at this event, and is not aware “of one half-credible allegation of anti-Semitism relating to it.”

A viewing of the seven distinct videotapes of this demonstration and counter-demonstration listed by Independent Jewish Voices in the first of their contributions to this book is instructive.49 These videotapes show that two banner-carrying Jewish groups took part in the demonstration against Israel’s behaviour in Gaza, and that the participants in that demonstration apparently ignored provocative behaviour by some of the counter-demonstrators (no responses to their shouted taunts are audible, and the Jewish pro-Palestinian demonstrators turned their banners away from the counter-demonstration). The counter-demonstration included one potentially intimidating feature: a line of young men in black T-shirts with the slogan “Jews Need Not Fear Here” in large block letters on their chests. Decent people would agree that Jews should not suffer intimidation on campuses, or anywhere else, but the primary message projected by such uniforms in a confrontational demonstration might well be that people—including pro-Palestinian Jews—with views opposed to those of the counter-demonstrators should themselves be fearful, especially if, as seems possible, the men were members of the Jewish Defence League Canada, an extremist vigilante organization with a terrorist past and an ongoing commitment to violence.50

[220] On February 13, 2009 the National Post carried a story in which Hillel@York president Daniel Ferman claimed that demonstrators on February 11 had called him a “dirty Jew” and “f---ing Jew.” Though unsubstantiated, as well as politically convenient, the claim is not implausible. But on the same day, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), followed on February 15 by the Jerusalem Post, added “a new pair of alleged (and unattributed) quotes: ‘Die bitch, go back to Israel’; ‘Die Jew, get the hell off campus’.” As Freeman-Maloy notes, these death threats were not reported to the police who were on campus on February 11, nor witnessed by any of the reporters present, “nor accompanied by any effort to determine who said these things or to whom the threatening comments were directed.”51 They would appear to belong to the same category as the nasty chanting that never occurred at the UCLA panel discussion on “Human Rights and Gaza.”

The drift from a confrontational but non-violent pair of encounters between opposing groups of students on the York campus, during which no antisemitic statements or gestures were detected by any of the reporters in attendance, to a fiction that could be summed up on February 15 by a columnist in the Jerusalem Post as “violent anti-Jewish riots at York University in Toronto, Canada,”52 was rapid and seemingly effortless. By late February Frank Dimant of B’nai Brith had embellished the story further, claiming to the Ottawa Citizen that “People were banging on walls and screaming things like ‘death to the Jews’.”53

Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney weighed in as well, declaring on February 23, 2009 that “This stuff is getting out of control,” and blaming the Ontario branch of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents graduate teaching assistants and contract faculty at Ontario universities and has been urging boycott action against Israel, for “creat[ing] an opinion environment which makes it acceptable to start shouting at Jewish kids who probably also happen to support Israel.”54 In September 2009, speaking in Thornhill, Ontario, Kenney charged that “Israel Apartheid Days on university campuses like York sometimes begin to resemble pogroms”—a remark that journalist Linda McQuaig has challenged, noting that to compare “intense debate” and “heated exchanges to pogroms—organized campaigns of slaughter and pillage of European Jews—is absurd.”55

* * * *

A more recent event at York University initially followed a similar trajectory, but then took a surprising turn. Tyler Golden, Co-President of Hasbara Fellowships at York University,56 informed the news website Shalom Life that when on February 1, 2010 he and other members of Hasbara were distributing information about the captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and about their “Free Palestinians from Hamas” campaign from a table in Vari Hall, “several anti-Israel known faces on campus” came to question and debate with them—a [221] group that quickly swelled, in the Shalom Life journalist’s words, “into an angry mob of around 50 students, who surrounded [Golden’s] group and chanted anti-Israel and anti-Semitic slurs.” When Hasbara students began to videotape this behaviour, Golden said, some students on the other side “were upset that there were cameras in their faces, so they started yelling and screaming. As they were trying to push cameras out of the way, they actually hit two students.”57 Hasbara Fellowships Co-President Marlee Mozeson, who claimed to have been one of the victims of assault—she had been slapped and had her camera knocked out of her hand—declared that “The University’s steps to ensure a safe campus for all have been proven unsuccessful and ineffective. We call on the University to take immediate action to restore order and safety for all students on campus.”58

By February 3 Meir Weinstein, head of the JDL in Canada, had signaled his organization’s intention of taking vigilante action by offering a reward for information that would enable the JDL to track down the supposed perpetrators. Here is the text of his reward notice, in the form in which he posted it on February 5:

Two Jewish Students were the victims of hate crimes and assaults at York University Monday February 1

The Jewish Defence League of Canada is offering a $500.00 reward for the assailants identities, names, alias, phone numbers and addresses (work and home)

Contact the Jewish Defence League of Canada at 416-736-7000 or www.jdl-canada.com [….]

Meir Weinstein, Toronto (02/05/10)59

The story of Jewish students being assaulted at York quickly went international, with an account published by the news service JTA on February 7 that was reproduced in the Jerusalem Post the following day.60 But on February 8 the story unraveled: CCTV surveillance video from Vari Hall, the site of the incident, revealed that the Hasbara students’ claims to have been assaulted were false. As Elad Benari of Shalom Life wrote in a follow-up article,

At one point, it can be seen that an argument may have taken place; however, at no point during the video is there any evidence of a brawl, nor can a shouting match be evident from the students’ body language. At several points, cameras are being used by the students, and at one point a female student who obviously does not take well to being on camera tries to reach for the camera, but the male student holding it lifts it up so it is out of her reach. No evidence of students being physically assaulted can be found during the video.61

[222] The student newspaper Excalibur interviewed Jesse Zimmerman, a pro-Palestinian student activist who had been among the group that approached the Hasbara table:

“There was never a mob,” he said. “There were four of us, and they [Hasbara] were surrounding us and making personal attacks on us and yelling shit at me.”

Surveillance footage made available to Excalibur shows no evidence of a physical brawl. While the footage lacks audio, it does clearly show that no one physically touched another person or invaded anyone’s space in a threatening manner.

Body language is exuberant, at most, but never aggressive. No more than 20 to 30 people can be seen around the table in the video, including both parties and bystanders. Two visible handheld cameras can be seen on screen, none of which is smacked to the ground.62

Zimmerman’s account of the number of pro-Palestinian students involved in the incident is supported by the JTA report of February 7 (republished in the Jerusalem Post), which notes that the alleged assaults “occurred when about 20 Jewish members of the on-campus group Hasbara Fellowships at York University gathered, with permission from the university, to raise awareness of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and terrorist acts committed by Hamas.”63 The approach of Zimmerman and his three companions would bring the number of students present to about two dozen; add in some bystanders, and we have the full number visible in the CCTV videotape.

The claim that fifty or so activists “surrounded the Jewish students and began chanting anti-Israel and anti-Semitic slurs” was, then, no less a fabrication than the assaults.

It appears that Jesse Zimmerman and his companions are the ones who were surrounded, and that Golden, having perhaps taken part in some less than civil behaviour, promptly inverted the reality to make himself and his friends into victims. Zimmerman, who evidently told the truth about the numbers involved in the tabling incident, also told the Excalibur reporter that his Palestinian activism “has made him the target of non-stop harassment by pro-Israel students. ‘They have harassed me online and in person […] I don’t feel safe on campus,’ said Zimmerman.”64

York University’s handling of these two episodes, in February 2009 and February 2010, seems oddly unbalanced. Students Against Israeli Apartheid, the group that organized the demonstration in Vari Hall on February 12, 2009, was fined $1,000 by the university for making noise that disturbed classes being held in the same building; an additional fine of $250 was levied on the leader of the group. No fine was imposed on Hillel.

[223] York University has to date made no public reference to the fact that the falsehoods disseminated by the campus leaders of Hasbara Fellowships in February 2010 were not just damaging to the university’s reputation, but also exposed other students to a serious risk of stalking, harassment, and violence at the hands of a dangerous extremist group, the JDL.

B’nai Brith’s weekly journal, the Jewish Tribune, published an article on February 10, 2010 praising York University for “taking complaints about anti-Semitism seriously during this school year […].” The article quotes from a press release issued by Hasbara Fellowships in which “the group ‘commends York University for their swift investigation into … [an] incident where [allegedly] two Jewish students were assaulted in Vari Hall on Feb. 1, 2010.’”65

Hasbara Fellowships makes no acknowledgment of or apology for the fact that its allegations had been exposed as fraudulent—even the bracketed word “allegedly” appears to have been supplied by the Jewish Tribune—but it now patronizingly commends security arrangements it had a week previously denounced as “unsuccessful and ineffective.” This press release seems an instance not so much of hasbara (the Hebrew word means “explanation” or, more accurately, “propaganda”), as of chutzpah (the primary meaning of which in Hebrew is “shamelessness”).66

The university, for its part, has avoided any hint of reproach. The Jewish Tribune quotes York’s director of media relations, Alex Bilyk, as saying, with some delicacy, “that although Hasbara did not wish to involve the police when filing its initial complaint, ‘we viewed [a tape of the incident] for our own peace of mind. If we had felt there was a physical safety issue, we would have filed a police report.’”67

What, then, of the JDL’s clear and very public threat of violence against members of the university community? Mr. Bilyk did not say whether he thought this raised a physical safety issue that might justify dropping a line to the Toronto police.


Academic Terror’

In the second of his three articles dealing, at greater or lesser length, with the UCLA panel on “Human Rights and Gaza,” Professor Judea Pearl denounced the “academic terror” to which he claimed pro-Israel academics in the U.S. are being subjected. Colleagues have told him, he says, “about lecturers whose appointments were terminated, professors whose promotion committees received ‘incriminating’ letters, and about the impossibility of revealing one’s pro-Israel convictions without losing grants, editorial board memberships, or invitations to panels or conferences.”

Should we find this all a bit vague, Pearl explains the absence of detail: “all, literally all” of his terrorized colleagues “swore [him] into strict secrecy”—a fact, for anyone gullible enough to accept it as such, that seems designed to reinforce Pearl’s claim that “we have entered the era of ‘the new Marranos.’”68 [224] But once we move beyond unsubstantiated rumours such as this, the available evidence indicates, on the contrary, that the academics whose reputations and careers have been placed at risk in the U.S. and Canada are those who have been bold enough to criticize the geopolitics of the American empire—and, in particular, the behaviour of the state of Israel toward the Palestinians of the occupied territories, as well as the comportment of Israel’s passionate and uncritical North American supporters.

Thus, for example, Dr. Joseph Massad of Columbia University’s Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures (MEALAC) was the object of a three-year witch-hunt between 2002 and 2005. Massad’s persecution may have been prompted by his articles on Palestine, published in scholarly journals like Social Text, Middle East Journal, Critique, and the Journal of Palestine Studies, and perhaps also by the incisive and much more widely circulated essays he has contributed to Al Ahram Weekly.69 It was initiated by faculty members of Columbia’s medical school, who sought to co-opt students into working toward his dismissal; it was taken up by the Columbia Spectator, whose misquotations of Massad’s words, though quickly corrected, were maliciously reproduced by the pro-Israel propagandists Martin Kramer of Tel Aviv University and Daniel Pipes, originator of the neo-McCarthyite Campus Watch. The campaign was joined by New York Democratic congressman Anthony Weiner, and amplified by the New York Sun and the New York Post; it was taken to a new height by The David Project, which circulated to university administrators and journalists a film, Columbia Unbecoming, in which students and non-students complained of supposed instances of antisemitic intimidation; and, finally, it was given added impetus by Columbia’s president Lee Bollinger, who in public statements shamefully accepted easily disproven allegations as facts.70

Despite the best efforts of the Anti-Defamation League, The David Project, the New York tabloid press, Columbia medical school colleagues who circulated racist and threatening emails, Daniel Pipes’ Campus Watch (with the tag-team work of Pipes’ Tel Aviv friend Martin Kramer), as well as Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who felt called upon to intervene,71 Massad remains a faculty member—now tenured—at Columbia. The reasons for his survival include an outstanding teaching record and obvious brilliance as a scholar,72 the international support he received from defenders of academic freedom, and the simple fact that, as a New York Times editorial observed, there was no evidence “that anyone’s grade suffered for challenging the pro-Palestinian views of any teacher or that [MEALAC] professors made anti-Semitic statements.” Indeed, the editorial acknowledged, “the professors who were targeted have legitimate complaints themselves. Their classes were infiltrated by hecklers and surreptitious monitors, and they received hate mail and death threats.”73

The New York Times was itself far from innocent in this affair: rather, as University of Michigan Middle East scholar Juan Cole noted, it “slammed” [225] the university committee that investigated Massad “for not being inquisitorial enough,” thereby lending its support to a “witch hunt” that Cole thought, in the spring of 2005, represented “the gravest threat to academic freedom in decades.”74

* * * *

Dr. Norman Finkelstein, a political scientist who came up for tenure at DePaul University in 2007, was less fortunate than Mossad, possibly because his major publications had in a more particular way exposed and embarrassed powerful pro-Zionist institutions and individuals.

Finkelstein first gained wide public notice, and some influential enemies, by revealing the fraudulence of Joan Peters’ From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict over Palestine (1984), a best-seller that sought through demographic analysis to revive the Zionist myth of Palestine as a land without people awaiting the return of a people without land, and that had been acclaimed by Daniel Pipes, Martin Peretz, Lucy Dawidowicz, Barbara Tuchman, and Nobel Laureates Saul Bellow and Elie Wiesel. In the wake of a devastating review by demographer Yehoshua Porath, and of Finkelstein’s analysis, published as a long essay and then as a chapter in his first book, From Time Immemorial has been recognized by historians as worthless.75

Finkelstein’s critique of another widely praised book, Daniel Goldhagen’s prize-winning Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust (1996), was first published as a review essay in New Left Review. But on this occasion plans to republish the analysis, together with another review essay by historian Ruth Bettina Birn that had appeared in the Cambridge Historical Journal, were met with a concerted campaign by mainstream Jewish organizations to strangle the project in its cradle.

Abraham Foxman of the ADL wrote to Finkelstein’s editor at Metropolitan Books, an imprint of Holt, calling his opinions “beyond the pale”; and Leon Weseltier, literary editor of the New Republic, denounced Finkelstein to Holt’s publisher, Michael Naumann, as “poison,” “a self-hating Jew, […] something you find under a rock.”76

The pressures against Birn were if anything more extreme. Goldhagen threatened her with legal action, and the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) warned Birn, who was chief historian in the War Crimes section of Canada’s Ministry of Justice, to drop the book project: “‘Publish,’ sniff[ed] CJC spokesman Bernie Farber, ‘but don’t publish with someone who’s loathed and despised by the Jewish community.’” When Birn, in response, complained of intimidation, saying that “the real story for Canadians [….] is a question of the attempted suppression of fair comment through the exertion of political influence,”77 she was accused by CJC president Goldie Herson of “what some might consider an anti-Semitic canard,” and the Justice Department was pressured into launching an investigation. In the mean time, Mordecai Briemberg writes, “Irving Abella, [226] incoming president of the Canadian Historical Association and past president of the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC), pronounced Finkelstein ‘an enemy of the Jewish people’ and said that for Dr. Birn to publish with him is ‘like being published with someone from the Ku Klux Klan’.”78

This campaign struck a number of observers as outrageous: Israeli historian and journalist Tom Segev described it as “bordering on cultural terrorism.”79 Equally peculiar was the asymmetry, no less marked in the case of Hitler’s Willing Executioners than in that of From Time Immemorial, between the reception of these books (and Finkelstein’s refutations of them) by the corporate media and mainstream Jewish organizations, and their reception by scholars and historians with expertise in the field.

The criticisms of Goldhagen by Finkelstein and by Birn in their book A Nation on Trial: The Goldhagen Thesis and Historical Truth (New York: Metropolitan Books, 1998), were endorsed by distinguished historians80—most devastatingly by Raul Hilberg, the leading Holocaust scholar, who has declared Goldhagen’s book to be “totally wrong about everything [….] I mean, totally off the wall, you know, and factually without any basis,”81 and by Yehuda Bauer, Professor Emeritus of Holocaust Studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, who acidly remarked that “I have yet to read of a single historian who has publicly expressed agreement [with Goldhagen]. Not one, and that is a very rare unanimity. In my university, this book would never have passed as a Ph.D. dissertation.”82

Irving Abella stands out as an exception to the consensus claimed by Bauer—for unless his remarks about Finkelstein were intended as a gratuitous insult, they would seem to imply an endorsement of Goldhagen. But if Abella’s branding of Finkelstein as “an enemy of the Jewish people” invites questions about his own ethics as an historian, it also betrays an embarrassing degree of literary ignorance: the protagonist of Henrik Ibsen’s classic play An Enemy of the People (1882) is a man of integrity and courage, who incurs the hatred of dishonest elites and a deluded public through his exposure of a threat to public health.

Finkelstein’s two best-known books, The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering (2001, expanded second edition, 2003), and Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History (2005), exposed more serious and more damaging forms of dishonesty and hypocrisy within mainstream American institutions and discourses. As Ibsen might have predicted, they earned him honour (not unmixed, sometimes, with criticism) among those able to recognize their scholarly integrity and profoundly ethical orientation—and, from ideologues, an increased level of hatred.

The Holocaust Industry contains, in its third and perhaps most notable chapter, a powerful exposé of the diversion of funds provided by the German government, and more recently by the major Swiss Banks, as indemnifications for the crimes of the Holocaust and reparations to surviving victims.

[227] Finkelstein notes that $120 million (worth about a billion present-day dollars) was paid by the German government between 1952 and 1964 to the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (or Claims Conference), an umbrella group of major Jewish organizations, for distribution to Holocaust survivors who had not otherwise received compensation for their sufferings under Nazi persecution. In what he calls a “flagrant breach” of the “letter and spirit” of the agreement, the Claims Conference diverted all but about 15 percent of the money from the victims who should have been the beneficiaries to its own constituent organizations, which used the money to finance projects such as Holocaust Museums, university chairs in Holocaust studies, Yad Vashem pensions to “righteous Gentiles,” subsidies to Jewish communities in Arab countries, projects to encourage immigration to Israel from eastern Europe, and payments to “outstanding Jewish leaders.”83

Finkelstein also documents what he calls the “double shake-down” of the Swiss banking system during the late 1990s by the World Jewish Congress (WJC) and other U.S.-based Jewish organizations, purportedly on behalf of Holocaust survivors. What was supposedly being recovered, even though indemnities had been agreed on and paid by the early 1950s, was money from dormant bank accounts of Holocaust victims, the value of “Nazi gold” acquired by the Swiss banks during or after the Nazi period, and the estimated accumulated value of deposits earned from slave labour in the Nazi camps. But as Neve Gordon observed in a review of the book, Finkelstein demonstrated “how Jewish organizations […] consistently exaggerated numbers—of slave laborers or the amount of ‘victim gold’ purchased by the banks—in order to secure more money.”84

The sums amassed by the WJC through what Finkelstein terms “an extortion racket” come to a total of at least $1.25 billion.85 While the lawyers negotiated, Gordon remarks, “the Jewish lobby launched an extensive campaign” which “included the publication of studies—supported by the Simon Wiesenthal Center—that accused Switzerland of ‘knowingly profiting from blood money’ and committing ‘unprecedented theft,’ and claimed that ‘dishonesty was a cultural code that individual Swiss have mastered to protect the nation’s image and prosperity.’” Pressing these allegations in the House and Senate banking committees, the lobby simultaneously “convinced officials in a number of states, including New York, New Jersey and Illinois, to threaten the Swiss banks with economic boycott. Finally, the banks bent in response.” 86

As before, only a fraction of the money obtained was passed on to the heirs of Holocaust victims, or to Holocaust survivors and their families. Angelo Codevila concluded from his own study of the matter that a “coalition of powerful Americans” had used “the power and prestige of the United States government to funnel money into its own hands.”87

Finkelstein was firmly supported by Raul Hilberg, who declared him to be “one hundred percent correct” in his analysis of the WJC and the Swiss [228] banks: it “was not only coercive on the part of the Jews who mobilized, but also on the part of all the insurance commissioners, the Senate, the House, and the critical committees. [….] The claims lawyers, joined by the World Jewish Congress, made an incredible display of totally inappropriate behavior.”88 But in a defensive flourish of a kind that is by now familiar, Omar Bartov denounced The Holocaust Industry as “a novel variation on […] The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”; Alan Dershowitz, preferring what Shakespeare’s clown Touchstone called “the Lie Direct,” has smeared it as “a screed against Holocaust survivors.”89

Dershowitz, of course, has particular reasons for his hatred of Finkelstein. In 2005 Beyond Chutzpah (a book whose publication Dershowitz had frantically sought to obstruct) substantiated at length Finkelstein’s charge that Dershowitz had plagiarized extensively in The Case for Israel from Joan Peters’ discredited book; and in the course of a scrupulously scholarly and very thorough analysis of the state of Israel’s violations of Palestinians’ human rights, Beyond Chutzpah demolished with equal thoroughness Dershowitz’s claims to be regarded as in any serious sense a defender of human rights.90

Finkelstein’s tenure at DePaul University was, as Amy Goodman wrote, “overwhelmingly approved at the departmental and college level,” but opposed by the dean of DePaul’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences,91 and finally rejected by the university—thanks in large part to a campaign of vilification led by Dershowitz, who wrote to DePaul faculty members demanding Finkelstein’s dismissal, and denounced him in The Wall Street Journal as an antisemite who “does not do ‘scholarship’ in any meaningful sense.”92 StandWithUs and the Jewish Defense Organization (a successor to the JDL in the U.S.) took part in the campaign, and when the denial of tenure was announced, the Anti-Defamation League declared that “To the extent that DePaul’s decision […] is intended as a repudiation of his hateful and bigoted ideas, we applaud the University […].”93

We should perhaps give the last word on this case to Raul Hilberg, who in scholarship and Mentschlekhkeyt stands high above any of Finkelstein’s detractors: “I would say that [Finkelstein’s] place in the whole history of writing history is assured, and that those who in the end are proven right triumph, and he will be among those who will have triumphed, albeit, it so seems, at great cost.”94

* * * *

In both Canada and the United States there have been other vigorous, if perhaps less widely known, attempts to suppress academic criticism of Israel. Here are several instances.

In 2002, the distinguished sociologist Sherene Razack,95 who participated in a session on Israel’s military assault on Jenin at that year’s Canadian Critical Race Studies Conference, circulated a resolution agreed on at the conference [229] condemning Israel’s actions. She was subjected to sustained attacks by the National Post and B’nai Brith, which called on her university to discipline or dismiss her for having supposedly misused her university email account, and also to an organized campaign of hate mail and threats. Although the University of Toronto defended her academic freedom, Razack has recently remarked that “informal ‘sanctions’ against her continue to this day (with speaking invitations and grants disappearing without explanation) […].”96

Three years later another CanWest Global newspaper, the Ottawa Citizen, joined B’nai Brith in smearing Michel Chossudovsky, a prominent economist, political analyst, and human rights advocate,97 as an antisemite, and in demanding that the University of Ottawa take action (as Anita Bromberg of B’nai Brith put it) “to hold him to a certain standard of acceptable civil discourse.”98 The pretext for this attack was B’nai Brith’s discovery that real antisemites had managed briefly to insert their noxious drivel into discussion threads hosted by Chossudovsky’s website, the Centre for Research on Globalization—but its evident motivation, as I observed at the time, was the fact that articles published on his website, his own among them, have offered well-researched critiques of a wide range of injustices, including “the state of Israel’s shameless violations of human rights, international law and common decency in its treatment of the Palestinians.”99

A related case is that of the University of Ottawa’s Denis Rancourt, a tenured full professor of physics and a highly regarded researcher, who in 2001, after he won a prestigious Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) research grant, was featured in full-page newspaper advertisements in which his university boasted of its prowess as a research institution. Rancourt was fired in March 2009, and his research laboratory (for which he had recently won ongoing funding) was unceremoniously shut down. The pretext for this action was his radical pedagogy—in particular, his assignment of A+ grades to all of the students who completed one of his courses in the Winter 2008 semester. But Rancourt has plausibly suggested that “the real reasons for the university’s attempts to discipline me since September 2005 and for recent more harsh actions against me […] might be the administration’s opposition to my political views about the Palestine-Israel conflict, which, starting in 2005, I have expressed in articles, on radio, in my blog postings, at public venues, and in my classes.”100

In 2005 a complaint from the Jewish Student Association against an invited speaker in Rancourt’s “Physics and the Environment” course—Professor Michel Chossudovsky, “who spoke about Middle East geopolitics”—gave rise to “a sustained but failed” attempt to discipline Rancourt. In the autumn of 2006, his invitation to two Canadian-Palestinian speakers to address his “Science in Society” course led to an editorial attack in the Ottawa Citizen and to his removal from this and other first-year courses he had developed. In 2007, Rancourt criticized the University of Ottawa’s official position on the [230] academic boycott of Israel on his blog, and was punished by being suspended without pay from his academic duties.101

Rancourt provides evidence that he was denied due process in the proceedings that led to his dismissal; more scandalous still is the copious documentation he has published in support of his allegation that from 2006 to 2008 the University of Ottawa hired an undergraduate student journalist, as an agent of the university’s legal counsel, to spy on and make covert recordings of him and of students with whom he associated. Even in “the dark period of McCarthyism in North America,” Rancourt comments, “one does not find abuses comparable to a university practicing covert surveillance of its own professors and students.”102

At much the same time as Professor Rancourt’s case was coming to a head, the University of California at Santa Barbara was in turmoil over accusations of antisemitism leveled against Professor William I. Robinson, a highly respected sociologist and political theorist, and one of the leading figures in critical globalization studies.103 In January 2009, Robinson had circulated internet material to the students in his course on global affairs which “included an article critical of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and a photo essay that juxtaposed graphic images of Nazi atrocities against Jews and Israeli atrocities against Palestinians in Gaza.” Two students out of the eighty in the class withdrew from the course, and, with assistance from the Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, lodged a grievance with the Academic Senate claiming that the material was antisemitic and unrelated to the course.104

The ADL pursued this matter very actively: its first letter to the UCSB administration demanding an investigation was received before the students’ complaints (which echoed its claims and rationales) had actually been made, and ADL National Director Abraham Foxman’s on-campus meeting with senior university officials was no doubt a factor in the launching of an investigation a fortnight later. Despite continued pressure from the ADL and a letter-writing campaign organized by StandWithUs, the investigation—which involved an uninterrupted sequence of procedural improprieties—collapsed. On June 4, 2009, the UCSB Academic Senate initiated a counter-investigation of the mismanagement of the student complaints; and when on June 25 UCSB officials rather belatedly announced that no charges would after all be laid against Robinson, the American Association of University Professors, which had already written “querying the initiation of potential disciplinary action,” promptly wrote again to UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang, urging him to “cooperate fully” with the Academic Senate in its inquiry into the matter.105

* * * *

Other cases could also be cited, ranging in seriousness from the threat of disciplinary action made by the senior administration of York University [231] against Professor David McNally, Chair of the Political Science Department, after he gave a speech in support of Palestinian human rights in May 2008, to the appalling treatment of Sami Al-Arian, a Palestinian-American University of South Florida computer science professor, whose persecution since 2001 has involved not just smearing and dismissal, but a trial for terrorism, and, despite the embarrassing failure of the prosecution, continued imprisonment. (According to human rights lawyer Scott Horton, the recent convolutions of Al Arian’s case “should be studied as a textbook case of prosecutorial abuse.”)106

But more is involved than attacks upon individuals. Jason Kunin notes in his contribution to this book that in Ontario (as elsewhere) there have been sustained attempts by university administrations to suppress human rights discourse about the worsening plight of the Palestinians: among them McMaster University’s attempt in 2008 to ban the use of the term “Israeli apartheid,” University of Toronto President David Naylor’s maneuverings “to block the event Standing Against Israeli Apartheid in October 2008,” and in 2009 the banning of Israeli Apartheid Week posters “at Carleton, the University of Ottawa, Trent University, and Wilfrid Laurier University.”107

How strange: the term “apartheid” was applied with clinical accuracy by Marwan Bishara in 2001 to describe what Israel has done in the occupied territories from the early 1990s onward, “physically and demographically divid[ing] up the West Bank and Gaza into islands of poverty, or bantustans, while maintaining economic domination and direct control over Palestinian land and natural resources.”108 It was re-used by Jimmy Carter in 2006—a usage validated in 2007 by Israel Prize laureate and former Minister of Education Shulamit Aloni.109 And in January 2010, Henry Siegman, the former Executive Director of the American Jewish Congress and current President of the US/Middle East Project of the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote that Israel’s “relentless” construction of new settlements “seems finally to have succeeded in locking in the irreversibility of its colonial project. As a result of that ‘achievement,’ one that successive Israeli governments have long sought in order to preclude the possibility of a two-state solution, Israel has crossed the threshold from ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’ to the only apartheid regime in the western world.” 110

There is, as Jason Kunin remarks, a pungent irony to the fact that while Canadian university administrators—not to mention politicians111—denounce as unacceptable any application of the term “apartheid” to the structures of land theft, cantonment, and racialized subjugation, separation, and oppression of a subject-population that characterize Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, “South African legal scholars, who might be expected to have a more immediate understanding of the nature of apartheid, have not hesitated to describe the state of Israel’s behaviour in the occupied Palestinian territories as ‘a colonial system that implements a system of apartheid.’”112

Margaret Aziza Pappano asks, very pertinently, of the opposition to Israeli Apartheid Week: “What justification can be found to block an event in which [232] scholars and activists speak about the history of the region, with a focus on the illegal occupation of Palestinian territory, information that is taught in history and political science classes and available in books published by university presses?” It is a sad fact, she suggests, that “A pattern of intolerance for speech about Palestinian human rights appears to have established itself in Canadian universities.”113

As Meron Benvenisti wrote in Haaretz in April 2009, “there is a growing realization” in Israel and internationally “that the chances of establishing an independent, viable Palestinian state no longer exist,” and that the two-state solution is now a “fictitious option.”114 It is all the more interesting, in this light, to reflect on the noisy campaign conducted in the spring of 2009 against an academic conference jointly organized by York University and Queen’s University, and scheduled for June 22-24, 2009, with the aim of mapping different models of statehood and corresponding paths to peace for Israel and Palestine.115

As Professor Dorit Naaman of Queen’s University has noted, B’nai Brith denounced the conference in a full-page ad in the National Post on June 11, 2009, and on the following day “issued a press release attacking conference presenters.” Other organizations joined in: the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy (CIJA), the United Jewish Appeal Federation of Greater Toronto, and the “avowedly racist and violent” Jewish Defence League.116 At the same time, Minister of State for Science and Technology Gary Goodyear made an unprecedented attempt to intervene in the peer-review adjudication process of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council by asking the Council to re-examine its funding support for the conference—a request his office backed up with a threat of withholding federal budget funding for SSHRC.117

One of the complaints made against the conference was a supposed one-sidedness—though more than one-fifth of the conference’s nearly sixty presenters were Israeli scholars, and many more were North American or European Jews. The conference organizers also made attempts to encourage community participation—though when one of them spoke with officials of the Canadian Jewish Congress, she was advised, in all seriousness, to meet with the Jewish Defence League. The abusive attacks on this conference were, Naaman says, “an attempt to silence discussion of [a] critical debate, which—ironically—is already taking place within Israel,” and “a disgraceful act meant to prevent Israelis, Jews, Arabs, Palestinians and others from speaking with one another in a serious academic forum.”118


The War on Truth

In one example after another, we have observed a pattern of what David Theo Goldberg and Saree Makdisi describe as “disproportionate and unbalanced intervention on campuses […] by a coalition of well-funded organizations, [233] who have no time for—and even less interest in—the niceties of intellectual exchange and academic process.” Their tactics are, to put it mildly, unpleasant: “Insinuation, accusation, and defamation have become the weapons of first resort to respond to argument and criticism directed at Israeli policies.”119

It is not just the decorum of intellectual exchange that apologists for the Israeli state and polemicists against its critics are attempting to subvert, but the very processes by which the academy structures itself. Joseph Massad has remarked in one of his essays that people like Martin Kramer and Daniel Pipes

are angry that the academy still allows democratic procedure in the expression of political views and has an institutionalized meritocratic system of judgment […] to evaluate its members. Their goal is to destroy any semblance of either in favour of subjecting democracy and academic life to an incendiary jingoism and to the exigencies of the national security state with the express aim of imploding freedom.120

Minister of State Gary Goodyear is likewise angry121 with another aspect of the academic merit system, the process of peer-reviewed research funding.

What is under attack in all of these instances is something quite fundamental. The first and highest value of academic life is the notion that truth—however differently we may construe it or understand it to be configured, however discordantly we may dispute over the appropriate means of access to it, however harshly we may debate with one another over the appropriate methods of separating it from dogma, delusion, or deception, and however pessimistic we might sometimes feel about its prospects of prevailing over even the most arid of established ideologies—truth remains, beyond all these doubts and differences, the professed goal of the human sciences, no less than of the mathematically based or natural sciences.

Yet as we have seen in one example after another, this central value of the academy is treated with open contempt by the apologists and polemicists whose tracks we have been following. The reason is simple enough: the truth about what they are defending puts them to shame.

In the preceding chapter, I showed that the claims made by the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism about a terrifying resurgence of antisemitism in Canada and elsewhere are not supported by the available evidence. Attempts to push Canadians into a state of moral panic over the issue should be rejected with indignation—as they have been, surprisingly enough, by the National Post. In a recent editorial criticizing B’nai Brith’s 2009 Audit of Antisemitic Incidents, the Post declares that it “flies in the face of reality” to claim “that anti-Semitism in this country is a widespread and rising problem”: Canada “is probably the least anti-Semitic country in the entire world—including Israel—and it becomes more tolerant, not less, with [234] every passing year.”122 Setting aside the note of self-congratulation in this last sentence, and the comparison with Israel—why try to be more Catholic than the Pope?—the refusal to be panicked is well taken.

In this chapter, I have proposed that what the CPCCA would like us to believe about threats to civility on Canadian campuses is equally bogus. Where there have been such threats, they seem in most cases to have come not from faculty and students who are trying to make known the truth about the state of Israel’s treatment of the people of the occupied Palestinian territories, but rather from polemicists and apologists for Israel who are trying either to conceal these truths, or else, by invoking the rhetorical maneuvers of the “new antisemitism,” to change the subject, and thereby to transform themselves from allies of the victimizers into victims.


Opposition Is True Friendship

As we have seen, the Israel-Palestine conflict is a recurrent point of reference in contemporary discussions of antisemitism. In moving toward an assessment of the implications for Canada of these discussions, we need to have some understanding of the full horror of what Israel, with the eager support of Canada’s government and the governments of other western nations, is inflicting upon the people of the occupied territories.

The conclusions of Kathleen and Bill Christison, whose book Palestine in Pieces is a model of humane and respectful reportage, are worth listening to on this subject:

There are hardly words to describe the human suffering and degradation deliberately imposed on Palestinians by Israel’s occupation. The Israeli threat to Palestinian lives and livelihood, individually and collectively—indeed to Palestinian national existence—through theft of land and the sieges of towns and villages, through walls and roads and blockades that strangle, through the crippling of economic opportunity, through deliberate large-scale killing, together resemble a hunting expedition designed to cage and ultimately eliminate animals from a natural habitat. Israeli leaders, Israeli settlers, Israeli soldiers treat Palestinians not as a collective of human beings, but as trapped animals whose fate is of little or no concern.123

The Christisons quote legal scholar and U.N. Rapporteur Richard Falk’s wrestlings in 2007 with the question of whether it would be “an irresponsible overstatement to associate the treatment of Palestinians with [the] criminalized Nazi record of collective atrocity”:

Answering his own question, he asserted, “I think not.” His attention was focused primarily on Gaza, struggling under an international [235] embargo, and he warned that Israel’s “abuse of the Palestinian people” there vividly expressed “a deliberate intention on the part of Israel and its allies to subject an entire human community to life-endangering conditions of utmost cruelty.”124

Writing more than a year later, the Christisons both endorse and supplement this judgment:

It takes but a few visits to towns and villages around the West Bank to conclude that, although Gaza’s suffering places it farther along the path toward a holocaust, conditions in the West Bank clearly constitute a “holocaust-in-the-making.”125

The judgments of these observers—a very distinguished legal scholar, author and co-author of some three dozen books, and two former CIA political analysts whose interest in and experience of Middle East affairs goes back forty years—are disturbingly supported by what seems a recent drift in Israel toward openly genocidal language. Racist references to Palestinians have long been commonplace in Israel, but took a stronger turn in 2003 when Avigdor Lieberman, now Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister, said in a Knesset debate that Palestinian prisoners “should be drowned in the Dead Sea” and that he—one must presume in his capacity as Transport Minister, the post he then occupied—“would provide the buses to take them there.”126 In May 2004 Lieberman proposed deporting 90 percent of Israel’s 1.2 million Palestinian citizens (“They have no place here. They can take their bundles and get lost”)—a proposal extended in September 2006 by former cabinet minister Effi Eitam’s declaration that “The vast majority of West Bank Arabs must be deported […].”127 What had been a taboo on expressions of explicitly genocidal intentions was broken at the end of February 2008, when Deputy Defence Minister Matan Vilnai threatened Gaza in an IDF radio interview with “a bigger shoah” if Gaza militants continued to fire rockets into adjoining areas of Israel.128 The word he used, meaning literally “catastrophe,” has since World War II been used primarily to refer to the Holocaust (the word by which it is translated into English). Although Vilnai’s aides issued statements insisting that the minister was not referring to that Shoah, it is impossible not to hear a threat of genocide in his statement.129

Martin Kramer, a long-time faculty member at Tel Aviv University, the President-designate of the new right-wing Shalem College in Jerusalem, an associate both of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (AIPAC’s Washington think-tank) and of Daniel Pipes’ Middle East Forum, a visiting scholar at Harvard University’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs—and also, as Juan Cole writes, “a notorious anti-intellectual opposed to the mainstream academic study of the Middle East”—made a more explicitly genocidal proposal in his presentation to the 10th annual Herzliya Conference in early February 2010.

[236] Starting with the claim that “Aging populations reject radical agendas” (a clear mark of ignorance, Cole observes, since the notion is amply refuted by historical evidence),130 Kramer argued that a decline in Palestinian radicalism

will happen faster if the West stops providing pro-natal subsidies for Palestinians with refugee status. [….] Israel’s present sanctions on Gaza have a political aim—undermine the Hamas regime—but they also break Gaza’s runaway population growth and there is some evidence that they have. That may begin to crack the culture of martyrdom, which demands a constant supply of superfluous young men. That is rising to the real challenge of radical indoctrination and treating it at its root.131

The genocidal implication of this is clear: Kramer informs us that Israel’s blockade of Gaza—thanks to which, according to the World Health Organization and UNICEF, 35 percent of pregnant women and 65 percent of children aged 9-12 months are anaemic, and more than 10 percent of children under five are stunted through chronic malnourishment132—has slowed down Gaza’s population growth. (How, one must ask, does he imagine this could have happened, unless through increased levels of miscarriages and of infant mortality?) And he has made clear, in responding to critics of his Herzliya speech,133 that what he means by “pro-natal subsidies” is, in his own words, the assurance of UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) “that every child with ‘refugee’ status will be fed and schooled regardless of the parents’ own resources […].”134 Kramer is recommending, in short, that the population of Gaza be reduced to starvation through a withdrawal of support for UNRWA.

Significant mortality might indeed by produced by the means Kramer recommends. By 2007, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the Israeli blockade had produced a ten percent decline from the 2005 level of “food acquisition and energy consumption” in Gaza; in the aftermath of Operation Cast Lead, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that two-thirds of Gaza’s population was “deemed food insecure.”135 In January 2010 Akiva Eldar wrote in Haaretz that “Ninety-seven percent of Gaza’s factories are idle due to Israeli government restrictions on the import of raw materials for industry,” while “Israel’s ban on bringing in building materials” has made it impossible to repair or rebuild the “nearly 60,000 homes and factories” damaged or destroyed in Operation Cast Lead, leaving “10,000 people […] without running water, 40,000 without electricity.”136 It has likewise been impossible, as the World Health Organization noted in a fact sheet published in January 2010, to repair the damage caused to 15 of Gaza’s 27 hospitals and 43 of its 110 primary health care clinics, or to alter the fact that Gaza’s children are at risk due to the “increasing salinity and high levels of nitrates in water supplies.”137

[237] The collective punishment being inflicted on Gaza is already a war crime, a flagrant violation of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.138 But as M. J. Rosenberg has noted, Kramer’s proposal directly contravenes the Geneva Convention on Genocide, signed by Israel and nearly every other country in the world, which bans

killing of members of any racial, ethnic, national or religious group because of their membership in that group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, inflicting on members of the group conditions of life intended to destroy them, imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group, and taking members’ children away from them and giving them to members of another group.139

With every additional explanation of what precisely he meant, Kramer has succeeded only in making it clearer that Israel’s existing policies toward Gaza are as genocidal in their implications as the intensification of them he is arguing for:

I didn’t propose that Israel take a single additional measure beyond the sanctions it now imposes with the political aim of undermining Hamas. And I didn’t call on the West to “deliberately curb the births of Palestinians.” I called on it to desist from deliberately encouraging births through pro-natal subsidies for Palestinian “refugees,” which guarantee that Gazans will remain both radicalized and dependent.140

Whatever wriggle room he may think terms like “pro-natal subsidies” give him, Kramer is proposing to take food out of the mouths of women and children—whose communities are to a very large degree “dependent” upon external aid only because of the policies that Kramer and people like him support, and “radicalized” by their resistance to those policies.

* * * *

Canadians need to think deeply about the very disquieting implications of the Harper government’s withdrawal of funding from UNRWA, which was announced by Treasury Board Minister Vic Toews—in Jerusalem141—just over a week before Martin Kramer’s Herzliya speech. Speculations as to whether Toews or other members of the Harper government had been influenced by Kramer, or by the German, Gunnar Heinsohn, from whom Kramer derived his proposal, do not interest me.142 The unpleasant fact is that Canada was the first country in 2006 to join the Israeli blockade in Gaza—and now it has become the first country to participate in what is evidently designed (by Kramer at least) as an intensification, with genocidal intent, of the cruel effects of that blockade.

[238] Kathleen and Bill Christison inform us that “In early 2008, UNRWA Commissioner General Karen Koning AbuZayd harshly condemned the international embargo of Gaza. The territory, she said, ‘is on the threshold of becoming the first territory to be internationally reduced to a state of abject destitution, with the knowledge, acquiescence and—some would say—encouragement of the international community.’”143

The situation in Gaza has now passed that threshold—and the Canadian government has been participating in the project with open eyes. It has made us complicit in the war crime of the embargo or blockade of Gaza, and, through its support for Operation Cast Lead, in further war crimes against Gaza’s people and their life-supporting infrastructures. It is now seeking to make us complicit in actions that, with Martin Kramer’s unwitting help, we can recognize as genocidal in intention.

The choice Canadians must make is one of whether we are willing to accept this complicity, or whether we will take a stand against these actions, and in solidarity with their victims.

* * * *

One of the ways we can take such a stand is by demanding Canada’s immediate withdrawal from the blockade of Gaza, and an immediate restoration of Canada’s financial support for UNRWA.

Another is by demanding that Canada participate in a measured and carefully calibrated program of boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, until such time as Israel complies with international law and the universal principles of human rights.

As has been explained by Neve Gordon, Chair of the Department of Politics and Government at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, the ten-point boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign formulated in 2008 in Bilbao, Spain by a coalition of organizations from around the world is designed “to pressure Israel in a ‘gradual, sustainable manner that is sensitive to context and capacity.’ For example, the effort begins with sanctions on and divestment from Israeli firms operating in the occupied territories, followed by actions against those that help sustain and reinforce the occupation in a visible manner.”144

A program of this kind would involve an academic boycott—directed, one must emphasize, not against individual scholars, but rather against government-supported institutional contacts.145 It would involve a rejection of Israeli state involvement in events like the Toronto International Film Festival (which as the “Toronto Declaration” of September 2009 made clear would not affect the inclusion at such events of Israeli films and of individual Israeli filmmakers).146 It would involve careful consideration of whether fundraising in Canada that goes into support for programs of ethnic discrimination and property theft in Israel can continue to enjoy tax-exempt status as a “charitable” endeavour. It would involve an immediate revision of the Canada-Israel Free [239] Trade Agreement (CIFTA) to exclude all products emanating from Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, and a withdrawal from all aspects of the Canada-Israel Industrial Research and Development Fund (CIIRDF) that involve support for the infrastructure of the occupation.

Many of the people who most strenuously oppose campaigns for boycott, divestment, and sanctions directed at Israel are not opposed on principle to such tactics. Professor (and former IDF paratrooper) Neve Gordon’s article calling for a boycott, on the grounds that “Putting massive external pressure on Israel is the only way to guarantee that the next generation of Israelis and Palestinians—my two boys included—does not grow up in an apartheid regime,”147 evoked, as Gideon Levy remarks, a “mini-maelstrom” the timing of which “was somewhat grotesque”:

Hardly have the throats dried of those calling for his dismissal, for his citizenship to be revoked, for his expulsion and, if all else fails, his stoning, when another petition has surfaced on the Internet, this one calling for a boycott of Ikea. A bad article on the back page of a Swedish tabloid is enough to produce a call here for a consumer boycott to which thousands sign their names. Turkey has barely recovered from the boycott that our package tourers imposed on it because its prime minister had the gall to attack our president, and already we are cruising toward our next boycott target.148

On a similar note, the neo-McCarthyist Israeli watchdog groups IsraCampus and Israel Academia Monitor are calling for potential donors to boycott universities that employ professors who, like Gordon, advocate a boycott of Israel.149 And in August 2009 Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu called for “crippling sanctions” against Iran—the kind of blockade, as Paul Craig Roberts commented, that “qualifies as an act of war.”150 As Levy writes, “A country that constantly demands boycott from the world and also imposes boycotts itself, cannot play the victim when the same weapon is turned against it. If the election of Hamas is cause for boycott, then occupation is a more potent cause.”151

* * * *

This issue is, most immediately, about protecting the lives of Palestinians, and doing what lies within our power to do in restoring to them their right to political self-determination, political independence, and full self-governance within the territories occupied by Israel since 1967.152 At the same time, it is about restoring to Israelis their lost honour as a nation, and doing what can be done with what remains of Canada’s tattered reputation as a peacemaker to help bring about a lasting peace between Israel and its neighbours, so as to lift from Israelis the burden of anxiety and fear that has afflicted them for at least two generations, and that has deformed and polluted their political discourse.

[240] In this regard, it must be insisted that what is at issue, in Canada at least, is not primarily, or to any significant degree, antisemitism. Exponents of the ideology of the “new antisemitism” will of course say otherwise, but they are mistaken. Their governing assumption appears to be that people will not make profound, serious and systematic criticisms of the state of Israel unless they are impelled, perhaps knowingly, or possibly at some deep level of a feral goyisch unconscious, by hatred of Jews. I believe that Canadians are, by and large, more complicated than this, and less hypocritical or evil. I believe we are perfectly capable of combining, without cognitive dissonance, an amicable sense of Israel as a place inhabited by interesting, attractive, creative people, and a lively curiosity about their spiritual traditions and their culture—and at the same time a sense of dismay and even horror at this people’s growing entanglement in a mesh of injustice and violence that to a very considerable degree is the creation of their own political leaders.

If there is hypocrisy here, or unconscious self-deception, I would suggest that it is to be found most often among the ideologues of the “new antisemitism.” We have seen good reason in this book to find their ethics dubious, and their explanations unsatisfactory. I would suggest substituting for those often laboured and usually libellous explanations an aphorism of the great English poet William Blake:

“Opposition is true friendship.”153

* * * *

But this issue is also, as we have seen recurrently from the beginning of this book, one of domestic Canadian politics. The questions of antisemitism and of the domestic relevance of the Israel-Palestine conflict have been foregrounded for us by the actions of our own political leaders. The questions raised by the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism are also, more distinctly, questions about the instrumental use of false charges of antisemitism as a means of delimiting political discourse and of making a whole domain of critical discourse literally unspeakable.

Judith Butler, one of the leading literary and cultural theorists in the U.S., has written with characteristic lucidity about how a distinction between Israel and Jews helps one to oppose “anti-Semitic reductions of Jewishness to Israeli interests,” and to begin “an intellectual discussion of both Zionism and anti-Semitism.” Having insisted that a “progressive Jewish stance” will “refuse to brand as anti-Semitic the critical impulse or to accept anti-Semitic discourse as an acceptable substitute for critique,” Butler turns to consider the problems that arise when the charge of antisemitism is used to stigmatize “those who voice opposition to Israeli policy or to its founding ideology,” to discredit their “point of view as hatred or, indeed, hate speech, and to put into question its permissibility as protected speech or, indeed, valued political commentary.” The charge of antisemitism, she says,

[241] works to circumscribe the publicly acceptable domain of speech. It also works to immunize Israeli violence against critique by refusing to countenance the integrity of the claims made against that violence. One is threatened with the label, “anti-Semitic,” in the same way that within the US, to oppose the most recent US wars earns one the label of “traitor,” or “terrorist sympathizer” or, indeed, “treasonous.” These are threats with profound psychological consequence. They seek to control political behavior by imposing unbearable, stigmatized modes of identification which most people will want more than anything to avoid identification with.154

Those who perform this labelling know very well how powerfully it can work, in Butler’s words, “to circumscribe what can and cannot be permissibly spoken out loud in the public sphere,” and to “decide the defining limits of the public sphere through setting limits on the speakable.” The consequences of a shrinkage of the public sphere through an exclusion of critical perspectives are potentially dire:

The exclusion of those criticisms will effectively establish the boundaries of the public itself, and the public will come to understand itself as one that does not speak out, critically, in the face of obvious and illegitimate violence—unless, of course, a certain collective courage takes hold.155

That collective courage exists in this country, as does a generously shared fund of common decency. This book goes out to the public in the hope that what it offers in the way of critical analysis may help to facilitate an increasingly full and well-articulated expression of that decency and courage.




1  Some historians and sociologists have used the term “new antisemitism” in scholarly studies of the receptions and mutations of traditional Christian and European antisemitism in other parts of the world. My critique applies to their writings only to the degree that they deploy this same rhetoric, and thereby participate in this strategy of deception.

2  James D. Besser, “A Chill in the D.C. Air as Obama, Netanyahu Meet,” The Jewish Week (10 November 2009), http://www.thejewishweek.com/viewArticle/c39_a17230/News/International.html.

3  “Survivors, liberators, leaders mark Auschwitz liberation,” Channelnewsasia.com (28 January 2010), http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/afp_world/view/1033527/1/.html. By way of contrast, on a similar occasion four years previously, Netanyahu’s predecessor Ehud Olmert described himself as “prime minister of the state of Israel and the leader of the Jewish people here” (my emphasis); see “Remarks by Ehud Olmert, Acting Prime Minister, State of Israel [speaking from Israel by video link] to the Anti-Defamation League Shana Amy Glass National Leadership Conference, April 25, 2006, Washington, DC,” http://www.adl.org/Israel/olmert_speech.asp.

4  Norman G. Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005), p. 21.

5  Arnold Forster and Benjamin R. Epstein, The New Anti-Semitism (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1974); Nathan Perlmutter and Ruth-Ann Perlmutter, The Real Anti-Semitism in America (New York: Arbor House, 1982); Abraham H. Foxman, Never Again? The Threat of the New Anti-Semitism (2003; rpt. New York: HarperCollins, 2004); Phyllis Chesler, The New Anti-Semitism: The Current Crisis and What We Must Do about It (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003); Gabriel Schoenfeld, The Return of Anti-Semitism (San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2004).

6  Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah, p. 22.

7  Ibid., p. 24; and Forster and Epstein, The New Anti-Semitism, pp. 323-24 (quoted by Finkelstein).

8  Ibid., p. 27 (quoting Nathan and Ruth-Ann Perlmutter, The Real Anti-Semitism in America, p. 9).

9  Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah, pp. 30-31.

10  Ibid., p. 33 (quoting Foxman, Never Again? p. 39; and Chesler, The New Anti-Semitism, p. 180).

11  Pierre-André Taguieff, La nouvelle judéophobie (Paris: Éditions Mille et une nuits, 2002), translated by Patrick Camiller as Rising from the Muck: The New Anti-Semitism in Europe (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2004)—and see also Taguieff’s more recent Prêcheurs de haine: Traversée de la judéophobie planétaire (Paris: Éditions Mille et une nuits, 2004); Fiamma Nirenstein, L’Abbandono: Come l’Occidente ha tradito gli ebrei (Milan: Rizzoli, 2003), Gli Antisemiti Progressisti: la forma nova di un odio antico (Milan: Rizzoli, 2004), translated together by Anne Milano Appel as Terror: The New Anti-Semitism and the War Against the West (Manchester, NH: Smith & Kraus, 2005); David I. Kertzer, ed., Old Demons, New Debates: Anti-Semitism in the West (Aachen: Meyer & Meyer Verlag, 2005); Alan Dershowitz, The Case Against Israel’s Enemies: Exposing Jimmy Carter and Others Who Stand in the Way of Peace (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2008); Denis MacShane, Globalising Hatred: The New Antisemitism (London: Orion Books, 2009).

12  So-called Infancy Gospels like the Protevangelium Jacobi, dating from the early centuries of the Common Era and designed to satisfy curiosity about the childhood of the Son of God, were widely circulated and commented on during the medieval period. The key elements of the medieval blood libel, as it emerged in the mid twelfth century, were the slaughter of a Christian child and a parody of some key element of Christian narrative or doctrine—initially, the crucifixion. (The inventors of this fantasy may have been aware of the accusation of Apion, refuted by the first-century C.E. Jewish historian Josephus in Against Apion, Book II, that the Jews made an annual sacrifice of a Greek man in their temple; or of claims by Roman writers of the early centuries C.E. that Christians drank the blood and ate the flesh of human victims. I regard these anticipations as related but separate phenomena.)

13  This is the form the blood libel took in the mid 13th-century episode of Little Saint Hugh of Lincoln. The Prioress’s Tale in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (late 14th century) alludes to the Lincoln blood libel, but in the Prioress’s own blood-libel narrative the crucifixion motif is missing (the Christian boy is murdered because Satan and the Jews dislike his habit of singing the hymn “Alma Redemptoris Mater” in a piercing soprano while strolling through the Jewish quarter).

14  These blood-libel motifs appear in dispersed and ironic form in a less centrally canonical literary text, Thomas Nashe’s The Unfortunate Traveller (1594). For details, see my essay “Violence and Extremity: Nashe’s Unfortunate Traveller as an Anatomy of Abjection,” in Donald Beecher, ed., Critical Approaches to English Prose Fiction 1520-1640 (Ottawa: Dovehouse Editions, 1998), pp. 183-218. The point of the host-matzoh blasphemy is that during the Roman Catholic Mass the host-bread blessed by the priest is supposedly converted in substance, by the miracle of transubstantiation, into the flesh of Christ (while remaining unaltered in ‘accidents’ such as appearance and taste). The murdered child’s blood would be concealed in the matzoh in a manner parodically analogous to the concealment of Christ’s flesh in the host.

15  For the estimate of AIPAC’s current budget, see Mearsheimer and Walt, The Israel Lobby, p. 119. On p. 117 of this book former Congressman Mervyn Dymally is quoted as calling AIPAC “without question the most important lobby in Congress,” and Lee Hamilton, former chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is quoted as having said in 1991 that “There’s no lobby group that matches it….” Nineteen articles assessing AIPAC are collected at “Perspectives on AIPAC & its Role in Helping to Shape U.S. Foreign Policy in the Middle East,” STOP AIPAC, http://www.stopaipac.org/perspectives.htm#aipacnorth.

16  Jimmy Carter, Palestine: Peace not Apartheid (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007), pp. 253-54.

17  Jonathan Kay, “Here is the difference between Israel and its Arab enemies,” National Post (22 March 2009), http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/fullcomment/archive/2009/03-kay-here-is-the-difference-between-israel-and-its-arab-enemies.aspx; Melanie Phillips, “The Ha’aretz Blood Libel,” Spectator (22 March 2009), http://www.spectator.co.uk/melaniephillips/3464331/the-haaretz-blood-libel.thtml.

18  “A Blood libel disguised as an investigative report,” FresnoZionism.org (15 August 2009), http://fresnozionism.org/2009/08a-blood-libel-disguised-as-an-investigative-report. The report in question is White Flag Deaths: Killing of Palestinian Civilians during Operation Cast Lead (Human Rights Watch, 13 August 2009), http://www.hrw.org/node/85014.

19  Alan Dershowitz, “UN Investigation of Israel Discredits Itself and Undercuts Human Rights,” Hudson New York (16 September 2009), http://www.hudsonny.org/2009/09/un-investigation-of-israel-discredits-itself-and-undercuts-human-rights.php.

20  Irwin Cotler, “The United Nations, Israel, Human Rights, and the New Anti-Jewishness,” abstract of a paper delivered at the International Conference on The Dynamics of Antisemitism in the Second Half of the 20th Century (SICSA: The Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 13-16 June 1999), http://sicsa.huji.ac.il/absdynam.html.

21  Ibid.

22  By 1999, Cotler could have read Michael Palumbo, The Palestinian Catastrophe: The 1948 Expulsion of a People from Their Homeland (London: Faber & Faber, 1987); Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), and 1948 and After: Israel and the Palestinians (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994); he could also have read Christopher Hitchens’ essay “Broadcasts,” in Edward W. Said and Christopher Hitchens, eds., Blaming the Victims: Spurious Scholarship and the Palestinian Question (London: Verso, 1988), pp. 73-83.

23  For the period to which Cotler’s 1999 statement would have been referring, see Noam Chomsky, Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians (2nd ed., Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 1999), pp. 64-88, 181-328, 333-75, 455-69, 515-32. Chomsky tellingly quotes the Israeli writer Amos Elon’s comment, published in Haaretz on November 13, 1981, that Anwar Sadat’s peace proposal in April 1971 had caused “panic and unease among our political leadership,” while the Israeli government’s reaction to the Saudi peace plan of August 1981 had been “emotional and angry”—a response Elon found “shocking, frightening, if not downright despair-producing” (quoted on p. 75).

24  A clear statement of that consensus is provided in Amnesty International’s recent report, Troubled Waters—Palestinians Denied Fair Access to Water (27 October 2009), p. 81:

International humanitarian law: While recognizing the de jure applicability of the Hague Regulations, which it has not signed, Israel has consistently rejected the applicability to the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories] of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which it is a party. Nevertheless, Israel maintains that, in practice, it applies what it has termed ‘humanitarian provisions’ of the Geneva Convention to the OPT, though without ever specifying what it deems the ‘humanitarian provisions’ of the Convention to comprise. Israel stands alone in contending that the Fourth Geneva Convention does not apply to its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which works to ensure the application of international humanitarian law (including as set out in the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their two Additional Protocols), as well as the other states that are party to this treaty (known as High Contracting Parties), fundamentally reject the Israeli government’s view. The most recent Conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention in December 2001 reaffirmed ‘the applicability of the [Fourth Geneva] Convention to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem’ and reiterated the need for full respect of its provisions. This position of the ICRC and the High Contracting Parties of the Geneva Conventions on the applicability of Israel’s obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention to the OPT has been supported by numerous resolutions of the UN Security Council [e.g. Resolutions 465, 681, 799].

International human rights law: Israel has never recognized its obligation to abide by the international human rights treaties to which it is a state party in the OPT, and contends that under international law it is not required to apply these treaties to areas that are not part of its sovereign territory. It argues that limited provisions of humanitarian law should be applied in the OPT to the exclusion of international human rights law. However, all of the UN bodies entrusted with monitoring adherence by Israel to the treaties it has ratified have categorically rejected Israel’s contention that its human rights obligations do not apply in the OPT.”

25  I am borrowing here from the brief discussion of exceptionalism in my book Lunar Perspectives: Field Notes from the Culture Wars (Toronto: Anansi, 1996), pp. 14-16. For an approach to specifically Zionist exceptionalism, see Shahid Alam, Israeli Exceptionalism: The Destabilizing Logic of Zionism (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009).

26  Lewis Lapham, “Déjà Vu,” Harper’s Magazine (March 1990), rpt. in Lapham, Hotel America: Scenes in the Lobby of the Fin-de-Siècle (London: Verso, 1995), p. 30.

27  Irwin Cotler, “Human Rights and the New Anti-Jewishness,” Jerusalem Post (5 February 2004), available at SPME: Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, http://www.spme.net/cgi-bin/articles.cgi?ID=128.

28  Ibid. For Cotler’s most recent re-working of these motifs, see his essay Global Antisemitism: Assault on Human Rights, Working Paper #3, The Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism (2009), http://www.yale.edu/yiisa/irwincotlerworkingpaper10209.pdf.

29  Iran has repeatedly been identified, by American and Israeli politicians and propagandists, as just such a threat. Setting aside the fact that Israel possesses an estimated 100-200 nuclear warheads, and multiple means of delivering them, as well as firm promises of diplomatic and military support from the US, there is strong evidence that Iran has no nuclear weapons program. In early 2006, when an American-Israeli aerial attack on Iran seemed imminent (despite the statement of the August 2005 US National Intelligence Estimate that Iran was a full decade away from having the capacity to manufacture “the key ingredient for a nuclear weapon”), I analyzed some of this evidence in “Petrodollars and Nuclear Weapons Proliferation: Understanding the Planned Assault on Iran,” Centre for Research on Globalization (10 February 2006), http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=1936. While Iran has since moved closer to activating a civil nuclear electricity-generation program, claims that the country has a nuclear weapons program remain wholly unsubstantiated.

30  For an important argument against doctrines of ethnic (as opposed to civic) self-determination, see Michael Neumann, The Case Against Israel (Petrolia, CA and Oakland, CA: CounterPunch and AK Press, 2005), pp. 12-23. Neumann remarks that “The ideal known as ‘the self-determination of peoples’ is built on myths of unanimity” (p. 14); that in cases often perceived as legitimate exercises of a people’s right to self-determination (e.g. Vietnamese resistance to occupation, or the Cuban revolution), “their justifications rest on non-ethnic rights—the rights, for instance, of those who happened to inhabit those countries—not on a supposed right of a supposed ethnic or cultural entity to determine its destiny” (p. 19); and that the violation and attempted extinguishing of the civic rights of non-Jewish Palestinians has been an inescapable consequence of the Zionist project of implementing a Jewish “right to self-determination” (pp. 23-40).

31  Edward Said commented in 2001 on the “brazen arrogance, moral preachiness, and […] hypocrisy” with which Zionists like Norman Podhoretz, Charles Krauthammer and William Kristol instructed Israel to conform to their political dictates. “American Zionism,” he remarked, “has now reached the level of almost pure fantasy in which what is good for American Zionists in their fiefdom and their mostly fictional discourse is good for America and Israel […]. Anyone who defies or dares to challenge them (especially if he/she is either an Arab or a Jew critical of Zionism) is subject to the most awful abuse and vituperation, all of it personal, racist and ideological.” Said, “American Zionism—The Real Problem (2),” Al-Ahram Weekly; reproduced online at Media Monitors Network (14 March 2001), http://www.mediamonitors.net/edward13.html.

32  See, for example, Marc H. Ellis, Toward a Jewish Theology of Liberation (3rd ed., Waco: Baylor University Press, 2004), and Judaism Does Not Equal Israel (New York: New Press, 2009); Jacqueline Rose, The Question of Zion (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005), and The Last Resistance (London: Verso, 2007); Judith Butler, “No, it’s not anti-semitic,” London Review of Books 25.16 (21 August 2003): 19-21, http://www.lrb.co.uk/v25/n16/judith-butler/no-its-not-anti-semitic, and Frames of War: When Is Life Grievable? (London: Verso, 2009); Naomi Klein, “Israel: Boycott, Divest, Sanction,” The Nation (26 January 2009), http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090126/klein, and “The Tel Aviv Party Stops Here,” The Nation (28 September 2009), http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090928/klein/print; Shlomo Sand, The Invention of the Jewish People (London: Verso, 2009); Philip Weiss, “At NYU, devilish Shlomo Sand predicts the Jewish past and pastes the Zionists,” Mondoweiss: The War of Ideas in the Middle East (17 October 2009), http://modoweiss.net/2009/10/at-nyu-devilish-shlomo-sand-predicts-the-jewish-past-and-pastes-the-zionists.html.

33  In my book Lunar Perspectives: Field Notes from the Culture Wars I offered an extended analysis of these matters; see especially pp. 2-17, 21-38, 67-86, 121-24, 135-40, 183-99. Earlier collections of essays on the same issues include Darryl J. Gless and Barbara Herrnstein Smith, eds., The Politics of Liberal Education (Durham: Duke University Press, 1992); Phyllis Artiss, ed., Political Correctness, special double issue of Philosophy and Social Action 19.1-2 (January-June 1993); Michael Bérubé and Cary Nelson, eds., Higher Education Under Fire: Politics, Economics, and the Crisis of the Humanities (New York and London: Routledge, 1995); Jeffrey Williams, ed., PC Wars: Politics and Theory in the Academy (New York and London: Routledge, 1995); and Stephen Richer and Lorna Weir, eds., Beyond Political Correctness: Toward the Inclusive University (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995).

34  Matt Gurney, “Anti-semitism at York University,” National Post (13 February 2009), http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/fullcomment/archive/2009/02/13/matt-gurney-anti-semitism-at-york-university.aspx.

35  See Todd Gitlin, “The Rough Beast Returns,” Mother Jones (May-June 2002), rpt. in Ron Rosenbaum, ed., Those Who Forget the Past: The Question of Anti-Semitism (New York: Random House, 2004), pp. 263-66; quoted by Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah, pp. 67-68 (whose account I am paraphrasing).

36  Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah, p. 68.

37  Miriam Greenspan, “The New Anti-Semitism,” Tikkun (November-December 2003), http://www.tikkun.org/article.php/Greenspan-the-new-antisemitism; Gabriel Schoenfeld, The Return of Anti-Semitism, p. 121; quoted by Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah, p. 68.

38  Of the first incident Norman Finkelstein writes that “no one at Yale’s Center for Jewish Life or the university administration had ever heard of such an assault”; the second incident (Schoenfeld’s source for which was Campus Watch, an organ of opinion specializing in rumour-mongering and campaigns of defamation) was never reported to the University of Chicago’s Center for Jewish Life, and was investigated by the university administration, which “found no evidence to substantiate it” (Beyond Chutzpah, p. 68).

39  The processes through which the CIJA was launched in 2002 have been studied in three linked articles by Dan Freeman-Maloy, “AIPAC North: ‘Israel Advocacy’ in Canada, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3” ZNet (26 June 2006), http://www.zmag.org/znet/viewArticle/3659, http://www.zmag.org/znet/viewArticle/3660, http://www.zmag.org/znet/viewArticle/3661. In the second article, he writes that in late 2002, the United Israel Appeal Federations Canada (UIAFC) brought together “leading tycoons,” among them Israel Asper, CEO of CanWest Global; Gerry Schwartz, co-founder of CanWest Global and CEO of Onex Corporation; Heather Reisman, CEO of Indigo/Chapters Books; and Sylvain Abitbol, CEO of NHC Communications, as “the Israel Emergency Cabinet.” This group planned “a new ‘functional framework’ for Jewish establishment advocacy and governance” centred on the CIJA. In the first article, Freeman-Maloy remarks that the CIJA has converted mainstream Canadian Jewish organizations into “a streamlined ‘Israel advocacy’ apparatus” whose principal aim is “to weaken solidarity with the Palestinian people and solidify Canadian rejection of basic Palestinian rights.” CIJA supported the invasion of Iraq, and has “help[ed] to lay the political groundwork for possible aggression against Iran, and oppos[ed] progressive social movements at the grassroots level (particularly on campuses).” See also Ben Saifer, “Shalom-Salaam? Campus Israel advocacy and the politics of ‘dialogue’,” Upping the Anti 9 (November 2009), pp. 73-90, especially pp. 79-82.

40  David Theo Goldberg and Saree Makdisi, “The Trial of Israel’s Campus Critics,” Tikkun (September-October 2009), http://www.tikkun.org/article.php/sept_oct_09_goldberg_makdisi. It is relevant to note that David Theo Goldberg is a major figure in critical race studies, whose books include Racist Culture: Philosophy and The Politics of Meaning (Oxford: Blackwell, 1993), Racial Subjects: Writing on Race in America (New York and London: Routledge, 1997), The Racial State (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002), and The Threat of Race: Reflections on Racial Neoliberalism (Oxford: Blackwell, 2009). Saree Makdisi’s publications include Romantic Imperialism: Universal Empire and the Culture of Modernity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), William Blake and the Impossible History of the 1790s (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), and Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation (New York: Norton, 2008).

41  Roberta P. Seid, “Reviving 1920’s Munich’s Beer Halls at UCLA, Courtesy of California Taxpayers,” SPME: Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (1 February 2009), http://www.spme.net/cgi-bin/articles.cgi?ID=5054. Even if recordings and alternative accounts of the event were not available, Seid’s malicious falsehoods would be evident. Her own tendentious accounts of what each panelist said do not begin to justify her claims that “they seemed to be enacting a burlesque of the anti-Semitic rabble rousing in Munich’s 1920’s beer halls,” that “Israel was painted precisely as Nazis used to paint the Jews,” that the panelists “produc[ed] a cartoon image divorced from all reality of an unfettered, demonic Israel—not unlike the Nazi cartoons of Jews holding the globe and pulling all the strings of history,” and that “the speakers indulged in repeated blood libel.”

42  Judea Pearl, “Daniel Pearl and the Normalization of Evil,” Wall Street Journal (3 February 2009), http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123362422088941893.html. Professor Pearl’s son Daniel was the journalist kidnapped and brutally murdered by extremists in Pakistan in 2002.

43  Tom Tugend, “UCLA Symposium on Gaza Ignites Strong Criticism,” JewishJournal.com (11 February 2009), http://www.jewishjournal.com/community/article/ucla_symposium_on_gaza_ignites_strong_criticism_20090211/.

44  Judea Pearl, “Dust Over Campus Life: UCLA at a Crossroad,” JewishJournal.com (18 February 2009), http://www.jewishjournal.com/opinion/article/dust_over_campus_life_ucla_at_a_crossroad_20090218/.

45  Pearl’s assertions about Hamas can be compared with an article by Bassem Naseem, Minister of Health and Information in the Hamas administration in Gaza, “Hamas condemns the Holocaust: We are not engaged in a religious conflict with Jews; this is a political struggle to free ourselves from occupation and oppression,” The Guardian (12 May 2008), http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/may/12/hamascondemnstheholocaust.

46  Goldberg and Makdisi, “The Trial of Israel’s Campus Critics.”

47  Judea Pearl, “Is anti-Zionism hate?” Los Angeles Times (15 March 2009), http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-pearl15-2009mar15,0,6323783.story.

48  Dan Freeman-Maloy, “The Israel advocacy push to ‘reclaim’ York University,” ZNet (2 March 2009), http://www.zmag.org/znet/viewArticle/20755; reproduced online at The Bullet, E-Bulletin No. 191 (3 March 2009), http://www.socialistproject.ca/bullet/bullet191.html.

49  See Independent Jewish Voices, “Submission to the CPCCA,” note 4, in Antisemitism Real and Imagined, p. 110.

50  The JDL has taken an active interest in events at York University; there have been recurrent student complaints during the past year about JDL intimidation on the York campus. If these men were JDL members, they were restrained by Hillel: the JDL of Canada’s “Parsha of The Week” for February 14, 2009 includes a complaint that “It is a shame that the Hillel Jewish Student leadership prevent proper aggressive counter measures to be taken” on the York campus (http://www.jdlcanada.ca/reference/Parsha-Feb_14_2009.htm. The Jewish Defense League was founded by Rabbi Meir Kahane, as was the political party Kach (also known since Kahane’s death in 1990 as Kahane Chai, meaning “Kahane lives”). In 1994 the Israeli government declared Kahane Chai a terrorist organization, and in October 2006 a U.S. federal appeals court ruled that the State Department was correct in labeling Kach and Kahane Chai as terrorist organizations (see Neil A. Lewis, “Appeal Court Upholds Terrorist Label for a Jewish Group,” New York Times [18 October 2006], http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/18/us/18kahane.html?_r=1). Meir Weinstein, the leader of the Canadian JDL since the late 1970s, has also concurrently been Canadian spokesperson for Kach. In the latter capacity, he refused to condemn Kach and JDL member Baruch Goldstein’s 1994 machine-gun attack on the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron (see “Meir Weinstein,” Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meir_Weinstein), in which Goldstein murdered at least 29 worshippers and wounded another 150. Giving proud emphasis to the fact that Goldstein was a “charter member,” the JDL’s website defends him “as a martyr in Judaism’s protracted struggle against Arab terrorism” (“About JDL: FAQs,” Jewish Defense League, http://www.jdl.org/index.php/about-jdl/faqs/). Another “martyr” is JDL Chairman Irving Rubin, who died in prison in 2002 after being arrested by the FBI for preparing bombing attacks on a California mosque and the office of an Arab-American congressman. (See Terrorism 2000/2001 [FBI Publication #0308], http://www.fbi.gov/publications/terror/terror2000_2001.htm, where the JDL is described as “a violent extremist Jewish organization.”)

51  Freeman-Maloy, “The Israel advocacy push.”

52  Isi Leibler, “Candidly Speaking: Zionism and the global anti-Semitic frenzy,” Jerusalem Post (15 February 2009), available online at SPME: Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, http://spme.net/cgi-bin/articles.cgi?ID=5140; quoted by Freeman-Maloy, “The Israel advocacy push.”

53  Quoted by Freeman-Maloy, “The Israel advocacy push.”

54  Kenney’s statements were reported by the Canadian Press on February 23 and by the Belleville Intelligencer on February 24; see YFile: York’s Daily Bulletin (25 February 2009), http://www.yorku.ca/yfile/archive/index.asp?IssueDate=2/25/2009&section=York%20in%20the%20Media.

55  Linda McQuaig, “Harper’s extremism is showing,” Rabble.ca (3 November 2009), http://www.rabble.ca/columnists/2009/11/harpers-extremism-showing; McQuaig is quoting Kenney’s words reported by the Thornhill Liberal (11 September 2009).

56  Hasbara Fellowships was formed in 2001 by the Israeli Foreign Ministry and AishHaTorah, a right-wing fundamentalist organization associated with the Israeli settler movement.

57  Elad Benari, “Two Jewish Students Assaulted in York University,” Shalom Life (3 February 2010), http://www.shalomlife.com/eng/4737/Two_Jewish_Students_Assaulted_in_York_University/.

58  Benari, “Two Jewish Students Assaulted.” Mozeson’s claim to have been assaulted is reported by Yuni Kim, “Security footage debunks assault allegations,” Excalibur (10 February 2010), http://www.excal.on.ca/cms2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=7979&Itemid=2.

59  Gil Ronen, “Toronto: Jewish Students Attacked,” Arutz Sheva: IsraelNationalNews.com (4 February 2010), http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/135873, Talkback comment #7. Weinstein’s offer of a $500 reward was noted by Elad Benari in the February 3 Shalom Life article (whose text Ronen reproduces, with minor changes, as his own); this posting provides Weinstein’s own words.

60  “University investigating assault on Jewish students,” JTA: The Global News Service of the Jewish People (7 February 2010), http://jta.org/news/article/2010/02/07/1010495/university-investigating-assault-on-jewish-students; also published in the Jerusalem Post (8 February 2010), http://www.jpost.com/JewishWorld/JewishNews/Article.aspx?id=168116.

61  Elad Benari, “‘York University is a Safe Place for Students,’” Shalom Life (8 February 2010), http://www.shalomlife.com/eng/5021/York_University_is_a_Safe_Place_for_Students/. See also Yuni Kim, “Security footage debunks assault allegations,” Excalibur (10 February 2010), http://www.excal.on.ca/cms2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=7979&Itemid=2.

62  Kim, “Security footage debunks assault allegations.”

63  “University investigating assault on Jewish students,” JTA (7 February 2010), Jerusalem Post (8 February 2010).

64  Kim, “Security footage debunks assault allegations.”

65  “York, U of T act promptly on anti-Semitism complaints,” Jewish Tribune (10 February 2010), http://www.jewishtribune.ca/TribuneV2/index.php/201002102634/York-U-of-T-act-promptly-on-antisemitism-complaints.html.

66  In Yiddish and in English usage, this word carries a definite hint of admiration for boldness or audacity, an overtone that is apparently absent in Hebrew.

67  “York, U of T act promptly.”

68  Pearl, “Dust Over Campus Life.” “Marrano” was a derogatory term applied in late 15th and 16th century Spain to Jews who had (under compulsion) converted to Christianity, but who were suspected of continuing to practice Jewish rites in secret.

69  For a list of Massad’s publications to 2007, see http://www.columbia.edu/cu/mealac/faculty/massad/.

70  See Joseph Massad, “Response to the Ad Hoc Grievance Committee” (4 April 2005), and “Statement to the Ad Hoc Committee (14 March 2005), Columbia University Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures, http://www.columbia.edu/cu/mealac/faculty/massad/.

71  Dershowitz published a St. Valentine’s Day essay attacking Massad, “At Columbia, fairness is job one,” New York Daily News (14 February 2005), http://www.alandershowitz.com/publications/docs/columbia.html. The piece includes a sentence that might be mistaken for an unwitting self-description: “I am told that he is a mediocre scholar whose main claim to fame is his vocal extremism.”

72  In 2000, Massad was one of two finalists for Columbia’s Van Doren teaching award; his publications include Colonial Effects: The Making of National Identity in Jordan (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001), The Persistence of the Palestinian Question: Essays on Zionism and the Palestinians (London: Routledge, 2006), and Desiring Arabs (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), which won Columbia University’s 2008 Lionel Trilling Book Award.

73  “Intimidation at Columbia,” New York Times (7 April 2005), http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/07/opinion/07thu1.html?_r=1; see also Karen W. Arenson, “Columbia Panel Clears Professors of Anti-Semitism,” New York Times (31 March 2005), http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/31/education/31columbia.html?_r=1&adxnnl=1&pagewanted=1&adxnnlx=1256680833-FB9PGOce/hv0Y/D0lo8+cA. The Columbia ad hoc committee reprimanded Massad for a single incident in which three students attested that he made a testy answer to a question from one of them; Massad’s Columbia University website reproduces a letter in which twenty other students deny that the alleged incident ever occurred.

74  Juan Cole, “The New McCarthyism: A witch hunt against a Columbia professor, and the New York Times’ disgraceful support for it, represent the gravest threat to academic freedom in decades,” Salon.com (22 April 2005), http://dir.salon.com/story/opinion/feature/2005/04/22/mccarthy/index.html.

75  See Yehoshua Porath, “Mrs. Peters’s Palestine,” New York Review of Books 32: 21-22 (16 January 1986), http://www.nybooks.com/articles/5249; and “Mrs. Peters’s Palestine: An Exchange” (letters by Daniel Pipes and Ronald Sanders, reply by Yehoshua Porath), New York Review of Books 33: 5 (27 March 1986), http://www.nybooks.com/articles/5172. Finkelstein’s analysis of Peters’ book was first published as “Disinformation and the Palestine Question: The Not-So-Strange Case of Joan Peters’ From Time Immemorial,” in Edward Said and Christopher Hitchens, eds., Blaming the Victims: Spurious Scholarship and the Palestine Question (London: Verso, 1988), pp. 33-69; it reappears as a chapter in Finkelstein’s Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict (London: Verso, 1995).

76  Adam Shatz, “Goldhagen’s Willing Executioners,” Slate (8 April 1998), http://www.slate.com/id/3143/. (See also Finkelstein’s response to Shatz’s essay, at http://www.normanfinkelstein.com/article.php?pg=2&ar=8.) The opinions of Foxman and Weseltier, and of Bernie Farber and Irving Abella (cited below), no doubt reflect an awareness of Finkelstein’s second book, The Rise and Fall of Palestine: A Personal Account of the Intifada Years (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996).

77  Sean Fine, “Nazi-hunting scholar under fire for views: Link with anti-Zionist enrages CJC,” Globe and Mail (26 January 1998). See also Tim Cornwell, “Daniel in the lions’ den,” Times Higher Education Supplement (20 February 1998), http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storyCode=105936&sectioncode=26.

78  Mordecai Briemberg, “Holocaust Scholarship, Zionism and Political Orthodoxy,” Outlook 36.3 (1 April-15 May 1998), available online at http://www.normanfinkelstein.com/article.php?pg=2&ar=6. Briemberg quotes Abella’s words from a report in the Canadian Jewish News (29 January 1998).

79  Tom Segev, Haaretz (15 May 1998), quoted by Dominique Vidal, “From ‘Mein Kampf’ to Auschwitz: Holocaust book sparks fresh controversy,” Le Monde diplomatique (October 1998), http://mondediplo.com/1998/10/14vidal; Segev’s article is reproduced online at http://www.normanfinkelstein.com/article.php?pg=2&ar=3.

80  Several statements by historians of international reputation are quoted by Shatz in “Goldhagen’s Willing Executioners.” Arno Mayer wrote that Finkelstein and Birn “raise hard questions about the political reasons for the inordinate promotion and reception of Goldhagen’s book. No serious student of history can afford to ignore these well-reasoned and withering reflections on the perils of pseudo-scholarship.” Eric Hobsbawm urged that “All readers of Goldhagen’s controversial book should take note of these much-needed studies, which, in line with serious historians, convincingly and authoritatively dismantle its arguments.” And according to Ian Kershaw, “Finkelstein and Birn provide a devastating critique of Daniel Goldhagen’s simplistic and misleading interpretation of the Holocaust. Their contribution to the debate is, in my view, indispensable.”

81  “Is There a New Anti-Semitism? A Conversation with Raul Hilberg,” Logos 6.1-2 (Winter-Spring 2007), http://www.logosjournal.com/issue_6.1-2/hilberg.htm.

82  Bauer is quoted by Mordecai Briemberg, “Holocaust Research and Intellectual Freedom,” Peace Magazine 14.3 (May-June 1998), http://cache.zoominfo.com/CachedPage/?archive_id=0&page_id=487983492&page_url=%2f%2fwww.peacemagazine.org%2ffulltext%2fall-vol14no3.html&page_last_updated=8%f22%2f2003+8%3a42%3a18+PM&firstName=Ruth&lateName=Birn.

83  Finkelstein, The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering (2nd ed., London: Verso, 2003), pp. 86-87.

84  Neve Gordon, “Cloud After Auschwitz,” The Nation (13 November 2000): 28-34, available online at http://www.israelsoccupation.info/files/Cloud%20After%20Auschwitz.pdf.

85  Finkelstein quotes WJC president Edgar J.Bronfman as giving a total figure more than five times higher, but it is not clear than Bronfman can be trusted in this: Raul Hilberg remarked that this tycoon (who headed the WJC from 1979 until his resignation in 2007, amid a cloud of scandal over mismanagement and peculation in the WJC’s senior management) appeared “from his own autobiographical statements to be totally, not even average, but like a child almost” (“Is There a New Anti-Semitism? A Conversation with Raul Hilberg”).

86  Ibid.

87  Angelo M. Codevilla, Between the Alps and a Hard Place: Switzerland in World War II and Moral Blackmail Today (Washington DC: Regnery, 2000), p. 4.

88  “Is There a New Anti-Semitism? A Conversation with Raul Hilberg.” See also Amy Goodman, “‘It Takes an Enormous Amount of Courage to Speak the Truth When No One Else is Out There’—World-Renowned Holocaust, Israel Scholars Defend DePaul Professor Norman Finkelstein as He Fights for Tenure,” Democracy NOW! (9 May 2007), http://www.democracynow.org/2007/5/9/it_takes_an_enormous_amount_of#at. In this interview, Hilberg makes it clear that his endorsement was based on research into “the same territory that Professor Finkelstein was covering [….] rel[ying] upon the same sources that Professor Finkelstein used, perhaps in addition some Swiss items.”

89  Alan Dershowitz, “Norman Finkelstein: the case against,” The Guardian (14 June 2007), http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2007/jun/14/finkelsteinthecaseagainst. In this article, and in an earlier version of it published as “Finkelstein’s Bigotry,” The Wall Street Journal (4 May 2007), Dershowitz quotes from Bartov’s New York Times review of The Holocaust Industry. Finkelstein's book is suffused with outrage over the postwar treatment of Holocaust survivors—among them his mother, who after six years of suffering in the Warsaw Ghetto, in two slave-labour camps, and in the Majdanek death camp, received $3,500 in compensation; Dershowitz’s offhand inversion of this is thus an instance of giving “the Lie Direct” (for which see Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act 5, scene 4.)

90  For assessments of Finkelstein’s analysis and Dershowitz’s counter-claims, see Matthew Abraham, “The Case for Norman Finkelstein,” The Electronic Intifada 15 June 2007), http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article7029.shtml; Michael C. Desch, “The Chutzpah of Alan Dershowitz,” The American Conservative (5 December 2005), 30-33, http://normanfinkelstein.com/article.php?pg=11&ar=98; and Frank Menetrez, “Dershowitz v. Finkelstein: Who’s Right and Who’s Wrong?” CounterPunch (30 April 2007), http://www.counterpunch.org/menetrez04302007.html.

91  Amy Goodman, “‘It Takes an Enormous Amount of Courage’.”

92  See note 89 above.

93  “ADL Reacts to DePaul’s Denial of Tenure to Prof. Norman Finkelstein,” Anti-Defamation League (11 June 2007), http://www.adl.org/PresRele/Mise_00/5071_00.htm. Links to the JDO and StandWithUs interventions can be found at http://www.normanfinkelstein.com/finkelstein-tenure-denied-2/.

94  Amy Goodman, “It Takes an Enormous Amount of Courage.” (Like the German “Menschlichkeit,” the Yiddish word used here means rectitude and nobility of character.)

95  Razack’s publications include Canadian Feminism and the Law (Toronto: Second Story, 1991), Looking White People in the Eye: Gender, Race and Culture in Courtrooms and Classrooms (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998), the edited collection Race, Space and the Law: Unmapping a White Settler Society (Toronto: Between the Lines, 2002), Dark Threats and White Knights: The Somalia Affair, Peacekeeping and the New Imperialism (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004), and Casting Out: Race and the Eviction of Muslims from Western Law and Politics (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008).

96  Justin Podur, “For Free Expression on Palestine,” The Bullet: Socialist Project, E-Bulletin No. 211 (28 April 2009), http://www.socialistproject.ca/bullet/bullet211.html.

97  My article “Resisting the Post-National: Canadian Critiques of the Geo-Cultural Politics of Globalization,” in Gunilla Florby, Mark Shackleton, and Katri Suhonen, eds., Canada: Images of a Post/National Society (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2009), 39-54, includes a brief assessment of Chossudovsky’s scholarly and political work; an earlier version of this essay is available as “Canada’s Thinker-Activists and Critics of Globalization,” Centre for Research on Globalization (27 December 2005), http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=1595. Chossudovsky’s books include Capital Accumulation in Chile and Latin America (Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 1977), Towards Capitalist Restoration? Chinese Socialism After Mao (London: Macmillan, 1986), Exporting Apartheid to Sub-Saharan Africa (New Delhi: Madhyam, 1997), The Globalization of Poverty and the New World Order (Shanty Bay, Ontario: Global Outlook, 2003), and America’s ‘War on Terrorism’ (Pincourt, Québec: Global Research, 2005).

98  See my article “Unspeakable Truths: CanWest Global Defines ‘Acceptable Civil Discourse’. In Defence of Michel Chossudovsky,” Peace, Earth and Justice News (11 September 2005), http://www.pej.org/html/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=3274&mode=thread&order=0&thold=0.

99  Ibid.

100  “Statement By Denis Rancourt Regarding His Dismissal By The University Of Ottawa,” available at “Canadian University Professor Fired for Criticising Israel,” Palestinian Mothers (24 April 2009), http://palestinian.ning.com/profiles/blogs/canadian-university-professor.

101  Ibid.

102  Denis Rancourt, “University of Ottawa’s Covert Surveillance of a Professor and Several Students (2006-2008),” January 2010, http://rancourt.academicfreedom.ca/Data/Documents/covertsurveillance/covert-surveillance=UofO=pbl-1.pdf, p. 3.

103  His books include Promoting Polyarchy: Globalization, US Intervention, and Hegemony (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), Transnational Conflicts: Central America, Social Change and Globalization (London: Verso, 2003), A Theory of Global Capitalism: Transnational Production, Transnational Capitalists, and the Transnational State (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004), and Latin America and Global Capitalism: A Critical Globalization Perspective (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008).

104  “Santa Barbara News Press—Prof. Robinson’s Op-ed Letter—May 31, 2009,” Committee to Defend Academic Freedom at UCSB, http://sb4af.wordpress.com/2009/06/08/santa-barbara-news-press-prof-robinsons-op-ed-letter-may-31-2009/.

105  The documents referred to in this paragraph are all available at the Committee to Defend Academic Freedom at UCSB website, http://sb4af.wordpress.com/.

106  Scott Horton, “More Prosecutorial Misconduct in the Al-Arian Case,” Harper’s Magazine (11 March 2009), http://www.harpers.org/archive/2009/03/hbc-90004539. For links to many further documents, see the website Free Sami Al-Arian: Political Prisoner Since Feb. 20, 2003, http://www.freesamialarian.com/.

107  Jason Kunin, “Freedom to Teach, Freedom of Speech: Israel-Palestine.” Naylor’s behaviour was revealed by Liisa Schofield, “Exposed: University of Toronto suppresses pro-Palestinian activism,” Rabble.ca (18 February 2009), http://www.rabble.ca/news/exposed-university-toronto-suppressed-pro-palestinian-activism. For a thorough discussion of the resources marshalled “to silence criticism of the Canadian government’s unwavering support for Israel,” see Rafeef Ziadah, “Freedom of Expression and Palestine Advocacy,” The Bullet: Socialist Project, E-Bulletin No. 219 (19 May 2009), http://www.socialistproject.ca/bullet219.html.

108  Marwan Bishara, Palestine/Israel: Peace or Apartheid (2001; 2nd ed., London and New York: Zed Books, 2002), p. 4.

109  Jimmy Carter, Palestine Peace Not Apartheid (2006; rpt. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007), and “Canada’s withholding funds from Palestinians ‘criminal’: Carter,” CBC News (9 December 2006), http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2006/12/08/carter-israel.html; Shulamit Aloni, “Yes, There is Apartheid in Israel,” CounterPunch (8 January 2007), http://www.counterpunch.org/aloni01082007.html. Aloni is also the author of Demokratia ba’azikim [Democracy or Ethnocracy] (Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 2010).

110  Henry Siegman, “Imposing Middle East Peace,” The Nation (7 January 2010), http://www.thenation.com/doc/20100125/siegman. See also Siegman, “For Israel, defiance comes at the cost of legitimacy,” Financial Times (23 February 2010), http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/48a4a5e6-20b2-11df-9775-00144feab49a.html, in which he remarks that “The democracy Israel provides for its (mostly) Jewish citizens cannot hide its changed character. A democracy reserved for privileged citizens while all others are denied individual and national rights and kept behind checkpoints, barbed wire fences and separation walls manned by Israel’s military, is not democracy.”

111  See Michael Ignatieff, “Israel Apartheid Week and CUPE Ontario’s anti-Israel posturing should be condemned,” National Post (5 March 2009), http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/fullcomment/archive/2009/03/05/michael-ignatieff-israel-apartheid-week-and-cupe-ontario-s-anti-israel-posturing-should-be-condemned.aspx. Ignatieff writes: “International law defines ‘apartheid’ as a crime against humanity. Labelling Israel as an ‘apartheid’ state is a deliberate attempt to undermine the legitimacy of the Jewish state itself. Criticism of Israel is legitimate. Attempting to describe its very existence as a crime against humanity is not.” (The sophism is obvious: What is actually being objected to is the fact, not of Israel’s existence, but of its behaviour. South Africa did not cease to exist when it ceased to be an apartheid state; neither will Israel when it either returns to its pre-1967 borders or else offers recompense and full citizenship rights to the people of Palestine.) See also Robert Benzie, “MPPs unite to condemn ‘odious’ Israeli Apartheid Week,” Toronto Star (25 February 2010), http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/771524--mpps-unite-to-condemn-israeli-apartheid-week.

112  Kunin, note 2. Karin Brothers also draws attention to the same study: Virginia Tilley, ed., Occupation, colonialism, apartheid?: a reassessment of Israel’s practices in the occupied Palestinian territories under international law (Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa, May 2009), http://www.hrsc.ac.za/Document-3227.phtml.

113  Margaret Aziza Pappano, “Academic Freedom Threatened in Ontario Universities,” The Bullet: Socialist Project, E-Bulletin No. 187 (18 February 2009), http://www.socialistproject.ca/bullet/bullet187.html#continue.

114  Meron Benvenisti, “The binationalism vogue,” Haaretz (30 April 2009), http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1081978.html. See also Benvenisti, “The Inevitable Bi-national Regime,” Haaretz (22 January 2010 [Hebrew]), English translation by Zalman Amit and Daphna Levitt available at Israeli Occupation Archive (26 January 2010), http://www.israeli-occupation.org/2010-01-26/meron-benvenisti-the-inevitable-bi-national-regime/.

115  For information about the conference, see Israel/Palestine: Mapping Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace (June 22-24, 2009 / York University, Toronto), http://www.yorku.ca/ipconf/.

116  Dorit Naaman, “Coordinated Campaign Aimed to Stifle Academic Discussion about Israel Raises Critical Questions,” CAUT/ACPPU Bulletin 56.8 (October 2009), p. A4.

117  See “Minister’s Office Threatens SSHRC’s Federal Budget Funding: Internal Email,” CAUT/ACPPU Bulletin 56.8 (October 2009), pp. A1, 9; and “Gary Goodyear’s attempted blackmail,” Dawg’s Blawg (28 September 2009), http://drdawgsblawg.blogspot.com/2009/09/gary-goodyears-attempted-blackmail.html.

118  Naaman, “Coordinated Campaign.”

119  Goldberg and Makdisi, “The Trial of Israel’s Campus Critics.”

120  Massad, “Policing the academy,” Al-Ahram Weekly, No. 633 (10-16 April 2003), http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2003/633/op2.htm.

121  Goodyear does in fact have a well-earned reputation for being foul-tempered; see “Researchers fear ‘stagnation’ under Tories,” The Globe and Mail (2 March 2009, updated 10 April 2009), http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/article975257ece; and “Maybe a ‘time out,’ Minister?” Dawg’s Blawg (2 March 2009), http://drdawgsblawg.blogspot.com/2009/03/maybe-time-out-minister.html.

122  “One size doesn’t fit all,” National Post (25 February 2010), http://www.nationalpost.com/todays-paper/story.html?id=2609507.

123  Kathleen and Bill Christison, Palestine in Pieces: Graphic Perspectives on the Israeli Occupation (London: Pluto Press, 2009), pp. 136-37.

124  Ibid., p. 137, quoting Richard Falk, “Slouching Toward a Palestinian Holocaust,” ZNet (5 July 2007), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectonID=107&ItemID=134226.

125  Ibid., p. 137.

126  Gideon Alon, “Lieberman blasted for suggesting drowning Palestinian prisoners,” Haaretz (8 July 2003), http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=315541.

127  “LIEBERMAN, Avigdor—Israeli Politician and deputy prime minister,” Electronic Intifada, http://electronicintifada.net/bytopic/people/658.shtml; Jonathan Cook, “Israel’s Dark Future,” Electronic Intifada (20 January 2007), http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article6411.shtml.

128  Tim Butcher, “Israeli minister vows Palestinian ‘holocaust’,” The Telegraph (29 February 2008), http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/1580339/israeli-minister-vows-Palestinian-holocaust.html; “Israel warns Gaza of ‘shoah’,” Reuters (29 February 2008), http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSL2868601720080229; James Hider, “Israel threatens to unleash ‘holocaust’ in Gaza,” Times Online (1 March 2008), http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article3459144.ece.

129  It does not seem likely that Vilnai thought of the preceding days’ events, in which one Israeli was killed by rocket fire, and thirty Palestinians by Israeli attacks, as a “shoah.” Perhaps he was using “shoah” to translate the Arab work “nakba,” which also means “catastrophe,” and also has a specific historical reference—to the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians which accompanied the founding of the state of Israel in 1948. But a “greater nakba” would also be a genocidal act.

130  Juan Cole, “Harvard Professor’s Modest Proposal: Starve the Gazans into Having Fewer Babies,” Informed Comment (24 February 2010), http://www.juancole.com/2010/02/harvard-professors-modest-proposal.html.

131  Martin Kramer, “Superfluous young men,” Sandbox (7 February 2010), http://www.martinkramer.org/sandbox/2010/02/superfluous-young-men/.

132  “OPT: Signs of worsening malnutrition among children,” UNISPAL (21 April 2009), http://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/CB9A27EF05BB52408525759F0061B366.

133  See, for example, M. J. Rosenberg, “Is Harvard Prof Advocating Palestinian Genocide?” The Huffington Post (22 February 2010), http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mj-rosenberg/harvard-prof-urges-popula_b_472191.html; and “Harvard center condemns, then defends, fellow’s pro-genocide statements,” Electronic Intifada (23 February 2010), http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article11097.shtml.

134  Kramer, “Smear intifada,” Sandbox (22 February 2010), http://www.martinkramer.org/sandbox/2010/02/smear-intifada/.

135  “OPT: Signs of worsening malnutrition.”

136  Akiva Eldar, “Israel’s compassion in Haiti can’t hide our ugly face in Gaza,” Haaretz (18 January 2010), http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1143313.html.

137  “Gaza Health Fact Sheet,” World Health Organization (20 January 2010), http://unispal.un.org/unispal.nsf/47d4e277b48d9d3685256ddc00612265/80e8238d765e5fb7852576b1004ec498?OpenDocument.

138  See International Humanitarian Law—Treaties & Documents, ICRC, http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/INTRO/380?OpenDocument.

139  M. J. Rosenberg, “Yes, Kramer Did Advocate Palestinian Genocide,” The Huffington Post (24 February 2010), http://huffingtonpost.com/mj-rosenberg/yes-kramer-did-advocate-p_b_475350.html.

140  Kramer, “Smear intifada.”

141  Bahija Réghaï, “Canadian Policy: The Jerusalem Effect,” OpEd News (26 January 2010), http://www.opednews.com/articles/1/Canadian-Policy-The-Jerus-by-Bahija-Reghai-100125-265.html.

142  In his “Smear Intifada” posting, Kramer protests that the ideas he presented were derived from Gunnar Heinsohn, “Ending the West’s Proxy War Against Israel,” Wall Street Journal Europe (12 January 2009), http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123171179743471961.html. Heinsohn’s argument is just as de-historicized as Kramer’s—and also more grotesquely genocidal, because more detailed in its attack on UNRWA’s contribution to what Heinsohn calls “Gaza’s extreme demographic armament.” Heinsohn, who the Wall Street Journal tells us “heads the Raphael Lemkin Institute at the University of Bremen, Europe’s first institute devoted to comparative genocide research,” appears not to understand the difference between researching genocide and helping to provoke it. (His publications include extensive and disastrously incompetent attempts to revise ancient Near Eastern chronology, as well as equally incompetent applications of demographic analysis to contemporary situations.) Kramer might also have given some credit for his ideas to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who as Jonathan Cook notes boasted in January 2007, when he was leader of the opposition, “that child allowance cuts he imposed as finance minister in 2002 had had a ‘positive’ demographic effect by reducing the birth rate of Palestinian citizens.” See Cook, “Israel’s Dark Future.”

143  Kathleen and Bill Christison, Palestine in Pieces, p. 161; quoting from Care International UK, Oxfam, Trocaire, Save the Children UK, et al., The Gaza Strip: A Humanitarian Implosion (March 2008), http://www.carewbg.org/Reports/Gaza-A-Humanitarian-Implosion.pdf.

144  Neve Gordon, “Boycott Israel: Stopping the Apartheid State,” CounterPunch (24 August 2009), http://www.counterpunch.org/gordon08242009.html#at.

145  See “PACBI Issues Guidelines for Applying Academic Boycott,” Global BDS Movement (6 October 2009), http://www.bdsmovement.net/?q=node/566.

146  “The Toronto Declaration: No Celebration of Occupation. An Open Letter to the Toronto International Film Festival” (9 September 2009), http://torontodeclaration.blogspot.com/2009/09/toronto-declaration-no-celebration-of.html; see also Ken Loach, Rebecca O’Brien and Paul Laverty, “Boycotts don’t equal censorship,” The Guardian (1 September 2009), http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/libertycentral/2009/sep/01/israel-palestine-boycott-film; and Eric Walberg, “The Battle in Canada: ‘Brand Israel’ Teflon v. Palestinian Reality,” CounterPunch (19 October 2009), http://www.counterpunch.org/walberg10192009html#at.

147  Gordon, “Boycott Israel.”

148  Gideon Levy, “The Last Refuge: Neve Gordon and the Boycott of Israel,” CounterPunch (27 August 2009), http://www.counterpunch.org/levy08272009.html#at.

149  Jonathan Cook, “Campus Watch Copycats Close In On Israeli Professors,” Countercurrents.org (16 November 2009), http://www.countercurrents.org/cook161109.htm.

150  Paul Craig Roberts, “Why Not Sanctions for Israel? Gross Violations of Human Rights,” CounterPunch (1 September 2009), http://www.counterpunch.org/roberts09012009.html#at.

151  Levy, “The Last Refuge.”

152  I do not mean to dismiss other issues at stake, most importantly the right of return of people expelled from Israel in 1948. But diplomatic miracles cannot be expected to come all at once.

153  William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, in Mary Lynn Johnson and John E. Grant, eds., Blake’s Poetry and Designs (New York: Norton, 1979), p. 98.

154  Judith Butler, “The Charge of Anti-Semitism: Jews, Israel, and the Risks of Public Critique,” in Precious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence (2004; rpt. London and New York: Verso, 2006), pp. 126-27.

155  Ibid., p. 127. 

Antisemitism in Canada: A Disgraceful History

This is the first chapter of Part Three of Antisemitism Real and Imagined. Page numbers in the printed text are indicated in square brackets. In note 3, I have corrected, in square brackets, a factual error that appears in that note; I have also added a new note 23 in order to correct another factual error. (The new text in both cases appears in italics.) An earlier version of this chapter was published in The Canadian Charger (3 September 2009), http://www.thecanadiancharger.com/page.php?id=5&a=115.

Antisemitism Real and Imagined (2010), Part 3, Chapter 1


A large majority of Canadians take pride in the degree to which our country has become multicultural, hospitable to immigration from all parts of the globe, and anti-racist in principle and practice. Stand-up comedian Russell Peters looks forward happily to a future in which, after a couple of generations of energetic intercommunal sex, Canadians will average out in skin tone to a gorgeous brown colour—somewhat like his own, in fact. (What a prospect: grandchildren as good-looking as Russell Peters! Can we hope they’ll be as smart and funny as well?)

Let’s pause for a moment, though, to ask how well our desired self-image matches social reality. Have we actually managed to free ourselves from racism? Chinese-Canadians, Haitian-Canadians, Somali-Canadians, Jamaican-Canadians, Salvadoran-Canadians, Algerian-Canadians, Pakistani-Canadians: all these, together with people of many other ethnicities, could tell grim stories, if we chose to listen to them, of encounters with racism in our housing and employment markets, in our workplaces and places of leisure, and in institutionally-sanctioned behaviour by servants of the state, ranging from refugee-board personnel and the police to our federal government itself. Not just stories from the distant past, but from here and now as well.

There are of course countervailing stories, both new and old, of acts of spontaneous decency and generosity.1 But a country where First Nations people are disproportionately represented in the prison system, where police can effectively murder native men by dumping them, in the dead of winter, on roadsides outside prairie cities, and where politicians can with impunity order murderous violence against First Nations people non-violently protesting against the theft of their land2—such a country has unresolved issues with racism.

[148] In Europe, antisemitism is commonly described as the oldest and most enduring form of racism. In Canada, however, this shameful precedence arguably belongs to racism against First Nations people, which is an urgent problem not just because it finds expression in structural as well as overt violence, but also because racist attitudes are effectively legitimizing an ongoing appropriation of First Nations lands and resources. Another problem of growing intensity is Islamophobia, which finds expression in Canada not just in public sneers and acts of racially-motivated violence, but also, more substantively, in acts of state—the corruption or defiance of the law on the part of CSIS, the RCMP, and our federal government.3

It would be hard to argue that Jewish Canadians currently face problems of comparable intensity. And yet there are two good reasons for giving close attention at this moment to the issue of antisemitism in Canada.

The first is that this loathsome prejudice has a particularly disgraceful history in this country, which must be understood if we are to appreciate the intensity of Jewish-Canadian anxieties over any possible resurgence of antisemitism. The second is that key members of our federal government, together with the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism, have been telling us, quite forcefully, that such a resurgence, far from being a matter of merely abstract concern, is actually well underway.

In this chapter I will offer a brief historical outline of antisemitism in Canada; in the next two chapters I will analyze in detail the parliamentary inquiry’s context and presuppositions, as well as what at this early stage is known of its work.

* * * *

The work of social historians over the past three decades into subjects including the World War I imprisonment of Ukrainian Canadians as “enemy aliens,” the Mackenzie King government’s rejection of Jewish refugees from Nazism during the 1930s, and the World War II dispossession and imprisonment of Japanese Canadians, has effectively shattered the old myth of Canada as a uniquely tolerant, peaceful, and just society. As Alan Davies remarked nearly twenty years ago, the “proud complacency” implied by the phrase “Canada the Good” has been destroyed, and “our national self-righteousness has been left in tatters. The vile odour of old hatreds still lingers in the air, and antisemitism is not the least of their acrid fumes.”4

The early record, it must be said, is mixed. Among the first Jews to settle in Lower Canada following the British conquest was Aaron Hart, a merchant who established himself in Trois-Rivières in 1761. One of his sons, Ezekiel, elected to the legislative assembly in Québec City in 1807 and 1808, was twice denied his seat on the spurious grounds that the oath of office of someone who disbelieved in the New Testament could not be valid. But in 1832, guided by the Patriote leader Louis-Joseph Papineau, the assembly passed a law conferring on [149] Jews the same political and civic rights as other citizens—an initiative that was not followed in Britain and in the other colonies of the British empire until more than a quarter-century later.5

The Catholic Church initially welcomed the children of Jews into the province’s francophone schools, but reversed this policy in the late nineteenth century, obliging Jews to make use of the Protestant anglophone schools. A substantial immigration of Ashkenazi Jews from central and eastern Europe led to Montréal becoming for several generations an important centre of Yiddish literary culture.6 At the same time, however, formulations of a nascent Québec nationalism often included a strong element of antisemitism—some of it no doubt an import from France, where for more than a generation after 1894 the Dreyfus Affair polarized political opinion between progressive democrats and a reactionary alliance of clerical-military nationalists—“anti-Dreyfusards,” who were almost inevitably antisemites as well, and whose direct ideological heirs were the fascists of Action Française and of the collaborationist Vichy regime.7

This early pattern in Québec is loosely paralleled in English Canada. In 1890s Toronto, for instance, there is evidence of a significant level of fraternization between gentiles and the city’s small, prosperous, and well-assimilated Jewish community. But historian Stephen Speisman notes an abrupt shift between 1907 and 1911, corresponding to an influx of less privileged Jewish immigrants from eastern Europe: signs began to be posted, for example, excluding Jews from public swimming facilities.8

During the 1920s Canadian newspapers, both French and English, stigmatized Jews as dangerous aliens insinuating themselves into positions of influence, while at the same time—inconsistently, one might think—denouncing them as “the brains of the Communist movement.”9 “Gentiles Only” signs were posted in public places—in the Toronto Island parks, for example. And antisemitic propaganda led, predictably, to antisemitic outrages.

In 1933, Canadian Jews were traumatized by two events, again in Toronto: Jewish bathers at the Balmy Beach waterfront park were attacked by youths brandishing swastikas; and a baseball game at Christie Pits between a largely Jewish and an Anglo-Saxon team devolved, after the intervention of gangs carrying swastikas and shouting Nazi slogans, into street-fighting that went on for some six hours.

Radical antisemitism in Québec found expression in Adrien Arcand’s Parti National Social Chrétien, a clerico-fascist Nazi knock-off that in 1937 established an Ontario wing, the National Social Christian Party. In one of his poems of this period, the great Montréal poet Abraham Moses Klein mocked Arcand as a bumbler who, in trying to formulate a party manifesto, couldn’t get beyond the first sentence: “À bas les maudits Juifs!”10

But while parties like Arcand’s National-Social-Christians or the equally antisemitic Nationalist Party of Canada, founded in Winnipeg by William [150] Whitaker and A. F. Hart Parker, could appropriately be described as fringe formations, their central doctrine had become mainstream. Most Canadians no doubt disapproved of the arson attack, during a Sabbath service, that destroyed a Montréal-area synagogue in the summer of 1937. And yet signs reading “No Jews or Dogs Allowed” appear to have been widely tolerated, as were politer versions of the same message like the notice posted at the entrance to St. Andrews Golf Club in Toronto: “After Sunday, June 20 [1937], this course will be restricted to Gentiles only. Please do not question this policy.”11

The dominant ideologies in English- and French-speaking Canada—Anglo-Saxon and Québécois nativism, permeated in both cases by antisemitism—made it easy for the top federal bureaucrat responsible for immigration in Mackenzie King’s government, the infamous Frederick Blair, to enforce a policy of excluding Jewish immigrants. The most notorious consequence of this was the refusal of landing rights in May 1939 to the MV St. Louis, a ship carrying over 900 Jewish refugees from Hamburg. Refused also by Cuba and the US, the St. Louis was obliged to sail back across the Atlantic; and a large proportion of its passengers, who had agonizingly been within sight of a safe haven, were returned to countries in western Europe which were overrun by the German Wehrmacht a year later, in the blitzkrieg attack of May 1940; more than 250 of them died in the Holocaust.12

Between 1933 and 1939, Canada accepted only some 4,000 of the 800,000 Jewish refugees who escaped from countries controlled by the Nazis. Australia, by way of comparison, accepted 15,000, Britain 70,000, and the U.S. 200,000. In proportion to population sizes, Canada accepted only about one-fifth as many Jewish refugees as these other countries.

The antisemitism of the majority of Canadians did not go unchallenged. Clerico-fascistic reaction, antisemitism, and the political conservatism that tolerated both,13 were vigorously opposed in Québec by groups like the writers who founded the liberal-catholic journal La Relève in 1934 (Robert Charbonneau and Claude Hurtubise, together with Jean Le Moyne, Robert Élie, and the poet Hector de Saint-Denys-Garneau), and later Cité Libre in 1950 (Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Gérard Pelletier, and others);14 and in English Canada by activists and writers on the left, among them the socialists, progressives and “social gospel” Christians who in 1932 launched the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), a dilute form of whose democratic socialism survives in today’s New Democratic Party. Liberal Senator Cairine Wilson, Canada’s first woman senator, intervened persistently on behalf of Jewish refugees; and after 1940 especially, some of the Canadian churches made forceful efforts to alert Canadians to the horrors being perpetrated by the Nazis against the Jews of Europe.15

However, an appalling level of antisemitism remained widespread. By late 1942, information about Nazi exterminationist policies was generally available. Nonetheless, a mid-1943 Gallup poll that asked Canadians to list the most [151] undesirable potential immigrants to this country found Jews in third place, after only Japanese and Germans. In 1946—by which time detailed accounts of Auschwitz and other Nazi death camps had been public for well over a year—the same poll was repeated. This time, Jews were advanced to second place: only the Japanese were regarded as more undesirable immigrants.16

* * * *

During the post-war period, the institutional structures buttressing Canadian antisemitism were gradually disassembled. Immigration restrictions were relaxed (though not until 1948!); this, following the King government’s shameful denial of access to refugees from Nazism, led to the interesting result that Canada’s Jewish community contains a higher proportion of Holocaust survivors and their descendants than is the case in the U.S.

Ontario had begun dismantling other institutional supports of antisemitism with the Racial Discrimination Act of 1944, which banned the posting of signs excluding a particular religious or social group. During the 1950s, the practice of writing “restrictive covenants” into property deeds in order to prevent Jews or other “undesirables” from purchasing houses or cottages in particular areas or neighbourhoods was successfully challenged in the courts.17

However, other no less intolerable practices remained in place until at least the early 1960s. McGill University limited Jewish admissions to 10%; the University of Toronto required higher entrance grades from Jews than from other applicants; and Mount Sinai Hospital, in operation by the late 1950s, was denied status as a University of Toronto teaching hospital until 1962.18

In other respects as well, antisemitism remained endemic. For example, Jews were not admitted as members of Toronto’s Granite Club, or of the Royal Canadian Yacht Club. Another club on the Toronto islands, the Queen City Yacht Club, or QCYC, was formed in part by people excluded from, or disgusted with, the RCYC. The children of RCYC members, some of whom I knew, called it the JewCYC. And until the 1970s, the children of gentiles were discouraged by some of their high-school teachers from entering University College (UC) at the University of Toronto—Jew College, Jew C, or Jew U, as some people called it.

Jewish-Canadian writers played a considerable role in the delegitimizing of antisemitism in this country. By the late 1960s no-one with any interest in English-Canadian culture could ignore the fact that A. M. Klein was generally acknowledged as the finest English-language poet Canada had produced, and Irving Layton as his most eloquent and forceful successor; or that Mordecai Richler, Adele Wiseman and Leonard Cohen stood high in any list of the country’s most talented novelists. (Cohen was also of course a popular poet and singer-songwriter whose early books and albums laid the foundation of his huge present-day international reputation.) Other Jewish-Canadian writers, [152] among them the poets Eli Mandel and Miriam Waddington and the novelist Matt Cohen, added to a growing recognition, in a period obsessed with questions of national identity, that Canada’s Jewish community had made a contribution out of all proportion to its size to our cultural maturation and self-definition.

Few Canadians who came to adulthood during the 1960s can have altogether avoided contact with a residual and still vicious anti-Semitism—though since that decade, the antisemitism that was once mainstream in Canada has retreated to the margins of society. Those who now give public voice to this despicable prejudice—most often, people associated with fringe racist and neo-Nazi organizations—expose themselves both to public contempt and to the possibility of criminal prosecution under Canada’s hate-crime laws. But marginal though their opinions may now be, the cowardly acts of antisemites—ranging from slurs, vandalism, desecration of cemeteries and synagogues, to physical assaults—retain their power to hurt.19

* * * *

Looking back over more than forty years, I am astonished to recall how casually my contemporaries bandied about terms of racist—including antisemitic—abuse.20

My own parents were not free from racist attitudes: as a small boy in the 1950s, I was discouraged from playing with Luigi and Savino, the sons of our Sicilian next-door neighbours. (While the prejudice in this case may been as much a matter of social class as of ethnicity, there is no doubt that attitudes to southern Europeans in 1950s Toronto were strongly tinged with racism.)

However, racially abusive language was forbidden in our home. For my mother, any sneering at the people who had given us Mendelssohn, Heine, and Heifetz was out of the question; my father, more simply, taught us that to speak slightingly of people disadvantaged in fact or merely by common opinion was dishonourable.

But on one occasion, in 1962, I remember antisemitism coming close to home. In that year Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice was part of the Grade 9 English curriculum. In my class it was badly taught, with no attempt to undo the play’s antisemitic stereotyping. (The Merchant is on balance antisemitic, even though A. M. Klein took the title of a wartime book of poems, Hath Not A Jew, from the opening words of one of its most famous speeches.) A classmate, emboldened perhaps by Antonio’s vicious abuse of Shylock or by Graziano’s vile jeering in the trial scene, developed a brief habit of calling me a dirty red-headed Jew.21 The words were less shocking than the fact that they were spoken more than once in the presence of responsible adults, who benignly ignored them. Though neither Jewish nor particularly red-haired, I was scruffy; when I encountered my young friend away from adult company, he became a bloody-nosed Anglo-Saxon.

[153] It struck me at the time that, as Presbyterians, my family had gone some small distance toward being Jewish: most of the Bible readings in Calvin Presbyterian Church each Sunday seemed to be from the Old Testament. And indeed our church, led by the Reverend Donald Herron, was engaged in inter-faith ecumenical dialogues with Rabbi Gunther Plaut’s Holy Blossom Temple. As an elder of the church, though a very casual Christian, my father took part in these discussions. He professed himself intrigued by the tendency, as he claimed, for the Jews to have Presbyterian names like McGregor,22 and the Presbyterians Jewish names like Keefer.

Some fifteen years later, my father was delighted to hear of an encounter I had in an antiquarian bookstore in England. When I wrote a cheque to pay for my purchases, the bookseller brusquely informed me that I had misspelled my name.

His name was Kieffer—the spelling my family had used until the late 18th century. His family, originally from Strasbourg, had emigrated to England in 1850. My ancestors left Strasbourg in the 1730s for New Jersey—from which they were driven to Upper Canada after my quadruple-great grandfather died in the late 1770s defending Long Island from George Washington’s army: the victorious rebels told his widow she would have to pack up and leave her farm near Paulinskill as soon as her elder son turned sixteen.

“And so you know,” the rude Mr. Kieffer said, “that we’re Jewish?”

Were some Strasbourg Kieffers (the bookseller’s family among them) Jews, and other Strasbourg Kieffers gentiles? It seems unlikely.

Several years previously, one of my brothers, in Strasbourg on business, took time out to search through baptismal registers for evidence of the family’s pre-emigration history. He found nothing.

Perhaps he had been looking in the wrong place.23

* * * *

The full story, of course, must include some further elements. As Yves Engler has noted, Canadians played a decisive role in United Nations committees charged with planning the future of Palestine once Britain relinquished its mandate in 1948. Lester B. Pearson, then under-secretary of state for External Affairs, chaired the U.N. First Committee on Palestine, which in May 1947 established the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP), whose majority report proposing the partition of Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state was written by Canadian Supreme Court Justice Ivan C. Rand.24 According to David Horowitz, first governor of the Bank of Israel and first director-general of Israel’s ministry of finance, Pearson was a “dynamic force and pathfinder”:

His influence, as one of the foremost figures at the U.N., was tremendous. It may be said that Canada more than any other [154] country played a decisive part in all stages of the UNO discussions of Palestine. The activities at Lake Success of Lester Pearson and his fellow delegates were a fitting climax to Justice Rand’s beneficent work on UNSCOP.25

The Canadian government’s position did not stem from any sudden reversal of antisemitic attitudes. On the contrary, Canadian antisemitism aligned itself with Zionist goals, for as Irving Abella and Harold Troper have shown, there was a very distinct awareness both in governing circles and among the general public that Jewish displaced persons who could be re-directed to Palestine would not be queuing up to get into Canada.26 Geopolitical reasons appear to have been equally important: officials in Canada’s Department of External Affairs shared Washington’s interest in establishing “an independent, progressive Jewish state in the Eastern Mediterranean with close economic and cultural ties with the West generally and in particular with the United States.”27

To these factors one might add a deep-seated racism that led educated Canadians, whatever degree of scorn they might feel for Jews, to regard Arabs with a deeper and more settled contempt.

Jews might be ineradicably other, but for gentiles whose significant traffic with them was often primarily through the mediations of fiction, that otherness was in some sense domesticated or familiar. Consider, by way of examples, the forms of mitigated otherness that occur in well-known texts that many educated Anglo-Canadians of the postwar period would have read.28

Fagin, in Charles Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist, is a grotesque stereotype of cringing Semitic criminality. But he is more to be pitied than feared, and occupies a recognizable place within London’s underworld economy. Svengali, an equally grotesque Jewish villain who figures in George du Maurier’s 1890s best-seller Trilby, has the minor virtue of being a brilliant interpreter of European classical music.29 And even Bleistein, in T. S. Eliot’s blatantly antisemitic poem “Burbank with a Baedeker, Bleistein with a Cigar,” is intimately engaged in the social realities the poet is satirizing. Jews might be caricatured and despised, but they were part of the social imaginary—and available also to be idealized, like the saintly Mr. Riah in Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend,30 or, more powerfully, the convincingly noble protagonist of George Eliot’s philosemitic novel Daniel Deronda.31

Prejudiced Littlewits of the postwar period might entertain themselves with the quizzical clerihew: “How odd / Of God / To choose / The Jews”—but they could hardly avoid knowing that there existed a strong rejoinder in the same whimsical verse form: “Not odd / Of God: / The Goyim / Annoy’im.”32 And Canadian gentiles of the time who would recoil at the thought of any of their offspring marrying a Jew might feel a grudging respect for the fact that most Jewish families would have been equally horrified by the prospect.

Arabs and Middle Eastern Muslims, however, were regarded as more [155] radically other.33 Canadians might know them, from one of the most popular fictions of John Buchan—the imperialist ideologue, novelist, intelligence officer, popular historian and MP who ended his career as Lord Tweedsmuir, Canada’s Governor-General from 1935 to 1940—as ululating half-savages, exotic and bizarre, and as the endlessly gullible objects of imperial geopolitical manipulations.34 Or, if they had read T. E. Lawrence’s best-selling Revolt in the Desert, or the full-length book, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, from which it was abridged,35 they would know of Arabs, from Lawrence of Arabia’s descriptions of Bedouin warriors like the Howeitat war chief Auda abu Tayi, as more fully barbaric and more completely manipulable—but as noble savages, with many of the qualities of Homeric heroes. In a passage he later admitted was pure invention, Lawrence reported that Prince Faisal, the physically slight military leader of the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire, had collapsed in battle-frenzy, foaming at the mouth, and had to be carried from the battlefield. Auda, more fully Homeric, delights in epic self-dramatization, and although he is murderously efficient in his berserker heroism, his Howeitat tribe has been depleted by his insatiable thirst for brigandage and war.

Why would Canadian leaders whose understanding of the Middle East had to any degree been conditioned by fictions of this kind want to concede democratic rights to such people—whether to the teeming urban populations through whom Buchan’s orientalist passes, or the Palestinian and Syrian peasants whom Lawrence occasionally describes, and the Bedouins whom he represents as resolutely simple-minded?36

Did it perhaps occur to Canadian diplomats to think that the settlement history of North America tells us what happens when Europeans (even partially ‘othered’ Europeans) set their hearts on land that happens already to be occupied by noble, or ignoble, savages—such as those indigenous people whom Duncan Campbell Scott, poet and Deputy Superintendent of the Department of Indian Affairs, had unsympathetically called “a weird and waning race […] ready to break out at any moment in savage dances; in wild and desperate orgies”?37

Yves Engler observes that Canadian support for a partition plan opposed by all Arab states and organizations was not based on any concern for democracy: the UNSCOP plan gave more than half of Palestine to the proposed Jewish state despite the fact that, as Ilan Pappe remarks, Jews made up only one-third of the total population and owned just six percent of Palestine, and even within the areas assigned to them by UNSCOP Jews “owned only eleven percent of the land, and were the minority in every district.”38

Engler quotes Elizabeth McCallum, the Department of External Affairs’ only Middle East expert, and a dissenter from government policy, who claimed that Ottawa supported partition “because we didn’t give two hoots for democracy.”39 He remarks as well that “The Canadian-backed U.N. partition contributed to the forced displacement of 700,000-900,000 Palestinians”—[156] because it “put the fate of more than a million Palestinians” who lived in the territories assigned to the proposed Jewish state “into the hands of a Zionist movement” that, since the 1930s, had “openly discussed transferring the Arab population.”40

* * * *

In recent decades, Canada has established an international reputation as being reliably, even exaggeratedly supportive of Israel.41

In 1982, for example, Canada joined Israel, the United States, and Costa Rica in voting against a U.N. General Assembly motion calling for Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 and the creation of an independent Palestinian state. In 1987, Canada was the only country at the Québec Francophonie Summit to oppose a resolution calling for Palestinian self-determination.

The Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement of 1997 accepts Israel’s economic boundaries as incorporating Gaza and the West Bank (in contrast to the European Union’s trade agreement, which makes a point of excluding the territories illegally occupied by Israel). Moreover, Canada has contributed directly to the infrastructure of the occupation: for example, it was reported in 1998 that the Canadian Highways Infrastructure Corporation headed a consortium building a $3 billion highway designated for the sole use of Jewish settlers, and forbidden to the Palestinians whose land it traverses.

In January 2008, Canada was the only member of the UN Human Rights Committee that opposed a resolution calling for urgent international action to end Israel’s economic blockade of Gaza (which Canada had been the first country to join in 2006). Shortly afterward, Canada signed an agreement with Israel to cooperate in “border management and security.” Linda McQuaig very pertinently asked: “Does this mean Israel will become involved with intelligence gathering about Canadian Muslims or other Canadians supporting Palestinian rights? Does it mean Canada will help Israel in its military operations in the West Bank or Gaza?”42

During Israel’s attack on Gaza in December 2008-January 2009, Canada was the only member of the U.N. Human Rights Committee that voted in support of Israel’s actions.

* * * *

The present situation of Canadian Jews seems, in one respect at least, strangely paradoxical. Franklin Bialystok has observed that during the 1970s a generation of Canadian Jews who were born during and after the Second World War, and who grew up without “the traditional neighbourhoods, secular organizations, or Yiddish” that had given their parents and grandparents links to a community and a communal past, felt rootless:

[157] For some, re-establishing the connection lay in a return to religious observance. For others, it meant becoming involved in Jewish causes. In the post-1967 period, these causes included support for Israel, opposition to anti-Jewish policies in the Soviet bloc, and combatting antisemitism. In combination, they created the perception, whether real or imagined, that Jews were vulnerable. It was not a long stretch to reach back three decades in order to understand that vulnerability might lead to extinction.43

That sense of vulnerability may also have arisen out of direct personal experience, in childhood, of antisemitic bullying, together with the feelings of betrayal prompted by recognition that the adult authorities responsible for preventing such behaviour may have quietly encouraged it.

But is it not somewhat surprising, one-third of a century later, after decades during which the casual brutality of antisemitic jeering has been receding from common experience, and during which Canadian government attitudes towards Israel have been everything the most ardent Zionist could hope for, that much the same sense of vulnerability appears to persist—particularly among those who are most passionately supportive of Israeli government policies?

It is my impression that those Canadian Jews whose fundamental commitment is to universal ethical principles of human rights and solidarity with the oppressed—a commitment which makes them forceful critics of Israeli policies, and often as well of those founding principles of Israel which define it as a state in which non-Jews are at best second-class citizens—fear other things than antisemitism.

They fear, as I do, the increasing concentration of media ownership in Canada and elsewhere, and a corresponding rise in public mendacity; they fear, as I do, the continuing decline of democratic institutions and democratic governance here and elsewhere (most especially in the United States and Israel). They fear the consequences, in terms of ongoing resource wars and growing domestic authoritarianism, of hydrocarbon energy depletion; they fear that the state of Israel may play a large part in provoking such wars. They fear, as well, the immediate possibility of deepening economic crisis, and ensuing social turmoil; and they fear the consequences of runaway global warming, which could result in major ecosystem and social collapses. But although some quantitative data suggest that residual levels of antisemitism may be higher in Canada than in France or Britain,44 these Jews are not, to the best of my knowledge, kept awake at night by fears of an impending repetition of the Holocaust.

Why should pro-Israel or Zionist Jews feel more anxious in this regard? Might it be because the Zionist ideology of an in-gathering of Jews to an ‘ancestral homeland’45 risks losing its persuasiveness unless the diasporic condition appears to be one in which Jews are perpetually vulnerable to [158] irrational fits of loathing and persecution on the part of gentiles? Or could it be because assertions of extreme vulnerability make it possible to re-define Israeli aggressions as defensive actions, necessary for the preservation of a people facing constant threats to their continued existence?

* * * *

What might we conclude from even such an elliptical account of Canadian antisemitism as the foregoing?

It may give some insight into the sensitivities of Canadian Jews to any suggestion of a renewal of antisemitism, while also reminding us of Canada’s early and continuing contributions to what remains an intractably oppressive situation in the Middle East—whose steady worsening over the past four decades has contributed, many observers believe, to the perpetuation of antisemitic attitudes.

It might also suggest that a parliamentary inquiry into antisemitism could have contributed significantly, in the 1950s or 1960s,46 to bringing Canadians to a shame-faced recognition of the degree to which in the first half of the twentieth century our public discourse and practices had become contaminated by a contemptible, incendiary, and, in the last analysis, exterminationist prejudice.

Forty years later, in 2009-2010, it is far from clear that such a parliamentary inquiry can have any honest function in a country whose government appears, in relation to the Israel-Palestine conflict, to have abandoned any pretence of neutrality and any pretence of commitment to the principles of international law that ought to be our guide.




1  Here’s one from seventy years ago. My mother-in-law’s family immigrated from what is now Ukraine in 1936. Natalie was fourteen. To the end of her life her eyes would fill with tears when she remembered how, in 1939, at a time when immigrants from eastern Europe were vigorously discriminated against, one of her teachers at Harbord Collegiate in Toronto, Miss May Sinclair, intervened to prevent her from entering sweatshop work to help support her family. Recognizing the girl’s talent, Miss Sinclair paid from her own modest salary the fees that enabled Natalie to master the art of dress-design and begin a longed-for career.

2  Native land at Ipperwash, Ontario was expropriated by the federal government during World War Two for military use. A half-century later, exasperated by the government’s refusal to return the land, native people peacefully reoccupied it. Ontario Premier Mike Harris is on record as having ordered the Ontario Provincial Police to attack the occupiers. Although an unarmed native man, Dudley George, was killed by police gunfire in the ensuing fusillade, Harris has not had to face any legal consequences.

3  I am thinking of such recent events as RCMP complicity in the abduction and torture of Maher Arar, CSIS participation in the Guantanamo interrogations of Omar Khadr, the Harper government’s defiance of court rulings that oblige it to seek Khadr’s release from American custody, and the government’s direct violation of Articles 10 and 12 of the Third Geneva Convention in ordering the transfer of prisoners captured by the Canadian Forces into the hands of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, which is not a signatory of the Geneva Conventions. Senior Canadian authorities have been aware, since 2007, that most of these prisoners were then tortured—a fact that makes these transfers doubly a war crime.

[April 2011: This note contains a significant error: Afghanistan ratified the Geneva Conventions in 1956, and acceded to the 1977 Additional Protocols I and II in 2009. It remains the case that copious evidence from authoritative sources of systematic torture by Afghan authorities was available to Canadian military and civil authorities, which nonetheless issued statements defending Afghan agencies and individuals involved in torture and asserting the importance of the 'information' they shared with the Canadian military, and in addition left unchanged a system under which the Canadian military delayed giving information about transferred prisoners to the International Red Cross for periods of from three weeks to a month—thus showing active complicity with the Afghan torturers into whose prisons these people effectively 'disappeared'. For details, see my article “Prime Minister Harper and Canadian War Crimes in Afghanistan,” Centre for Research on Globalization (24 April 2011), http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=24473, also available at this website.]

4  Alan Davies, ed., Antisemitism in Canada: History and Interpretation (Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1992), “Introduction,” p. 6. Other important studies of Canadian antisemitism include Irving Abella and Harold Troper, None Is Too Many: Canada and the Jews of Europe 1933-1948 (Toronto: Lester & Orpen Dennys, 1982); Pierre Anctil, Le Rendez-vous manqué: les Juifs de Montréal face au Québec de l’entre-deux guerres (Montréal: Institut Québécois de recherché sur la culture, 1988); and Irving Abella, A Coat of Many Colours: Two Centuries of Jewish Life in Canada (Toronto: Lester & Orpen Dennys, 1990).

5  For a brief comment on this well-known fact in relation to recent charges by Mordecai Richler, Irwin Cotler and others of a continuing deep antisemitism within Québec nationalism, see Normand Lester, Le livre noir du Canada anglais, vol.1 (Montréal: Les Intouchables, 2001), pp. 18-21.

6  See Pierre Anctil, “Writing as Immigrants: Yiddish Belles-lettres in Canada,” in Hartmut Lutz, ed., What Is Your Place? Indigeneity and Immigration in Canada (Augsburg: Wisner, 2007); and “A. M. Klein: The Poet and His Relations with French Quebec,” in Richard Menkis and Norman Ravvin, eds., The Canadian Jewish Studies Reader (Calgary: Red Deer Press, 2004). For a convenient overview of this community’s relations with the francophone majority, see Ignaki Olazabal, “Ethnicité et société nationale au Québec. Les relations entre Juifs ashkénazes et Québécois francophones à Montréal,” Cahiers de l’URMIS 4 (1998): 21-36, http://urmis.revues.org/index370.html?file=1.

7  In 1894 Alfred Dreyfus, an army captain of Jewish descent attached to the French General Staff, was convicted of treason for selling military secrets to Germany, and sentenced to solitary confinement in the penal colony of Devil’s Island. Although evidence that Dreyfus had been framed surfaced by 1896, he was not exonerated until 1906, and as Hannah Arendt remarked, the political implications of the Dreyfus Affair continued to resonate even after the Second World War. See Arendt, Antisemitism: Part One of The Origins of Totalitarianism (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1968).

8  Stephen Speisman, “Antisemitism in Ontario: The Twentieth Century,” in Davies, ed., Antisemitism in Canada, pp. 114, 116.

9  Speisman, p. 117. The revolutionary Socialist Party of Canada was founded in British Columbia in 1904, and the syndicalist One Big Union in Calgary in 1919; the Communist Party of Canada was founded in Guelph, Ontario in 1921. The inconsistency noted by Speisman was identified by Jean-Paul Sartre as a standard component of antisemitism: “We are told in almost the same breath that behind the Jew lurks international capitalism and the imperialism of the trusts and the munitions makers, and that he is the front man for piratical Bolshevism with a knife between its teeth. There is no embarrassment or hesitation about imputing responsibility for communism to Jewish bankers, whom it would horrify, or responsibility for capitalist imperialism to the wretched Jews who crowd the rue des Rosiers. But everything is made clear if we renounce any expectation from the Jew of a course of conduct that is reasonable and in conformity with his interests, if, instead, we discern in him a metaphysical principle that drives him to do evil under all circumstances, even though he thereby destroy himself. This principle, one may suspect, is magical.” Sartre, Anti-Semite and Jew, trans. George J. Becker (New York: Schocken Books, 1965), pp. 38-39.

10  The Klein poem is “Hormisdas Arcand,” from The Rocking Chair (Toronto: Ryerson, 1948). Sartre proposed an explanation for the parallel inability or refusal of French antisemites to formulate coherent political platforms: “Anti-Semitic associations do not wish to invent anything; they refuse to assume responsibility; they would be horrified at setting themselves up as a certain fraction of French opinion, for then they would have to draw up a program and seek legal means of action. They prefer to represent themselves as expressing in all purity, in all passivity, the sentiments of the real country in its indivisible state.” Sartre, Anti-Semite and Jew, p. 32.

11  James W. St. G. Walker, “Race,” Rights and the Law in the Supreme Court of Canada: Historical Case Studies (Waterloo: The Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History and Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1997), p. 186.

12  See Sarah A. Ogilvie and Scott Miller, Refuge Denied: The St. Louis Passengers and the Holocaust (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2006), pp. 174-75.

13  On occasion the relationship may have extended to covert support: it has been charged that Arcand received covert funding for his antisemitic newspapers from R. B. Bennett, Conservative Prime Minister from 1930 to 1935; see Lester, Le livre noir du Canada anglais, vol. 1, pp. 255-60.

14  During the period of the Nazi occupation of France, La Relève’s associated publishing house, Éditions de l’Arbre, published pamphlets for the French Resistance that were smuggled into occupied and Vichy France. An interest in the “personalist” philosophy of Jacques Maritain and Emmanuel Mounier, shared by writers in the La Relève and Cité Libre groups, provides a link to progressive Catholics in English Canada, notably the novelist Morley Callaghan.

15  See Alan Davies and Marilyn Nefsky, How Silent Were the Churches? (Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1997).

16  Walker, “Race,” Rights and the Law, p. 190; Gerald Tulchinsky, Canada’s Jews: A People’s Journey (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008), pp. 402-03.

17  See Walker, “Noble and Wolf vs. Alley,” in “Race,” Rights and the Law.

18  Tulchinsky, Canada’s Jews, p. 415.

19  Valuable studies of residual antisemitism in Canada include Stanley R. Barrett, Is God a Racist? The Right Wing in Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987); Warren Kinsella, Web of Hate: Inside Canada’s Far Right Networks (Toronto: Harper Collins, 1994); L. W. Sumner, The Hateful and the Obscene: Studies in the Limits of Free Expression (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004); Richard Warman, “Hate on the Internet, i. The Canadian Scene,” in 2005 Audit of Antisemitic Incidents (Toronto: League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith Canada, 2006), pp. 8-19; and Mary Gusella et al., Hate on the Net / La haine sur Internet, CITC: Canadian Issues / Thèmes Canadiens (Spring 2006), http://www.chrc-ccdp.ca/pdf/HateOnInternet_bil.pdf. See also Barbara Perry, Reading Hate: Hate Crime Research and Scholarship in Canada (University of Ontario Institute of Technology, 2006), http://www.criminologyandjustice.uoit.ca/hatecrime/index.html.

20  Terms of racial and ethnic abuse aimed at francophone Canadians, as well as Canadians of Jewish, Chinese, Italian, Polish, Luso-Hispanic, Greek, and First Nations descent were part of the everyday discourse of Toronto’s not-so-innocent schoolchildren, who also knew racist epithets for blacks and South Asians, even though substantial immigration from South Asia and the Caribbean was still in the future. In addition, ‘comic’ books set in World War Two and the Korean War taught us to side with stubble-bearded American heroes like Sergeant Rock against the evil machinations of square-headed Germans, Japanese with wire-rimmed glasses and bad teeth, and human waves of ‘Red’ Chinese.

21  Why “red-headed”? There may have been a note in our edition of the play alluding to an early stage tradition of playing Shylock in a red wig.

22  I doubt there were any actual McGregors in Rabbi Plaut’s congregation. My father’s comment was, I would guess, a joke based on the fact that McGregor’s Happy Foot Health Socks were (and still are) manufactured and marketed by a Toronto garment firm owned by one of the city’s prominent Jewish families. His opposite numbers in the inter-faith dialogues may well have included a member of that family.

23  May 2011: this anecdote requires correction. My brother informs me that I misunderstood the nature of his research in Strasbourg: he was indeed disappointed in a search for documentary traces of our ancestors, but he did not look in the baptismal registers. Several days of my own research in Strasbourg in the spring of 2011 did include work with baptismal registers in the municipal archives. The oldest surviving register is from a parish in the centre of the city which includes the street (the Rue des Tonneliers or Kiefergass) where the guild of barrel-makers had their guild-hall; the earliest entries in this register are from the 1540s. In the 1540s and 1550s the name Kiefer (meaning “barrel-maker” in the Strasbourg dialect of German, an analogue to the name Cooper in English) appears quite frequently in this register, both as a craft identification (with entries like “Hans, ein Kiefer von Kolmar”) and as a family name. This spelling is preserved by some families (notably that of the painter Anselm Kiefer); the double-f spelling may have emerged in later centuries to differentiate the name from the Hochdeutsch word “Kiefer” (meaning pine tree). In late-medieval Strasbourg Jews were barred from membership in craft guilds: apparently, then, Jews could not be Kiefers. But was there a point at which this antisemitic rule was relaxed? Or could some Jews have become Kiefers by concealing their religious identity, in the manner of the marranos in Spain? Such Kiefers or Kieffers or Keefers, if not exactly Jews, might be described (to borrow a Woody Allen joke) as Jew-ish.

24  Yves Engler, The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy (Vancouver and Black Point, NS: RED/Fernwood Publishing, 2009), pp. 54-55. This and the following paragraph are indebted to Engler’s analysis.

25  Tareq Y. Ismael, Canadian-Arab Relations: Policy and Perspectives (Jerusalem: Jerusalem International Publishing House, 1984), p. 62; quoted by Engler, The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, p. 55.

26  See Irving Abella and Harold Troper, None Is Too Many: Canada and the Jews of Europe, 1933-1948 (1982; rpt. Toronto: Key Porter Books, 2000), p. 278; quoted by Engler, The Black Book, pp. 56-57.

27  David Taras and David H. Goldberg, The Domestic Battleground: Canada and the Arab-Israeli Conflict (Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1989), pp. 31, 137; quoted by Engler, The Black Book, p. 57.

28  The next several paragraphs do not rest upon any assumption that the literary texts I mention directly influenced such figures as Lester Pearson and Ivan Rand; they do presuppose that Benedict Anderson is correct in describing nations as “imagined communities” (see Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism [1983; revised edition London: Verso, 1991), and that to imagine the inherent limits of such a community involves imagining its internal and external others. Members of a Canadian governing class engaging in issues of international politics do so within the framework of a social imaginary, a narrative construct to which widely disseminated fictions contribute through their “power to narrate, or to block other narratives from forming and emerging” (Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism [1993; rpt. New York: Vintage, 1994], p. xiii).

29  Du Maurier’s Trilby (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1894), appears to have been one significant conduit through which attitudes and tropes of late nineteenth-century continental antisemitism entered the English-speaking world. The book was widely available during the immediate postwar period: between 1941 and 1948 it was published by six different publishers in eight editions and reprints, with four separate editions appearing in 1947.

30  This portrayal was Dickens’ deliberate attempt to reverse the antisemitic stereotyping of Oliver Twist. A half-century after Our Mutual Friend was published in 1864-65, T. S. Eliot would write, in “Burbank with a Baedeker, Bleistein with a Cigar” (from Poems [1920]), “On the Rialto once. / The rats are underneath the piles. / The Jew is underneath the lot” (The Complete Poems and Plays of T. S. Eliot [London: Faber and Faber, 1969], p. 41). But in Our Mutual Friend Mr. Riah, who also provides a quiet refuge for the distressed heroine Lizzie Hexam, quits his morally intolerable work as the front man in a money-lending business that is actually run by a crooked English gentleman, ‘Fascination’ Fledgeby: underneath the good Jew, in this novel, is the rat-like Englishman.

31  Daniel Deronda was very frequently reprinted during the quarter-century following its first publication in 1876, and is currently available in mass-market paperbacks from five major publishers. Between the early 1920s and the early 1960s, however, it was much less frequently reprinted: although some undated cheap reprints continued to appear, the only dated imprint of the book of which I am aware during this period was published in 1932.

32  The first of these is attributed to William Norman Ewer, a prominent left-wing English journalist from the 1920s until the 1950s; the second to the American humourist Leo Rosten.

33  The classic study of the radical othering of Muslims and Arabs in the western European social imaginary—in scholarship, historiography, fiction and political discourse—is Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage, 1979).

34  See John Buchan, Greenmantle (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1916). During the 1940s at least twenty-three editions and reprints of this novel were published by five different publishers. A central motif of this racist and antisemitic First World War spy thriller is Buchan’s claim that Englishmen and Scots have a distinctive racial capacity to insinuate themselves through imaginative projection into the cultures and belief systems of other peoples. Buchan’s protagonist, Dick Hannay, successively impersonates a South African Boer, a German intelligence agent, and an American civil engineer; and Sandy Arbuthnot, an orientalist and proto-T. E. Lawrence, vanishes into the bazaars of the Middle East, emerging as the leader of a mystical Muslim secret society who becomes Greenmantle, the longed-for prophet of a movement of apocalyptic purification within Islam.

35  T. E. Lawrence, Revolt in the Desert (London: Jonathan Cape, and New York: George H. Doran, 1927); and Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph (Private edition, 1926; New York: George H. Doran, 1935). Revolt appeared in editions and multiple reprints from five publishers in 1927; by the end of the 1940s, Seven Pillars (a large-format and more expensive book) had appeared in fourteen distinct public editions and reprints from five publishers.

36  Lawrence tells of performing for the Howeitat, at one of their communal feasts, a parody of Auda’s mode of epic narration. His audience took some time to get the joke: Lawrence wants us to believe that they had never previously imagined the possibility of parodic discourse. Fictive elements abound in Lawrence’s memoir: he took credit, for example, for the capture of Aqaba, a feat planned and carried out by Auda and other Arab leaders (with Lawrence in attendance as an observer).

37  Quoted by Ronald Wright, Stolen Continents: 500 Years of Conquest and Resistance in the Americas (1992; rpt. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2005), p. 321. The first phrase occurs in Scott’s sonnet “The Onondaga Madonna.”

38  Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (Oxford: One World Publications, 2006), p. 34; quoted by Engler, The Black Book, pp. 55-56.

39  McCallum is quoted by Eliezer Tauber, Personal Policy Making: Canada’s Role in the Adoption of the Palestine Partition Resolution (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2002), p. 94; quoted in turn by Engler, The Black Book, p. 56.

40  Engler, The Black Book, p. 57. For evidence of clearly enunciated Zionist intentions, he cites Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, pp. 8, 29-38.

41  The following examples are drawn from Engler, The Black Book, pp. 59-63.

42  Linda McQuaig, “Media cheerleaders miss story: The US has succeeded in getting Canada to take the lead in an unpopular counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan,” Toronto Star (8 April 2008); available online at http://www.lindamcquaig.com/Columns/ViewColumn.cfm?REF=68; quoted by Engler, The Black Book, p. 60.

43  Franklin Bialystok, “‘Were things that bad?’ The Holocaust Enters Community Memory,” in Menkis and Ravvin, eds., The Canadian Jewish Studies Reader, p. 287.

44  The figures published by the League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith Canada in its annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents are analyzed in the next chapter.

45  As Shlomo Sand observes in The Invention of the Jewish People, trans. Yael Lotan (London and New York: Verso, 2009), this is a concept fraught with ironies. Scholarly historians recognize the story that the Romans forced a large-scale exile of the Jews in the first and second centuries of the Common Era to be a myth—from which it follows, given that there is no evidence of other large-scale displacements of population, that present-day Palestinians are in large part the descendants of Biblical-era Jews. During the early centuries of the Common Era Judaism was a proselytizing religion, achieving mass conversions in parts of the Arabian peninsula, among the Berbers of North Africa, and among the Khazars of the northern Caucasus. Since North African Jews appear to have been included in the Muslim armies that conquered Spain in the early eighth century, and there is evidence that the early Jewish communities of eastern Europe were formed by Khazars after the destruction of their kingdom in the tenth century, the biological connection of both Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews to the ‘homeland’ is more tenuous than is commonly believed.

46  Such an Inquiry could have supplemented work like the Report to the Minister of Justice of the Special Committee on Hate Propaganda in Canada (Ottawa: Roger Duhamel, 1966). 

Antisemitism Real and Imagined (Introduction)

This Introduction begins on p. 7 of the book. Page numbers in the book as printed are indicated in square brackets within the present text. 

This book is about an attempt to curtail freedom of speech and academic freedom across Canada, and to stigmatize, even to criminalize, certain kinds of human rights discourse.

The rhetorical tactics being deployed in this attack on free speech are familiar enough. They consist in leveling a charge of antisemitism1 against anyone who draws attention to the state of Israel’s violent, degrading, and (under international law) flagrantly illegal treatment of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Territories of the West Bank and Gaza, or who points to the fact that this treatment is motivated by a systematic and likewise flagrantly illegal project of colonization, apartheid treatment of a subject population, and ethnic cleansing.

What is new is the institutional strategy that has been adopted. The Canadian House of Commons makes a regular practice of appointing parliamentary committees and delegating to them, through an “order of reference,” the responsibility to study a particular subject and deliver findings and recommendations in a report to the House. In the present instance, this procedure has been circumvented: with no authority from parliament as a whole, an all-party “coalition” of MPs, the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism (CPCCA), has constituted itself in order to conduct a Parliamentary Inquiry into antisemitism.

This group’s self-defined terms of reference make clear its intention to brand criticism of the state of Israel within Canadian universities and the media as antisemitic, and hence as incitement of hatred. The aim is apparently to help create a climate of opinion—in Parliament, the judiciary, and the police, as well as among the public at large—within which criticisms of the state of Israel’s violations of the Geneva Conventions and international humanitarian law, and its ongoing illegal appropriations of Palestinian land, water, and natural gas resources, can be re-defined as antisemitism, stigmatized as incitements of hatred, and perhaps even prosecuted under section 319 of the Canadian Criminal Code2 and section 13(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act,3 [8] or else summarily silenced by judicial warrants of seizure issued under section 320 of the Criminal Code.4

By a curious lapse, section 319.(1) of the Criminal Code, which deals with incitement of hatred “likely to lead to a breach of the peace,” does not allow a defence on the basis of truth, the public interest, or evidence that the accused referred to “matters producing or tending to produce feelings of hatred” with the intention of eliminating them. Accusations that human rights activism critical of Israel and in solidarity with the Palestinians incites hatred can therefore be expected to include the claim that this activism is “likely to lead to a breach of the peace” against Canadian Jews5—an ironic prospect, given that many of the Canadian human rights activists working in this area are themselves Jewish.

The CPCCA no doubt anticipates an attentive response from the Canadian government: its co-organizers are Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism and one of the most prominent and outspoken members of the Harper government, and Irwin Cotler, a professor in McGill University’s law faculty and former Justice Minister in the Liberal governments of Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin.

Professor Cotler, though he is a human rights lawyer of international standing, has a record of quiet extremism on the subjects of Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights and breaches of international law: his positions on these issues resemble those of Israel’s Likud or Kadima parties.

I take it to be a mark of extremism that in August 2009 Professor Cotler produced two articles attempting, in advance of its publication, to discredit Richard Goldstone’s report to the UN Human Rights Commission (UNHCR) on Israel’s December 2008-January 2009 attack on Gaza. In the first of these articles, Cotler falsely blamed Judge Goldstone for having supposedly accepted an unbalanced mandate from the UNHCR that focused solely on Israel and that ignored the question of whether the Hamas government of Gaza violated international law.6 Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, has refuted this claim, noting that although the UNHCR “originally established a one-sided mandate for the Gaza investigation, […] at Goldstone’s insistence, the council’s president broadened the investigation before Goldstone agreed to take it on […]. The council, in turn, acquiesced. Goldstone then confirmed that ‘all sides [will] be investigated.’”7

The falsity of imputations of one-sidedness and bias is evident from the careful neutrality with which, on April 3, 2009, UNHRC President Martin Uhomoibhi expressed his confidence that Goldstone’s Fact-Finding Mission would “assess in independent and impartial manner all human rights and humanitarian law violations committed in the context of the conflict which took place between 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009….”8 At the ensuing press conference, Judge Goldstone expressed his concern “for the heavy loss of innocent lives in Gaza and Israel,” his hope that members of the Mission would be enabled by “the relevant authorities […] to visit and meet [9] with victims both in Israel and in Gaza and in the Occupied Territories,” and his conviction that “the invitation I received […] makes it very clear this is to be an independent, evenhanded and unbiased investigation.”9 In the light of these very direct public statements, it is hard to believe that Professor Cotler’s criticisms could have been made in good faith.

Cotler’s second article echoed the false claims of Israeli propaganda that Hamas provoked the outbreak of hostilities in late December 2008, that Hamas used civilians to shield its fighters and ambulances to transport them, that Gaza is not “occupied” by Israel but a territory whose “status under international law remains unclear,” and that any “witness testimony and documentary evidence” acquired by Goldstone must have been “controlled by the Hamas terrorist government.” Cotler concluded by demanding that the Goldstone Report should “not just […] mention Hamas’s violations of international law, but […] identify them as the root cause of the Gaza conflict. Simply put, if there had been no Hamas war crimes, there would have been no need for an Israeli response.”10

Cotler’s statements about how the war began can be measured against University of Oxford historian Avi Shlaim’s observation that “it was not Hamas but the IDF that broke the ceasefire. [….] It is a little known but crucial fact that Hamas enforced the ceasefire very effectively on its side until Israel sabotaged it.”11 The Goldstone Report found no evidence that Palestinian fighters in Gaza used civilians or civilian infrastructure to shield themselves—but concluded that Israeli soldiers used Palestinian civilians as human shields.12 After considering the legal issues, the Report determined that “Israel has without doubt at all times relevant to the mandate of the Mission exercised effective control over the Gaza Strip. The Mission is of the view that the circumstances of this control establish that the Gaza Strip remains occupied by Israel. The provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention therefore apply […].”13 And Kenneth Roth has remarked that Cotler’s claim about Hamas’s control of witness testimony was apparently made

without having conducted research in Gaza. Human Rights Watch researchers in Gaza have found that ordinary Palestinians interviewed in private are quite willing to speak independently of Hamas, including in describing serious abuses committed by Hamas forces. The Israeli government loves highlighting Human Rights Watch’s reporting on Hamas abuses, as described by Gaza civilians, but when it comes to describing Israeli abuses, Cotler and the Israeli government suggest that these same Gazans can never speak the truth.14

Professor Cotler’s smearing of Judge Goldstone and his misrepresentation of readily ascertainable historical facts may seem inoffensive by comparison with his friend Alan Dershowitz’s behaviour—the Harvard law professor, denouncing Goldstone as a knave rather than a fool, has accused him of “aggravated blood libel”15—but this is extremism nonetheless.

[10] Jason Kenney’s extremism is noisier. In mid-February 2009, speaking at the London conference of the Inter-parliamentary Committee for Combating Antisemitism at which the CPCCA’s project appears to have been formulated, he accused the Canadian Arab Federation (CAF) of antisemitism on account of its criticism of Israel’s military onslaught on Gaza, and indicated that organizations which express “hateful sentiments [….] should not expect to receive resources from the state, support from taxpayers or any other form of official respect from the government or the organs of our state.”16

In March 2009, Kenney banned British MP George Galloway, who was midway through a speaking tour in the United States, from entering Canada—Galloway’s crime being that, in defiance of Israel’s blockade of Gaza, he had led a humanitarian relief convoy to Gaza. At much the same time as Kenney’s principal spokesman, Alykhan Velshi, was alternating between denouncing Galloway as a facilitator of terrorism and declaring that he wouldn’t be allowed into Canada “to pee on our carpet” (in other words, to criticize Canada’s involvement in the blockade of Gaza and the occupation of Afghanistan),17 Kenney himself renewed his attack on CAF. Rather than making a formal accusation of illegal behaviour (which would have to be supported by evidence), Kenney was content with using a smear as the pretext for formally cutting off government funding to CAF’s well-regarded programs for helping new immigrants adapt to life in Canada. Urging Canadians to “be wary of the rise of a new form of anti-Semitism cloaked in debates about Israel’s actions in the Middle East,”18 he made clear his readiness to label any criticism of Israel as antisemitic.

That readiness was also evident in early May, when during a trip to Israel Kenney denounced a “new anti-Semitism” emanating from an alliance of Western leftists and Islamic extremists as “even more dangerous than the old European anti-Semitism.”19 It was evident, once again, in a speech he delivered in Jerusalem on December 16, 2009, at the annual conference of the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism. On this occasion, Kenney boasted of his government’s “zero tolerance approach to anti-Semitism”—which means, he declared (extending his previous slanders),

that we eliminated the government funding relationship with organizations like for example, the Canadian Arab Federation, whose leadership apologized for terrorism or extremism, or who promote hatred, in particular anti-Semitism. We have ended government contact with like-minded organizations like the Canadian Islamic Congress […]. We have defunded organizations, most recently like KAIROS, who are taking a leadership role in the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign.20

KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, an NGO linked to eleven Canadian churches and church-related organizations (among them [11] the United Church, the Anglican Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the Mennonite Central Committee), has for thirty-five years conducted international human rights and social justice projects funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). This NGO, and the churches on whose behalf it acts, were dismayed to be informed on November 30th 2009 that funding for its projects would not be renewed, on the clearly untrue grounds that KAIROS “doesn’t fit with CIDA’s priorities”21—and outraged a fortnight later by Kenney’s slanderous explanation of the real motive.

More recently, the Harper government has withdrawn CIDA funding from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which “provides assistance to 4.67 million Palestinian refugees scattered throughout the Middle East and administers programs in the areas of education, health and other social services in 59 Palestinian refugee camps,”22 and from the Montréal NGO Alternatives, which for the past fifteen years has run projects supporting education in occupied Palestine. Jason Kenney’s hand may be suspected in these as in other decisions affecting the disbursement of money through CIDA: in 2003 he targeted UNRWA as being responsible “for the promotion of hatred, incitement and antisemitism in the camps and schools it administers,”23 and the Ottawa source who leaked the news of Alternative’s de-funding to National Post journalist John Ivison—an unnamed male from outside of CIDA who spoke, as though with ministerial or governmental authority, about “our priorities”—sounds very much like Kenney or a member of his staff.24

Kenney’s identification of KAIROS—and, by implication, most of Canada’s Christian churches—as antisemitic is no less fatuous than his claim that the organization has been involved in the campaign to boycott and sanction Israel. That claim, derived according to Kenney’s office from NGO Monitor, a right-wing U.S.-funded organization in Israel,25 is contradicted by the very KAIROS document that NGO Monitor cites as proof that “KAIROS is a main supporter of the anti-Israel divestment movement in Canada.”26

This squalid story—which has an equally squalid coda in Kenney’s subsequent attempt to deny that he had said what he all too clearly did say in Jerusalem27—is directly related to the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism and its project of a parliamentary inquiry.

Jason Kenney began the December 16th speech in which he slandered KAIROS by noting the presence in his Jerusalem audience of Irwin Cotler and of Scott Reid and Mario Silva, the Co-Chairs of the CPCCA; and he concluded by referring again to the CPCCA and by anticipating, in an apparent reference to the CPCCA’s yet-to-be-written report, that Canada will be able to offer “some useful reference points and best practices to share with the rest of the world and parliamentarians who share our concern about the new anti-Semitism.”28

According to Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, speaking at the same conference, this “new antisemitism” is quite simply any criticism of Israel, [12] such as that in the Goldstone Report (which documented Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity in its December 2008-January 2009 attack on Gaza): “‘Modern anti-Semitism,’ the foreign minister asserted, ‘has taken on the form of being anti-Israel…’.”29

* * * *

What exactly is this Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism (CPCCA)? On June 2nd, 2009, MPs Scott Reid and Mario Silva announced its formation as an ad hoc group of twenty-one MPs, including members of all parties in the House of Commons, whose principal task would be to hold a Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism in Canada. The CPCCA claims independence both from the government of Canada and also from NGOs and Jewish community organizations, and professes its willingness to “voluntarily disclose all sources of funding.”

According to the organization’s first press release, this initiative grew out of the experience of a delegation of eleven MPs, led by Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney and former Justice Minister Professor Irwin Cotler, who attended the inaugural conference of an organization calling itself the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism (ICCA) in London, England in February 2009. The Canadian group took part with over a hundred parliamentarians from other countries in “presentations and discussions on the increasing problem of antisemitism globally,” and signed on to “The London Declaration on Combating Antisemitism,” which called on all governments “to face the problem of antisemitism, especially its manifestations in the media and academia.” The MPs returned “with the desire to form a Canadian coalition to fight antisemitism here.”30

The CPCCA called for written submissions, with a deadline in late July that was extended to the end of August 2009, and subsequently to October 1st. After assessing the more than one hundred and fifty responses it received, and extending invitations to selected authors and to expert witnesses, it scheduled a series of eight sessions of oral testimony beginning on November 2nd, and in early December announced additional hearings scheduled for late January and early February 2010. A report drawing on this input is to be submitted to the government of Canada, from whom the CPCCA hopes to receive a response by the fall of 2010.

The CPCCA is evidently modeling itself upon a British All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism, which issued a call for papers in late November 2005, and after conducting oral hearings, published a report in September 2006, to which the UK government responded at the end of March 2007. Indeed, one of the ICCA’s stated objectives is “To use the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism in the UK as a model template for other national assemblies to follow.”31 Appropriately enough, given this [13] aim, the first witness to address the CPCCA’s opening hearing on November 2, 2009 was Denis MacShane, the Labour Party MP who chaired the group that conducted the British inquiry.

The shared rationale of these parliamentary inquiries and of the ICCA is that we are witnessing, both in our own countries and globally, an ever-wider dissemination and a serious intensification of antisemitism. The British Report of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism states—and the ICCA and the CPCCA in its preliminary statements more vehemently assert—that this prejudice has at the same time been mutating into a dangerous and unprecedented “new antisemitism.” All three organizations avow an urgent need to combat this new antisemitism, most especially in the media and in academia.

* * * *

Jason Kenney, co-leader with Irwin Cotler of the group that attended the ICCA meeting, and an ex officio member both of the CPCCA’s Steering Committee and its Inquiry Committee, is, as Murray Dobbin has remarked, “the point man for Stephen Harper on issues involving Israel”—or, as Haroon Siddiqui has written in the Toronto Star, “the minister in charge of putting one group of Canadians against another for Tory electoral benefit….”32

Professor Irwin Cotler is likewise a key member of the CPCCA. Not only did he help to shepherd the initial group of eleven MPs across the Atlantic for the ICCA meeting in February, but he is also one of the founders of that organization, and is listed on its website as one of the six members of its Steering Committee. In November 2009, it emerged that he is in fact the Chair of that Steering Committee and of the ICCA33—in which capacity he gave testimony in the first oral hearings of the CPCCA, despite also being, with Kenney, an ex officio member both of the CPCCA’s Steering Committee and of its Inquiry Committee.

Professor Cotler has been present at every step: as co-leader with Jason Kenney of the Canadian participants in the ICCA conference, as leader of the host organization in London and hence an instigator in the formation of the CPCCA, as a member of both of the CPCCA’s organizing committees, and as a leading witness in its Inquiry.

His ubiquity, suggestive of an intense desire to shape the outcome of this project, comes into focus when one recognizes that the CPCCA is the local instantiation of a larger project Professor Cotler has been working on for at least the past eight years. In January 2002 he co-founded, with Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Rabbi Michael Melchior and former Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden Per Ahlmark, an organization to be called the International Commission for Combatting Anti-Semitism (ICCA). As journalist Michael J. Jordan wrote six months later, this initiative was a direct response to the outbreak of the second Intifada in September 2000, and to the 2001 UN [14] World Conference Against Racism held in Durban, South Africa, both of which intensified Israel’s “battle for world opinion.”34

According to Melchior, the proposed commission would

differ from other Jewish efforts because it would be comprised primarily of prominent non-Jews and would be global in scope, while angling to establish local commissions in as many countries as possible […]. The commission would raise public awareness of anti-Semitism and take an active role in lobbying, advocacy and education, Melchior said.35

Professor Cotler’s role was to “provide much of the ideological underpinning” for the commission. Jordan quotes a key definition from the draft version of an essay Cotler published later the same year: “In a word, classical anti-Semitism is the discrimination against, or denial of, the right of Jews to live as equal members of a free society; the new anti-Semitism—sometimes characterized as ‘anti-Zionism’—involves the discrimination against, denial of, or assault upon, the right of the Jewish people to live as an equal member of the family of nations….”36

The commission was planned on a grandiose scale, with a headquarters in Geneva, secondary offices in Jerusalem and in New York or Washington—and, according to a prospectus published by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs in July 2002, with an Honorary Presidency of nine members, to be headed by Holocaust survivor and Nobel Prize-winning writer Elie Wiesel, an Executive Committee of fifteen members, two Advisory Committees, National Branches (to be “established in various countries”), and a “Parliamentary-style” General Council whose eighty members would be “representatives of the national branches and leading figures of outstanding moral stature.”37 But the project languished: at the end of June, Rabbi Melchior’s spokesman indicated that despite the planned start-up date of October 1, no full-time employee had been hired, and only several hundred thousand dollars had been raised, “partly from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs budget.”38

This abortive first incarnation of the ICCA was all too obviously an initiative of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, told Michael J. Jordan that he wouldn’t support the strategy if it was largely led and implemented by Israel—not because he objected to an exercise of influence in the manner envisioned, but rather because Israel has bilateral relations with many of the countries in which the ICCA would be working, and “‘shouldn’t put itself in a position that jeopardizes those relations,’ especially when there are Jewish groups willing to do the dirty work, he added.”39

The failure of this project may have suggested to Professor Cotler a less top-heavy organization—not a commission with national branch-office commissions whose representatives would come together in something resembling a parliament, but rather a diffuse coalition whose constituent [15] groupings would themselves be coalitions of parliamentarians working through their own national assemblies. The second-iteration ICCA, the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism that met for the first time in London, in the galleries of the Wallace Collection, in February 2009, has a formal structure confined to its six-member Steering Committee. And with funding from the UK government and a British charitable foundation, it is less obviously connected to the government of Israel.40

But the connection very definitely persists. One of the ICCA Steering Committee’s members is Yuli Edelstein, Israeli Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs, who in mid-December 2009 co-chaired with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman the conference of the Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism in Jerusalem at which Jason Kenney managed to taint Canada’s mainstream Christian churches with a charge of antisemitism.

Edelstein’s own address to this conference was scarcely a model of discretion or subtlety. He declared that “We must repeat again and again these basic facts—TO BE ‘anti-Israel’ IS TO BE ANTI-SEMITIC. TO BOYCOTT ISRAEL, ISRAELI PROFESSORS and ISRAELI business, these are not political acts, these are acts of hate, acts of anti-Semitism! Anti-Israel hysteria is anti-Semitic hysteria. They are one and the same.”41

Edelstein went on to say that his ministry “will work very hard to widen the field of people dealing with this issue, and will do everything in our power to build the ICCA, the inter parliamentary coalition to combat anti-Semitism. Through the ICCA we can stand together, shoulder to shoulder, in the fight against anti-Semitism.”42

* * * *

The ICCA begins its statement of purpose with a dramatic declaration (whose first sentence, derived from the opening of Cotler’s essay “Human Rights and the New Anti-Jewishness,” proclaims its authorship):

The world is witnessing today an escalating, sophisticated, global, virulent and even lethal antisemitism, that is arguably without parallel or precedent since the end of the Second World War.

This escalation and intensification underpins—indeed necessitates—the establishment of an international coalition to confront and combat this oldest and most enduring of hatreds. Silence is not an option. The time has come not only to sound the alarm—but also to act.43

Decent people everywhere should unquestionably join in opposition to all forms of racial and ethnic hatred, and repudiate any excuse for or legitimation of racism, including antisemitism. But the opening sentence of Cotler’s ICCA declaration is both hyperbolical and largely untrue.44

[16] A residual antisemitism does persist in Europe and in those countries, descended from settler-colonies, whose inheritance from Christian Europe included a dose of this toxic prejudice. But in none of these countries does antisemitism have the state or institutional support that it often received until the 1950s and 60s, or even later. Forms of antisemitic discrimination and antisemitic hate-speech that were widespread a generation or more ago are now regarded with disgust, and in many countries, including Canada, are subject to legal sanctions. Attitudes have also changed for the better: the percentages of people in Europe and North America who report disliking Jews or regarding them as not fully citizens have steadily declined, and even parties of the European far right in countries like Italy, Austria, and France have disavowed their long-standing antisemitism.

It is true that during the past decade especially, public opinion has in most countries around the world swung toward an increasingly strong disapproval of the state of Israel’s lawless and inexcusable treatment of the people of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and its untrammeled aggressiveness in relation to neighbouring states. Confused, perhaps, by claims of Israeli politicians to be speaking and acting on behalf of Jews everywhere, and by the uncritical support given by mainstream Jewish organizations in the diaspora even to Israel’s most disgraceful actions, some protesters have fallen into the error of attributing to Jews in general the actions of a state.

Moreover, people in some countries in which European antisemitism used to be, for the most part, an exotic and largely disregarded import have been taking up the tropes of a prejudice largely eclipsed elsewhere—a dismaying phenomenon, and one to be strongly challenged. But given that this form of antisemitism appears to derive most of its impetus from reactions to Israeli violations of international law, there is one obvious cure for it: to end those violations.

If to describe antisemitism of these kinds as “sophisticated” seems inappropriate,45 what can one say of the ICCA’s identification of the present situation as unprecedented since the end of the Second World War? Is the situation today really more perilous than anything Jews have experienced since the Holocaust and the years of persecution that preceded it? Is that the period to which we must look for parallels and precedents? Most serious scholars—that is to say, scholars who do evidence-based critical research within the disciplines of the human sciences—would dismiss the comparison as a sign either of advanced paranoia or of fear-mongering.

Symptomatic of the ICCA’s orientation is the fact that rather than attempting in any way to distinguish between antisemitism and criticism of the state of Israel, its “London Declaration” seems determined to conflate the two:

We are alarmed at the resurrection of the old language of prejudice and its modern manifestations—in rhetoric and political action—[17] against Jews, Jewish belief and practice and the State of Israel. (Preamble)

Parliamentarians shall expose, challenge and isolate political actors who engage in hate against Jews and target the State of Israel as a Jewish collectivity (Resolution 1); […]

Governments and the UN should resolve that never again will the institutions of the international community and the dialogue of nation states be abused to try to establish any legitimacy for antisemitism, including the singling out of Israel for discriminatory treatment in the international arena, and we will never witness—or be party to—another gathering like the United Nations World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and other related Intolerances in Durban in 2001 (Resolution 6); […]

Education authorities should ensure that freedom of speech is upheld within the law and to protect [sic] students and staff from illegal antisemitic discourse and a hostile environment in whatever form it takes including calls for boycotts (Resolution 24).

It is noteworthy that the “London Declaration,” whose language seems designed to immunize the state of Israel from criticism, was issued in the immediate aftermath of “Operation Cast Lead,” Israel’s attack on Gaza in December 2008-January 2009. This attack involved the targeting and the infliction of massive damage to every aspect of Gaza’s civilian infrastructure, from water supply and sewage facilities to educational institutions and medical clinics, as well as a kill ratio of more than 100-to-1 (or over 150-to-1, if we take into account the fact that four of Israel’s ten military casualties were the victims of ‘friendly fire’).46 This military operation has been vehemently condemned by every international human rights organization that has studied the evidence. The issue, then, is not just one of bad timing: the politicians who framed the “London Declaration” might, at the very least, be criticized for moral blindness.

As for the last of the resolutions quoted above: to accept the principle that anyone who disagrees with academic discourse critical of Israel can label it as producing “a hostile environment”—and thereby put it into the same category as “illegal antisemitic discourse”—would be to discard both academic freedom and free speech.

Moreover, interpreting calls for boycotts as intrinsically antisemitic and as creating a “hostile environment” for pro-Zionist students is, to put it mildly, problematic. Those who denounce proposed boycotts of Israel in this manner have been notably silent on the subject of Israel’s actual blockade and boycott of Gaza—which would suggest that they are implicitly distinguishing between Israelis, against whom any boycott is unthinkable, and the Palestinians of Gaza, [18] who are relegated to the category of homines sacri, people denied any protection under the law,47 and whose sufferings under far more extreme measures than anything that has been proposed as a peaceful means of pressure upon Israel are unmentionable.

One name for this kind of thinking is racism.

A call for boycotting Israel on the grounds that four-fifths of its population are Jews would indeed be antisemitic, but to urge economic pressure as the only peaceful way of persuading the state of Israel to abandon expansionist and oppressive policies that have besmirched its reputation throughout the world—that is a matter that can be sanely debated (with, one might hope, recourse to critically-sifted evidence, rather than to smears and slanders).

The CPCCA’s origins in the ICCA conference that produced the “London Declaration” are detectable in its initial statements, from which it is clear that prior to conducting any research, receiving any submissions, or hearing any oral testimony, the coalition knew precisely what it intended to find.

In the summer of 2009, the CPCCA’s website made (and still makes) exaggerated claims, unsupported by evidence, about a supposed global resurgence of antisemitism48 and a mutation of this prejudice into dangerous new forms.49 In two of the website’s five sections, there is prominent mention of the blood libel, the disgusting accusation that Jews ritually murder Christians—though without any indication that Canadian antisemites have actually been circulating this calumny.50 In both cases, the references to the blood libel are immediately followed by complaints about Canadian campuses, where Jewish students are supposedly terrorized by being threatened, intimidated, silenced, and ridiculed.

As evidence presented in this book will show, these claims are false.51 The aim, clearly, is to stir up moral panic, and in the resulting confusion to outlaw as ‘antisemitic’ legitimate criticisms of the state of Israel’s flagrant violations of international humanitarian law.

* * * *

This aim was confirmed by the Inquiry’s dismissal of virtually all the submissions it received proposing genuinely critical, historically responsible, and evidence-based analyses of present-day antisemitism.

The Inquiry received over one hundred and fifty submissions—a significant proportion of which presented opinions and analyses that diverge sharply from the positions adopted by the CPCCA itself. In not one single case were the individuals who had submitted critical or oppositional texts chosen to give oral testimony to the Inquiry, even though they include scholars distinguished in Jewish history, sociology, and human rights law, as well as leading public intellectuals and respected human rights activists, many of whom have published extensively on issues of Canadian foreign policy, racism, and racial discrimination.

[19] The filtering out of critical or oppositional submissions made by human rights organizations or other groups was less complete: the CPCCA did hear from representatives of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, and the Canadian Council of Muslim Women52—while rejecting the more thoroughgoing criticisms offered by the seven human rights organizations represented in this book. However, the disjunction between what the CPCCA chose to attend to and what it resolutely ignored remains striking.

The CPCCA found time to hear oral testimony from Barbara Kay, a journalist who in 2006 incurred widespread complaints to the Conseil de presse du Québec for an article that allegedly incited hatred and racism against Québécois. She had denounced a Québec peace demonstration at the time of Israel’s attack on Lebanon as a “pro-terrorist rally,” calling it further evidence of the “fat streak of anti-Semitism that has marbled the intellectual discourse of Quebec throughout its history”; and she smeared “[l]eft-wing Quebec intellectuals and politicians,” including Pierre Elliott Trudeau, as having “always enjoyed flirtations with” supposed liberators from colonialist oppression like the terrorists of Quebec’s “very own home-grown Front de Libération du Québec (FLQ).”53 The Conseil upheld the complaints, judging that Kay’s article “lacked rigor in its presentation of context,” “distorted facts” in support of a biased interpretation of events, and in an “inappropriate and provocative” manner advanced “generalizations apt to perpetuate prejudice.”54

The CPCCA did not, on the other hand, give the time of day to Professor Yakov M. Rabkin of the Université de Montréal, a widely published historian who has been a consultant for NATO, the OECD, and the World Bank; who has been invited to comment on international relations, including Israel and the Middle East, both in the Canadian and international media; who has served as an expert witness for the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Parliament of Canada; and whose best-known book, Au nom de la Torah: une histoire de l’opposition juive au sionisme (2004), has been translated into eight languages.

The reason, obviously enough, is that the CPCCA’s agenda dovetails nicely with the extremist opinions of Barbara Kay, and not at all with the critical perspectives offered by Professor Rabkin.

And what of the CPCCA’s vaunted independence, its claim that “Funding will only be accepted for the inquiry and conference if it will not compromise the terms of reference and the mandate of the CPCCA,” and its promise to “voluntarily disclose all sources of funding”?55 That promise has gone by the wayside—though it has been established that Monica Kugelmass, the CPCCA’s Director and a Middle East policy advisor in Irwin Cotler’s office, is supported by the Legacy Heritage Fund, which has also helped pay for the relocation of Israeli settlers from Gaza into new settlements in the Negev, and is associated with the funding of the right-wing Zionist group StandWithUs.56


* * * *

In 1863 Paris, the capital of the Western art world, was shaken by the first stirring of what became, in 1874, a full-scale secession and revolt. The annual Salon of the Académie des Beaux-arts, at which the best-known painters of the day exhibited their work, found itself in competition with a rival Salon des refusés, which exhibited works rejected by the Academy’s jurors. These included such now-acknowledged masterpieces as Edouard Manet’s “Déjeuner sur l’herbe” and James McNeill Whistler’s “Girl in White,” as well as canvases by Camille Pissaro and Paul Cézanne. The Salon des refusés came to be recognized, by the time of its reiterations in 1874 and 1875, as the exhibition in which what Cézanne called “truth in painting”—“la vérité en peinture”57—was to be found. The official Salon continued to provide a venue for the productions of a stifling, over-varnished, and moribund orthodoxy, which soon came to be scorned as disconnected from lived realities.

The principal function of this book is to serve as another kind of Salon des refusés. With some exceptions, the witnesses who were invited to speak in the CPCCA’s oral hearings have told the Inquiry what it wanted to hear: that’s what they were chosen for. This book provides, instead, texts by human rights activists, public intellectuals and scholars who offered their knowledge and experience to the Inquiry, but were refused.

The contributors—Rima Berns-McGown, Karin Brothers, Edward C. Corrigan, Mohamed Elmasry, Yves Engler, Bruce Katz, Jason Kunin, Lynda Lemberg, Joanne Naiman, Yakov M. Rabkin, and Craig Smith—speak from firmly grounded ethical principles, and from an unswerving devotion to peace, to justice, and to universal human rights. They speak from a shared conviction that the truth must be faced and must be told; they speak from the evidence; and they speak from the heart.

So also do the human rights activists whose responses to the CPCCA’s Inquiry, reproduced here, were written on behalf of their organizations—the Canada Palestine Support Network, the Canadian Arab Federation, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, Educators for Peace and Justice, Faculty for Palestine, Independent Jewish Voices (Canada), and the Seriously Free Speech Committee.

In the first two parts of this book, these contributors, both individuals and the spokespersons for organizations, offer powerful analyses of the material evidence, the human facts, the cultural traditions, and the ethical and legal principles through which we can understand the chasm separating real from imagined antisemitism. From a range of different perspectives, they bring to light the widespread opposition within Judaism and the Jewish community to a Zionist project that has brutalized Israelis and victimized Palestinians, and warn of the ways in which Zionism both feeds upon and generates antisemitism.

In the book’s third part, I have offered some further contexts within which to understand the project of the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to [21] Combat Antisemitism. I provide, first, an outline of the shameful history of real antisemitism in Canada. The next chapter analyzes the issues involved in assessing the quantitative data on which an understanding of trends in “antisemitic incidents” must be based, and my concluding chapter explores the rhetoric by means of which deceptive imaginings of a “new antisemitism” have sought to conflate criticism of Israel with antisemitism, and discusses some recent attempts to silence critics of Israel within the academy.

This book in its entirety resists the CPCCA’s attempt to shut down democratic debate and principled discussion of an issue that is of primary interest to citizens committed to peace and to supporters of human rights worldwide.

This book provides the means by which Canadians can assess for themselves the CPCCA’s deliberations, and the claims that arise from them. The CPCCA’s final report, when it appears, can be measured by comparison with the ways in which this book’s contributors treat the same questions—offering models of humane and rigorous analysis, in solidarity with the oppressed.

In solidarity with the oppressed: isn’t that where the prophetic tradition within Judaism, together with international human rights law, insists we all should stand?




1  I have adopted the increasingly widespread practice of spelling this word without a hyphen. Some contributors to this book have preferred the hyphenated spelling “anti-Semitism,” which also appears in many of the sources from which I have quoted.

2  Section 319 criminalizes public incitement of hatred “against any identifiable group where such incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the peace” (subsection 1), and wilful promotion of hatred “against any identifiable group” (subsection 2).

3  The Canadian Human Rights Act 13.(1) defines as “a discriminatory practice” the electronic communication of “any matter that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt by reason of the fact that that person or those persons are identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.”

4  While section 319.(4) of the Criminal Code provides for the forfeiture, following a conviction under subsections 1 and 2, of “anything by means of or in relation to which the offence was committed,” section 320 permits judges, on the basis of “information on oath,” to issue warrants authorizing seizure of paper and electronic copies of “hate propaganda.”

5  Subsection 3 of section 319 specifies that no-one accused under subsection 2 can be convicted “if he establishes that the statements communicated were true,” or “ if the statements were relevant to any subject of public interest, the discussion of which was for the public benefit, and if on reasonable grounds he believed them to be true,” or “if, in good faith, he intended to point out, for the purpose of removal, matters producing or tending to produce feelings of hatred toward an identifiable group in Canada.” Subsection 3 makes no mention of subsection 1, which would imply that these defences are not available against an accusation of incitement “likely to lead to a breach of the peace.”

6  Irwin Cotler, “The Goldstone Mission—Tainted to the Core,” Jerusalem Post (16 August 2009); available online at SPME: Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, http://spme.net/cgi-bin/articles.cgi?ID=5830.

7  Kenneth Roth, “Right of Reply: Don’t Smear the Messenger,” Jerusalem Post (25 August 2009), available at Human Rights Watch, http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/08/25/right-reply-don’t-smear-messenger.

8  “Richard J. Goldstone Appointed to Lead Human Rights Council Fact-Finding Mission on Gaza Conflict,” United Nations Press Release (3 April 2009), http://www.unhchr.ch/huricane/huricane.nsf/view01/2796E2CA43CA4D94C125758D002F8D25?opendocument. Uhomoibhi was paraphrasing the mandate, which was “to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law that might have been committed at any time in the context of the military operations that were conducted in Gaza during the period from 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, whether before, during or after” (“United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict,” UN Human Rights Council (29 September 2009), http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/specialsession/9/FactFindingMission.htm.

9  “Near verbatim transcript of press conference by the President of the Human Rights Council, Martin Ihoeghian Uhomoibhi (Nigeria) and Justice Richard J. Goldstone on the announcement of the Human Rights Council fact-finding mission on the conflict in the Gaza Strip,” Geneva, 3 April 2009; available at the same URL as the press release cited in note 8 above.

10  Irwin Cotler, “The Goldstone Mission—Tainted to the Core (II),” Jerusalem Post (18 August 2009), available online at Understanding the Goldstone Report, http://www.goldstonereport.org/controversies/establishment-of-mission/232-irwin-cotler-august-18-2009-jerusalem-post-the-goldstone-mission-tainted-to-the-core-ii.

11  Avi Shlaim, Israel and Palestine (London: Verso, 2009), p. 313. See also the conclusion of the Goldstone Report that “The Gaza military operations were, according to the Israeli Government, thoroughly and extensively planned. While the Israeli Government has sought to portray its operations as essentially a response to rocket attacks in the exercise of its right to self-defence, the Mission considers the plan to have been directed, at least in part, at a different target: the people of Gaza as a whole. [….] Legal opinions and advice were given throughout the planning stages and at certain operational levels during the campaign. [….] [T]he Mission concludes that what occurred in just over three weeks at the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009 was a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability.” See “CJPME Response to Canada-Israel Committee Concerning CIC Allegations on the Goldstone Commission,” CJPME (December 2009), http://www.cjpme.org/Display/Document.aspx?DocumentID=604&SaveMode=0, pp. 1, 3-4; and Richard Goldstone et al., Human Rights in Palestine and Other Occupied Arab Territories: Report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (United Nations General Assembly, Human Rights Council, Twelfth session, Agenda item 7, 25 September 2009), paragraphs 1883, 1893 (pp. 406, 407-08).

12  “CJPME Response,” pp. 2, 4-5; Goldstone et al., Human Rights in Palestine, paragraphs 36, 449-51, 465-88, 494 (pp. 18, 113-14, 117-22); paragraph 55 (pp. 22-23).

13  Goldstone et al., Human Rights in Palestine, paragraph 276 (p. 73); see paragraphs 270-80 (pp. 72-75).

14  Roth, “Right of Reply: Don’t Smear the Messenger.” In response to Roth’s rebuke, Cotler complained that he was himself being smeared by the suggestion that he was repeating Israeli government propaganda: see Cotler, “Right of Reply: False accusations in the mirror,” Jerusalem Post (15 September 2009), http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1251804579273&pagename=Jpost%2FJPArticle%2FshowFull.

15  Alan Dershowitz, “Double Standard Watch: Goldstone report is an ad hominem attack,” Jerusalem Post (27 September 2009), http://cgis.jpost.com/Blogs/dershowtiz/entry/goldstone_report_is_an_ad; Anthony Porretto, “Alan Dershowitz Responds to Goldstone Report,” Fordham Observer (9 December 2009), http://www.fordhamobserver.com/alan-dershowitz-responds-to-goldstone-report-1.2117562. Cotler evidently approves of Dershowitz’s polemical tactics; he blurbed his book The Case Against Israel’s Enemies (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2008), as “A must read for all who care about international justice and Israel’s survival in a world of biased enemies.”

16  “Kenney says some Canadian Arab groups express hatred towards Jews,” CBC News (17 February 2009), http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2009/02/17/kenney-racism.html; cited in “CAF, Jason Kenney, and principles of government funding,” CJPME (Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East) (March 2009), http://www.cjpme.org/DisplayDocument.aspx?DocumentID=350&SaveMode=0. In a radio interview on March 7, 2009, Kenney stated that he announced his decision to de-fund CAF to the bureaucrats of the Department of Multiculturalism on his first day in office as Secretary of State for Multiculturalism (January 4, 2007); see “Minister Jason Kenney’s History with CAF,” Canadian Arab Federation (9 March 2009), http://www.caf.ca/Admin.aspxAppModule=TxAppFramework.Web.Admin&Command=EMBEDDEDFILE&DataObjectID=701&ColumnID=3581&FieldName=CONTENT&Lang=EN&RecordID=1948?.

17  Galloway’s talk, sponsored by the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War, was entitled “Resisting War from Gaza to Kandahar.” The news that Galloway would be barred entry to Canada was made public in a story leaked to the conservative British tabloid The Sun, according to which he was “declared […] ‘inadmissible’ because of his views on Afghanistan and the presence of Canadian troops there.” See George Pascoe-Watson, “Galloway is barred by Canada,” The Sun (20 March 2009]), http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/article2330692.ece. In the same interview in which Velshi used the “pee on our carpet” metaphor, he also declared that Galloway “falls afoul of numerous criteria in our immigration laws. [….] They involve everything from providing material support to terrorist groups, instigating the armed overthrow of foreign governments, engaging in subversion against democratic governments…” (“‘Infandous’ Galloway faces Canada ban,” Channel 4 News [20 March 2009], http://www.channel4.com/news/articles/politics/infandous+galloway+faces+canada+ban/3039702). In this interview and elsewhere Velshi maintained the no less improbable fiction that the action of border security officials had not been influenced by the government minister to whom they report, Jason Kenney. For an assessment of the legal issues involved, see William Cook, “Banning Galloway Mocks Canada’s Criminal Code,” MWC News (9 April 2009), http://mcwnews.net/content/view/29535/42/.

18  Tanya Talaga, “Kenney has no regrets over cutting off Arab group,” Toronto Star (19 March 2009), http://www.thestar.com/News/Ontario/article/604720; cited in “CAF, Jason Kenney, and principles of government funding.” As this CJPME fact-sheet points out, it is both unethical to make government funding dependent on agreement with government policy, and also arguably a violation of the legal precedent established by the Supreme Court of Canada in the 1959 landmark case Frank Roncarelli vs. Maurice Duplessis.

19  Raphael Ahren, “Canada minister blasts ‘dangerous’ leftist-Islamist anti-Semitism,” Haaretz.com (25 May 2009), http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1087973.html.

20  For the text of Kenney’s speech, see “Kenney Speech at Ant-Semitism [sic] conference in Jerusalem,” Soutenez Alternatives (16 December 2009), http://soutenez.alternatives.ca/node/553. The speech as delivered included the wording quoted above; see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htRrQBjDpqU.

21  Marites N. Sison, “Funding cuts threaten KAIROS,” Anglican Journal (2 December 2009), http://www.anglicanjournal.com/100/article-funding-cuts-threaten-kairos/?cHash=47a30e288f. For analysis of this funding cut, see Bahija Réghaï, “Policy and prejudice: De-funding Canadian aid projects,” Soutenez Alternatives (19 January 2010), http://soutenez.alternatives.ca/node/1297.

22  “Canada to withdraw its funding to UNRWA,” CJPME (21 January 2010), http://www.cjpme.org/DisplayDocument.aspx?DocumentID=629&SaveMode=0.

23  “Canadian MP calls for UNRWA Accountability,” B’nai Brith Canada News Release (27 June 2003), http://www.bnaibrith.ca/press/2003/pr-030627-30.html. Treasury Minister Vic Toews is reported in the Jerusalem Post as saying that $20 million (the amount given in 2009 to UNRWA) will be redirected “towards training prosecutors, judges and police and building up the Palestinian judicial sector.” Antonia Zerbisias notes that this “is in keeping with what Canada has been doing elsewhere, notably in Haiti. There, Canada has been building prisons and training police forces as opposed to the usual forms of humanitarian aid.” The aim appears to be to “help the PA [the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority] jail its political enemies”—who include, most distinctly, Hamas activists. See Zerbisias, “Canada redirects funding for UN relief agency,” Toronto Star (15 January 2010), http://www.thestar.com/living/article/750917--canada-redirects-funding-for-un-relief agency; and Bahija Réghaï, “Canadian Policy: The Jerusalem Effect,” OpEd News (26 January 2010), http://www.opednews.com/articles/1/Canadian-Policy-The-Jerus-by-Bahija-Reghai-100125-265.html.

24  John Ivison, “Funding for leftist group to be cut,” National Post (5 December 2009), http://www.nationapost.com/opinion/columnists/stry.html?id=2e5f8e01-984e-4b95-91a3-f0a50a4afee8.

25  See Elizabeth Thompson, “Group loses funding due to position on Middle East,” Toronto Sun (17 December 2009), http://www.torontosun.com/news/canada/2009/12/17/12195206-qmi.html. Ben-Gurion University political geographer David Newman notes that NGO Monitor’s reports “deal almost entirely with a critique of peace-related NGOs and especially those which focus on human rights” (“Borderline Views: Who’s monitoring the monitor?” Jerusalem Post [30 November 2009], http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1259243045210&pagename=Jpost/JPArticle/Printer). Cited repeatedly by Kenney’s office as a source, NGO Monitor has denounced Alternatives, Oxfam, Amnesty International, Médecins Sans Frontières, Medical Aid for Palestine, Save the Children, Christian Aid, World Vision Canada, and the Mennonite Central Committee of Canada as promoters of antisemitic hatred—rhetoric which Michel Lambert, co-founder and director-general of Alternatives, has in turn called “ridicule, abusive et mensongère” (“L’anguille sioniste?” Le Journal des Alternatives [13 December 2009], http://www.alternatives.ca/fra/journal-alternatives/blogues/michel-lambert/article/l-anguille-sioniste?lang=fr).

26  “Canadian gov’t denies KAIROS grant application,” NGO Monitor (8 December 2009, with updates from 21 December 2009), http://www.ngo-monitor.org/article/kairos_factsheet. The KAIROS paper includes recommendations for a program of “Morally Responsible Investment” involving the exertion of shareholder pressure on international corporations involved in Israel’s illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, as well as the promotion of Palestinian products and services—an approach very different from calling for general divestment—and it emphasizes “that KAIROS is not advocating sanctions against Israel nor a boycott of products from Israel.” See “Economic Advocacy Measures: Options for KAIROS Members for the Promotion of Peace in Palestine and Israel” KAIROS (7 January 2008), http://www.kairoscanada.org/fileadmin/fe/files/PDF/HRTrade/Pal-Isr/Paper_EconomicAdvocacyMeasures_Jan08.pdf.

27  Faced with mounting anger over his slandering of KAIROS (more than fifty news articles published on this controversy by 5 January 2010 are listed at http://kairoscanada.org/index.php?id=647), Kenney claimed that he had not accused KAIROS of antisemitism and that CIDA’s de-funding was not motivated by the views he had not expressed. See Jason Kenney, “Bev Oda cut off KAIROS funding,” Toronto Star (24 December 2009), http://www.thestar.com/comment/article/742495.

28  “Kenney Speech.”

29  “‘Anti-Israel is the new anti-Semitism’,” Jerusalem Post (16 December 2009), http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1260930878910.

30  “About Us,” CPCCA, http://www.cpcca.ca/about.htm. This is an echo of the fourteenth resolution of the London Declaration: “Parliamentarians should return to their legislature, Parliament or Assembly and establish inquiry scrutiny panels that are tasked with determining the existing nature and state of antisemitism in their countries and developing recommendations for government and civil society action…” (ICCA, http://www.antisem.org/london-declaration/).

31  “About the ICCA,” ICCA, http://www.antisem.org/about-us/.

32  Murray Dobbin, “Will Harper criminalize criticism of Israel?” Rabble.ca (19 November 2009), http://rabble.ca/columnists/2009/11/Harper-criminalize-criticism-Israel?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+rabble-news+(rabble.ca+-+News+for+the+rest+of+us)&utm_content=Bloglines; Haroon Siddiqui, “How the Harperites are eroding one of Canada’s foundational pillars,” Toronto Star (10 January 2010), http://www.thestar.com/comment/article/748414.

33  Beyond listing the Steering Committee’s members (http://www.antisem.org/steering-committee/), the ICCA gives no indication as to its leadership. However, in the CPCCA’s Schedule of Hearings published in late November 2009 (http://www.cpcca.ca/inquiry.htm), and also in the revised text of the CPCCA’s statement “About Us” published at the same time (http://www.cpcca/about.htm), Professor Cotler is identified as Chair of the ICCA.

34  Michael J. Jordan, “To Fight the ‘New Anti-Semitism,’ Jewish Groups Seek Global Strategy,” The Jewish Federations of North America (1 July 2002), http://www.jewishfederations.org/page.aspx?id=80292.

35  Ibid.

36  Ibid. Cotler published this essay, “Human Rights and the New Anti-Jewishness: Sounding the Alarm,” at the website of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute in November 2002. In that version, he backed away from directly equating the “new antisemitism” with “anti-Zionism,” “since not all critiques of Zionism are anti-Semitic” (http://christianactionforisrael.org/antiholo/alarm.html#pi).

37  “The International Commission for Combatting Anti-Semitism-ICCA—July 2002,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs (11 July 2002), http://www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/anti-semitism%20and%20the%20holocaust/documents%20and%20communiques/the%20international%20commission%20for%20combatting%20anti-s.

38  Jordan, “To Fight the ‘New Anti-Semitism’.”

39  Ibid. I have reproduced Jordan’s text exactly: he attributes the remark about “dirty work” to Foxman, but since he does not place the words in quotation marks, they may be his own paraphrase.

40  The February 2009 conference of the ICCA was funded primarily by the Rubin Foundation of London and by the UK Department of Communities and Local Government; see the welcoming speech by Sadiq Khan, MP, “The London Conference on Combating Antisemitism,” Communities and Local Government (15 February 2009), http://www.communities.gov.uk/speeches/corporate/combattingantisemitism. The announcement of the ICCA’s formation in June 2008 came from the U.K. Foreign Office, which said it would co-host the organization’s February 2009 meeting; see “Combating anti-semitism,” Foreign and Commonwealth Office (11 June 2008), http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/news/latest-news/?view=PressR&id=3764633. It seems subsequently to have been decided that funding from the Department of Communities and Local Government would make links to British foreign policy less obvious.

41  “Min. Edelstein addresses Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs (16 December 2009), http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Anti-Semitism+and+the+Holocaust/Documents+and+communiques/Min._Edelstein_addresses_GFCA_16-Dec-2009.htm. The capitalization is in Edelstein’s text.

42  Ibid.

43  ICCA, “About the ICCA.”

44  Detailed discussion of the matters alluded to in the following three paragraphs, together with supporting evidence, will be found in the concluding chapters of this book.

45  The word “sophisticated” may perhaps be intended to imply that academic critics of Israel in the UK and elsewhere are disguising their real aims by pretending to be expressing concerns about universal human rights. Whatever their protestations to the contrary, these people must ‘really’ be antisemites—whose “sophistication” appears in the skill with which they try to conceal their deep desire to lash out at Jews, or at the “collective Jew,” the state of Israel. Claims of this kind are an intrinsic part of the ideology of the “new antisemitism.”

46  Thirteen Israelis were killed, three of them non-combatants. According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, 1,417 Palestinians were killed, of whom 236 were combatants; 116 of the Palestinian non-combatants killed were women, and 313 were children or adolescents. See “Rights group names 1,417 Gaza war dead,” Washington Times (19 March 2009), http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/mar/19/rights-group-names-1417-gaza-war-dead-1/.

47  See Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998). The laws which should protect the people of Gaza, but have been made effectively inoperative by Israel and the countries which support its blockade (among them Canada, the U.S., the countries of the European Union, and Egypt), include the Fourth Geneva Convention, Article 33 (which forbids collective punishment) and Articles 47-78 (which define the responsibilities of an occupying power.

48  “The extent and severity of antisemitism is widely regarded as at its worst level since the end of the Second World War.” CPCCA, “Frequently Asked Questions,” http://www.cpcca.ca/faqs.htm.

49  “Antisemitism is being manifested in a manner which has never been dealt with before. [….] Antisemitism is an age-old phenomenon, yet it is always re-invented and manifested in different ways. For example, while accusations of blood libel are still being made against the Jewish people, instead they are being directed against the State of Israel, such that anti-Zionism is being used as a cover for antisemitism” (Ibid).

50  In December 2009, for the first time in recent memory, a direct blood libel appeared in the Canadian media. The manner in which this happened is instructive. In late November, a far-right-wing Ukrainian academic charged at a conference in Kiev that Israel had imported large numbers of Ukrainian children, murdered them, and harvested their organs. This foul accusation was noted by Israeli journalist Lily Galili, “Ukraine academic: Israel imported 25,000 kids for their organs,” Haaretz (3 December 2009), http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1132425.html. On the same day, Iran’s Press TV ran an article derived in part from Galili (although it endorses the accusation, it naively preserves her comment that the charge was made “at a pseudo-academic conference” which “also featured two professors who presented a book blaming ‘the Zionists’ [for] the Ukrainian famine of the 1930s, as well as the country’s current condition”). The Iranian article, “Ukrainian kids, new victims of Israeli ‘organ theft’,” Press TV (3 December 2009), http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=112772&sectionid=351020606, was uncritically republished by a bi-weekly Muslim community newspaper in British Columbia, alAmeen Post. On receiving a news release from B’nai Brith Canada on January 7, alAmeen Post deleted the article from its website and issued a partial apology, pleading its own lack of journalistic resources. This was followed by a full apology, “Poor Planning, Lack of Judgment equals Grief and Hurt!” alAmeen Post (12 January 2010), http://alameenpost.com/articles.aspx?categoryname=community%20pulse&newsid=1741, which included a commitment never again to reproduce material from Press TV, a source now recognized as “not only controversial” but also “unreliable.”

51  A detailed analysis of the CPCCA’s claims is offered in my concluding chapter.

52  Audio recordings of their testimony, as well as links to their submissions to the CPCCA, are available at http://www.cpcca.ca/inquiry.htm.

53  Barbara Kay, “The rise of Quebecistan,” National Post (9 August 2006), http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=1052e16-36f2-4975-910d-9407471f2261&k=9192&p=2. The hallucinatory notion of Pierre Trudeau ‘flirting’ with the FLQ must result from malice rather than ignorance, since Kay has apparently lived in Québec since the early 1970s, and could hardly fail to be aware of Trudeau’s invocation of the War Measures Act in response to the two FLQ kidnappings in October 1970. Kay’s journalistic integrity has more recently been on display once again, in her attack—before troubling to read the book—on Giller Prize nominee Lisa Moore’s new novel February; see Stuart Woods, “Lisa Moore still ‘unreadably Canadian,’ Barbara Kay says,” Quill & Quire (10 September 2009), http://www.quillandquire.com/blog/index.php/2009/09/10/lisa-moore-still-unreadably-canadian-barbara-kay-says/.

54  See “Les décisions rendues par le Conseil [Numéro D2006-08009],” Conseil de presse du Québec (2 February 2007), http://www.conseildepresse.qc.ca/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogcategory&id=33&Itemid=155&lang=fr&did=1550&limitstart=14. (The phrases quoted from that judgment are in my translation.)

55  “Frequently Asked Questions,” CPCCA, http://www.cpcca.ca/faqs.htm.

56  See Dawg’s Blawg: News, Views and Analysis (13 December 2009), http://drdawgsblawg.blogspot.com/2009/12/huac-north-and-its-backers.html. One notable instance of slander by a senior figure in StandWithUs is discussed in the concluding chapter of this book.

57  The phrase, from one of Cézanne’s letters, was used by the philosopher Jacques Derrida as the title for a book, La vérité en peinture (Paris: Gallimard, 1978). 

War Against Iraq: Critical Resources

[This anthology was prepared in the period between November 2002 and early March 2003. I had been speaking out publicly against the sanctions imposed upon Iraq, the bombing of Iraq (under cover of the U.S.-led imposition of “no-fly zones”), and the open criminality of U.S.-U.K. plans for an invasion of Iraq: this collection of short excerpts emerged out of a determination to ensure that my statements rested upon careful analysis of the best available primary and critical sources. I shared early versions of it by email with colleagues in a number of universities in Canada, the U.K., and the U.S., and posted the final version under my name on the University of Guelph's server—from which it was deleted, without consultation, in late 2003. It had in the mean time been reproduced on at least one U.S. website).]


FAIR USE NOTICE: This dossier contains excerpts from copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. These materials are made available on this page, without profit, to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the information contained here for research and educational purposes; they are included here in the belief that this constitutes fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S. C § 107. Anyone wishing to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes that extend beyond fair use should obtain permission from the copyright owners.]





Preface   3

1. The principle of “universalism”   4-7

2. What is Terrorism?   7-10

3. Western War Crimes, 1991-2003
     (a) The bombing of Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War was criminal   11
(b) The use of depleted uranium munitions was criminal   11-13  
(c) Sanctions against Iraq constituted a war crime   13-18
(d) The U.S./U.K. “no-fly-zones” in Iraq constituted a war crime   18-21

4. U.S./U.K. War Crimes in the 2003 Attack on Iraq
(a) “Pre-emptive war” (i.e. unprovoked attack) is a war crime   21-24  
(b) The bombing of civilians is a war crime   24-30  
(c) U.S. use of chemical weapons would be a war crime   30-32
     (d) The responsibilities of occupying powers   32-34

5. Weapons of Mass Destruction: Did Iraq pose a threat to peace and security?
     (a) The evidence of Iraq’s disarmament   34-39
     (b) The sources of Iraq’s pre-1991 WMD program   39-40  
(c) U.S. use of weapons of mass destruction   40-42

6. Decoding U.S. and U.K. Propaganda
     (a) Key statements of the U.S. and U.K. position   42  
(b) Responses to Bush and Powell   43-45  
(c) Responses to Blair   45-48  
(d) The scandal of Blair’s plagiarized Dossier   48-49  
(e) Another British forgery: uranium from Niger   49-51  
(f) Old whoppers: murdered incubator babies (1990), 265,000 Iraqi troops massed on the Saudi border (1991), the supposed attempt to assassinate George Bush I (1993)   52-54  
(g) Newer lies: Iraq’s supposed expulsion of the UNSCOM weapons inspectors (1998)   54-56  
(h) Recent fictions: Iraqi links with al Qaeda   56  
(i) Recent fictions: the ‘threat’ of Iraq’s weaponry   56-57  
(j) Attempts to manipulate and distort the weapons inspectors’ report   57

7. Is the United States a “Rogue State”?   58-63

8. War for Oil   63-67

9. The “War on Terrorism”
     (a) Ethical ironies of the “War on Terrorism”   67-69  
(b) Consequences of the “War on Terrorism”   69-72  
(c) 9/11 as an “opportunity” for the U.S. government (and the Project for the New American Century [PNAC] Report)   72-75  
(d) Manipulations of public fear   75-77

10. The attack on Afghanistan and its consequences  
(a) Was the war legitimate?   77-78  
(b) Has the war been a “success” in U.S. terms?   78-81  
(c) What have its political and humanitarian consequences been?   81-83  
(d) War crimes committed against Taliban prisoners of war   83-85

11. War crimes in Palestine   85-92

12. Larger Contexts of the Attack on Iraq: Some Recent Studies   92-94

13. What Is To Be Done?   94-98



This dossier contains excerpts from recent readings on the subject of events which for me, as for many other people, have been a source of anguish. My goal in preparing it has been to assemble a coherently organized body of material that makes clear the relevant historical facts, that exposes the many deliberate falsehoods and distortions circulated by the American and British governments and by their allies in the corporate mass media, and that provides strong examples of sceptical, historically responsible and ethically grounded interventions in what we must recognize as a matter of life and death for hundreds of thousands of children, women and men. (My own brief contributions are printed in italics. I have in all cases indicated sources, usually in the form of internet addresses.)

Certain kinds of texts dealing with Iraq and related subjects have been excluded from this selection.

Writers who make a virtue of amoral irrationalism and loudly repeat known falsehoods are not represented here. For a minor example of the genre, see Rex Murphy, “9/11 was the smoking gun, boys,” The Globe and Mail (February 8, 2003): A19.

Writers who mistake a cowardly and unethical Realpolitik for political wisdom are not represented here. See for instance J. L. Granatstein, “Why go to war? Because we have to,” National Post (February 20, 2003): A18. This historian’s strongest reason for supporting the Bush regime’s aggressions is that “Canada shares a continent with the United States and we will pay heavily if we do not support our neighbour.

Writers whose pretence of judicious balance excludes any serious consideration of facts, ethics and international law are not represented here. This tendency is exemplified by Thomas Homer-Dixon, “War: Which way to turn?” The Globe and Mail (February 8, 2003): A17. The “balance” of this director of the University of Toronto’s Centre for the Study of Peace and Conflict is indistinguishable from hypocrisy: he is against war, but only, it seems, “for the moment. To build legitimacy for action against Iraq we must build as broad an international consensus behind war as possible.” 

My hope is that the materials I have chosen may provide a useful basis for discussion and debate. I believe it is important to move beyond feelings of private anguish and to take our demands for justice and for peace firmly into the public sphere.

Subcomandante Marcos of the Zapatistas (whose words reappear at greater length at the end of these excerpts) is right in identifying the present moment as one in which “no honest man or woman can remain silent and indifferent.”

Michael Keefer
Toronto, February 28, 2003


1. The principle of “universalism”

A refusal to judge one’s own actions by the same standards of morality or legality one applies to others is a common human failing—but one that in recent years has been especially evident in American political discourse. Americans have been taught by media pundits to think of their country as somehow standing outside the structures of socio-economic causality and political calculation that characterize the behaviour and the history of other countries. In this view, the United States is the culmination of a world-historical narrative of material progress and human liberation, and therefore an exception to the rules that condition the behaviour of other states, and a uniquely moral agent in world politics. (To be the end-point of a story is in some sense to escape from the story: the “New Jerusalem” or the “City on a Hill” is not a city like any other city, and the “Last, Best Hope of Humankind” is not a nation-state like any other nation-state.)

Whether myths of this sort legitimize a politics of egalitarian emancipation, of arrogant complacency, or of vehement reaction depends very largely on whether this “last, best hope” is represented as something still to be actualized, as already realized, or as under threat (for example, by “terror”). But “exceptionalism” in any form contradicts the principle of universalism that is the basis both of international law and of any coherent ethics.

Writings by Uri Avnery, Noam Chomsky, Harold Pinter, Edward Said, Stephen Shalom and Michael Albert, Norman Solomon, and Hans von Sponeck are excerpted in this section.


[…] human-rights violations and the breach of international treaties by the Iraqi regime in no way absolve the international community of their obligation to maintain ethical, moral and legal standards in their treatment of Iraq.

Hans von Sponeck, former UN assistant secretary-general and humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, “Iraq: International Sanctions and What Next?” Middle East Policy (October 2000), http://www.afsc.org/iraq/guide/sponeck.shtm.


While the US government accuses Iraq of having violated 16 UN resolutions, no mention is made that the main responsibility for the violation of just about all international treaties and conventions from the UN Charter to the International Covenant of economic, social and cultural rights, the Geneva and Hague Conventions and the genocide convention points to the US and British governments (see in this connection a document of UN/ECOSOC dated 21 June 2000 (GE.00-14092) in which Prof. Marc Bossuyt, presently judge in the Belgian Supreme Court and formerly chairman of the UN Human Rights Commission, gives evidence to this effect [...]).

Hans von Sponeck, “Four Questions, Four Answers” (European Colloquium, Brussels, September 25, 2002), http://www.afsc.org/iraq/guide/4questions.shtm.


Of course the real issue in the Gulf [War of 1991] so far as the U.S. was concerned was oil and strategic power, not the Bush administration’s professed principles, but what compromised intellectual discussion throughout the country, in its reiterations of the inadmissibility of land unilaterally acquired by force, was the absence of universal application of the idea. What never seemed relevant to the many American intellectuals who supported the war was that the U.S. itself had just recently invaded and for a time occupied the sovereign state of Panama. Surely if one criticized Iraq, it therefore followed that the U.S. deserved the same criticism? But no: “our” motives were higher, Saddam was a Hitler, whereas “we” were moved by largely altruistic and disinterested motives, and therefore this was a just war.

Edward Said, Representations of the Intellectual (1994; rpt. New York: Vintage, 1996), pp. 95-96.


[…] the principle of universality […] says that: whatever criteria we think justify a war on the part of one country justify as well wars by other countries in the same situation. So if the United States is justified in bombing Afghanistan for providing sanctuary to terrorists, then other countries have comparable rights. Thus, Nicaragua or Cuba, which have been victimized by terrorism planned and supported by Washington, would be justified in bombing the United States. Militarily, of course, such an action would make no sense, but in terms of justice it is no more unwarranted than the U.S. action in Afghanistan.

Stephen Shalom and Michael Albert, “Intervention in General: Part A of 45 Questions and Answers Regarding U.S. Foreign Policy,” ZNet (October 8, 2002), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=2446


[…] if you take a poll among U.S. intellectuals, support for bombing Afghanistan is just overwhelming. But how many of them think that you should bomb Washington because of the U.S. war against Nicaragua, let’s say, or Cuba […]? Now, if anyone were to suggest this, they would be considered insane. But why? I mean, if one is right, why is the other one wrong?

When you try to get someone to talk about this question, they can’t understand what your question is. They can’t comprehend that we should apply to ourselves the standards you apply to others. That is incomprehensible. There couldn’t be a moral principle more elementary. All you have to do is read George Bush's favorite philosopher [Jesus]. There’s a famous definition in the Gospels of the hypocrite, and the hypocrite is the person who refuses to apply to himself the standards he applied to others.

By that standard, the entire commentary and discussion of the so-called War on Terror is pure hypocrisy, virtually without exception.

Noam Chomsky, Power and Terror: Post-9/11 Talks and Interviews, eds. John Junkerman and Takei Masakazu (New York: Seven Stories Press, Tokyo: Little More, 2003), pp. 28-29.


America believes that the 3,000 deaths in New York are the only deaths that count, the only deaths that matter. They are American deaths. Other deaths are unreal, abstract, of no consequence.

The 3,000 deaths in Afghanistan are never referred to. The hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children dead through American and British sanctions which have deprived them of essential medicines are never referred to. The effect of depleted uranium, used by America in the Gulf War, is never referred to. [….] The 200,000 deaths in East Timor in 1975 brought about by the Indonesian government but inspired and supported by America are never referred to. The 500,000 deaths in Guatemala, Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Uruguay, Argentina and Haiti, in actions supported and subsidized by America, are never referred to. The millions of deaths in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia are no longer referred to. The desperate plight of the Palestinian people, the central factor in world unrest, is hardly referred to.

But what a misjudgment of the present and what a misreading of history this is. People do not forget. They do not forget the death of their fellows, they do not forget torture and mutilation, they do not forget injustice, they do not forget oppression, they do not forget the terrorism of mighty powers.

Harold Pinter, “The American Administration is a Bloodthirsty Wild Animal,” address on receiving an honorary degree at the University of Turin (December 11, 2002), ZNet, http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=2739.


“Don’t eat Belgian chocolate,” the Israeli consul in Florida ordered the large Jewish community there. In Israel, anti-Belgian curses reached an ear-splitting new crescendo. Miserable Belgium! Mad Belgium! Megalomaniac Belgium! And again and again: Anti-Semitic Belgium! Neo-Nazi Belgium! The Israeli ambassador was, of course, recalled from Brussels. [….]

The storm broke when a Belgian court decided that Ariel Sharon can be sued for alleged war crimes, but only after finishing his term as prime minister of Israel. Israeli army officers connected with the 1982 massacre in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps can be sued even now.

On an Israeli TV programme, the anchorman, a lawyer, put it this way. “Anti-Semitic Belgium wants to judge the officers of a second country for crimes committed in a third country, while the accused have no connection at all with Belgium, are not on Belgian territory and the whole affair does not concern Belgium. That is megalomania, really a matter for psychiatrists!”

“Strange,” I replied on the programme. “I seem to remember a case where country A kidnapped in country B the citizen of country C for committing in country D war crimes against the citizens of countries E, F and G, all this in spite of the fact the crimes were committed before country A even existed.” I meant, of course, the trial of Adolf Eichmann, to which we all agreed.

“How can you compare the two!” the other participants in the programme cried out in outraged unison. [….]

Well, it was the Jews who demanded, after World War II, that all countries put Nazi war criminals and their allies on trial. Eichmann was judged in Israel according to the Israeli “Law for bringing the Nazis and their Helpers to Justice”, which does not recognize any borders. More recently the Knesset enacted another law, enabling Israeli courts to judge perpetrators of any crime committed against Jews anywhere in the world. If so, what’s wrong with the Belgian law of “universal jurisdiction”, that allows Belgian courts to judge war criminals from all over the world?

Immanuel Kant promulgated the Categorical Imperative: “Act as if the principle by which you act were about to be turned into a universal law of nature.” [….]

The Belgian law against war crimes is a step in this direction, and I hope that many other countries will follow suit. Of course, it would be better if the International Criminal Court in The Hague would fulfil this duty, but much time will pass before it will be able to. Immense political pressures are being exerted, many limitations have been imposed, its hands and feet have been shackled. Worse, the only superpower, the United States, is openly trying to destroy it […].

Uri Avnery, “It’s OK to Eat Belgian Chocolates,” ZNet (February 23, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=22&ItemID=3107.


When the day comes that news outlets accord the life of a Palestinian child the same reverence as the life of an Israeli child, we’ll know that media coverage has moved beyond craven mediaspeak to a single standard of human rights.

Norman Solomon, “Decoding Some Top Buzzwords,” ZNet (December 13, 2002), http://zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=21&ItemID=2746.



2. What is Terrorism?

As the Oxford English Dictionary informs us, the word “terrorism” was initially used to describe “Government by intimidation as directed and carried out by the party in power in France during the Revolution of 1789-1794; the system of the ‘Terror’ (1793-4).” This meaning was subsequently generalized to the senses of “A policy intended to strike with terror those against whom it is adopted; the employment of methods of intimidation; the fact of terrorizing or condition of being terrorized” (OED, “terrorism,” 1, 2).

The term “terrorist,” accordingly, was first applied “to the Jacobins and their agents and partisans in the French Revolution,” and especially “to those connected with the Revolutionary tribunals during the ‘Reign of Terror’.” By the latter part of the nineteenth century this word had come to denote “Any one who attempts to further his views by a system of coercive intimidation”—with particular reference to tactics used by some opponents of Czarism in Russia. But from the first decade of the nineteenth century the term had also been used to identify “One who entertains, professes, or tries to awaken or spread a feeling of terror or alarm; an alarmist, a scaremonger” (OED, “terrorist,” 1.a-b, 2).

In its early uses, “terrorism” referred consistently to the practices of people who hold state power—that is, to acts of exemplary violence carried out by agents of the state, in the manner of that nineteenth-century French army officer who is said to have prepared the soldiers under his command for battle by shooting one of them in cold blood “pour encourager les autres.” In contemporary usage, in contrast, “terrorism” is most commonly applied to acts of warlike violence carried out by agencies other than a state—or other than a state of which one approves. One deliberate effect of this usage has been to criminalize movements of resistance to colonial or neocolonial violence and aggression—movements which might otherwise be recognized as legitimate risings against tyranny. The tactic is not a new one: the Nazis denounced resistance fighters in occupied Europe as terrorists, and the apartheid regime in South Africa imprisoned Nelson Mandela as a terrorist; the state of Israel now describes the Palestinian fighters who resist Israeli attacks upon refugee camps and cities in the occupied territories as terrorists.

The notion of “state terrorism” has developed as a means of talking about the easily ascertainable fact that the vast majority of acts aimed at violent coercion or intimidation of a social collectivity (on the principle of victimizing a few “pour encourager les autres”) have been carried out by state authorities.

In the late nineteenth century the word “terrorism” was also used to describe systems of religious intimidation that had been deployed in earlier centuries to repress any leanings toward doubt or rebellion, and to ensure that people were terrified into passive conformity by fear of demonic forces—witches and devils and the plagues they could supposedly unleash—and terrified as well by the devilish persecutions which awaited anyone who could be accused, as a heretic or ‘witch’, of taking the devils’ side against God and the state. (See, for example, W. E. H. Lecky’s discussion of the “engines of terrorism” in his History of the Rise and Influence of the Spirit of Rationalism in Europe [1865; rpt. New York, 1888], vol. 1, pp. 37-81.)

Concerted attempts are currently being made to convince Americans that they are under threat by similarly demonic agents—the unlocatable Osama bin Laden, said to have formed an alliance (for which there has never been a shred of evidence) with the now likewise unlocatable Saddam Hussein to assault the U.S. with Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction (the existence of which in recent years is also unsupported by any evidence [see section 5 below]). During the build-up to the U.S.-U.K. attack on Iraq many thousands of Americans were terrified by Tom Ridge, the Director of Homeland Security, into panic buying of duct tape and plastic sheeting as a protection against attack by chemical or biological weapons. These were presumably to be delivered to American cities by the Iraqi drone aircraft which Secretary of State Colin Powell was at the same time describing as an urgent threat. The drones in question turned out to have an effective range of eleven kilometers; they were powered by engines resembling those of common-garden weed-whackers, and constructed out of balsa wood and—wait for it—duct tape.

People whose skin colour or ethnic origin makes them vulnerable to suspicions of sympathy with these demonized enemies of a godly people have reason to be fearful. Since 2001, the protections against the exercise of arbitrary state power that the Constitution of the United States once provided have been systematically destroyed by the Bush regime (see section 9 [b] below). A clear regression to pre-Enlightenment conditions is evident in the provisions of the two so-called Patriot Acts for arbitrary revocation of citizenship, arbitrary imprisonment, and the removal of protections against forced self-incrimination. The U.S. government, moreover, has subjected prisoners to torture in its Guantanamo Bay prison and elsewhere, and openly acknowledges that terrorism suspects are tortured by the security forces of its client states—to which it sends suspects for that purpose.

It may be time to think of reviving Lecky’s sense of the word “terrorism”.

The excerpts in this section are from writings by John McMurtry, Russell Mokhiber, Stephen Shalom and Michael Albert, and Arundhati Roy. For further readings on the subject of terrorism, see the following:

Ahmad, Eqbal. Terrorism: Theirs and Ours. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2001.

Chomsky, Noam. Pirates and Emperors, Old and New: International Terrorism in the Real World. Toronto: Between the Lines, 2002.

----. Power and Terror: Post-9/11 Talks and Interviews. Eds. John Junkerman and Takei Masakazu. New York: Seven Stories Press; Tokyo: Little More, 2003.

Scowen, Peter. Rogue Nation: The America the Rest of the World Knows. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2003. (Chapters five and six provide an account of U.S. terrorism in Central America during the 1980s.)

Townshend, Charles. Terrorism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.


Terrorism is most frequently defined as attacks on civilians undertaken for political purposes. Terrorism is wrong if it is blowing up a small bomb in a pizza parlor or on a bus. It is wrong if it is blowing up a larger bomb in a large bus station. It is wrong if it is a plane used to take out a huge skyscraper. And it is wrong if it is a massive air force pummeling the civilian population and infrastructure of a society, or if it is sanctions denying a society the means to sustain the life of many of its citizens. Terrorism is wrong when carried out by disgruntled individuals, groups, or whole armies and governments. And it is wrong regardless of whether the motives would be worthy were the means different, or whether the motives are themselves horribly unjust, or just insane.

Stephen Shalom and Michael Albert, “9/11 & Afghanistan: Part B of 45 Questions on U.S. Foreign Policy,” ZNet (October 9, 2002), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=2447.


Mokhiber: In his book Veil, Bob Woodward reported a couple of years ago that a CIA sponsored car-bomb killed 80 innocent civilians in Beirut. You talk about terror and the war on evil. Does the war on terror and evil include U.S. sponsored terror and U.S. sponsored deaths—civilian deaths? 
Fleischer: I am not going to accept the premise of that question, we are talking about the United States acting in self-defense.  

Russell Mokhiber, “Ari & I: White House Press Briefing with Ari Fleischer, Tuesday, November 20, 2001 12:15 PM,” Common Dreams, http://www.commondreams.org/headlines01/1120-06.htm.


Setting aside the rhetoric for a moment, consider the fact that the world has not yet found an acceptable definition of what “terrorism” is. One country's terrorist is too often another’s freedom fighter. At the heart of the matter lies the world’s deep-seated ambivalence towards violence. Once violence is accepted as a legitimate political instrument, then the morality and political legitimacy of terrorists (insurgents or freedom fighters) becomes contentious, bumpy terrain. The US government itself has funded, armed, and sheltered plenty of rebels and insurgents around the world. The CIA and Pakistan’s ISI trained and armed the mujahideen who, in the 1980s, were seen as terrorists by the government in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan, while President Reagan posed with them for a group portrait and called them the moral equivalents of America's founding fathers. Today, Pakistan—America’s ally in this new war—sponsors insurgents who cross the border into Kashmir in India. Pakistan lauds them as “freedom fighters”, India calls them “terrorists”. India, for its part, denounces countries who sponsor and abet terrorism, but the Indian army has, in the past, trained separatist Tamil rebels asking for a homeland in Sri Lanka—the LTTE, responsible for countless acts of bloody terrorism. (Just as the CIA abandoned the mujahideen after they had served its purpose, India abruptly turned its back on the LTTE for a host of political reasons. It was an enraged LTTE suicide-bomber who assassinated former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991.)

Arundhati Roy, “War is Peace,” Outlook (October 18, 2001), http://www.zmag.org/roywarpeace.htm.


John McMurtry identifies, beyond the easily identifiable violence of “retail” or of state terrorism, something that he calls “the unseen terrorist pattern.” (His analysis of this pattern has been elaborated in three recent books: Unequal Freedoms: The Global Market as an Ethical System [Toronto: Garamond, 1998], The Cancer Stage of Capitalism [London: Pluto, 1999], and Value Wars: The Global Market Versus the Life Economy [London: Pluto, 2002].)

The gravest problem with corporate market fundamentalism is that it is decoupled from society’s life conditions. It is, in fact, incapable of recognizing any value to anything except corporate “value adding” which, it is assumed, should regulate all peoples and conditions of life on earth for “efficiency” and “maximum growth”. To this point, there has been no outside margin to this total doctrine’s demands, or government subservience to them.

Since the commitments of a society to safeguard the lives of its members and to ensure they are able to express themselves as human is the measure of its civilization, this global corporate program is not merely uncivilized. It is, beneath recognition, terrorist in its meaning. For if we recognize the real meaning of “terrorism”—to instill in innocent people fear for their life security to coerce their compliance to an armed faction’s demands—we see its pattern increasingly at work across world life organization. Under the financial dictates of the corporate market backed by rising extremes of armed force, citizens everywhere are subjected to a low-intensity campaign of destabilization and fear that leaves no aspect of their lives secure. [….]

The pattern cannot be plausibly denied once it is exposed. There are two major forms of attack on peoples’ means of life to coerce them to conform to global financial and corporate demands. The first is to defund societies’ non-profit social infrastructures everywhere until peoples have no choice but to privatize their management for profit. The second front of attack is more directly violent—to wage one financial and military war after another on the poorest peoples of the world to control their states and expropriate their regional resources. Both these wars on humanity are driven by a fanatic fundamentalism—to produce ever more money for those with most money, with no limit, regulation or higher goal permitted to “obstruct” these transnational money sequences.

The shape of this Beast’s ever grosser lines dwarfs the monster beheld by St. John of the Apocalypse, or the boundless greed of Duryodhana told by the Mahabharatta. We live under an increasingly global reign of terror, but our disconnection from the meaning is its triumph.

John McMurtry, “Why is there a War in Afghanistan?” Opening Address, Science for Peace Forum and Teach-In, University of Toronto, December 9, 2001, http://scienceforpeace.sa.utoronto.ca/Special_Activities/McMurtry_Page.html.



3. Western War Crimes, 1991-2003

This section is made up of excerpts from writings by Nyier Abdou and Denis Halliday, Anthony Arnove, Noam Chomsky, Reese Erlich, David Hilfiker, Pope John Paul II, John Pilger, Jeremy Scahill, Hans von Sponeck, and Mickey Z.


(a) The bombing of Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War was criminal

Certain episodes attracted western media attention at the time—such as the deliberately targeted bombing of the Amiriya air raid shelter in Baghdad on February 13, 1991, which killed some 400 civilians. But the more general criminality of the 1991 bombing stems from the fact that it was deliberately designed to destroy the life-sustaining civilian infrastructure of the country. Attacks of this kind are expressly forbidden by international law.


U.S. bombs also destroyed essential Iraqi infrastructure [which provided] for civilian needs, particularly safe water and electricity—not as an accident, but as part of an explicit strategy. “Amid mounting evidence of Iraq’s ruined infrastructure and the painful consequences for ordinary Iraqis, Pentagon officials more readily acknowledge the severe impact of the 43-day air bombardment on Iraq’s economic future and civilian population,” Barton Gellman of the Washington Post wrote a few months after the war.

“Though many details remain classified, interviews with those involved in the targeting disclose three main contrasts with the administration’s earlier portrayal of a campaign aimed solely at Iraq’s armed forces and their lines of supply and command. Some targets, especially late in the war, were bombed primarily to create postwar leverage over Iraq, not to influence the course of the conflict itself. Planners now say their intent was to destroy or damage valuable facilities that Iraq could not repair without foreign assistance…. Because of these goals, damage to civilian structures and interests, invariably described by briefers during the war as ‘collateral’ and unintended, was sometimes neither.”

Anthony Arnove, “A Decade of US War on Iraq,” Socialist Worker (December 15, 2002), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=2755.


(b) The use of depleted uranium munitions was criminal

The use of depleted uranium artillery and tank shells and aircraft munitions during the 1991 Gulf War could also be classified as a war crime. Although the havoc they wreak by causing birth defects, cancers and leukemia is deferred rather than instantaneous, these munitions can appropriately be described as weapons of mass destruction.


… more than 1 million rounds of depleted uranium (DU) shells were used by the U.S. in Iraq and Kuwait. The Pentagon uses these outrageous munitions because they can pierce tanks and other thick surfaces—but the shells leave behind a toxic disaster. “Today, nearly 12 years after the use of the super-tough weapons,” the Seattle Post-Intelligencer recently reported, “the battlefield remains a radioactive toxic wasteland.”

“Iraqi physicians say depleted uranium is responsible for a significant increase in cancer and birth defects in the region. Many researchers outside Iraq, and several U.S. veterans’ organizations agree; they also suspect depleted uranium of playing a role in Gulf War Syndrome, the still-unexplained malady that has plagued hundreds of thousands of veterans.”

Anthony Arnove, “A Decade of US War on Iraq,” Socialist Worker (December 15, 2002), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=2755.


Depleted uranium is a weapon of mass destruction. Coated on missiles, and tank shells, its explosive force spreads radiation over a wide area, especially in the desert dust.

Professor Doug Rokke, the US army physicist in charge of cleaning up depleted uranium in Kuwait, told me, “I am like most people in southern Iraq. I have 5,000 times the recommended level of radiation in my body. What we’re seeing now, respiratory problems, kidney problems, cancers are the direct result. The controversy over whether or not it’s the cause of these problems is a manufactured one. My own ill-health is a testament to that.”

John Pilger, “The Secret War: The US War Against Iraq is well under way,” The Mirror (December 20, 2002), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=2776.


One study conducted by Iraqi doctors indicated that 0.776 percent of Basra-area children were born with birth defects in 1998, compared to just 0.304 percent in 1990, before the Gulf War. Another study showed a rise in childhood cancers and other malignancies of 384.2 percent from 1990-2000. [….]

Iraqi doctors, and an increasing number of western scientists, attribute the rise in diseases and birth defects to the U.S. and British use of depleted uranium. [….] The Pentagon confirms firing 320 tons of DU ammunition during the Gulf War.

U.S. and British army veterans also suspect DU as a cause of Gulf War illnesses. Dr. Doug Rokke, now a major in the U.S. Army Reserves, was in charge of cleaning up twenty-four U.S. tanks hit by American DU shells during the Gulf War, casualties of friendly fire. He and his crew worked for three months shipping the armor back to the U.S. for special decontamination.

The exposure to DU contamination was so intense, Rokke told me, “We all got sick within seventy-two hours.” Three years later, Rokke said, a urine test showed that he had 5,000 times the permissible level of uranium in his body. A number of Gulf War veterans who worked in DU-contaminated zones have been diagnosed with the same kind of cancers as found in Basra civilians, and they also fathered children with birth defects.

Rokke, a physicist with a Ph.D. and the U.S. Army’s former DU Project Director, studied the military's internal documents and prepared materials on how to clean up DU contaminated areas. Based on his experience, he says, “The United States military leaders knew that using DU would cause health and environmental problems.”

Reese Erlich, “Depleted Uranium: America's Dirty Secret,” in Norman Solomon and Reese Erlich, Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn't Tell You (New York: Context Books, 2003), pp. 58-60.


For those unfamiliar with DU, consider this: When fired, the uranium bursts into flame and sears through steel armor. The heat of the shell causes any diesel fuel vapors in the enemy tank to explode, and the crew inside is burned alive. DU burns on contact, creating tiny aerosolized particles of radiation less than five microns in diameter, small enough to be inhaled. DU was also used by the US in Yugoslavia and Afghanistan.

In other words, the US has conducted four nuclear wars: Japan, Iraq, Yugoslavia, and Afghanistan […].

Mickey Z, “Anti War Speech,” ZNet (February 25, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=51&ItemID=3127.


(c) Sanctions against Iraq constituted a war crime

The sanctions against Iraq constituted a war crime as defined by Article 85 of the Additional Protocols I to the Geneva Conventions of 1949: they wilfully and with the full knowledge of those who impose them caused death or serious injury to the bodies or health of a civilian population.

Furthermore, Protocol 1 Additional to the Geneva Conventions (1977) outlaws the starvation of civilians as a method of warfare; according to this protocol, it is forbidden “to attack, destroy, remove, or render useless” drinking water installations and supplies, irrigation works, and materials indispensable to the production of foodstuffs for the specific purpose of denying them to the civilian population.

The sanctions also violated the following charters of international law:

1. Constitution of the World Health Organization (1946)—In this document the enjoyment of the highest standard of health is defined as a fundamental human right.

2. Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)—Among the rights defined here is the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and wellbeing of oneself and one’s family, including food, clothing, housing, medical care and necessary social services, and security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age, or other lack of livelihood.

3. Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States, adopted by the UN General Assembly (1974)—This charter forbids any state to use or encourage the use of economic, political or other measures to coerce another state to produce the subordination of the exercise of its sovereign rights, or to secure advantages of any kind.

4. UN General Assembly Resolution 44/215 (December 22, 1989)—The resolution calls upon developed countries to refrain from political coercion through economic means with the aim of changing the economic or political systems, or the domestic or foreign policies, of other countries; it reaffirms that developed countries should not threaten or apply trade and financial restrictions, blockades, embargoes and other economic sanctions incompatible with the Charter of the United Nations and in violation of multilateral or bilateral undertakings.

5. International Conference on Nutrition, World Declaration on Nutrition, FAO/WHO (1992)—This document recognizes access to nutritionally adequate and safe food as a basic human right, and affirms that food must not be used as a tool for political pressure.

Source: http://www.afsc.org/iraq/guide/intlaw.shtm.


It is striking that with such high-profile defections as that of [Denis] Halliday [former UN assistant secretary-general and chief UN relief co-ordinator for Iraq] and his successor, Hans von Sponeck, not to mention the persistent struggle of former UNSCOM inspector Scott Ritter to debunk US and British half-truths about the threat from Iraq, the sanctions regime remains in place. In Cairo last week for a conference launching the International Campaign against US Aggression on Iraq (ICAA), both Halliday and von Sponeck condemned the crippling of the Iraqi economy, the prevention of health care and soaring infant and child mortality rates in Iraq as nothing short of genocide perpetrated by the very organisation founded to protect the humanity and sovereignty of its member nations.

“Genocide” is a strong word; and one that, it could be argued, is used too freely. But Halliday does not shy away from every implication the term carries: from the institutional methodology, to the systematic execution, to the racial hatred. In his address to the conference last Wednesday, Halliday defined sanctions as “warfare” and “consistent with war crimes.” Speaking of US President George W Bush’s determination to invade Iraq, Halliday denounced the administration’s war plans as “obscene.” “It’s criminal,” he said, “and I believe it’s indictable.”

While Halliday maintains that sanctions—provided for in the UN charter—are a legitimate device to force the hand of leaderships, he is pointed about the punitive nature of sanctions in Iraq, noting that he thinks given his experience in Iraq, the United Nations “is rethinking, and hopefully will never use open-ended, comprehensive sanctions again.” But he adds that the mistakes made in applying sanctions in Iraq have been well acknowledged, justified, compounded and sustained. “The fact is, the UN Security Council has allowed these sanctions on Iraq to drag on for twelve years, and this is not happenstance; this is deliberate decision-making. That’s why I’ve determined it to be a genocide.”

Nyier Abdou and Denis Halliday, “Scylla and Charybdis: An Interview with Denis Halliday,” Al Ahram (December 30, 2002), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=2810.


When I first met Halliday, I was struck by the care with which he chose uncompromising words. “I had been instructed,” he said, “to implement a policy that satisfies the definition of genocide: a deliberate policy that has effectively killed well over a million individuals, children and adults. We all know that the regime, Saddam Hussein, is not paying the price for economic sanctions; on the contrary, he has been strengthened by them. It is the little people who are losing their children or their parents for lack of untreated water. What is clear is that the Security Council is now out of control, for its actions here undermine its own Charter and the Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Convention. History will slaughter those responsible.”

Inside the UN, Halliday broke a long collective silence. Then on February 13 this year [2000], Hans von Sponeck, who had succeeded him as humanitarian co-ordinator in Iraq, resigned. “How long,” he asked, “should the civilian population of Iraq be exposed to such punishment for something they have never done?” Two days later, Jutta Burghardt, head of the World Food Programme in Iraq, resigned, saying privately she, too, could not tolerate what was being done to the Iraqi people. [….]

Denis Halliday and I travelled to Iraq together. It was his first trip back. Washington and London make much of the influence of Iraqi propaganda when their own, unchallenged, is by far the most potent. With this in mind, I wanted an independent assessment from some of the 550 UN people, who are Iraq’s lifeline. Among them, Halliday and von Sponeck are heroes. I have reported the UN at work in many countries; I have never known such dissent and anger, directed at the manipulation of the Security Council, and the corruption of what some of them still refer to as the UN “ideal”.

John Pilger, “Squeezed to death: Half a million children have died in Iraq since UN sanctions were imposed—most enthusiastically by Britain and the US. Three UN officials have resigned in despair. Meanwhile, bombing of Iraq continues almost daily,” The Guardian (March 4, 2000), http://www.guardian.co.uk/weekend/story/0,3605,232986,00.html.


Discussions in Europe and North America with experts on international law have removed any doubt that ten years of sanctions against Iraq have resulted in serious breaches of key provisions of all relevant treaties and treaty-like instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights…. It must be remembered that there is a hierarchical relationship between articles of the U.N. Charter and the concept of subsidiarity. Principles of justice and international law (Article 1.1) and the preservation of human rights (Article 55.c) take unquestionable preference over the provisions of Chapter VII (Article 41). UNICEF reports that some 5,000 children die every month in Iraq as a direct result of sanctions, i.e., due to a policy that is no longer based on principles of international law.

Hans von Sponeck, “Iraq: International Sanctions and What Next?” Middle East Policy (October 2000), http://www.afsc.org/iraq/guide/sponeck.shtm.


Comprehensive economic sanctions against the people of Iraq are [in September 2002] entering their 13th year. The human conditions identified already in 1991 after the Gulf War as ‘apocalyptic’ have significantly worsened since then in both mental and physical terms. The amount of evidence collected by reputable international organisations about child mortality, malnutrition, re-emerging diseases, impoverishment, educational neglect and psychological disorders continues to accumulate (please see in particular recent reports by UNICEF, CARITAS, Save the Children/UK).

What the international community has seen since May 2002 when UN/SC resolution 1409 introduced so-called ‘smart sanctions’ represents, as predicted by individual members of the current UN Security Council, anything but an improvement. In addition, over $5 billion worth of humanitarian supplies remain on hold—blocked by US/UK authorities. The oil pricing confrontation created by the US/UK governments to end the ‘illegal’ surcharge issue has resulted in a major shortfall of funding for the present phase XII of the oil for food programme and seriously endangers the already fragile humanitarian exemption programme.

Hans von Sponeck, “Four Questions, Four Answers” (European Colloquium, Brussels, September 25, 2002), http://www.afsc.org/iraq/guide/4questions.shtm.


Among those now debating whether the Iraqi people should be cluster-bombed or not, incinerated or not, you are unlikely to find the names of Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, who have done the most to break through the propaganda. No one knows the potential human cost better than they. As assistant secretary general of the UN, Halliday started the oil-for-food programme in Iraq. Von Sponeck was his successor. Eminent in their field of caring for other human beings, they resigned their long UN careers, calling the embargo “genocide.”

Their last appearance in the press was in the Guardian last November [i.e. 2001], when they wrote: “The most recent report of the UN secretary general, in October 2001, says that the US and UK governments’ blocking of $4bn of humanitarian supplies is by far the greatest constraint on the implementation of the oil-for-food programme. The report says that, in contrast, the Iraqi government’s distribution of humanitarian supplies is fully satisfactory… The death of some 5-6,000 children a month is mostly due to contaminated water, lack of medicines and malnutrition. The US and UK governments’ delayed clearance of equipment and materials is responsible for this tragedy, not Baghdad.”

They are in no doubt that if Saddam Hussein saw advantage in deliberately denying his people humanitarian supplies, he would do so; but the UN, from the secretary general himself down, says that, while the regime could do more, it has not withheld supplies. Indeed, without Iraq’s own rationing and distribution system, says the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, there would have been famine. Halliday and von Sponeck point out that the US and Britain are able to fend off criticism of sanctions with unsubstantiated stories that the regime is “punishing” its own people. If these stories are true, they say, why do America and Britain further punish them by deliberately withholding humanitarian supplies, such as vaccines, painkillers and cancer diagnostic equipment? This wanton blocking of UN-approved shipments is rarely reported in the British press. The figure is now almost $5bn in humanitarian-related supplies. Once again, the UN executive director of the oil-for-food programme has broken diplomatic silence to express “grave concern at the unprecedented surge in volume of holds placed on contracts [by the US].”

John Pilger, “A compliant press is preparing the ground for an all-out attack on Iraq” (March 21, 2002), http://pilger.carlton.com/print/100275.


As we prepare [in January 1998] for a new round of bombings, we cry out in anguish over seven years of United Nations sanctions against the Iraqi people, which can only be understood as biological warfare against a civilian population. During the Gulf War, U.S.-led coalition forces deliberately targeted Iraq’s infrastructure, destroying its ability to provide food, water and sanitation to its civilian population and unleashing disease and starvation on an unimaginable scale. United Nations reports claim that over 1 million civilians have died as a direct result of the sanctions. UNICEF reports that 4,500 children are dying each month. As people of faith, we are ashamed that the actions of the UN, whose mission is to foster peace, can be so deliberately directed toward the sustained slaughter of innocent civilians.

Pope John Paul II, Address to the Vatican diplomatic corps, January 1998; quoted by Andrew Cockburn and Patrick Cockburn, Out of the Ashes: The Resurrection of Saddam Hussein (1999; rpt. New York: HarperPerennial, 2000), p. 275.


As for the moral level, if the word can even be used, it is hard to improve on the pronouncements of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Two years ago [i.e. in 1996], when asked on national TV about her reaction to reports that the sanctions she administers have killed half a million Iraqi children in five years, she responded that it is “a very hard choice,” but “we think the price is worth it.” We know well enough on what page of history those sentiments belong.

Noam Chomsky, “Chomsky Comment on Iraq Bombing,” http://www.zmag.org/forums/chomiraqb.htm.


In Iraq, a decade of harsh sanctions under US pressure has strengthened Saddam Hussein while leading to the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis—perhaps more people “than have been slain by all so-called weapons of mass destruction throughout history,” military analysts John and Karl Mueller wrote in Foreign Affairs in 1999.

Noam Chomsky, “Drain the Swamp and There Will Be No More Mosquitoes,” ZNet (September 10, 2002), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=11&ItemID=2312.


We’ve visited a number of water treatment plants that are falling apart across the country because of the effects of the [1991] war and the sanctions. Without purified drinking water, the children are dying, an under-five mortality rate 2 1/2 times higher than before the war. How can we possibly explain to ourselves not allowing parts for water treatment, money to pay for installation of new plants, and so on, when the water and sanitation disaster is the primary cause of the increased child mortality that now takes some 13% of all young children?

When asked that kind of question, apologists for US action usually respond that the problem is not the sanctions but Saddam Hussein’s misuse of humanitarian materials that would alleviate the problem if he only allowed their proper use. In 1996, the “Oil-for-Food” Program (OFFP) was initiated, which allowed Iraq to sell certain amounts of its oil. A certain percentage (about a quarter) would be kept to pay reparations to Kuwait and another percentage would pay the UN for its monitoring expenses; the rest could be used to import humanitarian goods: food, medical supplies, medications, water treatment equipment, etc. This was supposed to alleviate the humanitarian crisis, and official US policy is that it would alleviate it if Baghdad used the funds properly. Many United Nations studies have shown, however, that Iraq is in fact using the treatment appropriately. In fact, the food distribution program is considered the best that the UN has run.

The problems it seems are several. Most of the goods that can be imported under the OFFP have to go through a UN Security Council committee, which deliberates in secret and where the US (along with the other permanent members of the Security Council) has a veto. Recent research by Joy Gordon (“Cool War” in November 2002 Harper’s Magazine) cracks some of the secrecy to show that the US routinely blocks or puts on hold billions of dollars of goods that no one else (except sometimes Great Britain) objects to, on the basis either that the goods could also be used for military purposes (“dual-use goods”) or that more documentation is needed (and then procrastinating on the evaluation of the documentation). Children’s vaccines (might be used to extract biological weapons even though European biological weapons experts flatly said it was impossible), water tankers (might be used to carry chemical weapons), truck tires, milk-producing equipment, and so on have all been blocked or put on hold. Doctors here have told me that of five chemotherapeutic agents for treating cancer (that will have a finite shelf life and need to be used simultaneously to have the proper effect) three will get through and two will be delayed until the others have expired. People at water-treatment plants told us that they got new equipment to replace their plants … but then found they were missing a crucial part. And so on. If it all sounds too childish to be true, I have trouble believing it, too. Yet the stories have been consistent with UN documentation and journalistic reports in the foreign press. [….]

My friends, this is the Vietnam of this generation. What we are doing here is an unspeakable evil.

David Hilfiker, “Letter from David Hilfiker,” ZNet (December 23, 2002), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=2788.


For fuller studies of the imposition and administration of the UN sanctions against Iraq, see:

Cockburn, Andrew, and Patrick Cockburn. Out of the Ashes: The Resurrection of Saddam Hussein. 1999; rpt. New York: HarperPerennial, 2000. (See pp. 114-39.)

Gordon, Joy. “Cool War: Economic sanctions as a weapon of mass destruction,” Harper’s Magazine (November 2002), http://www.scn.org/ccpi/HarpersJoyGordonNov02.html.

Pilger, John. “Squeezed to death,” The Guardian (March 4, 2000), http://www.guardian.co.uk/weekend/story/0,3605,232986,00.html.

----. The New Rulers of the World. London: Verso, 2002. (Pilger’s wholly devastating interview with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Rubin on the subject of sanctions appears on pp. 82-90.)

Rai, Milan. War Plan Iraq: Ten Reasons Against War on Iraq. London: Verso, 2002. (See pp. 175-84.)


(d) The US/UK “no-fly zones” in Iraq constituted a war crime


… the establishment of the two no-fly-zones is based on no UN mandate and constitutes a serious breach of international law and UN resolutions which make specific mention of Iraq’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. As the UN designated Official for Security of UN staff in Iraq, I introduced air strike reports which reflected collected and verified information on damage to life and property of civilians as a result of US/UK air incursions and attacks in Iraq. In 1999 my office in Baghdad recorded 132 air strikes with 144 civilian death[s] and over 300 wounded and civilian property destroyed […]. It is a serious matter that the UN Security Council having a mandated oversight responsibility has not been able to stop this serious violation, particularly since US and UK pilots have operated in Iraqi airspace after Operation Desert Fox in December 1998 under ‘enlarged rules of engagement’. These allow them to use their firing power with fewer restrictions and consequently with more damage to civilian life and property.

Hans von Sponeck, “Four Questions, Four Answers” (European Colloquium, Brussels, September 25, 2002), http://www.afsc.org/iraq/guide/4questions.shtm.


The Bush administration asserted that firing on U.S. aircraft that had entered Iraqi airspace constituted a “material breach” of the November 8 UN Security Council resolution on Iraq. The charge was quickly, though diplomatically, rebuffed by Secretary General Kofi Annan and several foreign governments, including Security Council member China. There are no UN resolutions that prohibit Iraq from maintaining its military or taking action in defence of its territory.

Von Sponeck, a former UN assistant secretary general, scoffs at U.S. media’s and government officials’ characterization of these zones as having a basis in the UN charter or Security Council resolutions. “There is no UN mandate for the establishment of these two no-fly zones. It’s an illegal establishment of a zone for bilateral interests of the U.S. and the U.K. They always refer to resolution 688, which deals with an appeal to the Secretary General to ensure the protection of minorities in Iraq.” But despite the protests raised by von Sponeck and a handful of other UN officials, Washington continues to receive support from the UN in the form of silence.

Jeremy Scahill, “No-Fly Fiasco: U.S. bombs same Shiites enlisted to oust Saddam,” Now Magazine [Toronto] (December 12-18, 2002), 21, 23.


The American and British attack on Iraq has already begun. While the Blair government continues to claim in Parliament that “no final decision has been taken”, Royal Air Force and US fighter bombers have secretly changed tactics and escalated their “patrols” over Iraq to an all-out assault on both military and civilian targets. [….]

Under the United Nations Charter and the conventions of war and international law, the attacks amount to acts of piracy: no different, in principle, from the German Luftwaffe’s bombing in Spain in the 1930s as precursor to its invasion of Europe.

The bombing is a “secret war” that has seldom been news. Since 1991, and especially in the last four years, it has been unrelenting and is now deemed the longest Anglo-American campaign of aerial bombardment since World War Two.

The US and British governments justify it by claiming they have a UN mandate to police so-called “no-fly zones” which they declared following the Gulf War. They say these “zones”, which give them control of most of Iraq’s airspace, are legal and supported by UN Security Council Resolution 688.

This is false. There are no references to no fly zones in any Security Council resolution. To be sure about this, I asked Dr Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who was Secretary General of the United Nations in 1992 when Resolution 688 was passed. “The issue of no fly zones was not raised and therefore not debated: not a word,” he said. “They offer no legitimacy to countries sending their aircraft to attack Iraq.”

In 1999, Tony Blair claimed the no fly zones allowed the US and Britain to perform “a vital humanitarian task” in protecting the Kurds in the north of Iraq and the ethnic Marsh Arabs in the south. In fact, British and American aircraft have actually provided cover for neighbouring Turkey’s repeated invasions of northern, Kurdish Iraq.

A long-running insurrection by Turkey’s Kurdish population is regarded by Washington as a threat to the “stability” of Turkey’s “democracy” that is a front for its military which is among the world’s worst violators of human rights. Hundreds of thousands of Turkish Kurds have been displaced and an estimated 30,000 killed. Turkey, unlike Iraq, is “our friend”.

In 1995 and 1997, as many as 50,000 Turkish troops, backed by tanks and fighter aircraft, occupied what the West called “Kurdish safe havens”. They terrorised Kurdish villages and murdered civilians. In December 2000, they were back, committing the atrocities that the Turkish military commits with impunity against its own Kurdish population.

For joining the US “coalition” against Iraq, the Turkish regime is to be rewarded with a bribe worth $6 billion. Turkey’s invasions are rarely reported in Britain. So great is the collusion of the Blair government that, virtually unknown to Parliament and the British public, the RAF and the Americans have, from time to time, deliberately suspended their “humanitarian” patrols to allow the Turks to get on with killing Kurds in Iraq.

In March last year [2001], RAF pilots patrolling the “no fly zone” in Kurdish Iraq publicly protested for the first time about their enforced complicity in the Turkish campaign. The pilots complained that they were frequently ordered to return to their base in Turkey to allow the Turkish air force to bomb the very people they were meant to be “protecting”.

Speaking on a non-attributable basis to Dr Eric Herring, a senior lecturer in politics at Bristol University and a specialist on Iraqi sanctions, the pilots said whenever the Turks wanted to attack the Kurds in Iraq, RAF patrols were recalled to base and ground crews were told to switch off their radar—so that the Turks’ targets would not be visible. One British pilot reported seeing the devastation in Kurdish villages caused by the attacks once he had resumed his patrol.

American pilots, who fly in tandem with the British, are also ordered to turn their planes around and turn back to Turkey to allow the Turks to devastate the Kurdish “safe havens”.

“You’d see Turkish F-14s and F-16s inbound, loaded to the gills with munitions,” one pilot told the Washington Post. “Then they’d come out half an hour later with their munitions expended.” When the Americans returned to Iraqi air space, he said, they would see “burning villages, lots of smoke and fire”.

The Turks do no more than American and British aircraft in their humanitarian guise. The sheer scale of the Anglo-American bombing is astonishing, with Britain a very junior partner. During the 18 months to January 1999 (the last time I was able to confirm official US figures) American aircraft flew 36,000 sorties over Iraq, including 24,000 combat missions.

The term “combat” is highly deceptive. Iraq has virtually no air force and no modern air defences. Thus, “combat” means dropping bombs or firing missiles at infrastructure that has been laid to waste by a 12-year-old embargo.

The Wall Street Journal, the authentic voice of the American establishment, described this eloquently when it reported that the US faced “a genuine dilemma” in Iraq. After eight years of enforcing a no fly zone in northern (and southern) Iraq, few targets remain. “We’re down to the last outhouse,” one US official protested.

John Pilger, “The Secret War: The US War Against Iraq is well under way,” The Mirror (December 20, 2002), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=2776.


See also the articles listed under “No-Fly Zones” at http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/iraq/flyindex.htm.



4. U.S./U.K. War Crimes in the 2003 Attack on Iraq

This section contains excerpts from texts by Michael Byers, writers of the Canadian Press news agency, Christine Delphy, Robert Fisk, Dinah Po Kempner, Stephen Kerr, Adrian Kuzminski, Michele Landsberg, Michael Mandel and Gail Davidson, Rahul Mahajan, Grant McCool, John Pilger, Barbara Stocking, and Mickey Z.


(a) “Pre-emptive war” (i.e. unprovoked attack) is a war crime


What prohibits military force is international law. The Charter of the United Nations allows war only where it fits within the narrow confines of the right of self-defence or where it is explicitly and validly authorized by the Security Council after all peaceful alternatives have been exhausted. That’s because the Charter regards war as a “scourge” and its main purpose was to ban it where it was not absolutely necessary and demonstrated as such to the lawfully constituted assembly of states, namely the Security Council.

Without an explicit authorization from the Security Council, the mere violation of a resolution is not enough to entitle any state or states to use military force to enforce it. Israel has been in violation of numerous Security Council resolutions for thirty-five years, but none of them explicitly authorize the use of force. Are our governments saying that any state has the right to attack Israel to enforce compliance with these resolutions?

Why try to distort the plain meaning of Resolution 1441?

Is it because without real Security Council authority, and lacking any claim of self-defence beyond the delusional, a US war on Iraq would constitute what the Nuremberg tribunal called the “supreme international crime,” the crime against peace? In fact, without valid Security Council authority, Canada’s very participation in this war would make Prime Minister Chrétien and his colleagues personally guilty of murder and other crimes against humanity. [….]

Intentional killing without lawful justification or excuse is murder. When it’s premeditated, it’s first-degree murder. International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War calculates that war against Iraq will result in the death of a minimum of 50,000 Iraqis, most of whom will be civilians. There are an awful lot of people serving life sentences in Canadian prisons for the murder of just one person. The law doesn’t care if the victim is a Canadian or an Iraqi, and it doesn’t care if the criminal is a Prime Minister or a pauper.

By letter to the Prime Minister dated January 23, Lawyers Against the War put the government of Canada on notice that we will “pursue prosecution of all responsible government officials on all appropriate charges, including murder and crimes against humanity, in both the Canadian and international criminal courts.” British and American lawyers made similar declarations to their governments. We mean it.

Michael Mandel and Gail Davidson, “Resolution 1441 and the Security Council,” ZNet (February 6, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=21&ItemID=2978.


In 1946 the judges at Nuremberg who tried the Nazi leaders for war crimes left no doubt about what they regarded as the gravest crimes against humanity.

The most serious was unprovoked invasion of a sovereign state that offered no threat to one’s homeland. Then there was the murder of civilians, for which responsibility rested with the “highest authority”.

Blair is about to commit both these crimes, for which he is being denied even the flimsiest of United Nations cover now that the weapons inspectors have found, as one put it, “zilch”.

Like those in the dock at Nuremberg, he has no democratic cover. Using the archaic “royal prerogative” he did not consult parliament or the people when he dispatched 35,000 troops and ships and aircraft to the Gulf; he consulted a foreign power, the Washington regime.

Unelected in 2000, the Washington regime of George W Bush is now totalitarian, captured by a clique whose fanaticism and ambitions of “endless war” and “full spectrum dominance” are a matter of record. All the world knows their names: Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice, Wolfowitz, Cheney and Perle, and Powell, the false liberal. Bush’s State of the Union speech last night was reminiscent of that other great moment in 1938 when Hitler called his generals together and told them: “I must have war.” He then had it. To call Blair a mere “poodle” is to allow him distance from the killing of innocent Iraqi men, women and children for which he will share responsibility.

He is the embodiment of the most dangerous appeasement humanity has known since the 1930s. The current American elite is the Third Reich of our times, although this distinction ought not to let us forget that they have merely accelerated more than half a century of unrelenting American state terrorism: from the atomic bombs dropped cynically on Japan as a signal of their new power to the dozens of countries invaded, directly or by proxy, to destroy democracy wherever it collided with American “interests”, such as a voracious appetite for the world’s resources, like oil.

John Pilger, “Blair is a Coward,” The Daily Mirror (February 2, 2003).


Clearly a state subject to armed attack from another state (or a non-state group) has the right to fight back. This basic right is enshrined in Article 51 of the U.N. Charter. The problem for international lawyers here lies in determining whether there has been an armed attack and whether the response to that armed attack is necessary and proportionate. A further difficulty associated with self-defence concerns the availability of a right to anticipatory self-defence.

This so-called right comes in two versions. In the first, more limited and more plausible, version a state can use force to defend itself from an imminent armed attack by another entity. In other words, there is no need for a state to wait for an attack before attacking its opponent.

The second version, now termed the Bush Doctrine, seems to envisage an expanded version of this right whereby states can use force to prevent future, possible but by no means imminent armed attacks from potential enemies. This is the doctrine that would be used to justify a use of force by the United States against Iraq in the absence of a Security Council Resolution. Such a doctrine would be highly controversial among international lawyers. It would also, if universally available, represent a serious threat to international order.

“Lawyers Grapple with Attack on Iraq,” AlterNet (January 31, 2003), http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/iraq/attack/law/2003/0131lawyergrap.htm.


In a fundamental change of policy, the Bush administration has embraced the doctrine of preemptive war, including the first strike use of nuclear weapons, and is now applying it to Iraq. Speaking in Davos, Switzerland, on 26 January 2003, US Secretary of State, Colin L. Powell, said: “We continue to reserve our sovereign right to take military action against Iraq alone or in a coalition of the willing…”

There is no such unqualified sovereign right. On the contrary, as a member state of the United Nations, the US is obliged by law to pursue peaceful means in international relations, as stated in the UN Charter, Chapter 1, Article 2:

“All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered; and, all Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state […].”

The UN Charter does recognize the use of unilateral military force by a member state, but only for purposes of self defense and only when an “armed attack” has occurred against that state, as stated in Chapter 7, Article 51 of the UN Charter:

“Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.”

Iraq has not been shown to have carried out “an armed attack” on the United States. No evidence has been offered that assigns any responsibility to Iraq for the attacks on the United States made on 11 September 2001, or any other attacks. Iraq has not been shown to be a credible threat to the US.

Possession of weapons of mass destruction by Iraq, weapons already widely distributed among many countries, does not constitute an “armed attack” on anyone; nor does it justify unilateral US military action. If such weapons are a threat to its neighbours or anyone else, including the US, this is a matter for UN action, not unilateral American military action outside the UN.

Adrian Kuzminski, “US Prepared to Violate International Law,” Coastal Convergence Society (February 1, 2003), http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/iraq/attack/law/2003/0201powell.htm.


Iraq is threatening no country with aggression and its violations of Security Council resolutions, while clear, are technical, mostly a matter of providing complete documentation about weapons that may or may not exist, and for the use of which there are no apparent plans. [….]

[…] Iraq has been under illegal attack for the past decade, with numerous bombings including the Desert Fox campaign, even as it was called on to start obeying international law.

The United States also took numerous illegal or questionably legal steps to subvert the legal regime of “containment”—passing the “Iraq Liberation Act” in October 1998, which provided $97 million for groups trying to overthrow the Iraqi government, a clear violation of Iraqi sovereignty and a violation of international law; stating that only with regime change would the sanctions be lifted, in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 687; and using weapons inspections to commit espionage, the information from which was then used in targeting decisions during Desert Fox. [….]

[…] the war the United States is planning on Iraq is an act of premeditated aggression. [….] First, in August [2002], Defense Secretary Rumsfeld ordered that the list of bombing targets be extended far beyond any goal of enforcing the no-fly zones to include command-and-control centers and in general to go beyond simple reaction to threats […]. By December 2002, the shift could be noted in a 300% increase in ordnance dropped per threat detected—a clear sign that simply defending the overflights was no longer the primary aim of the bombings. According to the Guardian, “Whitehall officials have admitted privately that the ‘no-fly’ patrols, conducted by RAF and US aircraft from bases in Kuwait, are designed to weaken Iraq’s air defense systems and have nothing to do with their stated original purpose.”

Weakening air defense and command-and-control are the standard first steps in all U.S. wars since 1991, so the first salvoes in the war were being fired even as inspections continued. In the first two months of this year, bombings occurred almost every other day. [….]

The war was being seriously planned from at least the spring of 2002, but in the summer there was a serious internal debate in the military between a so-called “Afghan option” with 50-75,000 troops and heavy reliance on air power and Iraqi opposition forces and the eventual plan, “Desert Storm lite,” with 200-250,000 troops and a full-scale invasion.

The decision was made in late August, but the more involved plan […] required at least a six-month deployment. Ever since then, the timetable has not been one of diplomacy, U.N. resolutions, and weapons inspections, but rather one of deployment, strong-arming of regional allies needed as stageing areas for the invasion, and, quite likely, replenishment of stocks of precision weapons depleted in the war on Afghanistan. [….]

In fact, the U.S. war on Iraq is itself the most fundamental violation of international law. In the language coined at the Nuremberg trials, it is a crime against peace. Former Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, chief U.S. prosecutor at the first Nuremberg trial, called waging aggressive war “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

It surely is unprecedented in world history that a country is under escalating attack; told repeatedly that it will be subjected to a full-scale war; required to disarm itself before that war; and then castigated by the “international community” for significant but partial compliance.

Rahul Mahajan, “UN Resolution or not, this war is illegal,” ZNet (March 14, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=3237.


(b) The bombing of civilians is a war crime


“If war is forced upon us, we will fight in a just cause and by just means sparing, in every way we can, the innocent.” –George W. Bush, in his State of the Union Address, January 28, 2003

The Pentagon recently revealed its plan for the first day of the inevitable saturation bombing of Iraq. Baghdad, in particular. On “Air Strikes Day” (or “A Day”) the US and Britain will launch 300 to 400 cruise missiles into Iraq. “That’s more missiles than were launched during the entire 40-day Persian Gulf war of 1991,” says James Ridgeway in the Village Voice.

The following day, another 400 missiles will be launched. “The sheer size of this has never been contemplated before,” one Pentagon strategist told CBS News. “There will not be a safe place in Baghdad.” In warspeak, this plan is called “shock and awe.” The idea is to crush the enemy’s will to fight. According to military strategist Harlan Ullman, the planned attack will be “rather like the nuclear weapons at Hiroshima.” Air Strikes Day will “take the city down,” wipe out the water and power supplies in Baghdad, and leave the Iraqis “physically, emotionally, and psychologically exhausted.”

“What Bush proposes,” says Ridgeway, “is not collateral damage, but a level of civilian destruction not seen since the Second World War, with tens of thousands of intended civilian casualties.”

Mickey Z, “From Dresden to Baghdad: 58 Years of “Shock and Awe,” ZNet (February 8, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=3003.


Last week the Pentagon in Washington announced matter of factly that it intended to shatter Iraq “physically, emotionally and psychologically” by raining down on its people 800 cruise missiles in two days.

This will be more than twice the number of missiles launched during the entire 40 days of the 1991 Gulf War.

A military strategist named Harlan Ullman told American television: “There will not be a safe place in Baghdad. The sheer size of this has never been seen before, never been contemplated before.”

The strategy is known as Shock and Awe and Ullman is apparently its proud inventor. He said: “You have this simultaneous effect, rather like the nuclear weapons at Hiroshima, not taking days or weeks but minutes.” What will his “Hiroshima effect” actually do to a population of whom almost half are children under the age of 14?

The answer is to be found in a “confidential” UN document, based on World Health Organisation estimates, which says that “as many as 500,000 people would require treatment as a result of direct and indirect injuries”. A Bush-Blair attack will destroy “a functioning primary health care system” and deny clean water to 39 per cent of the population. There is “likely [to be] an outbreak of diseases in epidemic or pandemic proportions”.

John Pilger, “Blair is a Coward.” The Daily Mirror (February 2, 2003).


The children of Iraq are haunted by the fear of not getting to grow up, of burning to death, of crying for their dead mama amidst the rubble of their home, according to a report by the International Study Team. [….]

The children may not know that the hawks and militarists in the United States are bandying about the theories of “shock and awe,” the idea being that they will pound Baghdad with 800 cruise missiles in the first two days of the war, one every four minutes, so that Iraq buckles to its knees in total devastation, presumably shocked and overawed. But the children know that they are helpless against the thundering onslaught.

Some of the youngest pre-schoolers cling, heartbreakingly, to magical comforts: one is sure that she is protected when her sister holds a blanket over their heads.

The International Study Team is a group of eminent researchers, academics and practitioners who first documented the humanitarian impacts of the Gulf War in 1991. The team just completed another tour of inspection in Iraq at the end of January and has issued Our Common Responsibility, The Impact of a New War On Iraqi Children. The report is available from War Child Canada (416-971-7474) or at www.warchild.ca.

The team interviewed children in their homes and schools, and were struck to discover that parents “have found no good way to inform or comfort their children…”

What is there to say, after all? The children are consumed by fear, and even their own parents cannot protect them from the coming firestorm. [….]

I’d be astounded if the Americans drew back from the brink, no matter how events unfold. But Canada does not have to follow them into what will amount to a bloody slaughter. Perhaps the most powerful moral lesson you can ever teach your children is to put your feet on the street today, and in the weeks to come, to say no to war.

Michele Landsberg,, “Children of Iraq live in terror of U.S. onslaught,” Toronto Star (February 15, 2003): K1.


Oxfam has 60 years experience of working in conflict. We know the impact that military action has on civilians. In some cases, as in Rwanda, military action is necessary to save lives and is justified. But, on the basis of our experience and the current evidence, we cannot see how a military strike on Iraq can be justified, nor indeed how such an attack could be waged without violating international humanitarian law. [….]

A recent visit to Iraq by aid agency experts, including an Oxfam specialist, confirmed that the water and sanitation system is on the verge of collapse. [….]

Any military action that damages power supplies will inevitably destroy the already fragile water and sanitation system. Inevitably, disease will sweep through the population. Any attack that affects roads, ports or railways will lead to the collapse of the system of food distribution upon which the bulk of Iraq’s population depends.

Article 54 of Additional Protocol 1 of the Geneva convention prohibits attacks upon “objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population.” In Iraq, this must be taken to include ports, roads, railways and power lines. The convention states that “in no event shall actions against these objects be taken which might be expected to leave the civilian population with such inadequate food or water as to cause its starvation or force its movement.”

Barbara Stocking, Director of Oxfam, “Iraqis’ Suffering Can Be Made Worse,” International Herald Tribune (December 27, 2002), http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/iraq/attack/law/2002/1227oxfam.htm.


International humanitarian law, the jus in bello, concerns the way wars may be fought. It is distinct from the law governing when wars may be fought (the jus ad bellum of self-defence and the UN Charter). [….] Today, the rules of international humanitarian law are found in the 1907 Hague Conventions, the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their two Additional Protocols of 1977, as well as in a parallel body of unwritten customary international law that binds all countries, including those that have not ratified the Conventions and Protocols. A central principle prohibits the direct targeting of civilians, as well as attacks on military targets that could be expected to cause civilian suffering disproportionate to the specific military goals to be achieved. [….]

After decades of massive defence spending, the US is today assured of victory in any war it chooses to fight. High-tech weaponry has reduced the dangers to US personnel, making it easier to sell war to domestic constituencies. As a result, some US politicians have begun to think of war, not as the high-risk recourse of last resort, but as an attractive foreign policy option in times of domestic scandal or economic decline. This change in thinking has already led to a more cavalier approach to the jus ad bellum, as exemplified by the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive self-defence. It is beginning to have a similar effect with regard to the jus in bello. When war is seen as an ordinary tool of foreign policy—‘politics by other means’—political and financial considerations impinge on the balance between military necessity and humanitarian concerns. [….]

In Washington, it has become accepted wisdom that future opponents are themselves unlikely to abide by international humanitarian law. [….] If your enemy is going to cheat, why bother playing by the rules?

Michael Byers, “The Laws of War, US-Style,” London Review of Books, vol. 25, no. 4 (February 20, 2003): 9-10.


A group of U.S. law professors opposed to a possible war on Iraq warned U.S. president George W. Bush on Friday that he and senior government officials could be prosecuted for war crimes if military tactics violated international humanitarian law.

“Our primary concern … is the large number of civilian casualties that may result should U.S. and coalition forces fail to comply with international humanitarian law in using force against Iraq,” the group, led by the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, said in a letter to Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

The group cited the particular need for U.S. and coalition forces to abide by humanitarian law requiring warring parties to distinguish between military and civilian areas, use only the level of force that is militarily necessary and to use weaponry that is proportionate to what is being targeted.

The letter, which had more than 100 signatories, said the rules had been broken in other recent wars. It said air strikes on populated cities, carpet bombing and the use of fuel-air explosives were examples of inappropriate military action taken during the 1991 Gulf War, the 1999 Kosovo campaign and the 2001 Afghan conflict that led to civilian casualties and might be used again in Iraq.

Grant McCool, “US Lawyers Warn Bush on War Crimes,” Lawyers Against the War (January 28, 2003), http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/iraq/attack/law/2003/0128uslawyers.htm.


Americans are innovators, and we have invented a new style of war. Now we want new rules as well. This is critical as war with Iraq looms and major world powers convene in closed session at Harvard University to discuss reinterpreting the Geneva Conventions and the laws of war that provide some minimal protection to noncombatants. [….]

[…] the US view [is] that it is acceptable to attack civilian morale in the form of nonmilitary targets whose destruction can undermine public support for war: turning the lights off in Belgrade or Baghdad, targeting the enemy’s industrialist supporters, destroying civilian propaganda outlets or symbols of the regime such as monuments or civilian administration. All are off-limits under international law, which limits attacks to targets that make a direct contribution to military action.

The way Americans approach the issue of civilian casualties is different as well. The law forbids attacks where the cost to civilian lives and property will be excessive in relation to the direct and concrete military advantage of achieving a particular target. Americans, and to some degree the British, wish to equate the idea of an “attack” with an entire campaign, an overall military objective, or even a political objective such as “regime change.” [….]

Why, in the end, do these rules, framed in other times for other battles, still matter? The fact that Switzerland [which bears responsibility for administering the Geneva Conventions], upon the objection of some states, refused to admit the media or civil society groups to the meeting at Harvard should raise alarm bells. [….]

It is ironic that at the moment the United States, by virtue of its military prowess, can most afford to set the highest standard in armed conflict, it is backing away from time-honored laws that impose the constraints of humanity upon slaughter.

Dinah Po Kempner (general counsel at Human Rights Watch), “America’s Dangerous New Style of War,” Boston Globe (January 29, 2003), http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/iraq/attack/law/2003/0129dangerous.htm


The wounds are vicious and deep, a rash of scarlet spots on the back and thighs or face, the shards of shrapnel from the cluster bombs buried an inch or more in the flesh. The wards of the Hillah teaching hospital are proof that something illegal—something quite outside the Geneva Conventions—occurred in the villages around the city once known as Babylon.

The wailing children, the young women with breast and leg wounds, the 10 patients upon whom doctors had to perform brain surgery to remove metal from their heads, talk of the days and nights when explosives fell “like grapes” from the sky. Cluster bombs, the doctors say—and the detritus of the air raids around the hamlets of Nadr and Djifil and Akramin and Mahawil and Mohandesin and Hail Askeri shows that they are right.

Were they American or British aircraft that showered these villages with one of the most lethal weapons of modern warfare? The 61 dead who have passed through the Hillah hospital since Saturday night cannot tell us. Nor can the survivors who, in many cases, were sitting in their homes when the white cannisters opened high above their village, spilling thousands of bomblets into the sky, exploding in the air, soaring through windows and doorways to burst indoors or bouncing off the roofs of the concrete huts to blow up later in the roadways. [….]

Some victims died at once, mostly women and children, some of whose blackened, decomposing remains lay in the tiny charnel house mortuary at the back of the Hillah hospital. The teaching college received more than 200 wounded since Saturday night—the 61 dead are only those who were brought to the hospital or who died during or after surgery, and many others are believed to have been buried in their home villages—and, of these, doctors say about 80 per cent were civilians.

Soldiers there certainly were, at least 40 if these statistics are to be believed, and amid the foul clothing of the dead outside the mortuary door I found a khaki military belt and a combat jacket. But village men can also be soldiers and both they and their wives and daughters insisted there were no military installations around their homes. True or false? Who is to know if a tank or a missile launcher was positioned in a nearby field—as they were along the highway north to Baghdad? But the Geneva Conventions demand protection for civilians even if they are intermingled with military personnel, and the use of cluster bombs in these villages—even if aimed at military targets—thus crosses the boundaries of international law.

So it was that 27-year old Asil Yamin came to receive those awful round wounds in her back. And so five-year old Zaman Abbais was hit in the legs and 48-year old Samira Abdul-Hamza in the eyes, chest and legs. Her son Haidar, a 32-year old soldier, said the containers which fell to the ground were white with some red and green sometimes painted on them. “It is like a grenade and they came into the houses,” he said. “Some stayed on the land, others exploded.”

Heartbreaking is the only word to describe 10-year old Maryam Nasr and her five-year old sister Hoda. Maryam has a patch over her right eye where a piece of bomblet embedded itself. She also had wounds to the stomach and thighs. I didn’t realise that Hoda, standing by her sister’s bed, was wounded until her mother carefully lifted the little girl’s scarf and long hair to show a deep puncture in the right side of her head, just above her ear, congealed blood sticking to her hair but the wound still gently bleeding. Their mother described how she had been inside her home and heard an explosion and found her daughters lying in their own blood near the door. The little girls alternately smiled and hid when I took their pictures. In other words, the hideously wounded would try to laugh, to show their bravery. It was a humbling experience. [….]

It is not easy to listen to Iraqi officials condemning the use of illegal weapons when the Iraqi air force has itself dropped poison gas on the Iranian army and on pro-Iranian Kurdish villages during the 1980-88 war against Iran. Outraged claims from Iraqi officials at the abuse of human rights sound like a bell with a very hollow ring. But something terrible happened around Hillah this week, something unforgivable and something contrary to international law. One hesitates, as I say, to talk about human rights in this land of torture but if the Americans and British don’t watch out, they are likely to find themselves condemned for what they have always—and rightly—accused Iraq of: war crimes.

Robert Fisk, “Wailing children, the wounded, the dead; victims of the day cluster bombs rained on Babylon,” The Independent (April 3, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=3383.


Red Cross doctors who visited southern Iraq this week saw “incredible” levels of civilian casualties including a truckload of dismembered women and children, a spokesman said Thursday from Baghdad.

Roland Huguenin, one of six International Red Cross workers in the Iraqi capital, said doctors were horrified by the casualties they found in the hospital in Hilla, about 160 kilometres south of Baghdad.

“There has been an incredible number of casualties with very, very serious wounds in the region of Hilla,” Huguenin said in an interview by satellite telephone.

“We saw that a truck was delivering dozens of totally dismembered dead bodies of women and children. It was an awful sight. It was really very difficult to believe this was happening.”

Huguenin said the dead and injured in Hilla came from the village of Nasiriyah, where there has been heavy fighting between American troops and Iraqi soldiers, and appeared to be the results of “bombs, projectiles.”

“At this stage we cannot comment on the nature of what happened exactly at that place … but it was definitely a different pattern from what we had seen in Basra or Baghdad.

“There will be investigations I am sure.”

Baghdad and Basra are coping relatively well with the flow of wounded, said Huguenin, estimating that Baghdad hospitals have been getting about 100 wounded a day.

Most of the wounded in the two large cities have suffered superficial shrapnel wounds, with only about 15 per cent requiring internal surgery, he said.

But the pattern in Hilla was completely different.

“In the case of Hilla, everybody had very serious wounds and many, many of them small kids and women. We had small toddlers of two or three years of age who had lost their legs, their arms. We have called this a horror.”

At least 400 people were taken to the Hilla hospital over a period of two days, he said—far beyond its capacity.

“Doctors worked around the clock to do as much as they could. They just had to manage, that was all.”

The city is no longer accessible, he added.

Red Cross staff are also concerned about what may be happening in other smaller centres south of Baghdad.

“We do not know what is going on in Najaf and Kabala. It has become physically impossible for us to reach out to those cities because the major road has become a zone of combat.”

Canadian Press (April 6, 2003), http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/%201049413227648_10/?%20hub=SpecialEvent3.


(c) The U.S.’s intended use of chemical weapons would be a war crime

In addition to bombing Iraqi civilians in Nasiriyah and elsewhere, the United States made it clear prior to the invasion of Iraq that it was prepared to deploy chemical weapons against the population of Baghdad. Testifying on February 5, 2003 before the House Armed Services Committee, Donald Rumsfeld was asked by Congressman Meehan whether the U.S. has plans to use so-called “non-lethal weapons” to disarm and disperse armed civilians encountered by U.S. forces during the intense street fighting in Baghdad that was promised by the Iraqi dictatorship. Stephen Kerr writes as follows about Rumsfeld's response.


A US-German NGO, the Sunshine Project, has revealed how the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate (JNLWD), working with scientists at Penn State University's Marine Corps Research facility and the US Army Edgewood Biological and Chemical Center, have been researching and developing a chemical weapon similar to that which killed 20% of those who were exposed to it at the Palace of Culture Theatre in Moscow in October 2002. A trail of declassified documents Donald Rumsfeld would rather not discuss clearly illustrates the process, and you can find some of them on the website of the Sunshine Project at www.sunshine-project.org.

Fentanyl, a powerful sedative drug, is used as a surgical anesthetic and is also known as Sublimaze, increasingly a street drug of abuse. There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that JNLWD has transformed this narcotic and others such as Ketamine (Special K) into a new “non-lethal” weapon which will “put everyone in a room to sleep, combatants, and non-combatants,” according to a JNLWD commander. Another document identifies “hungry refugees, unwilling to wait” for the distribution of emergency food, as a target for these new “non-lethal” chemical weapons.

And according to Defence Department Directive 3000.3, the “non-lethal” part of the weapon isn’t 100%.

So Congressman Meehan wanted to know if America had any plans for the hostile use of Fentanyl or other novel gases on Iraqi civilians, though he didn’t quite put it that way.

After a long pause, and the standard reminder about how Saddam Hussein “lies about every single thing he says,” Rumsfeld made a startling admission; the United States is planning for the use of gas against any Iraqis who resist the American invasion, and has already employed such illegl weapons in the War on Terror. Rumsfeld knows the law is not on his side. He admitted as much when he stated, “With respect to the use of non-lethal riot agents I regret to say that we are in a very difficult situation. There is a treaty that the United States signed [the Chemical Weapons Convention www.opcw.org]. Rumsfeld pauses, then “… let me put it this way, absent a Presidential waiver … in many instances our forces are allowed to shoot somebody and kill them, but they are not allowed to use a non-lethal riot control agent.”

No they are not allowed. The CWC outlaws the hostile use of chemistry, and in the case of “non-lethal” riot-control agents, forbids states “from using riot control agents as means of warfare.”

The laws of armed conflict are quite clear that weapons systems and the soldiers who employ them must discriminate between soldiers and civilians. Chemical weapons can’t tell the difference, which is one major reason why they're illegal. A second reason was aptly demonstrated last October by Russian Special Forces at the Palace of Culture Theatre, who summarily executed 50 Chechen hostage takers, after the sedative gas put them to sleep. US troops employed tear gas in Vietnam to similar effect.

But Donald Rumsfeld wants to remove the ban on chemical weapons, the better to police the Pax Americana. [….]

“There are times when the use of non-lethal riot agents is perfectly appropriate … when transporting dangerous people in a confined space, in an airplane for example, when there are enemy troops in a cave in Afghanistan and you know there are women and children in there with them, and they are firing out at you, and you have the task of getting at them, and you’d prefer to get at them without also getting at women and children, and non-combatants,” said Rumsfeld, hesitating several times.

This deeply cynical statement obscures the reality that it is precisely non-combatants who may not be targeted by weapons under international law. The Geneva Convention explicitly states that “The presence within the civilian population of individuals who do not come within the definition of civilians does not deprive the population of its civilian character,” thus the civilian population may not be drugged against their will with an indiscriminate chemical weapon to allow US troops to “sort the wheat from the chaff” as contemplated in US military planning papers, and admitted by Donald Rumsfeld.

Stephen Kerr, “For the President and Poison Gas: Donald Rumsfeld and Poison Gas,” ZNet (February 27, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=3148.


(d) The responsibilities of occupying powers


The Iraqi people are protected by a substantial body of law

First, the Geneva Conventions, in particular the 4th, which dates from 1951 and has since been reinforced by multiple treaties: the Protocol regarding refugee status in 1967, the conclusions of the UN High Commission on refugees, as well as the Guidelines on Internal Population Displacement approved by the AG of the UN in 1998; finally, they are covered under what is known as the humanitarian conventions of international law.

What does this body of law state? That the lives and property of civilians must be protected as far as possible. A measure of collateral damage is permissible only in the case of legitimate military action. But that action to authorise a measure of collateral damage must be legitimate. Is the intervention of the American and British military in Iraq legitimate? Kofi Annan is doubtful (Le Monde, March 13); a growing chorus of world legal authorities have declared that intervention which defies the UN charter is totally illegal. In this case, civilian deaths are simply war crimes. In all likelihood, the US will occupy Iraq. On this point, international law is very clear: as soon as the US becomes an occupying power, they become at the same time accountable for the totality of injuries suffered by civilians. Any failure to protect civilians would be a violation of the 4th Geneva Convention. Article 55 of the 4th Convention obliges the US, if they occupy Iraq, to assure the civilian population's need for food, but also to guarantee their fundamental rights to care, education, freedom of movement and settlement. Wherever the occupying power fails to respect or assure respect for these rights, it will be guilty of a serious violation of the Geneva Convention, and such a violation is considered a war crime.

As [early] as December 2002, the UN Predicted a Devastating Humanitarian crisis: 23 million civilians in danger

How does the US plan to fulfil their obligations? And what are those obligations, that is, what will be the population's needs? Without speaking of the direct effects of bombing by terrifying weapons—weapons of mass destruction which the US possesses and might yet use—the American military predicts the near-total destruction of Iraqi infrastructure. UN experts predict the destruction of communications centres (telephone), land and sea transportation, roads and ports, trucks and boats, the railways, all bridges (which will cut off east-west links), and all power plants. Oil production will be paralysed or totally stopped. Drinking water is produced by filtration plants which depend on pumping stations which in turn are dependent on the electrical network. Without electricity, 10 million and in the long term 18 million people will be deprived of drinking water. Furthermore, five million people depend on the sewage network. This system will cease to work. Consequences: epidemics of meningitis, measles, and pan-epidemics of cholera and dysentry. This scenario is already coming true in Bassorah, where the 2 million civilians are deprived of drinking water and electricity since March 22 and epidemics threaten the lives of 100,000 children. [….] Baghdad will soon be under siege: five million civilians will be hostages. The Coalition is using hunger as a weapon. For Baghdadis will have no drinking water, no lights, telephones, sanitation facilities; and what will they eat? [….] UN agencies estimate emergency needs: water and food for 5 and a half million Iraqis immediately, 10 million after six weeks, care for 2 million refugees and internally displaced people; medical supplies and chemical toilets for 5.5 million people, medical supplies for 1000,000 wounded (though estimates reach 500,000), tent shelters for for 1.5 million, reconstruction of bridges and reorganisation of trucks. But these urgent needs are insignificant in comparison with what must be done in the year following invasion: food and medication for 23 million people, care for 2 million refugees, “therapeutic food” for 3 million pregnant and nursing women and children suffering from malnutrition; water for 18 million people, emergency shelter for 3.5 million people, care for some 60,000 people now in institutions and hospitals, mine clearing materials, materials to reconstruct bridges, all sorts of vehicles, and above all, hundreds of electrical generators.

Sharing of Financial and Penal Responsibilities

It is difficult to see how [in] an apocalyptic situation such as is described by UN agencies, the rights of 23 million Iraqis will be protected, because [the protection of] their basic right to life is far from certain. The USA has marshalled 3 million individual rations—that is, one day of food for 3 million people—in terms of food aid, and ha[s] earmarked $52 million, whereas hundreds of millions of dollars will be required. They do not hide the fact that they are counting on the rest of the world to pay the bill, although most other countries have declared their opposition to destruction--a questionable division of international labour. [….]

Appeals attempting to declare this war illegal are underway in Canada and Great Britain; other countries could follow the same example. But no judicial action will happen in time to save civilian Iraqis. It is up to governments opposed to war to show the aggressors their responsibilities. The states prepared to provoke this catastrophe will be guilty, but those which allow them to do it are also from now on and already accomplices to war crimes against an entire population.

Christine Delphy, “International Law and the Humanitarian Crisis in Iraq,” ZNet (March 27, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=3332.


For further information on this issue, see the following:

International Humanitarian Law Research Initiative, “International Law: Ensuring humanitarian access in Iraq” (April 5, 2003), http://electronicIraq.net/news/564.shtml.

Mahajan, Rahul. “The New Humanitarianism: Basra as a Military Target,” ZNet (March 28, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=3345.



5. Weapons of Mass Destruction: Did Iraq pose a threat to peace and security?

This section contains excerpts from texts by writers of the Associated Press news agency, Hans Blix, Noam Chomsky, Mohamed Elbaradei, Richard Gwyn, Richard Norton-Taylor, Niko Price, Scott Ritter (with William Rivers Pitt), Hans von Sponeck, and Andreas Zumach.


(a) The evidence of Iraq’s disarmament

On September 24, 2002, a U.K. Member of Parliament, George Galloway, contacted British journalists posted in Baghdad by telephone as soon as the Blair government’s dossier on Iraq’s purported weapons of mass destruction capacity was released. They immediately asked Iraqi government officials to take them to sites named in the dossier. The Iraqis cooperated promptly, and the journalists concluded from their visits to the sites that the claims made in the U.K. government dossier were false. (It can be noted that the U.K. government dossier was kept secret until the moment of its release; neither Iraq nor anyone else outside the central agencies of the U.K. government had advance notice of its contents.)

Source: Interview of George Galloway MP on CBC Radio “As It Happens” (September 25, 2002).


Two sites, Al Dora on the outskirts of Baghdad and Al Fallujah III, were identified by the U.S. government (“A decade of Deception and Defiance,” September 12, 2002) and by the U.K. government (Dossier released on September 24, 2002) as places where biological weapons of mass destruction have been in production since the departure of UN weapons inspectors in December 1998. A study published on September 9, 2002 by the U.K. International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) makes the same claims about the Al Dora site.


My visit to these two sites (accompanied by the ARD German TV) showed conclusively that Al Dora and Al Fallujah III facilities had been destroyed…. The evidence offered by the US and UK administration as well as the IISS assessment of Iraq’s WMD status does not support in any way the contention that an imminent threat emanates from Iraq justifying a military offensive. The US government-promoted mass hysteria and the psycho war are internationally unacceptable.

Hans von Sponeck, “Four Questions, Four Answers” (European Colloquium, Brussels, September 25, 2002), http://www.afsc.org/iraq/guide/4questions.shtm.


The United States maintains that Iraq poses a threat to its security. This threat, it is argued, is so serious that a pre-emptive military strike is required to protect the US and the wider global community. The UK shares this perception.

The rest of the world, particularly Iraq’s neighbours, do not agree with this assessment. [….] None of the ‘evidence’ the US and UK have produced is accepted by the international community as hard core and unquestionable evidence that Iraq is in possession of or trying to produce ABC [i.e. atomic/biological/chemical] weapons materials.

Attempts to link acts of terrorism involving the 1993 and 2001 WTC, the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar-Es-salaam, the USS Cole in Aden, the Anthrax cases in the US and collaboration with Al Qaeda to the Government of Iraq have failed.

Hans von Sponeck, “Four Questions, Four Answers” (European Colloquium, Brussels, September 25, 2002), http://www.afsc.org/iraq/guide/4questions.shtm.


I believe the primary problem at this point is one of accounting. Iraq has destroyed 90-95% of its weapons of mass destruction. Okay. We have to remember that this missing 5-10% doesn’t necessarily constitute a threat. It doesn't even constitute a weapons program. It constitutes bits and pieces of a weapons program which in its totality doesn’t amount to much, but which is still prohibited. Likewise, just because we can’t account for it doesn’t mean Iraq retains it. There’s no evidence Iraq retains this material. That’s the quandary we’re in. We can’t give Iraq a clean bill of health, therefore we can’t close the book on their weapons of mass destruction. But simultaneously we can’t reasonably talk about Iraqi non-compliance as representing a de-facto retention of a prohibited capability worthy of war.

How do we deal with this uncertainty? There are those who say that because there are no weapons inspectors in Iraq today [i.e. August, 2002], because Iraq has shown a proclivity to acquire these weapons in the past and use these weapons against their neighbors and their own people, and because Iraq has lied to weapons inspectors in the past, we have to assume the worst. Under this rubric, a pre-emptive strike is justified.

If this were argued in a court of law, the weight of evidence would go the other way. Iraq has, in fact, demonstrated over and over a willingness to cooperate with weapons inspectors. Mitigating circumstances surround the demise of inspections and the inconclusive or incomplete nature of the mission, by which I mean Iraq’s failure to be certified as fully disarmed. Those seeking to implement these resolutions—for example, the United States—actually violated the terms of the resolutions by using their unique access to operate inside Iraq in a manner incompatible with Security Council resolutions, for example, by spying on Iraq.

William Rivers Pitt, with Scott Ritter, War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know (New York: Context Books, 2002), "An Interview with Scott Ritter," pp. 29-30.


“How should the problem of the existence and use of weapons of mass destruction in the world today be dealt with?”

They should be eliminated. The non-proliferation treaty commits countries with nuclear weapons to take steps towards eliminating them. The biological and chemical weapons treaties have the same goals. The main Security Council resolution concerning Iraq (687 [1991]) calls for eliminating weapons of mass destruction and delivery systems from the Middle East, and working towards a global ban on chemical weapons. Good advice.

Iraq is nowhere near the lead in this regard. We might recall the warning of General Lee Butler, head of Clinton’s Strategic Command in the early 90s, that “it is dangerous in the extreme that in the cauldron of animosities that we call the Middle East, one nation has armed itself, ostensibly, with stockpiles of nuclear weapons, perhaps numbering in the hundreds, and that inspires other nations to do so.” He’s talking about Israel, of course. The Israeli military authorities claim to have air and armored forces that are larger and more advanced than those of any European NATO power (Yitzhak ben Israel, Ha’aretz, 4-16-02, Hebrew). They also announce that 12% of their bombers and fighter aircraft are permanently stationed in Eastern Turkey, along with comparable naval and submarine forces in Turkish bases, and armored forces as well [...]. By now Israel is virtually an offshore US military base.

Noam Chomsky and Michael Albert, “Interview with Noam Chomsky about US Warplans,” ZNet (August 29, 2002), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=2422.


Blair’s defence of his policy towards Saddam Hussein and UN weapons inspectors seems increasingly incoherent. In his press conference last week he carefully linked the threat of terrorism with the need to disarm Iraq. There was a danger of weapons falling into the hands of terrorists. He described Iraq as the “focal point” of the problem.

Yet under questioning by MPs on Tuesday, Blair admitted that no evidence had been found of any links between al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein, something his intelligence agencies have repeatedly told him. Yet the Bush administration, encouraged by the the Israeli government, continues to promote the lie that such a link exists. [….]

Any threat posed by Iraq was put into perspective this week by the former Democrat senator, Sam Nunn. He was in London to launch a report on nuclear, chemical and biological weapons by 13 respected thinktanks led by the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies. The danger was not so much that a state would supply terrorist groups with these weapons. Terrorists, Nunn warned, are more likely to steal them or buy them on the open market.

Richard Norton-Taylor, “A blindness that puts us all in danger,” The Guardian (January 23, 2003), http://www.guardian.co.uk/terrorism/story/0,12780,880374,00.html.


Important assessments of the question of Iraq’s supposed possession of chemical, biological or (potentially) nuclear weapons include the following:

Blix, Hans. “Statement by Hans Blix to the UN Security Council,” The Guardian (January 27, 2003), http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/iraq/unmovic/2003/0127entblixrep.htm.

----, “Statement by Hans Blix to the UN Security Council (February 14, 2003),” http://www.un.org/Depts/unmovic/blix14Febasdel.htm.

----, “Statement by Hans Blix to the UN Security Council (March 7, 2003),” http://www.un.org/Depts/unmovic/SC7asdelivered.htm.

Elbaradei, Mohamed. “Statement of Mohamed Elbaradei to the UN Security Council (March 7, 2003),” http://www.iaea.org/worldatom/Press/Statements/2003/ebsp2003n006.shtml.

Khadduri, Imad. “Iraq’s nuclear non-capability,” Yellow Times (November 21, 2002), http://www.yellowtimes.org/article.php?sid=874.

Pitt, William Rivers, with Scott Ritter. War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know. New York: Context Books, 2002.

Rangwala, Glen. “Claims and evaluations of Iraq’s proscribed weapons,” http://www.traprockpeace.org/iraqweapons.html.

Hans Blix is Executive Chairman of the current UN weapons inspection team (UNMOVIC) in Iraq; Mohamed Elbaradei is Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Scott Ritter was a member of the UN weapons inspection team that was withdrawn at U.S. instigation in 1998. Imad Khadduri, who now lives in Toronto, worked with the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission from 1968 until 1998. Dr. Khadduri’s statement that Iraq’s nuclear weapons program was abandoned after the 1991 Gulf War is supported by Scott Ritter’s account of the UNSCOM inspections which ended in 1998 and by Dr. Elbaradei's conclusions regarding the current IAEA inspections in Iraq.

Dr. Glen Rangwala is an independent analyst, a lecturer in politics at the University of Cambridge. His assessment of the evidence is the most thorough available, and is regularly updated. He has analyzed in scrupulous detail all of the claims relating to Iraqi nuclear, chemical and biological warfare capacities and delivery systems made by the U.S. and U.K. governments. With one single exception— the importation of rocket engines, forbidden under the sanctions, but confessed to in Iraq’s December 2002 weapons declaration to the Security Council—he finds the claims of the American and British governments to be unsupported by the available evidence. See Glen Rangwala, “Claims and evaluations of Iraq's proscribed weapons,” http://www.traprockpeace.org/iraqweapons.html.


When I left Iraq in 1998, when the UN inspection program ended, the [nuclear weapons program] infrastructure and facilities had been 100% eliminated. There’s no debate about that. All of their instruments and facilities had been destroyed. The weapons design facilities had been destroyed. The production equipment had been hunted down and destroyed. And we had in place means to monitor—both from vehicles and from the air—the gamma rays that accompany attempts to enrich uranium or plutonium. We never found anything. We can say unequivocally that the industrial infrastructure needed by Iraq to produce nuclear weapons had been eliminated.

William Rivers Pitt, with Scott Ritter, War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know (New York: Context Books, 2002), “An Interview with Scott Ritter,” pp. 30-31.


* There is no indication of resumed nuclear activities in those buildings that were identified through the use of satellite imagery as being reconstucted or newly erected since 1998, nor any indication of nuclear-related prohibited activities at any inspected sites.

* There is no indication that Iraq has attempted to import uranium since 1990.

* There is no indication that Iraq has attempted to import aluminium tubes for use in centrifuge enrichment. Moreover, even if Iraq had pursued such a plan, it would have encountered practical difficulties in manufacturing centrifuges out of the aluminium tubes in question.

* Although we are still reviewing issues related to magnets and magnet production, there is no indication to date that Iraq has imported magnets for use in a centrifuge enrichment programme.

Mohamed Elbaradei, “Statement of Mohamed Elbaradei to the UN Security Council (March 7, 2003): The Status of Nuclear Inspections in Iraq: An Update,” http://www.iaea.org/worldatom/Press/Statements/2003/ebsp2003n006.shtml.


In his March 7, 2003 report to the UN Security Council, UNMOVIC Executive Chairman Dr. Hans Blix noted that U.S. claims that Iraq possesses mobile biological-weapons laboratories and moves weapons of mass destruction around the country in trucks appear to be incorrect. (“Food testing mobile laboratories and mobile workshops have been seen, as well as large containers with seed processing equipment. No evidence of proscribed activities have [sic] so far been found.”) Claims that weapons of mass destruction are being manufactured or concealed underground are likewise unsupported by the evidence. (“During inspections of declared or undeclared facilities, inspection teams have examined building structures for any possible underground facilities. In addition, ground penetrating radar equipment was used in several specific locations. No underground facilities for chemical or biological production or storage were found so far.”) Blix also remarked, with respect to the ongoing destruction of the short-range Al Samoud 2 missiles, that “We are not watching the breaking of toothpicks” (“Statement by Hans Blix to the UN Security Council [March 7, 2003],” http://www.un.org/Depts/unmovic/SC7asdelivered.htm).

Grasping at straws, Colin Powell and other U.S. officials claimed in the months prior to the invasion of Iraq that Iraq possessed drone aircraft capable of attacking the United States with chemical and biological weapons. But once again, the evidence proved disappointing.


A remotely piloted aircraft that the United States has warned could spread chemical weapons appears to be made of balsa wood and duct tape, with two small propellers attached to what look like the engines of a weed whacker.

Iraqi officials took journalists to the Ibn Firnas State Company just north of Baghdad yesterday, where the drone’s project director accused Colin Powell, the U.S. Secretary of State, of misleading the UN Security Council and the public.

“He’s making a big mistake,” said Brigadier-General Imad Abdul Latif. “He knows very well that this aircraft is not used for what he said.”

In Washington’s search for a “smoking gun” that would prove Iraq is not disarming, Mr. Powell has insisted the drone, which has a wingspan of 7.5 metres, could be fitted to dispense chemical and biological weapons. He has said it “should be of concern to everybody.” [….]

Brig.-Gen. Latif said the plane is controlled by the naked eye from the ground. Asked whether its range is above the 150-kilometre limit imposed by the UN, he said it couldn’t be controlled from more than 11 kilometres. Brig.-Gen. Latif said the exact range will be determined when the drone passes to the next testing stage.

Ibn Firnas’ general director, General Ibrahim Hussein, disputed assertions by Mr. Powell and Ari Fleischer, the White House Press Secretary, that the drone was capable of dispensing biological and chemical weapons. “This RPV is to be used for reconnaissance, jamming and aerial photography,” he said. “We have never thought of any other use.”

Niko Price, “Iraq says duct-taped drone was never hidden,” National Post (March 13, 2003): A15.


The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” (U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.)

It’s troubling […] that Iraq is being required to prove a negative; namely that it does not have weapons of mass destruction. This is a logical impossibility. Only after an invasion can there be absolute certainty about what actually exists, or doesn’t, in the country. At that time, if nothing were found, the Americans could say, and no doubt would, that the weapons did once exist but had been spirited away to Al Qaeda terrorists.

Richard Gwyn, “Clock starts ticking on Iraq,” Toronto Star (Dec. 22, 2002), A21.


(b) The sources of Iraq’s pre-1991 WMD programs

Glen Rangwala notes that some of the relevant evidence about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction has not been made public. It was in fact suppressed by the U.S. government—whose UN delegation appropriated the 12,000 page report which was submitted to the Security Council by Iraq in December 2002. The U.S. subsequently supplied to other members of the Council a censored text only 3,000 pages in length. The reason for this bizarre act of concealment is not far to seek. According to reports by Andreas Zumach in the Berlin newspaper DieTageszeitung on December 17 and 18, 2002, the full report contains embarrassingly detailed information about the complicity of western corporations and governments—among them 80 German corporations, 24 American corporations, and the Reagan and Bush I governments—in Iraq’s nuclear, chemical and biological warfare programs during the 1980s. It appears that the U.S. government contemplated using unreleased information about German complicity as a means of blackmailing Germany (which joined the Security Council as a rotating member at the beginning of January 2003) into compliance with the US attack on Iraq.


A long-term high-ranking member of the government in Baghdad (whose name is known to Die Tageszeitung) has signalled his readiness to the Bush administration to deliver more specific information regarding German arms cooperation with Iraq, in return for assurances of protection after a potential regime change. According to sources, the Bush administration might want to use this information to ensure that Germany […] complies with the U.S. position in the Security Council.

Andreas Zumach, Die Tageszeitung (December 17, 2002), translation from http://www.democracynow.org/Zumach2.htm. The German text of Zumach’s articles on Iraq’s weapons report to the Security Council is available at http://www.taz.de. (See also Beaumont, Rose, and Beaver, “US to punish German 'treachery',” The Observer [February 17, 2003], http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=3060.)


During the 1980s, when the United States supported Iraq in its 1980-88 war against Iran, the U.S. supplied Saddam Hussein's regime with biological weapons agents. According to an Associated Press report of October 1, 2002, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “and a biological sample company, the American Type Culture Collection, sent strains of all the germs Iraq used to make weapons, including anthrax, the bacteria that make botulinin toxin and the germs that cause gas gangrene….” See “U.S. gave germs to Iraq,” Associated Press (October 1, 2002), http://www.timesdispatch.com/news/more/MGBPGP77R6D.html.

For further evidence of the complicity of corporations and governments in Germany, the U.S., Britain and other countries in supplying the Iraqi government with weapons of mass destruction technology during the 1980s, and in providing diplomatic cover for Iraq when the regime used chemical weapons against its own Kurdish population in 1987 and 1988, see the following articles:

Gendzier, Irene. “Dying to Forget: The US and Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction,” Logos Online (March 14, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=3233.

Hiltermann, Joost R. “America Didn’t Seem to Mind Poison Gas,” International Herald Tribune (January 17, 2003), http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0117-01.htm.

Mackay, Neil Mackay. “Iraq's Arms Revealed: 17 British firms armed Saddam with his weapons,” Sunday Herald (February 25, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=3124.


(c) U.S. use of weapons of mass destruction

The United States can hardly claim to occupy the moral high ground when it comes to the question of weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. has repeatedly threatened to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear powers, among them North Korea. (For documentation of the latter threats see Noam Chomsky, Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky, eds. Peter R. Mitchell and John Schoeffel (New York: The New Press, 2002), p. 302 n. 62, available at http://www.understandingpower.com.) On several occasions between August 1990 and February 1991, the U.S. and Britain threatened to use nuclear weapons against Iraq—a threat renewed by British Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon in March 2002; see Milan Rai, War Plan Iraq: Ten Reasons Against War on Iraq (London and New York: Verso, 2002), pp. 188, 185.

The research work of two Canadian historians, Stephen Endicott and Edward Hagerman, appears to have confirmed that the U.S. deployed biological weapons during the Korean War, “bombing parts of North Korea and China with anthrax, encephalitis and other diseases in early 1952.” See Faiz Rady, “'Beyond a reasonable doubt’,” Al-Ahram Weekly (April 6-12, 2000, Issue No. 476), http://www.ahram.org.eg/weekly/2000/476/in1.htm. There is also strong evidence of U.S. use of the nerve gas sarin during the Vietnam War: see Barry Grey, “Why did CNN retract its nerve gas report? A closer look,” World Socialist Web Site (July 16, 1998), http://www.wsws.org/news/1998/july1998/cnn-j16.shtml.

A much more damaging use of chemical agents during the U.S. invasion of Vietnam is of course well known, though not commonly recognized as an instance of chemical warfare. The United States forces sprayed “Agent Orange” repeatedly over wide tracks of South Vietnam between the mid-1960s and 1973: though categorized as a “defoliant,” this substance was highly toxic to humans and animals as well as to plants. In May, 2002 Noam Chomsky commented with characteristic irony on some recent non-coverage of the subject in the U.S. media.


Just a couple of weeks ago, there was a front-page story in all the papers. Some scientists had discovered that it would be possible to construct what are called “dirty bombs”—bombs that would have a lot of radiation but not much destructive impact—and to put them in New York somewhere. They calculated the effects and they said there wouldn't be many deaths, just a small number, but maybe a lot of disease, and it would certainly cause panic. So it's a horrible story, front-page news.

The same day, there was a conference in Hanoi, in which leading U.S. scientists participated, people who had worked on dioxin, the main poisonous ingredient in Agent Orange. The conference was concerned with the effects of U.S. chemical warfare on South Vietnam, only South Vietnam. The North was spared this terror. And an American scientist at the conference tested dioxin levels in various parts of the country.

Of course, those who had been subjected to crop destruction and other uses of Agent Orange had very high levels, in fact hundreds of times as high as permissible in the United States. And there are also recent cases. Many of them are just from the last few years, children. And they tried to calculate the effects, which would be colossal, probably hundreds of thousands of victims. That news was hardly even mentioned in the [U.S.] press.

I had a friend do a database search. There were a couple of mentions here and there. So here, a report on our use of chemical weapons, which may have killed maybe hundreds of thousands of people: not a mention. A report that maybe it might be possible to do something in New York that might kill a few people: front-page news.

That’s the difference. That’s the difference in who counts and who doesn't count.

Noam Chomsky, Power and Terror: Post-9/11 Talks and Interviews (New York: Seven Stories Press, Tokyo: Little More, 2003), pp. 27-28.


In an important article, Stephen Kerr documents the evidence that large numbers of U.S. soldiers in Iraq were exposed to sarin gas and other chemical weapons on March 4, 1991, when the U.S. Army idiotically demolished the Iraqi chemical weapons depot at Kamisiyah by blowing it up in the open air. In the same article, Kerr also provides useful information about the U.S.’s own stocks of chemical weapons. See Stephen Kerr, “Where's the VX?” (January 24, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=2909.

Elsewhere Kerr has quoted at length from Donald Rumsfeld’s testimony to the House Armed Services Committee on February 5, 2003—testimony which makes clear Rumsfeld’s intention, in defiance of the Geneva Convention and the Chemical Weapons Convention, to use chemical weapons against the civilian population of Baghdad. See section 4 (c) above for an excerpt from Stephen Kerr’s article “For the President and Poison Gas: Donald Rumsfeld and Poison Gas” (February 27, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=3148.



6. Decoding U.S. and U.K. Propaganda

This section contains excerpts from texts written (or, in one case, spoken) by Prashant Bhushan, Tony Blair, George W. Bush, Sandro Contenta, George Galloway, Seymour Hersh, Media Lens, Maggie O’Kane, Scott Peterson, John Pilger, Dana Priest, Milan Rai, and Glen Rangwala.


(a) Key statements of the U.S. and U.K. position

Important recent policy statements and claims of fact by the U.S. and U.K. governments include the following, listed in the order of their publication. (The first nine of these texts are available at http://traprockpeace.org/iraqweapons.html.)

U.S. State Department. “A Decade of Deception and Defiance.” (September 12, 2002; background paper to President George W. Bush’s speech to the UN General Assembly.)

U.K. Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC). “Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Assessment of the British Government.” (September 24, 2002).

George W. Bush. “Speech at Cincinnati Museum Center, Cincinnati, Ohio.” (October 7, 2002.)

U.S. Defense Department. “Iraqi Denial and Deception for Weapons of Mass Destruction and Ballistic Missile Programs.” (October 8, 2002.)

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). “Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs.” (October, 2002.)

U.S. State Department. “Fact Sheet: Illustrative Examples of Omissions from the Iraqi Declaration to the United Nations Security Council.” (December 19, 2002.)

U.S. White House, “What Does Disarmament Look Like?” (January 23, 2003).

Colin Powell. “Remarks at the World Economic Forum.” (Davos, Switzerland, January 26, 2003.)

George W. Bush. “State of the Union Address.” (January 28, 2003.)

“Iraq—its infrastructure of concealment, deception and intimidation.” 10 Downing Street Facts (U.K. Government Dossier, January 30, 2003), http://www.number-10.gov.uk/output/Page7111.asp.

Colin Powell. “Remarks: Secretary of State Colin L. Powell to the United Nations Security Council.” (February 5, 2003), http://www.un.int/usa/03clp0205.htm.

Julian Borger. “Straw threat to bypass UN over attack on Iraq.” The Guardian (October 19, 2002), http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,815190,00.html.

Tony Blair. “The price of my conviction.” The Observer (February 16, 2003): 20.


(b) Responses to Bush and Powell

Among the many recent responses to the claims advanced by George W. Bush and Colin Powell, the following (listed according to the date of their publication) are noteworthy:

Norman Solomon and Reese Erlich. Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn't Tell You. New York: Context Books, 2003. Appendix Two: “Detailed Analysis of October 7, 2002 Speech by Bush on Iraq” (Compiled by the Institute for Public Accuracy on October 8, 2002), pp. 125-54.

Phyllis Bennis. “Powell’s Dubious Case,” ZNet (February 5, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=2976.

Robert Jensen. “Smoking Guns and Big Guns: The US Drive to War,” ZNet (February 5, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=2970.

Robert Fisk.“Powell Presentation: It was like something out of Beckett,” The Independent (February 6, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=2977.

Stephen James-Kerr. “The ‘Modified Vehicles’ Powell Forgot to Mention,” ZNet (February 6, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=2986.

Danny Schechter. “Powell Doctrine or Doctrinaire?” ZNet (February 6, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=21&ItemID=2981.

Scott Ritter. “Dismissing Powell: Story on Scott Ritter’s Reaction,” Kyodo News (February 7, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=2997.

Normon Solomon. “Colin Powell is Flawless—Inside a Media Bubble,” ZNet (February 7, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=21&ItemID=2993.

Rahul Mahajan. “Responding to Colin Powell,” ZNet (February 8, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=2980

Maria Tomchick. “Powell’s Flimsy Evidence,” ZNet (February 9, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=3009.

Mark Weisbrot. “War Games: ‘Old Europe’ Confronts Washington on Iraq,” ZNet (February 11, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=3023.

Mahir Ali. “Blessed Are the Peacemakers,” Dawn [Karachi] (February 12, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=3026.

Dennis Hans. “Lying Us Into War: Exposing Bush and His ‘Techniques of Deceit’,” Scoop Media (February 12, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=3024.

Joey Slinger. “With friends like this, do we need other reasons,” Toronto Star (February 15, 2003): A2, http://www.thestar.com.

Michele Landsberg. “U.S lies shouldn’t be leading us into battle again,” Toronto Star (February 16, 2003): A2, http://www.thestar.com.

Haroon Siddiqui. “Case for war eroded by absurd U.S. arguments,” Toronto Star (February 16, 2003): B1, http://www.thestar.com.

Robert Byrd. “We stand passively mute,” The Guardian (February 18, 2003): 17.

Hans Blix. “Statement by Hans Blix to the UN Security Council (March 7, 20034),” http://www.un.org/Depts/unmovic/SC7asdelivered.htm.

Mohamed Elbaradei. “Statement by Mohamed Elbaradei to the UN Security Council (March 7, 2003),” http://www.iaea.org/worldatom/Press/Statements/2003/ebsp2003n006.shml.

Niko Price. “Iraq says duct-taped drone was never hidden,” National Post (March 13, 2003): A15.

“White House Claims: A Pattern of Deceit,” Institute for Public Accuracy (March 18, 2003), http://www.accuracy.org/press_releases/PR031803.htm.

Walter Pincus and Dana Milbank. “Bush Clings to Dubious Allegations About Iraq,” The Washington Post (March 18, 2003): A13, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A42517-2003Mar17.html.

Seymour M. Hersh. “Who Lied to Whom? Why did the Administration endorse a forgery about Iraq's nuclear program?” The New Yorker (March 31, 2003), http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/?030331fa_fact.

In a recent article, Prashant Bhushan turns George W. Bush’s repeated comparisons of Saddam Hussein to Adolf Hitler against Bush himself.


While selling his attack on Iraq, Bush often draws an analogy with Hitler's Germany. He likens the threat posed to the world by Saddam today to the threat posed by Hitler in the mid 30s. [….] While the analogy between Saddam and Hitler may be laughable, it is instructive, though frightening, to draw an analogy between Bush and Hitler and the threats posed by them to other nations and to world peace.

[….] Compared to the military arsenal of the US today, Germany’s under Hitler was nothing. The lack of respect of the US for international law is evident not only in the number of occasions that it has engaged in unilateral overt military aggression […] during the last fifty years […], but also from the number of occasions that it has vetoed [otherwise] unanimous Security Council resolutions which were passed to make Israel comply with international law. [….] Any doubt whatsoever about the willingness of Bush to trample upon all norms of international law should have been dispelled by the manner in which Bush has been proclaiming his contempt for the United Nations. [….]

It is obvious by now that the real objective of the attack on Iraq is not to stop Saddam from acquiring and using weapons of mass destruction […]. The real objectives have to do with securing and controlling Iraq's oil […], and indeed to acquire strategic control of the entire Middle East. From the belligerence and arrogance exhibited by Bush and his top advisers […], it appears that the objective is also to generate fear among other countries that the US would be willing to use its military might against nations which cross its path. The [open threat to use the] recently tested sub-nuclear “mother of all bombs (MOAB)” […], along with nuclear tipped deep penetration missiles, against Iraq, is not just designed to scare Iraq into submission, but also to put other countries on notice that the US will not hesitate to use weapons of mass genocide against countries which do not toe its line. [….]

But it may be objected that it would be unfair to compare Bush with Hitler, since Bush leads a democratic country while Hitler had established a dictatorship. But even Hitler had come to power through a democratic election. It was only thereafter, that he used the Reichstag fire and the demonizing of the Jews to generate mass hysteria and acquire absolute power. Hasn’t Bush also used the events of September 11 to carefully orchestrate his “war on terror” to generate the same kind of hysteria? He has used that hysteria to get the Congress to abdicate and cede many of its powers to him, particularly the all-important power of permitting attack on other countries under the cover of this war on terror. He has even got several draconian laws passed, including the infamous Patriot Act, which is being used to erode civil liberties and gradually take the US on the path of a Police State. [….]

[By] every objective standard, Bush today poses a much greater threat to world peace and those countries which do not toe his line, than Hitler ever did. His military arsenal is far bigger and more lethal than any arsenal ever assembled in history. He has displayed an open contempt for the United Nations and international law and an easy willingness to use unilateral military force to even commit mass genocide by using weapons of mass destruction to achieve his ends. He has skilfully generated mass hysteria in the country to increase his own power by whittling down the power of the Congress, and eroding civil liberties. His personal commercial interests and those of his men are closely tied to oil and war and he has demonstrated that he will trample upon all international norms in the pursuit of those interests.

Prashant Bhushan, “Bush Must Be Stopped Now Before It Is Too Late,” ZNet (March 17, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=3254.


(c) Responses to Blair

The claims advanced by Tony Blair have been no less thoroughly refuted and exposed to ridicule:

Alan Simpson and Glen Rangwala. “Labour Against the War’s Counter-Dossier” (September 17, 2002), http://www.labouragainstthewar.org.uk/link5.html.

Robert Fisk. “The dishonesty of this so-called dossier,” The Independent (September 25, 2002), http://argument.independent.co.uk/commentators/story.jsp?story=336404.

“Media Lens Alert: Bitter Ironies of Propaganda.” Media Lens (January 14, 2003), http://www.medialens.org/alerts/030114_Bitter_Ironies.html.

David Edwards. “Blair’s Betrayal: Part I (The Newsnight Debate: Dismantling the Case for War),” Media Lens (February 10, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=3012.

David Edwards. “Blair’s Betrayal: Part 2 (The Newsnight Debate: Dismantling the Case for War),” Media Lens (February 11, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=3020.

Conor Gearty. “How did Blair get here? Conor Gearty on the folly of the impending war,” London Review of Books, vol. 25, no. 4 (February 20, 2003): 7-8.

John Pilger. “Blair's Lies,” Daily Mirror (March 14, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=3235.

One passage in Blair’s “The price of my conviction” speech deserves special emphasis. Blair attempts to refute “the moral case against war” by setting out “the moral case for removing Saddam” in the following manner.


[…] the moral case against war has a moral answer: it is the moral case for removing Saddam. It is not the reason we act. That must be according to the UN mandate on weapons of mass destruction. But it is the reason, frankly, why if we do have to act, we should do so with a clear conscience.

Yes, there are consequences of war. If we remove Saddam by force, people will die, and some will be innocent. And we must live with the consequences of our actions, even the unintended ones.

But there are also consequences of ‘stop the war’. There will be no march for the victims of Saddam, no protests about the thousands of children that die needlessly every year under his rule, no righteous anger over the torture chambers which if he is left in power, will remain in being.

Tony Blair, “The price of my conviction,” The Observer (February 16, 2003): 20.


Blair identifies two categories of victims of the Iraqi tyrant. There is indeed reason for concern about torture and summary executions under Saddam Hussein’s brutal dictatorship. (It is worth adding that such concern does not legitimize a war of aggression—and worth noting that the U.S. and U.K. governments expressed no concern about Iraqi torture during the 1980s when Saddam was their de facto ally.) But for Blair to advance the deaths of Iraqi children as a justification for war—when these deaths have been and continue to be caused by the genocidal regime of sanctions for which the U.S. and his own government bear direct responsibility—is breathtakingly cynical.


Having failed to fabricate a link between Iraq and al-Qaeda, and prove that Iraq has a secret armoury of banned weapons, the warmongers have fallen back on the “moral case” for an unprovoked attack on a stricken country. Farce has arrived. We want to laugh out loud, a deep and dark and almost grief-laden laugh, at Blair’s concern for the “victims of Saddam Hussein” and his admonishment (printed in the Observer) of the millions of protesters: “There will be … no protests about the thousands of [Iraqi] children that die needlessly every year…”

First, let’s look back to Saddam’s most famous victim, the British journalist Farzad Bazoft, who was hanged in 1990 for “spying”, a bogus trial following a bogus charge. Those of us who protested at his murder did so in the teeth of a smear campaign by the British government and a press determined to cover for Britain’s favourite tyrant.

The Sun smeared Bazoft by publishing his conviction for stealing when he was a student—information supplied by MI5 on behalf of the Thatcher government, which was then seeking any excuse not to suspend its lucrative business and arms deals with the Iraqi dictator. The Mail and Today suggested that Saddam was right—that Bazoft was a spy. In a memorable editorial, the Sunday Telegraph equated investigative journalism with criminal espionage. Defending Saddam, not his victim, was clearly preferable.

What did Tony Blair say about this outrage? I can find nothing. Did Blair join those of us who protested, on the streets and in print, at the fact that ministers such as Douglas Hurd were commuting to Baghdad, with Hurd going especially to celebrate the anniversary of the coming to power of the dictator I described as “renowned as the interrogator of Qasr-al-Nihayyah, the ‘Palace of the End’”?

There is no record of Blair saying anything substantive about Saddam Hussein’s atrocities until after 11 September 2001 when the Americans, having failed to catch Osama bin Laden, declared Saddam their number one enemy. As for Blair’s assertion that there have been “no protests about the thousands of children that die needlessly under his rule”, the answer is straightforward.

There have been years of protests about the effects of the Anglo-American embargo on the children of Iraq. That the US, backed by Britain, is largely responsible for the hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi deaths is the great unspoken in the so-called mainstream of politics and journalism. That the embargo allowed Saddam Hussein to centralise and reinforce his domestic control is equally unmentionable. Whenever the voluminous evidence of such a monumental western crime against humanity is laid out, the crocodile tears of Blair and the rest of the warmongers barely disguise their cynicism.

Denis Halliday, the former assistant secretary general of the United Nations who was the senior UN official in Baghdad, has many times identified the “genocide” of the American-driven sanctions. The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) has paid tribute to the Iraqi rationing system, giving it credit for saving an entire population from famine. This, like the evidence and witness of Halliday and his successor, Hans von Sponeck, and the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) and the Catholic Relief Agency (Cafod) and the 70 members of the US Congress who wrote to President Clinton describing the embargo as “infanticide masquerading as policy”, has been airbrushed out. [….]

John Pilger, “When Saddam hanged a British journalist in 1990, MI5 had the journalist smeared in the Sun, and the Mail agreed he was a spy. What did Blair say? John Pilger can find nothing” (March 27, 2003), http://pilger.carlton.com/print/132122.


One of Tony Blair’s Labour Party colleagues, George Galloway, MP for Glasgow Kelvin, has written as follows about the British prime minister’s position.


What most irks my pro-war parliamentary colleagues is the question I regularly put to them: how has it come about that a Labour government, a Labour government, is shuttling around in limousines, from capital to capital, in the service of a foreign power—acting, as the Wall Street Journal had it, “as America’s newest and brightest ambassador”? As we know, an ambassador is someone sent abroad to lie for his country. It really has come to something when the Prime Minister of Great Britain is sent abroad to lie for someone else's country.

He is roving ambassador to the right-wing, born-again, Bible-belting fundamentalist crew which first turned Texas into the toxic execution chamber of the Western world, and has now, via a four-three vote in the Supreme Court and a lot of pregnant chads, given birth to a government which is a by-word for treaty-busting protocol, scuppering, agreement-wrecking international thuggery. All attempts by the world to rid itself of such plagues as landmines, proliferating small arms, pollution, chemical and biological weapons (I'm not making that last one up: the US has blocked new regulations on the basis that it would require them to allow UN inspectors to see their inventories) have been wrecked by the government now represented on the global stage by Tony Blair.

George Galloway, “Blair Rides Shotgun for Bush,” The Spectator (March 15, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=3251.


(d) The scandal of Blair’s plagiarized Dossier

At one point in his February 5, 2003 presentation to the UN Security Council, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said, “I would call my colleagues’ attention to the fine paper that the United Kingdom distributed yesterday which describes in detail Iraqi deception activities.”

The paper in question, “Iraq—its infrastructure of concealment, deception and intimidation,” was first published by Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Downing Street office on January 30, 2003. On February 5, 2003 Glen Rangwala, a lecturer in politics at Cambridge University, exposed this “fine paper” as consisting very largely of material plagiarized from academic sources published between 1997 and 2002. Rangwala identifies pp. 6, 9-12, and parts of pp. 13-14 as plagiarized from Ibrahim al-Marashi’s essay “Iraq’s Security and Intelligence Network: A Guide and Analysis,” Middle East Review of International Affairs (September 2002). Most of pp. 7-8 and 14-16 is copied from two articles by Sean Boyne published in Jane’s Intelligence Review (July and August 1997); and material on pp. 7, 13 and 15 is lifted from an article by Ken Gause in the same journal (November 2002). Rangwala notes that “Marashi’s typographical errors and anomalous uses of grammar are incorporated into the Downing Street document”—which also, however, makes a number of deliberate changes to its source material.


There are two types of changes incorporated into the British document. Firstly, numbers are increased or rounded up. So, for example, the section on “Fedayeen Saddam” (pp. 15-16) is directly copied from Boyne, almost word for word. The only substantive difference is that Boyne estimates the personnel of the organisation to be 18,000-40,000 (Gause similarly estimates 10-40,000). The British dossier instead writes “30,000 to 40,000”. A similar bumping up of figures occurs with the description of the Directorate of Military Intelligence.

The second type of change in the British dossier is that it replaces particular words to make the claim sound stronger. So, for example, most of p. 9 on the functions of the Mukhabarat is copied directly from Marashi’s article, except that when Marashi writes of its role in: “monitoring foreign embassies in Iraq”--this becomes in the British dossier: “spying on foreign embassies in Iraq”.

Similarly, on that same page, whilst Marashi writes of the Mukhabarat: “aiding opposition groups in hostile regimes”—the British dossier renders this as: “supporting terrorist organisations in hostile regimes”. [….]

Apart from the obvious criticism that the British government has plagiarised texts without acknowledgement, passing them off as the work of the intelligence services, there are two further serious problems. Firstly, it indicates that the UK at least really does not have any independent sources of information on Iraq’s internal politics—they just draw on publicly available data. Thus any further claims to information based on “intelligence data” must be treated with even more scepticism.

Secondly, the information presented as being an accurate statement of the current state of Iraq’s security organisations may not be anything of the sort. Marashi—the real and unwitting author of much of the document—has as his primary source the documents captured in 1991 for the Iraq Research and Documentation Project. His own focus is the activities of Iraq’s intelligence agencies in Kuwait, Aug. 90-Jan. 91—this is the subject of his thesis. As a result, the information presented as relevant to how Iraqi agencies are currently engaged with Unmovic [the UN weapons inspection team] is 12 years old.

Glen Rangwala, “British Intelligence Iraq Dossier Relies on Recycled Academic Articles” (February 5, 2003), http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/iraq/attack/2003/0205plagiarism.htm.


The revelations have left Prime Minister Tony Blair’s office trying to fend off charges of plagiarism over a dossier Blair is using to sell war against Iraq to a British public that is widely opposed.

An MP from Blair’s own Labour party, former cabinet minister Glenda Jackson, said the prime minister’s office would be guilty of “attempting to mislead the country and parliament on the issue of a possible war with Iraq” if it turns out the plagiarized material was passed off as intelligence.

“And of course to mislead is a parliamentary euphemism for lying,” Jackson told the BBC radio’s Today program yesterday.

Added Labour MP Peter Kilfoyle: “It just adds to the general impression that what we have been treated to is a farrago of half-truths, assertions and over-the-top spin.”

Sandro Contenta, “U.K. denies charges of plagiarism,” Toronto Star (February 8, 2003): A10.


(e) Another British forgery: uranium from Niger

The information presented here is from Seymour Hersh's March 31, 2003 article in The New Yorker, cited below. On September 24, 2002, CIA Director George Tenet briefed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Iraq's weapons capability. During this secret briefing, Tenet repeated the claim that high-strength aluminum tubes which Iraq said were intended for missiles were actually intended for the construction of uranium-processing centrifuges. Tenet supported the claim that Iraq had an active nuclear weapons program with “a new and striking fact: the C.I.A. had recently received intelligence showing that, between 1999 and 2001, Iraq had attempted to buy five hundred tons or uranium oxide from Niger, one of the world's largest producers.” On the same day, the British government released a dossier claiming “that Iraq had sought to buy ‘significant quantities of uranium’ from an unnamed African country, ‘despite having no active civil nuclear power programme that could require it.’ The allegation attracted immediate attention; a headline in the London Guardian declared, ‘AFRICAN GANGS OFFER ROUTE TO URANIUM.’” On September 26, Secretary of State Colin Powell repeated Tenet’s and the Blair government’s claim before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee “as evidence of [Iraq's] persistent nuclear ambitions.” These representations had a definite impact on congressional deliberations over a resolution authorizing President George W. Bush to make war on Iraq: the resolution was overwhelmingly approved by Congress two weeks later.


President Bush cited the uranium deal, along with the aluminum tubes, in his State of the Union Message, on January 28th, while crediting Britain as the source of the information: “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” He commented, “Saddam Hussein has not credibly explained these activities. He clearly has much to hide.”

Then the story fell apart. On March 7th, Mohamed ElBaradei, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, in Vienna, told the U.N. Security Council that the documents involving the Niger-Iraq uranium sale were fakes. “The I.A.E.A. has concluded, with the concurrence of outside experts, that these documents … are in fact not authentic,” ElBaradei said.

One senior I.A.E.A. official went further. He told me, “These documents are so bad that I cannot imagine that they came from a serious intelligence agency. It depresses me, given the low quality of the documents, that it was not stopped. At the level it reached, I would have expected more checking.”

The I.A.E.A. had first sought the documents last fall, shortly after the British government released its dossier. After months of pleading by the I.A.E.A., the United States turned them over to Jacques Baute, who is the director of the agency’s Iraq Nuclear Verification Office.

It took Baute’s team only a few hours to determine that the documents were fake. The agency had been given about a half-dozen letters and other communications between officials in Niger and Iraq, many of them written on letterheads of the Niger government. The problems were glaring. One letter, dated October 10, 2000, was signed with the name of Allele Habibou, a Niger Minister of Foreign Affairs and Coöperation, who had been out of office since 1989. Another letter, allegedly from Tandja Mamadou, the President of Niger, has a signature that had obviously been faked and a text with inaccuracies so egregious, the senior I.A.E.A. official said, that “they could be spotted by someone using Google on the Internet.”

The large quantity of uranium involved should have been another warning sign. Niger’s “yellow cake” comes from two uranium mines controlled by a French company, with its entire output presold to nuclear power companies in France, Japan, and Spain. “Five hundred tons can’t be siphoned off without anyone noticing,” another I.A.E.A official told me. [….]

Baute, according to [this] I.A.E.A. official, “confronted the United States with the forgery: ‘What do you have to say?’ They had nothing to say.” ElBaradei’s disclosure has not been disputed by any government or intelligence official in Washington or London. Colin Powell, asked about the forgery during a television interview two days after ElBaradei’s report, dismissed the subject by saying, “If the issue is resolved, that issue is resolved.” A few days later, at a House hearing, he denied that anyone in the United States government had anything to do with the forgery. “It came from other sources,” Powell testified. “It was provided in good faith to the inspectors.” [….]

The Bush administration’s reliance on the Niger documents may, however, have stemmed from more than bureaucratic carelessness or political overreaching. Forged documents and false accusations have been an element in U.S. and British policy toward Iraq at least since the fall of 1997, after an impasse over U.N. inspections. Then as now, the Security Council was divided, with the French, the Russians, and the Chinese telling the United States and the United Kingdom that they were being too tough on the Iraqis. President Bill Clinton, weakened by the impeachment proceedings, hinted of renewed bombing, but, then as now, the British and the Americans were losing the battle for international public opinion. A former Clinton Administration official told me that London had resorted to, among other things, spreading false information about Iraq. The British propaganda program—part of its Information Operations, or I/Ops—was known to a few senior officials in Washington. “I knew what was going on,” the former Clinton Administration official said of the British efforts. “We were getting ready for action in Iraq, and we wanted the Brits to prepare.”

Over the next year, a former American intelligence officer told me, at least one member of the U.N. inspection team who supported the American and British position arranged for dozens of unverified and unverifiable intelligence reports and tips—data known as inactionable intelligence—to be funneled to MI6 operatives and quietly passed along to newspapers in London and elsewhere. “It was intelligence that was crap, and that we couldn’t move on, but the Brits wanted to plant stories in England and around the world,” the former officer said. There was a series of clandestine meetings with MI6, at which documents were provided, as well as quiet meetings, usually at safe houses in the Washington area. The British propaganda scheme eventually became known to some members of the U.N. inspection team. “I knew a bit,” one official still on duty at U.N. headquarters acknowledged last week, “but I was never officially told about it.”

None of the past and present officials I spoke with were able to categorically state that the fake Niger documents were created or instigated by the same propaganda office in MI6 that had been part of the anti-Iraq propaganda wars in the late nineteen-nineties. (An MI6 intelligence source declined to comment.)

Seymout M. Hersh, “Annals of National Security: Who Lied to Whom? Why did the Administration endorse a forgery about Iraq's nuclear program?” The New Yorker (March 31, 2003), http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/?030331fa_fact1. (See also Dana Priest and Karen DeYoung, “CIA Questioned Documents Linking Iraq, Uranium Ore,” The Washington Post (March 22, 2003): A30, http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A9011-2003Mar22.)


(f) Old whoppers: murdered incubator babies (1990), 265,000 Iraqi troops massed on the Saudi border (1991), the supposed Iraqi attempt to assassinate George Bush I (1993)


There should be no illusions: No matter what Baghdad has or has not mentioned in its weapons disclosure documents, the United States and almost certainly Britain are going to war.

If a “material breach” of the United Nations’ ultimatum does not happen by itself, it will be manufactured—just as consent was manufactured with breathtaking cynicism in 1991. There were two glaring examples of how the propaganda machine worked before the 1991 Gulf War:

First, in the final days before the war started on Jan. 9, the Pentagon insisted that not only was Saddam not withdrawing from Kuwait (he was) but that he had 265,000 troops poised in the desert to pounce on Saudi Arabia. The Pentagon claimed to have satellite photographs to prove it. Thus, the waverers and anti-war protesters were silenced.

We now know from declassified documents and photographs taken by a Russian commercial satellite that there were no Iraqi troops poised to attack Saudi Arabia. At the time, no one bothered to ask for proof.

No one except Jean Heller, a five-times nominated, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist from the St. Petersburg Times in Florida who persuaded her bosses to buy two photos, at $1,600 (U.S.) each, from the Soyuz Karta commercial satellite. Guess what? No massing troops. “You could see the planes sitting wingtip to wingtip in Riyadh airport,” says Heller, “but there wasn’t any sign of a quarter of a million Iraqi troops sitting in the middle of the desert.” So, what will the fake satellite pictures show this time? A massive chemical installation with Iraqi goblins cooking up anthrax?

The U.S. propaganda machine is already gearing up. In its sights now is is chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix. He’s too much of a softie for Saddam, former CIA director James Wolsey said recently on the Today television program. His work is of “limited value.” He was Kofi Annan’s “second choice.” What next? Blix’s granny is Iraqi? He has a drug problem?

[….] The second tactic used to get consensus for war in 1991 was another propaganda classic: “dead babies.”

Then, the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador in Washington, Nijirah al-Sabah, tearfully described how, as a volunteer at Al Adnan Hospital in Kuwait City, she had watched Iraqi soldiers looting incubators to take back to Baghdad, pitching the Kuwaiti babies on to “the cold floor to die.”

Except it never happened. The Filipino nurses who worked in the Al Adnan maternity ward, Frieda Construe-Nag and Myra Ancog Cooke, had never seen Ms. al-Sabah in their lives.

Amnesty International admitted it had been duped and Middle East Watch confirmed the fabrication, but it was too late: a marginal U.S. Congress had been swung to vote for war. George Bush the elder mentioned the “incubator babies” seven times in pre-war rallying speeches. It was months before the truth came out. By then, the war was over.

Maggie O’Kane, “The fire next time,” The Toronto Star (Dec. 22, 2002), B1.


“My concern in these situations, always, is that the intelligence you get is driven by the policy, rather than the policy being driven by the intelligence,” says former US Rep. Lee Hamilton (D) of Indiana, a 34-year veteran lawmaker until 1999, who served on numerous foreign affairs and intelligence committees, and is now director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. The Bush team “understands it has not yet carried the burden of persuasion [about an imminent Iraqi threat], so they will look for any kind of evidence to support their premise,” Mr. Hamilton says. “I think we have to be sceptical about it.” [….]

John MacArthur, publisher of Harper’s Magazine and author of Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War, says that considering the number of senior officials shared by both Bush administrations, the American public should bear in mind the lessons of Gulf War propaganda.

“These are all the same people who were running it more than 10 years ago,” Mr. MacArthur says. “They’ll make up just about anything … to get their way.”

On Iraq, analysts note that little evidence so far of an imminent threat from Mr. Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction has been made public.

Critics, including some former United Nations weapons inspectors in Iraq, say no such evidence exists. Mr. Bush says he will make his decision to go to war based on the “best” intelligence.

“You have to wonder about the quality of that intelligence,” says Mr. Hamilton at Woodrow Wilson.

“This administration is capable of any lie … in order to advance its goal in Iraq,” says a US government source in Washington with some two decades of experience in intelligence, who would not be further identified. “It is one of the reasons it doesn’t want to have UN weapons inspectors go back in, because they might actually show that the probability of Iraq having [threatening illicit weapons] is much lower than they want us to believe.”

Scott Peterson, “In war, some facts less factual: Some US assertions from the last war on Iraq still appear dubious,” Christian Science Monitor (September 6, 2003), http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/0906/p01s02-wosc.htm.


The CIA officials said they believed that “the last terrorist operation tried by Iraq against the United States was the assassination attempt against the first President Bush during his visit to Kuwait in 1993”—an alleged plot that was supposedly disrupted before it could be carried out. This fabricated “plot” to assassinate former President George Bush Sr. was comprehensively demolished by Seymour Hersh in a forensic article in the New Yorker many years later. One of the key claims linking the alleged plot to the Iraqi government was that the remote-control firing device found in the Kuwaiti car bomb supposedly intended for George Bush has a uniquely identifying “signature” used in previously recovered Iraqi bombs.

The US Administration released colour photographs of the firing devices to substantiate its case. Mr Hersh asked seven independent experts in electrical engineering and bomb forensics to look at the photographs. They all told him “essentially the same thing”: the remote-controlled devices shown in the White House photographs were mass-produced items […]. The experts, who included former police officers, government contract employees and professors of electrical engineering, agreed, too, that the two devices had no “signatures” […].

The US retaliation for the alleged Iraqi bomb plot was to launch 23 Tomahawk cruise missiles, 20 of which hit their targets, three of which landed on houses in the surrounding residential area. Eight civilians were killed. Even if the car bomb plot had been proven to be the work of the Iraqis, there was no legal basis for this assault, which must therefore count as an act of international terrorism.

Milan Rai, War Plan Iraq: Ten Reasons Against War on Iraq (London: Verso, 2002), p. 132.


(g) Newer lies: Iraq’s supposed expulsion of the UNSCOM weapons inspectors (1998)


It is often said that UNSCOM was thrown out of Iraq in December 1998. In fact, the agency was withdrawn on Washington’s orders. If anyone ejected UNSCOM, it was the United States. The first UNSCOM withdrawal in late 1998 came on 11 November 1998, as US military strikes were anticipated. In his memoirs, Richard Butler records that after receiving a telephone call from the acting US permanent representative to the UN, Ambassador Peter Burleigh, he visited Burleigh’s office on 10 November 1998. Ambassador Burleigh signalled the US intention to strike Iraq by telling Mr Butler that, “Considering the crisis Iraq had provoked and its refusal to obey the requirements of the Security Council, the United States had decided to draw down the staff in its embassies throughout the region.” The Ambassador then advised Mr Butler, as executive head of UNSCOM, to consider evacuating UNSCOM staff from Iraq. [….] Mr Butler immediately ordered the evacuation of UNSCOM personnel. However, the threat of military action passed on that occasion […].

It was not until after Mr Butler’s December report had been circulated to members of the Security Council on 15 December 1998 that he was called in once again by Ambassador Burleigh. Once again Burleigh urged Mr Butler to be “prudent” with the safety and security of UNSCOM staff. “Repeating a familiar script, I told him that I would act on his advice and remove my staff from Iraq,” Mr Butler later wrote. UNSCOM inspectors were withdrawn within hours, never to return. Mr Butler carried out the withdrawal without even informing the Security Council, the body which the inspection agency supposedly reported to.

The planned air strikes were supposed to be provoked by the collapse of the inspection process. It was therefore necessary to withdraw the inspectors to build the political case for military action. So UNSCOM was ejected from Iraq to facilitate a four-day bombing campaign.

[….] After the bombing started, [Russian Ambassador Sergey] Lavrov said that the crisis had been “created artificially by the irresponsible acts of Richard Butler”, while the Chinese representative at the Security Council said Mr Butler had played a “dishonourable role” in the confrontation.

[….] The final nail in the coffin for UNSCOM was the string of revelations concerning the penetration of the agency by US intelligence, referred to in the July 2002 revelations by former UNSCOM head, Rolf Ekeus. Scott Ritter revealed after his resignation that from the spring of 1992 until November 1993 he worked closely in UNSCOM with a man he called “Moe Dobbs”, a CIA “Special Activities Staff” covert operations specialist. [….]

Mr Ritter later came to suspect that he had been manipulated, and that UNSCOM 150 [a June 1996 operation focused on Republican Guard facilities] had been coordinated with a CIA-backed coup attempt which later came to light.

Milan Rai, War Plan Iraq: Ten Reasons Against War on Iraq (London: Verso, 2002), pp. 53-55.


In 1998 and 1999 it was difficult for the media to avoid some of the more obvious facts about the withdrawal of arms inspectors from Iraq in December 1998. NBC Today accurately reported at the time:

“The Iraq story boiled over last night when the chief UN weapons inspector, Richard Butler, said that Iraq had not fully cooperated with inspectors—as they had promised to do. As a result, the UN ordered its inspectors to leave Iraq this morning.” (Katie Couric, NBC’s Today, December 16, 1998. Quoted, “What a difference 4 years makes: News coverage of why the inspectors left Iraq,” http://www.fair.org.) [….]

A year later, this version of events was still commonly reported by the UK media:

“The UN special commission charged with overseeing the destruction of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction pulled out of Iraq in mid-December, just before the US and Britain launched a series of air strikes.” (David Hirst, “Iraq turns down ‘evil’ UN plan to ease sanctions,” The Guardian, December 20. 1999). [….]

[….] Since the election of George W. Bush and the terrorist attacks of September 11, Bush and Blair have appeared increasingly determined to launch a further assault against Iraq in pursuit of “regime change”. If military force is to be justified, Iraq has to be portrayed as a country that cannot be relied upon to cooperate peacefully with arms inspectors. This is no simple task—Iraqi lying and cat and mouse games aside, by 1998 Unscom arms inspectors had delivered 90-95% disarmament after seven years of intrusive inspections.

The change in US/UK government goals has been accompanied by a change in the US/UK media version of what happened in December 1998. Thus, four years after the comment quoted above, NBC Today reports: “As Washington debates when and how to attack Iraq, a surprise offer from Baghdad. It is ready to talk about re-admitting UN weapons inspectors after kicking them out four years ago.” (Maurice DuBois, NBC’s Saturday Today, August 3, 2002)

The same transformation is found in the UK media. Brian Whitaker of The Guardian wrote in February of this year [i.e. 2002]: “[Saddam] could still save his skin by allowing the weapons inspectors—who were thrown out of Iraq in 1998—to return.” (Whitaker, “Life After Saddam: the winners and losers,” The Guardian, February 25, 2002) [….]

The Independent reports: “Bill Clinton … ordered Operation Desert Fox, the last big air offensive against Iraq, after the eviction of UN weapons inspectors in December 1998.” (Rupert Cornwall, “United States—President calls for support inside and outside America,” The Independent, September 5, 2002)

The Daily Telegraph is of course on-side: “Saddam … refused UN weapons-inspectors access to sites such as his presidential palaces—then expelled them from Iraq.” (Editorial, “Convince us, Mr Blair,” Daily Telegraph, March 31, 2002) [….]

Around the country the deception is repeated again and again […].

The fact that inspectors had been fundamentally successful in disarming Iraq, and were withdrawn after the spying scandal erupted, and after deliberate attempts to provoke the Iraqis, adds unwanted colour to the black and white picture of events that the US/UK governments are seeking to impose on the public. Only a stark “good versus evil” clash has the power to generate the required public support for military action—nuance is a liability.

It goes without saying that the medium for communicating this lethally distorted picture of the world is the corporate mass media—without them, it simply could not be done. This is the awesome extent of their responsibility for mass violence leading to mass death.

“Media Lens Alert: Iraq and Arms Inspectors—The Big Lie, Part 2,” Media Lens (October 29, 2002), http://www.medialens.org/alerts/021029_Big_Lie2.HTM.


(h) Recent fictions: Iraqi links with al Qaeda


As it makes its case against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, the Bush administration has for now dropped what had been a central argument used by supporters of military action against Baghdad: Iraq’s links to al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations.

Although administration officials say they are still trying to develop a case linking Saddam Hussein to global terrorism, the CIA has yet to find convincing evidence, according to senior intelligence officials and outside experts with knowledge of discussions within the US Government.

Analysts who have scrutinised photographs, communications intercepts and information from foreign informants say they cannot validate two prominent allegations made by the government: links between President Saddam and al Qaeda members who have taken refuge in northern Iraq, and an April, 2001, meeting in Prague between September 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and an Iraqi intelligence agent.

Dana Priest, “CIA fails to find Iraqi link to terror,” The Age [Australia] (September 11, 2002), http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2002/09/10/1031608245289.html.


For a concise discussion of the repeated—and futile—attempts of the U.S. government to establish links between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, see Milan Rai, War Plan Iraq: Ten Reasons Against War on Iraq (London: Verso, 2002), pp. 129-32.


(i) Recent fictions: the ‘threat’ of Iraq’s weaponry

One of the more grotesque features of the American and British propaganda campaign has been the insistent attempts of Bush and Blair and their subordinates to terrorize their own populations with claims—in defiance of all available evidence—that they are in imminent danger of chemical, biological, or even nuclear attack from a demonized Saddam Hussein, working hand in hand with Osama bin Laden (who, because he has also been demonized, can on theological if not evidentiary grounds be asserted to be in cahoots with the Iraqi dictator).

Typical of this propaganda rhetoric are George W. Bush’s (groundless) assertions in his Cincinnati speech of October 7, 2002: “We’ve learned that Iraq has trained Al Qaeda members in bomb making and poisons and deadly gases. [….] Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof—the smoking gun—that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.”

The following texts, which include Glen Rangwala’s scrupulous and exhaustive assessment of all available evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, reveal the increasing desperation of American attempts to find the desired evidence.

Joseph Curl, “Agency disavows report on Iraq arms,” The Washington Times (September 27, 2002), http://www.washtimes.com/printarticle.asp?action=print&ArticleID=20020927-500715.

Paul Reynolds, “CIA undermines propaganda war,” BBC News: World Edition (October 10, 2002). http://www.news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/2315967.stm.

Greg Miller and Bob Drogin, “CIA Feels Heat on Iraq Data,” Los Angeles Times (October 11, 2002), http://www.latimes.com/la-na-cia11oct11,0,2360915.story.

William Rivers Pitt, “The Pure Essence of Stupid,” Truthout (December 12, 2002), http://www.truthout.org/docs_02/12.12A.wrp.stupid.htm

Riras Al-Atraqchi, “The U.S. will not release vital evidence against Iraq,” Yellow Times (January 21, 2003), http://yellowtimes.org/article.php?sid=1007.

Glen Rangwala, “Claims and evaluations of Iraq’s proscribed weapons” (February 18, 2003), http://www.traprockpeace.org/weapons.html.

Niko Price, "Iraq says duct-taped drone was never hidden," National Post (March 13, 2003): A15.

Seymour M. Hersh, “Annals of National Security: Who Lied to Whom? Why did the Administration endorse a forgery about Iraq's nuclear program?” The New Yorker (March 31, 2003), http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/?030331fa_fact1.


(j) Attempts to manipulate and distort the weapons inspectors’ reports

American officials, most notably Bush’s National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, appear to have made strenuous attempts first to manipulate, and subsequently to distort, the reports of the UN weapons inspectors.

Agence France-Presse, “Iraq Largely Cooperating with Inspectors, UN Security Council Hears,” Truthout (January 28, 2003), http://www.truthout.org/docsa_02/012903B.irq.jan27.htm.

Judith Miller and Julia Preston, “US is misquoting my Iraq report, says Blix,” Sydney Morning Herald (February 1, 2003), http://www.smh.com,au/articles/2003/01/31/1043804520548.html.

Colum Lynch, “Rice, Blix Confer on Iraq Briefing: Acknowledgment of Violation Urged,” The Washington Post (February 12, 2003), http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A59530-2003Feb11.html.



7. Is the United States a “Rogue State”?

This section contains excerpts from writings by Noam Chomsky, David Corn, David Greenberg, Seymour Hersh, Saul Landau, Russell Mokhiber, John Pilger, and Yifat Susskind.


The relevant legal framework is formulated in the Charter of the United Nations, a “solemn treaty” recognized as the foundation of international law and order, and under the U.S. Constitution, “the supreme law of the land.”

The Charter states that “The Security Council shall determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression, and shall make recommendations, or decide what measures shall be taken in accordance with Articles 41 and 42,” which detail the preferred “measures not involving the use of armed force” and permit the Security Council to take further action if it finds such measures inadequate. The only exception is Article 51, which permits the “right of individual or collective self-defense” against “armed attack … until the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.” Apart from these exceptions, member states “shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force.”

Noam Chomsky, “Rogue States,” Z Magazine (Apr. 1998), http://www.zmag.org/Zmag/articles/chomskyapr98.htm.


Contempt for the rule of law is deeply rooted in U.S. practice and intellectual culture. Recall, for example, the reaction to the judgment of the World Court in 1986 condemning the U.S. for “unlawful use of force” against Nicaragua, demanding that it desist and pay extensive reparations, and declaring all U.S. aid to the contras, whatever its character, to be “military aid,” not “humanitarian aid.” The court was denounced on all sides for having discredited itself. The terms of the judgment were not considered fit to print, and were ignored. The Democrat-controlled Congress immediately authorized new funds to step up the unlawful use of force. Washington vetoed a Security Council resolution calling on all states to respect international law—not mentioning anyone, though the intent was clear. When the General Assembly passed a similar resolution, the U.S. voted against it, effectively vetoing it, joined only by Israel and El Salvador; the following year, only the automatic Israeli vote could be garnered. Little of this received mention in the media or journals of opinion, let alone what it signifies.

Secretary of State George Shultz meanwhile explained (April 14, 1986) that “Negotiations are a euphemism for capitulation if the shadow of power is not cast across the bargaining table.” He condemned those who advocate “utopian, legalistic means like outside mediation, the United Nations, and the World Court, while ignoring the power element of the equation”—sentiments not without precedent in modern history.

The open contempt for Article 51 is particularly revealing. It was demonstrated with remarkable clarity immediately after the 1954 Geneva accords on a peaceful settlement for Indochina, regarded as a “disaster” by Washington, which moved at once to undermine them. The National Security Council secretly decreed that even in the case of “local Communist subversion or rebellion not constituting armed attack,” the U.S. would consider the use of military force, including an attack on China if it is “determined to be the source” of the “subversion” (NSC 5429/2; my emphasis). The wording, repeated verbatim annually in planning documents, was chosen so as to make explicit the U.S. right to violate Article 51. The same document called for remilitarizing Japan, converting Thailand into “the focal point of U.S. covert and psychological operations in Southeast Asia,” undertaking “covert operations on a large and effective scale” throughout Indochina, and in general, acting forcefully to undermine the Accords and the UN Charter. [….]

The U.S. proceeded to define “aggression” to include “political warfare, or subversion” (by someone else, that is)—what Adlai Stevenson called “internal aggression” while defending JFK’s escalation to a full-scale attack against South Vietnam. When the U.S. bombed Libyan cities in 1986, the official justification was “self defense against future attack.” [….] The U.S. invasion of Panama was defended in the Security Council by Ambassador Thomas Pickering by appeal to Article 51, which, he declared, “provides for the use of armed force to defend a country, to defend our interests and our people,” and entitles the U.S. to invade Panama to prevent its “territory from being used as a base for smuggling drugs into the United States.” Educated opinion nodded sagely in assent.

In June 1993, Clinton ordered a missile attack on Iraq, killing civilians and greatly cheering the president, congressional doves, and the press, who found the attack “appropriate, reasonable and necessary.” Commentators were particularly impressed by Ambassador Albright’s appeal to Article 51. The bombing, she explained, was in “self-defense against armed attack”—namely, an alleged attempt to assassinate former president Bush two months earlier, an appeal that would have scarcely risen to the level of absurdity even if the U.S. had been able to demonstrate Iraqi involvement; “Administration officials, speaking anonymously,” informed the press “that the judgment of Iraq’s guilt was based on circumstantial evidence and analysis rather than ironclad intelligence,” the New York Times reported, dismissing the matter. [….]

The record lends considerable support to the concern widely voiced about “rogue states” that are dedicated to the rule of force, acting in the “national interest” as defined by domestic power; most ominously, rogue states that anoint themselves global judge and executioner.

Noam Chomsky, “Rogue States,” Z Magazine (Apr. 1998), http://www.zmag.org/ZMag/articles/chomskyapr98.htm.


What are the odds that the people in leading positions in a “rogue state” will themselves be “rogues”—or, let’s be frank, criminals? Set aside the records of George W. Bush and his vice-president Dick Cheney, both of whom have been plausibly accused of insider trading and other corporate crimes. Recent senior appointments in Bush’s administration are symptomatic of a rogue administration’s contempt for international as well as domestic law.

John Poindexter, appointed in February 2002 “to run a Big Brother-like Pentagon operation called Total Information Awareness that promises—if news reports can be believed—to harvest all known information about everybody into a searchable Internet database” (Greenberg, B1), was previously Ronald Reagan’s national security adviser. In that capacity he ran the secret arms-for-hostages deal with Iran that was used, in direct violation of US law, to fund the mercenary contra armies used to attack Nicaragua. When he was found out, he “concealed his activities, destroyed evidence and lied to Congress” (Greenberg, B4); he was “convicted of five felonies involving conspiracy, obstruction of Congress, and making false statements” (Landau).

Elliott Abrams, appointed in December 2002 to the senior Middle East position on Bush’s National Security Council, was also up to his neck in the Iran-Contra scandal as Reagan’s Deputy Assistant Secretary of State to Central America, and was convicted on two accounts of lying to Congress; his Congressional testimony included the immortal declaration that “I never said I had no idea about most of the things you said I had no idea about” (quoted by Landau).

Though Poindexter’s conviction was overturned on a technicality by conservative appellate judges, and though Abrams was given a presidential pardon by George Bush I, there is no doubt that they committed the crimes they were convicted of—as well as violations of international law which were of no interest to the U.S. courts.

Other returned rogues are Otto Reich (special White House adviser for Latin America) and John Negroponte (Ambassador to the UN), both of them veterans of the Iran-Contra period. As Saul Landau writes, “Reich was minister of lying to the public from his Office of Public Diplomacy and Negroponte as US Ambassador to Honduras had to cover up—now he has forgotten—the dreadful behavior of our allies.”

But for sheer audacity, Bush’s (briefly accepted) appointment of Henry Kissinger to conduct an inquiry into intelligence and security failings prior to September 11, 2001 takes the cake. This was, as David Corn wrote, “a screw-you affront to any American who believes the public deserves a full accounting of government actions or lack thereof.”

As Nixon’s national security adviser and Secretary of State, Kissinger shares responsibility for the secret bombing of Cambodia in 1969-70, and for the overthrow of democratically elected governments in Bangladesh (1971) and Chile (September 11, 1973). As Gerald Ford’s Secretary of State, he shares responsibility for the appalling war crimes committed by Indonesia in East Timor in 1975 and after, and for the large-scale torture, kidnapping and murder carried out by the fascistic Argentinian junta in 1976 and after. Kissinger is accused of direct implication in the support and financing of the assassins of Chilean General René Schneider in 1970; he is accused of supporting the terrorist murder of Orlando Letelier in Washington in 1976. He is also wanted for questioning by judges in France and Spain as well as by the Chilean Supreme Court in relation to crimes against humanity.

Sources: David Corn, “Kissinger’s Back…,” The Nation (Dec. 1, 2002), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=2685; David Greenberg, “Back, But Not By Popular Demand: Rogues Rise Again,” The Washington Post (Dec. 8, 2002), B1, B4; and Saul Landau, “The Bush Vision and the Culture of Power,” ZNet (Dec. 12, 2002), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=2740.


Mokhiber: Ari, other than Elliot Abrams, how many convicted criminals are on the White House staff? 
Ari Fleischer: You tell me, Russell. 
Mokhiber: Could you give a list of convicted criminals on the White House staff, other than Elliot Abrams? 
Ari Fleischer: I’ll go right to the convicted criminals division and ask them. 
Mokhiber: Seriously, why isn’t being convicted of a crime a disqualifier for being on the White House staff? 
Ari Fleischer: Russell, this is an issue that you like to repeat every briefing— 
Mokhiber: But you don’t answer it Ari.

Russell Mokhiber, “Ari & I: White House Press Briefing with Ari Fleischer” (Monday, January 6, 2003 12:30 pm), http://www.commondreams.org/headlines03/0106-08.htm.


Another important Bush gang rogue is Richard Perle, Assistant Secretary of Defense under Ronald Reagan, who was one of the founders of the Project for the New American Century (see section 9 [c] of this dossier), and is now the chairman of the Defense Policy Board, a U.S. Defense Department advisory group “composed primarily of highly respected former government officials, retired military officers, and academics” (Hersh, 76). As he revealed in a statement quoted by John Pilger in speaking about America's “war on terror,” Perle nurtures his warmongering with sick fantasies of figuring in some future epic poem of American imperialism:

“No stages,” he said. “This is total war. We are fighting a variety of enemies. There are lots of them out there. All this talk about first we are going to do Afghanistan, then we will do Iraq … this is entirely the wrong way to go about it. If we just let our vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely and we don't try to piece together clever diplomacy, but just wage a total war … our children will sing great songs about us years from now.”

John Pilger, “Neocons and their plans for war” (January 10, 2003), http://sf.indymedia.org/news/2003/01/1559346.php.

If total war holds out to Richard Perle the posthumous promise of a minor role in some yet-to-be-written epic celebration of the Bush regime’s conquests—let us call it The Bushiad—it also offers him more immediate prospects of personal enrichment. As chairman of the Defense Policy Board, Perle is a “special government employee,” and therefore subject to a federal code of conduct which bars any special employee “from participating in an official capacity in any matter in which he has a financial interest” (Hersh, 77). However, as Seymour Hersh has revealed in The New Yorker, “Perle is also a managing partner in a venture-capital company called Trireme Partners L.P., which was registered in November, 2001, in Delaware.” In November 2002, a Trireme representative wrote to the notorious Saudi-born arms dealer Adnan Kashoggi (who was a key figure in the Iran-Contra scandal of the late 1980s), to explain that Trireme’s main business

… is to invest in companies dealing in technology, goods, and services that are of value to homeland security and defense. The letter argued that fear of terrorism would increase the demand for such products in Europe and in countries like Saudi Arabia and Singapore.

The letter mentioned the firm's government connections prominently: “Three of Trireme's Management Group members currently advise the U.S. Secretary of Defense by serving on the U.S. Defense Policy Board, and one of Trireme's principals, Richard Perle, is chairman of that Board.” (Hersh, 76)

In December 2003, Kashoggi arranged a meeting in Paris between two Trireme representatives and Saudi industrialist Harb Saleh al-Zuhair to discuss “the possibility of a large investment in Trireme,” and on January 3, 2003, Kashoggi arranged a private lunch in Marseilles in the south of France between Perle and al-Zuhair. Seymour Hersh writes that “Kashoggi and Zuhair told me that they understood that one of Trireme’s objectives was to seek the help of influential Saudis to win homeland-security contracts with the Saudi royal family for the businesses it financed. The profits for such contracts could be substantial. Saudi Arabia has spent nearly a billion dollars to survey and demarcate its eight-hundred-and-fifty-mile border with Yemen, and the second stage of the process will require billions more” (Hersh, 79).

Perle is thus at one and the same time a major ideologue of total war and also, in intention if not yet in fact, a large-scale war profiteer. No beans this time: in fact, Perle’s undiplomatic detestation of the Saudi government appears to have upset his lunch companions to the extent that they decided to embarrass him by making his Trireme manoeuverings public. It seems nonetheless that Perle is giving a new twist to the art—highly developed already among the members of the Bush gang—of insider trading.

Source: Seymour M. Hersh, “Annals of National Security: Lunch with the Chairman: Why was Richard Perle meeting with Adnan Kashoggi?” The New Yorker (March 17, 2003): 76-81.


Yifat Susskind of the human rights organization MADRE responds as follows to Bush’s declaration to the UN that “The conduct of the Iraqi regime is a threat to the authority of the United Nations and a threat to peace.”

Here’s what Bush thinks of the authority of the United Nations: Since taking office, he scrapped more international treaties and violated more UN conventions than the rest of the world has in 20 years. Under Bush, the US has opposed the Kyoto protocol on global warming, boycotted a conference to promote the comprehensive (nuclear) test ban treaty and ripped up the anti-ballistic missile treaty. Bush refuses to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child or sign the treaty to ban landmines. The US walked out of the 2001 UN World Conference Against Racism and virtually ignored the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development. And Bush is the only President in history to “unsign” a UN treaty—the Rome Treaty creating the International Criminal Court.

As for being a “threat to peace,” there’s little doubt that Bush’s “war on terror,” which violates international law, the US Constitution, international human rights instruments and principles of international cooperation and collective security, is the single greatest threat to peace in the world today.

In light of the grave and gathering danger posed by the Bush Administration, we hereby call on the United Nations to declare the United States to be a “threat to peace” under Article 39 of the United Nations Charter. The Security Council, acting under Article 7 of the Charter, must countermand this threat.

In the event of a US veto of the Council’s “enforcement action,” we call on the UN General Assembly to invoke its Uniting for Peace Resolution of 1950 and assume the Security Council’s mandate of enforcing international peace and security.

To quote the “president” of the United States, “Will the United Nations serve the purpose of its founding, or will it be irrelevant?”

Yifat Susskind, “MADRE Factsheet: analysis of Bush’s Speech to UN,” ZNet, http://zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=11&ItemID=2359.


For further reflections on the “rogue state” behaviour of the U.S., the following books can be consulted:

Blum, William. Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II. Boston: Common Courage, 1995.

----. Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower. Boston: Common Courage, 2000.

Chomsky, Noam, and Edward Herman. The Political Economy of Human Rights, Volume I: The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism. Montréal: Black Rose Books, 1979.

----. The Political Economy of Human Rights, Volume II: After the Cataclysm: Postwar Indochina and the Reconstruction of Imperial Ideology. Montréal: Black Rose Books, 1979.

Scowen, Peter. Rogue Nation: The America the Rest of the World Knows. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2003.

Stich, Rodney. Drugging America: A Trojan Horse. Alamo, California: Diablo Western Press, 1999.



8. War for Oil

This section contains excerpts from texts by Michel Chossudovsky, Robert Fisk, John Pilger, Hans von Sponeck, and the U.S, House of Representatives Committee on International Relations.


When the Taliban took Kabul in 1996, Washington said nothing. Why? Because Taliban leaders were soon on their way to Houston, Texas, to be entertained by executives of the oil company, Unocal.

With secret US government approval, the company offered them a generous cut of the profits of the oil and gas pumped through a pipeline that the Americans wanted to build from Soviet central Asia through Afghanistan.

A US diplomat said: “The Taliban will probably develop like the Saudis did.” He explained that Afghanistan would become an American oil colony, there would be huge profits for the West, no democracy and the legal persecution of women. “We can live with that,” he said.

Although the deal fell through, it remains an urgent priority of the administration of George W. Bush, which is steeped in the oil industry. Bush’s concealed agenda is to exploit the oil and gas reserves in the Caspian basin, the greatest source of untapped fossil fuel on earth and enough, according to one estimate, to meet America’s voracious energy needs for a generation. Only if the pipeline runs through Afghanistan can the Americans hope to control it.

John Pilger, “This War is a Farce,” The Mirror (October 29, 2001).


During the 31 july / 1 august [2002] hearings on Iraq in the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the ranking representative of the Republican Party, Senator Richard Lugar (R-In) stated: “… we are going to run the oil business. We are going to run it well, we are going to make money; and it’s going to help pay for the rehabilitation of Iraq because there is money there!”

Quoted by Hans von Sponeck, “Four Questions, Four Answers” (European Colloquium, Brussels, September 25, 2002), http://www.afsc.org/iraq/guide/4questions.shtm.


America burns a quarter of all the oil consumed by humanity. A study sponsored by the US Council on Foreign Relations says that “the American people continue to demand plentiful and cheap energy without sacrifice or inconvenience”. Transport in the United States alone burns 66 per cent of America’s petroleum.

One estimate is that the world’s oil reserves will begin to decline within five to ten years at the rate of about two million barrels a day. In the Middle East, the only country capable of significantly increasing its production is Iraq, once described by Vice President Cheney as “the great prize”.

At present, America depends on Iraq’s neighbour Saudi Arabia, not just for oil but for keeping the price of oil down. However, Saudi Arabia is the home of al-Qaeda, and Osama bin Laden and 15 of the alleged September 11 hijackers.

The grievance against the Americans for their imperial interventions in the Middle East is said to be deepest in the country that was invented by British imperialism and has since been maintained by the US as an oil colony.

If America installs a colonial regime in Baghdad, certainly its dependence on Saudi Arabia will be dramatically eased, and its grip on the world’s greatest oil market will be tightened. The price, for the people of the region, for Americans and the rest of us, will be an enduring turmoil similar to that of Palestine, exemplified by last week’s terror bombing of an Israeli hotel in Kenya.

This is the hidden agenda of the “war on terrorism”—a term that is no more than a euphemism for the Bush administration’s exploitation of the September 11 attacks and America’s accelerating imperial ambitions. In the past 14 months, on the pretext of “fighting terror”, US military bases have been established at the gateways to the greatest oil and gas fields on earth, especially in Central Asia, which is also coveted as a “great prize”.

In Afghanistan, the president, Hamid Karzai, guarded by 46 American special forces troops, was employed by a subsidiary of Unocal, the American oil company. The post-Taliban US ambassador is a senior executive of Unocal, and a pipeline to carry lucrative oil and gas across the country from the Caspian Sea will be built by Unocal.

The majority of Bush’s cabinet are from the oil industry, which has made them extremely rich. Bush’s father is still a consultant for the huge oil services company, the Carlyle Group, and his personal clients include the family of Osama bin Laden. One of the reasons the Americans attacked Afghanistan was not to liberate women but to liberate the pipeline deal. [….]

John Pilger, “Lies, Damned Lies, and Terror Warnings,” ZNet (December 5, 2002), http://zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=2710.


Once an American regime is installed in Baghdad, our oil companies will have access to 112 billion barrels of oil. With unproven reserves, we might actually end up controlling almost a quarter of the world's total reserves. And this forthcoming war isn’t about oil?

The US Department of Energy announced at the beginning of this month that by 2025, US oil imports will account for perhaps 70 per cent of total US domestic demand. (It was 55 per cent two years ago.) As Michael Renner of the Worldwatch Institute put it bleakly this week, “US oil deposits are increasingly depleted, and many other non-OPEC fields are beginning to run dry. The bulk of future supplies will have to come from the Gulf region.” [….] Some 70 per cent of the world's proven oil reserves are in the Middle East. And this forthcoming war isn’t about oil?

Take a look at the statistics on the ratio of reserve to oil production—the number of years that reserves of oil will last at current production rates—compiled by Jeremy Rifkin in Hydrogen Economy. In the US, where more than 60 per cent of the recoverable oil has already been produced, the ratio is just 10 years, as it is in Norway. In Canada, it is 8:1. In Iran, it is 53:1, in Saudi Arabia 55:1, in the United Arab Emirates 75:1. In Kuwait, it's 116:1. But in Iraq, it’s 526:1. And this forthcoming war isn’t about oil?

Robert Fisk, “This Looming War Isn't About Chemical Warheads or Human Rights: It's About Oil,” The Independent (January 18, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=2882.


The oil politics involved in the American and British assault upon Iraq are nakedly obvious. The connections between this act of aggression and the economic and geopolitical motives of the American-led attack on Afghanistan, which may be somewhat less evident, are helpfully clarified by Michel Chossudovsky’s analysis of the informing context of the attack on Afghanistan in chapters five and six of his book War and Globalisation: The Truth Behind September 11 (Shanty Bay, Ontario: Global OutlookTM, 2002). Proposing that “The ‘Anglo-American axis’ in defence and foreign policy is the driving force behind the military operations in Central Asia and the Middle East,” Chossudovsky suggests that “The merger [in August 1998] of British Petroleum (BP) and the American Oil Company (AMOCO) into the world's largest oil conglomerate has a direct bearing on the pattern of Anglo-American relations and the close relationship between the American President and the British Prime Minister” (p. 64; see pp. 89-90).

He notes that on March 19, 1999 “the U.S. Congress adopted the Silk Road Strategy Act, which defined America’s broad economic and strategic interests in a region extending from the Mediterranean to Central Asia” (p. 66). The geopolitical thinking underlying this Silk Road Strategy is expounded in documents of the Congressional Committee on International Relations.

One hundred years ago, Central Asia was the arena for a great game played by Czarist Russia, Colonial Britain, Napoleon's France, and the Persian and Ottoman Empires. [….] One hundred years later, the collapse of the Soviet Union has unleashed a new great game, where the interests of the East India Trading Company have been replaced by those of Unocal and Total [oil companies], and many other organizations and firms. Today [we are seeing] the interests of a new contestant in this new great game, the United States. The five [former Soviet republics] which make up Central Asia, Kazakhstan, Kirghizstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan … are anxious to establish relations with the United States. Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan possess large reserves of oil and natural gas, both on-shore and off-shore in the Caspian Sea, which they urgently seek to exploit. Uzbekistan [also] has oil and gas reserves. [….]

Stated U.S. policy goals regarding energy resources in this region include fostering the independence of the States and their ties to the West; breaking Russia's monopoly over oil and gas transport routes; promoting Western energy security through diversified suppliers; encouraging the construction of east-west pipelines that do not transit [through] Iran; and denying Iran dangerous leverage over the Central Asian economies….

[….] Japan, Turkey, Iran, Western Europe, and China are all pursuing economic development opportunities and challenging Russian dominance in the region. It is essential that U.S. policymakers understand the stakes involved in Central Asia as we seek to craft a policy that serves the interests of the United States and U.S. business.

U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, Committee on International Relations, “Hearing on U.S. Interests In The Central Asian Republics” (February 12, 1998), http://commdocs.house.gov/committees/intlrel/hfa48119.000/hfa48119_0f.htm (quoted by Chossudovsky, pp. 67-68).

This Silk Road Strategy is clearly aimed both at undermining Russian control of the Caspian Basin oil and gas reserves and at preventing other competitors (among them the French-Belgian conglomerate Elf-Total-Fina) from gaining access to them. One step towards its implementation was taken when the heads of state of Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova met in Washington to sign GUAAM, a regional military alliance under NATO protection. Chossudovsky writes that GUAAM is dominated by Anglo-American oil interests, and its formation “ultimately purports to exclude Russia from the oil and gas deposits in the Caspian area, as well as isolating Moscow politically” (p. 66).

The relationship in GUAAM between planned pipeline routes and diplomatic-military alliances is very clear. Azerbaijan, governed since the military coup of 1993 by a pro-U.S. regime led by former KGB official and Communist Party politburo member President Heydar Aliyevich Aliyev, signed an agreement in 1994 with an oil consortium led by BP-AMOCO. This contract, “involving the development of the Charyg oil fields near Baku,” provides for Azeri oil to be moved west by pipeline through Georgia to the port of Supsa on the east coast of the Black Sea, and thence by tanker to the Pivdenny terminal near Odessa in Ukraine, from where it can be moved by a pipeline linking up to an existing pipeline which runs through Slovakia, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. The entire length of this route, which of course bypasses Russian territory, is under the protection of NATO (pp. 72-74).

Afghanistan is of major strategic importance in relation to this Silk Road Strategy. As Chossudovsky writes,

It not only borders the ‘Silk Road Corridor’ linking the Caucasus to China's Western border, it is also at the hub of five nuclear powers: China, Russia, India, Pakistan and Kazakhstan. [….] Afghanistan is at the strategic crossroads of the Eurasian pipeline and transport routes. It also constitutes a potential landbridge for the southbound oil pipeline from the former Soviet republic of Turkmenistan to the Arabian Sea across Pakistan, which had initially been negotiated by Unocal with the Taliban government….” (p. 69)

Chossudovsky notes that the Silk Road Strategy Act “designates Israel as America's ‘partner’ in the Silk Road corridor” (p. 69), and argues that

the successful implementation of the SRS requires the concurrent ‘militarization’ of the Eurasian corridor as a means of securing control over extensive oil and gas reserves, as well as ‘protecting’ the pipeline routes on behalf of the Anglo-American oil companies. [….] Under the SRS Act, Washington commits itself to “fostering stability in this region, which is vulnerable to political and economic pressures from the South, North and East,” suggesting that “the threat to stability” is not only from Moscow (to the North) but also from China (to the East) and Iran and Iraq (to the South). The SRS is also intended to prevent the former Soviet republics from developing economic, political and defence ties with China, Iran, Turkey and Iraq. (p. 71).

The 1991 Gulf War advanced American military-geopolitical and oil interests in a very significant manner: it permitted the U.S. to establish military and naval bases in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. During the 1990s, in pursuit of what in 1999 was formalized as the Silk Road Strategy, the U.S. was able to expand this presence in the Eurasian corridor by establishing military links with the GUAAM countries, and by securing permission to construct air bases in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan. Since the overthrow of the Taliban regime, these forward positions have been supplemented by air bases in Afghanistan. The military conquest of Iraq will leave Iran, which figured with Iraq and North Korea in George Bush’s inane “axis of evil,” surrounded by countries containing garrisons of American troops.

For further evidence of U.S. geopolitical strategic thinking, see the articles listed under “Oil in Iraq,” at http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/oil/irqindx.htm.



9. The “War on Terrorism”

This section contains excerpts from writings by Gordon Barthos, Noam Chomsky, Robert Fisk, Alex Jones, Media Lens, James Petras, John Pilger, Milan Rai, Stephen Shalom and Michael Albert, and Antonia Zerbisias.


(a) Ethical ironies of the “War on Terrorism”


What is the “new war on terrorism”? The goal of the civilised world has been announced very clearly in high places. We must “eradicate the evil scourge of terrorism,” a plague spread by “depraved opponents of civilisation itself” in a “return to barbarism in the modern age,” and so on. Surely a noble enterprise!

To place the enterprise in proper perspective, we should recognise that the Crusade is not new, contrary to what’s being said. In fact, the phrases just quoted are from President Ronald Reagan and his Secretary of State, George Shultz, twenty years ago. They came to office at that time—Reagan, and shortly after, Schultz—proclaiming that the struggle against international terrorism would be the core of U.S. foreign policy. And they responded to the plague by organising campaigns of international terrorism of unprecedented scale and violence, even leading to a condemnation by the World Court of the United States for what the Court called “the unlawful use of force,” meaning international terrorism. This was followed by a U.N. Security Council Resolution calling on all states to observe international law, which the United States vetoed. It also voted alone, with one or two client states, against successive similar U.N. General Assembly Resolutions.

So the “New War on Terrorism” is, in fact, led by the only state in the world that has been condemned by the International Court of Justice for international terrorism and has vetoed a resolution calling on states to observe international law….

The World Court order to terminate the crime of international terrorism and to pay substantial reparations was dismissed with contempt across the spectrum. The New York Times informed the public that the Court was a “hostile forum” and therefore we need pay no attention to it. Washington reacted at once to the Court’s orders by escalating the economic and the terrorist wars. It also issued orders to the mercenary army attacking from Honduras to attack “soft targets”—those are the official orders: Attack “soft targets,” undefended civilian targets like health clinics, agricultural cooperatives and so on. [….]

Prevailing Western attitudes are revealed with great clarity by the appointment of the new U.N. Ambassador to lead today’s “New War against Terrorism,” John Negroponte. Negroponte’s record includes his service as Pro-Consul in Honduras in the 1980s, where he was the local supervisor of the international terrorist war for which his government was condemned by the World Court and the Security Council—irrelevantly of course in a world that’s governed by the rule of force.

Noam Chomsky, “September 11th and Its Aftermath: Where is the World Heading?” Public Lecture at the Music Academy, Chennai (Madras), India, November 10, 2001, http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl1824/nc.htm.


Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter has suggested that a US-led war on Iraq “will effectively mean that Osama bin Laden will have won. Whatever the faults of Saddam Hussein, and he is a brutal dictator, his regime is also secular. If Saddam does indeed fall, which Bush and Blair want, it is highly likely that an Islamist regime will take over after US troops leave, which they will sooner or later.” This could have knock-on effects on Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and even Egypt: “The invasion of Iraq is the quickest path to losing the war on terror and giving legitimacy to the criminal who attacked the US and the entire freedom of the world on 11 September.” While few other commentators are predicting a fundamentalist regime in Iraq, many informed observers share Mr Ritter’s belief that al Qaeda’s political base would be enlarged considerably by US/UK military action.

Milan Rai, War Plan Iraq: Ten Reasons Against War on Iraq (London and New York: Verso, 2002), p. 201.


There is no “war on terrorism”. No such war is possible when the “coalition” waging it consists of some of the leading terrorist states in the world—Algeria, Turkey, Russia, China, Indonesia—falling in with the United States. The search for Osama bin Laden is circus spectacle. The goal is the control, through vassals, of former Soviet Central Asia, a region rich in oil and minerals and of great strategic importance to competing powers, Russia and China. By February 2002, the United States had established permanent military bases in all the Central Asian republics, and in Afghanistan, whose post-Taliban government is American approved. “America will have a continuing interest and presence in Central Asia of a kind that we could not have dreamed of before [September 11],” said Secretary of State Colin Powell. This is just a beginning. The ultimate goal is a far wider American conquest, military and economic, that was planned during the Second World War and which, as Vice-President Cheney says, “may not end in our lifetimes”.

John Pilger, The New Rulers of the World (London: Verso, 2002), pp. 104-05.


(b) Consequences of the “War on Terrorism”


In [George Orwell's] novel [Nineteen Eighty-Four], three slogans dominate society: war is peace, freedom is slavery and ignorance is strength. Today’s slogan, ‘war on terrorism’, also reverses meaning. The war is terrorism. The most potent weapon in this war is pseudo-information, different only in form from that Orwell described, consigning to oblivion unacceptable truths and historical sense. Dissent is permissible within ‘consensual’ boundaries, reinforcing the illusion that information and speech are ‘free’.

The attacks of September 11, 2001 did not ‘change everything’, but accelerated the continuity of events, providing an extraordinary pretext for destroying social democracy. The undermining of the Bill of Rights in the United States and the further dismantling of trial by jury in Britain and a plethora of related civil liberties are part of the reduction of democracy to electoral ritual: that is, competition between undistinguishable parties for the management of a single-ideology state.

John Pilger, The New Rulers of the World (London: Verso, 2002), pp. 1-2.


So far the “war on terrorism” has been a massacre, as in Afghanistan and as proposed for Iraq, rather than a fight with two armed combatants battling one another. [….]

Alternatively, the “war on terrorism” has been a campaign, not a violent struggle, aiming to reduce civil liberties, expand arms trade and production, and legitimate assaults on any targets deemed unfriendly. In this regard it is like the earlier Cold War. The idea is to name an enemy, generate fear of it, and then employ that fear and associated anger to justify all kinds of government actions that would otherwise be rejected—arms deals, taxes, repressive laws, etc.

The massacres and policy alterations that together constitute the “war on terrorism” haven’t been about reducing terrorism, by and large. First, the largest number of civilians killed since 9-11 have been Afghanis and Iraqis (the latter, victims of U.S.-backed sanctions). Reducing a phenomenon [i.e. the terrorist killing of civilians] rarely includes overtly expanding it. Second, the actions undertaken, even in the view of the FBI, are not only unlikely to reduce even that portion of terrorism that is directed at the United States. They are likely, instead, to fuel the resentment and grievances that lead to such attacks.

So rather than a just war, the “war on terrorism” is a means of rationalizing illegitimate interventions abroad and repressive and predatory policies at home, without reducing terrorism.

Stephen Shalom and Michael Albert, “Intervention in General: Part A of 45 Questions and Answers Regarding U.S. Foreign Policy,” ZNet (October 8, 2002), http://zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=2446.


In totalitarian states, the supreme leader seizes dictatorial powers, suspends constitutional guarantees (citing “emergency powers”), empowers the secret police, and handpicks tribunals to arbitrarily arrest, judge, and condemn the accused to prison or execution. On November 13 [2001], President Bush took the fatal step toward assuming dictatorial powers. Without consulting Congress, Bush decreed an emergency order. The order permits the government to arrest non-citizens who they have “reason to believe” are terrorists to be tried by military tribunal. The trials are secret and the prosecutors do not have to present evidence if it is “in the interests of national security.”

The condemned can be executed even if one-third of the military judges disagree. Dictatorial powers to jail or execute suspects without due process is the essence of totalitarian rulers.

In mid-November, the Department of Justice refused to disclose the identities and status of more than 1,100 persons arrested since September 11. As in totalitarian regimes, political prisoners are constantly interrogated without lawyers and without charges by the FBI in the hope of forcing confessions.

On October 26 Bush signed the USA/Patriot Act, which vastly strengthened the powers of the police over civil society. The extension of secret police powers was approved almost unanimously by Congress (most of whose members never read the law). Every clause of this law violated the U.S. Constitution. Under this law: (a) any federal law enforcement agency may secretly enter any home or business, collect evidence, not inform the citizen of the entry, and then use the evidence (seized or planted) to convict the occupant of a crime; (b) any police agency has the power to monitor all Internet traffic and emails, intercept cell phones without warrant of millions of “suspects”; (c) any Federal police agency can invade any business premises and seize all records on the basis that it is “connected” to a terrorist investigation. Citizens who publicly protest these arbitrary, invasive police actions can be arrested.

The USA/Patriot Act, like its totalitarian counterparts, has a vague, loose definition of “terrorism” that allows it to repress any dissident organization and protest activity. According to section 802 of the Act, terrorism is defined as “activities that involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States … [and] appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population [or] … to influence the policy of the government by intimidation or coercion.” Any anti-globalization protest, such as occurred in Seattle, can now be labeled “terrorist,” its leaders and participants arrested, their homes and offices searched, documents seized, and, if they are not citizens, shipped to military tribunals. These “emergency” decrees and laws are in place until 2005 and beyond if the investigations began prior to the terminal year.

James Petras, “Signs of a Police State Are Everywhere,” Z Magazine (January 2002), http://www.zmag.org/Zmag/Articles/jan02petras.htm.


On February 7, 2003 the Center for Public Integrity, a non-partisan public interest think-tank in [Washington] DC, revealed the full text of the Domestic Security Enhancement Act [or Patriot Act II] of 2003. The classified document had been leaked to them by an unnamed source inside the Federal government.

[….] The intentions of the White House and Speaker [Dennis] Hastert concerning Patriot Act II appear to be a carbon copy replay of the events that led to the unprecedented passage of the first Patriot Act. [….] The fact that Dick Cheney publicly managed the steamroller passage of the first Patriot Act, ensuring that no one was allowed to read it and publicly threatening members of Congress that if they didn’t vote in favor of it they would be blamed for the next terrorist attack, is by the White House’s own definition terrorism. [….]

Here is a quick thumbnail sketch of just some of the draconian measures encapsulated within this tyrannical legislation:

SECTION 501 (Expatriation of Terrorists) expands the Bush administration’s “enemy combatant” definition to all American citizens who “may” have violated any provision of of Section 802 of the first Patriot Act. (Section 802 is the new definition of domestic terrorism, and the definition is “any action that endangers human life [or] that is a violation of any Federal or State law.”) [….]

SECTION 201 of the second Patriot Act makes it a criminal act for any member of the government or any citizen to release information concerning the incarceration or whereabouts of detainees. It also states that law enforcement does not even have to tell the press whom they have arrested […].

SECTION 312 gives immunity to law enforcement engaging in spying operations against the American people and would place substantial restrictions on court injunctions against Federal violations of civil rights across the board. [….]

SECTION 103 allows the Federal government to use wartime martial law powers domestically and internationally without Congress declaring that a state of war exists. [….]

SECTION 109 allows secret star chamber courts to issue contempt charges against any individual or corporation who refuses to incriminate themselves or others. This section annihilates the last vestiges of the Fifth Amendment. [….]

SECTION 402 is entitled “Providing Material Support to Terrorism.” The section reads that there is no requirement to show that the individual ever had the intent to aid terrorists. [….]

SECTION 411 expands crimes that are punishable by death. Again, they point to Section 802 of the first Patriot Act and state that any terrorist act or support of terrorist acts can result in the death penalty. [….]

[….] The second Patriot Act dwarfs all police state legislation in modern world history.

Alex Jones, “Total Police State Takeover: The Secret Patriot Act II Destroys What Is Left of American Liberty. A Brief Analysis of the Domestic Security Enhancement Act 2003, also known as Patriot Act II,” Infowars (February 10, 2003), http://www.infowars.com/print_patriotact2_analysis.htm.


Imagine a society where people can be stripped of their citizenship overnight. Or be made to disappear into police gulags without trace. Where very book they read and purchase they make is known to the powers that be. And where they can be executed for protesting against the governing regime.

Saddam Hussein’s Iraq? You bet. But the United States of America may also become this kind of society if U.S. president George Bush presses his “war on terror” much further.

In a commentary for Global Viewpoint/Tribune Media Services International this week novelist Norman Mailer warned that “a pre-fascist atmosphere” pervades the U.S. as it moves “in an imperial direction” led by intrusive government, corporations and the military. [….]

The American Civil Liberties Union took out a full-page ad in the New York Times this week to warn that “core American values” are under attack.

A leaked copy of Attorney-General John Ashcroft’s proposed Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003—dubbed the Patriot Act II—confirms that Washington is weighing sweeping new laws that impinge on long-established freedoms. If enacted by Congress, the measures would let government:

* Create 15 new death penalties including one that could cover protesters engaged in civil disobedience, if someone dies, even accidentally, during a protest.

* Strip Americans of their cherished citizenship if they support groups deemed to be “terrorist” by the administration—even if they are unaware of the groups’ links to terror.

* Shelter federal agents from prosecution for carrying out unlawful surveillance, if they are acting on orders from Bush or other high-ranking members of the executive branch. This would have made Richard Nixon-era Watergate prosecutions impossible.

* Permit secret arrests in immigration and other cases where the detainees are not charged with crimes.

* Authorize a wider range of home searches and wiretaps without warrant.

To be fair, the Americans don’t have a lock on unhealthy legislation. Here in Canada, federal Privacy Commissioner George Radwanski has been warning that similar anti-terror laws assault our own rights.

There’s something dreadfully wrong when democratic, open societies like the United States and Canada feel driven to “protect” themselves by enacting legislation that would not be out of place in Baghdad today.

Gordon Barthos, “Carrying a torch for Liberty,” Toronto Star (February 27, 2003): A24.


(c) 9/11 as an “opportunity” for the U.S. government: the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) Report


The threat posed by US terrorism to the security of nations and individuals was outlined in prophetic detail in a document written more than two years ago and disclosed only recently. What was needed for America to dominate much of humanity and the world’s resources, it said, was “some catastrophic and catalysing event—like a new Pearl Harbor”. The attacks of 11 September 2001 provided the “new Pearl Harbor”, described as “the opportunity of ages”. The extremists who have since exploited 11 September come from the era of Ronald Reagan, when far-right groups and “think-tanks” were established to avenge the American “defeat” in Vietnam. In the 1990s, there was an added agenda: to justify the denial of a “peace dividend” following the cold war. The Project for the New American Century was formed, along with the American Enterprise Institute, the Hudson Institute and others that have since merged the ambitions of the Reagan administration with those of the current Bush regime.

One of George W Bush’s “thinkers” is Richard Perle. I interviewed Perle when he was advising Reagan; and when he spoke about “total war”, I mistakenly dismissed him as mad. He recently used the term again in describing America’s “war on terror”. “No stages,” he said. “This is total war. We are fighting a variety of enemies. There are lots of them out there. All this talk about first we are going to do Afghanistan, then we will do Iraq… this is entirely the wrong way to go about it. If we just let our vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely and we don’t try to piece together clever diplomacy, but just wage a total war… our children will sing great songs about us years from now.”

Perle is one of the founders of the Project for the New American Century, the PNAC. Other founders include Dick Cheney, now vice-president, Donald Rumsfeld, defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, deputy defence secretary, I. Lewis Libby, Cheney’s chief of staff, William J Bennett, Reagan’s education secretary, and Zalmay Khalilzad, Bush’s ambassador to Afghanistan. These are the modern chartists of American terrorism. The PNAC’s seminal report, Rebuilding America’s Defences: strategy, forces and resources for a new century, was a blueprint of American aims in all but name. Two years ago it recommended an increase in arms-spending by $48bn so that Washington could “fight and win multiple, simultaneous major theatre wars”. This has happened. It said the United States should develop “bunker-buster” nuclear weapons and make “star wars” a national priority. This is happening. It said that, in the event of Bush taking power, Iraq should be a target. And so it is.

As for Iraq’s alleged “weapons of mass destruction”, these were dismissed, in so many words, as a convenient excuse, which it is. “While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification,” it says, “the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.” How has this grand strategy been implemented? A series of articles in the Washington Post, co-authored by Bob Woodward of Watergate fame and based on long interviews with senior members of the Bush administration, reveals how 11 September was manipulated.

On the morning of 12 September 2001, without any evidence of who the hijackers were, Rumsfeld demanded that the US attack Iraq. According to Woodward, Rumsfeld told a cabinet meeting that Iraq should be “a principal target of the first round in the war against terrorism”. Iraq was temporarily spared only because Colin Powell, the secretary of state, persuaded Bush that “public opinion has to be prepared before a move against Iraq is possible”. Afghanistan was chosen as the softer option. If Jonathan Steele’s estimate in the Guardian is correct, some 20,000 people in Afghanistan paid the price of that debate with their lives.

Time and again, 11 September is described as an “opportunity”. In last April’s New Yorker, the investigative reporter Nicholas Lemann wrote that Bush’s most senior adviser, Condoleezza Rice, told him she had called together senior members of the National Security Council and asked them “to think about ‘how do you capitalise on these opportunities’”, which she compared with those of “1945 to 1947”: the start of the cold war. Since 11 September, America has established bases at the gateways to all the major sources of fossil fuels, especially central Asia. The Unocal oil company is to build a pipeline across Afghanistan. Bush has scrapped the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions, the war crimes provisions of the International Criminal Court and the anti-ballistic missile treaty. He has said he will use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states “if necessary”. Under cover of propaganda about Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction, the Bush regime is developing new weapons of mass destruction that undermine international treaties on biological and chemical warfare.

In the Los Angeles Times, the military analyst William Arkin describes a secret army set up by Donald Rumsfeld, similar to those run by Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger and which Congress outlawed. This “super-intelligence support activity” will bring together the “CIA and military covert action, information warfare, and deception”. According to a classified document prepared for Rumsfeld, the new organisation, known by its Orwellian moniker as the Proactive Pre-emptive Operations Group, or P2OG, will provoke terrorist attacks which would then require “counter-attack” by the United States on countries “harbouring the terrorists”.

In other words, innocent people will be killed by the United States. This is reminiscent of Operation Northwoods, the plan put to President Kennedy by his military chiefs for a phoney terrorist campaign—complete with bombings, hijackings, plane crashes and dead Americans—as justification for an invasion of Cuba. Kennedy rejected it. He was assassinated a few months later. Now Rumsfeld has resurrected Northwoods, but with resources undreamt of in 1963 and with no global rival to invite caution. You have to keep reminding yourself this is not fantasy: that truly dangerous men, such as Perle and Rumsfeld and Cheney, have power. The thread running through their ruminations is the importance of the media: “the prioritised task of bringing on board journalists of repute to accept our position”.

“Our position” is code for lying. Certainly, as a journalist, I have never know official lying to be more pervasive than today. We may laugh at the vacuities in Tony Blair’s “Iraq dossier” and Jack Straw’s inept lie that Iraq has developed a nuclear bomb (which his minions rushed to “explain”). But the more insidious lies, justifying an unprovoked attack on Iraq and linking it to would-be terrorists who are said to lurk in every Tube station, are routinely channelled as news. They are not news; they are black propaganda.

John Pilger, “America’s Bid for Global Dominance,” The New Statesman (December 12, 2002), http://zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=2744.


For further information about the Project for a New American Century, see the following:

Abrams, Elliott (and 24 others). “Statement of Principles,” PNAC (June 3, 1997), http://www.newamericancentury.org/statementofprinciples.htm.

Donnelly, Thomas, Donald Kagan and Gary Schmitt. “Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century,” PNAC (September 2000), http://www.newamericancentury.org/RebuildingAmericasDefenses.pdf.

Kristol, William (and 40 others). “Letter to President Bush on the War on Terrorism,” PNAC (September 20, 2001), http://www.newamericancentury.org/Bushletter.htm.

---- (and 32 others). “Letter to President Bush on Israel, Arafat and the War on Terrorism,” PNAC (April 3, 2002), http://www.newamericancentury.org/Bushletter-040302.htm.

Escobar, Pepe. “This war is brought to you by…,” Asia Times Online (March 20, 2003), http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/EC20Ak07.html.

Johnson, Chalmers Johnson. “Iraq Wars,” www.tomdispatch.com, also available at ZNet, http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=2869.

Shavit, Ari. “White man’s burden,” Ha’aretz (April 6, 2003), http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jtml?itemNo=280279&%20contrassID=2&subContrassID=14&sbSubContrassID=0&listSrc=Y.


(d) Manipulations of public fear


On November 7, the day before the United Nations Security Council voted on a resolution that made an American and British attack on Iraq more than likely, Downing Street began issuing warnings of imminent terrorist threats against the United Kingdom.

Cross-Channel ferries, the London Underground and major public events were all said to be “targeted”.

The anonymous Government sources described “emergency security measures” that included a “rapid reaction force of army reservists” and a squadron of fighter jets “on constant standby”. Plans were being drawn up to “evacuate major cities and deal with large numbers of contaminated corpses”. Police snipers were being trained “to kill suicide bombers” and anti-radiation pills were being distributed to hospitals. By November 11, Tony Blair himself was telling the British public to be “on guard” against an attack that could lead to “maximum carnage”.

Curiously, the national state of alert for a likely attack, colour-coded amber, which such a grave warning would require, was never activated. It remains on “black special”, which is just above normal. Why?

That was more than two weeks ago, and urgent questions remain unanswered. Now health service teams are to have smallpox vaccinations to “meet the threat of a germ warfare attack”; and the Foreign Office has produced a remarkable video suggesting that Britain is about to attack Iraq because of its concern for that country’s human rights record. (This must mean Britain will soon attack other countries because of their human rights records, such as China, Russia and the United States.) [….]

Where is the evidence, any evidence, for a national “alert” that borders on such orchestrated hysteria? And what explains its uncanny timing with the latest American and British machinations at the UN on Iraq?

Lying as government strategy is known as black propaganda. [….] Since September 11, 2001, every attempt by black propagandists in Whitehall and Washington to justify an unprovoked attack on Iraq by linking the regime in Baghdad with al-Qaeda terrorism has failed.

First, there was the charge that Iraq was responsible for last year’s anthrax scare in the United States, then it was claimed that Mohammed Atta, one of the alleged September 11 hijackers, had made contact with Iraqi intelligence in Prague. Both claims have been proven false, along with stories planted in newspapers by American intelligence that Iraq has been training al-Qaeda terrorists at a secret base.

John Pilger, “Lies, Damned Lies, and Terror Warnings,” ZNet (December 5, 2002), http://zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=2710.


In the United States, the Bush administration is busy terrorising Americans. There will be nuclear attacks, bombs in high-rise apartment blocks, on the Brooklyn bridge, men with exploding belts—note how carefully the ruthless Palestinian war against Israeli colonisation of the West Bank is being strapped to America’s ever weirder “war on terror”—and yet more aircraft suiciders. If you read the words of President Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney and the ridiculous national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, over the past three days, you’ll find they’ve issued more threats against Americans than Mr bin Laden.

But let’s get back to the point. The growing evidence that Israel’s policies are America’s policies in the Middle East—or, more accurately, vice versa—is now being played out for real in statements from Congress and on American television. First, we have the chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee announcing that Hizbollah—the Lebanese guerrilla force that drove Israel’s demoralised army out of Lebanon in the year 2000—is planning attacks in the US. After that, we had an American television network “revealing” that Hizbollah, Hamas and al-Qa’ida—Mr bin Laden’s organisation—have held a secret meeting in Lebanon to plot attacks on the US.

American journalists insist on quoting “sources” but there was, of course, no sourcing for this balderdash, which is now repeated ad nauseam in the American media. Then take the “Syrian Accountability Act” that was introduced into the US Senate by Israel’s friends on 18 April. This includes the falsity uttered earlier by Israel’s Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, that Iranian Revolutionary Guards “operate freely” on the southern Lebanon border. Now there haven’t been Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Lebanon—let alone the south of the country—for 18 years. So why is this lie repeated yet again?

Iran is under threat. Lebanon is under threat. Syria is under threat—its “terrorism” status has been heightened by the State Department—and so is Iraq. But Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Prime Minister held personally responsible by Israel’s own inquiry for the Sabra and Shatila massacre of 1,700 Palestinians in Beirut in 1982, is—according to Mr Bush—“a man of peace”.

Robert Fisk, “A Firestorm is Coming,” The Independent (May 25, 2002).


With the convenient discovery of a deadly poison in Wood Green, London, Tony Blair has again made explicit reference to the “related” threats of international terrorism and Iraq—threats that will sooner or later, Blair insists, unite against us.

As anyone who has glanced even briefly at the subject knows, there is no evidence whatever that Iraq has any links with international terrorism— Saddam’s sworn enemy, al Qaeda, included—despite probably the most intense and sophisticated monitoring, investigation and surveillance programme in all history. Attempts were made to establish a link in the immediate aftermath of September 11 but were soon abandoned, even by the Bush administration. Nevertheless, with Blair giving the green light, ITN [Independent Television News] is happy to suggest a connection, moving from the report of the discovery of the poison, ricin, to Iraq thus:

“Well while the hunt for the ricin goes on, so do the preparations for war—more military hardware was committed today to targeting Iraq.” (Mark Austin, ITV 6:30 News, January 8, 2003)

Media Lens, “The Great Betrayal,” ZNet (January 10, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=21&ItemID=2849.


Last Friday’s National Post front couldn’t have been more chilling if it had run a nude family photo of Michael Jackson.

“Triple Crisis Fuels Alarm in U.S.” dominated a page filled with horrifying headlines such as “North Korea: Its nuclear missiles could reach the West Coast,” “Spies warn of wave of assassins,” “Bush administration fears Saddam in ‘nightmare’ alliance with al-Qaeda,” and, spookiest of all, “The four horsemen are saddling up.”

While we here in the Big Pink aren’t being urged to stock up on duct tape—hardly necessary since the country seems to be actually held together by the stuff—we can’t avoid the spill-over scare-mongering from south of the border. [….]

“Are you ready?” demanded ABC, introducing a Martha Stewart moment which showed how to convert a laundry room into a fallout shelter with tape and tarps.

Interestingly, they never discuss how this do-it-yourself homeland improvement scheme compares with the gabillions of tax dollars worth of military and materiel that will rain down on the people of Iraq.

“If seeing a ‘Terror Alert: High’ sign on your TV screen makes you feel edgy, imagine what it’s like to be living in Baghdad or Basra,” wrote media critic Norman Solomon (www.fair.org) last Thursday. “For people in the United States, the odds that terrorism will strike close to home are very small compared to the chances that any particular Iraqi family will be decimated before summer.”

Antonia Zerbisias, “Why networks are fuelling the fear,” Toronto Star (February 16, 2003): D10.



10. The attack on Afghanistan and its consequences

This section contains excerpts from writings by Robert Fisk, Marc Herold, James Ingalls, Michele Landsberg, Geov Parrish, Milan Rai, Stephen Shalom and Michael Abert, Stefan Steinberg, Alan Thompson, and Thomas Walkom.


(a) Was the war legitimate?


“Didn’t the U.S. in fact get Security Council endorsement for its war in Afghanistan?”

No. The United States went to the Security Council twice and both times the resolution that emerged did not authorize U.S. military action against Afghanistan. Resolution 1368 did call “on all States to work together urgently to bring to justice the perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of these terrorist attacks,” but this is a far cry from authorizing the United States to decide unilaterally to wage a war against Afghanistan.

Stephen Shalom and Michael Albert, “9/11 and Afghanistan: Part B of 45 Questions on U.S. Foreign Policy,” ZNet (Oct. 9, 2002), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=2447.


The argument for making war on Afghanistan rested on two propositions: firstly, that there was incontrovertible evidence that the atrocities of 11 September were organised by Osama bin Laden; and, secondly, that there was no nonviolent means of apprehending the al Qaeda leader. In fact, these two propositions do not amount to a justification for the use of force, but let us keep to establishment assumptions.

On 4 October 2001, two interesting things happened in Britain. Prime Minister Tony Blair produced a dossier of ‘evidence’ against Mr bin Laden, which was rubbished throughout the British media—described by the Independent on Sunday, for example, as “conjecture, supposition and assertions of fact”. Hardly incontrovertible evidence.

Also on 4 October 2001, the Daily Telegraph carried a story under the heading “Pakistan halts secret plan for bin Laden trial”. According to this report, leaders of two Pakistani Islamic parties, the Jamaat-i-Islami and the Jamaat Ulema-e-Islam, negotiated Mr bin Laden’s extradition to Pakistan to stand trial for the 11 September attacks. The agreement was that Mr bin Laden would be held under house arrest in Peshawar, and tried before an international tribunal under Islamic shar’ia law. [….]

One key element of the agreement was that the international tribunal could decide either to try him on the spot or to hand Mr bin Laden over to America. This was a new departure for the Taliban. Up until 1 October, the Taliban had been offering to negotiate bin Laden’s extradition to a third country, but had refused to contemplate the possibility of handing him over to Washington.

Why did the extradition break down? It was not blocked by the head of the Taliban, Mullah Omar. According to the Daily Telegraph, the extradition was vetoed by Pakistan’s military leader, “President” Musharraf. The ostensible stumbling block “was that he [Musharraf] could not guarantee bin Laden’s safety”. This is rather implausible.

It is intriguing to read that the US Ambassador to Pakistan, Wendy Chamberlain, was notified in advance of the mission to meet Mullah Omar. During the war on Afghanistan, a US official was quoted as saying that “casting the objectives too narrowly would risk a premature collapse of the international effort if by some lucky chance Mr bin Laden were captured”. It is at least conceivable—in my view it is likely—that it was a US veto that killed the extradition agreement, just as US hostility had rebuffed previous extradition offers from the Taliban….

Milan Rai, War Plan Iraq: Ten Reasons Against War on Iraq (London and New York: Verso, 2002), pp. 37-38.


(b) Has the war been a “success” in U.S. terms?


The links of [Afghan president] Hamid Karzai to the UNOCAL company (and the C.I.A., Britain’s M16 and the U.S. Army’s 5th Special Forces Group) are well known—Karzai having served as a well paid consultant to UNOCAL when it was negotiating with the Taliban. The man who spotted Karzai’s “leadership potential” and recruited him to “the fold” was then RAND program director, Zalmay Khalilzad. The Bush Administration’s special envoy to Afghanistan, appointed nine days after Karzai took office, is Zalmay Khalilzad, graduate of the University of Chicago, another UNOCAL consultant and whose father was an aide to King Zahir, who actually drew up the risk analysis of the proposed $2 billion CentGas pipeline from Turkmenistan through western Afghanistan to Multan, Pakistan.

Khalilzad was undersecretary of defense for George Bush I, during the war against Iraq. After a stint at the Rand Corporation think tank, he headed the Bush-Cheney transition team for the Defense Department and advised Donald Rumsfeld. But he was not rewarded with any promotions. The required Senate confirmation would raise extremely uncomfortable questions about his role as UNOCAL adviser and one-time staunch Taliban defender. He was assigned instead to the Security Council—no Senate confirmation required—where he reports to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice (who was a board member of another oil giant, Chevron).

The Enron Corporation, a major political contributor to the Bush campaign, conducted the feasibility study for the CentGas deal. Bush Administration support for the Taliban into August 2001 was guided by energy considerations, in particular wresting control from Russia of the still largely unexploited oil and gas reserves of Central Asia. Russia has kept Central Asia’s vast oil and gas reserves bottled up by restricting access to export pipelines—all of which run over Russian territory. The famous UNOCAL pipeline would go directly from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan into Pakistan—so long as an Afghan Government—whether Taliban or Karzai—can guarantee its safety.

Marc Herold, “Karzai & Associates’ Trickle-Down Reconstruction,” Cursor (May 12, 2002), http://www.cursor.org/stories/karzai.htm.


The Americans take them shackled and hooded on to transport aircraft to Kandahar. They live in pens of eight or 10 men. They are given cots with blankets but no privacy. They are forced to urinate and defecate publicly because the Americans want to watch their prisoners at all times.

But United States forces have not only failed to hunt down Osama bin Laden while they are preparing for war in Iraq: they are finding it almost impossible to crack the al-Qa’ida network because Bin Laden’s men have resorted to primitive means of communication that cut individual members of al-Qa’ida off from all information.

This extraordinary, grim scenario comes from an American intelligence officer just back from Afghanistan who agreed to talk to The Independent—and to supply his own photographs of prisoners—on condition of anonymity. [….]

The officer, who spent at least six months in Afghanistan this year, was scathing in his denunciation of General Abdul Rashid Dostam, the Uzbek warlord implicated in the suffocation of up to a thousand Taliban prisoners in container trucks. “Dostam is totally culpable and the US believes he’s guilty but he’s our guy and so we won’t say so.”

Robert Fisk, “With Runners and Whispers, Al-Qa’ida Outfoxes US Forces,” The Independent (December 6, 2002), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=2712.


Today [October 2002], many of the forward bases of the U.S. Special Forces are under intermittent guerilla attack. Rockets, self-propelled grenades, mortar fire hit the bases at night. U.S. troops scamper out to search in vain for the attackers. [….]

[….] Just as in the Soviet case, it took a year for the mujahideen opposition to regroup and coalesce—this is now happening as the forces of Hekmatyar, Al-Qaeda and the Taliban cooperate. The gradual strengthening of the mujahideen was followed by attacks on the Soviets’ Afghan allies, who were easier targets. These attacks then forced the Soviets to take charge of security operations themselves, undermining the illusion of partnership with a local regime. Precisely this has been happening as the U.S. provides protection to Karzai and as it moves the 82nd Airborne Division units into southeastern and western Afghanistan. [….]

Yet, for all their numerical and technological advantages, the Americans and their allies have not figured out how to confront a foe so skilled at concealment. The Soviets referred to their Afghan adversaries as dukhi, the Russian word for ghosts, invisible spirits who attacked out of nowhere only to disappear into nowhere. Russian observers have noted that the United States is at roughly the same stage where they were in 1981, supporting a weak central government, faced with a bubbling opposition.

Ambushes, hit-and-run, rising popular resentment, coalescing opposition forces and an invisible enemy all point to a Vietnam redux.

Marc Herold, “U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan: Vietnam Redux,” Cursor (October 31, 2002), http://www.cursor.org/stories/vietnam_redux.htm.


The Chrétien government has committed Canadian infantry to Afghanistan on what is supposed to be a peacekeeping mission.

Almost precisely at the moment when it seemed obvious that Prime Minister Jean Chrétien’s government had long since decided to throw its support behind a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq—with or without a United Nations Security Council resolution explicitly authorizing an attack—the government revealed plans to commit up to 2,000 troops to Afghanistan this summer on a one-year peace-keeping mission.

With war on everyone’s mind this week, Defence Minister John McCallum praised the new mission as befitting of Canadian tradition. McCallum said Canada will send a brigade headquarters and battle group to Kabul for two six-month rotations to jointly command the international stabilization force in Afghanistan.

After making the announcement in the House of Commons—in response to a staged question from a Liberal backbench MP—McCallum met with reporters to defend the new peacekeeping endeavour.

“This is a tough and dangerous mission, but it’s also in the peacekeeping tradition of Canadians,” McCallum said.

Alan Thompson, “Call to arms: Canada will take part in a U.S.-led war on Iraq—just not with ground forces. The decision to return to Afghanistan as peacekeepers is seen as a compromise,” Toronto Star (February 15, 2003): E1.

McCallum’s coded language (“a tough and dangerous mission”), coupled with the fact that a senior Canadian army officer resigned in protest over the decision to send troops to Afghanistan, suggests that the Canadian government must be aware that Canadian troops posted to Kabul will be engaged in a counter-insurgency operation rather than in peacekeeping work. The Canadian public, however, has been given no notion of the situation into which our troops will be inserted. Even a journalist as habitually astute as Thomas Walkom anticipates that their function will be a “janitorial” one.

[…] Afghanistan is now a side-show. U.N. peacekeeping, which in the time of Pearson was designed to cool international hot spots, has become a clean-up. Canadian troops going into Kabul will act as a kind of janitorial service, to sort out the mess left after the war against Afghanistan’s former Taliban government.

Thomas Walkom, “As the old world order passes away, Canada can only sit and watch,” Toronto Star (February 15, 2003): E5, http://www.thestar.com.


(c) What have its political and humanitarian consequences been?


One year after the Americans promised a return to democracy, most of Afghanistan remains carved up among a collection of opulently thievish warlords, many of them the same commanders of armies of mass rape, torture, and murder from whom the country fled to the Taliban as an antidote six years ago.

Geov Parrish, “Match Game,” ZNet (November 16, 2002), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=2633.


As to what happened regarding starvation, we have virtually no idea. No one in the West with the means to count cares to do so. There is some suggestive data, however, that indicates that there were serious humanitarian consequences. Medicine Without Frontiers reported a doubling of the child mortality rate between August 2001 and January 2002 (see the MSF report, 2/21/02 […]). Michael Finkel reported in the New York Times Magazine that in the single Afghan district of Abdulgan out of 15,000 residents, the total number of dead during the war “has to run into the 1,000s.” An estimate in the Guardian (Jonathan Steele, 5/20/02) puts the indirect death toll at 20,000. Nakamura Tetsu, a Japanese doctor who heads an NGO that has worked in Afghanistan and Pakistan for 19 years, has said that “tens of thousands” starved to death as a result of the bombing […].

Stephen Shalom and Michael Albert, “9/11 and Afghanistan: Part B of 45 Questions on U.S. Foreign Policy,” ZNet (October 9, 2002), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=2447.


President Bush asserted in his “State of the Union” speech in January [2002] that the United States had “saved a people from starvation, and freed a country from brutal oppression,” but the facts show that the US bombing actually exacerbated many of the dangers that existed in pre-Sept 11 Afghanistan. On September 6 2001, the World Food Program described “widespread pre-famine conditions.” They were just about to start a new project to provide food aid to 5.5 million people, but [ten] days later (Sept [16]), all aid convoys were stopped at the borders to prevent “terrorists” from escaping. This put at risk the millions of Afghans who were in danger of starvation, since refugees could no longer leave, and aid couldn’t get in. A month after Bush’s State of the Union announcement that we “saved a people from starvation,” Doctors without Borders reported (21 Feb) that “The food crisis in northern Afghanistan is reaching alarming proportions.” Mortality rates in one Northern camp have doubled since August. That is, twice as many people are dying per day now compared to before the US bombing.

The relief agency CARE has just issued a policy brief (end of September 2002) entitled, “Rebuilding Afghanistan: A little less talk, a lot more action,” in which they complain that “promises [to rebuild the country] now look increasingly suspect.” This is what is called “nation building.” Reconstruction needs in Afghanistan are, according to the report, “significantly higher” than in Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo, or East Timor, where international donations averaged $250 per person per year.

And yet, in Afghanistan only $75 has been pledged per person for 2002, and $42 per person per year over the next five years. CARE estimates that Afghanistan needs at least $10 billion over the next 5 years to rebuild, which is not at all forthcoming.

Over $10 billion has been spent on Afghanistan since October 7 2001, mostly by the US government; 84% of it was spent to bomb the country and to finance anti-Taliban fighters. Part of the US plan included a “regime change” shifting the balance of power away from the Taliban and towards the “Northern Alliance.” That meant paying warlords $100,000 each and supplying them with truckloads of weapons. “We were reaching out to every commander that we could,” an intelligence official told the Wall Street Journal (15 Apr 02). Presently the warlords that we supported are “the greatest threats to stability in Afghanistan,” according to CARE. [….]

The United States has eliminated the Taliban, but what is in its place? The president Hamid Karzai has little popular support. He relies on the backing of the US (even his bodyguards are mostly US Special Operations soldiers) and is at the mercy of various warlords, also backed by the US. Peter Singer of the Brookings Institution calls him “basically the mayor of Kabul during daylight hours.” So the US has eliminated one source of instability in Afghanistan, and replaced it with another, which it (partially) controls. The prospects are just as bleak for Iraq, if the US decides to engage in the kind of “regime change” and “nation building” it implemented in Afghanistan.

James Ingalls, “Afghanistan: The First Puppet Regime in the Post Sept 11 World” (Talk given at the Afghan Women’s Mission Conference, October 30, 2002), ZNet, http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=49&ItemID=2565. [Date of border closing corrected.]


Remember Afghanistan? U.S. President George Bush was going to go in there, bomb the Taliban out of existence, catch Osama bin Laden, install a brand-new democracy and make sure that “all the boys and girls could go to school.”

Not only that: By routing the Taliban, Bush could enjoy the rare pleasure of draping himself in the silken mantle of a fighter for women’s rights. During his post-war January, 2002 state of the union speech, he introduced leading Afghan feminist and cabinet minister Dr. Sima Samar (“Today, women are free,” he said) and basked in the applause of Congress. If you’d like to check up on the progress of those grand promises, you can do so tonight [March 2, 2003] when The Passionate Eye (CBC Newsworld at 10 p.m.) shows The Daughters of Afghanistan, a new documentary featuring journalist and activist Sally Armstrong, who has visited that country dozens of times since she began crusading [sic] for Afghan women’s rights in 1996.

The state of Afghanistan is especially relevant right now—though little-reported—because the chaos and misery there give us a glimpse of just how difficult it is to reform a country by means of aerial bombardment. Armstrong says that only about 30 per cent of Afghan girls attend school today, due to lack of resources and a Taliban-like fundamentalist grip on the country outside the capital. The warlords are still running the country, and their rule is cruel, violent and deeply misogynist. Outside of Kabul, girls and women are still jailed for trying to escape forced marriages. They are forced to wear the burqa, attacked by fanatic vice squads, and even seized and subjected to demeaning gynecological “chastity” exams if caught anywhere near a man. Schools are firebombed; warlords troops rape with impunity.

Dr. Samar, so admired by President Bush, was forced out of government by a vicious hoked-up fundamentalist plot a mere six months after becoming deputy prime minister. Reduced to a human rights commissioner, she is left without protection or funds by an indifferent U.S. [….]

The United States has utterly failed to keep its promises to Afghanistan, and especially its promises to reinstate democracy (as though democracy could ever be imposed by outsiders, from above…as it were). It’s worth watching this compelling documentary, just to taste the courage and resilience of the women, and the depth of their betrayal by American power.

The Washington Post says that American hamburger joints are springing up everywhere in Kabul. There might be post-war hamburgers in Baghdad too, but there will be no fast-food version of democracy.

Michele Landsberg, “Afghanistan documentary exposes Bush’s promises,” Toronto Star (March 2, 2003), http://www.thestar.com.


Marc Herold of the University of New Hampshire has studied in detail the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan and its humanitarian and political consequences. His essays on the subject include the following:

Marc Herold, “An Average Day: 65 Afghan Civilians Killed by U.S. Bombs on December 20th,” Cursor (December 29, 2001), http://www.cursor.org/stories/ontarget.htm.

----, “A Dossier on Civilian Victims of United States; Aerial Bombing of Afghanistan: A Comprehensive Accounting [revised],” Cursor (March 2002), http://www.cursor.org/stories/civilian_deaths.htm.

----, “Karzai and Associates’ Trickle-Down Reconstruction,” Cursor (May 12, 2002), http://www.cursor.org/stories/karzai.htm.

----, “The Bombing of Afghanistan as Reflection of 9/11 and Different Valuations of Life,” Cursor (September 11, 2002), http://www.cursor.org/stories/heroldon911.htm.



(d) War crimes committed against Taliban prisoners of war

The United States is alleged to have been implicated in at least two large-scale massacres of prisoners of war in November 2001. After the surrender of the Taliban forces in Kunduz in late November, the Afghani Taliban were released, but between 400 and 800 foreign-born troops (Pakistanis, Uzbeks, Chechens, and Arabs), who had apparently believed they would also be released after their surrender, were trucked to the Qalai-i-Janghi fortress on the outskirts of Mazar-i-Sharif, which the Northern Alliance warlord General Dostum was using as his headquarters. On the night of November 24, several prisoners committed suicide with concealed hand grenades (one of the explosions also killing two of Dostum's men). On November 25, Northern Alliance troops tied the hands of some 250 prisoners behind their backs, and two American CIA agents began to interrogate them. These actions sparked off a revolt of the prisoners, who appear to have thought they were about to be executed. In the ensuing fighting, which involved heavy U.S. bombing of the fortress and the use of U.S. and British special forces soldiers, most of the Taliban soldiers were killed. All who escaped from the fortress were shot, and an Associated Press photographer stated that up to 50 of the corpses he saw had their hands bound. A total of 86 Taliban survived the massacre by hiding in tunnels under the fort.

Shortly after the massacre at Qalai-i-Janghi, a further 3,000 of the 8,000 Taliban troops who had surrendered at Kunduz were locked into closed and unventilated containers and taken by truck to a prison compound in Shibarghan; according to the drivers, 150 to 160 of the 200-300 prisoners in each container died in transit. Witnesses claim that an American officer gave orders to fire into the containers, and that survivors were tortured and summarily executed by American troops. The prisoners were then dumped in the desert, where with some thirty to forty American soldiers looking on, those still alive were shot. In June 2002, the Irish director Jamie Doran’s film Massacre in Mazar, which documents these crimes, was shown in Berlin to members of the German parliament, and in Strasbourg to deputies and members of the press at the European Parliament. This film aroused widespread calls in Europe for an investigation of war crimes; in the United States, news of its existence was suppressed by the corporate media.


Doran’s new film includes interviews with eyewitnesses to torture and the slaughter of some 3,000 POWs. It also contains footage of the desert scene where the alleged massacre took place. Skulls, clothing and limbs still protrude from the mound of sand, more than six months after the event.

The film has received widespread coverage in the European press, with articles featured in some of the main French and German newspapers (Le Monde, Suddeutsche Zeitung, Die Welt). Jamie Doran has also given interviews to two of the main German television companies.

While the documentary has become a major news story in Europe, it has been virtually blacked out by the American media. The UPI released a dispatch on the screenings last week, yet the existence of the film has not even been reported by such leading newspapers as the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post. The film and its allegations of US war crimes have been similarly suppressed by the television networks and cable news channels.

Stefan Steinberg, “Afghan war documentary charges US with mass killings of POWs,” World Socialist Web Site (June 17, 2002), http://www.wsws.org/articles/2002/jun2002/afgh-j17.shtml.


The account provided above of alleged war crimes against Taliban prisoners of war is based upon Steinberg's article, and upon the following articles:

White, Jerry. “After US massacre of Taliban POWs: the stench of death and more media lies,” World Socialist Web Site (November 29, 2001), http://www.wsws.org/articles/2001/nov2001/mass-n29.shtml.

----. “More evidence of US war crimes in Afghanistan: Taliban POWs suffocated inside cargo containers,” World Socialist Web Site (December 13, 2001), http://www.wsws.org/articles/2001/des2001/pows-d13.shtml.

WSWS Editorial Board, “The Geneva Convention and the US massacre of POWs in Afghanistan,” World Socialist Web Site (December 7, 2001), http://www.wsws.org/articles/2001/dec2001/pows-d07.shtml.



11. War crimes in Palestine

This section contains excerpts from writings by Noam Chomsky and Michael Albert, Pepe Escobar, Kristen Ess, Robert Fisk, Amira Hass, Justin Huggler, John Pilger, Mitchell Plitnick, Tanya Reinhart, and Norman Solomon.

It is by no means obvious to most North Americans what direct connections there might be between the American-led attack on Iraq and the ongoing violence inflicted by the Israeli government upon the Palestinian population of the territories which Israel has occupied, in defiance of international law and of repeated UN Security Council resolutions, since 1967.

Since the 1960s, Israel has been used by the United States as a surrogate, a means of indirectly exercising a destabilizing American power over potentially hostile Arab states which are also an essential source of oil. Israel is clearly a key U.S. ally: it has for many years been the primary recipient of U.S. military aid (to the tune of well over $3 billion every year); its policies of settlement and ethnic cleansing in the occupied territories have also received steady U.S. diplomatic and financial support. Israel has in turn provided open and covert assistance to American geopolitical goals in Africa and in Central and South America as well as in the Middle East, and has a long record of hostilities with Iraq.

However, the direct connection between the crises in Iraq and Palestine arises out of the fact that, in their present forms, both crises are a consequence of a single policy vision enunciated and now applied by the right-wing ideologues who in 1997 formed the Project for the New American Century (see section 9[c] above for information about the PNAC—and who are now in effective control of U.S. foreign policy. (The members of the PNAC group include Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, and Richard Perle, who was recently obliged by charges of conflict of interest to resign his position of chairman of the Defense Policy Board, but remains a prominent spokesman for the Bush regime.)

The role of the PNAC group in formulating a Middle East policy in which the continuing ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians and the destruction of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq are directly linked is analyzed by Pepe Escobar in the following excerpts from an important article published in Asia Times on March 20, 2003.


It’s no surprise that Bush, on February 26 [2003], chose to unveil his vision of a new Middle Eastern order at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a right-wing Washington think-tank. The PNAC’s office is nowhere else than on the 5th floor of the AEI Building on 17th St, in downtown Washington. The AEI is the key node of a collection of neoconservative foreign policy experts and scholars, the most influential of whom are members of the PNAC.

The AEI is intimately linked to the Likud Party in Israel—which for all practical purposes has a deep impact on American foreign policy in the Middle East, thanks to the AEI’s influence. In this mutually-beneficial environment, AEI stalwarts are known as Likudniks. It’s no surprise, then, how unparalleled is the AEI’s intellectual Islamophobia. [….]

The AEI’s foreign policy agenda is presided over by none other than Richard Perle. As Perle is a longtime friend and advisor to Rumsfeld, he was rewarded with the post of chairman of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board: its 30-odd very influential members include former national security advisers, secretaries of defense and heads of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Perle is also a very close friend of Pentagon number two Wolfowitz, since they were students at the University of Chicago in the late 1960s. Perle now reports to Wolfowitz.

On September 20, 2001, Perle went on overdrive, fully mobilizing the Defense Policy Board to forge a link between Saddam and al-Quaeda. The PNAC sent an open letter to Bush detailing how a war on terrorism should be conducted. The letter says that Saddam has to go “even if evidence does not link him to the attack”. The letter lists other policies that later were implemented—like the gigantic increase of the defense budget and the total isolation of the Palestinaian Authority (PA), as well as others that may soon follow, like striking Hezbollah in Lebanon and yet-to-be-formulated attacks against Iran and especially Syria if they do not stop support for Hezbollah.

The Bush administration strategy in the past few months of totally isolating the PA’s Yasser Arafat and allowing Israeli premier Ariel Sharon to refuse as much as a handshake, was formulated by the PNAC. Another PNAC letter states that “Israel’s fight is our fight … for reasons both moral and strategic, we need to stand firm with Israel in its fight against terrorism”. The PNAC detested the Camp David accords between Israel and the Palestinians. For the PNAC, a simmering, undeclared state of war against Palestine, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Iran is a matter of policy.

Perle, a former assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs under Reagan, is also a member of the board of the Jerusalem Post. He wrote a chapter—“Iraq: Saddam Unbound”—in Present Dangers, a PNAC book. He is very close to ultra-hawk Douglas Feith, who was his special counsel under Reagan and is now assistant secretary of defense for policy (one of the Pentagon’s four most senior posts) and also a partner in a small Washington law firm that represents Israeli suppliers of munitions seeking deals with American weapons manufacturers. It was thanks to Perle—who personally defended his candidate to Rumsfeld—that Feith got his current job. He was one of the key people responsible for strategic planning in the war against the Taliban and is also heavily involved in planning the war against Iraq.

David Wurmser, former head of Middle Eastern projects at the AEI, is now special assistant to PNAC founder John Bolton, the undersecretary of state for arms control and a fierce enemy of multilateralism. Wurmser wrote Tyranny’s Ally: America’s failure to defeat Saddam Hussein, a book published by the AEI. The forward is by none other than Perle. Meyrav Wurmser, David’s wife, is a co-founder of the Middle East Media Research Institute.

In July 1996, Perle, Feith and the Wurmser couple wrote the notorious paper for an Israeli think tank charting a roadmap for Likud superhawk and then-incoming Israeli prime minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu. The paper is called “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm”. Perle, Feith and the Wurmsers tell Bibi that Israel must shelve the Oslo Accords, the so-called peace process, the concept of “land for peace”, go for it and permanently annex the entire West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The paper also recommends that Israel must insist on the elimination of Saddam, and the restoration of the Hashemite monarchy in Baghdad. This would be the first domino to fall, and then regime change would follow in Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Saudi Arabia. This 1996 blueprint is nothing else than Ariel Sharon’s current agenda in action. In November last year, Sharon took the liberty to slightly modify the domino sequence by growling on the record that Iran should be the next after Iraq.

Bush’s speech on February 26 [2003] at the AEI claimed that the real reason for a war against Iraq is “to bring democracy”[….]. The AEI and the PNAC shaped the now official Bush policy of introducing democracy—by bombing Iraq—and then “successfully transforming the lives of millions of people throughout the Middle East”, in the words of AEI scholar Michael Ledeen. At his AEI speech, Bush did nothing else but parrot the idea.

Pepe Escobar, “This war is brought to you by…,” Asia Times Online (March 20, 2003), http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/EC20Ak07.html.


…80 percent of the Palestinians killed in recent months by the Israeli Defense Force during curfew enforcement were children, according to an October report from the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. Twelve people under the age of 16 had been killed, with dozens more wounded by Israeli gunfire in occupied areas, during a period of four months. “None of those killed endangered the lives of soldiers,” B’Tselem said.

Norman Solomon, “Decoding Some Top Buzzwords,” ZNet (December 13, 2002), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=21&ItemID=2746.


There are about 9,000 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails. Last night Israeli soldiers abducted 14 more. Since Sharon was re-elected Israeli soldiers have killed 28 Palestinians. This is just in the past eight days. In the last two months Israeli soldiers have murdered 72 Palestinians. This means that the Israeli military kills four Palestinians a day. [….]

My phone rang all night. [….] Friends are calling from the hospital in Gaza where I live, telling me more about the devastation there. The other night Israeli soldiers shot two nurses in Al-Awda Hospital […]. Friends are calling from Rafah, more houses are demolished, the Israelis won’t stop shooting. Two more kids are dead. My friends in the water municipality tell me that more pump stations are destroyed and more wells are contaminated. Just in Rafah it’s at 60 percent without water.

This is ethnic cleansing and in all cases of ethnic cleansing a great deal of effort goes into making the public think those being cleansed are bad, are evil, deserve it, are terrorists. I saw the little boy whom Israeli soldiers shot in one of the camps. He is on permanent crutches, no more than 50 pounds. He and his friend threw stones at a heavily armoured Israeli tank. He is permanently maimed, his friend is dead. The kids in the camp don’t have school again today. Only 50 percent of the entire last year was not under curfew in this area.

Kristen Ess, “Occupied Palestine Report,” ZNet (February 8, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=22&ItemID=3004.


A senior officer was asked last week if he thought the IDF [Israel Defence Force] could prevent a provocation by supporters of the “transfer” idea in the army and among the settlers of the West Bank, and foil any attempt at a mass expulsion of Palestinians. [….]

The officer admitted he had doubts whether the army could, or would even try, to prevent such an expulsion.

“The army failed when it did not prevent the settlers from sabotaging the Palestinian olive harvest in the West Bank, or prevent the settlers from stealing the olives. The state failed, because as far as we know, those settlers who did sabotage the olive harvest have not been dealt with, although their identities are known to the authorities.” [….]

Every day between five and twenty Palestinians are arrested in the territories. Every few days the IDF invades some place and demolishes something. Every other day, in addition to armed Palestinians, and Palestinians plotting terror attacks being killed, Palestinian civilians are accidentally killed, including children and the elderly. [….]

There are checkpoints with soldiers who scold the elderly and the young or deliberately delay them for no reason; the travel restrictions; the iron gates that turn villages and towns into detention centers; the summons to the Shin Bet, which tries to recruit collaborators and get information about a neighbor or cousin; the curfews and the children locked up at home; the roads that the IDF bulldozers crush and crumble; the houses that are demolished because a terrorist lived in them; the tool and die shops that are destroyed; the water and electricity grids that are damaged during raids; the paving of another road for Jews only; the tear gas grenades at “rioters”; the destruction of more farmland under tank treads.

Amira Hass, “Terror as a Natural Phenomenon,” Ha’aretz (January 15, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=22&ItemID=2871.


The question hung over the concrete rubble and twisted iron support rods, the ruined buildings where Palestinians said three young men were killed when the Israeli army demolished them this week.

Is the Israeli military taking advantage of a time when the world is not paying attention to what is going on here, when media coverage is focusing on Iraq, to step up its campaign in the occupied territories?

In the past week, while the world’s press focused on the UN security council and Baghdad, the violence has suddenly surged. In six days, at least 30 Palestinians have been killed in a series of Israeli operations, chiefly in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank city of Nablus.

The dead have been a combination of unarmed civilians, armed militants, members of the legitimate Palestinian security forces and one a medic trying to reach a sick patient.

Justin Huggler, “Bodies Piling Up in Gaza and the Apartheid Wall in Bethlehem,” The Independent (February 22, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=22&ItemID=3103.


When we read about political assassinations and murder of civilians by Israeli helicopters, we should understand, as the victims do, that these are U.S. helicopters with Israeli pilots, provided in the full knowledge that that is how they are going to be used. The point generalizes, and extends to the diplomatic arena as well. To give one example, consider the Fourth Geneva Convention, established immediately after World War II to formally criminalize Nazi atrocities. The U.S. is among the High Contracting Parties that are bound by solemn treaty obligations to enforce the Convention. Apart from the U.S. and Israel, the world has repeatedly insisted that the Convention applies to the territories that Israel occupies with U.S. support. The same conclusion has been forcefully enunciated by the ICRC, which has the responsibility to oversee application of the Convention. The government of Switzerland is the responsible state authority. In that capacity, it called a conference on the matter for December 5 [2001]. The conference was boycotted by the U.S. and Israel, and—more surprisingly—Australia, under U.S. pressure, according to the Australian press. The report on the conference in the London Financial Times opened by stating that “The European Union’s 15 member states were among 114 countries that yesterday agreed an unprecedented declaration reaffirming the illegality of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories and calling on Israel to respect international humanitarian law.” A database search the next day found no reports in the U.S. media […].

Noam Chomsky and Michael Albert, “Extending U.S. Dominance By Any Means Possible,” ZNet (January 2, 2002), http://www.zmag.org/Zmag/articles/jano2albertchomsky.htm.


Noam Chomsky has commented elsewhere on the blatant illegalities of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza strip, from the early period following the 1967 war through to the Oslo “peace process.”

The plan for the Palestinians under military occupation was described frankly to his cabinet colleagues by Moshe Dayan, one of the Labor leaders more sympathetic to the Palestinian plight. Israel should make it clear that “we have no solution, you shall continue to live like dogs, and whoever wishes may leave, and we will see where this process leads.” Following that recommendation, the guiding principle of the occupation has been incessant and degrading humiliation, along with torture, terror, destruction of property, displacement and settlement, and takeover of basis resources, crucially water. [….]

The goal of the Oslo process was accurately described in 1998 by Israeli academic Shlomo Ben-Ami just before he joined the Barak government, going on to become Barak’s chief negotiator at Camp David in summer 2000. Ben-Ami observed that “in practice, the Oslo agreements were founded on a neo-colonialist basis, on a life of dependence of one on the other forever.” With these goals, the Clinton-Rabin-Peres agreements were designed to impose on the Palestinians “almost total dependence on Israel,” creating “an extended colonial situation,” which is expected to be the “permanent basis” for “a situation of dependence.” The function of the Palestinian Authority (PA) was to control the domestic population of the Israeli-run neocolonial dependency. That is the way the process unfolded, step by step, including the Camp David suggestions. The Clinton-Barak stand (left vague and ambiguous) was hailed here [in the U.S.] as “remarkable” and “magnanimous,” but a look at the facts made it clear that it was—as commonly described in Israel—a Bantustan proposal; that is presumably the reason why maps were carefully avoided in the US mainstream. It is true that Clinton-Barak advanced a few steps towards a Bantustan-style settlement of the kind that South Africa instituted in the darkest days of Apartheid. Just prior to Camp David, West Bank Palestinians were confined to over 200 scattered areas, and Clinton-Barak did propose an improvement: consolidation to three cantons, under Israeli control, virtually separated from one another and from the fourth canton, a small area of east Jerusalem, from the center of Palestinian life and communications in the region. And of course separated from Gaza, where the outcome was left unclear.

But now that plan has apparently been shelved in favor of demolition of the PA. That means destruction of the institutions of the potential Bantustan […]. The prominent Israeli scholar Ze’ev Sternhell writes that the government “is no longer ashamed to speak of war when what they are really engaged in is colonial policing, which recalls the takeover by the white police of the poor neighborhoods of the blacks in South Africa during the apartheid era.” This new policy is a regression below the Bantustan model of South Africa 40 years ago to which Clinton-Rabin-Peres-Barak and their associates aspired in the Oslo “peace process.”

Noam Chomsky and Michael Albert, “Interview with Chomsky,” Z Magazine / Znet (April 3, 2002).


Israel is asking the United States for $8bn (£5bn) in loan guarantees—and has sent to Washington one of the former army officers implicated in the 1982 Sabra and Chatila massacre of Palestinian civilians to persuade the Bush administration to grant the money.

Amos Yaron, who is now director general of the Israeli Ministry of Defence, was the military commander in Beirut when Lebanese Phalangist militiamen entered the refugee camps and slaughtered up to 1,700 Palestinian refugees. He ordered flares to be dropped over the camps, at the request of the Phalange, and Israeli soldiers blocked the exits to prevent civilians from leaving the area.. Israel is pleading for the money—along with an additional $4bn in military aid—on the grounds that a US invasion of Iraq will provoke further attacks against Israel.

Robert Fisk, “Israeli at US Loan Talks Is Implicated In Massacre,” The Independent (January 13, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticled.cfm?SectionID=22&ItemID=2857.


I believe that even much before its present atrocities, Israel has followed the South-African Apartheid model. Behind the smoke screen of the Oslo "Peace process", Israel has been pushing the Palestinians in the occupied territories into smaller and smaller isolated enclaves—a direct copy of the Bantustans model. Unlike South Africa, however, Israel has managed so far to sell its policy as a big compromise for peace. Aided by a battalion of cooperating 'peace-camp' intellectuals, they managed to convince the world that it is possible to establish a Palestinian state without land-reserves, without water, without a glimpse of a chance of economic independence, in isolated ghettos surrounded by fences, settlements, bypass roads and Israeli army posts—a virtual state which serves one purpose: separation (Apartheid).

But what Israel is doing under Sharon far exceeds the crimes of South Africa's white regime. It has been taking the form of systematic ethnic cleansing, which South Africa never attempted. Since April last year (following the Jenin "operation") we are witnessing the daily invisible killing of the sick and wounded being deprived of medical care, the weak who cannot survive in the new poverty conditions, and those who are bound to reach starvation.

Since the US is backing Israel and the European governments are silent, it is the moral right and duty of the people of the world to do whatever they can on their own to stop Israel and save the Palestinians.

Tanya Reinhart (Professor of Linguistics, Tel Aviv University), “Academic Boycott: In Support of Paris VI” (February 4. 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=22&ItemID=2961.


The Palestinian writer Ghada Karmi has described “a deep and unconscious racism [that] imbues every aspect of western conduct toward Iraq”. She wrote: “I recall that a similar culture prevailed in the UK during the 1956 Suez crisis and the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, when Nasser was the arch-villain and all Arabs were crudely targeted. Today, in Britain, such overt anti-Arabness is unacceptable, so it takes subtler forms. Saddam-bashing, a sport officially sanctioned since 1991, has made him the perfect surrogate for anti-Arab abuse.”

[…] veiled racism [has] propel[led] every western attack on Arabs, from Churchill's preference in 1921 for “using poison gas on uncivilised tribes” to the use of depleted uranium in the 1991 Gulf slaughter. This racism applies, quintessentially, to [Ghada Karmi’s] homeland, Palestine. While the Iraq pantomime plays, America's proxy, Israel, has begun the next stage of its historic ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. On 21 January, the town of Naziat ‘Iza in the northern West Bank was invaded by a force of armoured personnel carriers, tanks and 60-ton, American-made Israeli bulldozers. Sixty-three shops were demolished, along with countless homes and olive groves. Little of this was reported outside the Arab world. Some parts of the West Bank have been under curfew for a total of 214 days. Whole villages are under house arrest. People cannot get medical care; ambulances have been prevented from reaching hospitals; women have lost their newborn babies in agony and pools of blood at military checkpoints. Fresh water is permanently scarce, and food; in some areas, more than half the children are seriously undernourished. One image unforgettable to me is the sight of children's kites flying from the windows and yards of their prison-homes.

Then there is the slaughter. During the month of November, more than 50 Palestinian civilians were killed by the Israelis—a record by one calculation. These included a 95-year-old woman, 14 young children and a British UN worker, shot in the back by an Israeli sniper. Human rights groups say the deaths occurred mostly in circumstances in which there was no exchange of gunfire. “The Israelis have killed 16 Palestinians within 49 hours,” said Dr Mustafa Barghouti in Ramallah on 27 January. “That’s an average of one Palestinian every three hours. The silence about this is simply unconscionable.”

While Blair damns Iraq for the chemical weapons that a swarm of inspectors cannot find, he has quietly approved the sale of chemical weapons to Israel, a terrorist and rogue state by any dictionary meaning of those words. While he accuses Iraq of defying the United Nations, he is silent about the 64 UN resolutions Israel has ignored—a world record.

The Israeli terrorists, who subjugate and brutalise a whole nation, demolishing homes and shops, expelling and killing and “systematically torturing” (Amnesty) day after day, are not mentioned in the Observer editorial [of January 19, 2003, in which that newspaper announced its support for an attack on Iraq]. No “decisive action” (the Observer's words) is required against the prima facie war criminals Ariel Sharon and General Shaul Mofaz, who, along with their predecessors, have caused a degree of suffering of which Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda can only dream. There is no suggestion that the British force heading for the Middle East should “intervene” in the “republic of fear” that Israel has created in Palestine in defiance of the world, and “displace” them. There is not a word about the weapons of mass destruction that Sharon repeatedly flaunts (“the Arabs may have the oil, but we have the matches”).

To most people in Europe, and across the world, these double standards offend common decency.

John Pilger, “Betrayal of a Noble Legacy,” ZNet (February 1, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=11&ItemID=2943.


The only road to a decent future for everyone in the region is paved with the recognition that their future is one. Israeli leaders must recognize that the occupation has not only spilled a river of blood, the majority of it Palestinian; has not only destroyed what was left of Palestinian infrastructure, and many Palestinian homes and families; it has also done enormous damage to the Israeli economy and the Israeli social fabric. It is Israel, as the occupier, that must recognize that the only peaceful and just future is one where they are living with the Palestinians, as part of the Middle East, as a neighbor among equals, rather than as a dominating force and military base for the United States. And it is Israel that must realize that the only way to start toward that future is to end the occupation.

Mitchell Plitnick, “Scandalous Diversions,” Jewish Voice for Peace Newsletter (January 14, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=22&ItemID=2865.



12. Larger Contexts of the Attack on Iraq: Some Recent Studies

The titles listed here can serve as a reminder that the monstrous events that are now under way cry out for forms of historical explanation that can be both alert to patterns of cultural and material causation and also, in the deepest sense, ethically responsible.

Ali, Tariq. The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity. London: Verso, 2002.

Arnove, Anthony, ed. Iraq Under Siege: The Deadly Impact of Sanctions and War. 2nd ed., London: Pluto, 2003.

Brenner, Robert. “The Continuing Collapse of the US Economy.” London Review of Books, vol. 25, no. 3 (February 6, 2003): 18-23.

Chomsky, Noam. Class Warfare: Noam Chomsky in Conversation, 1992-1996. Interviewed by David Barsamian. Vancouver: New Star Books, 1997.

----. 9-11. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2001.

----. Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky. Ed. Peter R. Mitchell and John Schoeffel. New York: The New Press, 2002.

----. Power and Terror: Post-9/11 Talks and Interviews. Ed. John Junkerman and Takei Masakazu. New York: Seven Stories Press, Tokyo: Little More, 2003.

Chossudovsky, Michel. War and Globalisation: The Truth Behind September 11. Shanty Bay, Ontario: Global OutlookTM, 2002.

Cockburn, Andrew, and Patrick Cockburn. Out of the Ashes: The Resurrection of Saddam Hussein. 1999; rpt. New York: HarperPerennial, 2000.

----. Saddam Hussein: An American Obsession. London: Verso, 2002.

Dyer, Gwynne. Ignorant Armies: Sliding into War in Iraq. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2003.

Fisk, Robert. “Tired of being lied to.” The Independent (February 15, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=51&ItemID=3502.

Hiro, Dilip. Iraq: In the Eye of the Storm. New York: Thunder's Mouth Press/Nation Books, 2002.

McMurtry, John. The Cancer Stage of Capitalism. London: Pluto Press, 1999.

----. Value Wars: The Global Market Versus the Life Economy. London: Pluto Press, 2002.

Miller, Mark Crispin. The Bush Dyslexicon: Observations on a National Disorder. New York: Norton, 2002.

Mokhiber, Russell, and Robert Weissman. “Corporations, War, You.” ZNet (February 7, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=2992.

Monbiot, George. “Too much of a good thing: Underlying the US drive to war is a thirst to open up new opportunities for surplus capital.” The Guardian (February 18, 2003): 17.

----. “Left Behind to Starve: A humanitarian disaster is engulfing Africa as cash is poured into the war with Iraq and its aftermath.” ZNet (March 18, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=3259.

Nitzan, Jonathan, and Shimson Bichler. The Global Political Economy of Israel. London: Pluto Press, 2002.

Parenti, Michael. America Besieged. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1998.

Petras, James, and Henry Veltmayer. Globalization Unmasked: Imperialism in the 21st Century. New York and London: Zed Books; Halifax: Fernwood Publishing, 2001.

Petras, James. “Nine Eleven: One year of empire building.” Rebelión (August 12, 2002). http://www.ratical.org/ratville/CAH/1yrEmpBlding.html.

Pilger, John. The New Rulers of the World. London: Verso, 2002.

Pitt, William Rivers, with Scott Ritter. War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know. New York: Context Books, 2002.

Rai, Milan. War Plan Iraq: Ten Reasons Against War on Iraq. London: Verso, 2002.

Ritter, Scott. Endgame: Solving the Iraq Crisis. 2nd ed., New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002.

Solomon, Norman, and Reese Erlich. Target Iraq: What the News Media Don't Tell You. New York: Context Books, 2003.

Stich, Rodney. Drugging America: A Trojan Horse. Alamo, California: Diablo Western Press, 1999.

Vidal, Gore. Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace: How We Got To Be So Hated. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press/Nation Books, 2002.

----. “The Enemy Within.” The Observer (October 27, 2002), Review Section, 1-4, http://burningbush.netfirms.com/Vidal.html.



13. What Is To Be Done?

The excerpts here are from writings by Michael Albert, Michael Albert and Stephen Shalom, Noam Chomsky, Subcomandante Marcos, Ken Nichols O’Keefe, John Pilger, Justin Podur, and Arundhati Roy.


Resolution 1441 [of the UN Security Council] shows that the US has the diplomatic support it needs to go to war. But diplomatic support from governments and elites will not be enough if there is enough resistance and protest from ordinary people. In September 2002, George W Bush threatened the United Nations with ‘irrelevance’ if it didn’t support his war. The reverse is true: the UN demonstrates its irrelevance when it takes decisions that the people of the world are against. Whatever the UN Security Council does, the people of the world are not irrelevant.

People who cannot be persuaded to trade human lives for oil concessions, who won’t accept a slaughter of civilians simply because the elites of the states who vote in the United Nations were bribed and threatened into signing off on the war, can mobilize to stop the war. If US plans have been slowed at all, it is because of them—the tens of thousands mobilizing in the US, the hundreds of thousands mobilizing in Europe and all over the world.

Justin Podur, “Resolution 1441,” Znet (Nov. 11, 2002), http://zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItenID=2613.


[T]he intellectual responsibility of the writer, or any decent person, is to tell the truth. [….] it is a moral imperative to find out and tell the truth as best one can, about things that matter, to the right audience. [….]

To speak truth to power is not a particularly honorable vocation. One should seek out an audience that matters—and furthermore (another important qualification), it should not be seen as an audience, but as a community of common concern in which one hopes to participate constructively.

Noam Chomsky, “Writers and Intellectual Responsibility,” in Perspectives on Power (Montréal: Black Rose Books, 1997), pp. 55, 61.


Effective activism raises the social cost to elites of policies that activists wish to reverse. When that cost is raised high enough, elites begin to switch their positions to try to reduce the social costs, no longer favoring but now opposing the policy. If enough members of elite corporate and political sectors switch their priority, the policy changes.

During the war on Vietnam, many elite figures—including politicians, prominent media people, intellectuals, CEOs, and so on—moved from being advocates of the war to opponents of it. Of course working people and students also switched sides, for moral reasons. But with very few exceptions (such as Daniel Ellsberg or William Fulbright) when these elite figures switched from support to opposition, they did so for reasons of social cost. [….]

That change of mind due to rising social costs is the aim of critical dissent. We need a movement broad and committed enough so its continued growth is sufficiently threatening that elites decide it is better to give in and hope that doing so dissolves the impetus to movement growth, rather than to continue with their war risking what the movement might unleash. To switch from pro- to antiwar in sufficient numbers to cause a policy change, elites must be more threatened by the movement than they are in love with their war.

Michael Albert and Stephen R. Shalom, “Ten Q & A On Antiwar Organizing” (October 24, 2002), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?sectionID=15&ItemID=2527.


Day by day, the latest headlines tell us that we are moving ever closer to war with Iraq. So many people around the world are ashamed and outraged by this prospect and yet feel powerless to make their voices heard. Large rallies for peace have been held in cities around the world. Yet the bulletins quickly return to the war drums beating ever faster for what must be one of the most choreographed and longest-planned wars in history.

Those who suffer most will of course be the innocent and victimized men, women and children in Iraq who are set to endure yet another war and unknown loss of life. Their crime? Simply to be the powerless citizens of an oil rich nation with a violent dictator who no longer fulfils the needs of Western powers who supported and armed him in the past.

Yet we need not be powerless. Gandhi said that “peace will not come out of a clash of arms but out of justice lived and done by unarmed nations in the face of odds.” So what would happen if several thousand Western citizens migrated to Iraq to stand side by side with the Iraqi people? Along with at first just a few hundred people—from hundreds of millions in the West—I will be going to Iraq to volunteer to act as a human shield in the interests of protecting human life. We will join our fellow citizens of the world in Iraq to bear witness for peace and justice.

We will run the risk of being maimed or killed—but it is simply the same risk that innocent Iraqis will themselves face. I would rather die in defense of justice and pace than “prosper” in complicity with mass murder and war. This not about supporting Saddam Hussein, as our governments did in the past. It is about saving the lives of those in our human family. We will be expressing to the Iraqi people the reality that most people in the West do not support this criminal war. [….]

For me, this is also an act of personal penance. In 1989, at the age of nineteen I committed the most ignorant act of my life, I joined the United States Marine Corps. In 1991 I went beyond ignorance into criminal participation in a war against the Iraqi people which ultimately included the use of depleted uranium against the civilian population. My reward as an “American Hero” was to be used by Bush Sr. as a human guinea pig along with several hundred thousand other “heroes”. We have still not been told the full story about “Gulf War syndrome” or how many of my fellow soldiers died as a result, but we do know the value our leaders put on our lives. When a nation’s leaders do not even respect the lives of their own “sons and daughters,” the enemy will never enter into the realm of consideration. The hundreds of thousands killed by sanctions against Iraq are seen as a price worth paying. The human costs of another war in Iraq barely seem to register with our political leaders. [….]

This “War on Terror” is becoming the ultimate “War on Freedom”, in the United States and around the world. George Bush has said that “every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make: either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.”

But we do not only have two choices. For the record, I am not with George Bush or with the terrorists. And that is why, when this war finally begins, I will be in Iraq—with the people of Iraq. I invite everybody to join me in declaring themselves not citizens of nations but world citizens prepared to act in solidarity with the most wretched on our planet and join us or to support our efforts in other ways.

Ken Nichols O’Keefe, “Back to Iraq as a Human Shield,” The Observer (December 29 (2002), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=51&ItemID=2806.


In 1946, Justice Robert Jackson, chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, said: “The very essence of the Nuremberg charter is that individuals have international duties which transcend national obligations of obedience imposed by the state.”

With an attack on Iraq almost a certainty, the millions who filled London and other capitals on the weekend of 15-16 February, and the millions who cheered them on, now have these transcendent duties. The Bush gang, and Tony Blair, cannot be allowed to hold the rest of us captive to their obsessions and war plans. Speculation on Blair’s political future is trivia; he and the robotic Jack Straw and Geoff Hoon must be stopped now, for the reasons long argued in these pages and on hundreds of platforms.

And, incidentally, no one should be distracted by the latest opportunistic antics of [international development minister] Clare Short, whose routine hints of “rebellion”, followed by her predictable inaction, have helped to give Blair the time he wants to subvert the UN.

There is only one form of opposition now: it is civil disobedience leading to what the police call civil unrest. The latter is feared by undemocratic governments of all stripes.

The revolt has already begun. In January, Scottish train drivers refused to move munitions. In Italy, people have been blocking dozens of trains carrying American weapons and personnel, and dockers have refused to load arms shipments. US military bases have been blockaded in Germany, and thousands have demonstrated at Shannon which, despite Ireland's neutrality, is being used by the US military to refuel its planes en route to Iraq.

“We have become a threat, but can we deliver?” asked Jessica Azulay and Brian Dominick of the American resistance movement. “Policy-makers are debating right now whether or not they have to heed our dissent. Now we must make it clear to them that there will be political and economic consequences if they decide to ignore us.”

My own view is that if the protest movement sees itself as a world power, as an expression of true internationalism, then success need not be a dream. That depends on how far people are prepared to go. The young female employee of the Gloucestershire-based top-secret Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), who was charged this month with leaking information about America's dirty tricks operation on members of the Security Council, shows us the courage required.

In the meantime, the new Mussolinis are on their balconies, with their virtuoso rants and impassioned insincerity. Reduced to wagging their fingers in a futile attempt to silence us, they see millions of us for the first time, knowing and fearing that we cannot be silenced.

John Pilger, “Civil disobedience is the sole path left for those who cannot support the Bush-Blair act of aggression. Only then will politicians on both sides of the Atlantic be forced to recognise the folly of their ways” (March 13, 2003), http://pilger.carlton.com/print/132798.


[…] I intend to reply to the demand to support our troops by saying that yes, I too “support our troops.”

I will reply that I support our troops not having to kill people in Iraq.

I support our troops not being ordered to assault defenseless populations, towns, farms, and the infrastructural sinews of life that sustain a whole country's citizenry.

I support our troops not having to carry out orders from Commander in Chief George Bush and then having to live the rest of their lives wondering why they obeyed such a barbaric buffoon rather than resisting his illegitimate, immoral authority. [….]

I support our troops not dying in Iraq figuratively or literally, physically or psychologically. I support our troops coming home with their hearts not broken, retaining humanity and compassion essential to feeling true solidarity with those who confront tyrannical behaviour abroad, or right here in the U.S. with its 30 million tyrannized poor.

I support our troops coming home with their minds ravenous to comprehend what is wrong with war for empire, what is wrong with war to obliterate international law, what is wrong with war to control oil and use it as a bludgeon against allies and enemies alike, what is wrong with war for profit, what is wrong with war to intimidate whole nations and continents, what is wrong with war to subordinate a planet and even to test and trumpet the tools of war. [….]

I support our troops refusing to kill on behalf of politicians and profiteers. I support our troops rebelling against orders, not obeying them. I support our troops rejecting reasons of state. And I support our troops coming home to where their real battle is. [….]

What should we do about the U.S.? We should curtail its belligerency, change its regime, and fundamentally revolutionize its centers of wealth and power.

Support our troops, bring them home.

Support our troops, provide them housing.

Support our troops, provide them health care.

Support our troops, provide them socially valuable jobs. [….]

Support our troops, and one day they will join the fight for unlimited justice for all.

Michael Albert, “Support our Troops,” ZNet (March 17, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=3255.


For us there is but one dignified word and one conscientious action in the face of this war. The word “NO” and the rebel action.

That is why we must say “NO” to war.

A “NO” without conditions or excuses.

A “NO” without half measures.

A “NO” untarnished by gray areas.

A “NO” with all the colors which paint the world.

A “NO” which is clear, categorical, resounding, definitive, worldwide.

What is at stake in this war is the relationship between the powerful and the weak. The powerful is powerful because he makes us weak. He lives off our work, off our blood. That is how he grows fat while we languish.

The powerful have invoked God at their side in this war, so that we will accept their power and our weakness as something that has been established by divine plan.

But there is no god behind this war other than the god of money, nor any right other than the desire for death and destruction.

The only strength of the weak is their dignity. That is what inspires them to fight in order to resist the powerful, in order to rebel.

Today there is a “NO” which shall weaken the powerful and strengthen the weak: the “NO” to war.

Some might ask whether the word which has convened so many throughout the world will be capable of preventing the war or, once it has begun, of stopping it.

But the question is not whether we can change the murderous march of the powerful. No. The question we should be asking is: could we live with the shame of not having done everything possible to prevent and stop this war?

No honest man or woman can remain silent and indifferent at this moment.

Subcomandante Marcos, “No to war: A Letter to Rebel Italy,” ZNet (February 16, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=51&ItemID=3057.


The time has come, the Walrus said. Perhaps things will become worse and then better. Perhaps there’s a small god up in heaven readying herself for us. Another world is not only possible, she’s on her way. Maybe many of us won’t be here to greet her, but on a quiet day, if I listen very carefully, I can hear her breathing.

Arundhati Roy, “Come September,” Lensic Performing Arts Center (September 29, 2002), ZNet, http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=2404.





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Ehab Lotayef's To Love a Palestinian Woman: Poems in English and Arabic

[First published in The Canadian Charger (25 August 2010), http://www.thecanadiancharger.com/page.php?id=5&a=557.]

Review of Ehab Lotayef, To Love a Palestinian Woman: Poems in English and Arabic (Toronto: TSAR Publications, 2010)


Does the title of this collection of poems seem at first glance surprising?

What would it mean to love any Palestinian—man, woman, or child—within a context where the dominant discourse, and the whole current of state action, seem hostile to the notion of recognizing Palestinians' possession of even the most basic human rights?

The politicians of Canada's ruling parties may express a pious commitment to international human rights law, but their actions show how feebly selective, in fact, this commitment is.

  • In 1987, Canada was the only country at the Québec Francophonie Summit to oppose a resolution calling for Palestinian self-determination.

  • In 1997, Canada signed a free trade agreement with Israel that accepts Israel's economic boundaries as incorporating the illegally occupied Palestinian territories, thereby giving preferential treatment to goods not just from Israel, but also from Israel's expanding network of illegal settlements.

  • In 2006, Canada was the first country to join Israel's illegal blockade of the Palestinians of Gaza—in punishment for having chosen, in a democratic election, a government of whom Israel and the West disapprove.

  • In January 2008, by which time the blockade's devastating impact on public health in Gaza was evident, Canada was the only member of the UN Human Rights Committee to oppose a resolution calling for immediate action to end the blockade.

  • A year later, in the midst of Israel's military assault on Gaza during December 2008-January 2009, which involved large-scale war crimes and crimes against humanity, Canada was the only member of the UN Human Rights Committee that voted in support of Israel's actions.

  • In 2010, the Canadian government refused to condemn Israel's murderous attack, in international waters, on the Mavi Marmara, the Turkish flagship of a flotilla that was seeking to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza.

As the philosopher Giorgio Agamben reminds us, the ancient Romans had a term, homo sacer, to describe a person who is deliberately excluded from all of the protections of the law and can therefore be harmed with impunity.1

Canada's unprincipled support of Israeli and American policies has contributed to making the Palestinians, as a nation, homines sacri: people to whom the system of international law that we pretend to uphold as universal in its reach does not even begin to apply.

The principles of justice and collective security enshrined in international law ought to protect the people of the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967 from ongoing theft of their land and ongoing military aggressions, from routine violations of their civil rights, and from collective punishments—including intentional deprivation of adequate food, clean water, housing, medical supplies, and waste disposal facilities, and a systematic denial of economic and educational opportunities.

But these principles of justice seem to be in abeyance in Canada's relations to the Palestinians.

Our leaders' message to them is that of Franz Kafka's jurists in his novel The Trial: “There is justice, plenty of justice—only not for you.”


* * *

What could it mean, in this context, to love a Palestinian? Ehab Lotayef's poems may help us to understand.

Lotayef writes across languages (the last half-dozen poems in this collection are in Arabic, with facing-page English translations), across cultural and literary traditions, and across the agonies that divide them.

His Arabic poems are written in two distinct registers: in some of them a colloquial voice sings from the page, while others, written in a more formal register, attach themselves to a classical tradition that goes back more than a millennium.

The English poems likewise range from song lyrics that invite musical accompaniment to solemn, often mordant, free-verse reflections.

Some of these poems explicitly respond to deep voices of the present and the recent past—the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, the Arabic and Hebrew poets Nizar Quabbani and Aharon Shabatai, as well as Arik Asherman of Rabbis for Human Rights and the murdered peace activist Rachel Corrie.

Elsewhere the reader may hear echoes of other poets whose work is at once lyrical and public: Harold Pinter, Bertold Brecht, and perhaps also the antiwar poet Denise Levertov.

As these names together might suggest, Lotayef is refreshingly serious about the ethical, social and civic responsibilities of poetry.

In an introductory note he alludes to the passage in Sura 26 of the Qur'an which speaks of poets “who say what they do not do.” His own practice, as poet and activist, has been “to be present in the streets, the slums, the danger zones” where the pain and suffering on which his poetry reflects is inflicted, endured, and resisted.

This presence in the midst of suffering is evident in the compassion and the measured ironies of Lotayef's lyric voice. Commenting on the fall of Kabul in November 2001, he offered congratulations

... on swapping Abdul for Abdil

Opium will be flowing still

and all the amputees,

survivors of a war that can never be won

will continue to live in hell[...].

In response to the terror bombings in London in July 2005, he drew what should have been (but never was in the mainstream media) the obvious comparison:

No conference postponed

No podium

No cameras

No one says “barbarians” when it happens in Basra

On a hot summer day

in the middle of winter

on pleasant spring evenings

or windy fall nights

each day of the year it happens in Basra

Downtown, in the suburbs

in classrooms, in homes

in slums and in villas

on factory floors

No one ever counted the bodies in Basra.

(The comparison becomes harsher still if one remembers that shortly after this poem was written, British SAS soldiers in civilian disguise were caught by Iraqi police in the act of preparing a bombing attack near a marketplace in Basra.)2

Another poem addresses the Dalai Lama, who was in Israel in 2006 to celebrate the centenary of Ben Gurion's immigration to Palestine:

Beloved of Hollywood, Ocean of Wisdom:

can a liberated celebrity

bring freedom to a people?


They'll hide the sun under your crimson robe

drown the truth in your words of hope

Leave my aching land alone

To Lhasa

I support your right of return.

Lotayef demands that the truth be spoken. In a poem commemorating the sixtieth anniversary of the Nakba, or Catastrophe—the ethnic cleansing of 700,000 to 900,000 Palestinians from their homeland in 1948—he writes, “They stole your Qur'an and your Bible / Burned your orange groves and olive trees” (a reminder, if one be needed, that many Palestinians are not Muslims but Christians).

Yet while he spurs us to remember, Lotayef writes with equal insistence (as in the title poem of this collection) on the need for a love that is conjoined with solidarity, and with pity:

When you love a Palestinian woman

your heart is tuned

to the beat of a heart

that won't forget

You travel far;

you walk the narrow streets of Jerusalem,

in the footsteps of Jesus,

carrying his cross, cleaning his wounds, wiping his tears [...].

And in the poem “Abyss,” written on the first anniversary of 9/11, he denounces hatred as being not liberating, but a deeper form of entrapment:

Gates that can't be opened

a wall within a wall

hostages of hatred

have no hope at all [...].

One of the ways in which Lotayef configures hope in this book is through the ten fine photographs, which he took for the most part in Gaza, the West Bank, Baghdad, and Cairo, and with which his poems are recurrently in dialogue. These include sensitive portraits: two haunting images of women with their young children in Gaza and in Baghdad, an elderly man in Dehaisha refugee camp in the West Bank holding out the keys to his lost home in Israel, and a more formal portrait of Adil Charkaoui, imprisoned for years, without public charges or a trial, on a Canadian “security certificate.”3

Other photographs are of landscapes, for the most part damaged or desolate: a street in Hebron, an avenue of tents on barren land in Gaza. But one of these turns out to be a powerful image of hope. What at first appear to be two leaning tombstones photographed in Gaza, near the Egyptian border, with only the sky behind them, resolve themselves on closer inspection into crazily tilted concrete segments of the Israeli apartheid wall—which was for a short time breached, one remembers, near Rafah.

But hope alone is not enough, as Lotayef reminds Barack Obama in a poem addressed in mid-November 2008 to the President-Elect:

The train on platform three

is quarantined

Passengers are dying

in their seats

The station master forgot the codes

and lost the keys


Night is falling, fast


with sad eyes are waiting for their dads to take them home

Maybe you can

But we

we can't survive for long

on hope alone.

Obama has been consistently deaf to messages such as this. But perhaps Canadian readers of this memorable book will be more willing to open their hearts—and to help sustain Palestinians' hope through political action, based on compassionate solidarity, and aimed at returning this nation to an awareness of our responsibilities under international law.



1Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998).

2See my article “Were British Special Forces Soldiers Planting Bombs in Basra? Suspicions Strengthened by Earlier Reports,” Centre for Research on Globalization (25 September 2005).

3The principal evidence against Charkaoui, so far as I can ascertain, appears to have been that his surname differs only in dialect from that of Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the semi-mythical Jordanian to whom for several years the Pentagon's fabulists ascribed nearly every feat of the Iraqi resistance.