Sunday, 29 July 2012

Adieu to Alexander Cockburn

Little did I think, when setting up this blog only 3 months ago, and taking as one of my guides the great Alexander Cockburn, that I would soon be mourning his passing.  Cockburn died on July 20 of cancer, having kept his illness secret for the last two years, all the while continuing his wonderful coruscating writing.

Disgracefully and sadly, Alex's death was barely covered at all in the Irish media.  I published this tribute on Irish Left Review, an excellent leftwing website edited by Donagh Brennan.  Warm thanks to Donagh for his help with this piece.

Adieu to Alexander Cockburn


Saturday, 7 July 2012

The Nazi Past of Yitzhak Shamir

This week witnessed the death of Yitzhak Yezernitsky, better known as Yitzhak Shamir, at the age of 96.  Though other Israeli prime ministers are remembered more immediately - Begin, Rabin, Meir - the fact is that after David Ben-Gurion, Shamir was Israel's second-longest-serving leader.  He served as Prime Minister of Likud governments, after the resignation of Menachem Begin in the wake of the 1982 Lebanon War, and also at the time of the Madrid Conference, organised by the United States after Iraq was beaten out of Kuwait in 1991.   He had a reputation as a hardliner, though he did not always show political nous: determined that the PLO would not be represented at the Madrid Conference, he and his government demanded that any Palestinian representation should come only from within the Territories, and as part of the Jordanian delegation.  But this proved to be a diplomatic blunder, as the Palestinian leaders who attended the Conference - people like Hanan Ashrawi, Haidar abd-al Shafi, and Faisal Husseini - proved to be vastly more able than the Fatah hacks that Israel might otherwise have found itself debating.  Of course, the downside of this was that Israel then stonewalled so determinedly at Madrid that eventually the Oslo process began, behind the backs of the Palestinian delegation, between Arafat and Israel, and we all know what emerged from that.

What many people are less likely to know of are the (pretty minor) Irish connection Shamir had, and his extremely dubious ideological background.  Born in Poland, he became involved in Betar, a rightwing Zionist youth movement, some of whose activities were recently mythologised in a ghastly Edward Zwick historical epic film, Defiance (which can be read as a clunky allegory of the creation of the State of Israel).  In 1935, he made aliyah to Palestine, and there became involved in the Irgun Zvai Leumi, the main 'Revisionist' or rightwing Zionist militia in the Yishuv.  When it split in 1940, he joined the even more aggressive splinter, the LEHI, or 'Stern Gang', named for  its first leader, Avraham Stern.  The Irish connection is that Shamir took a nom de guerre - 'Michael', after Michael Collins.  The fact is that the Jewish guerillas in Palestine greatly admired the IRA and its struggle against Britain during the Irish War of Independence.  Funnily enough, this admiration did not extend to the IZL or LEHI being particularly in touch with the Irish situation - some years ago, Ben Briscoe, Fianna Fail TD and ex-Lord Mayor of Dublin, revealed that a delegation from the IZL arrived in Dublin in 1948, hoping to make contact with the IRA and learn from it, but clearly not knowing that by this time, the IRA was a proscribed organisation, many of whose current members had been interned during WW2 by their erstwhile colleagues now at the head of the Free State. 

But the real clue to the make-up of rightwing Zionism of Shamir's kind is illustrated by the fact that whereas the Haganah, the main Zionist militia in Palestine, observed a ceasefire during Britain's struggle with Germany during the Second World War, the IZL and the LEHI regarded the war as their opportunity.  Most strikingly of all, the LEHI made two overtures to the Nazi regime to enter the war on its side, suggesting that the creation of a 'folkish-national' Jewish polity in the Middle East would be mutually beneficial. Stern, with Shamir among his chief colleagues, put forward a document entitled 'Fundamental Features of the Proposal of the National Military Organization (NMO) in Palestine Concerning the Solution of the Jewish Question in Europe and the Participation of the NMO in the War on the Side of Germany', which noted inter alia that 'Common interests could exist between the establishment of a new order in Europe in conformity with the German concept, and the true national aspirations of the Jewish people as they are embodied by the NMO', and, furthermore, that 'The establishment of the historic Jewish state on a national and totalitarian basis, bound by a treaty with the German Reich, would be in the interest of a maintained and strengthened future German position of power in the Near East'.

That this idea was advanced well after the murderous and anti-Semitic character of the German regime had been revealed, and after it had conquered most of Europe, shows the alarming symbiosis between Zionist ethnic exclusivism, and the most brutal strains of European Fascism, and their mutual moral degeneracy.

Yitzhak Shamir was a representative of an older world of Zionism, but his cynical and racist attitudes are reproduced today, in the Liebermans and Netanyahus at the head of Israel, with only a little more polish.  He will not be missed by anyone who wishes to see justice in the Middle East.


The last two months have revealed to me some of the difficulties of blogging!   I mean by this that it seems to  me that for a blog to be of interest, it must be updated reasonably frequently.   That 'reasonably' is open to interpretation, but every few days, or once a week, might be 'reasonable'.

However, I have failed to write on my blog for nearly two months.  Ordinary work intruded, but also the fact is that the accumulating controversy involving the cultural boycott of Israel, Dervish, Gerard Donovan, the slanders on the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign and on my comrade Raymond Deane, the yet-again-revealed bias of the Irish Times in the course of the whole business (not to mention the rubbish published on this matter by Independent Newspapers) produced a concatenation of issues which I simply could not keep up with.

I hope to add to this blog more frequently in the coming months.  Friends and foes alike will note that we are now in what is called in Irish and British media circles 'the silly season'.   I'll try not to be too silly.