Politics & Current Affairs

‘Touts Will Be Shot’


It is believed that the deaths yesterday of three high-ranking commanders of Hamas’s military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, were facilitated by intelligence given to Israel by Palestinian spies inside Gaza.

The trio are Raed Attar, imprisoned for five years by Israel and who, Israeli intelligence sources claim, was the mastermind behind Hamas’s tunnel network, as well as overseeing the operation that led to the 2006 capture of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, Abu Shamala, South Gaza Military Operations Commander and Mohammed Barhoum, a senior quartermaster and finance chief.

US news agencies also report that the targeted strikes killed Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades Commander-in-Chief, Mohammed Deif. While Hamas have yet to confirm this, it is known that Deif’s wife and baby son perished in the attack.

In response Hamas has executed a number of people in retaliation for allegedly spying for Israel. Twenty-one suspected informers were executed in three batches with a Hamas spokesman stating that “The same punishment will be imposed soon on others.”

A press release issued in the name of the ‘Palestinian Resistance’ said the executed were “collaborators who betrayed their religion and sold their people and land for a cheap price, and achieved many missions for the enemy”.

As with much surrounding the conflict, these events have been liberally seasoned with predictable cant and double-standards.

Hamas has been condemned in Western media outlets and by various human rights organisations yet many of these same organisations have remained silent on Israel’s extra-judicial murders.

It would be naïve to automatically assume Hamas has ensured a strict application of due process and natural justice for the accused spies, prior to their executions, and should such be the case, then the organisation will be in contravention of the relevant international statutes governing conduct during times of war. That said, the New York Times quotes a Hamas official saying, “The judiciary procedures and measures were completed against the accused.” However, much of the outrage is focused on the executions themselves, as much as the presumed absence of fair trials for the accused.

Palestinian law provides for the execution of spies and traitors, in much the same way as many states around the world. The Geneva Convention allows the execution of spies as do The Hague Convention and the International Criminal Court. All of which state that non-uniformed combatants engaged in espionage shall not be treated as prisoners of war and may be prosecuted by the country against which they are spying. This can include the death sentence for those convicted.

Regarding any abuse of due process, one can only wonder at Israeli and Western bourgeois hypocrisy. After all, if true, Hamas is merely emulating the governments of Israel, the UK and USA. Extra-judicial killings, rendition flights, torture and detention without even charge, never mind trial, at Guantanamo Bay, all appear to be perfectly acceptable.

Interestingly, Israel’s use of Palestinian collaborators is widely known to rely on extreme pressure and blackmail. Which in itself is a serious breach of Article 82(b)(XV) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which explicitly proscribes, “… compelling the nationals of a hostile party to take part in the operations of war directed against their own country.”

All the above aside, the issue, in essence, can be reduced, yet again, to oppressors insisting that those who they oppress follow rules advantageous to their oppressors. Israel and its Western allies aren’t satisfied with occupation, murder and imprisonment of the Palestinian people; they even want to dictate how the Palestinians resist.

Under the circumstances, there is only one rule that should morally inform Palestinian resistance and that can be summed up by the following slogan – By Any Means Necessary. If that means, to borrow an old Irish Republican slogan, that touts will be shot, then so be it.

Culture Politics & Current Affairs

Darkness, Darkness

One of the more enjoyable aspects of the promo work for my book, earlier this year, was crossing paths with other writers whose work I admire. One such was John Harvey. Connoisseurs of British crime fiction will know Harvey well, of course. In a lengthy and impressive career, taking in poetry, broadcasting and much else, John is, perhaps, most celebrated for his creation Detective Charlie Resnick, the Nottingham-based copper,  who I can’t help thinking of as the English John Rebus.

I met John in May when he was speaking at Waterstone’s in Nottingham about his final Resnick novel, Darkness, Darkness. I’d held a signing there myself, a couple of weeks previously, and the Events Manager, knowing of my fandom, generously furnished me with some tickets for John’s event.  Mr. Harvey was a delight; witty, engaging and interesting. The event was pretty much sold out and he fielded a variety of questions from the punters before concluding with a long queue of eager readers clutching copies of Darkness, Darkness to be signed.

My publisher, Ross Bradshaw, the Managing Editor of Five Leaves Publications (and, more recently, the proprietor of the thoroughly excellent independent and radical Five Leaves Bookshop) has had a long professional relationship with John. When the two did a couple of additional promo events in the County, Ross very kindly had John sign me a shiny 1st edition of Resnick’s last case and his dedication very kindly references my own book; a great honour!

photo 2Of both personal and professional interest to me, the book is set during the miners’ strike, thirty years ago. The research is first-rate and John conveys an authentic and accurate flavour of the times. That said I was amused when Ross observed, “It’s not often I can say that I changed the course of literary history, but after I read a proof copy of John Harvey’s book I emailed him to say he had got a small but important detail of the aftermath of the 1984/85 Miners’ Strike in Nottinghamshire wrong and that he was not as conversant with the history of the local Robin Hood Railway Line as he could have been.

John received the comments on the last day it was possible to make changes, and, rather than responding “nobody likes a smart-arse, especially one who knows about trains”, he was able to get the publisher to make the changes. There we have it then, another novel saved from sin… or at least two small sentences amended that perhaps nobody else would have noticed, but still.”

It falls to me, then, to point out that both John and Ross still managed to miss a couple of things. Firstly, no Notts strikers marched back to work behind a brass band, with the Area firmly under the control of the scabs. And secondly, John cites the Area as having twenty-five pits; it actually had twenty-seven, at the time of the strike, with a further four workshops, making a total of thirty-one NUM Branches.

Neither of which detracts from what is a superb swansong for Charlie Resnick. Nuanced, rich and beautifully evocative, Darkness, Darkness is easily among the finest British crime novels published this year. Highly recommend.

Life Politics & Current Affairs

Black Dog

black dog

Following the death of Robin Williams, it’s been truly moving to see the outpouring of compassion, empathy and understanding with regard to depression.

I clearly underestimated the well-informed nature and generosity of spirit of the average person in the street.

Which is nice because now we can all look forward to an immediate cessation of the attacks on and sanctions of ‘benefit scroungers’ suffering from exactly the same condition, right?

Politics & Current Affairs

Israel: You Only Sing When You’re Winning


They say you should never meet your heroes. As a man in his forty-seventh year, I reckon I’m a little long in the tooth and too world-weary to have heroes anyway.

Having said that, there are those who once were but are now simply people I admire and respect. Usually for the integrity, honesty and high-quality of their work. Mainly writers – both fiction and non-fiction writers – and would include people like Mick Wall, Seumas Milne, John Harvey and David Pratt. To name just a few. Some of these I’m proud to call close friends and their work and their friendship enriches my life.

Charles Shaar Murray, who I won’t insult by introducing here, is also someone who I’ve grown to hugely respect. Obviously the man’s work is an important part of our cultural landscape and is as innovative and influential as anything by, say, Lester Bangs and, for the most part, superior to that of most of his contemporaries. Certainly enough there for a writer to admire and respect.

However, there is a further reason. CSM consistently displays great humanity on wider social and political questions. A Jew himself, he consistently defends the Palestinian cause and has been principled and consistent in his unsparing critiques of Israel.

It was, then, as disappointing as it was disgusting to see the man insulted to a particularly appalling degree by none other than Nick Cohen.

Cohen has certainly been no hero of mine and his previous makes it a cast-iron certainty that he never will. His bizarre insistence that the left is anti-Semitic, his support for the invasion of Iraq and his US apologia place him in a political space somewhere to the right of Blairite fundamentalists. Which, as you might have noticed, isn’t really how I roll.

Even so, to brand CSM a “… fascist-loving fucker” during a Facebook exchange, earlier today, was unworthy even of the red-baiting Islamophobic Cohen.

On one level, it’s just Facebook though, right? Not a medium renowned for inculcating sober and reflective contemplation of weighty geopolitical issues. On the other hand, however, Cohen’s outburst is typical of the increasingly hysterical denunciations meted out to those who oppose the brutality, immorality and illegality of the Zionist terror state. They’re desperate to make Jews synonymous with Israel; ergo any criticism of the latter is de facto anti-Semitism. Look no further than the Zionist outrage currently levelled at the hapless members of the Tricycle Theatre Company.

Notwithstanding the discomfort and upset caused to the Charles Shaar Murrays and Tricycles of the world, in one sense all this is actually good news. The increasingly shrill protestations of Israel’s apologists are because the mask has slipped. They’re losing the PR war and they know it. When even natural allies like Boris Johnson are forced into making criticisms of Israel’s literal and figurative overkill, you know the tide is turning.

You only sing when you’re winning and you’re not singing anymore.

Not singing but whining.

Politics & Current Affairs

When Pigs Fly

Good evening and here is the news from the BBC.

Talks between Palestine and Israeli militants are entering their second day.

But Likud, whose armed wing continues to bomb Gaza, says there is no agreement and there is a big gap between the two sides’ positions.

The armed wing of Likud – the Israeli Defence Force – has warned of renewed fighting if Palestine does not end its resistance to the blockade of Gaza’s port. Four weeks of fierce fighting between Palestinian forces and Israeli militants has claimed more than 1,900 lives.

John Kerry, the US Secretary of State told the BBC, “The armed wing of Likud – the Israeli Defence Force – is a terrorist organisation and Palestine has the right to defend itself. We support that right. Meanwhile, we are hopeful that progress can be made by continuing dialogue over the next seventy two hours.”

The issue of human shields continues to cause controversy. BBC reporter, Jeremy Bowen, recently returned from Gaza, said, “I saw no evidence of Palestinian forces using Israelis as human shields.” By contrast, Israeli militants have been condemned for their use of human shields. Recent photos of a captured Palestinian teenager, handcuffed to the bonnet of an IDF vehicle, drew statements of condemnation from several world leaders.

British Prime Minister, David Cameron, said, “Any organisation which exploits and abuses civilians in this way is a terrorist organisation and until such people renounce violence and these heinous acts there can never be a lasting peace.”

In other news Oceania is still at war with Eurasia.


Politics & Current Affairs

The Moral High Ground

As a writer, I have an almost instinctive objection to the old cliché, a picture paints a thousand words. Sometimes, though, one encounters just such a picture. This example, by Peter Brooks, which appeared in The Times on August 1st, justifies every letter of that trite and hackneyed old saying. No further explanation is required.

the moral high ground

Politics & Current Affairs

If Nottingham Were Gaza…

IMG_3702First published by the Nottingham Post, July 2014. Photo by Sue Paterson

The County of Nottinghamshire consists of approximately 835 square miles and houses a population of around 785,000 people.

Gaza, on the other hand, comprises only 141 square miles yet is home to nearly 2 million souls. It is the most densely-populated land-mass on the face of the earth. The occupants of Gaza – their captive status barely qualifies them as residents – exist in a desperate world of poverty and squalor. Food and adequate medical provision is in dangerously short supply and in every way the contrast between Gaza – in reality, the world’s largest open-air prison-camp – and our own County of Nottinghamshire could not be greater. Gaza is ‘home’ to 800,000 children who are being shelled, shot and bombed by the world’s 4th largest military power. Civilian deaths on the Gaza strip are horrific; over eighty percent of all deaths are non-combatants.

One wonders how Nottinghamshire residents would feel were they to find themselves evicted from their homes, their possessions and belongings stolen or destroyed, herded into Mansfield and prevented by force from leaving only to suffer the terror of bombs dropping upon their children as their schools, hospitals and playgrounds explode around them?

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign in Nottingham, with our colleagues across the UK, are not prepared to remain silent while this indiscriminate slaughter continues.  For the last couple of weeks – joined by hundreds of Nottinghamshire residents – we have been protesting outside the BBC premises on London Road at the biased and inaccurate media coverage of the continuing massacre on the Gaza strip. Our members have been involved in meetings, petitions, protests and other activities, all designed to publicise the plight of the Palestinians and to raise awareness of the brutality of Israel’s continuing illegal occupation of Palestinian land and its murder of Palestinian civilians.

This Thursday we will be marching from the BBC headquarters at 5.30pm to the City Council chambers on the Market Square. We will be presenting an official demand that the City Council boycotts all Israeli goods and services. We will demand our elected officials listen to the people they purport to represent and do the right thing for the people of Palestine.

There are those who say that we have little chance of the City council joining our fight. They say that the UK’s support for Israel, and given our political class’s all-out austerity attacks on its own people, means that our politicians are fatally compromised and will not help. Again, we disagree. We believe that Nottingham Councillors are made of sterner stuff. We believe they will do the right thing and stand with us, on the side of the Palestinians. We believe they will join the boycott, along with their colleagues in other local authorities around the UK. After all, who among our Councillors would disagree with Desmond Tutu when he said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor”?

Politics & Current Affairs

Gaza: Resistance is Not Terrorism


Photo by Sue Paterson

Despite the avalanche of propaganda from Western media outlets, not least the disgraceful coverage by our own BBC, attempts to paint Palestinians on the Gaza strip as aggressors and terrorists are failing. Instead, growing revulsion at Israel’s continuing bombardment of the most densely-populated area on earth is almost palpable. Good and long overdue. However, an insidious and dangerous alternative philosophy is emerging, one that, in its own way, is just as damaging to the besieged and beleaguered Palestinians as the unashamed brutality and war crimes of the rogue terrorist state of Israel.

Liberal pacifists are the new enemy of Palestine. Those who, while opposing Israel’s state terror, are just as quick to apportion equal blame to the Palestinian cause. “Oh, both sides should stop the violence,” these worthies cry. On the hard left, too, there are those who say Hamas are terrorists and that socialists should have no truck with ‘clerical fascists.’

Such views are unacceptable and unwittingly or not, place the supporters of such sentiments firmly in the imperialist camp and render them apologists for continuing Zionist slaughter.

Violence does not exist in a vacuum. It is not an abstract, moral question. One should not allow pro-Israeli propaganda to neuter our critical faculties and turn us into political Quakers. The fact is that violence is neither objectively good nor bad; as with most things in life, context is everything. So let’s look at that context… [read more]