Thursday, 26 November 2015

OPINION: David Cameron and Syria – A Tale of Deception and Hypocrisy

United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron

David Cameron wanted to bomb Syria two years ago but suffered a humiliating defeat in a vote before Parliament. Let us be clear about one thing: if Cameron and others had got their way two years ago, the so-called Islamic State and a range of Jihadi groups would be in control of Syria today.

And if 'control' is too strong a word, it would be in as much chaos as Libya is today. The Libyan enterprise by NATO to overthrow Gaddafi was firmly backed by Cameron who used British Special Forces to train and guide Islamist rebels in attaining this objective.

After the chemical attack in Ghouta, a dubious event which was likely perpetrated by either Saudi or Turkish intelligence in order to provoke President Obama to make good on his ill-fated assertion about "red lines", the idea was to bomb and 'degrade' the capabilities of the Assad government which the West and its Middle East Sunni allies were keen to blame.

Now Cameron wants to bomb Islamic State insurgents.

A few British fighter jets have been part of the patently phony war waged against Islamic State for over a year by the US and its Middle East allies. The Russian effort in two months has shown this to be the case.

Need it be reminded that it was Cameron who one day was supporting the Mubarak regime and then when it was toppled, visited the newly installed junta to sell it military weapons.

But it is not only about the hypocrisy of Cameron the man and politician. It is about the hypocrisy and double-dealing of the Western powers specifically in regard to Syria and generally to the Middle East and North Africa geo-political theatre.

The turmoil in Syria was the creation of the Western powers acting in concert with Turkey and the Sunni Gulf monarchies who seek to overthrow the secular government of Bashar al Assad. This is the bottom line reason why the Islamic State and other Jihadi groups have grown so powerful.

But after the tragedy of Paris, Cameron is confident that the United Kingdom's public outrage along with the media's whipping up of the drums of war will get him the Parliamentary rubber stamp to intervene in a conflict which according to former French foreign minister, Roland Dumas, was planned and orchestrated years in advance by British officials along with other Western powers.

Cameron's motives are far from benign. They bear the vestiges of the 'humanitarian bomber' with an insidious agenda. He wants to be part of a campaign which would justify a British presence in Syria which along with French involvement would be utillised in a manner that would in the future attempt to effect the desired overthrow of Assad as well as the dismantling of the Syrian state.

The unquestioning media along with the gullible electorate are complicit in allowing leaders like Cameron to continually get away with such fundamental dishonesty.

(c) Adeyinka Makinde (2015)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

COMMENTARY: Rumination on Terror, the Middle East and NATO Intervention

'Blood of Terror' by Li Li Tan (2005)

Robert Kennedy said after the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968: "It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; and it is not the end of disorder."

Terrorism did not end with an attack in the village of Bosso situated in the Republic of Niger. It did not end with the bombings in Sinai or Beirut, and it will not end with the carnage inflicted in Paris.

The terrorist has objectives ranging from the psychological to the political. And whether you consider them 'terrorists' or 'freedom fighters', their trade is death: death to the innocents. To ruminate about how humanity can for want of a better phrase 'sink so low' is to embark on an exercise in utter futility.

Granted, each historical and geographical setting provides an array of rationales for the nurturing of the terror merchant, but there is something to the argument proffered by the historian Niall Ferguson that "terrorism is the original sin of the Middle East".

The tragedy in Paris is not the first, and presumably, will not be the last time that the fight is brought to Europe because of the involvement of European powers in that part of the world.

A bomb planted in the heart of Whitehall in April of 1947 by the Stern Gang narrowly failed to explode and would have caused a level of carnage to rival that which occurred when the Irgun murdered just under a hundred people in the King David Hotel attack in Jerusalem the previous year. That outrage along with other 'successful' bombings and assassinations aimed at the British-ruled UN Mandate of Palestine sapped the will of Britain.

When the United States of America aided by its NATO allies illegally invades Iraq, then utilises the 'Salvador Option' to enable Shia militants to murder Sunni insurgents, then bombs Libya to smithereens and into lawlessness, then oversees the arming of Sunni extremist militias to overthrow the government of Syria - all at a tremendous cost to innocent human life running into the hundreds of thousands if not into the millions – it would be naive to assume that there will not be painful and tragic consequences for innocents to bear.

Today, a Muslim Jihadi whether born and bred in England or Tunisia feels that the land of Syria belongs to him by the will of Allah as much as the Zionist believes that Palestine was bequeathed to him by the God of Israel.

And the means by which each set out to achieve their ends are not constricted by conventional morality.

For Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the deceased leader of the Mujahideen Shura Council, the umbrella organisation which preceded its successor organisation, the Islamic State in Iraq, the concept of ‘Offensive Jihad’ entailed “going after the apostate unbelievers by attacking (them) in their home territory, in order to make God’s word most high and until there is no persecution.”

Six decades earlier, the Stern Gang, which was committed to taking over Eretz Yisrael by armed force proclaimed the following in an article titled “Terror” in the underground newspaper He Khazit

We are very far from having any moral qualms as far as our national war goes. We have before us the command of the Torah whose morality surpasses that of any other body of laws in the world: “Ye shall blot them out to the last man.” But first and foremost, terrorism is for us a part of the political battle being conducted under the present circumstances, and it has a great part to play: speaking in a clear voice to the whole world, as well as to our wretched brethren outside this land, it proclaims our war against the occupier. We are particularly far from this sort of hesitation in regard to an enemy whose moral perversion is admitted by all.

To Robert Kennedy's words, the following may be soberly added:

"There is no end to fanaticism. There is no end to terror."

(c) Adeyinka Makinde (2015)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in England.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

COMMENTARY – Putin, Islamophobia and how Russia might have become a Muslim nation

Vladimir Putin (Pavel Sokov)

I am not a professed expert on Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin, but I do get a trickle of queries from around the globe about him. A recent one centres on Putin’s attitude to Muslims.

One viral e-mail doing the rounds for some time has Putin addressing the Russian Duma on 4th February 2013 and saying the following about Muslims and other minorities living within the Russian Federation:

On February 4th 2013, Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, addressed the Duma. (Russian Parliament), and gave a speech about the tensions with minorities in Russia:

“In Russia live Russians. Any minority, from anywhere, if it wants to live in Russia, to work and eat in Russia, should speak Russian, and should respect the Russian laws. If they prefer Sharia Law, then we advise them to go to those places where that’s the state law. Russia does not need minorities. Minorities need Russia, and we will not grant them special privileges, or try to change our laws to fit their desires, no matter how hard they yell ‘discrimination’.”

The politicians in the Duma gave Putin a standing ovation for five minutes!

There are several variations with one claiming that he referred to the “suicide” of the United States and Western European nations. However, the purported speech is to the best of my knowledge fiction.

It appears to be an adaptation of a speech that may have been given by an Australian minister of state and has undergone numerous mutations.

I have conducted a search of the Kremlin's site dedicated to the activities of the president. It provides transcripts and other records of his engagement and there is no mention of a speech to the Duma.

Putin is often the subject of rancorous debate among those on the far-Right of the political spectrum as well as those considered to be ‘white nationalists’. This often centres on what the particular debater perceives to be his attitude to the Islamic world and ‘Jewish power’.

Is there a case for Putin to answer for being to the far-Right of the political spectrum, or a white nationalist?

There is evidence of links between his government and the French National Front and European Nationalist and far Right groups in Hungary, Bulgaria and Slovakia -although many speculate that they are actions linked to Russian measures geared towards sowing discontent against the European Union.

Also, while not officially sanctioned by Putin’s government, the first International Russian Conservative Forum, which took place in March of 2015 in St. Petersberg, attracted a host of ultra-nationalist and far Right political groups.

Additionally, there is much speculation about the precise level of influence over Putin's thinking that the Russian ultra-nationalist ideologue, Aleksandr Dugin has. Dugin's views on Russia's future are seen as aggressive in tone and expansionist in design. Pan-Slavism and Russian chauvinism feature in a complex potpourri of thoughts on ideology, religion, society and geo-politics. 

Putin was at the helm of what many consider to be a brutal neo-colonial war of conquest against the breakaway Republic of Chechnya; this in contrast to the defensive reactions he undertook in relation to NATO-orchestrated provocations in Georgia and Ukraine. 

In his reaction to the February 2014 coup in Kiev, we can the measured, pragmatic style of Putin whom ultra-nationalists like Dugin berate for failing to annex the whole of eastern Ukraine.

Nonetheless, while clearly a nationalist and a promoter of social conservatism in his country with a special place for the revived Russian Orthodox Church, a distinction can be made for the most part between Putin and Russian ultra-nationalists. His brand of nationalism is officially inclusive and not by default hostile to minorities including Muslims.

Those seeking to bolster the credentials of Islamophobia by insinuating some measure of antipathy on Putin’s part would be surprised to find out that Russia could conceivably have converted to Islam in the early stages of its consolidation as a nation.

The story as recounted holds that in the tenth century, Vladimir, the Grand Prince of Rus which was still a pagan state, was looking for a state religion. He sent out envoys to his neighbours fully aware that conversion to the religion of one of them would strengthen Rus’ economic and security position. After all, practising the same faith as a neighbouring state would likely confer trading opportunities as well as help in securing political and military alliances

The candidates were the Christianised Western Christian lands composed of powerful Germanic rulers, the Eastern Orthodox Greeks, the Jewish Khazarian state and the Islamic Ottoman Empire. 

It effectively amounted to an adoption of religion according to the highest bidder.

The ancient chronicles record the following:

When the envoys returned they made their report which said: “We saw men worship in a temple that is called a mosque where they sit and bow and look like men possessed. But there is no happiness among them; only sorrow and a dreadful stench. And we went among the Germans and saw their ceremonies, but we beheld no glory there. But when we entered the edifices of the Greeks, we knew not whether we were in heaven or earth. For on earth, we have not beheld such splendour or beauty.  Truly, God dwells among men, for there we saw beauty we can never forget.

Thus, it was that Russia became a Christian state. Whereas, the Greeks offered Prince Vladimir bountiful gifts and  trading privileges, the ban on alcoholic consumption imposed on the Islamic faith ruled out a conversion.

“Drinking,” Vladimir declared, “is the joy of the Russians. We cannot live without this pleasure.”

The validity of the chronicle which was written at least one hundred years after the events it purports to cover is of course disputable.

But on the original point of the purported speech to the Duma, that would appear to be an urban myth. One of many that have been nourished under the auspices of Internet, and one which is of as dubious authenticity as is the recent viral meme and e-mail purportedly presenting a prophecy by Fidel Castro that a thaw in US-Cuban relations would come about when there was a Black President of the United States and a Latin American Pope.

The lesson of course is that there is no end to the means by which tendentious propaganda can shape views and perceptions of the past, the present and the future.

(c) Adeyinka Makinde (2015)

Adeyinka Makinde is a London-based writer.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

COMMENTARY: Vladimir Putin and the Patterns of Power


Much has been reported and analysed about recent developments pertaining first to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s address to the United Nations General Assembly on September 28th 2015 and shortly following that, the direct military action carried out by the Russian armed forces in relation to the conflict within Syria.

Both events, it has been claimed, formally and decisively bring to an end the de facto post-Cold War state of affairs of unipolarity; that is, one which posits the United States of America as the sole geo-political superpower that has been able to exercise exclusive and unrestrained force in various parts of the world.

It is also clear that the denunciation by Putin of longstanding American foreign policy as well as the projection of Russian power within the cauldron of Middle Eastern affairs has brought into sharp focus an aggregate of issues which taken together give the Russian leader the upper-hand, not only in regard to that geared toward the pursuit of his nation’s strategic interests, but also in the realms of moral authority and legal justification.

It has left the United States reeling and presents a future laden with a mixture of threats and benefits. The threats relate to a re-ignition of a Russo-American Cold War replete with a formal drawing of global spheres of influence, the fighting of proxy wars and an ever-heightening danger of thermo-nuclear conflict.

The benefits, on the other hand, would comprehend a framework for co-operation between the United States and the nations which it presently regards as the greatest threats to its global imperium: the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China.

The masterful deconstruction Putin gave before the United Nations laid bare the failings of American foreign policy during the decades succeeding the ending of the Cold War. The Russian president correctly characterised it as one abounding in mischief, negativity and hubris – an analysis which has been bolstered by the widely favourable reaction of swathes of public opinion around the world towards Russian actions against anti-government insurrectionists in the Syrian theatre as well as the unimaginative and miserly reaction from the American government.

Events have made it clear that only a genuine and unequivocal recalibration of American foreign policy rationales which have fostered coup d’etats, ‘colour revolutions’ and wars of destabilisation will serve the purpose of moulding the world into a far less dangerous place than it is at present.


Classic formulations of theories underpinning the security systems entered into by nation states often posit those representing ‘balance of power’ alignments or by an arrangement geared towards what is termed ‘collective security’.

In the era of the Cold War which pitted the ideologically incompatible systems operated by the United States and the Soviet Union, each side established a military alliance of nations against the other.

Aided by the threat of mutually assured destruction by thermonuclear exchanges, the parity of the military machineries respectively of the US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact achieved what some referred to as a “balance of terror”.

While the world was far from being a docile place, the prevailing circumstances meant that neither ‘superpower’ was prone to making rash decisions so far as interfering with the sovereignty of other nations within their immediate spheres of influence.

The operation of the United Nations to which both superpowers belonged provided more than a semblance of ‘collective security’ as was seen in regard, for instance, to the behind-the-scenes work of UN officials in combination with US and Soviet diplomats and statesmen in brokering armistices and peace accords in successive Arab-Israeli conflicts.

But with the crumbling of the ‘Iron Curtain’ and the onset of what Francis Fukuyama referred to as “the end of history”, the previously existing international system of checks and balances became somewhat extinct.

The dissolution of the Soviet Union and the succeeding chaotic transformation of Russia into a post-communist society provided those holding the levers of power in Washington with the raison d’etre to act on achieving an over-arching strategic goal; namely that of preventing the rise of another power which would challenge American dominance.

That the American system had prevailed against the challenge offered by communism also granted it the right to remould the world, if not completely in its image, in a manner nonetheless which would serve the totality of its political and economic interests.

It followed that the United States had the right to act unilaterally without cognisance of international treaty obligations or recourse to international systems of regulation while in pursuit of its aims. The ‘Wolfowitz Doctrine’  thus set the tone for an era of American militarism and imperialism.

Predating the “catastrophic and catalyzing event” of the September 11 attacks in 2001 which kick started a programme of armed invasions, fomenting of colour revolutions and manoeuvres geared towards destabilization was the role played by NATO in the ultimate dismemberment of the former Yugoslavia.

The United States, the undisputed leader of NATO, steered its member states into supporting its decision to stage the illegal invasion of Iraq. There was a continuum of this ethic after the expiration of the administration led by George W. Bush. The ‘backseat’ approach favoured by the Barack Obama presidency rode roughshod over the strict letter of the law and convention by aiding Islamist rebels in overthrowing the government of Colonel Gaddafi in Libya.

Then, also in contravention of international law, Washington oversaw the recruitment, training and financing of armed Islamic fanatics –some of them transferred from the carnage of Libya- to another theatre of Jihadist insurrection; namely that of Syria.

The consistent practice of American policy towards governments which did not consent to do the bidding of Washington was that of promoting destabilization. This has obviously been the case in regard to its relationship with Russia since that nation began charting a very different course to that which had been followed by Boris Yeltsin.

But even prior to the ascent of Vladimir Putin to the helm of the Russian Federation, the American’s had breached an important protocol of the agreement to allow a unified Germany to join NATO. This entailed that there should be no expansion eastwards.

NATO has nonetheless continued to admit former members of the Warsaw Pact into its ranks and has been behind provocations on Russia’s borders via the fomenting of conflicts in the former Soviet Republics of Georgia and Ukraine.  

These highly dangerous intrigues along with the policy of encirclement via the deployment of nuclear ‘defensive shields’ are in keeping with a vital counterpart of the Wolfowitz Doctrine, namely that espoused by Zbigniew Brzezinski, an influential political thinker whose ideas are apparently much admired by the incumbent Obama.

Obama’s policy via the successful efforts of US intelligence assets in fomenting dissent and eventually overthrowing the democratically elected president of Ukraine, are consistent with Brzezinski’s strategy of pressuring and intimidating Russia with the end of reducing it to a vassal status by balkanising it and ensuring that it does not in concert with any other nation form a Eurasian power bloc that could challenge the economic domination of America and the Western European world.

In many ways, Putin’s speech before the UN General Assembly, a brief and clear summation of the ills caused by the untrammelled exercise of American power, performed the feat of turning history on its head.

Here after all was the leader of the successor state to the “Evil Empire” giving a moral lecture to the presumed leader of the “free world”. The “Evil Empire” phrase, coined by US President Ronald Reagan had a great degree of resonance because of the obvious failings of the Soviet system in terms of its poor record in guaranteeing individual freedom. The oppressive apparatus wielded by the Soviet state towards it own citizens extended to its iron-fisted response to dissent within its satellite states.

Putin, a man often taken to task for his description in 2005 of the fall of the Soviet Union as the “greatest geo-political catastrophe of the twentieth century” was honest enough to admit the following:

We should all remember the lessons of the past. For example, we remember examples from our Soviet past, when the Soviet Union exported social experiments, pushing for changes in other countries for ideological reasons, and this often led to tragic consequences and caused degradation instead of progress.

His exposition on the failure of American policy was concise and difficult to contradict. The host of disasters which have followed in the wake of the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003 are clear for all to see, just as is the reduction of Libya from a nation with Africa’s highest standard of living to the broken down rubble of warring militias that it is today.

The fracture of civil society and creation of chaos in those nations is being replicated manifold in the tragedy of Syria that again is authored by the United States with the connivance of its NATO allies and friends in the Gulf Cooperation Council.

As Putin put it:

Instead of bringing about reforms, aggressive intervention rashly destroyed government institutions and the local way of life. Instead of democracy and progress, there is now violence, poverty, social disasters and total disregard for human rights, including even the right to life.

The neoconservative idea of purportedly exporting democracy to the Middle East through the barrel of a gun or the bomb-bays of military aircraft continues, heedless of Robespierre’s warning about the fear and resentment inspired by “armed missionaries”.

The United States has cynically utilised Sunni Islamist militias adhering to the ideology espoused by al Qaeda as its ‘shock troops’; a kind of a foreign legion tasked with bringing down the secular regimes of the Arab world as well as the Shia powers not disposed to following the agenda set by Washington. This amounts an unholy alliance with groups of the sort that reportedly were at the root of the disaster of September 11, 2001.

To this Putin offered the following:

The situation is extremely dangerous. In these circumstances, it is hypocritical and irresponsible to make declarations about the threat of terrorism and at the same time turn a blind eye to the channels used to finance and support terrorists, including revenues from drug trafficking, the illegal oil trade and the arms trade.

It is equally irresponsible to manipulate extremist groups and use them to achieve your political goals, hoping that later you’ll find a way to get rid of them or somehow eliminate them.

I’d like to tell those who engage in this: Gentlemen, the people you are dealing with are cruel but they are not dumb. They are as smart as you are. So, it’s a big question: who’s playing who here? The recent incident where the most “moderate” opposition group handed over their weapons to terrorists is a vivid example of that.

We consider that any attempts to flirt with terrorists, let alone arm them, are short-sighted and extremely dangerous.

Putin went on to plead for a re-institution of the collective security system. In other words, he called for an end to American unilateral action and a return to the co-operative basis on which the principles of the United Nations system for ensuring multi-state security is predicated.

The reason for his call for cooperation is not hard to fathom. Russia as with China has sizeable Muslim populations which can pose internal security problems if the Islamic State strain of fanaticism is allowed to spread.

An enduring Islamic State in the Levant which is subject to measures aimed at merely containing it provides a global threat to all; a threat to those Western European nations with rising Muslim populations and indeed Muslim states around the world.

The inexorable logic behind the call for collective action must be obvious to all. Putin was clear in his plea for a break with the unipolar mode by not merely calling for the revival of the UN as a valid conduit for fostering international cooperation, but also specifically for a alliance of the sort last seen with the anti-Hitler coalition of the Second World War.

Yet, the response from Washington has been largely marked by cynicism and continued hostility. On the one hand, such reaction confounds the mind of the objective bystander who cannot fathom why a common cause cannot be made against a dreaded foe such as the Islamic State. 

On the other hand it is illuminating. The conclusion drawn by the objective observer is that the reluctance to create a unified and concerted effort against the Islamic State and other similar hued forces fighting against the Assad government is that the militants are serving the geo-strategic interests of the government of the United States.

The abject failure in building a viable opposition political movement and a ‘Free Syrian Army’ are palpable when the official yield of a $500 million dollar investment is a paltry five guerrillas.

Whereas in the past, the abstract principles governing the legality of intervention and non-intervention were sufficiently blurred by the legitimacy conferred on a genuine and sizeable anti-government movement, the situation in Syria does not permit this. The anti-Assad contingents of guerrillas are largely composed of imported Jihadis.

Experts such as Professor Stephen Cohen insist that there are no credible entities which can be referred to as ‘moderate rebels’; an appellation which has been subject to much derision. Further, the Assad government has a great deal of support from the Sunni majority including that of the Grand Mufti of Syria.

It needs to be reminded that it is the Assad government which has borne the brunt of fighting Islamist fanatics, and that his secular regime presents the only hope for maintaining a Syrian state which will protect religious minorities including Christians from an ominous fate under an Islamic State.

Claims by Washington that the Assad government lacks legitimacy are not credible given that he won an election in June of 2014. The United States, of course, in 1864 underwent an election during its own civil war when the electoral votes of eleven Southern states were not counted.

Neither can Washington’s contentious claims of the deliberate use by the Syrian Army of barrel bombs against civilian targets be used to argue the case for illegitimacy. It is an accusation reeking of hypocrisy given the numerous innocents killed by United States drone warfare, bombings and other military attacks, some involving the targeting of civilians with depleted uranium munitions.

It is clear that Washington hopes that the demonization of Vladimir Putin for which much of the Western media has been complicit, will discredit his message.

Putin it seems alternately inspires dread and hope: From anti-Russian Central and Eastern Europeans eternally unforgiving of the historical domination of their homelands by Russian and Soviet empires to the White Nationalists that tout him as the ‘saviour’ of the white race.

From the archetypal ‘liberal’ Westerner inculcated with years of anti-Putin propaganda portraying him as the quintessential practitioner of a Russian brand of oriental despotism to the Western ‘Leftie’ still besotted with Russia or, at least, enduringly sympathetic to the role Russia played in attempting to set up a Marxist utopia.

But whatever the point of view, the argument for a return to a collective security arrangement based on mutual interest is difficult to displace given that American dominance has not been exercised with benevolence. Putin has already demonstrated a high level of statesmanship in averting an American bombing campaign against Assad’s forces back in September of 2013 after the chemical attack in Ghouta.

The negotiated programme for collecting and destroying Syrian chemical stocks alleviated the need for this, much to the relief of war-weary legislators and their constituents in both the United States and Britain.

This was a noteworthy example of the benefits of multi-state co-operation of the sort which Washington has seemingly chosen to forswear. The suggestion by Putin of the formation of a Russo-American coalition against the Islamic State and other Islamist militias deserves consideration rather than contempt.

A re-orientating of the global patterns of power is long overdue. And given the state of the world after decades of effective unipolarity, it can only be for the better.

(c) Adeyinka Makinde (2015)

Adeyinka Makinde is a London-based law lecturer with an interest in intelligence and Security matters.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Dick Tiger’s Tenacity and the Wit of Terry Downes

Above them were a number of balconies that hung steeply, seemingly above the ring, the occupants, according to Reg Gutteridge "practically breathing down the necks of the contestants.”

This photograph captures the brutal intensity of a small show fight in London’s East End held on May 14th 1957. The audience, compact and voluble, watched intently from the chairs adjoining the ring and the balconies which rose steeply above. It was not an uncommon sort of bout: A promising fighter testing his amour against a journeyman pugilist. One with high hopes and the other with presumed low expectations. An anointed versus a peasant. Or so it was supposed to be.  For this was the fight which established Richard Ihetu, better known by the nomme deplume ‘Dick Tiger’. Tiger had had a nondescript career to this point since his arrival to Britain from his native Nigeria. He has lost his first four bouts and had been in danger of losing his British Boxing Board of Control-issued license. Terry Downes on the other hand was primed for success. He had emmigrated to America where he’d taken up boxing when serving in the marines. He had even been selected to represent the United States at the Olympic Games in Melbourne only to have that scuppered on account of his still existent British nationality. Downes lost and Tiger won. Each man would go on to become a world champion. In victory, the soft-spoken Tiger showed that a gentlemanly spirit could exist within one who was adept at practising a remarkably brutal trade. And Downes too had a spirit, one that was brave and determined. He was also marked by razor-sharp wit.

Excerpt from book Dick Tiger: The Life and Times of a Boxing Immortal

Chapter Five/"Reborn" -- Mickey Duff, an ex-fighter and now the rising matchmaker for Harry Levene promotions, had seen Tiger lose by a decision. To him, Tiger's six-wins-to-five-losses record spelt "journeyman fighter" convenient fodder for Terry Downes, the great hope of British boxing. "I thought I had done my homework," Duff recalled in his autobiography. "I had seen Tiger lose to a nobody in Liverpool and thought he was a perfect opponent –- one who would make a show but wouldn't be good enough to win."

Later on that evening, the hall quickly filled to capacity. The demand for tickets had been so great that "hundreds" were reportedly locked outside. Inside the smallness of the venue ensured a semi-claustrophobic atmosphere as spectators, many of them sitting and standing shoulder-to-shoulder crowded around the ring. Above them were a number of balconies that hung steeply, seemingly above the ring, the occupants, according to Reg Gutteridge "practically breathing down the necks of the contestants."

At the din of the opening bell, Downes sprang out of his corner throwing leather from all angles -- aiming, Tiger surmised, to secure a quick rout over what he expected to be a weight weakened, muscle bound duck. Tiger held his ground until Downes waded into a powerful left hook, which deposited him on to the canvas for a seven count. At this moment Tiger would claim later that he knew his man was beaten. With indecent haste, Downes scrambled up, dusting the resin from his scarlet trunks. He was still in the process of gathering his senses when the referee yelled for both men to "box on." Outweighed by six pounds, Downes was yet to shake off the effects of the blows when in the second round another of Tiger's left hooks sent him tumbling over. But this did not finish him off. He gathered himself again and both men traded punches with some of Downes' combinations ending under Tiger's heart. The damage, nevertheless had already been done and while Tiger waited for the sounding of the seventh round, Downes' handlers, mindful no doubt about the effects that a prolonged assault would have on their youthful charge, decided to withdraw him from the contest.

Back in his dressing room, Downes, the irrepressibly loquacious wit, bandied trademark quips in response to the questions being asked by the journalists. When one asked him whether he thought Tiger might have been too big for him he responded, “Yeah, he did look a big middleweight to me too, when I realised I was lying down and he was standing up.” Another then asked him which opponent he would like to face next and Downes shot back a gem:

“I’d like it to be the bastard who suggested Dick Tiger.”
(c) Adeyinka Makinde 2005 & 2015

Saturday, 24 October 2015

COMMENTARY: Benjamin Netanyahu’s Struggle with History

Haj Amin al-Hussein (Left) in conference with Adolf Hitler
Benjamin Netanyahu’s comments made before a gathering at the 37th Zionist Congress of the World Zionist Organisation on October 20th which effectively blamed the Palestinian nationalist leader, Haj Amin Al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem for instigating the Holocaust have been met with widespread incredulity. The Israeli prime minister has been alternately ridiculed and condemned.

This is not surprising since Netanyahu was attempting to twist the largely accepted narrative of the development of the holocaust in order to suit the contemporary agenda of demonizing the cause for Palestinian self-determination as well as suggesting a malignant link between Islam and fascist-Nazi ideology.

But while Netanyahu’s comments have led to plausible accusations of his falling foul of what often is referred to as ‘holocaust denial’, they also invite an examination of Zionism’s collaborations and even affinities with fascist movements and the Hitlerian regime itself.

His comments also provide insight into the mindset of the man as well as offering clues as to how he might see an ultimate resolution of the seemingly intractable conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s words, delivered in his distinctive Philadelphian drawl, were enunciated with the now familiar casual intonation. But the conversational-style of oratory did not disguise the import of the point that he was attempting to get across.

Beginning with a reference to the Mufti’s alleged role in directing violence against Jewish settlers in British-ruled Palestine, Netanyahu, said that al-Husseini had been sought for “war crimes in the Nuremberg Trials because he had a central role in fomenting the final solution.”

He flew to Berlin. Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jews. And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, “If you expel them, they’ll come (to Palestine).” “So what should I do with them?” he asked. He said, “Burn them.”

What Netanyahu was claiming was that but for the intervention of the Palestinian Mufti, the Nazi’s would not have had the idea to physically eliminate the Jews.

This astounding thesis was asserted by Netanyahu as historical fact. It is astonishing given Netanyahu’s light treatment of Adolf Hitler’s role in the genesis of what many historians believe to be the planned extermination of European Jewry.

A question arises. If any other person had presented such a thesis before the public in a published book, an academic paper or in a speech at a public gathering, would they be subjected to criminal investigation in the jurisdictions of a number of Western European countries for an egregious instance of holocaust revisionism?

There are, of course, those such as the writer David Irving, prosecuted and convicted in Austria of holocaust denial laws, who claim that Hitler himself had no hand in any planned extermination of Europe’s Jews. There is, he argues, no signed official document containing Hitler’s personal order to embark on the systematic murder of Jews.

Netanyahu, himself the son of a renowned historian, is compromised in terms of the chronology that he presents. He may need to be reminded of two key speeches given by Hitler; one in 1939, and the other in 1941.

Standing before the Reichstag in January of 1939, Hitler declared that if what he termed as “international finance Jewry” were to plunge the nations of Europe into another war, the result would not be what he termed the “Bolshevization” of Europe and thereby the “victory of Jewry”, it would, he predicted, lead to the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe.

The word ‘annihilation’, in German, ‘Vernichtung’, was again used by Hitler in a speech two years later before an audience at Berlin’s Sportpalast. Delivered in his characteristic firebrand style, Hitler stated that the war would not end as the “Jews imagined”, that is, in the extermination of the European Aryan peoples because others would not “bleed to death alone”. There would, he exploded, be an application of the ancient Jewish law: “Auge um auge, Zahn um zahn!” Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. He explicitly declared that the resulting war would lead to the annihilation of Jewry.

Both of these speeches occurred before the Mufti met Hitler in November of 1941.

While Netanyahu seeks to delegitimize the Palestinian cause by the association with Nazism, the history of the Zionist movement has not been without controversial connections with both fascism and Nazism.

Indeed, Netanyahu as a die-hard Zionist with antecedents in the movement will need no reminder of the fact that his father, Benzion, served as the personal secretary of Vladimir Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the leader of the Zionist Revisionist movement, who forged ideological links with the Italian fascist party led by Benito Mussolini.

His Betar Movement, a youth wing of the revisionist Zionists, established the Betar Naval Academy in the Italian port city of Civitavecchia in 1934. That Betar operated along a similar ideological construct is not in doubt. The following appeared in Bollettino del Consorzio Scuole Profesionali per la Maestranza Martima, the official publication of the Italian professional maritime schools:

In agreement of all the relevant authorities it has been confirmed that the views and the political and social inclinations of the revisionists are known and that they are absolutely in accordance with the fascist doctrine. Therefore, as our students they will bring the Italian and fascist culture to Palestine.

Netanyahu may or may not appreciate the reminder that Zionists entered into a pact with Adolf Hitler’s regime via the Ha’avara Agreement of August 1933. Also known as the ‘Transfer Agreement’, it was opposed by the vast majority of world Jewry who at the time favoured an economic boycott of Germany.

The agreement was predicated on the mutual desire of both Nazi party and Jewish Zionists to rid Germany of its Jewish population. A German Jew wishing to immigrate to Palestine would deposit money into a specified German bank account. These funds would then be used to buy German goods for export, usually to Palestine. The final phase of the transaction would have the Jewish émigré receiving payment for the goods they had previously purchased after their final sale.

And would Netanyahu need reminding of Avraham Stern’s proposed alliance with the Nazis during the Second World War? While most Zionists suspended hostilities against the British who they perceived as frustrating their efforts to establish a Jewish state in Palestine, the leader of Lohamei Herut Yisrael had the objective of forging a relationship with the Hitler government in order to give birth to what he termed a Volkish-national Hebrium. This would establish, he hoped, “the historical Jewish state on a national and totalitarian basis”.

Both Jabotinsky and Stern serve as ideological heirs of the modern Likud Party which Netanyahu leads. Yitzhak Shamir, a former leader of Likud was a key figure in the ‘Stern Gang’ which waged a war of terror against both British and Arabs.

Netanyahu’s ideological antecedents also includes the figure of Menachem Begin. Begin, like Shamir a former leader of Likud, was the founder of the Herut Party in 1948. It was a development which prompted a group of far-sighted Jewish academics including Albert Einstein and Hannah Arendt to write an open letter to the New York Times declaring that Israel would eventually head down a path which legitimized “ultra-nationalism, religious mysticism and racial superiority.”

This prophecy of sorts is arguably not far behind the prevailing mood of contemporary Israel which has lurched to the political Right during Netanyahu’s terms as prime minister. Netanyahu himself has no problem declaring that the phenomenon of African migrants, who are referred to as ‘infiltrators’, threatened Israel’s “social fabric” and needed to be expelled.

He was also clearly observed to be pandering to anti-Arab sentiment during the Israeli general election last March when he claimed that “Arab voters are heading to the polling stations in droves”.

Netanyahu’s assertions regarding the Mufti’s meeting with Hitler fall into a similar hue. His comments again show the opportunism he is apt at indulging. His distortion of history fits into Nicolas Sarkozy’s opinion, confided to US President Barack Obama, that he is a “liar”.

Netanyahu continually incites hatred for Palestinians and solicits perpetual gentile guilt for the tragedy suffered by the Jewish people in the middle part of the 20th Century.

While Netanyahu’s comments fit into a narrative of Islam and fascism continually spun by those wishing to promote the idea of ‘Islamo-Fascism’, they are ultimately aimed at discrediting Palestinian hopes of securing a state of their own.

The two-state solution to the enduring conflict remains as intractable as it has ever been. The increase in Jewish settler communities in the West Bank dampens any chances that a Palestinian state would ever be allowed to exist. The belief that the West Bank is part of Eretz Israel; component parts of the ancient Hebrew kingdoms of Judah and Israel that today are referred to as Judea and Samaria, is not limited to religious Jews.

By seeking to single out a Palestinian nationalist figure as the author of the Jewish holocaust, Netanyahu is attempting to indoctrinate the world with the idea that the Jewish state can never exist side-by-side with a Palestinian one.

It is part and parcel of preparing the ground for the solution which Netanyahu will not publicly disclose; namely that continued Israeli actions of land acquisition, settler colonisation, economic strangulation as well as punitive military expeditions will convince the Palestinians of the utter hopelessness of their situation and force them to migrate out of the territories in which they reside.

Failing this and at the prompting of some future extraordinary conflict, it is not difficult to imagine that the likes of Netanyahu would use the cover of such crisis to complete the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians begun in 1948, by purging the inhabitants en masse from the West Bank.

Before his death in 1940, Jabotinsky claimed that “the world has become accustomed to the idea of mass migrations and has become fond of them”, adding later that “Hitler –as odious as he is to us- has given this idea a good name in the world.”

From an historical perspective, the leaders of Zionism have been remarkably shrewd at masking their true intentions which are then revealed at later, opportune moments.

For instance, a few days after the conclusion of the inaugural Zionist Congress held in at the end of August of 1897 in Basel Switzerland, the president of the congress and the man seen as the founder of the modern Zionist movement, Theodore Herzl, recorded the following in his diary:

Were I to sum up the Basel Congress in a word – which I shall guard against pronouncing publicly – it would be this: At Basel I founded the Jewish State. If I said this out loud today I would be greeted by universal laughter. In five years perhaps, and certainly in fifty years, everyone will perceive it.

Chaim Weizmann, who later would become the first president of the Israeli state, once assured an Arab leader that “the Jews did not propose to set up a government of their own but wished to work under British protection to colonize and develop Palestine without encroaching on any legitimate interests.”

Benzion Netanyahu once admitted that his son had no genuine intention of offering Palestinian leaders any conditions they would feel able to accept as a pre-condition to the establishment of a state. Indeed, when earlier this year Netanyahu had stated, “If I am elected, there will be no Palestinian state”, he was admitting what he and his predecessors of every political stripe knew to be the case but would not utter in public.

His support for the proposition that Israel adopt a basic law designating it as “the nation-state of the Jewish people” offered clarification of his true goals and intentions.

Severe criticism of Netanyahu, while tolerated over the years by many Israelis and Jews as somewhat inevitable because of the perception of arrogance in his personal style and complex political personality, is nonetheless beginning to be seen in these times of rising anti-Israel sentiments, by an increasing number of Israelis and Jews as a convenient tool by which anti-Semites may express their views.

Yet, many of his supporters would be hard pressed to defend the matter of his historical revision. Not if, as some including Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog have claimed that his words effectively gave succour to ‘holocaust deniers’.

The statement issued by Saeb Erekat, the Secretary General of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, sums things up fairly accurately:

It is a sad day in history when the leader of the Israeli government hates his neighbour so much that he is willing to absolve the most notorious war criminal in history, Adolf Hitler, of the murder of six million Jews.

A sad day indeed, but also one symptom of a political philosophy that thrives on the projection of victimhood, the perpetuating of Gentile guilt and which continues to harbour its long-term aim of replacing what had been the land of Palestine with a purely Jewish state.

(C) Adeyinka Makinde (2015)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.