by Martin Odoni

The European Union has every right to run out of patience with the United Kingdom over its meaningless negotiating position on ‘Brexit’, including the decidedly indecisive stance on the fate of Northern Ireland. Sure enough, the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, is drafting a formal ultimatum for the British Government to make a decision on what Northern Ireland’s relationship with the Republic of Ireland will be after Brexit. The lack of clarity or conviction from the British so far in negotiations has probably been the biggest sticking-point in the whole process, and is doubtless maddening to many in Brussels.

However, I am going to offer a rare moment of sympathy – or at least understanding – to our embattled Prime Minister, Theresa May, and her Brexit Secretary David Davis. In truth, the Conservative Party as a whole has brought the logjam on itself, but however one might get there,  it is never pleasant being in a no-win situation. And there is a possibly insurmountable problem over settling the Irish border that I do not envy them the task of untangling.

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The Good Friday Agreement is irreconcilable with a ‘Hard Brexit’

The six counties of Northern Ireland endured nearly three decades of Protestant/Catholic sectarian conflict – frankly civil war – from the late-1960s to the late-1990s. Although a complete peace has never really been achieved, the province has had two decades of unusual stability, and remarkably little bloodshed, thanks to a treaty agreed between the UK, Eire, and the various factions representing the (mainly Protestant) Unionist and (mainly Catholic) Nationalist communities in 1998. That treaty, known as The Good Friday Agreement, was one of the finest triumphs of European diplomacy in the Twentieth Century. It found a workable process for serving the interests of Ulster communities, those who wished to remain British, and those wishing for unification with Eire, including a devolved power-sharing Assembly of elected representatives at the Castle of Stormont. The details of the GFA are quite complex.

The problem that may prove insurmountable is that a total breakaway from the EU by the UK appears completely incompatible with the GFA. Literally, the two policies cannot exist side-by-side; they actually contradict each other.

One of the rules of the GFA was that trade conditions on both sides of the Irish border have to be pretty much identical, mainly to deter smuggling. Whatever the British choose to do, the Irish Republic does not want to leave the European Union. Whether we think Eire would be better off outside of the EU, as some suggest (it would not), is neither here nor there; they are not leaving the EU any time soon. So this means that, in order to maintain cross-border market-harmony, Northern Ireland has at least to stay in the EU Customs Union.

Northern Ireland must share market conditions with Eire

But if the UK opts for a ‘Hard Brexit’, that means, by definition, detaching from every feature of the EU, including the Customs Union. So to maintain the harmony with Eire, Northern Ireland would have to leave the UK. But that cannot happen either, as the GFA also guarantees the right of Unionists to remain British if they so wish. The majority of Unionists remain ‘loyal to the crown’, so to speak.

One idea that is sometimes floated is that Northern Ireland should remain in the Customs Union while the rest of the UK does not. Sadly, this also looks unworkable, as there would have to be border controls between Northern Ireland and the British mainland. That would violate Article VI of the Acts of Union of 1800. The whole of Ireland, under these Acts, became part of the UK, and, despite the secession of the rest of the island in the 1920’s, the Act still remains in effect in the north today. Article VI created a British customs union, one that would be violated by introducing border controls between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. Meanwhile, not imposing such border controls would defeat one of the stated objects of Brexit, which is to “take back control of our borders.” It is a nonsense platitude anyway, but the pertinent point here is that anyone wanting to sneak into the UK could just enter unchecked through Ireland.

Border tensions

A hard border within Ireland will cause a lot of anger for social reasons too. Nationalists and Republicans will be rightly outraged if free access to their fellows in the south is curtailed, and will feel that they are being forced back under direct and exclusive British governmental control. It is therefore no exaggeration to suggest that there is a real danger of a ‘Hard Brexit’ restarting war in Northern Ireland.

These problems would be largely avoided if the British Government opted for a ‘Soft Brexit’ i.e. to stay in the Customs Union. But of course, that looks a remote possibility at best too. The lunatic fringe of the Tory Parliamentary Party, and the extremist Brexit supporters around the country, appear unwilling to tolerate anything less than a complete British severance from the EU, and any attempt May makes to move away from that will trigger a rebellion in Parliament, and probably the collapse of her Government.

One cannot please any of the people all of the time

Hence the ongoing deadlock over finding an Irish border settlement. It is almost impossible to find a solution that will please enough people, and is just one of the many reasons why the ‘Brexit genie’ should never have been allowed out of its metaphorical bottle. The Conservatives created this mess, largely for internal party reasons, so it is right that they should be the ones to have to clean it up. But it is also wrong that they are, because they show such profound inability to carry the process out in a competent fashion.

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by Martin Odoni

Denying the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews is a crime in some countries. Whether it is right for Holocaust-Denial to be outlawed is debatable, but there is no doubt that it is a horrible behaviour brought about by anti-Semitism. In particular, it comes from a hatred of Jews so severe that it leads to resentment of seeing any Jew receiving sympathy. When there is evidence to demonstrate that such sympathy is merited, the evidence must simply be denied. That the Holocaust happened is incontrovertible to any reasonably objective eyes. Sadly, anti-Semitism – indeed all forms of racism – is prejudice, which by definition is not objective, and so the incontrovertibility of the evidence is simply denied.

Holocaust-Denial is sometimes even called ‘a revisionist industry’, given the vast, comprehensive library of ugly, deeply-misleading literature attempting to distort the facts. Perhaps the most notorious ‘scholar’ at the apex of this industry is David Irving, a man who has never heard of me and knows nothing whatever about me, but plainly would nonetheless be very happy if I were dead. Because I am an ethnic Jew.

Even were I not an ethnic Jew, I would still see Holocaust-Denial as disgusting. As I am a Jew, I find Holocaust-Denial completely abhorrent.

But there is another industry that has thrived from the Holocaust, not by refusing to acknowledge it, but by exploiting its irrefutability. That industry is simply referred to by the controversial Jewish author, Norman G. Finkelstein, as ‘The Holocaust Industry’.  I do not think that name is specific enough. I think it should be referred to as ‘The Holocaust-Manipulation Industry’.

The ‘profit’ for this industry is political expediency, and it trades, not in lies about the past, but in using the truth about the past to blot out the present. More specifically, it uses the memory of the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews in the 1940s to draw attention away from the misdeeds of the State of Israel in the present day.

This industry prevails in Europe and North America in particular. In the United Kingdom, its most despicable exponent is probably the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, a supposed ‘charity’ whose real title should probably be ‘The British Wing Of The Israeli Thought Police‘. As I have asserted in the past, the organisation’s behaviour is not only deceitful and far more focused on silencing criticism of Zionism than combating prejudice against Jews. It is also effectively anti-Semitic in itself, due to the way it reduces Jewry to a political tool rather than a human condition, and the way it tries to compel British Jews to support Israel. I have personally been accused by one of its most aggressive members, a particularly unpleasant individual called Jonathan Hoffman, of being a ‘shill’ for supposed Arab prejudice against Jews. (What I would have to gain by ‘selling out’ in such a fashion was never explained. Perhaps the CAA imagine that a ‘shill’ is merely someone who does not take the ‘side’ that might be expected at first glance.) It should be noted that Hoffman has a history of collusion with the English Defence League, making the CAA membership’s own opposition to Nazism less consistent than they would have people believe.

Long-time readers of this blog (yes, all seven of you) may remember a declaration of support I wrote last spring for Mike Sivier, the writer of the Vox Political site, after the CAA had written a cynical hatchet-job attack on him. Today, Mike was hatcheted again, this time in the national media, especially by a characteristically distorted report in the Sunday Times. (Subscription required.) Mike posted an article on Saturday detailing what he really said to the reporter from the Times, in wise anticipation of being misrepresented, and today Mike has posted a response to what he correctly sees as libellous journalism. I wish to add my ha’penny’s-worth.

Firstly, to address the Labour Party’s own very inadequate investigation into the allegations of anti-Semitism, there is a detail about it that I think needs to be put on record; –

In October, a few months after Mike’s Labour membership was suspended, he asked me if I would be willing to be interviewed by the party about my involvement in the dispute, which had become quite significant by then. I happily agreed to speak to the National Executive Committee’s disputes panel, and Mike gave them my contact details. It is an indication of how lacking in rigour, and how narrow-ranging, the ‘investigation’ was that the disputes panel never contacted me. Not once.

Secondly, and more pertinent to my general point about Holocaust-Manipulation, after seeing what happened today, it is quite clear to me that it is time for this industry to be taken every bit as seriously as Holocaust-Denial. Perhaps even taken more seriously.

Not only did the Times help the CAA to sully Mike Sivier’s name with implications of Holocaust-Denial. Robert Peston did the same on his ITV programme this morning, in a manner that was as unprofessional and irresponsible as it was unfair. Peston described Mike as ‘vile’, clearly without ever checking that the allegations against him stand up to scrutiny.

The CAA and other Manipulator groups have politicised the Holocaust in a way that shames their (and of course my) ancestors. And sadly, as the Sunday Times and Robert Peston have so comprehensively demonstrated, the mainstream media are either too lily-livered to take them to task over it, or too lazy, or too biased.

Mike Sivier has never written anything I have seen – and I have been following his blog for something like six years – that could be sensibly construed as anti-Semitic. The CAA deliberately targeted him with accusations through cynical quotemines in order to influence a council election unfairly – therefore illegally. They did it because they are scared of Jeremy Corbyn and his history of support for the Palestinians, and because Mike Sivier in turn supports Corbyn. The fewer Corbyn supporters there are in positions of authority at a national or local level, the weaker Corbyn’s position as a potential Prime Minister will become.

That is what this is really all about. And influencing elections in this way is explicitly against the law. The CAA’s behaviour is not only deceitful, it is politically corrupt.

Therein lies the reason why I believe Holocaust-Manipulation is now a more urgent issue than Holocaust-Denial. Denial is terrible and hurtful, and has long-term dangers. But at present, its influence is tiny. Holocaust-Deniers are widely regarded with contempt, even mockery. There must be guards against it, to make sure it does not recapture the public imagination, but the short-term danger of that is minimal.

Holocaust-Manipulation, on the other hand, does not just pose a threat of exerting political influence, it already does exert political influence. Corrupt, probably illegal political influence. It is distorting the political process, and tilting the electoral playing field in favour of the right wing.

The false conflation of Jews with Israel (I am a Jew and I have never set foot in Israel – so how can I or others like me possibly represent both?) is not the only aspect that is corrupting. The Holocaust was one of the worst crimes of the Twentieth Century beyond question, but it is doubtful that it is even particularly relevant when discussing the matter of Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians.

Moreover, frenzied cries of ‘ANTI-SEMITE!‘ when such treatment is condemned could, paradoxically, be manipulated into a horrifying defence of the Holocaust. After all, if it is ‘anti-Semitic’ to criticise Israel for its violent repression of Palestinians, it could be countered that it is ‘anti-Aryan’ to criticise Nazi Germany for its violent repression of the Jews. Such an argument of course would be as disgusting as it is absurd, but groups like the CAA have to face the fact that they are the ones opening the door to it in the first place.

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Mike Sivier is innocent of what he is accused of, I am completely confident of that.

The CAA are not innocent of manipulating a crime for propaganda purposes, a crime that was so heinous that no human being should even consider exploiting it in such a way.