Andrew Marr is USELESS

June 17, 2018

by Martin Odoni

Andrew Marr can be an utter pain to watch on TV sometimes, because he really is the softest interrogator imaginable, at least when interviewing Tory Ministers. He interviewed the Prime Minister on his imaginatively-titled programme, The Andrew Marr Show, this weekend, and predictably threw her nothing but puff-ball questions. These included a blatant feeder question about Theresa May’s diabetic condition, which she used unchallenged to court sympathy.

When attempting to decode a load of waffle about (in real terms, very slow and underwhelming) new funding for the National Health Service, he actually asked her permission to put questions to her about it. “I’d like to unpack all of that, if I may?” he requested, as though a Member of Parliament has a right to decide over what issues he or she may be held to account. May spouted an utterly grotesque lie about a ‘Brexit dividend’ paying for the new funding, and Marr made a very half-hearted attempt to question her about it, one May nervously sidestepped.

No brexit dividend

The dividend claim is based on the long-debunked “£350 million per week” claim of Leave campaigners. Marr did not even mention how thoroughly-discredited that notion is.

When discussing May’s ‘position’ on resolving Brexit’s Irish border issue, Marr let her state what arrangements she would not agree to, but never demanded she explain what arrangement she does want. That is problematic, given she stated explicitly that she will not accept a border within the island of Ireland, will not accept a border between Ireland and Britain, and will not accept remaining in the Customs Union or the Single Market. The only vague possibility that remains is the one Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party propose; a new Customs Union with the European Union. But this approach does not tally with rhetoric coming out of May’s administration, meaning May does not want that either. So having ruled out all the options anyone has been able to think of for the Irish border problem, May really needed to be pressed on the matter of what option she does favour. But again, Marr never asked.

At one point, Marr went as far as to ask May whether she was a woman of her word. This has got to be the most pointless, circular question any interviewer can bother with. The question presupposes an answer of yes in order to be able to rely on the answer. May said that she is. But how do we know that she truly is a woman of her word? Because she gives us her word that she is. ‘A perfect example of recursion,’ as was once said on Doctor Who. (The question is made doubly pointless by the fact that all the available evidence shows that May is no such thing anyway, and she is in fact a moral vacuum on many levels beyond honesty.)

Perhaps worst of all though was that Marr missed, or at least failed to challenge, an explicit rejection of the UK Constitution. May insisted that Parliament cannot “tie the hands of Government in negotiations”.

Of course it can. Indeed, it must. That is the whole point of Parliament – to hold the Government to account, and to prevent it from doing anything that its majority judges to be against the interests of the nation as a whole. May talks about it as a principle that does not apply during negotiations, but it does. Hypothetically, if the Government offers, say, to give away the Bank of England to the EU as a condition of a trade deal, or to sell off the nation’s railway lines (not just selling franchises to run the trains, but selling off the infrastructure itself) to the Government of Spain, it is imperative that Parliament is able to nip that in the bud. It will actually save negotiation time in the long run if it can oversee negotiations and stop the administration from heading down the path of a complex deal that proves to be a fundamental non-starter. Wait instead for Parliament to vote the deal down after it is agreed with the EU, and a whole process lasting weeks or even months will have been for nothing.

If the Prime Minister does not understand the practicalities of the democratic principle, which are far greater than they are often given credit for, then she really has to resign as Prime Minister. Any Prime Minister making what is, effectively, a claim on absolute authority cannot be tolerated. It seems Marr will happily tolerate it though, because true-to-form, he never challenged her on it at all.

Andrew Marr really is useless.

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by Martin Odoni

What a gift yesterday’s summit in Singapore was to the dictator of North Korea.

Listening to Donald Trump sympathisers worldwide, as they pile in to radio phone-ins to brown their noses in tribute to him, you would think he had personally arranged the Second Coming. The truth is, Trump did not achieve anything, while Kim Jong-Un got what he most desired, in exchange for doing nothing, and is thus laughing like crazy at his rival.

Strangely, Trump’s supporters seem to think he ‘got North Korea to the negotiating table’, and that that was an achievement in itself. In fact, it is quite the other way around. North Korean leaders have been asking for summits with US Presidents for decades, and previous US Presidents all refused such meetings without North Korea making concessions up front.

Occupy Democrats on Trump and his summit

Occupy Democrats are sharing this meme on social media, summing up what a loss the US summit with North Korea will ultimately prove.

Trump idiotically just agreed to this summit off the top of his head without imposing any conditions. The upshot of that is that Kim is now able to claim – without even having to lie – that he is the President who got the USA to the negotiating table. That diplomatic boon was a gift to Kim in itself.

But worse, what came out of the summit is a total victory for Kim – the metaphorical gift that has kept on giving – and a propaganda coup that has probably secured his position as absolute ruler of North Korea for another twenty years. He got everything, and gave up nothing.

Despite Trump’s characteristic boasting, the summit accomplished nothing for the USA. Trump extracted only vague, very familiar promises from Kim about ‘moving towards de-nuclearisation’. We have heard this from Pyongyang at least a dozen times before, just since the mid-1980s.

NK denuclearisation promises

There really is no good reason for the clamour of admiration for Donald Trump’s ‘diplomatic achievement’. He has gained nothing by it.

The reality is that, given the nature of the regime in Pyongyang, no ruler there will ever willingly give up his atomic weapons. Whoever the dictator is, he will know that if he surrenders nuclear arms, he will be dead within months. The regime there is one of the most brutal and repressive on Earth, and it rules, not through its power, but through fear of its power. No matter how much political power the dictator wields, he is still just a man, and can be assassinated as totally as any man-in-the-street. It is the threat, not of the man, but of the power he wields, that keeps him in place. So if he were to show that he is willing to give up nuclear weapons, his most powerful military resource, that would be a sign of weakness, while also potentially weakening the regime itself. He would have less power for those he rules to fear. So prominent figures near the top of his Government would probably respond by overthrowing him, before killing him – probably in a very bloodcurdling manner – to make sure he poses no threat to his successor.

In short, Kim Jong-Un cannot decommission his nuclear weapons; his own life depends on keeping them.

Meanwhile, Kim has extracted a promise from Trump to stop US military exercises off the coastline of the Korean peninsular. An end to that threatening practice is what the Pyongyang Government has been desperately seeking since Lindon Johnson was American President. Now sure, there is nothing to guarantee that the USA will keep its side of the bargain either, but that is at least a firmly-defined promise, and it can be fairly measured whether the USA delivers on it. The Korean promise to ‘work together to move towards de-nuclearisation’ could mean anything upwards of “We’ll draw up a hypothetical plan for decommissioning that is obviously unworkable, and send it to you, and then when you reject it, we can say, ‘Well, at least we tried’.” That hollow, empty gesture would still count as fulfilling their side of the bargain, and would, absurdly, give North Korea the official moral high ground if the USA continues military manoeuvres off the Korean coast.

The South Korean Government in Seoul must be on the brink of a collective cardiac arrest, as they watch their most important backer giving their bitterest rival everything-for-nothing!

Worse, what does all of this say to Iran? The regime in Tehran followed the terms of its 2015 nuclear deal with the USA and its allies pretty much to the letter. But Trump simply cancelled the deal arbitrarily a month ago, for no apparent reason beyond wanting just to be different from his predecessor, Barack Obama. Now, the Iranians have sat, open-mouthed, as North Korea has received a major military concession in apparent exchange for shallow flattery of a narcissistic buffoon. The lesson the Iranians will doubtless take is that if they start saying nice things about Trump all the time, he will start giving them anything they want.

So Trump is cozying up to anti-democratic rulers like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-Un, and repeatedly giving them something-for-nothing, while imposing trading tariffs on his country’s democratic allies.

This is not an era of triumph for Western diplomacy, it is an era of easy triumph for authoritarianism, and of alienation for democratic nations.

by Martin Odoni

I am getting a little exhausted with an almost-identical conversation I keep having repeatedly on social media. Below is a copy-paste of just one example of it I have had to correct. Other versions are out there far beyond my will to count, and while they are not word-for-word, they all mean exactly the same thing. They have been repeatedly posted in response to the article I published yesterday.

“Semitic is a term that applies to both Arabs and Jews. The group of languages they all spoke in the area where both Jews and Palestinian Arabs live, are the Semitic languages. To be anti-Semitic, is to be anti both Jews and Palestinian Arabs.”

No.

No, it is not.

I know it should mean that, because ‘Semitic’ does indeed roughly mean ‘of the peoples originating in the lands east of the Mediterranean Sea’ (not only Arabs either, please note – Assyrians and even Persians can be classed as Semites too). It follows logically that ‘anti-Semitic’ would therefore mean prejudice against all such peoples. However – and yes I know it sounds very counter-intuitive – the definition of the term is strictly anti-Jewish.

Friederiche Wilhelm Marr - founder of modern anti-Semitism?

Wilhelm Marr – the man who gave anti-Semitism its unhappy name.

The term was popularised by a nationalist German agitator called Friederich Wilhelm Marr in the 1870s. Marr was himself hostile to Jews, and was stridently opposed to their emancipation or assimilation into the German populace. Marr was one of the earliest known propagators of modern conspiracy tropes about wealth and power being secretly held by small numbers of ‘world-controlling Jews’. Specifically, Marr argued that Jewish Germans had ‘taken control’ of finance and industry in the then-fledgling German Empire.

There was a fresh tidal wave of political hostility towards Jews engulfing much of Europe at the time, leading into the Pogroms of the Russian Empire. Marr coined the term ‘anti-Semitism’ to refer to this phenomenon, and in opposition to the ‘Jewish clique’ he imagined, in 1879 he founded a movement that he  called, The League Of Anti-Semites (‘Antisemiten-Liga’).

Why he chose the term ‘anti-Semitism’ to refer to Jew-hate is not altogether clear. It seems perfectly possible that he had simply misunderstood what the word ‘Semite’ (‘Semitismus’ as he wrote it in one of his pamphlets) means, and thought it was just a synonym for ‘Jew’. Another theory is that he thought it sounded more ‘scientific’ than ‘Juden-hass’ (‘Jew-hate’) and therefore would give his ugly ideas more credibility.

Whatever Marr’s reasons, his meaning when he coined the term was hostility-to-Jews exclusively, and it was that definition that eventually became widely accepted and adopted into common parlance. It may seem ridiculous that the term does not encompass hostility to all peoples originating in that region, but it is still the truth.

As for Marr, he eventually recanted his own ideas and apologised to the Jewish people shortly before he died. Sadly, his ideas outlived him by a very long time, even lasting up to the present day, and they arguably played an indirect role in some of the worst tragedies of the Twentieth Century.

by Martin Odoni

The notorious outgoing President of the British Board of Jewish Deputies this week made perhaps the most ridiculous public statement of his entire, lamentable career. The eternally right-wing Jonathan Arkush, speaking to the eternally right-wing Daily Telegraph, claimed,

“Delegitimising the state of Israel is antisemitic. [Jeremy Corbyn] was a chairman of Stop the War, which is responsible for some of the worst anti-Israel discourse. If he shares the prevalent discourse about Israel, then that view is unquestionably antisemitic… [The BDI] will not accept a discourse which denies the existence of their own land to the Jewish people. I think we are all entitled to some clarity on his real views about Israel.”

This remark is either a cynical smear, or a call from the heights of deranged paranoia. Arkush and his allies in the Zionist (important; not Jewish) community keep levelling charges like this at the Labour leader, among many others on the left of the party. But each time, they put precious little meat on the bones of their accusations. There is never a coherent explanation from Arkush as to what Corbyn has really said that is so objectionable, examples are few-and-far-between, and what quotations are offered are usually taken out-of-context.

Arkush also said that Corbyn’s Labour has British Jews wondering: “Do we have a future here?” Not for the first time, and probably not the last, I find myself wanting to ask the Board, “When were you going to ask me before speaking for me?” Because I am one Jew who has never wondered whether I have a future here at all, and no one has ever asked me if I have.

Arkush also stated quite concretely that Corbyn holds ‘anti-Semitic views’, but again offers no specific examples to that effect, just more generalised grumbles about Corbyn’s history of criticisng Israeli policies.

More particularly, Arkush’s leading attempt to imply that Corbyn has a history of ‘delegitimising the state of Israel’ is an outrageous lie. Corbyn’s associations with the Stop The War coalition reveal not a shred of evidence of that; Stop The War are frequent critics of Israel, beyond doubt, but they have never argued particularly for its destruction. (And no, before anyone comments with the familiar urban myth, Stop The War did not publish an article four years ago literally demanding a war with Israel. The often-cited article by Professor Richard Falk was arguing for non-military action against Israel.) Stop The War question the decision to create Israel, and the process by which it happened – especially the much-under-discussed role of Zionist militancy in the mid-1940s – but that is quite different from wanting the country to be destroyed. The coalition, like most critics of Israel, want to see the country reformed with full rights for all Palestinians on an equal footing with all Jews, be it by a one-state or two-state solution. Condemnation of policy is quite different from condemnation of existence.

Arkushleep

So on examination, Arkush’s protestations are not against the way anyone in the Labour Party or Stop The War treats Jews at all. He objects instead to the way that the left will not endorse Israel’s treatment of Arabs. The refusal to approve the repeated slaughters of Arabs is anti-Semitic, according to Arkush.

The only conclusion we can draw from Arkush’s rant – probably his last before rightly stepping down as the Board’s President – is that he sees Israel/Palestine in the most childish of binary terms. He thinks that people can be anti-Semitic, or they can be anti-Arab. (They can also, perhaps, be both.) But as far as Arkush is concerned, it is not possible to be neither. So if you are not anti-Arab, you have to be an anti-Semite. That is how dimensionless Arkush’s reasoning skills are.

I have written numerous times before about the subconscious anti-Semitic mindset required to weaponise anti-Semitism allegations, reducing Jews from human beings to mere tools of disputational convenience – even when the weaponiser is Jewish. So if the Board as a whole endorses Arkush’s remarks, then the Board of Jewish Deputies is now an anti-Semitic organisation.

by Martin Odoni

My earnest hope for today is that the people of the Irish Republic vote to repeal the confounded ‘8th Amendment‘ of their nation’s constitution. It is an oppressive, paternalistic clause that deprives women of the most fundamentally feminine part of their own autonomy – control of their own reproductive abilities. The passing of the Amendment in 1983 was one of the most obsolete, regressive moves of the Irish Government in the modern era, as it places a powerful legal barrier in the path of any Irish woman seeking to abort a pregnancy, no matter the reason why she needs one.

Repeal the 8th Amendment

The Irish Constitution was amended in 1983 to provide an extra legislative barrier preventing abortion.

Now, I need to make clear that I am not a ‘fan’ of abortion, and I will always hope that a woman would only resort to one in dire circumstances. But I am a ‘fan’ of human rights, and I also recognise that, as a man, I will never be in a position truly to understand the emotional impact of being pregnant and having to face such a choice. I cannot accept that any male should have a decisive say on this issue at all, because in the end, it is not about what happens to his body.

Around the world, older generation males, especially of a religious/conservative disposition, seem to think otherwise, and assume women should always do whatever the men decide is best for them. Refreshingly, modern generation males seem to take a less arrogant stance. This includes, according to some media reports, many younger generation men in Ireland itself. According to feedback received by some pro-choice campaigners, many young Irish men have gone as far as to say they will not vote in the Referendum, saying that they want to leave the matter to women to decide.

Now, this wish to concede to the informed perspective is perfectly sound and creditable up to a point, but unfortunately,  it gets matters in the wrong order. The men can only take that step back after abortion is legal, not before. The Referendum is not a consultation on whether a specific woman should have an abortion. It is asking the very question as to whether women should be allowed to make this decision when the circumstances arise. The current position default in Ireland is ‘no, they should not be allowed’. As things stand, the matter is not left to women, so if an Irish man does not vote for repealing the 8th Amendment, he is not leaving the matter to women to decide.

Therefore, if men of Ireland wish to let women decide these matters – as they should – then they must get out today and vote in favour of repealing the 8th Amendment. Women will probably not be able to provide enough votes on their own.

Come on, men of Ireland, help to make this happen. Do not complacently imagine that you can let it happen for itself. When ordinary people assume that, nothing changes for the better.

by Martin Odoni

Owen Jones responded to yesterday’s news that Ken Livingstone is leaving the Labour Party, over the unending anti-Semitism controversy, with an unthinking renewal of a very frequent myth.

Yesterday morning, Jones tweeted the following; –

Before addressing the myth, I should mention that I question the first sentence. There were some things Livingstone said that could have been worded much more sensibly and carefully. But looked at objectively, Livingstone’s claim that Adolf Hitler supported Zionism is true, at least in a sense. It is certainly untrue to suggest that Hitler was a doctrinaire Zionist, who adhered to the complex minutiae of the ideology. But then Livingstone never implied that, and it should further be recognised that, back in the 1930s, Zionism did coincide quite neatly with the ugly ideas of Hitler’s desired Lebensraum. ‘Living space’, as the term means, for the Nordic/Aryan peoples across Europe would, rather by definition, be advanced by expelling the millions-strong Jewish population to another land beyond Europe’s boundaries, as that would leave more space for Hitler’s imagined ‘Master Race’.

Livingstone should have empasised that the Haavara Agreement between the Nazis and German Zionists was very lopsided, and that the Zionists signed up to it under duress. That he did not was foolish, but it did not really make his words anti-Semitic, especially as he was discussing Hitler more than he was discussing the Zionist movement or the Jewish people.

Indeed, I would go further and argue that if Livingstone’s remarks are offensive at all, they would be offensive to Zionists, not to Jews. While there is inevitably a lot of overlap between the two groups, they are not the same, and the points Livingstone was discussing were politically Zionist ones, not religiously or ethnically Jewish ones. The links between Haavara refugees and Holocaust victims who were left behind are being twisted by Zionists to make Livingstone’s remarks sound anti-Semitic. (As I have intimated before, I find manipulation of the Holocaust as repugnantly offensive as denial of it, so British Zionists really have soul-searching to do before they make hay about this.)

The second sentence in Jones’ tweet is what really irks me, though in fairness to him, he is only replicating a mistake that the media make very widely. The ‘bad relationship’ between the Labour Party and the ‘Jewish Community’ – a fallacy-of-homogeneity term if ever there were one – is the most question-begging assumption of the modern media. It comes from the constant clamour of Zionist (again note: not necessarily Jewish) groups like the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, Labour Friends of Israel, the British Board of Jewish Deputies and so on, offering wildly-exaggerated tales of ‘anti-Semitic’ behaviour that is supposedly rife in the Labour Party.

It is lazy and profoundly incurious of the British media just to assume they can get a clear idea of the opinions of ‘Britain’s Jews’ just by consulting these groups. That they are ‘representative’ is a tenuous suggestion, especially given the maddening conflation that exists between Jews and Zionists.

The CAA, as I have demonstrated more than once on this blog, is scarcely interested in combating anti-Semitism at all, but only in discrediting critics of Israel. It is a tiny ‘charity’, is not elected in any plausible sense, and seldom consults anyone on a wide range of issues, bar complaints about possible anti-Israeli rhetoric. To imagine that the CAA knows what the general Jewish community’s thoughts are on, say, Brexit, or controlling inflation, or Scottish independence, or balance-of-trade is therefore comical.

LFI, equally, seem less interested in British Jews than in Israeli politics, as quite openly implied by their name. They seem to serve a similar purpose to the CAA – except to attack Labour ‘from within’ as it were. Many members of LFI are not even Jewish, and support Israel for reasons quite other than the survival of the Jewish people. Again, to suggest that LFI offer reliable insights into wider Anglo-Jewish thinking is ridiculous.

Links to LFI's Facebook Group

If Labour Friends of Israel are representative of Jews in the Labour movement, why do they have so few members in their Facebook group?

 

The Board of Deputies can at least claim to be somewhat representative, as they are appointed by a multi-layered election process of sorts. But this process only applies to synagogues and other Jewish organisations, not by Jewish individuals more broadly. This means that Jews like myself i.e. secular Jewish atheists are not consulted on who should be elected to the Board, or what our views are on any political or social issues. It is my choice that I am irreligious and do not practice any rituals or ceremonies of Judaism, but ethnically, I am still a Jew, a fact about me that can never change whether I like it or not. Therefore, when the BJD say they are expressing the views of “British Jews”, they are claiming to speak for me and others like me when they have never attempted to learn what our views are. If they claimed they are speaking for “practicing religious British Jews”, they would be on stronger ground. But they do not, and it is high time that the media questioned them on that instead of just parrotting the BJD’s assertions all the time when wanting to lend credence to anti-Semitism claims with which to beat up Jeremy Corbyn.

I know I am not alone in saying that I am unhappy for these groups to claim to speak on behalf of all British Jews, just as I am horrified when Binyamin Netanyahu claims to act on behalf of all Jews worldwide. I am also not alone in saying it is past time that the media dared to question these groups when they make such presumptuous claims.

by Martin Odoni

What a pointlessly horrible individual Nick Ferrari can be sometimes. He wanted to interview Diane Abbott this morning on his LBC Radio show about the resignation as Home Secretary of Amber Rudd. As the programme wore on, Ferrari expressed growing frustration that Abbott appeared to be giving interviews to every other news outlet except him.

Seldom slow to be vindictive when feeling slighted, Ferrari retaliated at the end of the programme by doing something genuinely cruel, unfair, and utterly vindictive. Now, Ferrari was the interviewer interrogating Abbott during the General Election campaign almost exactly a year ago, when she had the notorious ‘brain-freeze’ moment while discussing police funding. As an obvious two-fingered salute to her, Ferrari ended today’s show by playing a recording of that interview to mock her.

nick ferrari mocks diane abbot for her illness

Ferrari’s conduct is childish and cruel, and betrays a really ugly nature that lurks not far below the dignified surface.

Anyone smirking about that little stab should be ashamed, as should Ferrari himself. There is a detail about it that many people, especially smug, jeering, right-wing journalists like Ferrari, keep omitting to mention; Abbott was very ill at the time. (As James O’Brien, speaking on the very next programme on LBC this morning noted, the signs are that she probably still is.) To be precise, she was suffering from diabetic withdrawal this time last year, and it became so bad that she had to drop out of the last couple of weeks of campaigning.

The amount of vicious abuse Abbott receives on a daily basis is an abhorrent indictment of the dark side of this country, in terms of both racism and misogyny. But her diabetic illness has added another ugly dimension to it over the last year. It seems the symptoms of an almost-crippling condition are also considered fair game for mockery and cruel taunts when the sufferer is a left-wing Member of Parliament. (Once again, we can expect her colleagues on the right of the Labour Party to offer her no sympathy, even as they pretend to be concerned about anti-Semitism.)

What on Earth is wrong with modern Britain, that these sorts of malicious behaviours are not only becoming increasingly commonplace, but are even rewarded with a regular show in the media? To mock anyone for symptoms of an illness is frankly as infantile and ignorant as it is spiteful and Medieval. It is difficult, indeed, to distinguish Ferrari’s behaviour from Donald Trump’s at that horrifying moment in 2015 when he mocked a disabled reporter during the Republican Primaries for the US Presidential Election. Trump was widely and rightly castigated for such appalling cruelty – although it is a tragic reflection on the modern USA that it was not enough to stop him becoming President – and so Britain should now do the same to Ferrari. It would hardly be before time; given his ‘othering’ attitude towards asylum seekers and Muslims, Ferrari’s resemblance to Trump is a lot stronger than he would probably like to admit.