by Martin Odoni

Imagine a desperate Palestinian committed a suicide bombing in Jerusalem. For all my support for the Palestinians, there is no sane denial of the fact that it sometimes happens, or of the horrific agonies that it genuinely inflicts. And say that one of the victims of such a bombing happens to be a supporter of the Palestinians. What would be the right thing to say to relatives of such a victim?

Would, “Don’t you think your family had better stop supporting the Palestinians now?” be appropriate? Surely not.

Well, one guy who has shown he would say it without a moment’s pause for thought – or even for dignity – is the rabid Zionist Rabbi Zvi Solomons. The terrible church bombings in Sri Lanka over the Easter weekend took over three hundred and fifty lives, and have left over five hundred injured. A relative of one of those who died is the Labour MP Tulip Siddiq. She revealed her family’s loss on her Twitter account a couple of days ago, and Solomons decided to extend his own, ‘unique’ brand of condolences.

Solomons Twitter attack via Siddiq

Rabbi Zvi Solomons demonstrates that no situation is too sensitive for him to use for cheap point-scoring.

“So sorry to hear this Tulip. Doesn’t your leader support Islamists like this? Are you still supporting him?”

Essentially, Solomons used the events, in traditional absurd-Zionist fashion, as an opportunity to scold Siddiq for being a ‘supporter’ of Jeremy Corbyn. Now, in fact, Siddiq is not really a supporter of Corbyn as such. She was originally one of the MPs who gave Corbyn a nomination to stand for Labour leader back in 2015, but when it came to the ballot itself, she voted for Andy Burnham. But that is not the real point. The real point is Solomons’ incredible mixture of cynical hawkishness and narrow-minded insensitivity.

Going up to someone when they reveal that they have entered a time of mourning, and trying to shame them for supposed associations, is not principle. It is cheap and cruel. It shows lack of human feeling, and betrays Solomons’ only real concern – his desire, shared with Zionists more widely, to see Corbyn isolated within the Labour Party.

Study Solomons’ Twitter feed, and you see a relentless chain of accusations and insinuations against Jeremy Corbyn, all implying in one way or another that he is anti-Semitic. There is little or nothing to support any such allegations, bar the usual deceitful quotemines and distorted half-truths, but they are unending, day-after-day, and give the impression of an almost disturbing obsession. Like most Zionists in Britain, Solomons clearly means Corbyn real harm, and sees isolating him from allies, even ones he does not really have, as a major first step. The corruption in political Zionism is demonstrated by the way it is only ever advanced by smears and bullying.

But the insubstantial nature of Solomons’ remarks is not confined to his misunderstanding of the relations between Siddiq and Corbyn. He fails to see the laughable hypocrisy in his own words, or the insane associative illogic he uses. Partly, it is because the Zionist cries of “racism!” are coming from a man who is himself using racist – or at least religiously sectarian – reasoning. Now all the indicators are that the bombers in Sri Lanka do have Islamist links (Islamic State have claimed responsibility, although with their history of trying to associate themselves with anything going wrong upwards of a national leader catching a cold, it is tempting to disregard their word), but Solomons is plainly using an “All-Muslims-are-the-same” argument.

Corbyn once addressed delegates from Hamas as “My friends”, and Hamas are a Muslim faction. Therefore, Hamas must be Islamists, and Corbyn is literally friends with Hamas, and Hamas are the same as the Sri Lanka bombers, ergo Corbyn is an ally of the Sri Lanka bombers and is personally implicated in the attacks over Easter.

This mixture of silogistic fallacy and telescopic definitions shows where the prejudice really lies. On present information (at the time of writing at least), it is transparent nonsense to try and associate the bombers in Sri Lanka in any way with Corbyn at all, or indeed with Hamas.

Any doubt about the selfish, irrational scaremongering is dissolved by a later remark in the thread; –

“I don’t want Jews to start being killed by Jeremy’s Islamist friends.”

So there you have it. At a time of national mourning among the Christian community of Sri Lanka, Solomons wants to make it all about Jews. Incredible.

Yet again, ‘anti-Semitism’ is shown not to mean a hatred of Jews for being Jews, but to mean the manifestion of anything a Zionist hates.

As a Jew, it is a very saddening and disturbing reality that we all have to treat hearing the term ‘anti-Semitism’ with enormous caution. But in the present climate, we have no alternative, thanks to irresponsible, hate-addled wolf-cryers like Solomons.

by Martin Odoni

One of the most irritating refrains from the anti-immigrant/anti-Islam crowd over the last few years has been the attempt to justify hostility to Muslims by insisting it cannot be racism. The grounds for this claim is that “Islam is not a race”. Even the likes of Richard Dawkins was tweeting it a few years ago.

The sentence is technically true, but if you think about it, the distinction it draws is entirely a quibble. The hostility towards Muslims is still a form of ‘othering’ of a foreign culture. Furthermore, on hearing the word Muslim, the average white Anglo-Saxon Briton will picture something roughly along the lines of this; –

57_thehistoryofislam_saudi_terror_cartoon_75

The image is offensive, as it conflates Muslims with militant Islamists, but also because it is both sectarian and highly racial. In particular, it makes the classic mistake of assuming that Muslim is a synonym for Arab. In the real world, the proportion of Muslims worldwide who are Arabs is under fifteen per cent. As an example, perhaps the most extreme Islamic nation on Earth, the Shi’a Republic of Iran, is a Persian country, not an Arab country (although admittedly there is a very substantial number of Arabs living there). Most Muslims, incidentally, are Sunnis, not Shi’ites, another distinction many laymen in the UK fail to recognise. Only about twenty per cent of Muslims globally are Shi’ites.

So long as people associate a religion with a race, and more particularly with a racial caricature they hold in contempt, then hostility towards that religion is racism, and the religion’s unpleasant features are merely the pretext for racial feeling.

Where the hostility towards a religion is based on an informed aversion towards its teachings and philosophies, then one might argue that it is not racist; but only then if the same hostility is felt towards other religions with equally unpleasant laws. For instance, Christians in Britain First, such as Jayda Fransen, raise reasonable objections to some of the more blood-curdling passages in the Qur’an, but conveniently overlook – refuse to be drawn on – the horrific laws and commands of the God of the Old Testament. Why, if not because Christianity is ‘our’ country’s religion, whereas Islam belongs to ‘people from elsewhere’?

Whether the religion is specifically a race is therefore immaterial. Look at myself; I am a non-practicing Jew – part of Jewry but not of Judaism, entirely on the word of the ancient Prophet Ezra. You could argue that Jewry is not a race at all – Ezra’s somewhat arbitrary convention has it that it is a matrilineal ethnicity – but nobody in their right mind would argue that anti-Semitism is anything other than a form of racism.

I am largely dismissive of all religions to a greater or lesser extent, including Judaism – on analysis I find all the Abrahamic religions in particular very authoritarian and bloodthirsty – but I respect the right of others to worship in their own way, so long as they make no attempt to impose it on others. Islamophobes have no such ‘live-and-let-live’ outlook; not only do they hate the aggressive and bullying militants of Wahhabism, they hate anyone who is a Muslim at all. They cannot see the distinction; any Muslim is a Hollywood-style Arab caricature in their eyes.

What matters when identiying racism is not the doctrine, which is usually just the handy pretext for prejudice, it is the impulse that is driving it. That impulse is ugly, irrational, and hateful. Mere association with ancient texts from the Middle East does not create any fundamental difference to that impulse at all.

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by Martin Odoni

The details that have emerged about the Manchester Arena Bomber, Salman Abedi, seem to suggest that, in spite of the organisation’s self-aggrandising claims, he was probably not a member of Daesh (ISIS).

The first point that needs emphasising is that, as is so often the case with these forms of terrorism, the bomber was native to the country under attack. Indeed, Abedi was not only British, he was even native to Manchester itself, and lived just three miles from the Arena. The inevitable tidal wave of cries from the xenophobic right in the days after the attack to close the borders and throw out the refugees are therefore, once again, shown to be futile hate-speech. One of the worst examples of this I have seen is this meme on social media; –

Xenophobes taunt Manchester over the Arena Bombing

The xenophobic right think taunting a city while it is in mourning is suitable behaviour.

Taunting a city of people who are in mourning is an oddly British thing to do – just ask the people of Liverpool. But as much as this mentality is disgusting, it is also irrelevant; Abedi was not a refugee, and so turfing out refugees before Monday would have made not a jot of difference. The meme, in short, says far more about the insecurity and fear of the people who made it than it does about the terrorism situation. (It must be terrible to be a member of the Far-Right. To live a life so full of fear, and to be too weak-willed to resist that fear, must be a harrowing existence.)

The point has been made that Abedi’s family were refugees from the Libya of Muammar Ghaddafi. Yes, they were, but they were not the ones who carried out the bombing. So unless evidence is found that they helped Abedi with the attack, this is, again, irrelevant.

But back to the more immediate point, Abedi’s putative links to Daesh look doubtful. The only particular reason for assuming he had any is that he supposedly visited Syria a few weeks ago. But that is a pretty wild assumption, given there are plenty of other factions in the Syrian Civil War than Daesh.

Abedi’s family may have links to a jihadist group in Libya, called the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), and it is likelier to my mind that this is the faction that radicalised him; the LIFG is believed to have members in the Whalley Range area of Manchester. The important detail in that is that the LIFG is not an ally of Daesh. LIFG instead regards itself as an affiliate of ‘al-Qaeda’. I have said more than once in the past that the idea of ‘al-Qaeda’ being a single worldwide organisation is a bit of a nonsense. But insofar as the network exists, it is in fact an enemy of Daesh; –

An internal split developed in ‘al-Qaeda’s’ operations in Iraq and Syria during the so-called Arab Spring. The ‘al-Qaeda’ faction in Syria, the al-Nusra Front, broke off from ‘al-Qaeda-In-Iraq’ because its commander, Abu Mohammed al-Jalani, wanted to have a free hand in fighting the Syrian Government. When the ‘al-Qaeda’ supreme leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, gave his blessing to the split, the head of the Iraqi faction, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was so incensed that he revoked his oath of allegiance to Zawahiri, and declared his territory to be ‘The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria/Levant’ (ISIS/ISIL) – or ‘Daesh’. Since then, the two Wahhabist armies have been permanently at loggerheads.

With this in mind, it seems unlikely that an apparent LIFG sympathiser – therefore an ‘al-Qaeda’ follower – would take orders from al-Baghdadi. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that Abedi had changed sides of course, but if he really had joined Islamic State on his visit to Syria, it would be very interesting and informative to learn why he did so. Until such information comes to light, I am leaning away from the notion that Abedi was with Daesh.

There is one more aspect of the matter of Libya I want to discuss. The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, voted against military action in Libya back in 2011.

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At that same time, the current Prime Minister, Theresa May, was Home Secretary. In that capacity, she was of course working directly with MI5. MI5, at the time, was helping the Libyan jihadists in the war with Ghaddafi, and had been doing so since at least 1996. See this from Mark Curtis; –

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Given the ‘al-Qaeda’ sympathies of the LIFG, it is a pretty big policy-swing in ‘The War On Terror‘ that Britain gave them support at all. This certainly underlines precisely what Corbyn was saying in his controversial speech on Friday. But there is a darker, more personal element in this. If, as seems likeliest, Theresa May was co-operating with the LIFG in 2011, while Corbyn was working to try and keep Britain out of Libya, and if, as also seems likeliest, Abedi really was an LIFG soldier, then May becomes (loosely) implicated in Monday’s attack. She is certainly more heavily implicated in that than Corbyn supposedly is (yeah, right) in Irish Republican terror. Now whether they feel Corbyn was guilty of IRA support or not, people have to recognise that that threat is largely a thing of the past. Whereas Wahhabist militancy is very much in the here-and-now, and the Prime Minister appears to have helped it grow. In that light, the British people have a very uncomfortable question to mull over ahead of the General Election; –

Just what evidence is there that Theresa May would be a better option for keeping Britain safe and secure than Jeremy Corbyn?

So far, I have seen precisely none.

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by Martin Odoni

I moved from Glasgow to Manchester in May 1996. That was just one month before the Provisional Irish Republican Army bombed Corporation Street, wrecking a dozen city centre buildings and partially destroying the Arndale Centre.

What happened at the Manchester Arena on Monday night was clearly far worse, but having attended the Vigil in Albert Square on Tuesday evening, and then walked along the rebuilt Corporation Street up to the police cordon starting at The Printworks, my thoughts were inevitably taken back to that startling morning twenty-one years ago. Not least because the cordon appears to have been set up less than thirty metres from where the IRA bomb went off. (Coincidence I am sure.)

The cordon on Corporation Street.

The National Football Museum centre, the Printworks on the right edge of the picture. Victoria Railway Station is the building covered in tarpaulin. The cordon keeping people away from the MEN Arena starts here. The roof of the Arena can be glimpsed in the distance to the left of the Museum.

The IRA were not completely without scruples, and to their (slight) credit, they did tend to give evacuation warnings before triggering a bomb. Hence, even though it was the largest bomb ever detonated on the British mainland in peacetime, no one died in the 1996 attack. Truth to tell, while most Mancunians felt angry and violated by the attack, and there were some serious injuries, it was more a matter of hurt pride than an all-out atrocity. It can also be a bit of a shock to look back to pictures from before the attack and be reminded of how different, ultilitarian, and even shabby the affected zone looked back in the early-1990’s, when compared to how it appears today. So you could almost argue that the bombing did Manchester a back-handed favour, as it forced the city to give its central hub a handy facelift to get it out of the 1960’s.

On Monday night however, Salman Abedi crossed several lines that the IRA did not. Not only did he not offer any prior warning before he attacked, but he appears to have very deliberately targeted children. Even the two boys killed in the Warrington Bomb Attacks in 1993 were not specifically targeted by the IRA (even if the IRA and their allies in Sinn Fein showed little notable remorse over the deaths).

Although I am not a Mancunian – and truth to tell I doubt I will ever truly feel Manchester is my ‘home’ – I have been a resident of the city during both of the big terrorist attacks on it. And I do feel strong enough links to the city now to feel personally hurt by them both. But for all the ‘deja vu‘ sensation of the last forty-eight hours, I have concluded that the similarity between the attacks is slight. June 1996 was a shock, but only on Monday night did the city witness horror.

Those who say terrorism was new to Britain prior to about 2005 are talking nonsense of course. But those who say that there is ‘nothing new’ about the terrorism we experience in the post-IRA era are equally in error. Radical Islam is objectively far more ruthless, indiscriminate, and relentless than Militant Irish Republicanism.

Certainly I will not join the foolish, manipulative/knee-jerk cries of the hard-right to close the borders, to intern terror suspects without trial, to turn away all refugees, or to exterminate British Islam.

Somewhere between the words 'Hopkins' and 'Katie' in the dictionary, you will of course find the word 'hypocrite'.

Katie Hopkins thought criticism of hard-right activism after the Jo Cox murder was exploitative. That has not stopped her from using the deaths of 22 people at the MEN Arena to call for a ‘Final Solution’ against Muslims though.

Nor do I want to imply that Islamist attacks are particularly commonplace in the UK. They are likely to remain a less frequent feature of British life than Irish Republican attacks were. No, people should not become consumed by paranoia and assume that it can never be possible to live safely, or that there will be a major threat to their lives every time they open their front door. To their credit, the people of Manchester have demonstrated since the Arena Bombing that they are indeed not easily cowed.

Equally, I will always argue against letting Governments – especially Tory ones – manipulate this threat to grant themselves ever-more-unchallengeable power. Hence, I am very concerned about the decision to raise the Terror Threat level and put troops on the streets, while also doubting it will have any effect on precisely the people it is supposedly meant to stop.

But at the same time, we do have to recognise that the picture has changed. The threat between the early-1970’s and late-1990’s is not the same as the threat today. The threat today is blind to all notions of honour, and attaches no value to human life, except for the value of ending it; the more lives it takes, the better it assumes it is doing. The mindset is that basic and primitive. No matter how much the British media like to vilify the name of the IRA, in practise, Irish Republicans were never so bloodthirsty as Radical Islamists.

I do not accept that the threat can reliably be labelled ‘Daesh’, or ‘ISIS’, or ‘ISIL’, as all these names, like ‘al-Qaeda‘ before them, are ill-defined. ISIS, in the sense of the extremist army presently trying to conquer Iraq and Syria, does not have the reach that its mimickers in other countries make it seem to possess, and it is only by accepting that those mimickers really are members of that army that the assumption gains traction. And I repeat, an attack in the UK is not as likely as it was in the IRA’s time. But when an attack does happen, it is more likely to kill innocents.

So to compare the two attacks on Manchester, the conclusion is unavoidable; the enemy has changed, and with it, all idea of what constitutes ‘scruples’ has changed too. Paranoia is not needed; to become scared and intimidated or hostile would be to give the enemy what they want, while jumping at shadows will not help anybody. But vigilance is crucial, because the consequences of ill-judged complacency are worse than they once were. Even children are now being seen as legitimate targets, rather than just as ‘collateral damage’. Civilian spaces are now seen as indistinct from military ones.

Confusing the threat of the present with the threat of the past will always lead us to choose the wrong approach to counter it. While there is no need actually to be scared, we do face some nervous times, but it is probably better to be nervous than oblivious.

I would now like to turn my attention to Ariana Grande, the singer whose concert ended in Monday’s tragedy. Now, it will not come as an earth-shaking surprise, I am sure, when I reveal that I am not a particular fan of Ariana’s music. Not a criticism of her, her style is just ‘not my thing’. But I bear her absolutely no ill-will either. Therefore, while I rather feared she would, I am saddened to learn that she has started feeling so much guilt over what happened on Monday that she is talking about retiring.

Ariana Grande might retire

Ariana Grande has been so traumatised by the Manchester Arena Bombing that she is considering retirement. But she should carry on.

I should make clear that I commend her wholeheartedly for her responsibility and compassion, but her retirement would be quite wrong. The Manchester Arena Bombing was not Ariana’s fault in any way, and so it would be an unjust shame if she retired from her career because of it. Even if her music does nothing for me, there are millions out there who adore it, and why should they be deprived because of one madman from Manchester? Ariana’s retirement would, inadvertently, make the attack a success, as it would indicate that Western culture can be intimidated into stopping doing what it wants to do, even the activities that harm no one.

There is no greater defiance of madmen and fanatics than simply demonstrating that life can carry on, no matter what they do to stop it. Nothing will infuriate them more. It shows to them that they were wrong to turn fanatical; when they did that, when they let their minds collapse, they stopped letting their own lives carry on as normal. So showing them that others can keep on keeping-on where they could not puts them to shame – makes them look weak. So Ariana Grande should carry on doing what she loves, partly as a tribute to the loyal fans who died, and partly to defeat Salman Abedi. She should keep on keeping-on.

There is no reason in the world to imagine she will ever read this, but in the enormously unlikely event that she does, I just want to say to her, “Do not retire because of this. Carry on because of this. Carry on with more determination and more feeling than ever before because of this. That way, and only that way, will you defeat the warped purpose behind the Manchester Arena Attack.”

One last thing to say, and I left it until last because it is the most important; –

May those who lost their lives far too soon rest in peace, may those who were injured, either physically or emotionally, find healing, and may those who have lost loved ones know that the great, great majority of Mankind i.e. the billions of decent people who are dominant everywhere, are with them.

by Martin Odoni

After lengthy investigation – and it would appear some very reckless and unjustified arrests in a big show of looking ‘in control’ – the police have concluded that the Westminster Attacker, Khalid Masood, acted alone when he took the lives of five people this week.

The media, and many in the wider public, seem to have determined for themselves that Masood, nèe Adrian Ajao, was a Radical Islamic terrorist operating on behalf of the Islamic State of Iraq & Levant (ISIL/’Daesh’). That is a perfectly understandable conclusion to draw. Although born and raised a Christian, he converted to Islam at some point probably between 2001 and 2004. His method of killing, involving driving a vehicle into a crowd of people on Westminster Bridge, has very loud echoes of last year’s attacks in Nice and Berlin. And of course Daesh have claimed Masood as one of their own, calling him “a soldier of the Caliphate”. Open-and-shut case then?

Daesh announcement

Daesh claims Khalid Masood was one of its soldiers.

People would do well to show a bit more caution though – yes including you, Andrew Marr – as the idea has now taken such a firm hold that everyone is just taking it for granted. In fact, while on balance Radical Islam is perhaps the likeliest explanation for Masood’s actions, it is by no means a certainty. There are a few details that lead me to having doubts; –

Firstly, after the aforementioned investigations concluded that Masood acted alone, it is perhaps a little difficult to reason exactly how or when he had been radicalised. For one thing, radicalisation is not exactly unknown among middle-aged men, but younger men are far more vulnerable to it. More importantly, it is a little incongruous that Masood supposedly joined a movement that radicalised him, but then he acted completely independently of it. When and how did it happen? He is understood to have spent a couple of years living in Saudi Arabia teaching English, but that appears to be the closest he ever got to the heartlands of Radical Islam. He did feature in a counter-terrorism investigation into an extremist group some years ago, but he was very much a peripheral figure, and it was before Daesh had even existed in any event. He may have had very loose associations with radicalised individuals, but the truth is that we can find ways of saying that about almost anybody. There really is no firm indication that Masood was ever ideologically radicalised.

Secondly, it is high time everybody grasped that just because Daesh claim a crime as one of their own, that does not mean that it genuinely is. Daesh wants the world to fear it. It especially wants Western countries to be afraid, as it hopes to intimidate the West into abandoning ‘The Holy Land’. Therefore, so long as it sounds plausible, Daesh will always claim these sorts of crimes as their own; it makes the organisation sound like more of a threat than it really is. But the reality is that the investigations have found no direct, practical link between Daesh and Masood. He might well have carried out the attack as an act of support for Daesh, he might well have done it after being inspired by Daesh (although actual evidence for either has not yet been uncovered), but the signs are that he did not do it as a part of their organisation. He did not appear to act under Daesh’s specific instructions, he certainly did not act in co-ordination with Daesh. Nor indeed did he act in co-ordination with anyone else. He acted alone. It is only by appending a very, very broad definition of what constitutes a member of Islamic State that the claim can really be sustained.

This leads directly into the third of my reasons for doubt, and it is quite a major sticking point. The truth is, as yet, no one really knows precisely why Masood did what he did, because he did not appear to leave an explanation behind for it. This may sound like a minor point, but it is fairly important to my mind, because it is where his modus operandi deviates from the norm; it is quite unusual for a Radical Islamist not to leave behind an explanation, usually by video recording, for his actions. Not unheard-of, but unusual. The London Bombers of 2005, just for instance, made prior video recordings of themselves explicitly pointing to the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq in 2003 as their justification for the attacks. So far, no explanation for Wednesday from Masood, written or spoken word, has been found. No political or religious motivation has been established. Given the extent of the police investigations, it seems highly likely that they would have found it by now if he had provided one. As Deputy Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu of the Metropolitan Police commented yesterday,

“There is a possibility we will never understand why [Masood] did this. That understanding may have died with him.”

Analysis of Masood’s history suggests a man with serious problems controlling violent and criminal impulses, dating back to long, long before he became a Muslim. He spent three terms in prison, all before he converted to Islam, including twice for stabbing victims in the face with knives. In both cases, it seems more-than-possible that the attacks were intended to be lethal, but also they foreshadow his killing of PC Keith Palmer on Wednesday. Masood further had an extensive history of substance abuse, including cocaine and steroids, which were bound to have long-term effects on his mental health. Perhaps paradoxically, after his conversion, he for some years showed signs of bringing his behaviour under control.

So while Radical Islam is one strong possibility, another strong possibility cannot yet be ruled out. If we look at the Westminster Attack in the context of the rest of Masood’s life, instead of in the context of popular hysteria against Muslims, we see an equally consistent pattern. The possibility is that Khalid Masood was just an unstable man who, having spent some years battling to bury old impulses, finally reached the end of his tether. He may simply have been carrying out a mindless act of last-gasp despair similar to the massacre by Derrick Bird in Cumbria a few years ago.

Nobody called Bird a terrorist, or assumed some kind of ideological motive for the Cumbria Shootings. Given Masood was attempting to force a way into Parliament, it seems more likely in his case, but we should at least be cautious about it. It is possible he took inspiration from the Nice and Berlin Attacks when choosing his method, but not necessarily when deciding to attack in the first place; Masood may have only decided to drive into the crowd on Westminster Bridge on a sudden mad impulse for all we know. (The fact he was carrying a knife on Wednesday tells us nothing, as it is clear from his previous convictions that there was nothing unusual about him carrying a knife.)

We really do not know why Masood did what he did on Wednesday, and as he was gunned down, the odds are that we never will. Without finding more information first, any attempt we make to fill that void will be a mixture of prejudiced speculation and fevered guesswork. Such an exercise is not only futile, it will potentially blind us to better information, should it become available.

In the end, such impatient guessing games will only reveal more about the people playing them than they will ever reveal about Khalid Masood.

by Martin Odoni

I earlier put up a small plea-for-calm over today’s atrocity in London. That plea still stands, but I have few extra points and clarifications I would like to add.

Firstly, more information is now available, including a clear order of events. Contrary to my earlier understanding, the attack was carried out by one person acting alone, and it began, not ended, with a car driving into a crowd of people on Westminster Bridge. The driver then got out of the car, and tried to enter the Palace of Westminster, where he was intercepted by a police officer. The assailant stabbed the officer with a knife before being gunned down by two apparently plain-clothed officers. There is no evidence of an accomplice.

The death-toll currently stands at four, including the police officer and the attacker, and it is to be hoped the toll goes no higher.

The necessity of my earlier plea-for-calm has been demonstrated in the hours since. Between Tommy Robinson of English Defence League infamy taking the opportunity for some Islamophobic rabble-rousing, histrionic doubtful accusations against a man who is apparently in prison, and some classic, barefaced Western hypocrisy, the aftermath of the atrocity has been predictable in its want of thought.

Regarding Robinson, nothing I can say about this evil little man will not already have been said by others. But it was beyond crass of him to talk of the nation being ‘at war’, not least because what wars Britain fights it does so at its own choosing. And it makes that choice with depressing and imperialistic frequency.

Regarding the doubtful accusations, the rumour is circulating that a notorious hate-preacher, born under the name of Trevor Brooks, but nowadays going by the name of ‘Abu Izzadeen’, is the dead attacker. This may potentially come as a mighty surprise to Izzadeen. It certainly did to his solicitor, who insists that Izzadeen is currently in prison, and still breathing without difficulty. Dominic Casciani of the BBC seems very confident about that too. Izzadeen’s ongoing imprisonment has not yet been confirmed by the Metropolitan Police or the Ministry of Justice, so there is still an outside chance that he was the attacker. But it can be taken as a sign of nervous over-eagerness that Channel 4 News, the source of the rumour, has jumped the gun quite so wildly.

And finally, the Western hypocrisy. Sean Spicer, Press Secretary to US President Donald Trump and God’s gift to Melissa McCarthy’s comedy career, gave a briefing to the media earlier, in which he rolled out the usual sentimental clichés about full co-operation, and formal condolences, and support and so on. He also stated that the White House condemns “today’s attack in Westminster”.

I am unimpressed that ‘Melissa’ has the effrontery to condemn such an attack, today of all days. After all I have seen not one example of anyone at the White House condemning an attack carried out in Syria yesterday, one that had a death-toll over eight times higher than the one in London.

Why would that be? Could it be because the victims yesterday were Middle Eastern and not Westerners, and therefore their lives were prejudged to be ‘less valuable’ than those of Europeans? It is partly that, I am sure.

But I think the main reason is that yesterday’s attack was carried out by jets allied to the US Air Force. Therefore it does not ‘count’ as an atrocity, but merely as a ‘misfortune’, one to be treated as an afterthought.

I received some rather ugly comments on my earlier post from some shamelessly racist individuals. I decided not to authorise the comments, and further I have no intention of doing so in the future. But one comment in particular was really galling. Among some other racist assumptions, the user said,

Every non-white crime in a western country is one that shouldn’t have happened at all as the non-whites shouldn’t be here.

Beyond the unsupported nonsense that a person’s right to be in the UK is dependent on their skin colour, and the debatable assumption that the attacker was not white, I was equally contemptuous of the ignorant hypocrisy. How many crimes of extreme violence have white people committed in the Middle East? Such as the one yesterday? How long have white people been in the lands of the Middle East, mainly in order to control the flow of the region’s vast oil reserves, and how often have their Governments shown a casual willingness to use force there to maintain that control? For over one hundred years, and with terrible frequency. Is that not one of the major reasons why radicalised Muslims tend to commit atrocities in the first place? Surely every white crime in a Middle Eastern country is one that should not have happened at all, as the whites should not have been there? It is a lengthy catalogue of such crimes, not least by the US Air Force. Just ask Medecins Sans Frontieres.

But as I say, in too many Western minds, these crimes do not ‘count’. Atrocities are only atrocities when carried out against the West, not when they are carried out by the West.

Everybody loses their minds!

It comes to something when we need the Joker to point out what hypocrites we are.

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by Martin Odoni

Owen Jones is a guy I agree with more often than not – though not always – and true to form, I would like to express agreement with him again. What I agree with is his decision on Sunday to storm off the set at Sky News at the end of an increasingly bitter discussion of the horrendous massacre in Orlando.

Now Jones will know his own mind better than anyone else will, and so he hardly needs me (a blogger he has doubtless never even heard of) to explain his reasons for leaving the set. Indeed, he has briefly written his reasons in the Guardian. But I thought I would add my tuppence-worth, as there was an aspect of the way the segment was being discussed that I found bothersome in other ways.

The segment was one of those routine features on TV news broadcasts that I never quite understand the need for – a look at the daily newspapers. Seeing a news studio has its own work to do, why it would want to use up airtime giving exposure to other outlets has always been a bit beyond my grasp. The discussion focused on the way the Daily Telegraph had summarised the atrocity, but there was a strange sort of ‘overbearing coyness’, oxymoron though that may sound like, on the very, very obvious homophobia of Omar Mateen, and its clear motivation for the attack.

Now, I am sorry, Sky News (no actually I am not, I will never meaningfully apologise to the Murdoch media, for reasons that regular readers of this blog will be well aware of by now), but Jones’ anger is quite correct. The presenter seemed to be unaccountably desperate to turn the Orlando attack into a kind of ‘everyman’ incident, rather than speak of it as the attack on the LGBTQ community that it undoubtedly was. As Jones tried to say during the conversation but was repeatedly cut off, if Mateen had attacked a Synagogue instead of a gay club, it would be described without hesitation as an attack on the Jewish community. No need would have been seen to call it an ‘attack on everyone’ or an ‘attack on human beings’. That would not only have been needlessly vague and obscure, it would also have been dishonest as it would disregard the important reality that some communities are treated worse than others.

Watching the conversation unfolding, I got the toe-curling impression that the presenter was almost too embarrassed to acknowledge the LGBTQ community as a community in its own right. Too embarrassed to respect and acknowledge the identity that was so viciously assaulted on Sunday. Did he almost think anyone outside that community would just not be interested unless he could give the attack a ‘heterosexuality-related’ veneer, by only referring to the victims as ‘human beings’? That is condescending to both the LGBTQ community and the wider public; does he honestly imagine that people do not know that gay people are as human as the rest of us? (Well all right, some people out there genuinely refuse to acknowledge it, but thankfully they are a receding minority.)

My distaste for this silly ‘I-don’t-know-how-to-talk-about-gay-people-without-blushing’ attitude was amplified as the presenter uncritically regurgitated the Telegraph‘s irresponsible leap-to-conclusions that this was an attack organised by Daesh – from which he tried to fit Orlando in with the Paris Attacks last November. In fact, although Omar Mateen appears to have had past links to terrorist groups – and indeed he may even have committed the attack in the name of Daesh – all the evidence so far uncovered indicates that he was operating alone. Mateen planned the attack himself, he obtained the weapon himself, he carried out the massacre himself. He was a member of Daesh because he had simply decided that he was. There is also no doubt from prior comments he made to co-workers that Mateen was driven by a primitive loathing for homosexuals.

Therefore the context Sky News and the Telegraph were presenting was, characteristically, very misleading; an attempt to brush aside embarrassing, awkward homophobia, and replace it with some fashionably stirred-up islamophobia. Introducing Daesh into the discussion adds fuel to the ‘Islamic State bogeyman’ semi-fantasy that too many in the West are becoming excessively afraid of. The same phenomenon was happening in the years after the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington DC, in the shape of the ‘al-Qaeda‘ semi-fantasy. ‘al-Qaeda’ is an organisation that, in the sense people normally think of it – a unified worldwide network of terrorist cells – does not even exist and probably never did. It was never even called ‘al-Qaeda’ until Governments in the West started using the term, due to a partial mistranslation of an intercepted Jihadist communication. This organisation’s power and reach was so hysterically exaggerated after 9/11 that many people all over the West genuinely feared that it was poised to conquer the world.

Just like ‘al-Qaeda’ before it, Daesh/ISIL’s reach and strength are being heavily overstated, and Sky News’ attempt to portray every moment of violence by a Muslim as “another dastardly scheme by Islamic State!!!” (complete with verbal-images of a stereotype Arab tweaking his moustache and grinning devilishly) is deceitful.

Unfortunately, Sky News are certainly not the only ones doing it. The campaign to Leave the European Union has plumbed nauseating new depths of indecency, taking cynical advantage of the Orlando massacre with a completely dishonest, scaremongering post to social media. It was so deceitful and so indefensibly libellous that even the ineffable Nigel Farage has distanced himself from it. But some people are genuinely taken in by it and really imagine that the atrocity could be replicated here unless borders are closed. That is in spite of the fact that the massacre was committed in the USA by a 29 year-old man who was born in the USA, who was brought up and educated in the USA, who spent his entire life living in the USA, and who obtained the gun in the USA under the laws of the USA that freely allowed him to carry it in any part of the USA. Where immigration, of all things, comes into the massacre, which appears instead to be yet another consequence of the insane absence of gun controls in the USA, is not entirely clear. The discussion is being turned into the wrong issue, doubtless to the delight of the Republican Party and the National Rifle Association. They want people panicking about Muslims, not worrying about the very real destruction caused by the USA’s out-of-control gun culture.

This ISIL/ISIS/Daesh hysteria conforms to a familiar historical pattern, and oddly enough, it is partly another American one. Paranoia against ‘ISIL’ is akin to the old ‘Jesse James’ syndrome in 19th Century America, in which, every time a train or coach was held up in the Old West, the terrified victim could never accept that it was just any old thief stealing his every worldly possession. Oh no no no, it had to be Jesse James! Jesse James was the most famous criminal in the Old West, he was terrifying just when he was spoken of, so when anyone was terrifyingly robbed at gunpoint, it had to be Jesse James.

Ten years ago, every time a Muslim – possibly even every time someone Asian-or-Arab-looking – fired a gun, it could never be that it was just an ordinary criminal. Oh no no no, it had to be ‘al-Qaeda’! ‘al-Qaeda’ was the most famous terrorist organisation in the world, it was terrifying just when it was spoken of, so when anyone saw a terrifying violent death, it had to be ‘al-Qaeda’.

For ‘Jesse James’ and ‘al-Qaeda’, we now substitute ‘Islamic State’.

But never mind the labels. Every time we go through these ‘bogeyman’ fantasies, it is the same ghost story we are re-living, over and over, only with the characters renamed. The thing about ghost stories is that they are normally only believed by children, so those of us who are not children really ought to grow up, and stop believing such over-simplified narratives.