The vultures are once again circling above Gordon Brown

•13 February 2009 • Leave a Comment

This week’s supposed ‘grilling’ of four of the UK’s most notorious bankers by the House of Common’s Treasury Select Committee was a confirmation, if any was needed, that white collar crime in the highest reaches of the banking sector will remain unpunished by New Labour.

With very few exceptions, the members of the Treasury Select committee failed to ask questions that seriously compromised anything other than the already tattered reputation of Fred Goodwin, Tom McKillop, Henry ‘Dennis’ Stevenson, and Andy Hornby. The session sadly echoed the not-so-implicit message of one of Steve Bell’s latest cartoons, in which Gordon Brown’s face is represented as an unsightly protuberance emanating from the huge ass of one of the UK’s banking fat cats.

Alas, there were two significant, and no doubt unexpected by-products of the Select Committee’s rather lame effort to pretend to be tough on neoliberal banking, and tough on the causes of neoliberal banking: the first is the resignation, announced yesterday, of James Crosby, HBOS’s former capo di capos and one of the central figures of the financial fiasco, albeit a man that remained until yesterday a high-level government adviser ensconced, of all places, in the FSA, the British authority charged with regulating the banks.

The second is the extraordinary fallout of this process for Gordon Brown. The paradoxical significance of Crosby’s resignation is that it provides, for the first time, unambiguous evidence that the prime minister has remained in the pocket of the big bankers. Despite everything that has happened over the last year, and despite the many emanations that have come from New Labour’s own arses, the New Labour government has allowed a man that was manifestly entangled in the dangerously unregulated practices of the big banks to become, er, yes, a regulator of those same practices. It is a symptom of the corruption of our times that even as the mentioned events were unfolding, an article was headlined by the Guardian that tried to suggest that ‘Like many bankers brought into government of late, [Crosby’s] expertise is invaluable’. Aside from being rather poorly written, that passage just about summed up the logic of the UK’s neoliberals: bring in the cons because they’ve got ‘invaluable expertise’. Expertise in what?

Neoliberal diversions to one side, the conclusion has to be that New Labour not only let Crosby get away with financial murder—as denounced by Paul Moore, the former head of ‘regulatory risk’ at HBOS— but also rewarded Crosby by bringing him into government, via the FSA. In effect, New Labour put one of the senior culprits behind the banking fiasco into the FSA even as it pretended to crack down on the banking mafiosi. The suspicion now has to be that Crosby has been one of the more powerful voices ‘cautioning’ the government against managing the banks in accordance with a post-free-marketeering agenda. Crocwatch can also well imagine that he played a central role in ‘regulating’—a better word would be ‘facilitating’—the merger of HBOS with Lloyds.

Clearly, this blog is not the only one to interpret the events as evidence of a manifest conflict of interest, if not of abject corruption on the part of New Labour. The media have once again begun to fly in slow, high circles above Brown and his party. They now know for a fact, as we all do, that New Labour continues to engage in precisely the same political practices that it did prior to the collapse of Northern Rock. The name of the day continues to be corporate clientelism, the kind of practice that was reportedly backed recently by Peter Mandelson and by Hazel Blears. As an article in the Guardian put it, ‘It was suggested that at today’s meetings [about the bankers’ bonuses] the business secretary, Peter Mandelson, and the communities secretary, Hazel Blears, warned against throwing away Labour’s hard-won reputation as an ally of business.’ An ‘ally of business’?! Hazel Blears has been comprehensively ‘deflatulated‘ (the political equivalent of ‘deconstructed’) by Monbiot. Who is going to do the same with Mandelson? Let us not forget that Mandelson, the arch Blairite neoliberal, was himself reinserted in front-line politics by Brown long after the current economic crisis got under way…what does that say about where New Labour continues to be headed?

How Israel lost its left

•3 February 2009 • Leave a Comment


Crocwatch posts today an excerpt of a thoughtful piece published in the Guardian by Peter Beaumont, the Foreign Affairs editor for the Observer. In his article, ‘From Gaza to Jerusalem: the impact of war on the Israeli election’, Beaumont documents how a combination of Israeli government propaganda, and a structure of feeling that cuts across traditional ideological divides has led much of the country to deny the reality of its own army’s abuses in Gaza—and to actively avoid any media accounts that might force Israelis to be more self-reflexive. This dynamic has meant that, in effect, much of Israel’s left has now been incorporated by the right and even far-right ideology in the service of hard-core Zionism. According to Beaumont,

“The reality is that a polarisation and radicalisation within Palestinian society has been reflected in an equal radicalisation among Israeli Jews, accelerated by the conflict in Gaza, that has seen even well-established connections between peacemakers on both sides collapse.

The question that remains is why?

For Daniel Bar-Tal, of Tel Aviv University, who has a long record of researching the functioning of each group’s “conflict ethos” in the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation, the current state of the national psyche is as much manufactured as it is willed.

He explained it in a recent interview in Haaretz. “After the bitter experience of the second Lebanon war, during which the memory of the war was taken out of their hands and allowed to be formed freely,” he explained, “the country’s leaders learned their lesson, and decided that they wouldn’t let that happen again.

“They were not satisfied with attempts to inculcate Palestinian awareness and tried to influence Jewish awareness in Israel as well. For that purpose, heavy censorship and monitoring of information were imposed [during the Gaza campaign].”

It was achieved, he believes, by the willing enlistment of the media, who concentrated only on the sense of victimisation of residents of the so-called “Gaza envelope” – those within the range of missiles from Gaza – largely ignoring the situation of the residents of besieged Gaza.

The veteran peace campaigner Gila Svirsky, of Women in Black, argues for an even more radical interpretation. At her small flat in Jerusalem, cluttered with the mementoes of her life in activism, she says she believes that much of the rejection of the “others’ story” has been self-willed.

Gila tells me a story. It is about a neighbour who admits avoiding the take of foreign media on Gaza to avoid being challenged in her assumptions.

“You can feel it,” says Gila. “The temptation of being sucked into only watching Israeli news. It is really hard to extricate oneself from the dominant discourse. There is a word in Hebrew – miguyas – it means, I suppose, seduced. People don’t want to go there. Don’t want to think bad thoughts [about what is being done in their name].”

It has been accomplished, Svirsky insists, by portraying Hamas as an “existential threat, the forward guard of Iran”, not as a local problem to be negotiated. It is precisely the story that Netanyahu has been pushing so hard and successfully in the election campaign.”

A mosasaur in the Vatican (Part 1)

•2 February 2009 • Leave a Comment

N.B. After a period in which the blog has been devoted to supporting the cause of the people of Gaza, Crocwatch returns today to the world of tropes. From today onwards, any post that is not to be read as an instance of satire, parody, etc. will have an ‘L’ next to the title.

The Mosasaurs were the dominant marine reptile during the last 20 million years of the Cretaceous. They were thought to be extinct until November 25, 1981, when, remarkably, a live specimen was discovered in Italy.

Mosasaurs have a body shape similar to that of modern-day monitor lizards (varanids), but are more elongated and streamlined for swimming. They have broad tails which supply much of their locomotive power; the said tails are thought to allow the ancient reptiles to move much in the manner of Conger eels. Mosasaurs usually lurk and pounce rapidly on unsuspecting prey. Once they kill the prey, their double-hinged jaw and flexible skull enable them to gulp their prey unmasticated, i.e. whole. In the case of one species that was believed to be extinct, a remarkable evolutionary process has meant that four sets of limb bones have narrowed, shortened, and developed in such a way that today they can be easily mistaken for those of Homo sapiens. This remarkable adaptation allows that species to move over land, albeit with some difficulty. While mosasaurs are air-breathing creatures, they cannot remain outside of water for more than 8-10 hours.

Mosasaurs were thought to be extinct until November 25, 1981. On that day, a paleontologist who was on holiday in Italy and was visiting the Vatican could scarcely believe her own eyes when she saw a Mosasaur slithering next to John Paul II as the pontiff made his way across St. Peter’s Basilica. To her amazement, the paleontologist then heard the Pope announce that the creature — which she identified as a Goronyosaurus ratzingeri—would, from that day onwards, be the new Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, formerly known as the Holy Office, i.e. the Roman Inquisition.

Alas, and much to the paleontologist’s consternation, few if any of the assembled people appeared to recognise Goronyosaurus ratzingeri for what it was: a perfectly formed, if relatively small and remarkably hollow–eyed member of the Mosasauridae, complete with a long, broad tail that was only just concealed by the reptile’s black cassock with red piping, and whose flat parietal bone region served, somewhat improbably, as the perch for a cardinal’s skull cap…

To be continued…

Israel, the media, and the silence of the lambs

•30 January 2009 • Leave a Comment

Crocwatch is amazed: a Spanish judge has begun to investigate an Israeli minister, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, and six top Israeli military, for crimes against humanity. But with the exception of one article buried deep in the Guardian’s international pages, and another in CNN, the major media organisations have either not covered this story at all, or have not given it the prominence that it deserves.

As this blog has reported, the charges are extremely grave, and have implications to rival those of another Spanish legal cause celebre, the investigation by judge Baltasar Garzón of Augusto Pinochet’s murderous regime. Unless the Israeli Lobby manages to browbeat the Spanish judicial system into submission, the world could witness in future a rerun of the extraordinary events that led up to, and followed Pinochet’s arrest in London in 1998. Ben-Eliezer and the rest of the accused will have to stay home, unless they can be absolutely certain that they can pressure other countries into ignoring any international arrest warrants issued by Judge Andreu. It might be noted in passing that the Spanish judge is being extraordinarily brave in confronting a country whose leaders have used assassination as a means of silencing their opponents.

It is, then, remarkable that the case has received so little attention in the global media. Crocwatch asks: is it that the media, following the now infamous example of Mark Thompson’s BBC, are too scared to cover the news?

Postscript 1: According to a new article by El Pais, the Israeli ambassador in Madrid met with the Spanish judge, Fernando Andreu, to find out if the seven Israelis who are suspected of crimes against humanity were in any risk of being arrested whilst travelling abroad. This shows that Crocwatch is not just conjuring scenarios: there may be a real risk for the Ben-Eliezer and his co-accused former colleagues. But the article also contradicts the Israelis’ official account that they knew nothing of the investigation, and had only found out about it thanks to the CNN.

Postscript 2: Approximately 36 hours after the news broke in Spain, there is still not a trace in the BBC website of news about the probe into Ben-Eliezer’s alleged war crimes. Does anybody seriously believe that the BBC is not biased?

Stop Press: Spain to investigate top Israelis for crimes against humanity

•29 January 2009 • 3 Comments

Note: Crocwatch has translated excerpts from the Spanish judge’s judicial decree; you can read these by going to the previous post, ‘Spanish judge’s account of alleged Israeli crimes against humanity‘.

Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, the Israeli minister for national infrastructure, but also a former Minister of Defence, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Communications and Minister of Housing & Construction, may be tried for ‘crimes against humanity’ by Spain’s Judge Fernando Andreu Merelles of the Spanish High Court (Audiencia Nacional) in Madrid. The news, published today by El Pais and other Spanish media, will be welcomed by all those who believe that the time has come to bring the Israeli government to book for its alleged war crimes against Palestinians and against the UN. Ben-Eliezer and the rest of the Israelis who are being investigated will join the likes of Chile’s Augusto Pinochet and Argentina’s Rafael Videla (known as the ‘dapper’ state terrorist), both of whom were also pursued by the Spanish courts for the brutality of their regimes.

According to El Pais, Judge Andreu will investigate Ben-Eliezer and six other military (see below) for presumed crimes against humanity. The men are believed to have organised the bombing in 2002 of a densely populated area of Gaza in order to assassinate the Hamas leader, Salah Shehadeh. The attack, which was carried out with a one-ton bomb dropped by an U.S.-built F16, killed Shehadeh and also 14 other civilians, amongst them Shehadeh’s wife and 9 children. 50 other civilians had to be hospitalised. Ben-Eliezer was the Israeli Defence Minister at the time of the assassination.

After the attack took place, it was almost universally condemned (beyond Israel) because it involved the targeting of the Hamas leader in a very densely populated area of Gaza City. Crocwatch believes that the Israeli government not only authorised the operation, but must have known that the use of such a massive bomb on a house in Gaza City was bound to cause many civilian deaths. A case can be made that this assassination was a kind of prelude to the military action that has recently killed hundreds and hundreds of civilians in Gaza. Presumably some or all of the current members of the Israeli government and military will now also face investigation in Spain for any other war crimes committed against Palestinian civilians, and against the UN.

According to El Pais, the other Israelis who will be investigated are: Dan Halutz, the commander of the Israeli Air Force at the time of the attack; Doron Almog, the general in charge of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) Southern Command; Giora Eiland, the president of the National Security Agency and national security assessor; Michael Herzog, the military attaché of the Minister of Defence; Moshe Ya’alon, the Chief of Staff of the IDF; and Abraham Dichter, the director of Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security services.

Postscript: According to the Wikipedia entry on Salah Shehadeh, at the time former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, himself described by many as the ‘Butcher of Beirut’, initially praised the assassination as ‘one of our greatest successes’. Two years later, Sharon was visited by the current director-general of the BBC, Mark Thompson, in a mission to develop better relations with Israel. Thompson recently blocked attempts by UK aid agencies to broadcast a humanitarian appeal for the people of Gaza.

Update, 18:22 GMT. El Pais is suggesting that the Israeli government is going to do ‘all that it can’ to stop the investigation from going forward. Readers may wish to click the link to the excellent post published by, titled ‘Spain: Don’t succumb to Israeli pressure

Spanish judge’s account of alleged Israeli crimes against humanity

•29 January 2009 • 3 Comments

Note: this post refers to news published in the next post; if you haven’t done so, you may wish to read that post first.

The following is a translation from the Spanish of excerpts of the account given by the Spanish judge, Fernando Andreu Merelles, in his ‘Auto’ or judicial degree regarding the investigation of Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, the former Israeli Defence Minister, and the rest of the military who are alleged to have committed a crime against humanity: Dan Halutz, the commander of the Israeli Air Force at the time of the [2002] attack; Doron Almog, the general in charge of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) Southern Command; Giora Eiland, the president of the National Security Agency and national security assessor; Michael Herzog, the military attaché of the Minister of Defence; Moshe Ya’alon, the Chief of Staff of the IDF; and Abraham Dichter, the director of Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security services.

“On the 22nd of July of 2002, between 23.30 and 24.00 hours, an Israeli F16 fighter jet dropped a one-ton bomb over the neighbourhood of Al Daraj in Gaza City. The principal objective of the said attack was the house of Salah Shehadeh, who was suspected of being one of the commanders of Hamas; the objective of the mission was thus to assassinate him.

The house of Salah Shehadeh took a direct hit from a high-powered bomb, however the house was located in one of the residential places with the highest population density in the world.

Close to the house that was inhabited by Salah Shehadeh was the home of the family of Mr. Mattar. There was less than two metres between the two houses. As a result of the bombing, his house was completely destroyed and seven members of his family were assassinated.

Thus, as a consequence of the explosion caused by the bomb, 15 people died—a majority of them children and babies—, 150 were wounded—some with serious lesions with permanent effects—, eight houses in the surrounding area were completely destroyed, nine houses were partially destroyed and another 21 suffered moderate damages.

As a result of the bombing, the following people died:[in addition to Shehadeh]

Iman Ibrahim Hassan Mattar

Dalia Ra’ed Mohammed Mattar

Ayman Ra’ed Mohammed Mattar

Mohammed Ra’ed Mohammed Mattar

Dina Rami Mohammed Mattar

Alaa’ Mohammed Ibrahim Mattar

Miriam Mohammed Ibrahim Mattar

Muna Fahmi Mohammed al-Howaiti

Subhi Mahmoud Subhi Al-Howaiti

Mohammed Mahmoud Ali Al–Sa’idi

Khader Mohammed Ali Al–Sa’idi

Yousef Subhi Ali al–Shawa

Iman Salah Mustafa Shihada

Leila Khamis Yousef Shihada”

The judge goes on to say that, according to [Spanish] Title 1 of the Book 1 of the Organic Law of Judicial Power, which establishes the extension and limits of Spanish jurisdiction, and which in article 23 regulates these limits in the penal order, establishes in its 4th paragraph that:

“The Spanish jurisdiction will also be qualified to try the deeds committed by Spaniards or foreigners outside of national territory, which can be classified, according to Spanish law, as one of the following crimes:
a) Genocide
b) Terrorism
i) And any other [crime] that, in keeping with international treaties and conventions, must be pursued in Spain.”

The judge then goes on to make the case that the assassination of the above mentioned people can also be regarded as a war crime, as described by the Third Chapter of Title XXIV (‘Crimes against the International Community’) of the Geneva Convention, whose article 611.1 indicates the need to punish all those who, in the event of an armed conflict, engage, or give the order to engage in indiscriminate or excessive attacks, or make the civilian population the object of such attacks, reprisals or acts or threats of violence whose principal finality is to terrorise it [the population]. Article 608 of the penal code stipulates that by ‘protected persons’, it refers to ‘The civil population and the civilians protected by the IV Convention of Geneva of the 12 of August of 1949 or by the Additional Protocol No. 1 of the 8th of June of 1977.

Crocwatch has suggested on numerous occasions that the Israeli government has engaged in ‘state terrorism’. This is as good an account as any of what we mean by this term.

Director of UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency condemns BBC

•28 January 2009 • Leave a Comment

Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning director general of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has once again shown that he is unafraid of the Israeli Lobby. The Nobel Peace Prize committee in Norway gave ElBaradei the peace prize in 2005 for being ‘an unafraid advocate’ of ‘atoms for peace’ (Crocwatch has to say that it never thought that atoms weren’t ‘peaceful’, but some nuclear physicists might disagree). Whatever the case, the Nobel Peace Prize committee recognised ElBaradei’s role in showing up the lies of the Bush administration vis-a-vis Iraq’s alleged WMD’s—lies that were actively aided and abetted at the time by the Israeli government.

Elbaradei has again shown his independence by denouncing the BBC. According to the Guardian,

The head of the UN”s nuclear watchdog has cancelled planned interviews with the BBC in protest at the corporation’s decision not to air an emergency appeal for Gaza on behalf of the Disasters Emergency Committee.

In a statement to the Guardian, Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel peace prize winner, unleashed a stinging denunciation of the BBC, deepening the damage already caused by the controversy.

The statement, from his office at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said the BBC decision not to air the aid appeal for victims of the conflict “violates the rules of basic human decency which are there to help vulnerable people, irrespective of who is right or wrong”.

It said the IAEA director had cancelled interviews with BBC World Service television and radio, which had been scheduled to take place at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Saturday.”

Crocwatch congratules ElBaradei for boycotting the BBC. The storm over BBC’s support for Israeli propaganda may well be blowing over, but just as it is necessary to continue boycotting Israeli products, it is necessary to maintain the pressure on Mark Thompson and all those who are either a part, or cave into the demands, of the Israeli Lobby.