Monday, May 4, 2015

By Their Retweets Ye Shall Know Them

Here's Sydney solicitor Adam Houda's tweeted assessment of the piece on him by the Good Weekend's deputy-editor Greg Callaghan, See You in Court:

"Interview process for my @smh profile piece took months. Such a shame so much important material didn't make its way into the final product." (1/5)

On my reading that wasn't the only shame.

My first case of the raised eyebrow came while reading the following paragraph:

"But you don't have to go any further than Houda's Twitter feed to see just how polarising he can be... His anti-Israel and anti-US rants are regular and vociferous: 'Special place in hell for Nazi-Israel (August 5, 2014). 'USA and Israel, the world's two leading terrorist states' (December 12, 2014). 'EVIL PIGS: Israeli forces shoot 5 year old boy in the face' (December 26, 2014). 'On the issue of terrorism & barbarity, the IS are absolute amateurs compared to Israel' (January 4, 2015). There is even the odd conspiracy theory: 'Promoting sinister agendas of those who control it, the media has the masses fooled' (January 3, 2015). But we'll come to his unsettling Twitter feed later. Not surprisingly, Houda never talks politics with his Jewish clients."

Is Callaghan seriously suggesting here that to be unashamedly and openly anti-USrael, which is to say anti-apartheid, anti-occupation, anti-colonial, and anti-imperialist, makes one, ipso facto, a ranter?

As is often the case in the media, the finished product tells us more about its author than its subject. But we'll come to Greg Callaghan's unsettling Twitter feed later.

Anyone with an open mind who has taken the trouble to inform himself on the subject of Palestine/Israel could hardly be so dismissive of Houda's tweets. Would, for example, that Callaghan had the kind of insight into the issue, and the courage to express it, to be found in the following tweet of Houda's of April 28, 2015: I'm proud to say that I'm anti-terrorism, anti-occupation, anti-murder, anti-genocide. Yes, this does make me Anti-Israel #Free Palestine.

As for the allegation of conspiracy theorising, is Callaghan seriously of the view that, to take but the most glaring example, the Murdoch media isn't promoting the sinister agenda of those who control it and fooling a hell of a lot of people in the process?

Then there's the assertion that Houda never talks politics with his Jewish clients. What is the point Callaghan's making here?

If Houda had said as much apropos of nothing, why didn't Callaghan simply write, 'Houda says he never talks politics with his Jewish clients', and then report Houda's answer to the logical follow-up question: 'Why not?'?

If, on the other hand, Callaghan has merely asserted it, one has to wonder why.

If this is the case, it suggests

a) that Callaghan is so little acquainted with lawyers and their modus operandi that he thinks they have nothing better to do when with a client, Jewish or otherwise, than sit around and talk 'politics' (by which I take it he means matters USraeli).

b) that Callaghan assumes that all Jews are ipso facto card-carrying Zionists. Which begs the question: has he never heard of anti-Zionist Jews?

Moving along, we come to this:

"The sales pitch to young Muslim men in the West is that the Middle East's problems are the sole handiwork of US support for Israel, and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The crazy maze of Middle Eastern politics - the two great, duelling powers of Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran; the fact that eight times as many Muslims as non-Muslims die at the hands of Islamic fundamentalists - is ignored in favour of this simple narrative. At one point in our chat, Houda leans over and shows me a graphic picture on his phone of a Palestinian child slaughtered in the terrible conflict last year in which 2200 civilians in Gaza tragically died. From reading his Twitter feed over the same period, you could be forgiven for thinking the other concurrent atrocities - more than 200,000 killed in Syria and 5500 in Iraq since 2011 - were mere sidelines. Houda would be quick to condemn any violence, whether perpetrated by Muslims or non-Muslims, and he is fully entitled to condemn Israel, but his Twitter feed reveals a troubling narrowband view of Middle-Eastern politics, one that feeds the narrative that complex tribal conflicts can be reduced to a simple case of villains (the US, Israel) and victims (Muslims)."

Where to start?

1) Who is making the aforementioned sales pitch to young Muslim men? Houda? I seriously doubt that the likes of his former clients, Mohamed Elomar and Khaled Sharrouf, now terrorising Syria, would be able to find Israel on a map of the world, let alone be familiar with what US support for Israel entails. Certainly, my 9/2/15 post Me, Myself & I in Raqqa & Melbourne, citing John Safran's Good Weekend profile of Muslim convert Musa Cerantonio, lends little credence to Callaghan's view that wannabe jihadis are particularly motivated by US support for Israel.

Having said this, it is Israel, not Iran, which continues to be the primary threat to the region as far as the Arab street is concerned. (See my 5/6/13 post Overstating the Sunni-Shi'a Divide.)

As for Iraq, how many Elomars and Sharrafs would have the faintest idea about the Zioconservative forces behind the Bush-Blair invasion of 2003?

On the other hand, if Callaghan is seriously suggesting that the Anglo-US invasion, occupation and destruction of Iraq, and the Anglo-US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan that preceded it, had little or nothing to do with spawning the phenomena of Al-Qaida and its highly sectarian Islamic State offshoot then he's got a lot to learn.

2) Likewise, if Callaghan thinks that the primary conflict in the Middle East is Sunni Saudi Arabia versus Shiite Iran (and that USrael is some kind of innocent bystander in this) he needs to explain the US-Saudi-Iranian axis of the 1970s and Saudi Arabia's backing for Syria and Egypt in the October war of 1973.

3) Now to Gaza:

Invoking the current US/Saudi/Gulf/Turkey/Israel-backed terrorist assault on Syria to minimise the gravity of Israeli barbarism in Gaza is typical Zionist whataboutery and reveals Callaghan's shameful ignorance of the historical context. Last year's Israeli slaughter in Gaza is just the latest in almost a century of Anglo-Zionist and USraeli wars against the Palestinian and other Arab peoples, resulting in an estimated 100,000 casualties, the disintegration of Palestinian society and the wiping of Arab Palestine off the map of the Middle East.

In any case, the Asad regime has never been promoted as "a country so much like Australia, a liberal, pluralist democracy" (to use PM Abbott's fawning description) in the way Israel has. Nor, unlike Israel, does Asad receive billions of US tax dollars annually or benefit from the repeated use of America's veto in the UN Security Council.

3) But it's that last statement of Callaghan's that's particularly problematic here. To reiterate: "... his Twitter feed reveals a troubling narrowband view of Middle-Eastern politics, one that feeds the narrative that complex tribal conflicts can be reduced to a simple case of villains (the US, Israel) and victims (Muslims)."

To begin with the Arab-Palestinian/Israeli conflict (1917-2015) is not a tribal (or religious) conflict. It is, and always has been, a colonial conflict pitting Anglo-US-backed European colons against a largely defenceless native people. It is not indigenous to the Middle East but was created by the British in 1917, with the Balfour Declaration handing Palestine to the nascent Zionist movement on a platter in violation of the Palestinian people's right to national self-determination. Britain's role in foisting Zionist settler-colonialism on the area was, of course, taken over by the US from 1948 on.

But it's not Callaghan's complete misreading of the conflict as an indigenous inter-tribal affair, an all too common occurence in the Zionised MSM,  that deserves the biggest stick. It's his gross hypocrisy. I did say we'd be coming to his unsettling Twitter feed. Well, we've arrived. Callaghan may well declare that "retweets are not always endorsements," but here is what he retweeted during the last Israeli wilding in Gaza:

@cnnbrk - Aug 2 Missing soldier Lt. Hadar Goldin is dead, Israel says.

@mirandadevine - Aug 7 With the world's focus on Gaza, little attention is being paid to an appalling humanitarian crisis unfolding in Iraq.

@KateAshmor - Aug 22 4 yo Israeli Daniel Tregerman, killed today by a Hamas rocket fired from a UN school in #Gaza

@AdamMilstein - Aug 29 Female IDF soldiers, the Hamas tried to Kill. Gaza border female soldiers risked their lives http:/

I think it's pretty clear from these where Greg Callaghan's sympathies lie. Evidence of a troubling narrowband view of Middle-Eastern politics?  

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