All The More Reason

Pourquoi pas “pas”?
July 31, 2006, 12:58 pm
Filed under: Language

“Le couple est en panne ou non?”

This was the rhetorical question posed during a documentary on the current Franco-German alliance. I shall leave the question itself unanswered for the moment and only bring to attention the use of the word “non” here. The French language seems to lack a hard equivalent to our “not”. A French speaker has the choice of non or pas – or even non pas if it occurs within the sentence. So this question could have been asked as:

“Le couple est en panne ou pas?”

Or, if it were an assertion:

“Le couple est en panne et non pas en vitesse.”

What is interesting to me is that the higher the social class or setting, the more likely the usage of non instead of pas. To my ears there is nothing necessarily better sounding about non over pas and yet it happens time and again. As an educated guess, I would argue that these speakers might say that the pas on its own is somewhat naked as a negation without a ne lurking around somewhere. That explanation, however, would not explain such phrases as “Pas du tout”.

Jonathan Smith


Lionel Jospin
July 30, 2006, 9:13 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Incredibly, according to this article in LeMonde, Lionel Jospin has not ruled out running in 2007. I had read the other day a piece published in LeMonde where his amis stated their support for his canditature.

“C’est en ce sens que notre choix dépasse la responsabilité du seul Parti socialiste ; elle est celle de toute la gauche. Lionel Jospin a fait part de sa disponibilité pour le rendez-vous du printemps 2007. C’est une bonne nouvelle, et c’est au Parti socialiste d’en débattre.”

I say incredibly, not necessarily because of Jospin’s politics, but simply that when I saw a recent documentary on the man the fight had looked to have left him.

Jonathan Smith

Bernard-Henri Lévy
July 29, 2006, 5:32 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Bernard-Henri Lévy has a piece in Le Monde about the war between Israel and Hezbollah. In the opening paragraph, he writes:

… Et puis, en fond de décor, ce fascisme à visage islamiste, ce troisième fascisme, dont tout indique qu’il est à notre génération ce que furent l’autre fascisme, puis le totalitarisme communiste, à celle de nos aînés…

After having read some of Lévy’s pieces in Atlantic Monthly on America I would be hard pressed to put him in the same category as a right-winger. And yet, at least on this one big point, they share common ground.

Jonathan Smith

Reading Intention
July 11, 2006, 7:47 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

In the following post, Snowball states that he has decided not to sign the Euston Manifesto. I thought I would take this opportunity to highlight a rhetorical manoeuvre used in his argument that I find weak. Here he is:

You see, while the Euston Manifesto group claims to be creating something new, it is actually rehashing the ideas of a group around in Britain 100 years ago – the ‘Empire Socialists’ and more particularly the Coefficients Club, which was organised by the Fabian socialists Sidney and Beatrice Webb (their ‘partnership’ is surely equal in intensity to the new ‘partnership’ of Geras and Cohen) and held dinners from 1902 -1908.

This shift, a prestidigitator’s favourite, allows the writer to draw attention to a weaker opponent. He has also absolved himself of the responsibility of taking on whom he was originally obliged to. Let us not forget, that this was the original reason for his writing.

How does this shift happen? In three words: “it is actually…”

Interestingly, this also functions as his self-anointment. For only someone who sees through a document’s supposed intentions is capable of seeing its darker will. And of course, following this line of thought, he has a responsibility to share with the rest of us this reveal. I recognize how tempting this shift is, as it gives the writer such desperately needed approval and license to play by his own rules. This approval comes from within though and not without. Finally, it removes the need for him to thresh out the details of the original document he claimed to be critiquing.

May he play.

Jonathan Smith

Where is Euston?
July 9, 2006, 3:30 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

This week I’ve been debating, informally, the relationship between the Euston Manifesto and the Labour party. There are two camps on this issue: those who are broadly sympathetic to the Labour party and think we Eustonites should be involved in a critical but supportive dialogue with Labour, and the other camp who are openly hostile to Labour and generally believe the new Labour cabinet are just Thatcherites who believe in Society. I am firmly in the first camp, but think that it is important to keep Euston as open and free a dialogue within the Left as is possible without undermining the original premise: the staunch defence of universal values against tepid relativism.

Previously, I have written about this in regards to Daniel Finkelstein’s (The Times, 26th April) attempt to cast Euston as a neo-conservative Manifesto from the corollary of right-wing thought, not left. He wrote:

For if the Euston Manifesto had been published by a group of rightwingers it might attract some right-wing opposition, but support would be overwhelming on the Right. This may not be a very attractive fact for a group of left-liberal authors to come to terms with, but it is the truth nevertheless.”

And in reply, I wrote:

“Finkelstein is up to mischief indeed. He has seen his side, the Tories, stand at the sidelines in one of the most important moments of global history – and he thoroughly resents this. He resents the sight of a thrice-elected Labour leader determining the most cogent and ideologically sound set of foreign policy objectives since Palmerston. He resents the ‘little England’ mentality of backbench Toryism which is now being replicated on the front bench with Cameron’s nauseating wobble over Iraq. It must be utterly utterly horrid for the poor man. He swapped sides at exactly the wrong moment, and this it seems has caused quite a bit of ressentement.

The reality is that the Labour Party now (and I know classing Labour as a left-wing party may well cause a bit of controversy) is quite staunchly progressive on foreign affairs. Those who disagreed over Iraq in the party membership have now left the party, MPs who disagreed are in the minority. A new generation of Labour MPs, Ian Austin, Gisela Stuart, Ed Balls, etc. are progressive and are interventionalists.

You may not like party policy on many issues – and I disagree with a lot of the thrust of ‘Blairismo’ – however, you cannot doubt the party’s humanitarianism. What the Euston Manifesto group should recognise is that it is the Labour party that has fought four wars in favour of human rights in Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Iraq. The only vehicle for the group’s ambitions is the Labour Party. No other left-of-centre political party shares these foreign policy objectives and, furthermore, the Labour Party needs people like EG supporters within the party to strengthen its nerve. If Britain rejects Labour at the next election, which is increasingly likely, we will have a return to isolationist ‘little Englanderism’. We will retreat from our global obligations of third world debt, we will drop our commitment to democracy quicker than Tory candidates are dropping vowels at selection meetings.

The real progressive party in Britain, in terms of foreign policy is Labour. Finkelstein, a moment of introspection, please.”

This is, I think, is the central premise of my position: Labour and Labour alone is the only vehicle for progressives and internationalists in Britain. Ergo, Euston must engage with the party otherwise it is little more than tenets on paper, and not much consolation for those in far flung lands who very much desire our vigilant defence of humanism against the barbarism of theocracy, despotism and totalitarianism.


The lies of those who hate Israel and how to stop them
July 7, 2006, 3:04 pm
Filed under: Israeli / Palestinian, Uncategorized

New theories 

A new insidious theory seems to be doing the rounds amongst the conspiratorial left in politics, namely that Britain and the US are doing the dirty work of Israel in Iraq and following through their previously stated foreign policy objective of the balkanization of Iraq. This theory centres on an obscure journal article written in 1982 by Israeli journalist Oded Yinon entitled ‘A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties’ in the Zionist journal Kivvonim. This article is the basis for ream upon ream of anti-Zionist writing upon the internet, a quick google will uncover potentially exponential numbers of crank articles on Israel’s true intentions.  

Oden Yinon’s article was originally published in English under the title, ‘Making the Arab World Collapse’ in the Journal of Palestinian Studies (1982, University of California Press). It was re-translated – for deliberately political ends – by ‘self-hating Jew’ Israel Shahak. As anyone familiar with Shahak’s work could hazard a guess on, the Shahak translation is rather different from the one that is presented in the academic journal. This may perhaps seem like a rather onanistic splitting of hairs, but in the context in which those who hate the state of Israel use it, it is all rather important. For example, the article begins:  

“At the outset of the 1980s, Israel needs to establish a new vision of its place, its objectives and its national goals, internal and external.” 

Shahak translates this alternatively, supplementing ‘objectives’ with ‘aims’ and ‘goals’ with ‘targets’: a turn towards a clearly aggressive shooting metaphor. The main contention of Yinon’s piece is that the original intervention of foreign colonial powers and  Arab nationalism produced weak artificially constructed nations comprising mutually antagonistic ethnic groups. The borders of the nations of the Middle East are entirely contrived and as such the region is deeply and institutionally unstable. His article is well-versed and makes some sensible original points, he thinks that Jordan is internally maladroit, for the population is on the whole Palestinian, whilst a trans-Jordanian Bedouin minority rule – only enmity towards Israel keeps the state coherent. Yet, Shahak’s translation takes Yinon’s contention that the Middle East’s ‘imaginary communities’ will eventually disintegrate, and takes this as the aim of extreme Zionism. On Egypt, Yinon writes: 

“Egypt, both by nature and by virtue of its existing internal political structure is dead; it has collapsed and it faces an Islamic-Christian division which will become more acute in the future. Breaking Egypt territorially into separate geographical districts is the political goal of Israel in the 1980s on its western front. Divided, and having crumbled into many districts, Egypt, unlike today, will not present any threats to Israel. It will rather be a guarantee for security and peace for a long time.” 

Becomes the rather shorter: 

“Egypt, in its present domestic political picture, is already a corpse, all the more so if we take into account the growing Moslem-Christian rift. Breaking Egypt down territorially into distinct geographical regions is the political aim of
Israel in the Nineteen Eighties on its Western front.” 

There is no doubt that Yinon is extreme, but Shahak’s translation makes him misleadingly so and entirely ignores the valid points Yinon makes about the unstable artificial ethnic construction of the states in the region. Yinon envisages a peaceful
Middle East where nations whose telos is the destruction of the Israeli state fragment into viable ethnic entities (who no longer need the adrenaline of anti-Semitism to keep them alive): Shahak deliberately translates his work into that of a war-mongering land-grabber. Sadly, Shahak’s translation has gathered a momentum of its own and Yinon’s prophecy in 1982 that Iraq would disintegrate along sectarian lines has now been doctored to show that in 1982, Israel planned the disintegration of Iraq along sectarian lines. The obscure writings of a journalist in a tiny journal are now writ-large by those antipathetic to the existence of an Israeli state. 

The latest emergence of this ‘theory’ is in the recent arrival of this flotsam bilge upon the dark underbelly of the anti-war left. Google ‘balkanization of Iraq’ and be amazed at the corpulent body of anti-Israeli rhetoric all based upon Shahak’s twisted translation of a journal article from 1982. Linda S. Heard (I rather she wasn’t), a British correspondent for the Arab News and rent-a-gob for pretty much every unsavoury anti-Israeli cause going, has written a diabolical piece for rag Al Shindagah entitled, ‘Are wars being waged for Israel?’. Her conclusion is thus: 

“There is one thing we can know for sure, though. Oden Yinon’s 1982 ‘Zionist Plan for the Middle East’ [another new translation] is in large part taking place. Is this pure coincidence? In the absence of absolute proof to the contrary, we can only say ‘perhaps’.” 

Ah, true Leninist justice! The article is furnished with a photoshopped image of a family in front of Congress with two members draped in the Stars and Stripes and two draped in the Israeli flag. Little can be done to prevent the circulation of this venom around the body politic, except by making objections to the magazines and newspapers who print it. Al Shindagah, is it is fair to say, is no friend of Israel, the Jewish people, the UK or US (and that is phrasing it in the manner of a parish priest). In its latest edition, the editorial comment has the strap line, ‘Sons of Abraham… Beware’. Then we have a further piece from Linda S. Heard praising Hugo Chavez. In this vein the poison continues with a piece by Paul Findley, ex-Republican congressman and critic of American relations with Israel (also winner of the 2000 ‘Malcolm X National Human Rights award’ by the American Muslim Alliance). Findley’s article, ‘How to Prevent another 9/11’ has an unsurprising conclusion: 

“Why 9/11? Months ago, bin Laden informed the world that 9/11 was a payback for US complicity in Israel’s 1982 laughter of more than 18,000 innocent Arabs in Beirut, as well as recent outrages. These days, we give bin Laden incentive for another payback, but our government can prevent that calamity without firing a shot or spending more billions on a futile effort to encase America in a protective cocoon. All it needs do is to suspend all aid until Israel ends its illegal occupation of Arab land.” [My italics] 

9/11 a ‘payback’ – truly awful stuff but not novel and perhaps now all too acceptable by many on the hard left and right, so you may well think this is all whistling in the wind. But Hildon Water and Aston Martin are products who have been associated with this tat by their suppliers placing advertisements in al Shindagah. And if you, like me, feel deeply unhappy about anti-Israel propoganda being paid for by two British companies, then get in touch with the brands who are now openly associated with al Shindagah and protest.

Hildon Limited, Broughton, Hampshire, SO20 8DQ 

Mention the supplier: the International Hotel Supply Company (

Aston Martin, Banbury Road, Gaydon, Warwick, CV35 0DB

Again, mention the supplier: Al Habtoor Motors, Dubai.  

I am not an unfettered screaming Zionist, I strongly advocate a two-state solution based around the 1967 borders, and I believe in fair play. When the BNP were canvassing anti-Islamic literature in Lewisham I refuted their slander because it is not fair to make false accusations. Israel did not instruct the UK and US to invade Iraq, neither is it the foreign policy objective of the UK, US or Israel to see the balkanization of the nation of Iraq. We need intelligent debate on this subject, not a stack of politically motivated lies dug out from a translation of a journal article from 1982. Write to the companies involved and prevent these lies being propagated further.  


A Work in Progress
July 6, 2006, 10:35 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I had the great privilege of attending the Labour Friends of Iraq meeting held in Portcullis House yesterday evening. The event, hosted by LFI director Gary Kent, was honoured by the presence of two immensely courageous men, Sardar Muhammed and Moustaf Yousif al Sa. Both men are Iraqi trade unionists; both are struggling to construct civil society in their country. You will note that I did not use the word ‘reconstruct’. This is an experiment with no precedent in their country.

The English language often resorts to African wildlife similes when attempting to express the idea of bravery: ‘he was as brave as a lion’, ‘she had the bravery of a tiger’. I would like to add a Messopotamian example to the slender lexicon: ‘he was as brave as a man who voted against the Ba’ath Party in an election held by Saddam Hussein’. This is what Moustaf Yousif al Sa did, and he served a prison sentence for his actions. That this information was not imparted first hand but, rather, from stalwart Labour MP, Harry Barnes, after the meeting, says much about both the modesty of the man and the urgency with which he wished to express his central point.

The Iraqi trade unionist movement is currently experiencing what the speakers described as a ‘campaign of genocide’. Thousands of working class Iraqis involved in the movement have been either assassinated, kidnapped, tortured- and sometimes all three- by what some sections of the Left in this country still have the audacity to call ‘insurgents’. The label is not altogether misleading; these people have made it their business to rebel against the authority not just of the government, but of the Iraqis who voted in huge numbers to install a democratic, federalist government. Most of the – to eschew euphemism for a moment- murderers are, we were told, Ba’athist members of Saddam’s Mukhabarat secret police, some are Islamists and foreign terrorists.

The main targets of the terrorists’ guns and car bombs are not American troops- although they get their fair share- but, rather, the men and women who are trying to build a democratic, civic society in Iraq: recruits to the police and army, public sector workers, trade unionists. The trade union movement in particular was, for the two speakers, an essential component in the democratic project. ‘A democracy’, as Moustaf put it, ‘cannot be imposed by the will of the state alone. It must be nurtured at the roots.’ Organisations such as the Oil and Gas Workers’ Union , or any of the seven groups that have sprung up since the fall of Saddam, constitute these very delicate roots. They are a vital non-sectarian front, bringing Iraqis together to fight for the common interest of all Iraqis, not just the narrow, chauvinistic interests of Shia or Sunni.

In short, this is a cause worth defending. And it is, furthermore, a cause in which our country has a role. Reading the British press, one would assume that the withdrawal of troops from Iraq was the only possible way of ensuring that the violence in the country abated. Rent-a-quotes and armchair generals like Simon Jenkins are eager to pontificate on the malign influence of American and British troops in Iraq, however if you’ll forgive me, I would rather canvass the opinion of our brothers and sisters on the front line. The withdrawal of troops would, in Sardar’s words be ‘a catastrophe, an absolute disaster’. Both speakers made it quite clear that the presence of foreign troops is absolutely essential until such time as the homegrown Iraqi forces are in a position to defend the country’s security. This was something we have been told on countless occasions by Tony Blair, George Bush and others. Hearing it from the mouths of people who would bear the brunt of any withdrawal made the case rather more profoundly.

The intervention in Iraq has not won many supporters in the time since official hostilities ended. Pros and antis are dug into their respective positions and, if anything, it is the antis that have grown in number and voice in the chaotic period that has ensued. Now is the time for both sides to come out of their ideological trenches. The aspirations of the Iraqi people are worthy of our support. One might expect the Little Englanders on the Right to dispute this, but no progressive worth the label could disagree. The final word, as always, should rest with our Iraqi comrades: ‘We did not ask you to come in, but please, now you are here, stay until we ask you to leave.’

Michael P