Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

Editorial: Parallel worlds

These days of putting together this issue of Red Pepper have been the days of the Gaza massacre. They have also been a time of two distinct political worlds. On the one hand, demonstrations that grew from one week to the next, bringing together Muslims and Jews to a unique extent; dissenting Jews across Israel, […]

February 1, 2009
4 min read


Hilary WainwrightHilary Wainwright is a member of Red Pepper's editorial collective and a fellow of the Transnational Institute. @hilarypepper


  share     tweet  

These days of putting together this issue of Red Pepper have been the days of the Gaza massacre. They have also been a time of two distinct political worlds. On the one hand, demonstrations that grew from one week to the next, bringing together Muslims and Jews to a unique extent; dissenting Jews across Israel, the US and the UK gaining confidence and a new sense of identity as they communicated across the web. On the other hand, the UN security council and Ehud Olmert’s insistent phone calls making sure that no resolution stood in the way of Israel’s onslaught.

Harold Pinter provided us with a key to understand these parallel worlds in the lecture he gave accepting the Nobel Prize for literature: ‘The majority of politicians, on the evidence available to us, are interested not in truth but in power and in the maintenance of that power … What surrounds us therefore is a vast tapestry of lies.’

The world of street protests reaching far beyond ‘the left’ is influenced by a process of unravelling the tapestry of lies woven around Iraq in the past eight years. The presence on demonstrations across Europe and the US of a new generation of activists and truth seekers, the generation of the Iraq war, is testament to this.

Across the Arab world too, a learning process has fuelled unprecedented mobilisations. Here is a generation that has been radicalised by the incompetence and indifference of Arab elites towards the sufferings of the Palestinians and their own people. Jamil Halil sees a new political scenario opening up in the Middle East.

Four days before Barack Obama took over the US presidency from the disastrous George Bush, one of the actors in the second political world, UK foreign secretary David Miliband, finally admitted what those of us in the rest of the world have long known. Bush was wrong. The ‘war against terror’ was ‘misleading and mistaken’. Far from defeating terrorism it has fed it.

So how does Miliband apply his new perception to the specific case of Palestine, where the ‘war against terror’ is effectively a cover for mass murder?

On 13 January, two days before his public rejection of Bush’s strategy, Miliband made his statement to the House of Commons after helping to steer resolution 1860 through the UN security council. The resolution asserts that both sides should cease military action. Above all it implies negotiations.

Did the foreign secretary’s statement to parliament challenge Israel’s refusal to meet this fundamental condition for peace? Miliband reported the reason for the Israeli refusal to negotiate. ‘Their argument,’ he said, ‘is that there can be no equivalence between a democratic state and a terrorist organisation.’

At no point did Miliband question this application of the George Bush manual of the war on terror. Nor did he draw on the diplomatic expertise of, for example, Jeremy Greenstock, the former British ambassador to the UN, who recently advised that Hamas ‘is not a terror organisation … it’s a bitterly angry grievance-based organisation wanting to end Israel’s occupation, preferably through negotiations … It has got a long way to go, but it’s capable of getting there; why has this not been explored?’

Instead, simultaneously with declaring the ‘war on terror’ to be a mistake, Miliband emphatically concurs with the Israeli government on its black-and-white view of the world: good versus evil, democracy versus terror. He contrasts Hamas’s ‘use of terrorism’ with Israel as ‘a thriving, democratic state with an independent judiciary’. Yet he makes no mention of Israel’s killing machine and its use of terror on a captive population – its state terrorism.

Miliband’s only challenge to Israel has been that as a ‘beacon of democracy’ it must be judged by the ‘standards of democracy and comply with the standards of international humanitarian law’. But with the basic premise of Israel’s war having been accepted and no attempt made to apply international law, these words have little meaning.

There is an immediate way Miliband could make a difference. He inherited the fatal refusal of the UK, along with the EU, the US and the UN, to recognise Hamas as the democratic choice of the people of Gaza. This effectively put Israel beyond international law, allowing it to treat the people of Gaza as mere obstacles to killing ‘legitimate’ targets. Miliband should break with this, as his parliamentary colleague Gerald Kaufman urges. Only then might we begin to accept that he is learning from George Bush’s ‘mistakes’.

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.

Hilary WainwrightHilary Wainwright is a member of Red Pepper's editorial collective and a fellow of the Transnational Institute. @hilarypepper


Acid Corbynism’s next steps: building a socialist dance culture
Matt Phull and Will Stronge share more thoughts about the postcapitalist potential of the Acid Corbynist project

Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson

New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power

What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains

The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme

Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it

The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going

A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism

Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase

Beware the automated landlord
Tenants of the automated landlord are effectively paying two rents: one in money, the other in information for data harvesting, writes Desiree Fields

Black Journalism Fund – Open Editorial Meeting
3-5pm Saturday 23rd September at The World Transformed in Brighton

Immigration detention: How the government is breaking its own rules
Detention is being used to punish ex-prisoners all over again, writes Annahita Moradi

A better way to regenerate a community
Gilbert Jassey describes a pioneering project that is bringing migrants and local people together to repopulate a village in rural Spain

Fast food workers stand up for themselves and #McStrike – we’re loving it!
McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank

Two years of broken promises: how the UK has failed refugees
Stefan Schmid investigates the ways Syrian refugees have been treated since the media spotlight faded

West Papua’s silent genocide
The brutal occupation of West Papua is under-reported - but UK and US corporations are profiting from the violence, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson

Activate, the new ‘Tory Momentum’, is 100% astroturf
The Conservatives’ effort at a grassroots youth movement is embarrassingly inept, writes Samantha Stevens

Peer-to-peer production and the partner state
Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis argue that we need to move to a commons-centric society – with a state fit for the digital age

Imagining a future free of oppression
Writer, artist and organiser Ama Josephine Budge says holding on to our imagination of tomorrow helps create a different understanding today

The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics

Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.

Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making

Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show

The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services

With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas

Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world

A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle

Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune

Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali

To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi