Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

Gordon Campbell on the rise of ISIS, and Labour

August 1st, 2014

While global attention got distracted by the fate of MH17 and the atrocities in Gaza, the world’s other mega ‘bad news’ story – the rise of ISIS-led fundamentalism in Iraq – has reached a tipping point. Reportedly, the ISIS fighters have been halted (temporarily at least) north of Baghdad around Tikrit, while a crucial battle is being fought just south of the capital, in a strategically important town on the banks of the Euphrates called Jurf al-Sakhar. A glance at Google Maps will show you just how close Jurf al-Sakhar is to Baghdad. If Baghdad was Wellington, the ISIS forces would be fighting on the streets of Waikanae, only 60 kilometres away.

Offhand, I can’t think of worse timing for Barack Obama and the Democrats for them to lose Baghdad – or to have US television screens full of images of Baghdad burning – just when the US will be voting in the midterm elections in November. Meanwhile, the ISIS fighters are doing in Iraq what their fanatical counterparts did in Afghanistan, when they blew up the ancient Buddhist statues in Bamiyan. In northern Iraq, ISIS has been systematically destroying ancient shrines, mosques and historical sites – including the 8th century shrine of the prophet Jonah in Mosul, a site revered by Christians and Muslims alike. If ISIS does succeed in winning the battle for Jurf al-Sakhar, it is not only Baghdad that will be in peril. The nearby city of Najaf, its all-important Shia shrines and the Shia spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Sistani, will all be virtually at the mercy of ISIS.

Safe to say, no one would have predicted the rise by Labour to 30% in the latest Roy Morgan poll, and the surge of the centre-left bloc to within striking distance of the Key government. Almost all the media coverage during the polling period had been highly negative for Labour and its leadership, yet…National is down to 45 % with an extra 2.5% cushion from its support partners, while the combined Labour/Greens/ Internet Mana vote now sits at a healthy and competitive 44.5%. Labour’s gains do not seem to have been at the expense of New Zealand First – which is down only one point to the MMP threshold of 5%, a level that puts Winston Peters right on the razor edge between being the kingmaker, and total oblivion. The big numbers: Labour is up 6.5 points, National down by five points, and the Greens down by two to twelve.

Sure, it’s only one poll. Too early yet to tell whether it is a trend, whether the changing numbers are the result of the undecideds breaking to the left – or if the centre left bloc is indeed motivating the previously alienated, or whether soft National votes are going elsewhere. For now, it breathes fresh life back into an election contest that was looking like a foregone conclusion. Along the way, the Morgan poll incidentally indicated the bogus nature of National’s support partners: when added together, the vote for ACT, United Future and the Maori Party is equal only to the 2.5% that Internet Mana is currently polling.

Gaza and Soweto
The massacre of children in Gaza has inevitably sparked comparisons to the 1976 Soweto uprising – another example of a repressive state using the threat of terrorism to wreak havoc indiscriminately on the children of a subject population. Juan Cole has written a column about the similarities:

As in apartheid South Africa, resistance to the apartheid policies of Israel is met with extreme violence. In Israel “law and order” is maintained “at all costs” just as in apartheid South Africa. If it is necessary to shoot down 700 students and youth [as happened during the 1976 Soweto uprising] for refusing to go along with the dictates of old white men, then so be it. The minority government “has nothing to apologize for.” Just as the sabotage and bombings of Umkhonte v Sizwe were termed mere terrorism and the ANC was demonized as a stalking horse for Stalinist dictatorship, so resistance organizations welling up from the slummy conditions imposed on Gaza are demonized, and their very resistance to being denied the rights of human beings is used to justify further repression.

Currently, Gaza is a slaughterhouse where hospitals and medical centres are targeted, and children are killed in their sleep in the UN buildings where they have gone to find refuge. Arguably, the use of collective punishment and the indiscriminate bombing and shelling of civilian populations qualify as war crimes under the Geneva Convention – and ironically, such actions were outlawed by the UN in 1949, in order to deter the collective punishments that had been handed down by the Nazis in WW11 in places such as Lidice.

The current death toll figures in Gaza: over 1200 Palestinians killed compared to three Israeli citizens (and 53 Israeli soldiers killed while carrying out the offensive) makes a mockery of the Israel’s self-defence argument. One of the most disturbing aspects of the Gaza atrocities has been the repeated instances where families – either entirely or in large numbers – have been wiped out because one member of the family allegedly may have had links to the resistance. Reportedly, families have been faced with the choice of either dying together, or of splitting up to increase the chances of at least some of them surviving.

The world has, of course, been here before. In December 2008-January 2009, Israel conducted an armed invasion/bombardment of Gaza that killed an estimated 1,166 to 1,417 Palestinians and resulted in 13 Israeli deaths, four of them from friendly fire. A year after the Cast Lead onslaught, Oxfam released a report on how the world had failed Gaza, by condoning an Israeli blockade that had made it impossible for Gazans to rebuild their homes and replace essential infrastructure.

During the current offensive, the Israelis have destroyed the power stations essential to public health and to the maintenance of a clean water supply. But as it did before, the world appears willing only to wring its hands and to ask Israel to please, exercise some restraint – while supplying Israel with more ammunition. The latest news this morning is that a 72 hour “humanitarian truce” has been agreed. There is nothing humane however, about the conditions under which Gazans have been forced to live for the last few years.


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    1. 14 Responses to “Gordon Campbell on the rise of ISIS, and Labour”

    2. By T.J. Hearn on Aug 1, 2014 | Reply

      I suspect that a better comparison might be made between the Warsaw Ghetto and Gaza. It seems pretty clear that Israel is intent upon flattening Gaza, killing indiscriminately, and strangling the survivors into submission. I note, too, that the Americans have confessed to rearming Israel: are the Americans now to have the same opprobrium heaped on them as was heaped on the Russians over their alleged involvement in the downing of MH17?

    3. By Zorr on Aug 1, 2014 | Reply

      It’s not a case of the undecideds breaking left because the undecideds were up 1% to 6.5% in this poll from previous ones.

    4. By Steve on Aug 1, 2014 | Reply

      What is being done by ISIS is appalling & deserves a greater degree of international condemnation.

      Regarding Israel & Hamas, clearly Israel needs to exercise restraint. For the sake of its own people, Hamas needs to back down and must commit itself to a peaceful two state solution (something it has never done).

      Importantly, both Hamas and Israel are violating the provisions of the Geneva Convention (Israel is inflicting much more damage but they are both guilty).

      Notably, Israel (despite its totally disproportionate and crewel reprisal on Hamas) is still the only party that has committed itself to a two state solution. The distinction between Hamas and Israel can be seen in their respective founding documents. Israel’s 1948 Declaration of Independence establishes a secular state that does not discriminate on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity or religion (at the internal state level, this Document still holds weight). Hamas calls for the establishment of a single Islamic state and the annihilation of the Jews in ‘Palestine’.

      So, my view (which has been misunderstood on this blog before) is that Israel, despite its disgusting and reckless use of force, still has potential to do good in the region.

      Hamas, despite the death inflicted by Israel for which it cares not, is an inhumane and totally uncompromising terrorist organisation that does not want peace with the ‘jews’ (i.e. Hamas is constituted not to cease until it has achieved a mono-theocratic Caliphate between Jordan and the Mediterranean).

    5. By Robert Harvey on Aug 1, 2014 | Reply

      Israel is doing well in the media aspects also, see:
      for an outline of the PR spin that is being used.

    6. By Brent Efford on Aug 2, 2014 | Reply

      I agree, TJ Hearn, but the similarities between Israeli and Nazi tactics don’t end with the Warsaw Ghetto. Consider the policy of expanding territory by military conquest and then settling it (lebensraum/settlements), the disproportionate reprisals against civilians for every soldier killed, the labeling of the suffering civilian population as ‘terrorists’, the whole ideology of a master race/chosen people having some sort of divine right … the list can go on and on. The epithet ‘Zionazis’ will be justly earned.

    7. By Grump on Aug 2, 2014 | Reply


      Could you provide some credible* links to your sweeping pronouncements?
      Perhaps the reason there is so much disdain toward your past comments
      is that you loftily state that only Hamas are terrorists, when the facts
      tell a different story. By their own, and every definition, Israel is a
      rogue terrorist state. That they keep insisting otherwise is irrelevant; little
      comfort to those left to deal with their destruction. If an
      organisation is to be judged by the worst of what their affiliates say
      and do (as you seem to imply for Hamas), please read these articles,
      and the embedded links, and revise your analysis:

      noun: terrorism

      the unofficial or unauthorized use of violence and intimidation in
      the pursuit of political aims.,-paramedic-killed-in-strike-on-Gaza-ambu.aspx

      Israeli MP calls for killing of Palestinian women to prevent future

      “The IDF will conquer the entire Gaza, using all the means necessary to
      minimize any harm to our soldiers, with no other considerations.”

      * – credible: not from the IDF or Israeli embassy website

    8. By matt on Aug 3, 2014 | Reply

      Steve, your statements would carry more weight if you provided some actual evidence.

      I’ve read that Hamas, despite what ‘ideology’ they are said to have, have consistently and repeatedly agreed to the 2-state solution, and recognise Israel; just not its ‘right’ to occupy and oppress those within the agreed borders of Gaza, and West Bank. Also I’ve read that throughout Israel and the diaspora, many Jewish descendants are indoctrinated to view Israel as a divine birthright, and ‘their’ land, above any other groups previously or currently there.

      I too won’t provide links, just for you to ignore; but to state that Israelis are somehow free of dispensing any form of discrimination sucks all credibility out of your words.

      You are on the wrong side of history in your non-condemnation (to put it diplomatically). In another three or four decades, I look forward to your admission of this or your insistences of what you ‘really’ meant.

    9. By Steve on Aug 4, 2014 | Reply

      Hamas Charter (1988)

      Article 7 of the Hamas Covenant provides the following quotation, attributed to Mohammed:

      “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (evidently a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews.”

      Article 22 states that the French revolution, the Russian revolution, colonialism and both world wars were created by the Zionists or forces supportive of Zionism:

      “You may speak as much as you want about regional and world wars. They were behind World War I, when they were able to destroy the Islamic Caliphate, making financial gains and controlling resources. They obtained the Balfour Declaration, formed the League of Nations through which they could rule the world. They were behind World War II, through which they made huge financial gains by trading in armaments, and paved the way for the establishment of their state. It was they who instigated the replacement of the League of Nations with the United Nations and the Security Council to enable them to rule the world through them. There is no war going on anywhere, without having their finger in it.”

      Article 32 of the Covenant refers to an antisemitic forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion:

      “Today it is Palestine, tomorrow it will be one country or another. The Zionist plan is limitless. After Palestine, the Zionists aspire to expand from the Nile to the Euphrates. When they will have digested the region they overtook, they will aspire to further expansion, and so on. Their plan is embodied in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and their present conduct is the best proof of what we are saying.”

    10. By matt on Aug 4, 2014 | Reply

      Thanks – that’s pretty horrible reading. Bit like the old testament. Thank goodness Jews and Israelis don’t incorporate any archaic texts full of genocide and supremacy into their culture.

    11. By Steve on Aug 5, 2014 | Reply

      Matt, hard to tell if you are being sarcastic.

      Importantly, Israel is a secular (not Jewish) state. It doesn’t incorporate any canon law into its legal system and is not in any sense theocratic.

      This is evident in the fact that ~1.6 million Arab Muslims are Israeli citizens with equal rights under the law (i.e. if the State’s executive was to discriminate in favour of Jews, a Muslim Israeli citizen could take a judicial review and have the executive action struck down as ultra vires).

      This is important because it demonstrates that Israeli internal policy has a respect for all people regardless of difference. The same can be seen in other reforms such as the ability of gay people to marry, women to divorce their husbands, the availability of free medical care (even extending to Palestinian citizens).

      I hope you will agree that respect for equality is a virtue that is displayed openly ‘within’ Israel.

      Also ~ as you are ~ I am completely opposed to Israeli aggression in Gaza and the OPT. I only think that my total recall of such needs to be qualified by my recognition of Hamas as a totally repressive and inhumane organisation that has one clear goal in mind – a caliphate.

    12. By matt on Aug 5, 2014 | Reply

      So what you’re really saying is Israel won’t walk its talk. Hamas can’t walk its talk.

      I’d still like some more input on whether Israel is a Jewish state or not – wasn’t that the point of instating it?

      I would say the onus is on Israel as the one with all the guns, to display some these virtues; not just say they do then end up behaving more or less like Hamas anyway.

      Why was Hamas elected anyway? Is it possible the people saw them as a chance, no matter how slim, to relieve them of their clearly inhumane situation? Possibly with the view that once they were properly sovereign again, they could just vote ’em back out and have a ‘proper’ government.

    13. By Steve on Aug 5, 2014 | Reply

      It is true that Israel was founded by Jews who had fled Europe – but it is not a Jewish state because it has clear separation between ‘Church and State’ and clear protections for all people in Israel regardless of their religious beliefs or non-beliefs. As we have Colin Craig and Brian Tamaki in NZ, there are religious extremists in Israel. They are Jews, Muslims and Christians.

      The main point of distinction with Hamas is that it shows zero hope of ever being a tolerant ruler. It is founded on and limited to medieval principles.

      The belief of some people that Hamas is ‘the best option’ for the people of Palestine does a huge disservice to the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who are opposed to Hamas. This include the vast majority of ‘moderate’ Muslims, and hundreds of thousands of secularists who are systematically oppressed by Hamas. Sadly, Hamas is the only voice you will ever hear out of Gaza but it is certainly not the only voice.

      Importantly, hundreds of thousands of moderate Palestinians have sought and been granted refuge in Israel.

      If you ever happen to speak to a Palestinian from Gaza – ask about the notices that Hamas leaves on telephone polls. They pin up the names of traitors (usually gays, secularists, moderates, or mere opponents of Hamas) who have been ‘martyred’.

      Personally, I am willing to condemn Hamas in absolute terms. It is simply too uncompromising. I have no sympathy for Israeli foreign policy because it collectively punishes the Palestinian people for the crimes of Hamas. Bit of a catch 22?

      I think that if the world wants to see a lasting peace in the middle east, it will be necessary for a more moderate force to rise up in Gaza. They can still fight Israel – but on more equal moral terms.

      What are your thoughts?

    14. By matt on Aug 5, 2014 | Reply

      I’d look at the PA. Surely they are seen as more moderate, especially these days, but the Israeli policy seems to be consistent. They are an occupying force, and have recently sent in troops to ‘quell’ popular unrest at the actions of Gaza. The settlements continue and commentators with a much longer view than your or me (such as Chomsky) describe the situation for Palestinians within Israel and in West Bank slightly better than and worse than apartheid respectively. I imagine that this doesn’t inspire confidence in letting Israel set the rules.

      Regardless of their founding documents, their actions can only be described as terrorist, by any measure. (But much like the US and I can only imagine NZ if we had the means, the label ‘terrorism’ seems not to apply if the actions are governmental.) The actions far outweigh the rhetoric. That works both ways – the US expresses outrage while handing over thrillions of dollars of weapons to ‘replenish’ the IDF.

      I haven’t read a lot of support for Hamas, particularly on this site, but sympathy for the actual citizens. I think the very least we should be doing is the BDS strategy. If they throw sand, they can’t play in the pit.

    15. By matt on Aug 5, 2014 | Reply

      Steve, you might find this useful, given our discussion over ideology:

      I don’t have the words. My chest aches in physical pain. I pain as a mother, a daughter and as a Jew. I am not alone in this pain, people around the world are horrified at the terror Israel is inflicting on the people of Gaza.

      Horrors happen in the world, and we struggle to explain them and fight to stop them. I learned this from my Jewish parents – to seek justice. But horrors happening in the name of those who have been historically oppressed, murdering people who have nothing – but absolutely nothing – to do with that historical oppression, but yet using it as an excuse for murder – this is grotesque. We – the world – will no longer permit this lie. It must stop. This has zero to do with seeking justice, or Judaism for that matter. The world is imploring you Israel. The world is demanding of you Israel. Stop. Stop the horror. Stop using our historical oppression to explain the horrors. We, as Jews, organizing around the world, no longer permit you to use our name, our identity as Jews, our historical oppression, as a rational for your warring and torture.

      We hereby take back the Jewish identity – you cannot speak or act in our name.

      I am sick every day. I fear the news, and the images …

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