Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Euston Manifesto

The authors of the Euston Manifesto describe themselves as “democrats and progressives” many of whom are on the “left”. They are pro-war and many are also pro-Israel. The Manifesto contains much that is commendable: they support “fair trade” and debt cancellation; support democratic trade unions; advocate the separation of state and religion; and defend “universal human rights” against “cultural relativism”. They argue that the deliberate targeting of civilians by terrorists is a crime which cannot be justified, and, God knows, they are right about that (although they have less to say about the civilian fatalities resulting from the actions of the US military). Elsewhere, however, the Manifesto is less persuasive. For example, the Manifesto accuses critics of US foreign policy of a “generalised prejudice” against the USA and its people. But I doubt if more than a miniscule percentage of those who demonstrated in opposition to the Iraq war in March 2003 were incapable of distinguishing between the actions of successive US governments, on the one hand, and the American people on the other. Secondly, deploying a similar argument, the Manifesto refers to the “resurgence” of anti-Semitism” and argues that “some exploit the legitimate grievances of the Palestinian people under occupation by Israel, and conceal prejudice against the Jewish people behind the formula of “anti-Zionism””. In reply here are two points:
(i) It is not clear to me that there is a "resurgence" of anti-Semitism. There is no doubt that anti-Semitism is rife in the Arab world and is officially encouraged by Arab regimes (as it is in Iran); just as there is plenty of Israeli racism against Arabs. I suspect that there is a great deal of anti-Semitism in the Asian-Muslim community in Britain. And of course there are the fascist groups such as the NF and the BNP and so on, for whom anti-Semitism remains a core doctrine. But among the great majority of the non-Muslim population in Britain, I see very little evidence of “resurgent” anti-Semitism. The most common forms of racism are white racism against blacks and Asians, and racism against (often “white”) asylum-seekers (sometimes by - depressingly - blacks and Asians; by comparison anti-Semitism is far less common (it is no less vile, of course).
(ii) I dare say some anti-Semites do hide behind “anti-Zionism”. But as a generalised charge this is also false. The great majority of those who are angry at the manifest injustice done to the Palestinian people by Israel, and the one-sided support of Israel by the USA, are not anti-Semites and the accusation that they are is unjust and unworthy. It smacks of the kind of thuggish tactics used all too often to silence all criticism of Israel, labelling all such criticism “anti-Semitic”. Shame on you.

Perhaps the greatest weakness of the Manifesto is the inability to admit that the invasion of Iraq was a disaster. With Alice-in-Wonderland stubbornness they argue that the main concern in Iraq is “to put in place a democratic political order and to rebuild the country’s infrastructure…” That would be great, but it seems completely disconnected from the grim reality the invasion has unleashed, and to which there seems no foreseeable end. The authors seem to think that the US military can impose a kind of western-style democracy at gunpoint which will then become a beacon for democracy everywhere in the Middle East. The more likely outcome at this stage seems to be escalating ethnic conflict, leading to the dismemberment of the state and (if the USA and UK decide to quit and run) the intervention of neighbouring states. The alternative is a war which will drag on for years with mounting casualties. Islamic fundamentalism and Islamic terrorism could not have been gifted anything better than the invasion of Iraq. Yes, we need to fight and defeat fundamentalist terrorism, but the strategic ineptitude of the US has been staggering, and the authors of the Manifesto cannot see it. No wonder they disfavour “picking through the rubble of the arguments over intervention…” So would I, if I had supported invasion. (A final, very small point. The authors claim they do not get a fair hearing in the mass media. Several of them are columnists on national newspapers. Give us a break guys!).

The Manifesto can be read here:

Euston Manifesto


Blogger PooterGeek said...

Thanks for taking the time to read what we have to say and engaging with it in a thoughtful way. Obviously I disagree with you, but it's good to read someone on the Left do so reasonably. Do watch our site for further developments.

12:42 pm  

Post a Comment

<< Home