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“I’m a verbal mercenary”

This is a guest post by Seismic Shock

Recently there have been some odd goings-on at Comment Is Free. Taking a break from his usual criticisms of Israel, Ben White has a pop at Hamas in his most recent piece. Yet White’s article appeared to pin the blame for Hamas’ increased radicalism on Israel, not least due to the article’s subtitle:

‘Forced ‘Islamisation’ is raising concerns about government direction, as some point to Gaza’s isolation as the root cause.’

However, White protests about the subtitle:

I don’t pick it.

Hmmmm. This response provokes one to wonder why the CIF sub-editors picked such a subtitle. Now surely, White’s attempt to contextualise Hamas’ criminal activity, murderous bigotry and gender apartheid in the Gaza strip as an effect of Israeli ‘colonialism’ explains why the subtitle was picked. Alternatively, if White meant to say something else with his article, then it seems that CIF sub-editors are forcing articles to appear anti-Zionist when they are not.

To add to the mix, CIF have recently welcomed aboard a new commentator who makes Ben White look like Rush Limbaugh. Meet Matt Kennard, who has been contributing to Comment Is Free since late March 2009. Kennard sees Zionism everywhere.

In his latest piece he writes:

When I first arrived in Israel I went on the City of David tour, which functions as a three-hour Israeli propaganda extravaganza (dressed up as an archeological experience). King David in Biblical lore is said to have been the first Jewish leader to settle the land in Jerusalem and his son King Solomon is said to have built the First Temple in 960 BC.

Not that ‘Zionism’ or ‘Zionists’ are correct terms, as Kennard explains elsewhere:

Those pro-Israel fanatics (mistakenly called “Zionists”) who will defend anything Israel does, not based on rational debate or argument, but out of some religious fealty to their Holy State […]  These people aren’t only spokesman for the Israeli government. They are everywhere, all over the media and governments of the West. There seems no cognitive dissonance as they unleash their invective against Hamas, the democratically-elected government of Gaza, while saying nothing about the Inferno being bought on the Gazan people by Israel. But I’ve been wondering recently, as I’ve read these peoples writing and watched the pro-Israel demonstrations: What would have to happen before these people actually criticized their Holy State?

Well, so long as ‘these people’ keep thinking with their blood, it really is hopeless:

When I have exchanges with parts of my Jewish family who think with their blood and not their head I am told that the Palestinians have been offered the West Bank and Gaza many times and rejected it.

Religiously fanatical support for Israel also affects Sunny Hundal, apparently:

For those on “the Left” that support Israel with religious devotion, they turn not to defending the murder of civilians, but sublimate the massacres by saying that anti-Israel voices are collaborating with anti-Semites and Islamic fundamentalists. This changes the subject nicely, and means that this mental barrier of actually looking at Israeli actions rationally doesn’t have to be breached. David Aaronovitch does exactly this in the Times […] Sunny Hundal does the same in the Guardian. Under the subheading, “Israel’s actions are indefensible. But when Hamas are portrayed by the left as brave freedom fighters, it sticks in my craw,” he fulminates about a non-existent leftist association with Hamas. He provides no evidence in the article but plays into the propaganda narrative that all those opposed to Israel’s barbarism automatically sign up to become a member of Hamas, apparently it’s like a two-for-one.

But of course, Palestinians don’t need friends like Sunny when they have friends like Hassan Nasrallah:

Well, the performance of the Arab countries really showed them up for what they are: stooges of the U.S. just like Israel. […] The only Arab leader that has consistently supported the Palestinian people is Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, and whatever you think of Hezbollah, his commitment is unmatched by anyone else.

An atheist, Kennard waxes lyrical when discussing Desmond Tutu’s views on Jews and Israel (clearly Tutu’s weakest subject):

There is hardly a more unimpeachable moral authority in the world than Archbishop Tutu so it definitely worth listening to his portentous words.

Now, the tag-line of CIF is ‘Comments is free but facts are sacred.’ One would hope that all CIF contributors also consider facts to be sacred. Is this true for Matt Kennard? Let’s take a look at an article Kennard wrote entitled ‘If Israel tried to launch a coup in Turkey, it was a mistake for their interests‘.

Whilst admitting that the full facts are not clear, Kennard is eager to blame Mossad for an attempted coup in Turkey. Based on an interview from the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet with Tuncay Guney, Kennard claims that Mossad were ‘behind an attempted coup in Turkey.’ Yet much of the talk surrounding Guney has involved suspicion of Jewish businessmen in Turkey, with little hard evidence at hand beyond media speculation. Besides, the true identity of Tuncay Guney is far from clear, as this article highlights. Whatever the case, accusing Mossad of plotting a coup against Recep Tayyip Erdogan certainly appears a bizarre springboard for Kennard’s article on Turkish politics.

Neither is it only the Middle East where Kennard appears sketchy on the facts. Here’s his take on Colombia’s cross-border operation in Ecuador to take out FARC combatants, and the bombing of a FARC camp in Ecuador:

In the Wall Street Journal “consolidating authoritarian rule” is what the rest of us call an election. And, similarly, “undermining neighboring U.S ally Colombia” is what they call Colombia bombing the sovereign country of Ecuador and Venezuelan (and the rest of Latin America) condemning this war crime. The Latin American leaders are alive to this terrorist gambit backed by the US government and its media mouthpieces.

Little wonder, perhaps, that Kennard thinks ‘all decent people should support Hamas as the Israelis invade‘, writing:

I have no time for Hamas as a political organization. I’m not religious, so I can’t fathom a group that bases its ideology on the Islamic faith. I do not agree with violence against innocents, so I can’t vouch for a group that uses suicide bombings to murder indiscriminately in crowded cafes. I don’t like racism, so I don’t like a group who’s founding convenant has anti-Semitic rhetoric.

But, despite all this, I wholeheartedly support Hamas as they battle with Israel in Gaza. Is there a contradiction there?

No […]

So presumably for Kennard, it’s not cool for Hamas to fire rockets into Israel as part of an antisemitic worldview and political actions, but once ‘the Israelis invade’, we can all support Hamas. Hooray!

Surely though this is more an attempt at intellectual gymnastics than a serious political analysis. Just as Kennard’s idea that ‘there needs to be a Fifth International workers union,’ which he came up with having just read Zola’s Germinal.

Surprisingly however, Kennard supports Israel’s separation barrier:

Imagine being constantly attacked by death squads of suicide bombers. Imagine living in constant fear every time you got on a bus to go to school or work. And imagine then being denounced by international law courts and liberal opinion across the world for devising a strategy to stop the murderous fanatics from killing your children.

This is the nightmare scenario that Israel and its political establishment have being living through for the past few decades. Under constant threat of death arriving at their doorsteps again, and 800 citizens lighter since 2000, the Israeli government finally said ‘No More’ in 2001 and started building the Security Wall.

It was a fair and just reaction to endless provocation.

Then again, perhaps you won’t be surprised to learn that Kennard here is merely ‘playing devil’s advocate.’ The article is preceded by this sentence:


Well, what can you say to that?