by Joseph W
The Guardian reports on a meeting last week in London, in which the New Statesman hosted Julian Assange for a debate about the impact of Wikileaks on global politics. This was Assange’s first public appearance speaking about Wikileaks since being placed under house arrest in December.
Given his apparent fondness for British libel laws and Eastern European dictatorships, Assange was easy pickings for London’s liberal journalists and thinkers:
But the political commentator Douglas Murray, director of the centre for social cohesion, challenged Assange over the website’s sources of funding, its staffing and connections with the Holocaust denier Israel Shamir, who has worked with the site.
“What gives you the right to decide what should be known or not? Governments are elected. You, Mr Assange are not.”
Murray also challenged the WikiLeaks founder over an account in a book by Guardian writers David Leigh and Luke Harding, in which the authors quote him suggesting that if informants were to be killed following publication of the leaks, they “had it coming to them”.
Assange repeated an earlier assertion that the website “is in the process of suing the Guardian” over the assertion, and asked if Murray would like to “join the queue” of organisations he was suing.
The Guardian has not received any notification of such action from WikiLeaks or its lawyers.
Jason Cowley, the editor of the New Statesman and chair of the debate, interjected to ask: “How can the great champion of open society be using our libel laws to challenge the press?”
When you factor in that Wikileaks paid a neo-Nazi to hand over cables to a dictator, it is impossible to take the organisation seriously as a voice for internet freedom. Or any kind of freedom, really.
I think if we’re serious about internet freedom, then instead of wheeling out Assange before liberal journalists, the Left should be hosting people like Uladzmir Nikljaeu.
Nikljaeu is a Belarussian dissident who has had his internet taken away from him since Wikileaks began collaborating with Lukashenko on a series of secret documents designed to shame the democratic opposition for “colluding” with the USA.
Wikileaks find it hard to answer questions about their ties to Israel Shamir.
When Private Eye wrote an article about Shamir, Julian Assange imagined there was a conspiracy of Jewish journalists and documentary makers, controlling all the negative press about Shamir and Wikileaks.
This conspiracy included David Leigh, the deputy editor of the Guardian, who also wrote a book about Wikileaks with Luke Harding. Stephen Spielberg’s company has purchased the film rights to Leigh and Harding’s book, for a much-anticipated Wikileaks movie.
Last month, David Leigh was in Norway for a debate among journalists about Wikileaks. After an hour of discussions, Leigh confronted Wikileaks’ new spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson about Wikileaks’ ties to Israel Shamir. Leigh told Hrafnsson he is “ashamed” of him.
What do you make of the Guardian’s deputy editor calling out Wikileaks for associating with known anti-Semites, Holocaust deniers and cheerleaders for dictatorships?
Watch what happens from 62:40:
Audience member: Recently there was an alarming report from Index on Censorship that Israel Shamir had given the full cable trunk from Minsk in Belarus to the state media, to President Lukashenko, the last despot of Europe. Is that true and what have you done with this fact?
Kristinn Hrafnsson: I think you’re referring to the allegation that one of the hundreds, if not thousands of journalists had passed these documents to the government in Belarus. That is unfounded. There’s been no confirmation of that. The government of Belarus has not had the papers. We have been working with Index since then, through contacts. But interesting you should mention that particular name because it has had quite a high prominence and a lot of interest, for some reason, that one journalist out of hundreds, if not thousands that we have been associated with. [It’s interesting that there have] been so many questions raised about that. His views are certainly controversial, but his views are not those of Wikileaks.
An outright denial from Hrafnsson, despite all the evidence.
Leigh, rightly, calls out Hrafnsson on this. I have transcribed most of their argument, but you really should watch it. Really, this has to be seen to be believed.
David Leigh: May I speak? I think it is completely disgraceful that Kristinn should take that attitude. Israel Shamir is a notorious anti-Semite who has published statements that the media of the United States is controlled by Jews, and the majority of the media in Great Britain is controlled by Jews. He has also published articles saying President Lukashenko of Belarus is a wise father of his people, even though he locks up the opposition and then tortures them, and this man is a disgrace to journalism and a criminal and an anti-Semite whom Julian sought out three years ago, and has turned over sensitive cables about Eastern Europe and about the Jews, as Shamir asked him to, and now pretends that doesn’t have a relationship with him. I think when you say that the Wikileaks cables have been given over to trusted journalistic sources, you are saying something quite disgraceful and something quite untrue.
KH: Well David that’s your opinion.
DL: It’s not an opinion it’s a statement of fact, and I have the documents to prove it. You know full well that this man Shamir has written anti-Semitic material saying the world is controlled by the Jews.
[Assange said in two interviews that] the people who criticised Shamir belong to a conspiracy of Jewish journalists which included me, and I should say, that Julian is so foolish that his Jewish conspiracy included four people who are not even Jewish!
KH: The Private Eye editor was writing this from memory…
DL: No, the Private Eye editor I have spoken to about this, he took detailed notes at the time. For you try to talk your way out of this is disgraceful in a hall full of professional journalists committed to free speech, honest journalism and truthfulness. You should be ashamed of yourself!
DL: Why did you give the cables to Israel Shamir, a known anti-Semite and crook, who sold them to people he writes propaganda for in the Kremlin and Belarus? Why did Julian Assange give those cables to a disgraceful person?
KH: There was no selling of material.
DL: Why did he give them to him?
KH: Are you saying he was selling material?
DL: I’m saying he gave the cables to this man Shamir.
KH: This is part of an ongoing thing, somebody has been selling off material and he has been profiting from material…
DL: Julian Assange gave the cables to this man Shamir. True or false? Yes or no?
KH: Yes of course. He is a journalist who has contributed to…
DL: He’s not a journalist he’s an anti-Semite propagandist!
KH: He has contributed to Russian media…
DL: Would you like me to produce the material where he says the world is dominated by the Jews? Where he says US media is dominated by the Jews? Is this the kind of person Wikileaks should be associated with? Is this in the name of democracy? You won’t get out of this by insulting me!
It’s not alright to associate with anti-Semites, and to talk about Jewish conspiracies in a gathering of professional journalists.
KH: I have not got into the writings of Israel Shamir and studied his writing…
DL: Julian refuses to disassociate himself from this man and so do you! I’m ashamed of you! Why won’t you dissociate yourself from anti-Semites?
KH: Well I’m ashamed of you David.
DL: You won’t do it!