Hard News by Russell Brown

Strange World

The newswires are full of the Israeli raid on the Palestinian prison in Jericho, and its inevitable aftermath. The operation involved the capture of imprisoned PLF figure Ahmed Sa'adat and others thought to be complicit in the assassination of Israeli Cabinet minister Rehavam Zeevi in 2001. I know a little about Zeevi as a consequence of research for this Listener column from last year.

Zeevi's Moledet party was part of a governing Israeli coalition, despite his longtime support for the ethnic cleansing of the Occupied Territories and his extraordinary description of Arabs as "lice" and a "cancer". He also once declared that Israeli should lay claim to Jordan. The PLF claimed that his killing was in retaliation for the targeted assassination of PLF general secretary Abu Ali Mustafa in the same year. Sa'dat had been held in the prison on the order of the Palestinian Authority since 2002, in defiance of a decision by the Palestinian High Court that there was no legal basis for his imprisonment.

The PLF deserves as much revulsion as any other party to the conflict for its slaughter of innocents. But it seems a shame that two prison guards had to die in the name of a racist scumbag like Zeevi. And there's a certain irony in Sa'dat's snatching from prison at a time when the Israeli security forces insist on musing publicly about assassinating the Prime Minister of the elected Palestinian government. This new move hardly looks likely to woo Hamas into renouncing violence: quite the reverse on the evidence of the hours since the raid. And it seems unlikely that the Israelis will extend to Sa'dat the remarkable kindness recently conferred on the Israeli citizen who murdered his Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin. It's a strange world.

Elsewhere, Robo at NZBC looks at Francis Fukuyama's change of mind on neoconservativism: does that guy like to have his cake and eat, or what? But, like Rob, I did like this quote:

Going further, he says the movements' advocates are Leninists who "believed that history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will. Leninism was a tragedy in its Bolshevik version, and it has returned as farce when practised by the United States".

I've mused before on the parallels between today's conservative zealots and the Western revolutionary socialists of the 70s and early 80s. There's the same, determined preference for doctrine over reality (I think their fondness of accusing anyone to the left of Ghengis Khan of being a "Marxist" is a kind of projection), the same blind loyalty to foreign power. They may now be entering the "splitters!" phase.

I've been enjoying Lefties, Sheila Jeffreys' three-part doco for the BBC, which looks back affectionately and with bemusement at the British radical left movement of the 70s and 80s. Those involved largely were, and apparently remain, good folk, but there are many what were they thinking? moments, especially in the 'Angry Wimmin' episode. The Beeb has a useful homepage for the series, with clips from each episode and interviews with the director. It's much too interesting to be considered for broadcast here, but there are torrents about for two of the three episodes.

I'll never forget one of my flatmates (well, squatmates) in London bringing back home one of those people who used to sell socialist newspapers outside the Tube station in the mid-80s. I'd never met such a prick. He addressed himself almost entirely to me (I'm always up for an argument about ideas) ignoring both his doormat of a girlfriend and Sally, my flatmate. I bailed up Sally about it after they'd left, but she insisted he was alright, really. No, he wasn't. If he was typical of his comrades, I could understand why the radical feminists wanted their own thing. The capacity of radicals for being brutes amongst their own is quite remarkable.

Meanwhile, Christopher Allbritton sorts out one of the neo-Leninists, a New York Post columnist (and winger celeb) Ralph Peters, who recently filed a report from Iraq full of doozies like: "The Iraqi Army has confounded its Western critics, performing extremely well last week. And the people trust their new army to an encouraging degree." Yes, comrade, and the Five Year Plan is coming along nicely ...

Less fanciful - and more disturbing - accounts of events in Iraq can be obtained via Today in Iraq. The Guardian has a story revealing that the British government knew very early on that things were going pear-shaped in Iraq, and a column entitled We Were Right to Invade Iraq, by Oliver Kamm. It's something of an indictment that the paper had to resort to a mildly crazed commentator like Kamm to put the case. "The absence of WMD was a huge intelligence failure," he grants, "so it is fortunate that we are no longer reliant on Saddam's word." And perhaps, although he doesn't say so, most unfortunate that tens of thousands of innocent people had to lose their lives in pursuit of that comforting certainty.

Also, an eloquent apology from John Howard about the whole Iraq business. Not exactly official, of course …

And on another note entirely, reader Graeme Beasley notes Sportsfreak's wrap-up of the Fleming-Richardson affair.