Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Is Your Vote Going to the Henry Jackson Society?

THERE's more to politics than party leaders appearing on television and supporters canvassing for your vote.  Amid all the messages I'm seeing on Facebook concerned with the May 7 general election, and what politicians said or did, comes this posted by an old friend:

Brendan Simms, president of the Henry Jackson Society, will be speaking alongside UKIP's Patrick O'Flynn in favour of Britain leaving the EU, at the New Statesman and Cambridge Literary Festival.
And he provides a link:

I first met Marko Attila Hoare at a Bosnia rally in Trafalgar Square, and got to know him in Workers Aid for Bosnia, which sent aid convoys chiefly to the mining town of Tuzla. Marko also wrote for our paper Workers Press (alas now gone), and now he is the author of several books on Bosnia and its history, particularly during World War II.

Brendan Simms is Cambridge professor of the History of International Relations. I knew his name as the author of Unfinest Hour, which sharply criticised Britain's role in Bosnia, the appeasement of Serb aggression by Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd, and the British army's reluctance to carry out its UN mandate protecting humanitarian aid routes or defending civilians from ethnic cleansing and massacre.

Simms' revulsion from what he called "conservative pessimism" was shared by others, and undoubtedly influenced the formation of the Henry Jackson Society. Taking its name from a US Democrat Senator who believed in asserting US power to promote his ideas of freedom, the Society sought to combine an activist foreign policy and support for democratic values. For some this might seem to echo Robin Cook's call for foreign policy to have a "moral dimension" (Described succinctly as "bollocks" by an anonymous FCO civil servant).

For others, like the signatories of the 'Euston Manifesto', it could mean endorsing US or Israeli wars and denouncing opponents as supporters of dictators like Saddam Hussein or reactionary Islam. The Society's statement of aims stresses the importance of maintaining the military strength of the United States, and Britain in Europe. Asserting that Western liberal democracies are the model for the world to follow, it says that international organisations which include undemocratic regimes have no right to pronounce on human rights issues. (So much for the UN!)

The Henry Jackson Society says it is "A cross-partisan, British-based think tank with a strong British and European commitment towards freedom, liberty, constitutional democracy, human rights, ...".  http://henryjacksonsociety.org/

Others, including former members, don't hesitate to call it neo-conservative or simply right-wing, even 'hard-right'.

 Marko Attila Hoare was Greater Europe Co-Director, then European Neighbourhood Section Director of the Henry Jackson Society from 2005 until 2012. Nowadays strongly critical, he remarks on Brendan Simm's appearence alongside a UKIP MEP to show how much the HJS leadership has moved from its commitment to British leadership in Europe to calling for British exit.  Indeed, Brendan Simms is co-chair of the Brexit-euroexit project and author of Europe: The Struggle for Supremacy.

But it goes further. Raheem Kassam, who was variously described as "Director of Marketing" or "Campaigns Director" for the Henry Jackson Society, is now a senior advisor to UKIP's Nigel Farage.

We have met Mr.Kassam before. He was linked with a story which the BBC and the Jewish Chronicle ran about people at a conference in London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) drowning out a Jewish audience speaker with antisemitic chants. The supposed victim was Zionist Federation chairman Jonathan Hoffman. The BBC eventually withdraw the story after other Jewish people who had been at the conference said it wasn't true, and a recording of the conference contained no antisemitic chants. The Jewish Chronicle took longer to withdraw, but did so after Jewish people involved in the conference went to the Press Complaints Commission over it.

Kassam has been a busy man. Besides being a spokesman for Student Rights, which seems to be a Henry Jackson Society project with not many actual students, he found time to run a Climate Change skeptic campaign called 'Greencease' (geddit?)  More recently with the 'Jihadi John' excitement he was introduced on TV as a "former student" and "expert" on how the ISIS killer's "radicalisation" might have started at the University of Westminster.

Before joining Nigel Farage's entourage, Raheem Kassam was managing director of the London end of Breitbart, a conservative American news agency website noted for its unconservative, creative news stories.  Not even other conservatives are immune from attack.

The Fictitious "Friends of Hamas"

On February 7, 2013,  Breitbart.com in the United States ran a story by Ben Shapiro claiming former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, a nominee for Secretary of Defense, might have been paid to speak at an event sponsored by a group called "Friends of Hamas"  Breitbart.com said that the story was based on "exclusive" information by "Senate sources". The story was repeated by websites, and commented upon by Senator Rand Paul.

But other reporters could not find any evidence that "Friends of Hamas" even existed. On February 19, New York Daily News reporter Dan Friedman said that the story had originated from a sarcastic comment he made to a Congressional staffer.  "Hagel was in hot water for alleged hostility to Israel. So, I asked my source, had Hagel given a speech to, say, the 'Junior League of Hezbollah, in France'? And: What about 'Friends of Hamas'?".  But Breitbart continued to claim its story was from reliable sources, and Friedman was denounced as a hack.

"Democracy"?  But not at home!

In 2012, Marko Attila Hoare, who had known Brendan Simms at Cambridge, and been a founder member of the Henry Jackson Society, decided he'd had enough.
"Earlier this year, I resigned from the Henry Jackson Society (HJS) and requested that my name be removed from its website. The HJS is a UK think-tank frequently described as ‘neoconservative’. It includes among its Trustees Michael Gove, the current Secretary of State for Education, and it is alleged to have influenced the foreign policy of David Cameron and William Hague. It currently serves as a secretariat, at the House of Commons, to the All-Party Parliamentary Groups for Transatlantic and International Security and for Homeland Security. I had held a senior post within this organisation for seven years, first as Greater Europe Co-Director, then as European Neighbourhood Section Director. However, I reluctantly had to face the fact that the HJS has degenerated to the point where it is a mere caricature of its former self. No longer is it a centrist, bipartisan think-tank seeking to promote democratic geopolitics through providing sober, objective and informed analysis to policy-makers. Instead, it has become an abrasively right-wing forum with an anti-Muslim tinge, churning out polemical and superficial pieces by aspiring journalists and pundits that pander to a narrow readership of extreme Europhobic British Tories, hardline US Republicans and Israeli Likudniks. The story of the HJS’s degeneration provides an insight into the obscure backstage world of Conservative politics.

There are three factors that define this degeneration. The first is that almost all the people who founded and established the HJS have either left or been edged out of the organisation. ...

The second factor is that there is absolutely no internal democracy in the HJS, nor any transparency or rules of procedure. Absolutely none whatsoever. Less than in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Probably less than in the Syrian Arab Republic. As someone with an early background in far-left politics, I grew up with groups like the Socialist Workers Party, in which total power is held by one or two leaders, but the totalitarianism is disguised by window-dressing consisting of branch meetings, annual conferences, meetings of the Politburo and the like. Well, the HJS is like that, but without the window-dressing: there isn’t even the pretence of democracy or consultation. Instead, the organisation operates on the basis of cronyism and intrigue. Sole power is held by one individual – Executive Director Alan Mendoza. He was not elected to the post and is not subject even to formal or technical restraints, nor to performance review and renewal of contract.

The third factor is that, although the HJS was intended to be a centrist, bi-partisan organisation, its leadership has now moved far to the right, and abandoned any pretence of being bi-partisan or pro-European (its Associate Director, Douglas Murray, is on record as having stated that ‘the EU is a monstrosity – no good can come of it… The best thing could just simply be for it to be razed to the ground and don’t start again [sic]’).

Alan Mendoza is an ambitious young professional politician of the Conservative Party and a former Tory local councillor in the London Borough of Brent. ... Once he took over the running of the HJS from Rogers and Simms, Mendoza had his hands on all the levers of power within the organisation, of which the most important was control of the website. Mendoza set about converting the HJS into his personal fiefdom, packing its staff with his own apparatchiks recruited via his personal network.

The practice of regular staff meetings was now ended, and staff members were no longer consulted or even informed about major policy or organisational decisions. In practice, Mendoza just did whatever he wanted to, adding or removing staff to and from the website and inventing or erasing their virtual job-titles as and when he felt like it.
 Praise from 'Mad Mel' to Audience with AIPAC

Marko describes how HJS members who differed from the changing line on Europe were sidelined or sat upon.  But he also noted another aspect of Mendoza's takeover.
The people who replaced the HJS founders at the head of the organisation were staff members of another think-tank: the Israel-advocacy organisation ‘Just Journalism’, of which Mendoza was a member of the Advisory Board and which shared the HJS’s London office. At the time of Just Journalism’s launch in March 2008, the Spectator columnist Melanie Phillips wrote of it that ‘A very welcome and desperately-needed initiative has just been launched to monitor distortions, bias and prejudice in British media coverage of the Middle East.’
Neo-con former Daily Mail columnist Melanie Philips acquired a name for linking her support to Israel with Islamophobia.  Her book "Londonistan", claiming Britain was harbouring a "terror" state within was a hit with the far Right, while she became known as "Mad Mel" to many Jewish people, even Zionists.

We can't blame Alan Mendoza for that, but we can for the line he took adressing members of the main Israeli lobby organisation in Washington, AIPAC:
“Immigration is also a reason for rising anti-Israel feelings [in Europe]. In 1998, 3.2 percent of Spain was foreign-born. In 2007, that percent had jumped to 13.4 percent, Mendoza said. In cities such as London, Paris and Copenhagen, 10 percent of residents are Muslim.”
“The European Muslim population has doubled in the past 30 years and is predicted to double again by 2040.
“For all the benefits that immigration has brought, it has been difficult for European countries to absorb immigrants into their society given their failure to integrate newcomers. Regardless of their political views, Muslims in Europe will likely speak out against Israel whenever any Middle Eastern news breaks, just as they will against India in the Kashmir dispute. Their voices are heard well above the average Europeans, who tend not to speak out Mendoza said, adding that the Muslim immigrants do this with full knowledge that they would not be allowed to speak out like that in many Middle Eastern countries.’
This line that European criticism of Israeli actions is solely motivated by fear of Moslems has been widely repeated in US, particularly Murdoch-owned media, which has followed up with stories about parts of British cities becoming entirely Muslim, no-go areas for non-Muslims.

 The HJS website is currently running a piece by Douglas Murray, originally published on March 18 in the Spectator, in defence of Benyamin Netanyahu against criticism. Murray, Associate Director of the Henry Jackson Society, also founded the Centre for Social Cohesion. If that sounds harmless enough, this is what it means, in Douglas Murray's words:

‘Conditions for Muslims in Europe must be made harder across the board: Europe must look like a less attractive proposition. We in Europe owe – after all – no special dues to Islam. We owe them no religious holidays, special rights or privileges. From long before we were first attacked it should have been made plain that people who come into Europe are here under our rules and not theirs. There is not an inch of ground to give on this one. Where a mosque has become a centre of hate it should be closed and pulled down. If that means that some Muslims don’t have a mosque to go to, then they’ll just have to realise that they aren’t owed one. Grievances become ever-more pronounced the more they are flattered and the more they are paid attention to. So don’t flatter them.’

If that sounds like a slightly more articulate version of the lumpen who follow the English Defence League, it should be no surprise that Murray has described the EDL as acceptable, and spoken favourably of Robert Spencer, a leading Islamophobe in the United States who denies the Srebenica massacre.  That's coming full circle from 'Unfinest Hour'.






Alan Mendoza is now the Tory candidate for Brent Central. I trust his views will be made known to voters, even if not by him.

 A top Lib Dem resigned from the Henry Jackson Society.

But several Labour MPs remain members, including the Labour Party leader in Scotland, Jim Murphy, who is on the Society's Political Council. .  If he has resigned from it, I will be happy to apologise and record that.

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