Racism Rears its Ugly Head

•January 29, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Some of the four-year long build up to the European Championships held this year in Poland and Ukraine has focused on the racist abuse black players might receive at the hands of East European fans. In the Champions League and Europa Cup, we’ve seen black players from British teams being racially abused in ways that we haven’t seen in the British Leagues since the 1980s. This has mainly happened in East European countries, although a few times in Spain. We had been proud of our record in managing to kick a lot of the overt elements of racism out of our game. It was no longer deemed acceptable to make monkey noises or throw bananas on the pitch. 

But this season has seen racism rear its ugly head not only off the pitch but also on the pitch. The long campaign to kick racism out of footballer seems to have undermined, mainly by two instances on the pitch. The racist abuse of Patrice Evra by Luis Suarez and the alleged racist abuse of Anton Ferdinand by John Terry. Luis Suarez has already been found guilty by the FA and is currently serving a nine match ban. The allegations against John Terry are still being investigated by the police.

The fans of each club have fervently jumped to the defence of their players. In the case of Luis Suarez, it’s a cultural misunderstanding. In Uruguay, the word ‘negro’ is fine to hurl at a black player. I’ve had this argument several times over Twitter with Liverpool fans. The only argument I seem to have heard so far from Chelsea fans is that John Terry is a ‘legend’, although this doesn’t mean he cannot be racist at the same time.

We now have the situation where fans of both clubs have been accused of racist abuse whether it be the racist chanting that allegedly took place on a train back from Norwich from Chelsea fans or the racist abuse that police are currently questioning a man about after yesterday’s Liverpool v Man Utd match. Racism seems to firmly be back in the public spotlight and from our own fans, something we are meant to have stamped out. 

I lay some of the blame with both Liverpool and Chelsea football clubs. They have vehemently defended their players accused. I understand that you have to back your players and that you have to show support in them but I don’t understand trivalising racism to do so. The Suarez t-shirts worn by the Liverpool players were frankly disturbing. It seemed to give off the message that it’s ok for a player to racially abuse another because he’s one of ours. 

The argument that a lot of Liverpool fans have used to me is that Suarez didn’t realise that it was racist to say ‘negro’ to Evra. If that is the case then don’t try and play it off as ok. Back the Professional Footballer’s Association new scheme to teach foreign players coming into the English leagues what constitutes as racism here. That way racism is continued to be treated seriously. Don’t boo the player who was the victim just because he plays for Man Utd and therefore, somehow, deserved it.

At Anfield yesterday, the atmosphere was so poisonous that BBC Radio 5 were actively hoping that there wouldn’t be a replay. Normally, football pundits would love to see high profile matches played as many times as allowed. It’s a disturbing state of affairs when football becomes so tribalised that it becomes acceptable for racism to take place on the field if by one of your players. It then spreads the message to your fans racism will be tolerated We cannot allow this to continue. 



This Christmas spare a thought for the Palestinian Christians

•December 24, 2011 • Leave a Comment

On BBC Radio 4’s the Today programme the other week, they covered a debate in the House of Lords which discussed the position of Arab Christian communities in the Middle East after the various revolutions, with particular emphasis on Egypt’s Coptic community. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks spoke passionately about his fears for Egypt’s Christians after the elections where the Muslim Brotherhood did so well. There was no mention, however, of the Christian community that comes under daily attack in the Holy Land. Indeed, I doubt Jonathan Sacks would be as interested in the plight of this community as their oppressors aren’t Muslims but the state of Israel, for whom he is a regular apologist.

Whilst you start your Christmas festivities this year, spare a thought for the Palestinian Christians. If Mary were alive today and trying to find a place to lay her head, she wouldn’t get into Bethlehem because it’s almost cut off from the rest of the West Bank, surrounded on three sides by a massive concrete apartheid wall. She, Joseph and donkey would have to pass through hundreds of checkpoints on their way. They would often be kept waiting for hours. If Mary went into labour and needed to get through a checkpoint to go to a hospital, there’s no guarantee she would be allowed to pass. Many Palestinian women are forced into the humiliation of giving birth at Israeli checkpoints, in the back of cars, under the eyes of Israeli soldiers. Often, babies don’t survive this start in life.

The Christian communities of Nazareth, Jerusalem and Bethlehem are cut off from each other. Nazareth is part of the borders of 1948 Israel, Jerusalem was illegally annexed in 1967 and Bethlehem has been occupied since then as well. In an effort to turn Jerusalem Jewish, access to the holy sites are denied to the majority of Palestinians. This includes the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for Palestinian Christians.

In an effort to prove the history and heritage of ancient Jewish Israel, the archaeology of later centuries is disregarded and often destroyed by Israel. It wouldn’t do to prove that there is a rich, non-Jewish history for the land. That belies the Zionist claims that Israel is a “land without people for a people without land”. It would also show ideas of Zionists “making the desert bloom” are a complete lie. Early Christian archaeology is as disregarded as it’s Palestinian communities.

The threat for Palestinian Christians doesn’t lie with Islamists but with Israel, who are keen to destroy them as they are their Palestinian Muslim counterparts. To cleanse the Holy Land of their Christians is an aim of Zionism and, sadly, international leaders collaborate with them. Newt Gingrich, a Republican presidency candidate in the US, recently called the Palestinians an invented people. Many of his voters are from right-wing churches who seek a candidate who represents their Christian values. The Palestinian Christians would not recognise these values as they undermine their right to live in the Holy Land. Many churches across the USA fund and politically support Israel. In doing so, they destroy the ancient Christian communities that have lived in Palestine since the time of Jesus. That is a tragedy for Christianity.

Media coverage of Israel/Palestine: The Shalit case

•October 12, 2011 • Leave a Comment

The media has been covering in detail the news that Hamas and Israel have reached an agreement to swap one thousand Palestinian prisoners for Gilad Shalit. This coverage has once again thrown into sharp contrast the way the two countries are reported by UK media outlets.

Gilad Shalit has been the major story. There has been extensive coverage of the what the average Israeli thinks about his release, what his family and supporters think about his release and what the Israeli government have given up to achieve his release. Much emphasis is placed on Shalit being the ‘boy next door’ and the ‘son of every Israeli’ who was just ‘doing his job’ when he was cruelly kidnapped by Hamas. This is the emotion in the story, the shy boy from Israel who is finally coming home to a hero’s welcome. We are all encouraged to sympathise with his plight and that of his family. As a mother I do, I’d be devastated if my son was held hostage for five years. I’d be even more devastated if my child was arrested for nothing and then held indefinitely or until they can be part of a prisoner swap to release an Israeli solder.

The Palestinian story is tacked on the end. Some of the more reputable media outlets may even include an interview with a family member of one of the Palestinian prisoners who will be released. The role of the Palestinian story is to highlight that this prisoner swap is a political coup for Hamas. An increasingly unpopular party needs a seeming victory to make it relevant in light of Mahmoud Abbas and the bid for Palestinian statehood. There is no emotional story for the public to invest in. No stories of political prisoners, how long they have been kept in Israeli detention for or indeed how many aren’t actually even guilty of anything other than being Palestinian.

This is symptomatic of the way in which the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is reported by the UK media. We are encouraged to empathise with Israelis but Palestinians remain strange and alien to us. Each time an Israeli is hurt by a Palestinian, it is international news and highlights the need for security for Israelis before peace can be achieved (and other cliches) but Israeli settlers running down Palestinian school children and terrorising farmers is never mentioned. That would muddy the waters of how we are supposed to feel.

There is no mention either that Gilad Shalit was a occupying soldier when he was capture by Hamas. This would destroy the image of him being a shy, boy next door. Neither are the number of Palestinian children held in Israeli prisons brought up. The idea of the Israeli Defence Force being the most moral army in the world could be called into question if footage of them arresting 8-year-old boys was aired.

The coverage of Gilad Shalit and the Palestinian prisoner swap is just another case in a long line of media stories where Israelis are presented as human and Palestinians are just an overwhelming number looking to over-run this poor, defenceless nation.

The shameful truth the riots have uncovered

•August 13, 2011 • 1 Comment

The United Kingdom prides itself on its long-standing tradition of civil liberties and respect for human rights. It is what (supposedly) makes us different from less civilised areas of the world and (apparently) gives us the ‘authority’ to enforce these values on other countries. However, the furore in the aftermath of the riots that spread across England over this last week has ripped the veneer off our society and shown how many Britons appear to only respect such values when applied uncontroversially.

The populist mantra to evict families of rioters and take away any benefits that said families receive have been pounced upon by a government that is looking for an excuse to not only destroy the welfare state but to curtail our civil liberties and apply human rights only to the ‘deserving’. The public seem to be lapping this up convinced that it makes us tough on rioters and the causes of riots.

When the House of Commons was recalled for an emergency session on Thursday, our Prime Minister used his statement to encourage councils and landlords to evict any tenants and their families who had played a role in the rioting and looting. The House loudly cheered this across both benches. The first eviction orders have been given to a family in Wandsworth who have a member who was part of the riots.  This is being reported by our media as if it is par for the course and not a disgusting example of collective punishment that makes a mockery of our judicial system.

Not content with making an example of the looters, our government, both national and local, seems determined to make an example of their families too. Punishment, so it seems, for not being able to exercise greater control over their members (children or not). What baffles me is how such action is going to improve the situation so no such riots break out again (or at least for a long time).

For the last week, we have been bombarded with the idea that the people out on the street form an “under-class”, a sub-section of humanity who live in deprived areas, have no education and live in extreme poverty. Apparently they have a lack of authority at home and a lack of respect to institutional forms of authority. This message has confusingly been mixed in with ideas of opportunistic criminals and feral children who highlight our “sick society”. However, the truth is far more complicated. Those up in court have included professionals such as graphic designers and teachers. And despite the attempts of the BNP, EDL and other racists such as historian David Starkey to paint them otherwise, the riots were multi-racial as were the victims.

Attempts to blame a ‘sub-class’ of society is to ignore the uncomfortable truth that our society is riven by inequality, rampant consumerism and feelings of impunity. Why should ordinary citizens respect the law when our MPs, police and media disregard it for their own gains, whether fiddling expenses or bribing police officers for the contact details of dead teenagers.  The de-politicisation of our society through celebrity worship has come at a price which was highlighted by the severe looting during the riots. This was not like the riots in the 1980s against discrimination and racism.

Before I get accused of being a navel gazing, hand-wringing, bleeding heart liberal, I feel no desire to excuse looting, the loss of life or livelihoods of many ordinary people. But I refuse to turn into a Daily Mail columnist for a week, foaming at the mouth in my outrage, demanding greater police powers, the army on the streets and collective punishment for families. I’m happy to see those accused of murder, arson and looting to go up before the courts but for me that is where the buck stops. I feel no desire to see whole families on the streets, children being punished for the crimes of their older siblings or parents. I’d rather we spent more money on youth groups, mentoring schemes and more, properly paid and trained social workers to support families who may have troublesome children. So if this makes me a bleeding heart liberal in your view then I guess I am proud to be one. I do not wish to see human rights being treated as if they are a luxury and not a right for all.

Tired of BBC censorship of Palestine?

•May 31, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Tired of BBC censorship of Palestine and the deeply patronising ‘responses’ you receive when complaining of their impartial coverage of the conflict?

Well here is something you can do that will challenge their censorship policy, doesn’t require you moving from your desk and only costs 79p. Download War on Want’s charity single “Freedom for Palestine” and get it into the top 30 of the UK singles chart.

You can pre-order the single from today and can preview the track here.

The media cult of Anjam Choudhury

•May 24, 2011 • Leave a Comment

A couple of weekends ago, a BBC programme called the Big Question aired an episode titled “Does Britain have a problem with Muslims”. I’m not going to write about this programme as Islamophobia Watch already have. I am concerned that the programme’s editors seriously considered inviting Anjam Choudhury onto the panel and Nicky Campbell actually read out a statement from him.

The media obsession with Choudhury is becoming ridiculous. His PR stunts receive widespread media coverage and he is often interviewed or quoted in many reports regarding Muslims. He represents a tiny minority of Muslims who hold abhorrent views that the vast majority of Muslims reject. There is no justification for the media giving him this much attention. However, they do so because it serves an agenda for them. He is sensationalist and sells newspapers. But he also divides the Muslim community off from mainstream British society which anti-immigration media outlets like because it highlights the ‘perils’ of immigration.

The seeming need for him to be included in every programme or article about Muslims is disheartening for the Muslim community. He is as representative as the BNP or EDL are of British society. Imagine the outcry if Nick Griffin was as widely interviewed by foreign news outlets and used to explain Britain.

Orientalist trends on covering Palestine

•May 18, 2011 • 2 Comments

After Sunday’s Nakba protests turned violent on three separate fronts, a journalist on twitter asked whether throwing stones was good for the Palestinian “brand”. Whether the journalist was looking to blame Palestinians for the violence or not, this type of question highlights the orientalist way in which Palestine is covered by a lot of western news outlets.

There is no examination of the Israeli psyche or questioning whether over a dozen dead on 3 different fronts is bad for the Israeli “brand”. No, its looking specifically at the ‘violence’ directed at the IDF by Palestinian youths throwing stones. And this is fairly typical. The western media is transfixed by Palestinian minds, actions and deeds. A common question asked is why is there no Palestinian Gandhi. Gandhi was oriental so why can’t oriental Palestine find their version. Gandhi is the oriental ‘we’ like.

The emphasis on breaking the cycle of violence is generally placed on Palestinian shoulders from stone throwing to home-made rockets. If Palestinians could just stop doing this, says the media and politicians, then a peace settlement could be reached. This equates Palestinians as the problem. They are the irrational, violent, unreasonable factor. If they could just rid themselves of this trait and find a Gandhi then everything would be fine despite all the evidence showing that the Israeli establishment does not wish for peace but wants expansion instead.

But this orientalist trend is not only present in how violence is reported but also in how grief is shown. When we see Palestinians mourning their dead, we are shown shots of angry chanting at funeral processions, we focus on the dead persons female relatives with their wailing and face clawing. In stark contrast, Israelis are shown mourning in a familiar ‘western’ way – dressed in dark suits and standing dignified at a graveside. There is no face clawing just a tear trickling down the cheek in a more ‘acceptable’ form of grief.

Palestine and Israel too are shot in different ways. To show Palestine, we see rubbish strewn streets, donkeys pulling carts, women covered up and lots children roaming the streets. A chaotic scene at odds with the ‘western’ lifestyle of beaches, cafes and clubs used for Israel. Even the illegal settlements are shown to have a familiar homelike quality. Neat houses with lawns and children playing out the front on their bikes. No grubby kids here swarming towards the camera pleased when you give them a sweet.

This very much presents an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ psychology in the minds of the viewer. Palestinians are alien, strange and vaguely threatening. Their mindset is impenetrable. Their actions are incomprehensible. All this reinforces the idea that if Palestinians could just be more like ‘us’ then peace could be easily achieved.

No emphasis is placed on Israel’s actions. They after all belong to the superior ‘western’ culture. Their lifestyle is ‘ours’ and is what Palestinians should be striving to achieve. They fight with an army like the West and not with a radical militia who strap bombs to themselves or with youths who throw lethal stones.

Which takes us back to the question posted on twitter, is stone throwing bad for the Palestinian ‘brand’ and why is there no Palestinian Gandhi? Try breaking out of that cycle in you can.