Steve Bannon hates foreigners, but supports foreign-born racists

Steve Bannon, the former chief strategist for the Trump administration and ultra-rightist political operator, made a telling remark in his speech at the congress of the anti-immigrant National Front in France. Bannon was the surprise keynote speaker at the French far-right party’s congress last month. He was touring several European nations to support far-right parties on that continent.

In his address to the National Front congress, Bannon stated the following:

Let them call you racist. Let them call you xenophobes. Let them call you nativists. Wear it as a badge of honour.

He also praised his former boss, current US president Donald Trump, even though Bannon has criticised him since returning to Breitbart magazine. He ended his speech with ‘God bless America’ and ‘Vive la France.’

There is no mistaking the openly fascistic nature of Bannon’s political outlook. A former US Navy officer, he went on to become an executive at the investment firm of Goldman Sachs. He founded and expanded Breitbart, a magazine that has become the rallying platform for white supremacist, neo-Nazi and ultra-rightist followers around the United States. Bannon was the chief strategist for the Trump presidential campaign, and served to channel Alternative Right figures, billionaires and ex-generals into the ranks of the subsequent Trump presidency.

Bannon, through Breitbart news magazine, embraced the fascist thinkers of the past – such as Oswald Spengler and Julius Evola. The Alternative Right traces its ideological ancestry to these philosophers, among others. However, it is Bannon’s most recent comment about wearing the label racist as a ‘badge of honour’ that deserves more examination. By making this comment, Bannon revealed not only the ideology of the Alt-Right, but also the ideas at the core of Western civilisation. Bannon is a racist who hates foreigners, but he wholeheartedly supports foreigners who are racist.

Professor Hamid Dabashi, over at Columbia University, wrote that Bannon has spilled the beans, so to speak, regarding the core values of Western civilisation. Bannon’s obnoxious claim to wear racism as a ‘badge of honour’ may be an extreme statement, but not outside the mainstream of Western intellectual thought. Dabashi writes:

Steve Bannon is the heart of racist America. He is the heart of racist Europe. He is the very heart and mind of the very foundation of what they call “Western Civilisation,” which has never had anything but racist contempt for the world.

Dabashi correctly observes that Bannon is simply the thuggish, street-brawler version of Niall Ferguson, Bernard Lewis, Samuel Huntington – academics whose work has fed into the entrenched white supremacy at the heart of Western civilisation. In fact, scholars are very adept at maintaining a white nationalist perspective of history and culture.

It is not surprising that Bannon found a kindred spirit in the French National Front and its leader, Marine Le Pen. Anti-Semitism, and strident support for Israel, are features shared by the two political operators. Breitbart News regularly regurgitates anti-Semitic ideas and various conspiracy theories. Le Pen, both Marine and her father, have recycled anti-Semitic tropes in their political campaigning, and have downplayed or denied the responsibility of the pro-Nazi Vichy France in the genocide of the Jews.

Actually, by building alliances with anti-immigrant and fascistic parties across the Atlantic, Bannon is following in the footsteps of his ideological ancestors. During the 1930s and 40s, pro-fascist volunteers willingly cooperated with and supported Nazi Germany, the latter being the prime example of a viciously racist and expansionist political state. Volunteers from the Baltic states, Finland, France, Croatia, the Balkans, Hungary – flocked to the German state to fight alongside its armed forces. Birds of a feather flock together – while despising foreigners, fascist internationalism serves to unite politically similar forces.

Does this indicate that I am motivated by homicidal hatred of each and every white person? No, it does not. You cannot get anywhere or achieve anything with hate. Does this mean that Western civilisation and all its accomplishments must be consigned to the rubbish bin? No, it does not. Am I suggesting that each and every white Christian person is a secret neo-fascist waiting for the opportunity to reveal their true colours? No, I am not suggesting that at all. I am opposed to the advocacy of white privilege. If you uncertain about what that means, please read this article here – the author of which is white South African.

What I am advocating is the teaching of world civilisations, and not exclusively focus on the Western. The latter does not sit atop a hierarchical order of previous civilisations, but is the product of multiple multicultural influences and has absorbed lessons from peoples and cultures that preceded it. Isaac Newton was an eminent British scientist and professor of natural philosophy. He deserves all the accolades and honours he receives, and Britain can rightly be proud of this influential physicist and mathematician.

However, centuries prior to Newton, there was a polymath scientist and experimenter, who not only revolutionised the field of science, but also began the way towards the field of optics – Ibn al-Haytham, sometimes Latinised as Al-Hazen. A product of the Islamic Golden Age, he was one of the earliest proponents of the experimental method.

This is not to suggest that Islam is superior to Christianity or other religions, but to illustrate how our view of world history, science and philosophy is distorted by the lens of what we call Western civilisation. In fact, there is no such thing as ‘Judeo-Christian civilisation‘ – a subject to which we shall return in the next article. Promoting such an interpretation is not just an academic exercise, but has real political ramifications for today.

The concept of Western civilisation may have been useful in the past, but it has definitely reached its expiration date. The resurgence of anti-immigrant populism was not only constructed by Trump, Bannon, Farage and their ilk, but also by scholars such as Niall Ferguson, who has mounted a rearguard defence of the white British empire, and the late Samuel Huntington, who popularised the anaemic ‘clash of civilisations‘ thesis.

In Australia, we pride ourselves on our multiculturalism and inclusivity, and while great strides have been made, the gap between our self-image of a racially egalitarian pluralistic society and the reality is still great. As long as this perspective of Western civilisation remains unchallenged, there will be more constituents flocking to Steve Bannon.

Dutton, South African farmers and sanctuary for white racial brethren

The Australian Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton, declared that Australia should organise fast-track humanitarian visas for white South African farmers. He made this offer in March this year. Immigration falls within the purview of the Home Affairs ministry, which Dutton has led since its creation in 2017. Immigration has been transformed into a security issue with the foundation of this Home Affairs department.

Dutton’s specific offer to resettle white South African farmers rests on claims that this group faces persecution and brutality at the hands of South Africa’s post-apartheid government. His outreach to white racial brethren stands in stark contrast to the Australian government’s longstanding practice of forcibly detaining – and repatriating – refugees and persecuted people from the non-white nations of the world. The Australian government is currently forcibly repatriating displaced Rohingya refugees – an ethnic and religious minority from Burma which is facing systematic ethnic cleansing in that country.

Dutton’s racialised sympathy for white farmers is nothing new in Australia’s history. Back in 2000, the Western Australian branch of the Liberal party voiced similar offers of sanctuary to white farmers from Zimbabwe – another case of supposed persecution of a white minority from a former British colony. The notion of “white genocide” which underlies such racialised solidarity is a major talking point of the Alternative Right. Dutton has done his best to give such myths respectability and oxygen in the media.

Jason Wilson, writing in the Guardian newspaper, states that forging white kinship is necessary in maintaining Australia as a kind of white nationalist garrison, surrounded by hordes of non-whites greedily eyeing our riches. Lurid and gory tales of white farmers being massacred and brutalised in sadistic ways helps to sustain a white supremacist vision of us as a civilised presence amidst the non-white barbarian masses.

Dutton has taken the “white genocide” hysteria from the playbook of the Alternative Right, and made it mainstream and given it credibility. Dutton referred to Australia as civilised, in contrast to South Africa, when making his call for sanctuary. A slur not only on South Africa, but on black Africa in general, the South African government demanded that Dutton apologise for his comments.

Bruce Haigh is a former Australian diplomat who was posted to South Africa in the 1970s, during the years of apartheid. He has written an informative article for Independent Australia, responding to some of the falsehoods and hyperbole surrounding the issue of white farmers. Have their been attacks on white farmers? Absolutely. Is there a “white genocide”? No, there is not. South Africa does have a sadly high rate of homicide; each murder an individual tragedy. Haigh writes that homicidal violence, while horrifying, is not disproportionately directed against the white farming community:

South Africa has a population of 56 million. In 2016-17, 19,000 murders were committed of which 74 occurred on farms — of these, 60% were white farmers, their families and/or friends, 34% were black workers and 5% were of Asian origin. There were 49 deaths in 2015-16. 72% of agricultural land is owned by white farmers with whites comprising 8% of the population. South Africa ranks tenth in the world in relation to violent deaths, Jamaica ranks sixth and Brazil 16th — with a population of 200 million there were 65,000 murders in 2012.

The main victims of homicidal violence in South Africa are young black persons. The implicit assumption of the “white genocide” myth is that violent crime increased substantially since the end of apartheid in 1994 – not true. The homicide rate is not higher today than it ever was – it is comparable to what it was in the 1970s. Many white farmers have not accepted political change. Many emigrated to Australia where they have found sympathetic voices. Concerns about crime mask the underlying opposition to social and economic changes. Australia has provided refuge for those white South Africans who choose to live in the past.

Sisonke Msimang is a South African writer who divides her time between South Africa and Australia. In an article for the Washington Post, she wrote that over the years, the phrase ‘going to Australia’ was code for ‘you can be racist’. Australia has been built up as a white supremacist fantasy, where the Indigenous nations are near invisible. Since the end of apartheid, Australia has welcomed white South Africans who do not wish to live in equitable and democratic relationships with black Africans.

This is not the first time that Dutton has made racist remarks. His selective sympathy for white racial brethren matches his contempt for non-white ethnic and religious groups. In 2016, he suggested that Australia made a mistake in allowing Lebanese Muslims into the country. Msimang, in her article, compares Dutton’s politics to that of Donald Trump. Certainly, both politicians share an anti-immigrant outlook. But I think the comparison, while appealing, is incorrect.

Dutton is an example of the UKIP-ization of Australian politics. Australian politics in many ways follows that of Great Britain – the creation of the Home Affairs ministry being one example. Dutton is not the Trump of Australia – he is our Enoch Powell. The latter was an anti-immigration Tory politician, who railed against what he believed was an influx of non-British immigrants.

Powell gave his ‘Rivers of Blood‘ speech in 1968, denouncing what he viewed as mass immigration into Britain from the Commonwealth countries as a threat to Britain’s culture and security. Dutton, in his own way, is promoting a Powellite vision for Australia, portraying non-white refugees and immigrants as a hostile force, unable to assimilate into our white Anglocentric sanctuary.

Dutton’s outreach to the white farmers and offer of sanctuary has deep roots in Australian history. We cannot blame the Alternative Right exclusively for his vision. His description of Australia as a ‘civilised nation’ rescuing the supposedly besieged South African white community continues the equation of white identity with civilisational values. Jon Piccini, a research fellow at the University of Queensland, details how Australia and white South Africa have cooperated as members of a white fraternity.

Since the 1940s and 1950s, both Australia and white South Africa worked together to oppose decolonisation, thwart anti-apartheid activities, and protect restrictive and racist immigration policies from the review of international bodies. Sympathy for white South Africans, the Afrikaners, was evident even during the Anglo-Boer war.

A kind of white racial fraternity was forged during that conflict, even though Australians (at the time still unfederated British colonies) were fighting alongside English soldiers. Mutual hostility to the blacks, white settler colonialism, the dispossession of the indigenous nations – these were common traits between these military opponents.

John Marnell, copyeditor at Overland magazine and a researcher at the African Centre for Migration, wrote a thoughtful piece called “South Africa: where ‘Australia’ is code for racist.” He writes of the need to change the way we interact with non-white nations. Instead of seeing tidal waves of greedy black Africans mowing down white farmers, Australia needs to confront its own white-washed version of indigenous dispossession and colonisation. We need to stop seeing ourselves as part of a white racial fraternity, and start acting like responsible global citizens. Let us abandon paranoid and grotesque fantasies of “white genocide”, and instead treat refugees and asylum seekers with humanity and respect.

The Florida shooting, domestic terrorism and the ultra-right insurgency

The mass shooting last month, at a high school in Parkland, Florida, has raised serious questions about the underlying causes of such a malignant event. Mass shootings do not occur in a social or political vacuum; they are horrifying indicators of a society in the midst of economic and cultural breakdown.

The issues surrounding gun control, the role of mental illness (if any) in the perpetrator’s background, the role of the National Rifle Association and its influence on American politics – these are legitimate causative factors raised in connection with an individual shooter. These are all subject to extensive examination in the corporate media.

This kind of coverage of mass shootings, while very welcome, omits a crucial dimension – the underlying ideology that motivates ultra-right terrorism – the euphemistically named Alternative Right. Cruz, the Florida shooting perpetrator, expressed his intense hatred of Jews, African Americans, Hispanic people and other minorities in his online communications. These are the main talking points of the ultra-right.

The shooter, Nikolas Cruz, was thought to be linked a white supremacist and separatist militia group, the Republic of Florida during initial investigations. The leader of this group, Jordan Jereb, later backtracked from the claim that Cruz was part of his militia, and the Florida authorities have stated that there are no known links between Cruz and the white supremacist organisation. It is instructive to note just how careful the corporate media has been in ascribing any link, whether ideological or organisational, between the perpetrator and the white supremacist and ultra-rightist milieu in which Cruz circulated.

Cruz, through his social media presence, reflected and recycled the ideas and themes of the Alternative Right – the new name for the collection of neo-fascistic and white supremacist ideologies which have a durable presence in America. The Republic of Florida militia group, the organisation to which Cruz was initially tentatively associated, is a white racist patriot militia, dedicated to waging a secessionist war to politically detach Florida from the United States. It seeks to create a purely white ethnoseparatist state, and shares similarities with other neo-Nazi groups, such as the Traditionalist Worker Party.

The link between Cruz and his underlying ideology is being downplayed or minimised, while his individual characteristics are given wide coverage. When the perpetrator of a terrorist attack is Islamist, or uses Islamist symbols to rationalise his/her actions, the corporate media is in no doubt that the motivation of the attacker is the Islamic faith. Muslim perpetrators are routinely portrayed as part and parcel of the wider Islamic community, no matter their individual circumstances. There are no questions asked about the links, if any, between the Muslim suspect and extremist groups.

The entire Muslim community is held collectively responsible for the actions of the Islamist perpetrator, while the white attacker is described as a ‘lone wolf.’ The Muslim community is subjected to hectoring demands that they do more to condemn terrorism and extremism; actually, they have done so repeatedly. The white supremacist killer is clearly recognised as an outsider, unrepresentative of his/her ethnic and cultural community.

It is interesting to note that mental illness, while explored as a potential cause of a white perpetrator’s violence, is never discussed as a possible reason for a Muslim suspect’s behaviour. Leaving aside the huge assumption that there is a causal link between mental illness and violence, it is noteworthy to observe that Muslim suspects never have mental health issues – perhaps Islam is conducive to good mental health (sarcasm alert).

Cruz, and white ultra-rightist attackers like him, have the privilege of the white shooter. What does that mean? Being a white American insulates a perpetrator from the label of terrorism. Shaun King, writing in The Intercept magazine, states that the actions of a Muslim attacker are used to draw resounding conclusions about the disloyal and corrosive nature of the entire Muslim community. The corporate media are emphatic in their evaluation that Islam causes its adherents to kill; self-proclaimed experts cite passages from the Quran, in a seeming effort to bolster their case. The Islamic community is demonised and dehumanised.

It is true that Cruz was obsessed with guns; he posted pictures of guns and weapons on his social media accounts. He learned how to shoot as part of the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, a programme run by the Army in American schools. In a way, the US Army trained a potential child soldier. Cruz was wearing his Reserve Officer Training t-shirt when he carried out the shooting.

It is relevant to note that a student who excels in this junior officer training corps can skip studying biology, physical sciences, art and physical education. Cruz acquired the skills to shoot with expertise from the US Army; it was the Alt-Right ideology that weaponised his hate, motivating him to carry out the killings.

Make no mistake; the ultra-right constitutes an enduring and increasing domestic terrorism threat. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) calls it a dark and constant rage. This is the terrorism threat that is underplayed or ignored by the Trump administration. The corrosive ideology of the Alternative Right is leading more Americans into an ultra-rightist insurgency, thus fuelling the political campaigns of rightist and anti-immigrant politicians, such as Trump. The ultra-right has moved from the outer fringes to the mainstream, and they had some help from high places.

Earlier we mentioned the Traditionalist Worker Party, a white supremacist and ultra-rightist group similar in ideology to the Republic of Florida, the group in whose orbit Cruz circulated. Another person that mixed with white supremacist circles is Tony Hovater, He is a founding member of the Traditionalist Worker Party, living an ordinary life with his wife in middle class suburban America. Hovater and his wife are a low-key couple, they shop at Target, enjoy watching Seinfeld repeats, eat at local restaurants, and have four cats.

Why is all this relevant? Because these facts were stated as part of a very sympathetic portrayal of Hovater in the New York Times. The NYT, arguably one of the most important newspapers in the English-speaking world, provided a supportive account of a neo-Nazi and white supremacist.

There is no question regarding the fascistic character of Hovater’s beliefs – an admirer of Hitler, Hovater denied the Holocaust and believed in the aims of the ultra-rightist protesters at Charlottesville last year. The NYT published a semi-apologetic explanation regarding the essay after receiving heavy criticism. In its sympathetic portrayal of the Hovater couple, the NYT was correct in one way – white supremacy is not the exclusive province of country-bumpkins and ignorant yokels. Virulent racism was built and is maintained by normal, low-key suburban people living mundane lives in clean-cut towns across America.

The Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC) does not mince words – the Alt-Right is killing people. That is the title of a report issued by the SPLC detailing the increasing murders and attacks committed by the ultra-right. 2017 witnessed a sharp increase in racist attacks and hate crimes. The Trump administration has studiously ignored the terrorist violence of the ultra-right, and in many ways facilitated its spread by engaging in hateful rhetoric and anti-immigrant measures. The internet and social media has exponentially increased the availability and dissemination of white supremacist propaganda.

Nicole Colson, writing in the Socialist Worker magazine, makes a salient point:

If more than 100 people across the U.S. had been killed or injured in multiple attacks by people with ties to reactionary Islamic groups–or if such groups were heavily recruiting on college campuses and distributing flyers calling for violence–you can bet the Trump administration would be promising action, and the FBI and every other law enforcement agency in the U.S. would be making numerous arrests.

Nothing of the sort has happened to the far right, though.

At the top of the federal government, the Trump administration continues to largely ignore the increased threat posed by the far right–except when it’s encouraging such groups, implicitly or explicitly, as when Trump himself talked about the “good people” among the white supremacists and Nazis who turned out in Charlottesville.

Alternet magazine asks why the United States, its political leaders and pundits, refuse to take the grave threat of ultra-right terrorism seriously. We wonder what the reaction of the authorities would have been if Cruz had been wearing a keffiyeh when he committed his crime, rather than a “MAGA” cap (Make America Great Again). Let us take the ideology and vitriolic effect of the Alt-Right seriously, otherwise the long line of white terrorist perpetrators will continue.

Germany’s neo-Nazis find a friend in the man who captured Adolf Eichmann

Rafi Eitan, the Israeli Mossad operative responsible for the capture and extradition of Adolf Eichmann, a pivotal figure in the World War Two genocide of European Jewry, released a video statement in support of Germany’s current and growing neo-Nazi party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD). Eichmann, who was kidnapped from his sanctuary in Argentina and taken to Israel for trial, was executed in 1962. His capture, and the subsequent trial, helped to bolster Israel’s credentials as a safe haven for Jews from the storms and homicidal trials of anti-Semitism.

His capture and trial for war crimes in Israel was the subject of an important book by philosopher and writer Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: a report on the banality of evil. This book is a pivotal study for scholars who examine the genocide, the perpetrators and the reasons (ideological or otherwise) why such events take place. The book, based on Arendt’s on-the-spot coverage of the Eichmann trial as it unfolded, sparked a tsunami of debate and scholarly criticism regarding the motivations for why such heinous crimes, such as the Holocaust, occur.

Eitan, who posted his video statement on his social media account, praised the platform of the AfD, made his remarks in the context of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. He expressed his best wishes for the continued success of the neo-Nazi AfD, and suggested that this party was not only the best hope for Germany, but for the whole of Europe. Eitan, whose statement was criticised on the Electronic Intifada magazine, stated that Europe must close its borders to what he sees as ‘mass Muslim migration.’

The veteran Mossad investigator expressed his view, echoing the talking points of the European ultra-right, that Muslim culture is incompatible with European values, and that Islamic immigrants cause violence and terrorism wherever they settle. Eitan supported the AfD, a party that valorises Nazi soldiers and officers, and upholds the doctrines and values that motivated, among others, Adolf Eichmann.

Eitan faced heavy criticism from Israeli political figures and historians for his comments, and issued a half-apologetic, kind-of-remorseful climb-down from his previous position – sort of. An Israeli figure, and an important one such as Eitan, provided a public relations embarrassment for the state that regards itself as the inheritor of the memories of the Holocaust.

Eitan’s comments, while shocking, are not entirely surprising. His statement represents a continuation of an old-new friendship. What does ‘old-new’ mean? That expression comes from an article by Ali Abunimah, a co-founder of Electronic Intifada. In an article he wrote called “Why has an Israeli Nazi-hunter embraced Germany’s neo-Nazis?”, Abunimah examines how the ideological correspondence between the champions of Zionism and anti-Semitism is a longstanding practice. Abunimah wrote that:

Today, European and American neo-Nazis wear their support for Israel on their sleeves, and use the blessings of figures like Eitan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to whitewash their anti-Semitism and white supremacy.

Eitan’s comments are a revival of an old-new friendship. In the 1930s, the German Zionist Federation extended its hand in cooperation to the Nazi authorities. The Nazi government sent several envoys, as part of its political and economic agreement, to the land of Palestine to inspect the burgeoning Jewish settlements. One of the emissaries sent by the Nazis was the young Adolf Eichmann. The latter, met by officials from the Labour Zionist Haganah, visited a kibbutz, and returned to Germany in 1937, expressing his admiration for the expanding Zionist settlements.

Eichmann was not the first Nazi official to visit the settlements in Palestine. From 1934 to 1936, SS Nazi officer Baron von Mildenstein visited the new Zionist settlements, wrote supportive articles for a Nazi newspaper, and a commemorative medal was struck – a Nazi travels to Palestine. Eichmann himself, looking back on his career as a war criminal, fondly remembered his days in Palestine in the 1930s:

I did see enough to be very impressed by the way the Jewish colonists were building up their land. I admired their desperate will to live, the more so since I was myself an idealist. In the years that followed I often said to Jews with whom I had dealings that, had I been a Jew, I would have been a fanatical Zionist. I could not imagine being anything else. In fact, I would have been the most ardent Zionist imaginable.

This convergence of views and interests between Zionism and anti-Semitism is not just one of historical interest – it is also a fact of political life in Europe today. The ultra-rightist, racist parties in Europe – whose ideology includes virulent anti-Semitism – are fervent admirers of the state of Israel. Germany’s new anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi party – the AfD – is a strong supporter of Israel. While the German Jewish community is under no illusions about the political platform of the AfD, the latter have made strenuous support for Israel a plank of their policies. AfD leaders have expressed admiration for Israel, citing it as a model of a state based on ethno-nationalist exclusion.

The German AfD’s support for Israel is echoed by the ultra-rightist American white supremacist movement, led by Richard Spencer. Spencer, an articulate and educated bigot, regularly highlights how he finds the ethno-supremacism of Zionism an inspirational model for the kind of state he would like to construct in the United States.

The leaders of the emergent European ultra-right have made common cause with the state of Israel not only as a tactical alliance – ridding Europe of its Jewish population would provide a pipeline of Jewish emigrants into the Israel state. Support for the colonisation of Palestine is just one side of this support. European anti-Semitism and Zionism have converged on another theme – Islamophobia.

A shared targeting of Muslim immigrants, and Islam in general, has rejuvenated the political alliance of anti-Semitism with the leaders of the Israeli state. How this happens, and how the far right has upheld Israel as an ethno-supremacist garrison state it seeks to emulate, is the subject of the next article.

For now, let us conclude with the words of Ali Abunimah, who provides a clear reminder of the urgent need for an anti-racist struggle:

That is why in the struggle against all forms of racism and bigotry, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, Jews and Palestinians committed to equality and human rights stand together on one side, while Israel, Zionists and their bigoted cheerleaders are on the other side.

Exactly.

Qatar, the Saudi blockade, and making friends

Since June 2017, Saudi Arabia and its supporters have maintained a total blockade of the small monarchy of Qatar. For instance, Saudi Arabia has stopped all land, air and maritime traffic into the nation, and the Qatari economy has suffered the consequences. However, Qatar is weathering the storm, and has been managing to hold its own against its larger and more well-connected patron.

The Hindustan Times reported the findings of Capital Economics, an economic research company, that Qatar avoided the worst possible scenario of descending into a recession. The tourism sector has understandably declined, having been hit hard by the Saudi-imposed blockade. However, the Qatari economy grew in the last quarter of 2017, and the intended isolation of the tiny Gulf state has failed to materialise.

One way that Qatar has managed to sustain itself throughout this blockade is by cultivating powerful friends. For instance, Turkey, which already had trade dealings and military agreements with the tiny nation, has increased its commercial and diplomatic cooperation since the imposition of the Saudi blockade. Turkey sent military equipment to the besieged emirate, deployed troops, and has increased the volume of its trade deals with Qatar. In November 2017, Turkish President Erdogan visited Doha to attend a meeting of the Turkey-Qatar Supreme Strategic Committee.

French President Emmanuel Macron visited Qatar in December 2017, and signed commercial agreements worth billions of Euros. The Qatari Emir has agreed to buy military aircraft from France, and allocated French companies to build and maintain a metro system in Qatar. Having powerful friends willing to do deals has gone a long way in helping Qatar circumvent the Saudi-imposed, and Trump-inspired, blockade. The United States administration is currently emphasising its apparent support for a compromise solution.

The New York Times, in January this year, published a brilliant photo-essay entitled “Tiny, Wealthy Qatar goes its own way, and pays for it”. The article elaborates some of the background to the long-simmering Saudi-Qatari dispute, and the history of Qatar’s ability to use its economic clout to punch above its weight, so to speak. As usual, the NY Times story is accompanied with stunning photographs, such as a panoramic picture of Doha city’s towering skyline. Interestingly, it is not so much petroleum that is the source of Qatar’s wealth, but its large deposits of natural gas – liquefied natural gas to be precise.

Discovered in 1971 in Qatar, natural gas exports propelled an enormous growth in wealth, and thus Qatar was transformed from a barren backwater into a major player in the Persian Gulf. Always regarded as a junior partner in the Gulf Cooperation Council, Qatar began to push its senior patrons (Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) for a larger and more important role in the Gulf.

Qatar, while officially sharing the same puritanical Wahhabi brand of Islam with its powerful neighbour, Saudi Arabia, has implemented some liberal reforms domestically. For instance, there are no public beheadings and mutilations performed in Saudi Arabia. Women can not only drive cars in Qatar, but also participate in public sports. Members of the Thani clan, the ruling family in Qatar, are featured as modernising stylish trailblazers in Vanity Fair.

There is one aspect of Qatar’s outreach, while vitally important, is being omitted in any discussion of the issue. The NY Times, while its story was fantastic, shared this crucial omission. Understanding this forgotten feature of Qatar’s behaviour will help us navigate our way through the politics and economics of the Middle East and the wider Persian Gulf. Qatar, as well as other Gulf monarchies, having been making steady and regular overtures towards Israel, hoping to establish mutually beneficial ties of cooperation.

The assistant editor of Electronic Intifada, Tamara Nassar, wrote an article in January this year called “Qatar turns to Israel to escape Saudi squeeze.” Nassar elaborates how the Qatari royal family has been making a sustained attempt to lobby senior Israeli officials, along with right-wing American conservative and Zionist figures, to cozy up to the Zionist regime.

Qatar, supposedly sympathetic to the Palestinian cause and accused by Saudi Arabia of supporting Hamas, has sponsored the visits of Christian fundamentalist and right-wing Zionist American political operators to its shores to circumvent the Saudi blockade. However, there is more than just a practical reason for this intended collaboration.

Qatar welcomed the chief of the Zionist Organisation of America (ZOA), Morton Klein, in January this year. Klein, who joined a long list of ultra-right wing conservatives and Zionist supporters who have visited the Qatari kingdom, voiced his displeasure at Qatar’s apparent criticisms of the Trump administration’s decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Qatar has been sponsoring such trips for many months now:

These include Israel apologist and Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, Christian Zionist and former governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee, conservative radio host and Israel supporter John Batchelor, former Republican congressman Thaddeus McCotter, CEO of the Orthodox Union Kosher Division Rabbi Menachem Genack, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish organizations Malcolm Hoenlein, president of the American Jewish Congress Jack Rosen and the president of the Religious Zionists of America Martin Oliner.

Most of these trips were paid for by the Qatari government.

The quote above comes from another article by Tamara Nassar in the Electronic Intifda entitled “Qatar welcomes head of Zionist Organization of America.

This is not just a case of pragmatism in the face of difficulties on Qatar’s part. The hereditary monarchies in the Gulf, headed by Saudi Arabia, have a long-standing tradition of seeking working relationships with the Zionist state. Indeed, in June 2017, when Saudi Arabia and its allies imposed the blockade of Qatar, Israel quickly sided with the Saudi action. Avigdor Lieberman, the ultra-rightist Israeli defence minister, stated that the Saudi-Qatari crisis presented an opportunity for increased cooperation between Israel and the Gulf monarchies.

Saudi Arabia has a long practice of cultivating covert and cooperative ties with the Israeli state. Bahrain has been making overtures to the state of Israel, and recently admitted as much publicly. Interestingly, the usual go-between for establishing connections between the two nominally-hostile states is a Trump adviser and evangelical Christian.

The staunchest supporters of Zionism in the United States are to be found among the Christian religious right, who do their utmost to promote the normalisation of connections with the Gulf monarchies and the state of Israel, and this involves abandoning the Palestinians. The obsequious conduct of the Gulf royal families stands in stark contrast to the consistent support given to the Palestinians by the Latin American governments of Cuba and Venezuela.

The Qatari emirate, while being the victim of a grave injustice, is only compounding the region’s problems by seeking out self-serving alliances. The resolution of inter-state conflicts is not to be sought in building higher and longer walls, whether they be physical or economic barriers. The solution resides in recognising the human rights of others and practical solidarity. Nations and peoples that have experienced colonisation and dispossession must stand in support of each other.

The Alternative Right – a new name for a long-lasting hatred

The term Alternative Right, created by ultra-rightist and white supremacist ideologue Richard Spencer, has gained traction in recent years, especially with the election and presidency of Donald Trump. While the term may be relatively new, the ideologies it describes have deep and abiding roots in American society.

The pedigree of the Alt-Right is a subject we need to examine and understand if we are to have any hope of comprehending the emergence of ultra-rightist populism. The various strands of ideological currents that make up the Alternative Right have existed in American capitalist society for decades; the Trumpist version of white supremacist anti-immigrant populism did not arise out of nowhere.

The terrorism of the ultra-right

Firstly, let us clarify some glaring omissions and hypocrisies that arise whenever the subject of the ultra-right and its terrorism is discussed. Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the United States (along with other capitalist countries) has fixated almost exclusively on the menace of what is routinely called ‘Islamic terrorism’.

This term, while commonplace, is inaccurate. I do not wish to associate the entire culture, religion, Arabic language and civilisation of Islam with something as repulsive and deplorable as terrorism. There is no intent to deflect attention from the violent practices of groups such as Islamic State, Al Qaeda, Al-Nusra and similar terroristic formations that employ Islamic symbols and language to rationalise their actions.

This obsessive focus on global terrorism that originates from Islamically-inspired groups diverts necessary attention and resources away from the growing, evolving and more dangerous elephant in the room – ultra-rightist domestic terror groups. The Charlottesville attack in 2017 demonstrated that the terrorism of white supremacist and neo-Confederate organisations is large and increasing.

The ideologies that motivated the neo-Nazi attacker in Charlottesville have coalesced into the Alternative Right. The New York Times did ask its readers, back in June 2017, to consider the menace of terrorism from the far-right. While the authors did list a number of domestic terrorist incidents carried out by ultra-rightist militants, it did leave out a number of important points.

The New York Times did not dig into the underlying ideologies that motivate far-right groups to recruit members and to carry out acts of violence. The numbers speak for themselves – far-right groups and white supremacist organisations have killed a larger number of victims than Islamically-based militants. Al Jazeera published, in November 2017, a powerful and engaging summary of ultra-right domestic terrorism in the article “Killed by Hate: Victims of America’s far-right violence.” The Charlottesville ‘Unite the Right’ rally in August 2017 was only the latest in an increasing trend of far-rightist domestic terrorist attacks against African Americans, Muslims, Jews, Hispanics and other ethnic and religious minorities.

When President Trump, in November 2017, presented his national security strategy, he made the following blanket assertion:

jihadist terrorist organizations present the most dangerous terrorist threat to the Nation.

You may read this quote, and the entire national security strategy document, via the web page of Professor Juan Cole here. Trump is the president, so he can say whatever he likes. However, as a public elected official, he should expect that his claims will be examined – closely.

If they turn out to be completely inaccurate, then he should issue a retraction, and reverse the public policies which are based on that inaccuracy. Professor Cole deconstructs Trump’s statement, and demonstrates that ultra-right terrorism is the biggest threat to the American public. However, there is something else that needs to be stated.

The well-educated elite racists

It is not just the numbers that are relevant – important as they are. While we can recognise that ultra-rightist white men are the more dangerous category of terrorist than radicalised Islamist groups, there is rarely an examination of the underlying ideology that motivates far-right militants to commit these types of crimes. When Richard Spencer invented the term Alternative Right, he was not only coining a phrase, he was also highlighting a re-emerging entity – the well-educated bigot.

For too long, the neo-Nazi types, Ku Klux Klan, neo-Confederates and patriot militia – the footsoldiers of the ultra-right – were dismissed as a bunch of uneducated, illiterate bully boys and thugs. This image of the imbecilic white man ready with a pitchfork has an element of truth to it, but it is misleading.

Richard Spencer personifies the well-educated, well-off racist – urbane, articulate, well versed in history and philosophy, and media-conscious. Rather than the cartoonish, beer-swilling buffoon caricature of the cultural Right, here we have an educated, politically conscious bigot. Spencer does come from Dallas, Texas, a city that still honours Confederate slave-owning generals and soldiers naming public buildings and facilities after them. The Dallas financial elite is an effective incubator for spawning racial separatism and white supremacy, lessons that Spencer eagerly absorbed.

White supremacy is a historic forerunner and supporter of the Alternative Right, and the educated bigot has a long and solid history in American politics. The late William L. Pierce, a long-term white supremacist ideologue, strident antisemite and tireless organiser of the racist National Alliance, was a physics professor.

An educated man who opposed the civil rights movement and supported segregation in the 1960s, Pierce marketed himself as a white nationalist, he authored the Turner Diaries, a futuristic novel that portrays a racial war in the United States. Considered a ‘bible’ of the racist right, the book inspired a number of white supremacists to commit terrorist acts, including Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh.

Spencer likes to claim that the Alt-Right, as an alternative to mainstream cultural conservatism, is new and improved. Actually, it is a repackaging of the three long-standing pillars of American racism – white supremacy, antisemitism and misogyny. Make no mistake, misogyny is a major part of the Alt-Right outlook; patriarchal ideas and men’s rights activism are a central and poisonous feature of the ultra-rightist landscape.

As male tribalism and the manosphere have become increasingly interlinked with the Alt-Right, the coalescing of toxic homophobia and transphobia has taken place. As Matthew Lyons put it in his article for The Guardian, the Alt-Right, building on the traditional patriarchal viewpoint, hates women just as much as it hates people of colour. Even a cursory glance at the many online forums of alt-right activism reveals a deep and abiding hatred of women and feminism. While paying lip-service to the ‘traditional family’, it is not difficult to discern the disturbing level of misogyny that motivates far-right participants.

Let us not ignore the rise and mobilisation of the ultra-right. This type of racial hatred is not only poisonous, but lethal. We must stop normalising hate, whether it be directed against racial or religious minorities, women, LGBT persons, or immigrant communities. How many more people have to die, killed by ultra-rightist hatred, before the authorities seriously tackle the ideology that motivates them? Perhaps in Donald Trump, the Alt-Right has found a mainstream political ally.

Trump is a solid ally of the white supremacist Alt-Right

Throughout his campaign and subsequent presidency, Trump has done everything he can to provide a platform for ultra-rightist white supremacist groups. Not only has he justified the protests of white supremacist outfits, but has also promoted the talking points of the Alternative Right. He has cultivated the beliefs and views that provide the groundwork for domestic, ultra-rightist terrorism.

Let us examine these claims in detail below.

Trump’s social media sharing is part of an ongoing pattern of promoting and normalising ultra-rightist and white supremacist viewpoints. He is deliberately encouraging neo-Confederate and white ultra-right organisations, building a base of support among them. Trump’s presidential campaign served as a lightning rod, attracting the various far-right groups and white supremacist organisations that collectively make up the coalition of ideologies collectively known as the Alternative Right. Trump received endorsements from ultra-rightist patriot groups, former Ku Klux Klan leaders, and white racist politicians.

Britain First and Judeo-Christian values

Britain First is an ultra-rightist and neo-fascistic group in the UK, which has a long history of attacking ethnic minorities, instigating violence against minority groups, and of conducting Islamophobic campaigns. Carrying large white crosses (reminiscent of the Ku Klux Klan) and forming “Christian patrols” to target Muslim communities, Britain First members have co-opted Christian symbolism in its self-declared “crusade” against immigration and multiculturalism.

There are other groups that co-opt religious symbolism for their political project (Islamic State comes to mind), but Britain First is particularly vocal and aggressive in its self-promotion as a “Crusader” force resisting the – false – threat of Muslim immigration. Britain First members regard the Muslim community as an alien presence in Britain, a potential fifth column ready to subvert the entire existing political order.

The veracity of the shared videos from Britain First was questioned by many experts and commentators. Be that as it may, the fact that Trump re-circulated these videos purporting to show examples of organised violence by Muslims – without any comment – demonstrates that Trump is willingly promoting the talking points and moral panics of the far-right.

The inaccurate and deceitful tropes of “Islamisation” are regularly regurgitated by the ultra-right and racist groups to exclude racial and ethnic minorities, and establish a fortress-mentality. Invoking ‘Judeo-Christian’ values is an insular, tribalistic myth promoted by the far-right which only serves to fertilise the ground for further racism and anti-immigrant xenophobia.

The expression ‘Judeo-Christian’, while seeming to imply that Judaism and Christianity have shared values, serves to deliberately exclude Islam – and by extension the entire Islamic philosophy and community – from any participation or inclusion in Western society. Trump has used this phrase on several occasions, mirroring the talking points of the ultra-right. This label serves to build a false scaffolding upon which a tribal vision takes hold – excluding the ‘other’ – in this case the Muslim – and feeding a false sense of Christian persecution. We can rest assured that Trump and his supporters are not being persecuted in the country where they reside.

Trump offends a decency he cannot understand

Brendan Cox is the widower of former Labour MP Jox Cox. An activist from Britain First, with extensive ties to ultra-right and white supremacist groups, murdered Jo Cox in June 2016 in the context of the Brexit vote. The killer, Thomas Mair, shot and stabbed Jo Cox multiple times, shouting “Britain First” as he committed the murder. This was an act of ultra-right domestic terrorism, and Mair was radicalised by the writings and propaganda materials of white supremacist organisations, including Britain First.

In an article for the Guardian newspaper, Brendan Cox wrote that Trump, by re-circulating the Britain First videos, offends a decency he cannot understand. When the president of the United States promotes the viewpoints of hate preachers – and that is what Britain First members are – Trump is making the political environment more permissive for hatred to spread and become mainstream. Hate preachers do not necessarily wear Islamic garments only, nor do they exist exclusively on the Islamist side of the spectrum.

In his article, Cox made the accurate connection between hate preachers of the ultra-right and domestic terrorism. His late wife was killed by a white supremacist who had steeped himself in the hate-literature of the white supremacist world. Trump, throughout his time as president, has excused or justified the political violence of those on the neo-Confederate and white supremacist side. This normalisation of hate creates an environment conducive for ultra-right terrorism to make its lethal mark on society.

Charlottesville and Confederate statues

Trump’s sympathy for ultra-rightist racists was on display in the aftermath of the Charlottesville killing. In August 2017, after months of deliberate planning and organisation, a “Unite the Right” rally occurred in Charlottesville, ostensibly to defend a Confederate statue from being demolished. Far from being a peaceful protest, this was a massive race riot, a show of force by neo-Nazi, white supremacist and ultra-right groups. Anti-racist organisers converged on Charlottesville to protest this racial uprising, only to be confronted by a violent rampage by the white supremacists. An anti-racist protester, Heather Heyer, was killed by an ultra-rightist militant.

Trump went on to blame both sides for the Charlottesville violence, and explicitly stating that the white supremacist rioters contained “some very fine people”. We now confront a situation where the American President openly defends the violent actions of neo-Nazi and white supremacist rioters, and ignores the growing problem of ultra-right terrorism. This defence, while shocking, is not entirely surprising, if we understand the history of white supremacy and its essential role in the emergence of American capitalism.

John Wight, writing in Sputnik News magazine, stated that in the wake of the Charlottesville attacks, we may see that the US civil war never ended. White supremacy, in the form of the neo-Confederate “Lost Cause”, made a resurgence, particularly during the era when Reconstruction ended, and segregationist laws were implemented by the white racist authorities in southern US states. Interestingly, from the 1880s onwards, Confederate statue-building went into hyperdrive, as monuments celebrating the racist cause were erected throughout the American south.

The establishment of Confederate statues across the United States was not undertaken as noble exercises in commemorating the painful history of the US Civil War. They were not erected by history-aficionados who were concerned that all aspects of the traumatic civil war be remembered. These statues were constructed as pushback against any civil rights measures, to counter the movement of African Americans for racial equality.

The majority of these monuments were built at times when the Southern white legislatures combatted political measures to achieve at least a degree of enfranchisement and empowerment of African American communities. They were built to further a white supremacist future. Miles Parks, writing in the NPR web magazine, explained that such statues were being erected as late as the 1950s and 1960s, when the civil rights movement was gaining ground in dismantling the vestiges of legalised discrimination.

The late 1890s and early 1900s saw many pieces of segregation legislation enacted – Jim Crow measures – that legalised the disenfranchisement and exclusion of African American communities. These are the times when there was a flurry of Confederate statue activity, which sent a message to the wider society – creating a historical cloak to legitimise the naked push for white supremacy.

The rise of ultra-right terrorism

The Charlottesville attack brought into the spotlight the issue of ultra-right terrorism. Since the September 11 2001 terrorist outrage, the focus of the US authorities has been almost exclusively on terrorism from groups allegedly inspired by Islamism. This singular fixation has resulted in a glaring omission – the rise of white supremacist and ultra-rightist groups in the United States.

Coalescing under the banner of Alternative Right, these groups and ideologies express dissatisfaction with traditional mainstream conservatism as exemplified by the Republican Party. This observation does not ignore the many sympathetic voices that the ultra-right have found within the Republican Party for decades. With the Trump campaign however, the ultra-right found a solid ally and friend in the White House.

Homegrown terrorism, originating in ultra-right bigotry and carried out by neo-Confederate and white supremacist groups, has been on the increase for many years prior to Charlottesville. While the ugly events of Charlottesville refocused attention on these groups, the threat of ultra-rightist terrorism did not arise out of nowhere. While the threat of far-right groups has gained greater attention in the wake of Charlottesville, there is a lack of background analysis into how and why we ended up with a US president who is a fascist sympathiser. The latter description may seem unduly harsh, but it is an accurate portrayal of President Trump’s way of thinking. Normalising racial hatred seems to be main skill that Trump has brought to the Oval Office.

The numbers are quite clear – most terrorism on American soil originates in the cesspit of ultra-right bigotry. Domestic white supremacist terrorism is a far greater threat than Islamist-fundamentalist organisations. To speak of ultra-right terrorism is to make oneself vulnerable to accusations of being “soft” on Islamist groups. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It is easy for us in the West to criticise Islamically-based groups, because Islam is viewed as a foreign ideology. We can take comfort in banal platitudes about our supposed lack of religious fundamentalism in our societies. White supremacy and the Alternative Right are native ideologies – indigenous to white American capitalism, that is. It is enormously difficult – but not impossible – to question the tribal insularity in which we wrap ourselves.

The phrase Alternative Right is relatively recent, but the ideologies it advocates have a long pedigree. That subject, along with the nature and activities of the ultra-right, will be examined in the next article.

Stay tuned.