Britain’s imperial role, Oman, the current Yemen war and the durability of empire-building delusions

Five years ago, I wrote about Britain’s secret war against a nationalist pan-Arab uprising in the 1960s and 70s in Oman. The latter is a British-backed monarchy, a former colony of the British empire. Knowledge of Britain’s secretive role in suppressing that uprising helps us to understand the continuing durability of imperial delusions in the English ruling class, even though the old Empire is dead.

Well, it is great to have your analysis confirmed. Jacobin magazine has published an extensive article this month explaining Britain’s counterrevolutionary role in suppressing pan-Arab uprisings and revolutionary movements in the Arabian peninsula. Britain’s imperial aspirations can be seen in the ongoing role that the UK plays in supporting the western-aligned petro-monarchies in the Middle East.

While Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and all the gulf petro-monarchies are known for their role as pro-imperialist stalwarts, what is not known is the strong emergence and political influence of revolutionary pan-Arab nationalist and socialist movements. These revolutionary upsurges were suppressed with the crucial counterrevolutionary support of the British military. It is no exaggeration to say that these Gulf monarchies constitute AngloArabia, given how vital the UK’s role was – and is – as an economic and political buttress.

The Sultanate of Oman, a British colony since the 1800s, had one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world, and the majority of Omani people lived in abject poverty. Inspired by socialist ideas, and the example of the Soviet socialist style republic of South Yemen to its west, a guerrilla nationalist insurgency erupted in the 1960s against the British-backed Sultan. Oman became, in many ways, Britain’s Vietnam.

The Dhofar rebellion, as it is known, lasted through to the 1970s. The Popular Front for the Liberation of the Occupied Arabian Gulf (PFLOAG) fought valiantly against an Omani state equipped and trained by the British. The tactics the British army and Air Force used included mass aerial bombardment, free-fire zones where any person resident was considered a legitimate target, the use of strategic hamlets (ie detention camps), and the torture of suspects. British army officers occupied key positions in the Omani military.

In 1970, as the uprising showed no signs of abating, the British authorities engineered a palace coup against the reigning Omani Sultan, and replaced him with his son, Qaboos bin Said. A British soldier, Qaboos remained in power, feted as a moderniser, until his death in 2020. While some political reforms were enacted, the Omani state remained an autocracy, firmly within the British orbit. By the mid-70s, the Arab nationalist rebellion had run out of steam.

While the Dhofar uprising was defeated, Arab nationalism remained a potent ideological force. Britain continued its financial and military backing for the Gulf petro-monarchies; a particular British royal, who now happens to be King, visited Oman back in 2016.

It is quite hypocritical of the corporate media to denounce the supposedly culturally regressive practices of the Gulf monarchies. Those authoritarian regimes, like Qatar, are propped up by British imperialism, the latter then using the ‘backward Arab’ stereotype to condemn the Arabian peninsula for culturally regressive social mores.

Yemen – the target of multiple UK interventions and intrigues

Another nation on the Arabian peninsula that has been – and still is – the subject of UK intervention is Yemen. A former British colony, Yemen occupies a strategic location where the Gulf of Aden leads into the Red Sea. Until today, the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden are vital for global maritime traffic. The Bab al Mandeb, the strait linking the Gulf of Aden to the Red Sea, separates Yemen on the Arabian peninsula, and Eritrea/Ethiopia in the Horn of Africa.

In 1962, Arab nationalist officers launched a revolution against the British-supported monarchy. The UK, along with Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other pro-western governments, started a royalist insurgency to restore the Yemeni monarchy. Britain began its covert military intervention at this time.

The UK government at the time – under Labour Prime Minister Harold Macmillan – knew full well that the royalist rebellion would not win. However, they kept the counterrevolutionary insurgency going in order to sabotage any post-civil war settlement. As Dan Glazebrook wrote:

Yemen is the sole country on the Arab peninsula with the potential power to challenge the colonial stitch-up reached between Britain and the Gulf monarchies it placed in power in the 19th century

Since 2015, the Saudi invasion of Yemen, intended to install a pro-western government in Yemen, has been fully supported by the United States and the UK. Britain not only supplies the bombs for the Saudi military, but provides training for Saudi Air Force pilots. Intelligence gathering and logistical support – Britain makes the ongoing Saudi attack on Yemen possible and enduring.

Yemen and its victims have been relegated to media oblivion. The Ukraine war, with its white Christian victims of Moscow’s aggression, receive saturation coverage and sympathies. The criminal actions of the UK and its allies, and the humanitarian crisis for which we are responsible, are airbrushed from history. Yet, with all of the financial and military muscle of Saudi Arabia and its solid alliance with London and Washington, the Yemeni resistance Ansar Allah movement – popularly known as the Houthis – are winning.

Indeed, the US government has entered into a truce with the Houthis in Yemen; Washington belatedly recognising that its seven year war waged by Saudi proxies is facing certain defeat. The prospect of a Houthi victory in Yemen will hopefully compel a change of strategy in London as well. In many ways, the US/UK intervention in Yemen has become the Vietnam of our times.

The ADL, civil rights, Palestine and interethnic solidarity

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) claims to be a civil rights organisation, standing against antisemitism and for the rights and liberties of the Jewish and non-Jewish people alike. However, a closer examination of this organisation’s activities reveals a different story; a group that actively sabotages interethnic and multicultural solidarity.

Founded in 1913, ostensibly in response to antisemitic attacks, the ADL began its life as a branch of the Jewish service organisation, the B’nai B’rith. It split away from the B’nai B’rith later on, and became an independent nonprofit organisation. Its mission statement says that the ADL fights to stop the defamation of Jewish people, and secure the rights of all American citizens.

However, the ADL spent its considerable resources in attacking African American, migrant and antiracist groups, cooperating with law enforcement agencies in spying operations African American, Arab, and antiracist communities.

Listen to the words of Benjamin Epstein, national director of the ADL in 1961. He wrote:

T]he Anti-Defamation League for many years has maintained a very important, confidential investigative coverage of Arab activities and propaganda….Our information, in addition to being essential for our own operations, has been of great value and service to both the United States State Department and the Israeli government. All data have been made available to both countries with full knowledge to each that we were the source.

The ADL has an extensive website, filled with interesting and relevant information regarding racism in the United States, profiles of extremist groups, and news releases informing the public about current controversies pertaining to civil rights. At first glance, the ADL appears to be an ally of antiracist and progressive organisations. However, its self-description as a civil rights group conceals its long-standing hostility to antiracist movements.

In the 1970s and 80s, as the international community placed sanctions on apartheid South Africa, one of the nations which ignored those sanctions was Israel. Military and intelligence sharing activities continued between Tel Aviv and Pretoria. The ADL, for its part as a supporter of Zionism, used its resources to actively spy on anti-apartheid and antiracist activists in the United States. They collected information on those activists, and shared that information with US law enforcement agencies, such as the FBI.

One of the groups which the ADL collected information about was the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC). The west coast chapter of the ADC was headed by a Palestinian Christian, Alex Odeh. The ADL, in cooperation with the FBI, paid a spy to infiltrate the group, and gather intelligence on its members and activities. In 1985, Odeh was assassinated by a bomb planted in his office. The murderers, two Judeo-supremacist militants, had access to the floor plans and map of the ADC offices. You can draw your own conclusions.

Not only are Arab Americans, and Palestine solidarity activists, targeted by the activities of the ADL – routinely smeared as antisemites – so are anti-Zionist and leftist Jews. The group Jewish Currents has elaborated how the ADL’s purported commitment to racial justice and social causes is undermined by its strident advocacy of Zionism. While the ADL has monitored white supremacist and neo-Nazi organisations, it has consistently deployed the accusation of antisemitism against Palestinian, Arab and African American groups in their efforts to criminalise Palestine solidarity campaigns.

In the 1950s, the ADL assisted the anticommunist campaigns of Senator Joseph McCarthy and the US government by cooperating with the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), monitoring and informing on Jewish socialist and leftist groups. While there were Jews who condemned the surveillance and intelligence activities of the ADL, their voices were drowned out.

African American organisations, such as Black Lives Matter and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which have taken an anti-Zionist and anti colonialist position, have incurred the wrath of the ADL. The latter, taking up the cudgels in support of the Zionist state, denounced the SNCC as a ‘Negro extremist’ group. At the height of the civil rights movement, the ADL did its utmost to undermine the traditional solidarity between the black and Jewish communities.

While the ADL has spent countless hours and gallons of ink attacking African American groups as antisemitic, it has routinely sanitised the record of actual antisemitic and white supremacist groups, when those groups align with the interests of US foreign policy. In a recent statement, the ADL announced that the white supremacist Azov battalion in Ukraine, which is based on a racist and antisemitic ideology, is no longer a far right institution.

The Azov battalion, along with its ideological brethren in Kyiv, trace their philosophy back to the Nazi-collaborating Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN). The latter intended to create an ethnically pure, white Ukraine, cleansed of Jews, Poles, Russians and other non-Ukrainian nationalities. This historical context is important, because it helps us to understand the gyrations of the ADL, in its support for US policies.

The ADL downplayed the Ukrainian nationalist collaboration with Nazi Germany, deeming it purely tactical and opportunistic. The flags of the OUN, and the statues of its wartime white supremacist leader Stepan Bandera, are explained away as just Ukrainians ‘honouring their heritage’, in much the same way that Confederate flags in the US are sanitised as mere expressions of historical curiosity.

The ultranationalist features of the Ukrainian right wing movements somehow provide a shield for covering up their antisemitic crimes and ideology. Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, stated that neo-Nazi collaborators cannot keep deflecting attention from their documented massacres by constantly resorting to their nationalist credentials. “Holocaust perpetrators are the last people on Earth who deserve to be glorified”, stated Zuroff.

We must take the advice of Omar Zahzah, the education and advocacy coordinator of Eyewitness Palestine, and drop the ADL, because it is not an ally of antiracist organisations.

Joseph Roth, assimilation, territorial nationalism and finding a sense of belonging

We are all familiar with the novelists F Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, George Orwell – you get the idea. Another novelist who should be better known and deserves worldwide recognition is Joseph Roth (1894 – 1939). A Galician Jew by birth, but Austrian by nationality, his story is one of a restless and constant search for homeland and belonging.

Roth was a perceptive observer, gaining a feel for the streets of 1920s Europe. He was not a professor or scholar, he never submitted papers for academic journals. He was however, a literary journalist, and he accurately portrayed the reflections, people and events that transpired in the rising tide of nationalist sentiment. As Paul Scraton wrote in the New Statesman, Roth captured the mood of ascendant nationalism, and foresaw the looming contours of the Second World War.

Roth denounced nationalism, and political ideologies generally, because he remained loyal to the defunct Austro-Hungarian empire, a theoretically multicultural entity which absorbed numerous ethnic groups. Defeated at the end of World War One, Roth was traumatised by the experience. The empire’s territories were mostly divided up among the victorious powers, creating numerous independent states in Eastern and Central Europe.

While he was a pacifist before WW1, and sympathetic to socialism, he nevertheless joined the Austro-Hungarian army in 1916. Fighting for the Hapsburg monarchy, the subsequent defeat of that political and multicultural empire was disorienting for Roth.

He lost a sense of belonging, and lead a peripatetic existence for the rest of his life. He also became an alcoholic, and that condition would eventually result in his premature death at the age of 44. His birthplace, the province of Galicia, reflected the changing dynamics of Eastern European nationalism in the twenties and thirties.

Eastern Galicia, (the town of Brody, where Roth was born in 1894), was located in the most easterly territories of the Austro-Hungarian empire. It was also home to a lively centre of Jewish culture and community. The shtetls, Jewish communities and settlements, bustled with activity across Eastern Europe in the Austro-Hungarian and Tsarist Russian empires. But that all changed with the defeat of both those empires in WW1.

The part of Galicia where Roth was born changed hands several times between the short-lived West Ukrainian People’s Republic, emerging as a breakaway from the Austro-Hungarian empire in 1918. That was quickly contested by the ultranationalist Polish republic, who incorporated territory in 1919. Both sides, in the shifting territorial dynamics, committed massacres of Jews as well as their rival ethnic groups. Roth witnessed such developments with increasing alarm, as the shtetl life was being shattered.

Monocultural nationalism and fascism

Roth’s writings, whether his journalistic pieces or his novels, contained the recurring themes of monocultural nationalism as a menace, the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and the homicidal kernel of rising European nationalisms. For instance, his novel The Radetzky March, chronicles the rise and fall of the Trotta family, an Austro-Hungarian family. The action occurs through the mid-nineteenth century to the 1930s.

The title of the novel refers to an Austro-Hungarian field marshal who led his armies against the empire’s enemies. Radetzky was celebrated in music by the Austrian composer Johann Strauss, who composed a celebratory piece in honour of his hero. Roth is longing for such a similarly triumphant return of the Hapsburg empire.

Roth, while born Jewish, was raised Catholic. While he never advocated the Hebraic tradition, he maintained a basic identification with Eastern European Jewry. There were times however, when he expressed hostility to Jewish people; during one of his frequent disputes with his publishers, he expressed contempt for ‘piggish Jews’ who had allegedly failed to pay him. In one of his novels, a spy character is referred to as a ‘duplicitous Jew’.

He wrote a nonfiction book, The Wandering Jews, dedicated to the long suffered and dispossessed Jews of Eastern Europe. Opposing the increasingly materialistic, selfish bourgeoisie of Western European nations, he demonstrated his compassion for the poor and displaced refugees of Eastern Europe. He objected to the creeping colonisation of Palestine by the incipient Zionist movement. Roth stated that the halutz – the Jewish emigrant settler in the Middle East, while Jewish, takes the values of the European to that part of the world.

Shortly before his death, he expressed his opposition to Zionism, equating that movement with German Nazism – he was not wrong on that score. Does that make Roth an antisemite? No, it makes him a fallible, flawed, brilliant yet troubled human being. He was not an easy person to get on with. He was quarrelsome, broke off friendships, had extramarital affairs. His longing for Austrian patriotism gave him a permanent sense of transience, never truly settling in one location.

His unswerving loyalty to the restoration of the Hapsburg monarchy was quixotic. He spent his days and nights in the cafes of Paris and Berlin, drinking and trading exchanges with other exiles. He has no fixed political outlook. However, his warnings against the rising tide of ultranationalism in 1920s and 30s Europe was not only eerily prophetic, but contains lessons for our current times.

The partisans of Eastern European nationalism like to portray their patriotism as a simple and justifiable reaction in confronting the colossus of Russia to the east, and Germany to the west. This partial truth, while important, has served to obscure the crimes and massacres committed by ultranationalist East European forces over the shifting course of the twentieth century. Roth was a direct witness to the ardent ultranationalism of his time and circumstances.

As for the new biography of Roth, called Endless Flight by Keiron Pim – I am looking forward to reading it.

Hey – multiethnic gatherings do not make Australia ‘look like the United Nations’

Everyone has their pet peeves, a list of seemingly minor irritations that can serve as major annoyances. We can all think of things that belong on this list – crying babies on a airplane, loud talkers on the phone, attention hogs, rude drivers, leaving chewing gum on a seat, a customer who continues talking on their mobile while ordering at the counter….you get the idea.

Well, in that spirit of unburdening, I wish to tell you my pet peeve, the one that irritates me to heights of homicidal rage. The offending behaviour is purportedly a joke. When seeing a group of migrants, random strangers walking on the street, who come from various ethnic backgrounds, one very clever Anglo Australian will make the comment – ‘looks like the United Nations around here!’

Do you get it…see? A multiethnic or multicultural environment, with people from Asian, Arabic, African or other ethnic backgrounds, it reminds us Aussies of the United Nations? Isn’t that clever? Wonderful comedy. This highly intelligent joke, a shallow statement hiding an ignorant ugly sentiment underneath, has all the wit and charm of a putrefying corpse.

I have heard this alleged observation a million times, and it still grinds my gears. While the person who said it grins with smug self-satisfaction, I manage a half-smile, projecting an air of mild amusement at their oh-so-clever witticism. All the while, I am contemplating the most effective way to put my fist through their face. This ‘joke’ ranks in the same category of irritations as footpath hogging, chewing food loudly, and asking questions during a movie.

Immigration, multiculturalism, the United Nations, and ethnic minorities are entirely separate entities. Yes, of course the United Nations deals with, among other things, disputes between nation states, and with the movement of refugees across and within nation states. The only time that Australian audiences hear about the UN is in news reports about wars and conflicts overseas. However, the UN and its branches perform more work than we are aware of.

Unesco, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation is dedicated to the preservation of world historic sites. These places have scientific, cultural and educational value of inestimable quality, and are listed as protected under the UNESCO charter. One of those protected sites is in Sydney – Cockatoo Island. Australian authorities, as signatories to the UN, are compelled to maintain the historical significance of this site. The convict heritage of Sydney as a former British penal colony is being preserved under the auspices of UNESCO.

There is no socialist conspiracy to deprive Australians of their individual liberties; there is no Beijing-inspired Communist plot to impose totalitarian rules over the world. No, Australians are not being lectured to by ‘UN bureaucrats’. There is a shared commitment by the nations of the world, through the mechanism of UNESCO, to maintain sites of cultural and scientific importance.

To be sure, there is no shortage of leftist criticisms of the UN – with which I agree – that it is a thieves’ kitchen. Subject to the balance of forces among the imperialist nations, the UN flag has been deployed as a fig leaf to provide a legitimate cover for imperialist interests. The 1991 Gulf War, more appropriately called the first attack on Iraq, had the imprimatur of the UN.

It was still a criminal, predatory war designed to implement the economic and geopolitical interests of the United States. The latter, which had long criticised the UN for its supposed bias towards poorer nations, began singing praises for the UN in the lead up to the 1991 attack.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of a UN resolution which still has consequences until today. The UN resolution on the partition of Palestine was a momentous decision, the implications of which still reverberate today. The British Mandate authorities left behind a divided state, and the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians by Zionist forces proceeded apace. The Palestinians have been denied the pledge of an independent state ever since.

This resolution was a diplomatic victory for Zionism and its imperialist supporters. The UN’s role as an instrument for imperialist diplomacy was exposed by this episode. The wrong conclusion to draw, which sometimes the left does, is complete indifference or hostility to the UN. The solution is to democratise the UN, so that it becomes truly representative of the will of the world’s majority population.

Perhaps I am taking this ‘joke’ too seriously. Well, if that is the case, and I should just ‘lighten up’, here is my suggested storage location for that advice. Actually, the Australian government does take the UN seriously. The Australian authorities denied permission to a UN delegation investigating torture access to prisons, immigration detention centres, and youth detention compounds.

Human rights groups have raised concerns about the use of torture in Australian detention facilities. It appears the authorities are a bit sensitive about the UN poking around, potentially uncovering all sorts of breaches of UN protocols.

Let’s understand the nature and role of the UN in the modern world, and leave the juvenile jokes in the dustbin.

Hindutva ideology is turning diaspora Indians into ultranationalist bigots

Indians living in Leicester, England – like their counterparts in the US – come from diverse religious backgrounds, and have lived in harmony for decades. However, clashes between Hindu and Muslim Indians earlier this year in Leicester city have cast a dark shadow over community relations.

Since the election of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2014, Hindu nationalism has made creeping and aggressive inroads into diasporan Indian communities. The ideological underpinning of the BJP is Hindutva, an aggressive Hindu nationalism that views India’s Muslim minority as a dangerous element. Intending to construct a Hindu-only state, Hindutva philosophy possesses striking similarities with white nationalism and Zionism.

Let’s be clear that Hinduism, the religion, is completely different from Hindutva, a political ideology. The latter, Sanskrit for the essence of being Hindu, is an ultranationalist philosophy which advocates Hindu communalist supremacy inside India. Hostile to the Muslim minority, this extremist ideology has found recruits and supporters among expatriate Indian communities. It is the followers of this divisive and ethnonationalist ideology who have waged violent attacks against Muslim Indians, such as in Leicester city earlier this year.

Leicester city has long been a beacon of successful multicultural integration. Ugandan Asians, refugees from Idi Amin’s regime, settled in that city back in the 1970s. Ugandan Asians were actually Indians, mostly from Gujarat, but also from other parts of India. As greater numbers of Indians arrived in Leicester – Hindu and Muslim – the Indian community confronted racism together, started and ran businesses, intermarried and socialised together.

When the Indian migrants arrived in the UK, they – along with other nonwhite immigrants – faced the racism of Anglo majority society. This was the era of Enoch Powell ‘rivers of blood’ speech, warning that rising numbers of immigrants would lead to racial conflicts in the streets. The racist National Front types were organising street actions, and clashes between skinheads and migrant youth took place.

Not only is Leicester home to thousands of Ugandan Asians and other Indian migrants, it has a mosques, Diwali celebrations, as well as Sikh and Buddhist temples of worship. So the clashes between Hindus and Muslims in Leicester is especially jarring and disturbing. One point though – clashes implies a kind of ‘equality’ in the perpetration of violence. That is not strictly correct.

Faisal Hanif, writing about the Leicester riots for Middle East Eye, states that the language of ‘communal violence’ may be factual, but incomplete. There were Hindus chanting ‘Death to Pakistan’ during the cricket match, and Muslim youths retaliated. However, these incidents are just skimming the surface. This is not just another ‘India vs Pakistan’ rivalry at which we can simply shrug our shoulders. Hindutva ideology has made inroads into the Indian diaspora community.

Hindu nationalist youths have organised at street level, attacking mosques and Muslim-owned businesses. Chants of Jai Shri Ram, appropriated as a war cry by Hindu nationalists and BJP fanatics in India, has been recycled by BJP supporters in the expatriate Indian communities.

It is not just in the UK where India’s ethnonationalist polarisation has erupted. The BJP has supporters among India’s expatriate communities in the United States, Australia and New Zealand. In the latter nation, Professor Mohan Dutta, who is researching the rise of ultrarightist sentiment among the Indian community in Aotearoa/NZ, has received death threats and been called a ‘brown servant’ by the partisans of Hindu nationalism.

The BJP has its ideological origins in the fascistic politics of the parent organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The latter, a Hindu extremist and ultranationalist organisation, was founded in the 1925 by Hindu ideologues sympathetic to the politics of Nazi Germany and fascist Italy. Officially named the National Volunteer Organisation, the goal of the RSS is to create an ethnically pure Hindu nation.

In the United States, adherents of Hindutva were deliriously happy during the visit of Indian PM Narendra Modi to that country. Modi, touring the US in 2019, expressed his warm admiration for then-US President Donald Trump. Sections of the US Republican Party allied themselves with the network of Hindu nationalist supporters among the Indian expatriate community. White nationalism and Hindutva bigotry find common ground across national borders.

In anticipation of some highly intelligent troll stating the obvious – not all expatriate Indians are bigots – let me make it clear. Of course not every Hindu Indian in the diaspora is an advocate of prejudice. There are many Indians bravely speaking out against the hateful politics of the BJP. None of this changes the fact that Hindutva nationalism is gaining ground in the expatriate communities.

Not every Ukrainian living in Canada is a vicious Nazi. This factually correct observation is wonderful – but this has not stopped the Ukrainian expatriate community in Canada from erecting monuments to Nazi war criminals and fascistic-minded Ukrainian racists. It is incumbent on all of us to unite and defeat the politics of bigotry wherever it emerges.

Swimming against the tide – a supportive voice for Palestine in a settler-colonial society

We do not live in an ideal world, where everyone is treated equally regardless of race, ethnicity, skin colour, gender and religious differences. However, issues of race and racism matter in the real world.

Australia and Israel are two white sisters, in many ways. Both are settler-colonial societies, birthed by the British imperial project, and sustained by obeisance to the American empire. Both have adopted racist policies towards the indigenous nations, and that racism is reflected in their corresponding domestic structures.

Australia is generally a pro-Israeli society and polity. Of course there are exceptions, but most Anglo Australian society is either pro-Zionist, or indifferent to the issue of Palestine. The indifferent people basically accept the overwhelming pro-Israel narrative which emanates from the corporate controlled media.

Antony Loewenstein, Australian journalist of Jewish background, wrote of the fanatical loyalty with which Canberra regards the Israeli state:

It’s painful to witness Australia’s visceral hatred of Palestinian human rights, as someone who was born here, but the evidence is overwhelming. Most Australians are unaware of how diplomatically isolated their country has become. Australia is almost unique globally in its consistent support for Israel in diplomatic forums like the United Nations.

There are many pro-Palestine advocacy groups, socialist activists and trade unionists who bravely speak up for Palestine. Most of the major media organisations in Australia face bullying and pressure from pro-Zionist groups, and while occasionally presenting a pro-Palestine perspective, generally reflect the priorities of the pro-Zionist Anglo-American cultural imperialism.

Nobody is under any obligation to listen to me. No, I am not angling for pity or emotional sympathy. No, I am not suggesting that I have undergone enormous tribulations or ordeals. I can only relate the obstacles and difficulties faced by pro-Palestine voices in Australia.

This month marks 75 years since the United Nations resolution partitioning Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish state. Supposedly motivated by humanitarian considerations, the British authorities entrenched a system of ethnic division that has remained in place for decades. This history remains largely unknown amongst the majority Anglo Australian population.

In fact, the word Palestine is usually associated with the words ‘terrorism’ and ‘antisemitism.’ The entry point for any discussion about the colonisation of Palestine is normally – at least in the mainstream corporatised Australian media – is the condemnation of alleged Palestinian terrorism.

The relentless, stubborn questioning – why don’t you condemn suicide bombing, Hamas, airplane hijackings – places the supporter of Palestinian rights on the backfoot. The moral equation is already tipped in favour of the Zionist state. In Australia, along with other settler-colonial nations, we have witnessed the incessant campaign by the Zionist organisations and their supporters to demonise any criticism of Israel as antisemitic.

The Palestinians have had to shoulder a propaganda burden – while fighting the systematic dispossession of their homeland, carefully calibrating their criticisms of Zionism so as to avoid any charge of malicious antisemitism. The victim of colonial violence is compelled to conform to a stereotype of a ‘perfect victim’ before they are deemed worthy of support.

The main charge against any supporter of the Palestine cause is that of antisemitism. When raising your voice to defend the Palestinians, you need to be prepared to confront this accusation. There is no question that antisemitism is a form of racism. That particular virus was invented, not in the Arab or Islamic world, but as a project of Christian Europe. Opposition to the policies of the Israeli government and its foundational ideology, Zionism, has nothing to do with antisemitism.

The weaponisation of antisemitism – the charge that Palestine solidarity is motivated by a racial hatred of the Jewish people – is not a new tactic, but has become increasingly deployed in Europe and America. In the UK, the electoral campaign of former British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, was attacked and undermined, even by righting elements in his own party, by charging antisemitism. Criminalising any activity of solidarity with the Palestinians is intended to intimidate any supportive voices for Palestine into silence.

None of this is to suggest that the current Palestine solidarity groups are futile or wasting their time. It is necessary to educate ourselves to ensure that pro-Palestine voices are arguing from a position of informed advocacy. Earlier this month, Israel has another general election – the fifth in four years – which saw the return of former Israeli prime minister and wily political operator Benjamin Netanyahu.

The shape of any incoming government will be influenced by the political allies upon which Netanyahu’s Likud bloc depends. He has counted on the support of ultrarightist and fanatical racist parties and politicians to secure a majority position. Such politicians, such as ultranationalist Itamar Ben-Gvir, make no secret of their determination to suppress the Palestinians from the occupied West Bank. Gvir is an ideological disciple of the late Meir Kahane, whose followers can be accurately described as the Jewish version of the KKK.

In the coming months and years, the Palestinians will need ever more support from non-Palestinians, including here in Australia. Now is time to be resolute, and face the obstacles and challenges of being a pro-Palestine voice in a settler-colonial society.

Racial passing, ethnic identity and DNA as all-embracing metaphor

Is the result of a DNA swab, revealing a person’s genetic heritage, more important to individual identity than a person’s lived experiences and cultural upbringing? Does a genomic test override a person’s cultural and linguistic milieu? Do genes have any determinative role in influencing a person’s non-physical traits, such as ethnicity or intelligence?

Surely a person’s racial identity, embodied in their unique DNA, is unmistakable. After all, African Americans cannot be confused with white Anglo people? Are not racially stratified societies, such as the United States, Brazil, and other settler-colonial structures, following the inevitable dictates of a person’s DNA?

Alexander Pushkin – Russian and African

Alexander Pushkin, the preeminent Russian playwright and author, the equivalent of Shakespeare in the Russian language, had an African maternal great-grandfather. That places him within the ‘coloured’ family according to the racial strictures subsequently adopted by America and similar settler-colonial societies. Does this mean that Pushkin’s literary output belongs within the canon of black literature?

The great-grandfather, Abram Petrovich Gannibal, was from Cameroon, and was apparently bought as a slave. Arriving in Tsarist Russia, he worked his way up the ladder in the land of feudal lords; the entrenched Russian nobility were the boyars. Gannibal, employed at the court of Peter the Great, eventually became a general and military engineer.

Pushkin was particularly proud of his African heritage – this from a snobby man, who as one of the landed nobility looked down upon the nouveau riche pushing their way into the imperial court. Pushkin could trace his ancestry all the way back to the twelfth century boyars of Russia. He wrote an unfinished historical novel, The Moor of Peter the Great, published posthumously in 1837. Sadly, Pushkin died that year – killed in a duel.

Pushkin transcended his racial heritage because, it could be argued, Imperial Russia did not have a racialised concept of human hierarchy. This is not to suggest that Tsarist Russia welcomed non-Russian nationalities; Lenin famously called imperial Russia a prison house of nations. The point here is that a person’s cultural experiences are decisive in the construction of an ethnic identity, rather than DNA.

Racial passing and DNA

Bliss Broyard, author and speaker, discovered a long-held family secret in 1990, as her father Anatole was dying. Broyard was told that she was biracial – her father was actually part Creole. Anatole, born in Louisiana in 1920, had been a white-presenting person. Keeping his coloured heritage a secret, he passed as white, and provided a comfortable, privileged upbringing for his children. Bliss had been raised as white, and never thought much about race or DNA.

Anatole Broyard, who was an editor for the NY Times, engaged in the pragmatic deception known as racial passing. Lighter-skinned or white presenting African Americans often passed themselves off as white to access the social and economic opportunities denied to black and nonwhite Americans. This practice was widespread, and though it has declined in recent years, is still a device used today.

The history of racial passing has lessons for us in our current genomic age. Rigidly defined racial categories can be flouted, and secretly mocked, for centuries. Even if we use the less politicised term of ethnicity, rather than race, genomics does not provide the ultimate arbiter of who were are. DNA is not the sum total of a person’s destiny or identity. Ethnic identity cannot be constructed exclusively on an edifice of biological building blocks.

Dr Caitlin Curtis, research fellow at the University of Queensland, makes the crucial but often overlooked point that DNA does not define a person’s cultural upbringing. She rightly ridicules the proposal from One Nation politicians, to implement a DNA test to determine a person’s Indigenous heritage before being allowed to access welfare payments. Not only would such an idea not work, it is based on simplistic and incorrect ideas about a supposed linear causative connection between an individual’s DNA and their cultural identity.

There is no straightforward progression from a single gene to a human behavioural trait. We have gone overboard, using DNA as a metaphor in tracing all sorts of behaviours to genes. It’s all in the DNA has become a lazy, shorthand explanation for all kinds of human cultural practices and traits – from warfare, to greed, to the national character of ethnic groups.

We will have more to say about the overextended myth of the selfish gene in future articles. However, let’s conclude with a few necessary observations here. It is appealing for ethnic minorities, especially those that have experienced persecution and displacement, to advocate ferociously for the survival of their unique gene pool.

The Armenians in the diaspora have a long-standing cultural preoccupation with defining and defending our supposedly pure multi-century genetic legacy. A sense of collective identity and pride is derived from proclaiming the survival of ‘our DNA’ against all odds, overcoming centuries of persecution, foreign occupation and displacement. In fact, the Armenians have been the victims of racialist-DNA thinking, in the form of Pan-Turkism; a Turkic version of Zionism.

Racialist ideologies have a certain appeal, but are ultimately counterproductive. Why? Ethnic purity is not the basis for human survival, but multiethnic cooperation and solidarity. It is only by overcoming a gene-centric view that we can surmount any obstacles, and ensure human longevity.

Moon landing conspiracy theories get a revival in our social media age

Since the 1969 Moon landing, conspiracy theorists of various stripes have alleged that this achievement was an elaborate hoax, the product of a NASA driven project in fakery. There are a number of reasons for the resilient nature of this particular conspiracy theory. People on both sides of the political spectrum – left and right – have recycled this trope, demonstrating its appeal over the years.

There have been numerous takedowns of the main claims of the Moon truthers, or Moon landing hoaxers. While we will address some of the more egregious claims in this article, a full accounting of Moon truther points would make this blog excessively long. However, we can establish enough of a foundation to refute the Moon hoaxer conspiracy theory.

The Apollo space programme began in 1961, and was boosted by then President Kennedy’s pledge of landing a man on the moon by the end of the decade. Consisting of 11 space flights, there were multiple objectives with each mission. However, landing a man on the moon was the most publicised goal, and captured the public imagination. In 1969, the NASA space programme was successful. So why are there so many people who think it was all a fake, staged in a movie studio?

Moon truthers are very adept at exploiting mistrust of government. Since the 1970s, we have witnessed multiple and interweaving lies spouted by US government circles. The deceptions involved in rationalising the war on Vietnam, the Watergate break-ins, the Iran-Contra scandal, the criminal and clandestine activities of the CIA – public exposure and knowledge of these deceptions has cultivated an active distrust of government pronouncements.

Peter Knight, professor at Manchester University, has written how people are ready and willing to disbelieve anything emanating from sources in Washington. The Moon truthers have constructed an elaborate edifice of epic proportions based on this skepticism. In 1976, Bill Kaysing, a former US Navy officer, published a book called We Never Went to the Moon: America’s Thirty Billion Dollar Swindle. He elaborated what became the main tenets of the Moon hoaxer belief system.

In 1969, the USSR had achieved numerous firsts in planetary sciences – the first successful launch of an artificial satellite, the first non-human animal in space, the first man in space. In the early 1970s, the Soviet Venera programme recorded another first – a robotic probe successfully landing on the planet Venus, coping with its crushingly dense atmosphere and sending back data. So the 1969 American landing on the Moon seems a little odd; isn’t it too convenient that the US deployed a man on the Moon while the Soviet space programme was impressively successful?

There is always an underlying motivation of geopolitical competition in space exploration. The US Moon landings were a way of projecting American power, and giving the middle finger to those Russian Commies. The Apollo 11 mission, the one that deployed astronauts to the Moon, was not technologically advanced over the previous Apollo missions. The existing technology was available to land astronauts, even prior to Apollo 11.

During the Apollo 11 mission, the Soviets were listening in. The former Soviet Russian cosmonaut Alexei Leonov stated that he and his colleagues were watching and listening to the Apollo landings with keen interest. If the Soviet government wanted to, they could easily have exposed any alleged NASA fakery. Not only were the Soviets watching the spacecraft every step of the way, they – along with the subsequent Chinese and Indian space programmes – independently confirmed the corroborative evidence of the Apollo 11 mission.

Moon hoaxers have pointed to the absence of stars in the photographs taken by the American astronauts. Would not stars display in genuine photos from the Moon? No – because the astronauts were using photographic settings for bright sunlight. The Moon has a negligible atmosphere, so it is being hit by direct sunlight. Faint objects do not show up if your aperture and camera settings are set for bright daylight. Use those same settings to take pictures at night here on Earth, and you will not see any stars.

If the Moon has no atmosphere, how is the American flag flapping in the breeze? It isn’t. The astronauts fitted the long-crumpled flag with a lengthy metal rod to give the appearance of flapping in the wind. What about the Moon rocks? These rocks contain cosmogenic nuclides. These are isotopes which are bombarded by extremely high-energy cosmic rays. The Earth’s atmosphere blocks out such high energy rays, so cosmogenic nuclides cannot be faked in a laboratory or particle accelerator.

With the growth of social media, and the resurgence of anti-vaxxer denialism in the immediate aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, Moon truthers have ridden on the coattails of such misinformed refusal. There are many reasons to question the deceptions, duplicity and hypocrisies of the US military-financial complex. We should be skeptical of government statements; we should apply equal skepticism to conspiracy theories.

Move over Mars, Jupiter, Saturn – Uranus is the most intriguing planet

Every decade, NASA releases a wish list of objectives it would like to see accomplished in planetary sciences over the subsequent ten years. It compiles a report after extensive consultations with, and submissions from, a wide array of major scientific institutions. One of the objectives listed by NASA is an intended exploration of another planet. Not Mars, not Jupiter or Saturn, which seem to receive inordinate amounts of attention. The planet in mind is the oddball of our Solar system; Uranus.

Firstly, if you want to make all the usual, adolescent jokes about that name, get it over with now. Yes, we all know the infantile quips about ‘your anus’ and gas. Ok, after the juvenile japes are out of your system, let’s get busy with the important issues. Secondly, the planet’s name – correctly pronounced ‘YOOR-uh-nus’ – is an homage to the Ancient Roman god Caelus, Father Sky. Named for the equivalent Ancient Greek god Ouranos, today we have the father sky of the monotheistic religions. The other planets were named after Roman gods.

Discovered by German-born astronomer William Herschel in 1781, Uranus is classified as a gas giant, along with Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune. In fact, Uranus and Neptune form their own sub-category of ice giants. Gas giants, unlike the terrestrial Earth, do not have a rocky crust, but a gaseous exterior. While Uranus has a rocky core, it is an ice giant because its internal structure is made up of ice water, methane and ammonia. The gaseous atmosphere is incredibly dense and would likely crush any spacecraft attempting to get through to any potentially solid surface.

Axial tilt

There are many reasons why Uranus is the eccentric planet, and its unusual axial tilt is one of them. As we all know, the Earth rotates on a 23.5 degree axis. It’s what gives our planet the seasons. Uranus rotates on an axis of 98 degrees – almost rolling on its side. One pole of Uranus faces the sun, resulting in decades-long summers (such as it is), and the other hemisphere has an equally long freezing winter.

How did Uranus end up with such a pronounced axial tilt? One explanation is that a large proto-planet slammed into Uranus, knocking it on its side. And let’s bear in mind that Uranus has a radius of 25 362 kilometres. In comparison, the Earth’s radius is 6731 kilometres. Uranus has an average distance of 2.88 billion kilometres from the sun, and one Uranian year is equal to 84 Earth years.

Uranus has a remarkably cold exterior atmosphere. Its average atmospheric temperature is -195 degrees Celsius. It has the coldest temperature recorded anywhere in the Solar system; -224 degrees Celsius. Inhospitable to life, the Uranian atmosphere is mostly composed of methane, ammonia, hydrogen sulphide and water. Uranus has a bluish-green tinge, because methane absorbs light at the red end of the spectrum.

Unanswered questions and why bother?

There are numerous unanswered questions regarding Uranus. Why is its magnetic field so eccentric, tilted at 60 degrees from its rotational axis? The technical hurdles in getting a spacecraft through the dense Uranian atmosphere are enormous. Why does Uranus fail to generate internal heat, a possible reason why temperatures are so cold? And what of the moons orbiting Uranus? There are 27 of them, all travelling with the planet.

This leads to an anticipatory question – aren’t there enough serious problems on Earth, so why should we waste millions of dollars exploring other planets? This kind of question, attacking the underlying reasons for planetary science, arise whenever large space projects are proposed. Surely we should be directing our resources towards solving all of our problems here on Earth. There is no shortage of issues to solve – economic inequalities, global warming, increasingly severe weather events, wars and famines – why waste money on going into space?

This question originates from reasonable sentiments – concern for life on Earth – but is misguided. Branches of science, including planetary exploration, are not engaged in a zero sum game. We have to make decisions about funding priorities of course. The billionaires, such as Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, want to monopolise space exploration through exerting private control. We must not allow the billionaire class to define the motivations and parameters of planetary science.

Outer space is not a playground for the rich and famous. Planetary sciences answer the deep cosmological questions about the solar system and our origins. When Sherlock Holmes contemptuously dismissed knowledge of basic science, he was not only betraying a profound ignorance of the way the natural world works. He was expressing a hostile attitude to scientific knowledge, an attitude which has contributed to our current perilous state of affairs.

Explorations of other planets are inspirational, motivating the next generation of students to get excited about solving the deep scientific questions of our age. There are not only technological benefits from space research which flow on to the general public – GPS tracking as one example. Tackling the age-old scientific problems requires a detailed understanding of the cosmos and our place in it.

Ye (Kanye West), antisemitic conspiracy theories, far right grifters and social media

I do not care much about so-called ‘celebrities’; their views and personal lives receive amplified and unnecessarily lengthy attention on social and corporate-controlled media. Every excruciating detail of their lives is offered as ‘news’ to be consumed in our celebrity-obsessed culture.

However, when a celebrity, such as Ye (Kanye West) recycles misinformed and harmful views – which reach millions of people – it is time to provide a rebuttal. It is perfectly reasonable to respect the work of an musician – and Ye is a talented hip hop artist and lyrical poet – but also to heavily criticise the views expounded, especially if those viewpoints are toxic nonsense. Ye’s drift into the cesspit of ultrarightist and antisemitic tropes has been a long time in the making. His descent is being aided and abetted by far right scoundrels.

Ye’s antisemitic comments are easily accessible through social media. He recycled various tired old cliches – Jews ‘control’ Hollywood and the music industry, Jews are conniving to accumulate more finance and power; boring and age-old tropes that are new only to the uninformed. I will not link directly to Ye’s comments – you can find them for yourself. What I will observe here is that Ye’s comments have found him new friends – neo-Nazis and white supremacists are loudly praising Ye’s antisemitic conspiratorial worldview.

Ye has millions of followers on social media, even though Twitter and other platforms have locked his accounts (for the time being) in response to his antisemitic posts. Millions can read his opinions, and take them seriously. Ye is a talented lyrical poet, applying his creative energies to producing music. Being remarkably talented is no insulation from being completely off-grid in other fields of endeavour. Elvis Presley was an incredible singer and musician – but a hopeless actor.

This is not the first time that Ye, alongside ultrarightist opportunist Candace Owens, has espoused views adjacent to white nationalism. Ye and Owens, during a public function, wore t-shirts bearing the slogan ‘White lives matter’. Seemingly innocuous perhaps, but then consider the origins of that statement – white supremacist groups, attempting to deflect attention from the resurgent Black Lives Matter and anti racist protests. Cynically posing as ‘civil rights defenders’, neo-Nazis and white nationalist organisations have cunningly countered accusations of racism. What better ally of white nationalist sentiment than an African American boosting the white supremacist cause?

Ezra Pound (1885 – 1972) was a versatile and internationally famous American poet. A pioneer of Imagism in poetry, his works are still studied in English literature courses around the world today. It is also true that he was an inveterate antisemite and fascist sympathiser in his politics. Confined to a mental asylum after the end of World War 2, he was released in 1958. He will forever be associated with regurgitating antisemitic viewpoints, and orienting politically to the European fascist powers. The American ultranationalist Right continues to provide support for European white supremacists until today.

Charles Lindbergh

Ye is not the only celebrity to advocate antisemitic and ultrarightist views. In his time, Charles Lindbergh (1902 – 1974), internationally renowned aviator, was a remarkably talented pilot. He proved his courage and resilience by achieving an historic first – the 1927 solo transatlantic flight. That flight earned him international fame and widespread respect. The book by Dan Hampton, The Flight, explains in elaborate detail the meticulous preparation, the skilled engineering and incredible technical skills that went into making that accomplishment possible.

His fame and celebrity status – in the days before the internet – seemed assured. However, he displayed to the public another side – purveyor of bigotry, Nazi sympathies and recycler of antisemitic conspiracy thinking. Travelling to Nazi Germany in the 1930s, Lindbergh praised the Nazi party’s efforts to ‘protect’ the white race. Inspecting Germany’s military aviation, he admired the vitality of the Germans, especially in promoting technologies in the service of the superior race.

Making radio broadcasts from Europe, Lindbergh’s views were heard by millions of Americans at the time. A strident eugenics advocate, he couched his bigotry in terms of ‘concern’ for the preservation of the white race – a community-minded bigot. After the defeat of European fascism, he tactically retreated from openly praising fascism, but clung to his racist beliefs.

To be fair, Lindbergh was not the only high-profile American to share antisemitic views. Henry Ford, the founder of the famous automotive company, did his utmost to promote antisemitic sentiment through funding publications and media. Nevertheless, Lindbergh went out of his way to propound antisemitic conspiracy theories, and worked with the isolationist America First committee to prevent (ultimately unsuccessfully) the participation of the United States in the war against Nazi Germany. The America First policy finds its modern expression in the politics of Donald Trump.

There is no doubt that Ye has made an incredible impact on modern music. I hope he receives the counselling he needs for his mental health issues. All of this does not absolve him of responsibility for his reprehensible views.