Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Kurdish resource page

This page is a list of links to commentaries, mainly from left and anarchist perspectives, on the situation in Kurdish lands. I have tried to follow some of the complex arguments circulating, many of which I have not made up my mind about, and I have also noticed considerable confusion. Along with the understandable ignorance, we are of course dealing with disinformation and willful ignorance (e.g. last week I noticed a lot of social media chatter about "PKK-Peshmerga" being terrorists equivalent to ISIS...) So, while arranging my own thoughts, I thought I would publish this list of resources to help you arrange yours.

In case it is helpful, here are the key players. The PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party, led by Abdullah Öcalan) has on and off been in a state of insurgency in the Southeast of Anatolia or Turkish (Northern) Kurdistan. The KRG (Kurdish Regional Government) is an autonomous sub-state making up most of Northern Iraq or Iraqi Kurdistan, with its capital in Erbil, ruled by a coalition of president Barzani's centre-right KDP and Jalal Talabani's more left-wing PUK. The armed forces of the KRG are known as the Peshmerga. The PYD (Democratic Union Party) is an affiliate of the PKK which (in coalition with the KNC, Kurdish National Council, an alliance of other Kurdish groups sponsored by Barzani's KRG) governs Northern Syria or Syrian (Western) Kurdistan, known as Rojava. Rojava has been effectively autonomous since 2012, in revolution against Assad's Ba'athist regime in Damascus. Its armed forces are the YPG/YPJ (People's Protection Units - male and female respectively). There is also Iranian Kurdistan, but that's not really relevant to our story. All of these proper nouns are rendered differently in different translations of Kurdish and other languages; I have used the most common. It is worth noting that the Kurds are far from homogeneous, speaking a number of related Indo-Iranian languages and dialects (mostly but not all written in Roman script), and practising a range of religions (most are Sunni Muslims but there are also Shia Muslims, Yazidis, the Yarsan, Alevis,Christians and Jews).

The best single resource on the region, and especially on Rojava, that I have seen is that of the Irish-based anarchist Andrew Flood here. His introduction is worth reading first. In that he summarises what is at stake and the issues that have become contentious in the wake of the Da'esh assault on the Kurdish town of Kobane.

For me, as an internationalist, my bottom line is solidarity with the Kurdish people, who have been oppressed in all the nation-states amongst whom their land is cleft, and who bear the brunt of the genocidal advance of Da'esh (Islamic State or ISIS). This means solidarity with their heroic fighting forces, the YPG/YPJ, who are analogous to the French Résistance or the Republican militias of the Spanish civil war. My strong instinct is that our governments in the West should be helping them out too. The political and also social revolution in Rojava, unfolding alongside and partly within the Syrian revolution, is also incredibly inspiring, and many of the links below describe why, including (apparently) forms of direct democracy and a revolution in gender relations.

The role of the PYD in that revolution stands further analysis though. On the one hand, the heritage of the PKK is the most authoritarian tradition of the nationalist left (a purist form of Marxism-Leninism influenced by Mao) and marked by an unpleasant Stalinist-style cult of personality around Öcalan. On the other hand, Öcalan and his party appear to have gone through a significant political evolution in the last decade, adopting a form of libertarian socialism heavily influenced by the late Murray Bookchin, theorist of libertarian municipalism. This libertarian turn has encouraged parts of the global anarchist movement to embrace the cause of Rojava, while a more sternly purist anti-nationalist left communism continues to be suspicious. That is one of the key faultlines; the other is the question of Western intervention.

In the links below, I rely heavily on Andrew Flood's link list, and where it says AF I am directly quoting him, but with some minor typographical edits and some added hyperlinking. There are also several resources here, collected in January 2015 for Libcom. Texts by Kurdish anarchists are here. Other resources can be found at Tahrir-ICN. It is also worth noting that although anarchist-like Kurdish movements have received a great deal of attention in the anarchist scene, Syrian anarchists seem to have been less noticed, although they played a central role in the 2011 revolution; read about them here.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Resuming normal service

Here are a bunch of things that I think you should read, which have built up in my list since January but which I haven't managed to find time to post about.

Left ad absurdum
A long article in Logos Journal, "The Treason of Intellectual Radicalism and the Collapse of Leftist Politics" by Gregory Smulewicz-Zucker and Michael J. Thompson,  is a bracing account of how a left that has blossomed in the academy is dying on the streets:
This new radicalism has made itself so irrelevant with respect to real politics that it ends up serving as a kind of cathartic space for the justifiable anxieties wrought by late capitalism... These trends are the products as well as unwitting allies of that which they oppose.
To illustrate this, Coatesy recently hosted some prizes for the most insanely ridiculous writing on the far left. You couldn't make it up...

Confessions of a non-Zionist Jew
This article by Todd Gitlin (via Rokhl) expresses perfectly a lots of the things I feel. Highly recommended.

Drawing clear lines
This deserves a post of its own, but my comrade Spencer Sunshine has written some important texts. “Drawing Lines Against Racism and Fascism” documented how cryptofascists and pro-White separatists are attempting to make inroads into left political and counter-cultural circles and also sets outs some principles for addressing the problem. Walter Reeves’s Daily Kos post, “Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing; Racism, Anti-Semitism and Fascism: Infiltrating the Left” introduced some of its key points, generating some enlightening and depressing arguments. "The continuing appeal of racism and fascism" develops these themes further.

One disturbing example of this continuing appeal comes from the UK far left scene, where a former Marxist, Ian Donvan, has, via the influence of Gilad Atzmon and George Galloway, entered a political space we might associate with David Duke.

Like old times, but different 1: Counter-Englightenment
I'd like to find time to give this fine post the attention that it deserves, but you should read Martin Robb's semi-return to blogging here, on his political trajectory and search for an alternative to the Enlightenment rationalism. 

Like old times, but different 2: from the end of the world
Roland Dodds is also on a complex political journey. He has put together a book of essays from the last 10 years of blogging at But I Am A Liberal, and started up a new blog at In Hope and Darkness. His first post there was "A Radical in Every Institution", on "social justice warriors". He's also writing at Ordinary Times, where he has written nicely about fatherhood and conservatism and also on the trade-off between multiculturalism and social democracy. (I profoundly disagree with his conclusions in the latter, oddly a topic I've been arguing about on Twitter this week. In my view, welfare states in Europe were born at a time when there was not a sense of a common culture; European societies were sharply divided by denominational sectarianism, by class anatagonisms, by regional cultures. Britain in the early twentieth century had many indigenous non-English-speaking communities, and there was an enormous cultural difference between, say, the Northumbrian shore and the Home Counties. And that picture was repeated across the European states where social democracy was tried out. A sense of commonality was born from the common institutions of the welfare state, not the other way around.) 

Like old times, but different 3: wordspiv, layabout, culchie.
Thirdly, Terry Glavin has also deserted blogspot for wordpress. His new site includes blog posts (lately mostly on China), his columns and his "essays and inquiries", as well as a special section on Syria and Kurdistan

Like old times, but different 4: with nylons and coathanger
Finally, a belated welcome to the blogosphere for Trabi Mechanic.

This article in Ha'aretz (reproduced here if you're stuck on the wrong side of the paywall) is very interesting for thinking about the relationship between Zionism, anti-Zionism, imperialism and anti-imperialism. It shows that parts of the British imperial state were actively siding with various Arab forces in 1948 in the attempt to forge a Greater Syria and to subvert (or even militarily defeat) the possibility of a Jewish state.

Ukraine, fascism and anti-fascism
I intend to write a proper post on this one day, but I have been disturbed over the past year to see how many "anti-fascists" have been taken in by the supporters of Russian irredentism in Ukraine, an essentially far right movement. Here is Dale Street refuting one instance of this. Here is a collection of texts from the Ukrainian left on the fake ant-fascists of Borotba. And here is an interview with some Ukrainian anarchists.

Truth wars
I'm not sure if I've linked to Kyle Orton's January post "From Kessab to Cannibals: Syria’s Media War". If not, I should have. It looks at IS's media strategy briefly, but then in more depth at media use by the Assad regime and its allies Russia and Iran. This is important, because a lot of that media is consumed by leftists and others in the West who somehow think it is more reliable than the so-called "mainstream media". (See these previous posts of mine and their comment threads: The Ukraine truth war; The House of Assad and the House of Rumour; Mother Agnes and the fog of war.)

France after Charlie Hebdo
AWL has published a collection of articles on racism against Jews and Muslims in France by Yves Coleman. Also from AWL: After the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and the Hyper Cacher Jewish supermarket: thinking through the new and rethinking the old - veteran French Trotskyist Pierre Rousset discusses the political aftermath of the January 2015 Islamist attacks in Paris. And Barry Finger explores the connections to the politics of anti-imperialism and what he calls "Third World fascism".

Islam etc
Understanding ISIS: some useful pieces of analysis by Kenan Malik, by Disillusioned Marxistby Army of RedressersUnderstanding the Muslim far-right in Algeria, and beyond: an interview with Marieme Helie Lucas.

A polite hatred
An important series in the Tablet on British antisemitism by Josh Glancy and Ben Judah.

Not so radical
Back in January, James Bloodworth wrote that Syriza's government may not be the radical left-wing triumph we were hoping for. And here is Max Dunbar on Russell Brand, which I completely missed way back in October.

Pseudo-left rape apologists
Steve Hedley not “cleared of domestic violence” with a case still to answer, says the RMT rep representing his former partner in her complaint of physical, emotional and verbal abuse.

Phil BC has a nice series of Saturday interviews. Comrade Coatesy was featured some time back.

Monday, May 11, 2015

F*ck aspiration, we don't need another Tory party

I have been a bit nauseated in the past days hearing the commentariat conclude from Labour's general election defeat that what Britain needs is more middle class oriented centrist politics: a more "aspirational" politics. I think this rushed judgement is based on a fundamental misreading of what happened last week, as I shall try to show in this post.

First of all, where did Labour gain ground and where did it lose ground? Most dramatically, of course, Labour lost Scotland. Crucially, there it lost to a party which positioned itself to Labour's left.

What about in England? These two maps in the Guardian, which take a moment to work out how to read (the map is redrawn to be proportionate to votes) are very important:

The Guardian have also made what look like weather maps but are actually very clever

And this map shows where Labour lost support.
The maps show that Labour gained votes almost everywhere in England and lost a lot of votes in Scotland and Wales. Most important for my purposes is where Labour lost votes in England. I don't have the time or knowledge to look closely at each of these, so what I conclude is provisional but the following is what strikes me.

It is true, as the "apirationalists" ("New New Labour" in Ben Judah's witty typology) would emphasise, that there are some places in the Southeast, Southwest and West Midlands (what we could call Middle England) where Labour lost ground - but these are outnumbered by the seats in those regions where Labour gained votes. The most significant English losses are actually up and down the East coast, often in the areas where UKIP gained ground.*

My strong feeling is that in such areas (as well as in the Labour core areas where voter turn out was low), Labour's problem was not that it didn't connect to "aspirations" or that it wasn't middle class enough. Instead, I think Labour's problem was that it was seen as a party of the metropolitan elite - that it was too middle class.

With the figure of Ed Miliband - constantly associated with "Hampstead" and "North London", seen as a "geek" or "nerd" unable to eat a bacon sandwich - it is hard to disentangle this anti-metropolitan sentiment from low-level antisemitism and the simple fact that he comes across awkwardly to camera. But even leaving that aside, Labour was seen as the party that sneered at white van man for putting up England flags.

For many of these people, "aspiration" is probably less relevant than the sense that even you when you work really hard you're still fucked because the decks seem stacked against you.

And surely the most "aspirational" voters - in diverse and migrant-rich London - are now actually Labour's core voters; many of them probably see Labour as a metropolitan party, and see that as a positive.

Beyond the capital, anti-metropolitanism ties in with the belief that the Westminster parties are basically all the same, that all mainstream politicians are un-trustworthy - this is a sentiment that UKIP voters share with SNP voters, who sound almost identical on this issue. (And the UKIP and SNP voters are at least partly right about this, surely.)

A lot of this is about identity politics. While Labour and its metropolitan voters identify with a civic Britishness, the Tories and UKIP played an English card which resonates for many people in England at least as much as Scottishness resonates North of the border.** Local and regional identities matter too, and are one ingredient in the anti-metropolitanism (see Waterloo Sunset's points here).

Labour was (rightly) concerned about making sure that its candidates were gender-representative and ethnically diverse (and indeed, as Paul pointed out, one silver lining in the gloom is the number of new MPs who aren't White British) - but, for all its alleged leftism, it didn't put any thought in how class identities still matter. (Thus it is striking that this more diverse parliament is no less privileged than the last one: 28% went to Oxbridge; 32% went to private schools, of whom one in ten went to Eton - barely changed from 2010.***)

I am not in the business of telling Labour what implication they should take from all this, but I think there are implications for a wider "left" - by which I mean those of us who are scared what five more years of austerity will do for us and who are scared of the consequences of rising nationalism and xenophobia.

The implications as I see them are these: First, we (that wider left) need to re-connect with communities feeling left behind by the globalised world the metropolitan elite seems at ease in - and not sneer at them in a condescending way. We need to start taking seriously and talking about Englishness, as well as Scottishness and regional identities. We should sharpen not soften our attacks on the sorts of class privilege that mean we remain ruled by a narrow elite who went to the same schools and universities.

I don't know if Labour have a chance of addressing these kinds of issues or not (the Murdoch-friend;y talk about "aspirations" and the middle class suggest it doesn'), but in the meantime in communities across the UK we will need to work hard to defend ourselves, our jobs and our public services from the Tories' ideologically-driven slash-and-burn policies, and we can't do that without white van England.


Friday, May 08, 2015

The morning after

Quite a depressing morning politically, though a few silver linings. Here's a quick run through of how my election priorities fared. [NB: Post slightly edited 17:36.]

Priority no,1: Tories out. Verdict: epic fail

Obviously my biggest desire for this election was my biggest disappointment. As I write this, it's looking like  the Conservatives will have just enough seats to form a majority government, without even the almost negligible restraining power of their Lib Dem partners. That's a disaster, for the NHS, for the economy, for schools and for the continuation of the United Kingdom.

Labour needed to make considerable advances to win, and it failed to do so. But while the media narrative is of Tory electoral triumph, it is important to note that Labour increased its popular vote share from 2010 and that the Conservatives lost theirs, and that in England Labour has increased its vote share everywhere (most dramatically in London) apart from the Northeast (where its majority was already enormous) and the East. The Tory victory in the first past the post system was partly a result of the extraordinary SNP surge in Scotland which has effectively wiped out Labour in one of its heartlands, a topic that I plan to write about when the dust settles (Labour took more far seats than it lost in England and Wales) and partly due to Lib Dem losses to Tories.

Priority no.2: Contain the rise of UKIP. Verdict: mixed

We can take some comfort in Nigel Farage not taking the seat he stood in and the Conservatives decisively regaining Rochester and Strood from their former MP Mark Reckless (one of the few times in my life I've taken joy from a Conservative gain). Carswell keeping Clacton is hardly a UKIP victory, as Carswell was surely the least UKIPy and most Tory of UKIP candidates. Farage's promised resignation will be pleasurable, although the next leader may be scarier.

On the other hand, the surge in UKIP votes, to 13% (making it the third most popular party) is depressing. Most depressing is how well it did in working class areas in the East, Northeast and Yorkshire, places like Hartlepool, Boston, Rotherham, Although UKIP's vote was stronger in more affluent parts of the Southeast and commuterbelt, the results in the rustbelt show that the left urgently needs to think hard about the strategy it has used against UKIP up to now. Some will call for more UKIP-friendly Labour policies - tougher on immigration - but I think UKIP voters won't be persuaded by the pale imitation, plus it will feed the narrative on which UKIP thrives. But what is certain is that sneering at UKIP voters as ignorant bigots is not a successful strategy.

Locally in Lewisham, UKIP got too high a vote (8-9%) for comfort in Lewisham East, where their candidate was the toxic Anne Marie Waters (3rd place), and in Lewisham West (4th place). My assumption is that these votes are from the whiter Bromley borderlands.

Priority no.3: Kick George Galloway out of Bradford - and out of British politics. Verdict: resounding success

It is fantastic to see Naz Shah get almost twice Galloway's vote. Congratulations to all those in Bradford West who fought so hard for that. I will relish Galloway's sad face under the silly hat at the count for years to come. His bizarre concession speech gives a good indication into his disturbing mindset, mixing hubris with paranoia:
there will be others who are already celebrating: the venal, and the vile, the racists and the zionists will all be celebrating. The hyena can bounce on the lion's grave but it can never be a lion, and in any case, I'm not in my grave. As a matter of fact I'm going off now to plan the next campaign.
Priority no.4: Leave some space for the left. Verdict: not much space

The Greens did OK, increasing their vote share nationally by a couple of percentage points and holding on to their single parliamentary seat. Green supporters will see this as a reason we need more proportional representation, but it's worth bearing in mind that the same vote share under PR would give the Lib Dems and especially UKIP far more seats in parliament than the Greens. The Greens performed well in Lewisham, increasing their vote share even in least promising Lewisham East, moving into third position in Lewisham West and nearly beating the Tories to second place in Deptford.

I haven't looked closely at the TUSC and Left Unity results yet. As far as I can see, there's not many places where they kept their deposits. Dave Nellist, who has profile as a councillor and former MP in Coventry did well, and less pleasingly an SWP candidate, Jenny Sutton, kept her deposit in Tottenham. Elsewhere, it looks quite bleak. I think there are two lessons from this. First, the far left only performs at all electorally under a Labour government; fear of Tories pushes socialists back to Labour. Second, the right path for building the left is not contesting elections but grassroots single issue campaigns in local  communities. 

Priority no.5: Destroy the far right. Verdict: promising

I haven't looked too closely at the far right results yet either, but a first glance seems to show they did dismally. I think their strongest result is in Rotherham, where the BNP got a couple of hundred votes (less than most TUSC candidates). In Lewisham West, the vile George Whale got just 44 votes. However, anti-fascists shouldn't take too much comfort from this, as the potential far right vote went to UKIP, and we need to keep a close eye on UKIP-fascist links.

Priority no.6: Get rid of David Ward. Verdict: success

Labour recaptured Bradford East from the vile David Ward, 47% to 30%. But we shouldn't take too much comfort from this, considering how unpleasant the Labour candidate Imran Hussein is - the man whose nepotistic clan-based machine politics pushed Bradford West into Galloway's arms. 

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Bob's election priorities no.1: Tories out!

So, we've reached the predictable if rather late in the day culmination of my pre-election series...

For a lot of the time, in this blog I have focused on faultlines between Islamism and secularism or between internationalism and isolationism. I've spent a lot of time criticising the left for its evacuation of working class communities, for its capitulation to postmodern moral relativism and so on - because it is on those issues which I've felt I have something to say. Because of my position on those things, I often find myself in agreement with people on the centre-right. However, those are not the issues which really fundamentally matter to me and my family in our day to day lives, or which I vote on in elections. In this post, I want to focus on the issues which really do matter in a much more concrete way. 

The last five years of Conservative-led Coalition government have, I believe, been disastrous for the country, in many ways.

Instead of evidence-based policy on topics such as migration or education, we have had ideological follies and back-of-a-fag-packet gimmicks. David Cameron's contempt for Scotland looks likely to contribute to the break-up of the United Kingdom, despite the fact that a clear majority of the Scottish people voted against independence. A half-baked philosophy of "Big Society" has done nothing to empower citizens. A faux-libertarian rejection of the nanny state and red tape has masked a series of authoritarian laws which put schools and local authorities under tighter than ever central government control. Inequality between ethnic groups has grown, while the government has pandered to "faith communities". A promise of a new greener Conservatism has failed to materialise as its becomes ever clearer that Cameron thinks of environmental protection as "green crap". Public assets such as the Royal Mail have been sold off at a huge loss, benefiting big business while delivering worse value for money for consumers. Our housing situation is in absolute crisis, with growing numbers in abject shelter poverty and an unsustainable property bubble locking even middle income people out of home ownership.

But there are three areas where there has been particularly brutal damage, and where another term of Conservative rule promises the threat of even worse, irrevocable damage. (Note, most of the links below are to charts evidencing the claims I am making.)

David Cameron was talking last night about "the 2008 Labour recession", an idea that seems to have become almost common sense for the mainstream media, even to the point that Labour barely challenges it. The fact is, of course, as any Greek could tell you, the 2008 recession was global, with lots of complex causes (many to do do with the finance industry and the property bubble), Gordon Brown's spending not being one of them.

Similarly, Cameron claims that the Conservatives have steered us out of recession through prudence. In fact, the recovery has been global too (in fact, growth began again in the last three quarters of Brown's government and retreated for the first two years of Cameron's). And while it is true that that the UK's recovery in terms of growth and jobs has been more impressive than many other countries (but not the US), it is telling to look at who has benefited from that growth and what sort of jobs they've been.

While there's been growth, productivity has declined. Growth has been driven by the housing market (benefiting existing home-owners, hurting renters and those who want to buy but can't; in London an average house price is nine times an average salary) and above all by the service sector, the only sector back to its pre-crisis state. The benefits, therefore, have been to home owners (especially in London), the finance sector, and the rich. Manufacturing and production have shrunk.

This means that the types of jobs created have been low-paid service jobs. The rise in zero hours contracts (from 50,000 in 2005 to 200,000 in 2013 to 700,000 now) has been the great scandal of the Coalition period. We've had a growing number of self-employed people, but a huge leap (from 20% to 35%) in the number of self-employed people with very low incomes (below £10,000). Because we now have such a low-wage service economy and a not particularly progressive taxation system, government tax receipts have not kept up with growth, so the public sector debt and deficit (which we've had since Thatcher) has grown not shrunk in the Cameron age of austerity.

Combined with "reforms" to welfare which have mainly hit working people (most welfare recipients are in work not out of work), working poverty has risen, and a cost of living crisis has affected everyone from the very poor to the squeezed middle. Food banks is the other great scandal of this government, with well over a million using the Trussell Trust food banks alone.

Zero hours contracts is one dimension of precarity that makes people insecure; the axing of public services, which has thrown many public sector workers into unemployment as well as destroyed the safety nets the poor rely on, has been another. Those facing benefits sanctions are probably among the most harshly affected.

It is no wonder then, especially as mental health services are cut back, that suicide has risen sharply under the Tories. Their economic policies are literally killing us.

The NHS, created by a Labour government after World War II, is one of the great achievements of which Britain should be proud. From 1979-1997, the NHS experienced systematic disinvestment until it reached close to breaking point. Anyone who spent time in the Third World standard London hospitals of the John Major years and then in the Gordon Brown years will know that massive investment in the NHS by New Labour made a real, palpable difference to the quality of care. Disinvestment impacts quicker than investment, and the period since 2010, as demand for healthcare grows due to our ageing demography, has seen another palpable decline.

But probably more damaging is the attempts this government has made to close hospitals and wards (including wards at my local hospital in Lewisham, where one of my kids was born). These closures have been hard fought by local communities, and the government has changed the law to make it easier to do so under their next term in office.

More serious still is the Conservative strategy to privatise and dismantle the NHS as we know it. Although they are not upfront about this, is it clear from what they have done already. The 2012 Health and Social Care Act removed the responsibility of the Secretary of State to secure comprehensive and universal healthcare provision; it requires contracting out of services to private companies; and it removes accountability in the NHS. £7 billion of new NHS contracts have been given to private companies - many tax avoiders and/or cronies of Conservative MPs.

By lifting the cap on private patient income from Foundation Trusts, the Act allows hospitals to prioritise profit-making activities at the expense of universal patient care. And, in Clinical Commissioning Groups, it has created an incredibly expensive and less accountable new bureaucracy, diverting funds from patient care.

More and more NHS care is being redefined as "non-core" and therefore potentially chargeable; the cumbersome bureaucracy created to charge migrants for their health care creates the machinery for that. Vote out the Tories to save the NHS.

My son applied to secondary school this year, and was offered a place in his fifth choice school, so this section is pretty personal to me. British state schools have been victims of damaging purely ideological reforms by both Conservative and Labour governments since 1979; the dramatic difference between the Labour years and the Tory years is that the former saw massive investment in school budgets while the latter has seen systematic disinvestment.

Investment in teachers, in teacher training, in existing and new school infrastructure have all collapsed under the Coalition government. Instead, money has been squandered on Free Schools, the gimmicky pet project of Michael Gove, whose only qualification for being education minister was that he once played a vicar in a comedy farce about a British private school. Free Schools have cost us an enormous amount, and there has been no evidence whatsoever of their success. Crucially, because they have been located wherever their sponsors want them to be located, they have completely failed to meet the demand for school places. Free Schools have therefore hindered a strategic response to the school place shortage crisis that this government should have seen coming. Vote out the Tories to save our schools.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Bob's election priorities no.2: Contain the rise of UKIP

I'm running out of time for this series, and I've left the most important posts for last...

UKIP's support has clearly receded after reaching its high tide mark; I think that my prediction in May still holds that when push comes to shove and the electorate actually votes on a government people will step back from the UKIP brink. However, we can't be complacent. Even if UKIP gets a single figure number of MPs (not the dozen or more it was  expecting a few weeks ago or the sizeable number its European election performance suggested), its presence in parliament is a very bad sign. The possibility of UKIP shoring up a minority Conservative government is even scarier (and surely far, far worse than the SNP shoring up a minority Labour government).

I guess in this post I only have four points I want to make.

1. UKIP is not the party of working people
It makes me infuriated that so many chattering class pundits trot out the line that UKIP is somehow speaking the voice of "the ordinary man" or the working class. This narrative has been boosted by Matthew Goodwin and Robert Ford's concept of "the left behind", which found that the constituencies UKIP has polled well in are a little whiter, a little more working class and a lot older than the UK average, a fact that has been translated by the commentariat into the claim that UKIP appeals to working class people. In fact, Lord Ashcroft's polls are consistent in showing that UKIP's support is among C2 but not DE voters, and that it is unpopular among working class women and young working class people. Recent British Election Survey data finds it is a part of small businesses:

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Bob's election priorities no.3: Kick George Galloway out of British politics

This series is going slower than I meant, so I'll have to rush out the final three quick as polling day rushes nearer... We started with David Ward in Bradford East, and now turn to Bradford West...

George Galloway has been MP for Bradford West since 2012. This week, he faces a challenge from Naz Shah, a radical, credible candidate with an extraordinary and inspiring story. I wish her success in this election. Why?

1. Galloway does not serve the people of Bradford. From the moment of his victory in what he called the "Bradford Spring", when he tweeted about his "Blackburn triumph", it was clear he couldn't give a monkeys about his new constituency (later attempting to make out he was hacked by tweeting "Nice try. Password now changed").
George Galloway tweet naming Bradford victory as Blackburn
As far as I can tell from his Hansard record, he has mentioned Bradford once in parliament over the last year, while regularly mentioning Iraq and Palestine. His third? fifth? fourth wife, 31 years his junior, may or may not still live in the Netherlands, possibly eating in to his time in Yorkshire - although to be fair there are frequent KLM flights there from Leeds Bradford.

2. Galloway is basically a part-time MP. Although his links to his constituency are tenuous outside of election season, maybe he claws back a bit of time for Bradford by rarely turning up in Westminster. This year he's spoken in just four debates and attended  just a tenth of votes. On the other hand, he spends a lot of time in Beirut, where he is a TV star. He is, in fact, the third highest-earning MP in parliament. (The last prime minister is the highest earning, but gives it all to his charitable foundation. The other high earners are all Tory businessmen. Unsurprisingly,  MPs who earn the most from second jobs statistically "speak in fewer parliamentary debates, submit fewer written questions and miss more votes than other MPs".)

3. Galloway is a shill for dictators. So, what is he doing when he should be in Bradford or Westminster? Mainly, he is appearing on TV stations owned by authoritarian regimes: Iran's Press TV; the Kremlin-run RT (formerly Russia Today - on which see Nick Cohen, Oliver Bullough, James Bloodworth); and the Lebanon-based Al Mayadeen, which is politically supportive of Assad's murderous regime in Syria and is linked to Hezbollah (in fact, some claim it is owned by a cousin of Assad). These stations are not just based in authoritarian countries; they are PR mouthpieces for authoritarian regimes. Not only do they systematically distort the truth in the geopolitical interests of these extreme right-wing regimes, but they also regularly host Holocaust revisionists, 9/11 deniers, British fascists and other cranks. Galloway's politics fit in well with this; in a period when Assad's government, backed by Iran and armed by Russia. has slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians, Galloway has remained silent and actually used his scarce time in parliament to table a motion about a brief Israeli incursion into Syria claiming "dozens" of lives.

4. Whether or not Galloway is personally antisemitic, he contributes to an atmosphere in which antisemitic ideas move in to the mainstream. You'll know that a couple of months ago Galloway launched a libel claim against a Jewish journalist who suggested he might be antisemitic. I wouldn't suggest Galloway is personally antisemitic, but he seems to have a lot of time for people who are, and he seems very happy to cultivate an atmosphere around himself in which antisemitism can flourish. Galloway has championed antisemitic Holocaust denier Gilad Atzmon (he reads Atzmon's book to his wife in bed, apparently.)  Respect has had to apologise for antisemites again and againSome point to Galloway's "Israel-free zone" claims and refusal to debate Israelis. This is bad for Bradford. Not long ago, Bradford Muslims saved its synagogue. Now, in an atmosphere nurtured by Galloway (and his Lib Dem twin in Bradford East) Bradford is a less comfortable place for Jews than it should be. [UPDATE: Read "A Jew in Bradford" by Ben Judah.] Most recently, Galloway has tweeted about Netanyahu celebrating his Muslim opponent's coming victory and retweets his followers' aggressive tweets about the synagogue. In fact, many of his most active supporters - people he regularly retweets - come across as antisemites, Holocaust deniers and conspiracy theorists - and antisemites have been at the heart of his coterie for some time

5. Galloway is a bully. Whether or not Galloway was being libelled when he was called an antisemitic, his response to the charge - immediately sending threatening legal letters - is a good example of his pattern of bullying. We can see this bullying in his interactions with Israeli students, his interactions with Syrian oppositionists. We can see it in his response to "ThingGate", the light-hearted tweet by a local small business which he threatened as if he the feudal boss of Bradford. In fact, we can see it throughout his pompous and testosterone-soaked social media style, including even his tweets to me
Most recently, we've seen his bullying in his interactions with his parliamentary opponent. Naz Shah was forced by her parents into marriage as a teenager, and her account of this has gone viral. At a very heated hustings event in Bradford, Galloway revealed that his agents in Pakistan had tracked down her marriage certificate, calling her a liar. 

6. Galloway's sexual politics are deeply reactionary. His claim that Naz Shah's marriage was not forced because her parents consented (even though she didn't) was, as Huma Munshi puts it, "playing politics with Shah’s history as a forced marriage survivor." It indicates how reactionary Galloway's sexual politics are. Not surprisingly for someone with multiple overlapping marriages to increasingly young women (some civil, some Islamic), who works for Putin and the mullahs of Iran as his day job, and who is deeply soaked in socially conservative Catholic morals, this would not be the first time that Galloway's reactionary sexual politics have come out. The most striking incident was when he claimed that even if allegations against his fellow Russia Today employee Julian Assange these would not constitute rape but rather just "bad sexual etiquette". Galloway just does not get that marriage without consent is rape, that sex with some not conscious and therefore not able to say no is rape. In short, he is effectively an apologist for rape.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Anne Marie Waters: UKIP bigotry comes to Lewisham

When I started my series on my election priorities, with a post on the need to eliminate the far right, I illustrated it with an infographic from UK Aktion on the current far right landscape in Britain. The map had Nigel Farage and UKIP on it, showing their irregular contact with Britain First, the Dad's Army comedy Mosleyites who are rising stars of the far right, as well as its proximity to the English Defence League and Liberty GB, who have floated around its orbit. In some ways this was a mistake, because it is wrong to call UKIP far right.

Many people to whom UKIP appeals are drawn from the Tory base ("a swelling coalition of small businessmen, lone traders and hyper-Atlanticist cowboy capitalists", as Richard Seymour aptly put it). There are even some in UKIP who might have more in common with Old Labour, or who might even be called of the left, as this brilliant piece of writing by James Meek about Grimsby shows. Some of its concerns resonate with ordinary working class people left out by the turbulence of global capitalism.

And yet, somehow UKIP can't stop getting tangled up with the far right. Whether it's chatting on Twitter with Holocaust denying Hitler fans, posting racist cartoons on Facebook, winning the endorsement of Nick Griffin, commenting on Jews' hooked noses, or linking up with fruitcakish European parties, well, UKIP keeps on getting embarrassingly right-wing. This series of tweets gives about a dozen examples of UKIP straying close to fascist territory.

Unfortunately, the candidate UKIP has chosen for Lewisham East* is kind of in this category.

Her name is Anne-Marie Waters. I first noticed her in mid-2013 when she tried to get selected as a Labour Party candidate in Brighton (although she had earlier tried to get selected in Swindon South). Andy Newman of Socialist Unity had attacked her then, and my instinct was to defend her. Newman objected to her strident secularism, arguing that she promoted Islamophobia. At the time, although there were examples of some unsavoury memes in her narrative, I felt Newman's evidence was pretty thin. Waters was associated with One Law For All, a campaign against Sharia law that I strongly support, led mainly by ex-Muslim women. OL4A have a very clear policy that the counter-Jihadi right is their enemy not their potential ally.

However, around this time, Waters seemed to start moving further to the right, away from a secularist campaign against Islamism towards a blanket loathing of Muslims. Worryingly, she started associating more and more with far right activists around the English Defence League and its founder Stephen Yaxley-Lennon. Around the time Yaxley-Lennon left the EDL, Waters left Labour (oddly, she made the announcement on a far right Scandinavian website).

Before long, she had joined UKIP. It took a while before her associates in OL4A distanced themselves from her, but eventually, as her association with EDL became more and more blatant, they did so quite unambiguously, using the words "racist hate politics".

For a while it seemed as if she would be selected as UKIP parliamentary candidate in Billericay. To court the swivel-eyed Essex men that would be UKIP's base there, she widened her animosity from Muslims to Travellers.

Hilary Aked of SpinWatch wrote a profile of her for IRR in January. I think that sometimes SpinWatch, in describing a well-funded "neoconervative" counter-Jihadi conspiracy around people like Waters can stretch their web a little too thinly to mean much. But Aked's core allegation, of Waters' links with the far right, is strong and damning, and it is important to ask where Waters' gets her funding from. I hope neither you nor Aked mind if I quote at length:
In June 2014, Waters shared a platform in Copenhagen with Lars Hedegaard, the man behind the anti-Islam organisation the International Free Press Society. A video of the event- the launch of a Swedish edition of Hedegaard’s book Muhammad’s Girls: Violence, Murder and Rape in the House of Islam - shows her sitting next to the Dane, who was convicted of hate speech in 2011 after stating that ‘Muslims rape their children’, though he successfully appealed this conviction, on ‘free speech’ grounds, the following year. Chairing the event was Ingrid Carlqvist, a key member of the Swedish counterjihad network. Also on the panel was psychologist Nicolai Sennels of the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party, a prolific purveyor of Islamophobia dressed up as science. The video was produced by Dispatch International (DI), a mouthpiece for the counterjihad movement – for which Waters has written extensively – founded by Hedegaard and Carlqvist. 
In her speech, Waters linked Islam to child abuse, saying (16:08) ‘it’s all linked to Islam’, which she characterised as a dangerous ‘ideology’ being ‘appeased’, adding (17:45): ‘it is exactly the same appeasement that is allowing young girls to be raped in Britain, it’s got nothing to do with race, it’s got to do with the fact that we will not confront the misogyny at the very, very heart of this religion’. 
Waters also seems to have another far-right admirer, of more significance in the UK context. Alan Ayling (aka Alan Lake) helped set up, fund and strategise for the EDL, as an investigation by The Sunday Times revealed. A millionaire evangelical Christian, Ayling’s links with the counterjihad movement led Scotland Yard to interview him after Anders Behring Breivik’s 2011 massacre in Norway
In a series of videos taken in October 2014 at Speakers’ Corner in London’s Hyde Park, which show Waters and others delivering diatribes against Islam, Ayling (wearing a black jacket and black t-shirt with yellow writing) can be seen in the group that appears to be supporting her between 1:08 and 1:19 in this video and from 4.40 in this clip.
Ayling may have showed up uninvited or coincidentally. Though Waters’ various online links to the EDL have been documented, there is no definitive evidence of any offline connection. Ayling, in fact, is believed to have parted ways with the EDL, though his views have not changed. He now runs the website ‘Four Freedoms’ and has links to the far-right Sweden Democrats party. Waters did not respond to repeated requests to clarify her relationship with Ayling or to comment on other matters raised in this article.
Around this time, Waters seemed to fail in her bid to stand in Basildon and Billericay (a UKIP target seat), and got the consolation prize of multicultural Lewisham East.

The Mirror filmed her and another UKIP candidate speaking at a far right rally; they describe her as spouting anti-Muslim bigotry: “a lot of people need to be deported”, she said, and “many mosques need to be closed down”. And after the election, she is launching a right-wing "thinktank" with Stephen Yaxley-Lennon.

South London Anti-Fascists have called for a picket of the hustings where she will appear tonight. Although, as I said at the start of this post,  I don't think UKIP is a fascist party (and, in fact, although very hard right, nor is Waters), I agree that Anne Marie Waters should not be welcomed in Lewisham East.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

How many foreign nationals are there in Lewisham council homes? And what is Liberty GB?

In his profile in the local paper News Shopper, one of the parliamentary candidates in Lewisham West and Penge, one Dr George Whale, claimed that "much of the borough's social housing is let out to foreign nationals." On the internet, he has thrown out figures such "one in three" and "up to 40%". Does this claim have any basis in fact?

He gives as his source a MigrationWatch "briefing paper" from April 2012 entitled "Who is being allocated social housing in London?" Does this "briefing paper" back up Whale's claim? The MigrationWatch briefing uses data on new social housing lets from the single year 2010; we can assume that longer term tenants are more likely to be "natives". The data shows that "9% of its social housing [less than one in ten] lets went to foreign nationals." 

However, because 35% of these lets are marked as having not given their nationality, MigrationWatch say that the proportion "confirmed as going to British nationals is 58%" (six in ten, which is where Whale's "up to four in ten" claim comes from). However, it seems to me this is MigrationWatch spin - why assume those who didn't give their nationality are foreigners? In my experience, it is majority ethnic "natives" who are most hostile to ethnic monitoring, but isn't it safest to just assume the proportions are the same among those who did and those who didn't give their nationality? If that were the case, then just over 13% (still not much more than one in ten) of new lets would be to foreign nationals. 

But the figures are out of date. The briefing says that for its "local connection" requirement for getting social housing, Lewisham "just requires the applicant to be resident in the borough". Since then, Lewisham has instituted a two year residence rule, which will have dramatically cut migrants - and certainly new migrants - from the waiting list. Tory reforms have made it harder and harder for migrants to get access to council housing too, further cutting the numbers. (To be eligible, you need "settled status", i.e. permanent residence; to get that you need to have already lived here for three or in most cases five years plus pass a "Life in the UK" test that most of us Brits would fail. There are no situations in which, as Whale claimed when his numbers started to unravel, foreign nationals "get precedence" over British nationals.)

Given that 20% of Lewisham's population are foreign nationals, it looks like they are underrepresented in new lets, and probably even more underrepresented in existing social housing. Which is not surprising as all the evidence shows that most migrants are owner occupiers or private renters, and that most new migrants are private renters.

In short, George Whale is talking nonsense. 

Who is George Whale?

Whale represents a party called "Liberty GB", which he founded with his buddy Paul Weston in 2013. Previously, they had a party called the "British Freedom Party", a BNP splinter which they tried to make into the electoral vehicle of the proto-fascist street thugs, the English Defence League - but this didn't work well because the EDL were more interested in booze-fuelled hooliganism than standing in elections. 

The British Freedom Party's logo was based on that of Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists, which kind of sums up Whale and his merry band. Here are some profiles of Liberty GB: from Searchlight, Tell Mama, Hope not Hate, Rational Wiki. Here's the AFN summary:
Liberty GB

Paul Weston surveyed the far right scene in 2013 and was disappointed that there was no party that catered to his particular brand of racist insanity. So, after flirting with the English Defence League and Andrew Brons, Weston did what any self-respecting, self-important racist blowhard would do, and founded his own group. 
Liberty GB managed to stand three candidates at the European elections in 2014 and achieved a dismal vote. The group will likely disband when Weston’s attention span wanes.
Do say: Paul Weston is the only man who can save Britain from the Muslamic invasion.

Don’t say: Paul Weston is our only member.
Weston is also standing in the election, in Luton South, under the name "No to terrorism, yes to Britain", after announcing his candidacy at an EDL rally. Weston was last spotted in public speaking at a Pegida UK march alongside a speaker from the openly retro-Nazi "British Movement".

Liberty GB claim to be opposed to "Islamisation" (whatever that means) and jihad, but a quick glance at their track record and election promises - banning mosques, deporting Muslims, banning halal food - show that they can't distinguish between ordinary Muslims and jihadi Islamists. This makes them racist. They have no place in our community.

This is why it was completely sensible for some of the other Lewisham West and Penge candidates to refuse to share a platform with Whale at local hustings, and stupid for the local 38 Degrees group to invite him to theirs at the Honor Oak pub.

Tomorrow, we turn to Lewisham East, and an almost as unsavoury candidate there...

Monday, April 20, 2015

From London to Yarmouk

A temporary break in the pre-election blogging...

Yarmouk: the Palestinian neighbourhood in Damascus where thousands have died, bombed by Assad, starved under seige by the Syrian regime, and more recently invaded by Islamic State fighters. Mostly ignored by the Western media until ISIS made it somehow news-worthy this month.

I first blogged about Yarmouk in 2012 and have been tweeting about it since the start of 2014. I have questioned why "pro-Palestinian" activists, who manage to mobilise thousands for Gaza, seem to have been relatively quiet about the Palestinian people of Yarmouk, where people have been dying in huge numbers for three years now.

When I saw that there was an emergency demonstration for Yarmouk, called by Palestinian solidarity activists, in London on Tuesday, I thought I should put my money where my mouth is, and go along.

There were dozens of protesters there - somewhere between 50 and 100; I'm no longer good at estimating that sort of thing. A significant proportion of those present were probably from the Palestinian diaspora. There were flags of the Syrian revolution and of Palestine. There was no presence from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign or any of the other groups which organised protests about Gaza. There were two SWP paper sellers, not managing to sell many papers but they did get some people to hold their placards. The comedian Jeremy Hardy was there. The Syrian Solidarity Movement had a banner saying "Syrian refugees welcome here." Jews for Justice for Palestinians had a large banner. There were several keffiyehs. One protester had a banner saying "Yarmouk - made in Israel", but otherwise Israel did not feature in much of the material.
After a short, powerful statement by the organisers, they read out some of the names of people who have died in Yarmouk: newborn babies, children, adults, elders. Died in airstrikes, killed by sniper fire, died from lack of medical care after suffering from treatable problems - but mostly starved to death. Listening to these names - of people who come to us through the media merely as numbers, if at all - was heart-breaking.

Six things I think I know about Yarmouk

1. The story of Yarmouk is the story of the Palestinian diaspora
Yarmouk was established in 1957, to house Palestinians squatting in and around Damascus, mainly families from the northern part of Palestine displaced in what Palestinians calls the Nakba, "catastrophe", the 1948 exodus in the wake of Israel's establishment as a state. Many came from Safad, scene of bitter conflict in 1948; others came from Haifa and Tiberius. Up to 700,000 Palestinians were displaced from Palestine in the conflict. This included up to 90,000 who went to Syria - rising to 127,000 by the 1960s, 400,00 by the end of the century. That multiplication of population was similar across the diaspora, and the descendants of the 1948 refugees now number 5 million, which is not much less than the current Jewish population of Israel, making the ideal of the right of return to Palestine increasingly hard to envisage without generating a new Nakba for the Jews. 

2. Calling Yarmouk a refugee camp is misleading

Damascus in 2011 had a population of 2.5 million - that's about the size of Birmingham or Chicago. Yarmouk had a population of over 130,000, possibly as large as 200,000 - so about the size of Oxford or Reading, or a London borough such as Hammersmith and Fulham. Yarmouk is well within the metropolitan area of Damascus and its municipal boundaries. Built on the edge of town, the city has grown up around it. Before the war, it had hospitals, theatres, businesses, beauty salons, internet cafes, a rich cultural life. Its cityscape is dominated by five-storey low-rises. According to the BBC, "It had its own mosques, schools and public buildings. Literacy and numeracy rates among Palestinians in the camp were among the highest not just in Syria, but across the Arab world."

Although it is not an "official" camp, it is known as a camp simply because most of its inhabitants are Palestinians, and therefore retain the technical status of refugees. Palestinian refugees are the only refugees whose status is passed on down through the family line. Their welfare is not administered to by the UN's normal refugee agency, UNHCR, but by a seperate specific agency, UNWRA. This means a kind of permanent homelessness and statelessness for Palestinians - which in many ways has been encouraged by their leadership and by Arab governments, as a weapon against Israel.

3. Assad is no friend of the Palestinians
Assad, like his father and other Arab tyrants, has posed as a friend of the Palestinians. However, Syria's government, while giving Palestinians resident in Syria many of the rights of other Syrians (although of course all Syrians have only limited civil rights in this totalitarian state), denies them citizenship and restricts their property and land ownership rights. Assad has made them dependent clients on the Ba'athist state, in a position of indefinite limbo, unable to return to Palestine, unable to become Syrian.

4. The Syrian regime's crimes in Yarmouk far outweigh those of ISIS
It is clearly true that Daesh are one of the worst things to happen to Syria or the world in the recent past. It is not surprising, then, that their presence in Yarmouk in recent weeks should have finally focused some attention in the West on the its suffering. But Yarmouk's suffering at the hands of Syria's own government was already unimaginably bad.

You may have seen this image, circulated by UNRWA, I think early in 2014. This was over a year into the Ba'athist regime's siege (which began 18 December 2012). The siege, which began with heavy shelling that destroyed much of the urban infrastructure, was Assad's response to the activities of the Syrian revolution in Yarmouk. Under the siege, the residents became largely dependent on UNRWA food distribution, along with occasional dangerous forays out of the district. By mid-2013, the food distribution was disrupted by fighting and only a fraction of the necessary food was getting in. Civilians were dying in the crossfire between the regime and other factions. The arrival of ISIS was simply adding an extra drop to an ocean of suffering long since flowing over.

Sections of the Palestinian leadership (the PFLP) have been in alliance with Assad; others (in the PA) have remained studiously neutral. These factions' allies in the Western Palestinian solidarity organisations have followed their lead. Western governments have uttered stern words about Assad, but done nothing to create a No Fly Zone or take other steps to stop his slaughter. Most of the left, from Ed Miliband leftwards, have actively opposed doing anything about it. We are all complicit in Yarmouk's suffering.

5. Jabhat al-Nusra are not much better than Daesh
The Western media are obsessed with ISIS, but there are marginally less extreme military factions who aren't much better. Jabhat al-Nusra, an al-Qaeda affiliate, took control of large sections of Yarmouk early in 2014. They blocked the entry of aid and tightened rather than lifted the siege on the inhabitants. In December, they executed two Palestinian residents for blasphemy. There are several reports of co-operation with ISIS in Damascus (although they are at war elsewhere they have officially claimed to be neutral on Yarmouk) and there are growing numbers of reports that the two groups are increasingly co-operating in and around Yarmouk.

Significantly, there is considerable evidence suggesting that al-Nusra has been funded and supported by some of the West's allies in the region. The Obama administration has claimed that private individuals in Kuwait have heavily financed it, a claim made in more detail by other experts. Turkey actively supported al-Nusra from 2012 to 2014 and may continue to do so covertly, seeing it as a counterbalance to Kurdish forces. Joe Biden has also claimed that the Saudis and Emirates funded them too - later semi-retracting. And there is lots of evidence of Qatari support too. Crucially, all of these countries are intimately bound through trade and finance (including arms trade) to the US and UK.

And this support came in a period when the US and UK completely stood back from the conflict. Secular, democratic or moderate rebels (Syria's best hope), left without resources due to our lack of support, were rapidly depleted as al-Nusra grew. Once again, then, we are complicit in Yarmouk's suffering.

6. The silence on Yarmouk should shame the left
Given all of this, it is striking at the left has remained quiet about Yarmouk until recently. Electronic Intifada has occasionally mentioned Yarmouk (but often, as with this piece by Asa Winstanley, putting equal blame on "the rebels" and the regime, apparently because rebelling in Syria - unlike in Israel - is reckless provocation). A couple of powerful articles at MondoWeiss (by Talal Alyan and Mariam Barghouti) draw attention to the fact that the dominant mode was silence.
The demonstration last week was only endorsed by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign under pressure at the very last minute, and the PSC had no presence at the demo. The PSC finally posted something that was more than tangentially about Yarmouk on its website on 9 April - curiously avoiding mention of any blame for Assad (or indeed any other specific parties - apart from Israel). Mehdi Hasan has recently written powerfully about this silence, saying "Our selective outrage is morally unsustainable." It seems to me that those in the BDS/anti-Zionist movement who have been silent about Yarmouk are not pro-Palestinian but simply anti-Israel.