Friday, 26 February 2010


This tide of anti-Muslim hatred is a threat to us all

The attempt to drive Islamists and young Asian activists out of the political mainstream is a dangerous folly

The Guardian
Seumas Milne [pictured above]

If young British Muslims had any doubts that they are
singled out for special treatment in the land of their
birth, the punishments being meted out to those who took
part in last year's London demonstrations against Israel's
war on Gaza will have dispelled them. The protests near the
Israeli ­embassy at the height of the onslaught were angry:
bottles and stones were thrown, a ­Starbucks was trashed
and the police employed unusually violent tactics, even by
the standards of other recent confrontations, such as the
G20 protests.

But a year later, it turns out that it's the sentences that
are truly exceptional. Of 119 people arrested, 78 have been
charged, all but two of them young ­Muslims (most between
the ages of 16 and 19), according to Manchester
University's Joanna Gilmore, even though such figures in no
way reflect the mix of those who took part. In the past few
weeks, 15 have been convicted, mostly of violent disorder,
and jailed for between eight months and two-and-a-half
years – ­having switched to guilty pleas to avoid heavier
terms. Another nine are up to be sentenced tomorrow.

The severity of the charges and sentencing goes far beyond
the official response to any other recent anti-war
demonstration, or even the violent stop the City protests a
decade ago. So do the arrests, many of them carried out
months after the event in dawn raids by dozens of police
officers, who smashed down doors and handcuffed family
members as if they were suspected terrorists. Naturally,
none of the more than 30 complaints about police ­violence
were upheld, even where video ­evidence was available.

Nothing quite like this has happened, in fact, since 2001,
when young Asian Muslims rioted against extreme rightwing
racist groups in Bradford and other northern English towns
and were subjected to heavily disproportionate prison
terms. In the Gaza protest cases, the judge has explicitly
relied on the Bradford precedent and repeatedly stated that
the sentences he is handing down are intended as a

For many in the Muslim community, the point will be clear:
not only that these are political sentences, but that
different rules apply to Muslims, who take part in
democratic protest at their peril. It's a dangerous
message, especially given the threat from a tiny minority
that is drawn towards indiscriminate violence in response
to Britain's wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and rejects any
truck with mainstream politics.

But it's one that is constantly ­reinforced by politicians
and parts of the media, who have increasingly blurred the
distinction between violent and non- violent groups,
demonised Islamism as an alien threat and branded as
extremist any Muslim leader who dares to campaign against
western foreign policy in the Muslim world. That's
reflected in the government's targeting of "nonviolent
extremism" and lavish funding of anti-Islamist groups, as
well as in Tory plans to ban the nonviolent Hizb ut-Tahrir
and crack down ever harder on "extremist written material
and speech".

In the media, it takes the form of relentless attempts to
expose ­Muslims involved in wider politics as secret
fanatics and sympathisers with ­terrorism. Next week,
Channel 4 ­Dispatches plans to broadcast the latest in a
series of undercover documentaries aimed at revealing the
ugly underside of British Muslim political life. In this
case, the target is the predominantly British-Bangladeshi
Islamic Forum of Europe. From material sent out in advance,
the aim appears to be to show the IFE is an "entryist"
group in legitimate east ­London politics – and unashamedly
Islamist to boot.

As recent research co-authored by the former head of the
Metropolitan police special branch's Muslim contact unit,
Bob Lambert, has shown, such ubiquitous portrayals of
Muslim ­activists as "terrorists, sympathisers and
subversives" (all the while underpinned by a drumbeat
campaign against the nonexistent Afghan "burka") are one
factor in the alarming growth of ­British Islamophobia and
the rising tide of anti-Muslim violence and hate crimes
that stem from it.

Last month's British Social Attitudes survey found that
most people now regard Britain as "deeply divided along
religious lines", with hostility to Muslims and Islam far
outstripping such attitudes to any other religious group.
On the ground that has translated into murders, assaults
and attacks on mosques and Muslim institutions – with
shamefully little response in politics or the media. Last
year, five mosques in Britain were firebombed, from
Bishop's Stortford to Cradley Heath, though barely reported
in the national press, let alone visited by a government
minister to show solidarity.

And now there is a street movement, the English Defence
League, directly adopting the officially sanctioned targets
of "Islamists" and "extremists" – as well as the "Taliban"
and the threat of a "takeover of Islam" – to intimidate and
threaten Muslim communities across the country, following
the success of the British National party in ­baiting
Muslims above all other ethnic and religious communities.

Of course, anti-Muslim bigotry, the last socially
acceptable racism, is often explained away by the London
bombings of 2005 and the continuing threat of terror
attacks, even though by far the greatest number of what the
authorities call "terrorist incidents" in the UK take place
in Northern Ireland, while Europol figures show that more
than 99% of terrorist attacks in Europe over the past three
years were carried out by non-Muslims. And in the last nine
months, two of the most serious bomb plot convictions were
of far right racists, Neil Lewington and Terence Gavan, who
were planning to kill Muslims.

Meanwhile, in the runup to the ­general election, expect
some ugly dog whistles from Westminster politicians keen to
capitalise on Islamophobic sentiment. With few winnable
Muslim votes, the Tories seem especially up for it. Earlier
this month, Conservative frontbencher Michael Gove came out
against the building of a mosque in his Surrey
constituency, while Welsh Tory MP David Davies blamed a
rape case on the "medieval and barbaric" attitudes of some
migrant communities.

As long as British governments back wars and occupations in
the Middle East and Muslim world, there will continue to be
a risk of violence in Britain. But attempts to drive
British Muslims out of normal political activity, and the
refusal to confront anti-Muslim hatred, can only ratchet up
the danger and threaten us all.

Sunday, 21 February 2010


SDL World Pub Tour Continues

Scottish Defence League members from Leeds, Scotland.

Intro by Sons of Malcolm:

Yesterday's events in Edinburgh shows a lot of things:

- there is a split in the anti-fascist movement between the
completely non-effectual UAF/SWP status quo, and those who
want direct confrontation with the far-right, which
includes some UAF/SWP rank and file and other anti-fascists

- that the far-right in the form of ...anti-Islamic
politics is nowhere near as popular in Scotland as it is in
England, mostly to do with the fact that many Scots are
anti-imperialist/anti-English domination

- due to the above political dynamics, England is still
faced with a dire far-right threat from several quarters,
and requires a sizeable and robust anti-fascist movement to
challenge the far-right effectively, which is nowhere in

- Anti-fascists in Scotland must not show hypocrisy and
allow the same far-right elements and their allies in the
supremacist Loyalist movements to attack those Scots who
identify with and support Irish Republicanism, with the
latter being attacked frequenly, esp at the Bloody Sunday
Commemmorations, as one person said on a comment on the
blog: "Well done. When the Irish community in Scotland
attempt to remember ‘Bloody Sunday’ we are attacked by
fascistic loyalists, BNP, NF and orange order members. We
are pelted with bricks, bottles, urine, shite by animals –
I look forward to our community being defended. Remember,
at the Glasgow SDL joke they did not attack our muslim
brothers and sisters – they attacked an Irish catholic pub
called the Empire Bar in the Saltmarket"


Though Cowards Flinch blog

Lessons from Glasgow

After much anticipation and preparation, today was the day of the English Scottish Defence League’s second outing. They had first appeared in Glasgow last November, with a generous estimate of 80 turning up to find themselves outnumbered by about 50 to 1, consequently finding themselves kettled in a pub by the police for their own safety.

There were two main lessons that people came away with from that encounter. First, that it had been a great victory for the anti-fascist movement, providing the confidence necessary to organise in future. And second, that there was a split in the movement over tactics. Broadly there appeared two groups: one led by the UAF/SWP under the banner of Scotland United, which favoured a parallel rally, hosting speakers from the Tories, SNP, Church of Scotland and others, and to that end actively opposed any idea of direct confrontation with the SDL. And one led by a range of activists from the SSP, anarchist groups, student groups and others (including, it must be said, individuals from UAF/SWP), which favoured direct confrontation via a march on the SDL position wherever it may turn out to be.

Fortunately and unfortunately respectively, these will once again be the two main lessons that people come away with from today’s encounter.

The combined march towards Royal Mile

The combined march towards Royal Mile.

Preparation and March

Almost immediately after Glasgow there were rumours that Edinburgh would be the next destination, and so the Edinburgh Anti-Fascist Alliance (EAFA) was established to organise those preferring the tactic of confrontation.

Needless to say that plenty of anti-fascist/anti-racist posters went up around the city from both the EAFA and the UAF, as well as many city-centre shops carrying leaflets on their counters. Indeed, such was the saturation that it led a Conservative councillor to complain that anti-fascism has become a “polarising influence” — Tories on the ball as always!

Each group, of course, was advertising its own event. The UAF/SWP rally was to occur at 11.30am and march through the city centre, while the EAFA organised to meet at 9.30am before heading wherever the SDL turned up. Coincidentally, the UAF/SWP decided to start advertising for students to gather at 10am instead, just down the road from where the EAFA were meeting.

This proved to be a mistake on their part, as the EAFA decided to join up with this group at around 10.20am while they waited for news on the SDL’s arrival. This turned, consciously or otherwise, into an entryist manoeuvre, as they soon got news of the SDL’s location and marched off with the entire group in tow.

Anti-Fascists headed by the EAFA move towards the SDL position after temporary confusion.

This is where the UAF/SWP’s role became a damaging rather than a building one. Having failed to stop the entire group marching off, they set themselves up further down the road with a loud-speaker to try and convince as many people as possible into staying with them. While this first attempt failed entirely to halt the enthusiastic crowd it did succeed in sowing the seeds of confusion in the majority who were not there with a group, but rather as a response to the posters, media coverage and word of mouth.

Having heard (accurately) that the bulk of SDL members seemed to be having a morning drink near Holyrood Parliament, the march entered the Royal Mile, where the police quickly mobilised to prevent any advance.

This is where the battle of the two groups commenced, as the UAF/SWP sought to take advantage of the police lines and confusion to peel people back to their rally, while the EAFA and others sought to find a side-street past the police lines. Throw into this a sighting of SDL members in the Bank Hotel — a pub right in the centre of the march (the building in the above photo) — and misinformation being introduced about where the SDL were and what was happening by prominent UAF members, and it isn’t difficult to imagine that things were getting a little chaotic. Eventually the sizeable EAFA group found their side street — barging past a single hapless police officer, who must have been unfamiliar with the story of King Canute — and took the bulk of the protesters with them. However, it was noticeable that with two factions competing for loyalty, many unaligned protesters simply gave up and drifted off, weakening both.

The SDL find that the latest stop on their world pub tour is just too good to leave.

Kettling the SDL

Despite the commotion a significant group moved forward with the EAFA and eventually reached the pub hosting the SDL — about 80 of them in total [update: The Scotsman is reporting 40]. At this point, echoing the scenes of Glasgow, the counter-protesters trapped the SDL in their pub. Now it just became a question of the police holding their ground until buses arrived to remove the SDL from the area. This took some hours, with increasing numbers of police flooding into the area and drones flying overhead, but eventually it happened and the SDL piled onto their buses — though not before they had all their details and photos taken.

Division appears in the SDL rank and file as one brave fighter forgets to swear at passing protesters.

There can be little doubt that the day was a success for the EAFA. Their spotters found the SDL early and the EAFA led a significant group to trap them in a relatively out-of-the-way pub before they could meet up or hold their rally. Other SDL members found themselves confronted by break-away groups of protesters and escorted or kettled by police — reports of which arrived from both the train station and 20 minutes away at the Grassmarket. This will hopefully set the SDL back and discourage any future rallies in Scotland, as well as establish the organisation necessary in Edinburgh to engage in future events.

It is only a shame that a rather grotesque public factional fight cost some of the momentum along the way. It must surely be seen as imperative to sort this situation out beforehand if the SDL return, with an acceptance that while the UAF’s passive rally is a good way to involve those who wouldn’t want to be involved in an EAFA-type strategy, it shouldn’t be pursued at the expense of those who are willing to carry out the important work of direct confrontation — and certainly not at the expense of a march which is already on its way.

Scottish Defence League members forced to leave city by

20 February 2010, STV

Thousands of anti-fascist protesters staged demonstrations
across Edinburgh on Saturday as members of the far-right
Scottish Defence League (SDL) gathered in the city.

Lothian and Borders Police drafted in officers from the
Strathclyde, Fife and Northumbria forces to bolster their
numbers in the capital - in all, it is understood that 900
police were on duty.

In one incident, scores of banner-waving activists
attempted to enter a bar opposite the Scottish Parliament.
Protesters said members of the SDL were inside Jenny Ha's
bar and vowed to stay in the area until the SDL members
left the city.

Police later loaded members of the league on to a bus to
leave. Officers had closed the Royal Mile, with the road
sealed off and hundreds of police on the street keeping
opposing groups apart.

It is believed that around 90 people were kept inside the
bar by police, who blocked the doors to stop trouble on the
street. Minor scuffles broke out when some SDL supporters
passed by anti-fascist activists behind police cordons
close to the building.

Meanwhile, inside, SDL supporters held up flags and banners
protesting against Islamic Sharia law.

Riot vans with officers wearing helmets eventually
surrounded the pub entrance while two double-decker buses
were driven towards the door.

Despite chants from SDL supporters that they would not be
moved, the SDL members made their way on to the buses
before being driven past two small counter-demonstrations
assembled along the Royal Mile and outside Holyrood.

Officers said no arrests were made and the street was
cleared by 4pm. A small number of SDL members were also
held in Edinburgh's Waverley station.

Student protester James Nesbitt, 23, from Glasgow, said:
"We had spotters out across the city looking for fascists
in pubs. We got here quickly but the police are doing
everything they can to keep us away from them. We're here
because people are frightened with the developments in the

The incident happened as a formal anti-racism rally began
in Edinburgh city centre. At least 2,000 people are
believed to have taken part in the Scotland United rally,
which was prompted by SDL plans to gather in the capital
and protest against "militant Islam".

MSPs, charities, trade unions and faith groups were among
those taking part in the rally, and speaker Aamer Anwar
told STV News they planned to show there is no place for
racist and fascist organisations in Scotland.

Mr Anwar, one of the rally organisers, said the march would
serve as a warning to the SDL to "stay away". He had
previously said: "We are uniting, right across the
political spectrum, against their message of hatred. And we
are sending a out a positive message, one of unity and one
of celebration of our diversity.

"Let me be quite clear. They are testing the water and
complacency is not an option. Silence is not an option. In
the 1930s, the fascists scapegoated one section of the
community, the Jewish community. And now today, what we
have is a far right Nazi organisation that is scapegoating
the Muslim community and that's why we're uniting. And
every time they raise their heads they have be exposed for
what they are, which is fascists."

Osama Saeed of the Scottish-Islamic Foundation, one of the
protest's organisers, said: "Today is a further humiliation
for the SDL. They only got ten minutes in the rain last
November in Glasgow. They didn't even get that today. This
is only due to good people coming out in numbers to take
over Edinburgh's streets. The threat from the far-right
cannot be ignored and simply wished away."

Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, one of the
rally's guest speakers, said: "Today is about making a
stand against those who would seek to divide and saying to
them that their views are not welcome, as well as showing
to the world that Scotland will not tolerate such views."

Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray added: "The message from
today's rally was upbeat and clear - Scotland will never
stand by and allow hatred and bigotry to have its day.
There is no place for - and Scotland will give no platform
to - those who would divide our communities and attack our

The SDL describes itself as non-violent and pro-British. A
video posted under the group's name on You Tube urges
members to head to the capital to demonstrate against
"Islamification" in the UK.

Police had earlier said that the SDL had not sought
permission for a demonstration and it was unclear how many
people might come to take part. Scotland United's
organisers insisted any right-wing activist who tried to
march in the city should be removed immediately.

Lothian and Borders Police assistant chief constable Iain
Livingstone said: "We are pleased that today's activity in
the city centre passed off without major incident, and with
only five arrests being made for public order offences.

"At this time I'd like to thank those who participated in
the Scotland United rally and march, the majority of whom
were well behaved and willing to engage constructively with
police. I would also like to thank those members of the
public who may have experienced some disruption to their
day as a result of the activity in the city centre, for
their patience and co-operation."

A demonstration held in Glasgow in November by the SDL saw
around 100 protesters contained by police and then herded
onto buses out of the city, while thousands passed
peacefully through the city in an anti-fascism protest at
the same time.

In their online video urging members to attend the event in
Edinburgh, the SDL said it would "unite with their fellow
countrymen to defend this great nation. We will never

It continued: "To carry on the fight against Muslim
extremists and Islamification in Great Britain, we will
never surrender. If you love this country and love Great
Britain then please join us in Edinburgh on February 20. We
all join as one."

The Scotland United rally, organised by Unite Against
Racism and Fascism, begun in Princes Street Gardens before
heading through the city centre.

The SDL is an offshoot of the English Defence league, which
has staged protests in Manchester and Birmingham which
resulted in violence.

Friday, 19 February 2010



Weekend Conference

27-28 February 2010,
School of Oriental and African Studies,
London Brunei Gallery

Organized by SOAS Palestine Society and hosted by the London Middle East Institute
Please note SEATS ARE LIMITED – book in advance
Price: £30 (£20 concessions, and £40 organisations)
All tickets include lunch and refreshments

To buy your tickets:
Online -
By cheque
Send cheque payable to SOAS Palestine Society with attached
note of email address to:
SOAS Palestine Society
Thornhaugh Street
London , WC1H 0XG

Day One: Saturday, 27th February

Registration and Refreshments (9:00-9:30)

Opening: Azmi Bishara (Former Knesset member in exile,
writer and political leader)

Speech delivered via video (9:30-10:00)

Session One: The Left in British-Mandate Palestine


Chair: John Rose (Independent Researcher, London )

Musa Budeiri ( Birzeit University )

The Last Colonial Venture: Communists, Nationalists and
Settlers in Palestine

Ilan Pappe ( Exeter University )

The Contradiction of the Zionist Left in the Mandate Era

Leena Dallasheh ( New York University )

Nazarene Labour Mobilization in Late Mandate Palestine

Coffee, Tea and Refreshments (11:45-12:00)

Session Two: The Left of the PLO-in-exile


Chair: Laleh Khalili ( School of Oriental and African

Leila Khaled (PFLP, Member of the Palestinian National

The Left’s Social Mobilization in the Refugee Camps*

*presentation via video

Jamil Hilal (Independent Researcher, Ramallah)

The Shaping of the Palestinian Left

Gilbert Achcar ( School of Oriental and African Studies)

Strategic Deficiencies of the PLO Left

LUNCH (13:30-2:15)

Session Three: The Left of the PLO - West Bank and Gaza

Chair: Dina Matar ( School of Oriental and African Studies)

Muhammad Jaradat (Campaign Unit Coordinator for BADIL)

The Left’s Lessons from the First Intifada

Toufic Haddad (Researcher for BADIL and Journalist)

The Left in the Post-Oslo Era

Aitemad Muhanna ( Swansea University )

The Rise of Hamas, the Fall of Leftist Ideology?

Jamal Juma (Coordinator for Stop the Wall Campaign)

The Current Situation of the Left in the West Bank and Gaza

Coffee, Tea and Refreshments (16:15-16:30)

Session Four: The Palestinian Left in the Israeli State


Chair: Bashir Abu-Manneh ( Barnard College )

Areen Hawari (Co-founder of Tajamu and former member of its

Balad (Tajamu): Democracy Confronts Zionism

Aida Touma-Sliman (Head of the International Relations
Department, Communist Party of Israel )

Title tbc

Ahmad Sa’di ( Ben Gurion University *)

Communism and Zionism: A Troubled Legacy

*speaking in his personal capacity

Day Two: Sunday, 28th February

Registration and Refreshments (10:30-11:00)
Session Five: The Israeli Anti-Zionist Left


Chair: Nira Yuval-Davis ( University of East London )

Moshe Machover ( Kings College , London )

Israeli Socialism and Anti-Zionism: Historical Tasks and
Balance Sheet

Sami Shalom Chetrit ( Queens College , CUNY)

The Zionist Left, the Anti-Zionist Left and the Fanatic
Extremist Zionist Mizrahim in Israel

(Who Really Invaded, Occupied, and Enslaved Palestine ?)

Michael Warschawski ( Alternative Information Center )

From Matzpen to Anarchists Against the Wall: Continuation
and Ruptures

Adar Grayevsky (Anarchists Against the Wall)

From Tel Aviv to Bil’in: The Israeli Radical Left Joins the
Palestinian Popular Struggle

Lunch (13:15-14:00)
Session Six: The Palestinian Left in Literature

Chair: Wen-Chin Ouyang ( School of Oriental and African

Suheir Daoud (Coastal Carolina University )

Literature as Resistance

Sabry Hafez ( School of Oriental and African Studies)

Constructing Identity, Re-Claiming the Land: Palestinian
Poetry debunks the Zionist Myth

Bashir Abu-Manneh ( Barnard College )

Kanafani's Revolutionary Morality

Coffee, Tea and Refreshments (15:45-16:00)

Session Seven - Roundtable Discussion: Towards a New Left
Programme for the Palestinian Struggle


Chair: Gilbert Achcar

Aida Touma-Sliman, Areen Hawari, Jamal Juma, Jamil Hilal
and Muhammad Jaradat

Tickets Please note SEATS ARE LIMITED – book in advance
Price: £30 (£20 concessions, and £40 organisations)
All tickets include lunch and refreshments

To buy your tickets:

Online -

You do not need a PayPal account to buy online.

If you do not have a PayPal account, click 'Continue' under
the question 'Don't have a PayPal account?' which is on the
left of the log-in box.

By cheque

Send cheque payable to SOAS Palestine Society with attached
note of email address to

SOAS Palestine Society
Thornhaugh Street
Russell Square
London , WC1H 0XG

Location SOAS Brunei Gallery
Thornhaugh Street
Russell Square
London , WC1H 0XG


Robert Fisk: Britain's explanation is riddled with inconsistencies. It's time to come clean

How could the Arabs pick up on a Mossad killing, if that is what it was? Well, we shall see

Al-Mabhouh, one of the founders and leaders of Hamas' armed wing

The Independent
Thursday, 18 February 2010

Collusion. That's what it's all about. The United Arab
Emirates suspect – only suspect, mark you – that Europe's
"security collaboration" with Israel has crossed a line
into illegality, where British passports (and those of
other other EU nations) can now be used to send Israeli
agents into the Gulf to kill Israel's enemies. At 3.49pm
yesterday afternoon (Beirut time, 1.49pm in London), my
Lebanese phone rang. It was a source – impeccable, I know
him, he spoke with the authority I know he has in Abu Dhabi
– to say that "the British passports are real. They are
hologram pictures with the biometric stamp. They are not
forged or fake. The names were really there. If you can
fake a hologram or biometric stamp, what does this mean?"

The voice – I know the man and his origins well – wants to
talk. "There are 18 people involved in the killing of
Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. Besides the 11 already named, there are
two Palestinians who are being interrogated and five
others, including a woman. She was part of the team that
staked out the hotel lobby." Two hours later, an SMS
arrives on my Beirut phone from Abu Dhabi, the capital of
the United Arab Emirates. It is the same source.

"ONE MORE THING," it says in capital letters, then
continues in lower case. "The command room of the operation
was in Austria (sic, in fact, all things are "sic" in this
report)... meaning the suspects when here did not talk to
each other but thru the command room on separate lines to
avoid detection or linking themselves to one another... but
it was detected and identified OK??" OK? I ask myself.

My source is both angry and insistent. "We have sent out
details of the 11 named people to Interpol. Interpol has
circulated them to 188 countries – but why hasn't Britain
warned foreign nations that these people are using
passports in these names?" There was more to come.

"We have identified five credit cards belonging to these
people, all issued in the United States." The man will not
give the EU nationalities of the extra five – this would
make two women involved in Mr Mabhouh's murder. He said
that EU countries were cooperating with the UAE, including
the UK. But "not one of the countries we have been speaking
to has notified Interpol of the passports used in their
name. Why not?"

Video: UK demands Israel answers

The source insisted that one of the names on a passport –
the name of a man who denies any knowledge of its use – has
travelled on it in Asia (probably Indonesia) and EU
countries over the past year. The Emirates have proof that
an American entered their country in June 2006 on a British
passport issued in the name of a UK citizen who was already
in prison in the Emirates. The Emirates claim that the
passport of an Israeli agent sent to kill a Hamas leader in
Jordan was a genuine Canadian passport issued to a dual
national of Israel.

Intelligence agencies – who in the view of this
correspondent are often very unintelligent – have long used
false passports. Oliver North and Robert McFarlane
travelled to Iran to seek the release of US hostages in
Lebanon on passports that were previously stolen from the
Irish embassy in Athens. But the Emirates' new information
may make some European governments draw in their breath –
and they had better have good replies to the questions.
Intelligence services – Arab, Israeli, European or American
– often adopt an arrogant attitude towards those from whom
they wish to hide. How could the Arabs pick up on a Mossad
killing, if that is what it was? Well, we shall see.

Collusion is a word the Arabs understand. It speaks of the
1956 Suez War, when Britain and France cooperated with
Israel to invade Egypt. Both London and Paris denied the
plot. They were lying. But for an Arab Gulf country which
suspects its former masters (the UK, by name) may have
connived in the murder of a visiting Hamas official, this
is apparently now too much. There is much more to come out
of this story. We will wait to see if there are any replies
in Europe.


A funky new era: why women MCs are ruling UK clubs againMs Dynamite, who made some of 2009's biggest club tracks: Photograph: David Lau

After too long in the shadow of their male counterparts, women MCs are making their mark on the mainstream. Some of the key players explain why the future of British hip-hop is female

British female rappers have always been a breed apart.
While their male counterparts have tended to wear their
debt to US hip-hop greats with pride, the likes of Ms
Dynamite and Stush have shied away from the sexually
explicit shock tactics employed by Americans such as Lil'
Kim and Trina. Stush, the chipmunk-voiced chatterbox who
first came to prominence in 2002 with the grime classic
Dollar Sign, laughs at the thought of copying the
Americans. "Over here, if you came out with that talk,
you'd just get people going, 'Oh, that girl's a slag, man!'
All the guys would switch on you, you'd get no respect."

Not that this means that our female ­rappers hold their
tongue. Lady Chann, for example, made her name last year
with the funky house/dancehall hybrid Your Eye Too Fast.
Over garage producer Sticky's Fugitive Riddim, a bucking
bronco of a beat, she delivers a rambunctious ­verbal
whipping so ferocious that you fear for the poor, cowering
man's life. "Me ah the Chris Brown! You ah the Rihanna!"
she hollers. Chann is just as boisterous in ­person, her
19-to-the-dozen chatter punctuated only by the occasional
uproarious laugh. "Hahahaaaa! Obviously, it wasn't funny as
such, but I have to use metaphors!" she guffaws. "I just
thought, I'm switching it! And yeah, if I was in that
situation and Chris Brown tried to do that to me" – she
smacks her fist into her palm – "Nah. I'd go Chris Brown on

Chann's forthrightness has been shaped by her background.
She lived her early years on a Chelsea estate named the
World's End – "You had guns, needles, all that rubbish. But
on the other side was Kings Road, so a minute later you'd
see Bentleys driving down the road" – but when she moved to
Stonebridge, in north-west London, her musical ambitions
thrived. "They call it the mini West Indies – it has a
really good vibe and a lot of musical influences. It really
helps you to keep your culture. I really appreciate growing
up in that nice area as well as the, quote-unquote,
ghetto." Seven years ago, she became the only woman in the
area's ­Suncycle dancehall collective, with whom she
continues to make music alongside her solo projects, and
she has been working with ­producers such as Toddla T, MJ
Cole and GreenMoney on tracks for an EP due in March, Dun
Dem Season.

It is no real surprise that female MCs ­returned to
prominence on the British ­urban scene last year, just as
harsher, male-coded grime beats were supplanted by UK funky
rhythms in the clubs. Funky – already widely credited for
returning girls to urban raves en masse – has been
particularly conducive to the return of Jamaican toasting,
given its own close rhythmic ties to soca and dancehall. As
Lady Chann puts it: "It's quite a natural movement because
obviously we have West Indian or Jamaican roots, but we're
English, we were born here. So funky and dancehall
complement each other."

Funky also bears similarities to turn-of-the-century UK
garage – which may be why some familiar names have
resurfaced, such as Stush and Ms Dynamite. Like Lady Chann,
they have both released essential club tracks over the past
year that balance a matriarchal, no-nonsense stance with
lubriciousness and levity. They have been absent for
different reasons, though.

Ms Dynamite seemed to disappear in the wake of Judgement
Days, her 2005 follow-up to her Mercury prize-winning debut
A Little Deeper. "I was quite a new mum at that point," she
explains. "I reckon I did the second album half-­heartedly.
I might have been in the studio feeling like I was focused,
but my head was actually thinking: I wonder how my son is?
So I decided I wasn't ready to come back to music."

Now, Ms Dynamite feels ready. She was responsible for two
crucial UK funky cuts in 2009 – the propulsive, rattling
Get Low (Crackish), produced by Rinse FM boss Geeneus, and
the frenetic, tough-as-nails Bad Gyal, produced by Sticky.
"It's cocky, confident and self-assured," she says of the
latter. "There's a kind of arrogance, but this is a cool,
fun ­arrogance. Not putting anyone down. Just being that
confident in yourself." A new single with Zinc, Wile Out,
is a metallic, harder-edged take on funky house; Ms
Dynamite is once again on fine form on it, switching
adeptly between singing and classic dancefloor MCing,
exhorting a crowd to "gwaan, get deep, make a scene, wile
out!" in ­rapid-fire patois.

Ms Dynamite's transition out of and back into the music
industry was a smooth one. "My record ­company were pretty
supportive. I think some of them were genuine, they had
kids of their own and they understood. Others were just
like, well, we're not going to get ­anything out of her in
this state ­anyway, it'd be a waste of money." She pauses.
"Creativity's one of those things you can't fake."

Stush has had it harder. She's been largely absent for
seven years since ­Dollar Sign, stuck in contractual limbo.
In 2002, she signed a six-­album deal with Go! Beat, but
the label folded and ­internal politics took over. "I
wasn't even allowed to go into the studio some days," she
says. "The contract is still a mess right now. ­[Island
Universal] won't let me go, because I'm ­sitting on all of
these tracks I've been ­writing for seven years, and they
say they want to release the album."

Trips to the US and a tour with Groove Armada have kept
Stush busy, but in 2007 she was dealt ­another blow. "I
started to get unexplained seizures, collapsing backstage.
It's still undiagnosed – I've had brain scans, the lot,
it's not epilepsy. I lost my confidence – I didn't know
when it was coming. I'd collapse in the street, I'd
collapse in my room and have to nudge my phone with my head
to call my sister."

Stush takes a deep breath. "Even with all of that, I know
there are people worse off than me. I'm not going to let it
stop me. I don't want pity. It's just the next hurdle I
have to get over."

A former high jumper for Herne Hill Harriers, Stush is used
to clearing obstacles, and it comes through in her music.
Last year, We Nuh Run was one of the ­singles of last year.
Her unmistakeable voice – angry squeals and a nimble,
rat-a-tat flow riding the twists and turns of the beat –
remains as thrilling as it was in 2002. Moreover, the
enthusiasm for her craft of the girl who started out
attempting to mimic Buju Banton's low tones remains
undimmed. "I keep my dictaphone next to my bed at night,
cuz bars will just come into my head. And my head just
opens up when I'm travelling – that happened recently. I
had to vocal a track that I'd only been given a few days
previously. I couldn't get into it, and I literally had to
write the last verse in the cab on the way to the studio.
And then I got there" – she smiles at the memory – "and I
laced the track, mate."

We Nuh Run was lent some added edge thanks to the lyrics.
"They don't wanna have a pretty dark-skinned gyal pon di
TV," ran the song's opening line, a reference to the time
she was cut from a Groove Armada video without explanation.
"I've had makeup artists try to make my eyes smaller and
lighten my skin," she explains. "There was a time when I
was meant to be in a magazine spread and they said, 'You're
too dark for the page – we can't put the right font on

She shrugs. "That's the reality, you know? But I want to
change all that. Black girls don't really have many
positive role models out there – if we wear our hair
natural, we're told it's 'nappy', our lips are big – girls
are made to hate themselves. That's not how I was brought
up, so if I can do anything to help, I will help." So will
Lady Chann, who recently tweeted: "It would be lovely, and
somewhat different, to see a jet-black pretty girl playing
the love interest in the male artist's videos."
Elaborating, Chann asserts that "it's a question of
representation – I'm not saying that your leading lady in a
video has to be the same race as you. I'm not going to say
who this artist is, but if you've done four or five videos,
all love songs, and all your leading ladies are white –
what ­message are you sending to your black fans? That your
own race isn't good enough to be seen on the TV with you?"

Stush, Ms Dynamite and Lady Chann are all industry veterans
by now. Lady ­Leshurr, by contrast, is at the very start of
her career, but the 22-year-old from ­Birmingham is
­already gaining plaudits as one of the most distinctive
up-and-coming talents in the UK. She ­possesses both a
cheeky glint in her voice and a ­willingness to lay her
emotions bare – and a phenomenal flow, clipped and
controlled even as she accelerates to an astonishing speed
over an impressive range of beats, from dubstep to Flat
Eric. "Everyone asks about that," she laughs. "I got the
fast flow from starting on drum'n'bass – I didn't even
think I was going fast, I just needed to match the beat."

Leshurr, who took advantage of a local youth club's free
studios to make her first mixtape at the age of 14 – "I
used to write lyrics in my maths and French books at the
back of the bus" – is a firm believer in the internet. Like
Lady Chann, she is a Twitter disciple, but she also raves
about Ustream, a site that allows her to beam her
freestyles live to "people in Canada or Italy who've never
even heard of me before". Thus the release of her excellent
Last Second Mixtape last year, and the UnLeshurr Mixtape
this year, has seen her draw attention from around the
world – despite her admitting that "I still ain't getting
paid, really". The Americans in particular have been
swayed: "They say they love my style and my ­accent, and
they keep saying I'm like Nicki Minaj," she says, clearly
nonplussed. "I'm more ­influenced by Eminem. Being a female
rapper, you do get compared to other ­females a lot. But I
guess it's a good thing, cuz she's the big new thing over

Leshurr considers MCing to be not just a form of
self-expression, but of expression on behalf of those
around her. "I've been through and seen a lot in my life,
and I still haven't had the chance to talk about it," she
says quietly. "I know a lot of people who've had
experiences that they're not too proud of, or they've
witnessed things that they don't think should have
happened. And the majority of those people are quite
silent. So I do want to stand up for the people who don't
have a voice to say what's happened to them."


PFLP hosts national unity meeting of all factions in Gaza

PFLP website

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine hosted a
meeting of all national and Islamic forces, including
representatives of Fateh and Hamas, in its office in Gaza City,
on February 14, 2010. This meeting was the first of its kind
to take place in Gaza since the internal division.

The objective of the meeting was to discuss ending the
division and building a positive climate for national
reconciliation, in order to confront the occupation, end
the siege on Gaza, and achieve our national rights.

Comrade Jamil Mizher, member of the Central Committee of
the PFLP, said that the meeting came at the initiative of
the PFLP, saying that ending internal division was
necessary in order to meet the challenges facing the
Palestinian cause as a united force and a united people. He
said further that this meeting is a positive step toward
ending the division and will be the first of a series of
meetings that will take place in order to develop firm
plans for ending the division and restoring national unity.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010


Shane Meadows directs government advert highlighting teenage abuse

MSN News

Teenage boys have been urged not to violently abuse their
girlfriends in a new Government campaign.

TV, radio, internet and poster ads will target young males
aged 13 to 18 in an attempt to show the consequences of
abusive relationships.

It is part of a wider effort by ministers to cut domestic
violence against both women and younger girls.

Research published last year by the NSPCC found a quarter
of teenage girls said they had been physically abused by
their boyfriends.

One in six said they had been pressured into sex and one in
three said they had gone further sexually than they had
wanted to.

The TV adverts, which were directed by acclaimed film-maker
Shane Meadows, show a girl being bullied and threatened by
her boyfriend.

The posters feature a teenage boy in a hooded top with the
slogans: "Do you make her weak at the knees because she's
scared of you? Does her heart beat faster when you threaten
her? Do you charm the pants off her or does a slap work

Midlands-born Meadows, who directed This Is England and
Dead Man's Shoes, said: "Teen violence is a subject that is
close to my heart as I grew up in a place where violence
and bullying were an integral part of life and accepted as
the norm.

"My job as director was to make sure that these adverts are
compelling, real and utterly authentic.

"They give you the chance to look back at yourself and your
actions, and have a moment when you can step out of the
immediacy and complexity of the moment. They show you that
there is another choice."


How teenage access to pornography is killing intimacy in sex

The television drama Skins reflects the increasingly casual attitude of teenagers towards sex

Teenagers have such easy access to hardcore porn that a
skewed view of sex is becoming the norm in society and the idea of intimacy is dying

Natasha Walter
January 17, 2010
Sunday Times

One day I found myself ringing on the doorbell in a
suburban street in Essex to talk to a self-confessed
pornography addict. Jim, a quiet man in his early forties,
was embarrassed by what we discussed over the following
couple of hours but also eager to tell a story that he
feels is probably less unusual than one might think.

“I know I’m not the only guy who’s like this,” he kept
saying. Nor is he: there is a great leviathan of obscenity
on the internet that anyone can access at any time with a
couple of clicks of a mouse.

Jim first became aware of pornography long before the
internet era. “My dad was really into pornography. I was
five when I found a copy of his Mayfair. I found it quite
captivating, to be honest.”

When he was about seven, Jim discovered hardcore European
pornography in his father’s wardrobe, and he can remember
some of those first images he saw. “I found them quite
disturbing. I couldn’t talk to anyone about it, of course,
because the whole point is that it’s hidden. You know that
you’re not supposed to know about it.”

From then on he would get up before his parents woke,
before six in the morning, to look through his father’s
briefcase and find the porn magazines. “Then my dad got a
Super 8 projector, when I was about 11 or 12, and he would
hire porn films. He would lock himself in the dining room
to watch them. But the real change came when he got a
video, and I persevered till I found the films. I was about
14 and I would find them and watch them when I was alone in
the house. Constantly.”

At this age, Jim did not have any relationships to set
against this obsession. He was going to a boys’ school and
never met girls socially. “I was obsessed with pornography,
I wanted to be pornography, I wanted to live pornography,”
he said. “It wasn’t good for me, I can see that now. I knew
that even then, I think, but it was an addiction from the
start. It had such a powerful hold on me. It had a huge
effect on my behaviour with women.

“I was unable to think of women except as potential
pornography. I looked at them in a purely sexual way. I
remember one day I was walking to school, I was about 15,
and I got talking to a girl who must have been about 18. I
immediately said I wanted to grope her breasts. I had no
idea how to interact with women as people.”

Even though Jim began to have girlfriends from the age of
19, he never managed to shrug off the power of the fantasy
world. “The power of pornography has continued throughout
my adult life. Nothing has really measured up to the world
of porn, for me. I’ve seen thousands of strangers having
sex. So when I have sex, I am watching myself having sex.”

In his thirties, he started a relationship with Ali, a
direct-talking, well-read woman. He told her about his
interest in porn and they used to watch videos together. At
first she could see the “high” but when she became
uncomfortable, he agreed to try to abstain. Once the
internet was part of their lives, he could no longer
control himself and began to use pornography again. The
relationship broke down after seven years. “Pornography has
made him only able to see sex one way,” Ali said. “He has
always seen sex as something that has to be performed, not

She would like to see a public debate about the effects of
pornography. “Porn has been so normalised that anyone
objecting to it now is just going to be laughed at. I think
we need to hear again about how pornography threatens

For Jim, pornography “has destroyed my ability to have
intimate relationships”. One might think that someone who
has seen as much as he has would not be unsettled by
anything, but he is shocked by the way that the growing
acceptability of pornography is putting into the mainstream
a dehumanising view of women.

He finds the internet — with its images of rape, incest and
abuse — “quite disturbing”. He said: “The stuff I saw as a
kid was what we called hardcore, but the idea in the text
alongside was that it was based on mutual consent — mutual
pleasure — but what I see now is more male domination.”

Jim believes that very young men are beginning to see as
normal images that would once have been seen as far beyond
the pale. “It’s like bravado, they want to look at worse
and worse stuff. When I was a kid what you saw was limited
by what you could physically buy on paper. Now it all
flashes around so quickly and the taboos have just fallen.”

Jim feels that, even for young men who don’t seek it out,
the exposure to these images simply changes their attitudes
to sex. “I think that kind of violence associated with sex
lodges in your mind and you never forget it, however much
you want to. It’s always there.”

Not only is the tone of pornography so often reliant on
real or imaginary abuse of women, it is consumed in
increasing numbers by young people who have little real
experience to set against it.

Ali worries that what happened with Jim could be repeated
with her own son. “I was first aware that he was looking at
pornography when he was 14. But how can boys not see it?
Unless they make a concerted decision not to look at it, to
delete it from their mobiles when it’s sent to them, or
from their emails. You’d be making a singular, probably a
unique decision.

“Once someone like Jim was unusual, now every boy has seen
all of that. I know what it does to young minds, and now it
is more and more prevalent. God knows how we can begin to
challenge this. Once upon a time, kids could experiment,
you know, privately, but now all the innocence is lost.”

For a long time I was sceptical about the claim that the
internet had really changed people’s access and attitudes
to pornography. Those who want it have surely always been
able to find it, whether they were living in 5th-century
Athens or the 1950s. But the evidence has convinced me that
the internet has driven a real change for many people,
especially younger people.

Once upon a time, someone who was truly fascinated by
pornography might have found, with some difficulty, 10, or
20, or 100 images to satisfy themselves. Now anyone can
click on a single website and find 20, 100, 1,000 choices
of videos and images, with the most specialist and violent
next to the most gentle and consensual.

Statistics tell a story that is hard to ignore. A survey
carried out in 2006 found that one in four men aged 25-49
had viewed hardcore online pornography in the previous
month and that nearly 40% of men had viewed pornographic
websites in the previous year.

It is the prevalence of pornography consumption among
children that is most striking. In a study in 2000, 25% of
children aged 10-17 had seen unwanted online pornography in
the form of pop-ups or spam. By 2005 the figure was 34% —
and 42% of children aged 10-17 had seen pornography,
whether wanted or unwanted. In another study in Canada, 90%
of boys aged 13 and 14 and 70% of girls the same age had
viewed pornography. Most of this porn use had been over the
internet. More than one-third of the boys reported viewing
pornographic DVDs or videos “too many times to count”.

While once someone could live their whole lives without
ever seeing anyone but themselves and their own partners
having sex, now the voyeur’s view of sex has been
normalised, even for children.

For an increasing number of young people, pornography is no
longer something that goes alongside sex but something that
precedes sex. Before they have touched another person
sexually or entered into any kind of sexual relationship,
many children have seen hundreds of adult strangers having

When I spoke to one teenager who is studying for his
A-levels and quoted statistics to him that said that the
majority of young teenagers have looked at pornography, he

“More like 100%,” he said. “It’s when you’re 13 and 14 that
everyone starts looking and talking about it at school —
before you’re having sex, you’re watching it.

“I think that those lads’ mags are only read by certain
kinds of boys. My friends wouldn’t read them, to be honest,
just like they wouldn’t buy The Sun. But pornography — it
crosses every social class, every cultural background.

“Everyone watches porn. And I think that’s entirely down to
the internet; not just your home computer, but everything
that can connect — your phone, your BlackBerry, whatever
you’ve got — everyone’s watching porn.

“Adults have got to know what teenagers are doing, and if
you’re caught, you get told off. But I never had a serious
discussion with a teacher or anyone about it.”

I heard from teenagers that they want more chance to
discuss seriously what they are seeing, since they seem to
find that this world of pornography is absolutely open to
them and yet is rarely referred to openly.

Now that the classic feminist critique of pornography —
that it necessarily involves or encourages abuse of women —
has disappeared from view, there are few places that young
people are likely to hear much criticism or even discussion
about its effects.

Many women who would call themselves feminists have come to
accept that they are growing up in a world where
pornography is ubiquitous and will be part of almost
everyone’s sexual experiences. I can see why some are
arguing that the way forward really rests on creating more
opportunities for women in pornography, yet I think it is
worth looking at why some of us still feel such unease with
the situation as it is now.

I do not believe that all pornography inevitably degrades
women, and I do see that the classic feminist critique of
pornography is too simplistic to embrace the great range of
explicit sexual materials and people’s reactions to them.
Yet let’s be honest. The overuse of pornography does
threaten many erotic relationships, and this is a growing
problem. What’s more, too much pornography does still rely
on or promote the exploitation or abuse of women. Even if
you can find porn for women and couples on the internet,
nevertheless a vein of real contempt for women
characterises so much pornography.

The massive colonisation of teenagers’ erotic life by
commercial pornographic materials is something that it is
hard to feel sanguine about. By expanding so much in a
world that is still so unequal, pornography has often
reinforced and reflected the inequalities around us.

This means that men are still encouraged, through most
pornographic materials, to see women as objects, and women
are still encouraged much of the time to concentrate on
their sexual allure rather than their imagination or
pleasure. No wonder we have seen the rise of the idea that
erotic experience will necessarily involve, for women, a
performance in which they will be judged visually.

When I interviewed young women about their attitudes to
sexuality, I was struck by one apparently trivial fact:
that all of them agreed that they would never want to have
sex if they hadn’t depilated their pubic hair.

“I would never want a man to see me if I hadn’t been waxed
recently,” said one young woman from Cambridge University,
and her friends nodded in agreement. “I don’t need to have
all the hair removed, but it has to be neat,” said another.

“That is definitely tied into porn,” said another. “We know
what men will have seen and what they will expect.”

Where the rise of expectations from pornography result just
in depilation, that is one thing, but the rise of interest
in surgery to change the appearance of the labia is
another, far more worrying development. The number of
operations carried out in the UK to cut women’s labia to a
preconceived norm is currently rising steeply.

This development has been covered extensively in magazines
and television programmes, often in a way calculated to
increase anxiety among female viewers. In an episode of
Embarrassing Teenage Bodies, screened on Channel 4 in 2008,
a young woman consulted a doctor about the fact that her
labia minora extended slightly beyond her labia majora and
that this caused her embarrassment. Instead of reassuring
her that this was entirely normal, the doctor recommended,
and carried out, surgery on her labia.

The comments left on the programme’s website showed how
this decision to carry out plastic surgery to fit a young
woman’s body to a so-called norm made other young women
feel intensely anxious.

“I’m 15 and I thought I was fine, but since I’ve watched
the programme I’ve become worried, as mine seem larger than
the girl who had hers made surgically smaller! It doesn’t
make any difference to my life, but I worry now that when
I’m older and start having sex I might have problems!” one
girl said.

This idea that there is one correct way for female genitals
to look is undoubtedly tied into the rise of pornography.
One website for a doctor who specialises in this form of
plastic surgery makes this explicit: “Laser reduction
labioplasty can sculpture the elongated or unequal labial
minora (small inner lips) according to one’s specification
... Many women bring us Playboy and say that they want to
look like this. With laser reduction labioplasty, we work
with women to try to accomplish their desires.”

If the rise of pornography was really tied up with women’s
liberation and empowerment, it would not be increasing
women’s anxiety about fitting into a narrow physical ideal.

The tide of pornography is so huge, and so easily
accessible, that it often seems impossible to think about
turning it back. Yet I don’t think we have to slip into
despair. There is this idea that “innocence”, once lost, is
lost for ever, that, as Jim put it, once pornography is
viewed, “You never forget it, however much you want to.”

It is true that we cannot turn back the clock and wipe
pornography out of our individual experience or the
memories of our society. Yet there are still ways to move
forward and to create places where the influence of
pornography will be resisted. This will entail giving more
support to people who are struggling with its dehumanising
effects on their own relationships.

The starting point is public debate. A woman I’ll call
Lara, who has been trying for several years to persuade her
husband to give up pornography, wrote to me: “From some
discussions I’ve had online I can see that many wives are
struggling with their husband’s porn use. If the mainstream
media began talking about porn addiction in the same way as
they talk freely about drug abuse, gambling or alcoholism,
then maybe my husband would see that he’s not the only man
in the world who has this problem and would see that he
should deal with it.”

Women scarred by the myth that selling sex is a positive
career choice

Ellie is an articulate, well-educated woman who went to
private school and a good university and was brought up to
believe she could do anything in any profession — law,
medicine, politics.

She decided she wanted to be an actress, but when jobs were
hard to find and she found herself financially desperate,
she took a sideways step in her twenties by going for an
audition at a lap-dancing club in London.

“You just had to stand there and hold the pole and take
your clothes off,” Ellie remembered. “I don’t think I’d
thought it through. I was surprised when I saw what the
other girls were wearing. I was just in a skirt and T-shirt
and when they asked me to take my clothes off I was like,
uh-oh, I’m wearing really bad pants. But they said, shave
your pubes, get a fake tan, sort out your nails, dye your
hair, pluck your eyebrows, come back next week. So I said
okay, and I went and made myself orange. I did it for about
six months, every night.”

For her it didn’t feel like a big step at first to go into
the sex industry, because of the way that lap-dancing clubs
have become an unremarkable part of British urban life in
an incredibly short space of time. From only a few in the
1990s, there were an estimated 300 by 2008.

Ellie told me she had picked up the message that lap
dancing was pretty straightforward and even empowering for
the women who do it. “People say that, don’t they? There’s
this myth that women are expressing their sexuality freely
in this way, and that as they can make lots of money out of
it, it gives them power over the men who are paying.”

She was shocked by quite how demeaning and dehumanising the
work actually was. “There’s something about the club — the
lights, the make-up, the clothes you wear, those huge
platform heels, the way that so many women have fake boobs.
You look like cartoons. You give yourself a fake girlie
name, like a doll. You’re encouraged to look like dolls. No
wonder the men don’t see you as people.”

Stripping in various styles is not the only element of the
sex industry that has become far more acceptable.
Prostitution has also moved from the margins to the
mainstream of our culture in a development that one can
track in the popularity of bestselling memoirs of
prostitutes such as Belle de Jour. They have a
matter-of-fact tone, and tend to emphasise how very normal
the occupation is and how close to any liberated woman’s
sex life.

Rather than being seen as shameful, prostitution can now be
seen as an aspirational occupation for a woman. “My body is
a big deal,” ran the advertising caption for the television
series based on Belle de Jour’s book over huge images of
the actress Billie Piper in underwear.

It would be naive to assume that the promotion of such a
view of prostitution in the mainstream media does not have
an effect on the real-life behaviour of men and women. A
woman I’ll call Angela, who has been working as a
prostitute for four years, explained to me how she had come
to this point.

Although in some ways Angela was quite formal, and uneasy
about sharing the details of her life, from time to time
her rage would burst out in a torrent of words. In the
sitting room of her chilly, scrupulously clean flat in
Middlesex, where there were no comfortable chairs, but
where there was a metal pole running floor to ceiling with
a pair of patent high heels next to it, she told me how she
had become involved in prostitution.

She first began to think about charging for sex when her
marriage broke down. As a woman in her thirties who had not
dated for a long time, she was eager to look for new
experiences. Her friends said to her that she should go
out, have a good time, find a man and have sex, and she
began to use internet chat rooms to meet men. When she met
them, she found “they would expect me to just get on with
it, in the name of sexual liberation and fun”.

These experiences in the new world of unemotional sex
surprised Angela, as things had changed so much since
before her marriage. “When I had had relationships with men
in the past, I have to say that they were usually equal and
pleasurable experiences. There wasn’t the surround sound,
the cultural imperative that it was all about sex, only
about sex. What men expect you to do has really changed —
anal sex, threesomes, even when you’ve just met them.”

At first she did not question what she was experiencing. “I
believed what everyone said, that all this promiscuous sex
was so empowering.” But as she went on having sex with men
without much emotional engagement, Angela thought it would
not be a huge step to begin charging. Since none of the men
she met wanted a relationship, she felt they could give her
something in exchange. She needed the money.

“I was pretty desperate to find a way to survive, to be
honest. It dawned on me that I could get paid for this. I
thought that it would be fun — I remember seeing a
documentary on television about kids of rich Hollywood
stars and there was one girl who said sometimes she went
down to the Sunset Strip and got paid for sex as a bit of
fun. I thought, okay, there’s no harm in it.

“When I went into it, I thought it would be easy. That’s
what you’re asked to believe, isn’t it? I thought, okay, if
this is empowering, let’s suck it and see.”

Angela was shocked by what she discovered about both the
physical and the psychological impact of the work. “I saw
it’s not empowering; it’s very disempowering. It’s harmful.
It narrows how you value yourself, how you define yourself.
It’s very dangerous to define yourself through the eyes of
these men who are buying your body. I see that now — I wish
I could get other women to see it. I feel as though this
hypersexualisation of society — everyone’s falling for it,
and more and more young girls think that prostitution is
about being Billie Piper, being Belle de Jour, and it just
isn’t. It really isn’t like that.

“There are a lot of clients who are respectful but it’s all
over the spectrum. Really young ones want to experiment:
they’ve seen stuff on the internet — violence and rape.
What was extreme five years ago is commonplace now. I get
inquiries about being tied up, being gagged. They want to
tie you up; they want threesomes. I get the feeling that
some of the men get off on the fact that the woman doesn’t
want it. Basically you’ve consented to being raped
sometimes for money.”

The matter-of-fact way that some women enter prostitution
is also connected to the way that many men are now much
more open about buying sex. The internet has been
particularly useful in allowing men to believe they need
not feel ashamed about buying sex from prostitutes. There
are places on the internet where reviewing sex for sale is
taken as naturally as reviewing books on Amazon. Men can
discuss without hesitation how to satisfy their various
tastes for larger, or older, or younger, or smaller women.

© Natasha Walter 2010 Extracted from Living Dolls by Natasha Walter, to be published by Virago on February 4 at £12.99. Copies can be ordered for £11.69, including postage, from The Sunday Times BooksFirst on 0845 271 2135

Sunday, 14 February 2010


China feels US-Iran fallout

By Peter Lee
Asia Times Online

The question of the day in Washington is will the People's
Republic of China veto further United Nations Security
Council sanctions against Iran over Tehran's nuclear

Informed opinion says "no".

China has exercised its veto only six times in 30 years on
the council. In matters core to national priorities, like
punishing countries such as Guatemala and Macedonia for
their ties to the Republic of China (Taiwan) and protecting
the interests of Pakistan, it has acted alone.

However, on broader geopolitical issues, in recent years it
has vetoed resolutions only when joined by at least one
other Security Council member.

France and the United Kingdom are lined up solidly behind
the United States on Iran's nuclear program, which some say
is geared towards making a nuclear bomb, a charge Tehran
consistently dismisses.

Russia this year is interested in improving ties with the
US and Europe and has moved toward support of sanctions. No
Russian veto, no Chinese veto, says the conventional

On the other hand, chances of China voting for sanctions
are slim. A press report covering Chinese Foreign Minister
Yang Jiechi's visit to Paris at the beginning of February
says it all: "China Says Iran Sanctions Hinder Diplomacy."

Abstention is, therefore, China's most likely course.

Beijing's reaction might be expected to be a dismissive and
a resigned shrug: a symbolic vote, another toothless round
of sanctions, more political kabuki, and eventually
business as usual.

However, China's expected non-vote will be accompanied by
new feelings of unease and anger, reflecting Beijing's
growing suspicion that an important motivation for the Iran
sanctions, and the escalation of Iran tensions in general,
is Washington's desire to employ the issue as a wedge
against China.

In past years, China could regard US sanctions against
authoritarian regimes with a certain amount of complacency.
The George W Bush administration's heavy-handed approach
dismayed and divided natural allies of the US and drove its
targets deeper into China's embrace.

However, the Obama administration has decided to supplement
brute power with smart power. It apparently promotes
divisive international initiatives only when the splits in
international opinion and alliances are expected to go
America's way.

China first got a taste of the smart-power approach in
December at the Copenhagen climate summit. The US linked
the release of billions of dollars of climate adaptation
aid to vulnerable developing countries with China's
acceptance of a satisfactory transparency regime. Its
delegation passed the message to smaller nations that
China's intransigence was standing between them and
billions of dollars of much-needed assistance.

Despite the treaty debacle, the geopolitical results for
the Obama administration were encouraging. The European
Union sided with the US. According to an internal Chinese
report, a good number of Group of 77 nations were, for the
large part, influenced by the American position but did not
openly confront China. China cobbled together an alliance
with the emerging economies of Brazil and India and,
despite a concerted "blame China" effort by the US and the
UK, was able to limit the political damage.

However, it was a sobering experience for Chinese
diplomats. The report concluded "A conspiracy by developed
nations to divide the camp of developing nations [was] a

Now, the Obama administration is picking on the regionally
and globally unpopular government of Iran, thereby exposing
China as the regime's lone international supporter of note.

The US has worked to bring the EU and Russia to its side.
The EU, at least, is now an enthusiastic ally. Relieved to
be dealing with a judicious and consultative American
president, it no longer sees the need to accommodate a
greater role for China on the world stage.

Russia has joined the American team (with sub voce
reservations), reportedly in response to the Obama
administration's concessions on shelving plans for a
missile defense shield in Eastern Europe.

The State Department has also worked with the Gulf states
to gain their support for a policy of putting Iran in its

As far as the China issue is concerned, America's direct
solicitation of China's Security Council vote involved
Obama passing the word to President Hu Jintao that China's
interests would suffer if diplomatic pressure failed,
Israel attacked Iran's nuclear facilities, and the price of
oil went up.

It is unlikely that the Israel attack card was persuasive
to the Chinese leadership, and did little more than
convince them that Washington was using it as an excuse to
justify an extension of US influence in the Middle East.

A pre-emptive attack by Israel to nip Iran's nuclear
ambitions in the bud is unlikely.

Despite Tel Aviv's brave talk of its ability and
determination to launch a raid independent of US approval,
even a resounding success would probably only slow down the
program a few years while earning the undying enmity of the
Iranian people and the Muslim world toward Israel ... and
the United States, which would have to provide Israel with
flight privileges over Iraq to stage the attack.

American assertions that the Iranian nuclear program will
spark a ruinous arms race in the Gulf no doubt elicited
similar skepticism from China, with the unspoken
observation that, since most of those arms would be
supplied by the US and EU, the onus for (and profits of) an
arms race would probably fall to the West.

American efforts to wedge the Arab states away from China
are more likely to attract Beijing's attention and concern.

James Phillips of the Heritage Foundation spun US Secretary
of State Hillary Clinton's current trip to the Middle East:

Clinton will be looking to the Arabs to "act as a
counterweight [to Iran] on China and help unlock its
Security Council vote.

The US is hoping to use these discussions with the Arabs as
a way to encourage China to look at its long-term economic
interests," Phillips added. "The Arabs could let the
Chinese know that it will hurt them economically with the
Arab countries in the long run if China clings to this
pro-Iran position.

United States protestations that all this diplomatic
maneuvering directed at China is justified by the need to
exhibit international unity on Iran ring hollow.

Invocation of the Israeli attack and the Gulf states arms
race bogeymen notwithstanding, the primary justification
for the current spasm of concern over Iran's nascent
nuclear activities is the dreaded Western "impatience",
which appears very similar to the manufactured impatience
that sent the coalition of the willing charging into Iraq
in 2003.

The stated remedy for this impatience, the UN sanctions, is
unlikely to work.

Russia cares enough about its relationship with Tehran to
make sure anything that gets through the Security Council
will not be particularly catastrophic.

On February 11, Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Ryabkov made
this memorable statement: "We do not think sanctions will
work, but we understand that it is impossible to get by
without them in certain circumstances."

With early reports that a massive government presence
marginalized Green Movement demonstrators on the February
11 anniversary of the Iranian revolution of 1979, regime
change in Iran is probably off the table, too.

Even if a new regime came to power, Iran's national
commitment to nuclear power - and the perceived nuclear
weapons threat to the region - would probably remain

By conventional geopolitical logic, China would seem to
have the right idea: more jaw-jaw and engagement or, as it
called for in a recent editorial, "patience, patience and
more patience."

But US policy seems to be moving in the opposite direction,
stoking the crisis instead of lowering the heat.

So what's China's takeaway from the Iran crisis?

Absent an immediate, credible threat of an Israeli attack
on Iran, the US is rushing the international community
toward "crushing sanctions" on Tehran that, if carried out,
would result in disruption of Iran's energy exports.

If this were to actually occur, the big loser in the Iran
crisis would be China.

As a Chinese analyst told Reuters: "Fully going with
Western expansion of sanctions on Iran so they restrict
Iran's energy exports would amount to disguised sanctions
against China, and China certainly won't agree," Wang Feng,
a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences told
the Global Times, a Chinese newspaper published on

Reportedly, the US had advised China it would dispatch
Hillary Clinton to visit Iran's enemies in the Persian Gulf
and ensure that, if sanctions disrupted the supply of
Iranian oil, Saudi Arabia and its associates would ensure
that China's petroleum needs would continue to be met.

It is unlikely that China's vision of its energy security
involves relying on the US's good offices to deal with the
consequences of a US-imposed policy that it rejects and had
no voice in formulating.

In any case, the prospects for an oil-price Armageddon are
unlikely. Given free-market realities and the greed of oil
producers inside and outside the Gulf, the world would
suffer as much as China if Iranian crude disappeared from
the market.

For Beijing, the biggest concern is its perception that
Europe, Russia and the Gulf states are signing on to an
anti-Iran initiative that could impact China's interests in
such a major way without accommodating China's priorities.

From Beijing's point of view, China is the main superpower
stakeholder in the Iran crisis.

So it is asking why isn't it being consulted? Indeed, why
aren't its critical interests given priority, instead of
subjecting it to moonshine about an Israeli attack, an arms
race in the Gulf and lectures about its geopolitical

China is not a threat to the international order, but it is
its most independent and uncontrollable element. There are
growing signs of a shared consensus in the West that
reliance on China as a stabilizing financial, economic and
geopolitical factor must be reduced.

The past few years have been good to China's competitors
-especially India - and bad for China's allies - Pakistan
and Iran.

By accident or design, the Obama administration's decision
to heat up the Iran controversy has driven another wedge
between China and the US, the EU, the Gulf states and even

The issue for China is whether the purpose of America's
Iran campaign is to isolate Iran ... or to isolate China?
This is a consequence of China's participation in the
security initiatives that the US chooses to organize to
protect and promote its own and loyal allies' interests.

China responded to the escalation of the Iran nuclear
crisis with a remarkable lead editorial in the Global
Times, the international affairs organ of People's Daily,
the government mouthpiece,.

The editorial, with the eye-catching title "Iran and the
West: Neither Should Think of Taking China Hostage",
painted China as the victim of the standoff. In an effort
to be even-handed, both Iran and the West are criticized
for their intransigence.

Nevertheless, both the West and Iran are unheeding at this
time. They both believe that only if they are unyielding,
then the other side will back off. This unenlightened
attitude even extends to their attitude toward China. Both
sides believe that all that's needed is to put pressure on
China, then China will, without considering its own
interests ... lower its head to them ... This thinking is

The use of the loaded term, "lower its head", conjuring
images of the humiliating kowtow, instead of a more neutral
term such as "support one or the other" is an indication
that red lines are being drawn.

The fact that China's main worry is the West, and not Iran,
is unambiguously conveyed in the editorial's conclusion.

Recently in Western public opinion has been a call to use
the Iran issue to isolate China. This is extremely
superficial ... China is a big country and its interests
must be respected. China's dilemma must be sympathized
with. China's proposal opposing sanctions must be
understood. The big powers must cooperate and negotiate on
the Iran issue ...

China is a great country. If anyone seeks to compel her, to
injure her, they will certainly pay the price. Pretty
strong stuff.

The editorial is a clear indication that China considers
itself the target - or at least intended collateral damage
- in America's anti-Iran campaign. It makes the case that,
if the Obama administration sincerely cared about its
relationship with China, Washington would back off from the
sanctions campaign and allow negotiations to continue.

But that doesn't look like it's going to happen.

Sanctions will probably go ahead, with China either
abstaining or throwing in a tactical "yes" vote to postpone
an overt breach, and Washington will obtain another point
of leverage against China in the Persian Gulf.

If that happens, China will have to think about adjusting
to a new world situation in which the West seems less
interested in bargaining for its support or respecting its

Peter Lee writes on East and South Asian affairs and their intersection with US foreign policy.