Terrorist Language

‘We tortured some folks,’ Barack Obama admitted the other day, in a speech hailed as an unflinching mea culpa for the post 9/11 ‘enhanced interrogation’ programme. It’s not the first time Obama has reached for the F-word. In a speech in New Britain, Connecticut, earlier this year, Obama addressed the spiny question of the US’s yawning inequality. ‘There are folks at the top who are doing better than ever… we understand that some folks are going to earn more than others.’ Happily, the president was battling to make sure ‘hardworking folks’ got a rise. They included the good ‘folks who are cooking the meals of our troops, or washing their dishes, or cleaning their clothes. The country should pay those folks a wage you can live on.’
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It isn’t about the tunnels

Israel’s justifications for its assault on Gaza have shifted more than once since Operation ‘Brother’s Keeper’ was launched on 12 June, supposedly in response to the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers. The rockets ‘raining down terror’ on Israel (they have so far killed three people, giving them a kill rate of 0.1 per cent) were the reason given for the launch of operation ‘Protective Edge’ on 8 July; the ground invasion of Gaza on 17 July was said to be aimed at destroying a series of tunnels leading into Israel. More »

One-Eyed Knowledge

This week the European Union, with Angela Merkel at its head, fired off a communiqué over the signatures of José Manuel Barroso and Herman Van Rompuy slapping sanctions on Russia after last month’s downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine. In the self-important way of these texts, it bemoans Vladimir Putin’s failure to accord the EU the respect that it sees as commensurate with its sense of its own importance. Apropos the dusty greeting that the Russians have given its previous communiqués, the Union tut-tuts that

our call has been, in practice, left unheeded. Arms and fighters continue flowing into Ukraine from the Russian Federation. Strong Russian State sponsored nationalist propaganda continues supporting the illegal actions of armed separatists.

In a parallel world, recognisably similar to but at some distance from our own, EU gnomes behind their plate-glass kraal in Brussels solemnly debate sanctioning Israel for wrecking hospitals and the wholesale murder of civilians, such as blowing children playing beach football in Gaza to pieces. More »

At Victoria Miro

Room, 2013

Born in Trivandrum in 1959, Celia Paul studied at the Slade and became a pupil of Lucian Freud (they also had a son). At her first solo show at the Victoria Miro Gallery, Freud’s influence is clear – not only in the psychological intensity of her paintings but in the inventive richness of her surfaces. Thin, iridescent glazes summon up a plane tree shadow on a wall and the ghostly skeleton of the Post Office Tower, while the self-portraits in her painter’s smock are heavily worked impasto canvases. More »

Disgrace

The United Nations secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, denounced the bombing of the UN school in Gaza as ‘outrageous’ and ‘unjustifiable’. His officials have described the massacres as a ‘disgrace to the world’. Who stands disgraced? The UN General Assembly has regularly voted in favour of an independent Palestine. It is the Security Council that has vetoed the very thought and the Security Council, as everyone knows, is dominated by the United States; on this issue, Russia and China have remained on message. More »

Ebola in the UK?

The current Ebola virus outbreak in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia is the biggest ever in terms of fatalities, geographical distribution and duration. A person sick with it flew from Liberia to Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, from which many travellers arrive in the UK every day. So it was no surprise to hear that COBRA has met. Announcing that it has met is in itself crisis management: ‘We are aware of the problem and something is being done.’ More »

According to Regulations

University fees are a dead issue from the point of view of the major political parties. But the last year has seen the development of a new student protest movement that attempts to move beyond the question of fees to the broader logic of the Browne Report. Local campaigns to pay a living wage to support staff have merged with calls for flatter top-to-bottom wage ratios and a reshaped, democratic university administration involving students and academics as well as managers. It’s nothing to match the size and anger of 2010, but the movement possesses something like its reanimated spirit – together with the usual attachment of the British left to heroic defeat. More »

Nothing Unintentional

The Palestinian body count in Gaza has passed 1000, with more than 5000 wounded. Over 70 per cent of the casualties are civilians, including more than 200 children. Extended families have been wiped out. Children playing on a beach have been targeted and killed by Israeli gunboats. Over two thousand homes have been damaged or destroyed. According to an IDF spokesman, 120 one-tonne bombs landed in the Shaja’yya neighbourhood alone. Yet, with three Israeli civilians and 40 Israeli soldiers killed, Israeli leaders and their US allies insist on describing the carnage as a war of self-defence. More »

No, it’s not anti-semitic

Judith Butler in the LRB, 21 August 2003:

It will not do to equate Jews with Zionists or Jewishness with Zionism. There were debates among Jews throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries as to whether Zionism ought to become the basis of a state, whether the Jews had any right to lay claim to land inhabited by Palestinians for centuries, and as to the future for a Jewish political project based on a violent expropriation of land. More »

The Fear that Creeps

There are two types of fear, the fear that bites and the fear that creeps. Nathan Bland, the teenage protagonist of the horror story that David Mitchell recently published on Twitter, has had a strong dose of the first. He’s been mauled by a bull mastiff, which ‘pulled skin off my cheek like skin off roast chicken’ and ‘shook me like a doll, my own blood blinding me’. The dog still stalks his dreams. When Nathan and his mother arrive at the house of Lady Briggs, an aristo his mother is keen to impress, a dog barks and he feels a pang of terror – ‘my lungs fill with dark’ – before he realises that it’s ‘only a little yappy thing’. Later, Nathan plays a game of ‘Fox and Hounds’ with Lady Briggs’s creepy son Jonah. He’s running, trying to catch Jonah up, when he hears the mastiff behind him. Suddenly it appears with Jonah’s bloody head dangling from its jaws. Nathan runs into Lady Briggs’s house, slams the door and blames the apparition on the Valium he took earlier. More »

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