Monday, April 12, 2010

Gita Sahgal: the conclusion

Thanks to Matthew in our comments, Oliver Kamm has published the Statement By Gita Sahgal On Leaving Amnesty International on his blog. It's now also on Harry's Place and Nick Cohen's Standpoint blog.

As Matthew says, it's not clear what happened to the lawsuit, though the answer may inadvertently come from Harry's Place's Alan A:

So began the tradition of the “radical lawyer”: sometimes established in firms or chambers organised along socialist lines, and sometimes not. For them, law was an extension of the revolutionary struggle. They were heroes. They were sexy.


Unfortunately, what Ms Sahgal needed was a non-revolutionary, and probably unsexy employment lawyer. Alan A even quotes the leaked internal memo and apparently agrees with it:

"The organisation had taken steps to clarify that it did not in any way support all, or even many, of Moazzam Begg’s views. Obviously we did not do enough to establish this in the public sphere. We can and should publicly admit this mistake and move on and ensure we do not make the same mistake again.”


To me, that says that Amnesty never supported Begg's views, what the writer of the memo admits they did wrong was they didn't make that clear enough. That seems some way from the complaint that Ms Sahgal had - that Amnesty compromised its views to back Moazzem Begg.

Ms Sahgal's statement says:

But the spectre that arises through the continued promotion of Moazzam Begg as the perfect victim, is that Amnesty International is operating its own policies of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’


I've never understood Amnesty to back the views of people it campaigns for; some may be democrats, some not.And I find Ms Sahgal's prose style unsympathetic:

Unfortunately, their stance has laid waste every achievement on women’s equality and made a mockery of the universality of rights. In fact, the leadership has effectively rejected a belief in universality as an essential basis for partnership.


If they have "effectively rejected a belief in universality as an essential basis for partnership" then good for them. I don't think universality is the simple, all-or-nothing belief that one either has or has not than Ms Saghal seems to believe it is. Is there a right not to be bombed for instance? I can't believe that Oliver Kamm, who is after all very smart can agree that Amnesty's stance, even if that's backing Begg and adopting his views "has laid waste every achievement on women’s equality". Every achievement? Seriously?

On Friday, by the way, the Times published George W. Bush 'knew Guantánamo prisoners were innocent' which does rather suggest that some former inmates were in fact 'perfect victims'.

Since Ms Saghal ends with, "when a great organisation must ask: if it lies to itself, can it demand the truth of others?" I think it's reasonable to ask if she's correct when she says, "I was hired as the Head of the Gender Unit as the organization began to develop its Stop Violence Against Women campaign. I leave with great sadness as the campaign is closed..." (The statement is signed, "Gita Sahgal, Former Interim Head of the Gender, Sexuality and Identity Unit, Amnesty International".) Does anyone know if Amnesty's Stop Violence Against Women has actually been closed? It's still easy to find from the campaigns page.

So far, going by Google News the media haven't picked this up. This may change, but I just checked the front page of the Times and it's not a story there. Harry's Place sources their copy to Human Rights for All (which may be based in Switzerland; the HTML is in French for some reason, and which doesn't have any information on how to donate, so it may not be a charity).

Update 12/4 9:30 pm BST This gets weirder. I forbore from mentioning the other half of Harry's Place's post (link above) by Meredith Tax. It begins:

Amnesty’s statement attempts to make the issue redundancy—i.e., they are trying to tell their members that Gita was laid off because the violence against women campaign had ended, rather than because she is a whistleblower.


Does anyone what statement this refers to? The only statement by Amnesty that I've seen is Amnesty International on its work with Moazzam Begg and Cageprisoners which only mentions Ms Sahgal in one paragraph, viz:

Contrary to Gita Sahgal’s assertions to the media, she was not suspended from Amnesty International for raising these issues internally. In fact we actively welcome vigorous internal debate. Up to now we have maintained confidentiality in line with our policy but wanted to correct this misrepresentation. This is not a reflection on the organisation’s respect for her work as a women’s rights activist and does not undermine the work she has done over the last few years as the head of Amnesty International’s gender unit.


Ms Tax's belief that Amnesty's 'Violence Against Women' campaign has ended is weird for two reasons. The "Gender, Sexuality and Identity Unit" clearly had a wider remit than just that, and, even if that campaign had ended, that is no reason for her post to go. Second, via Sunny's post Amnesty publish election manifesto for women’s rights Amnesty have published briefings which include Women's Rights PDF. Sunny quotes from it:

The cases of Iraq and Afghanistan are instructive and particular. The UK was a vocal proponent of women’s rights prior to and during the conflict in Afghanistan, yet no women were invited to a conference in London on 28 January 2010 to discuss the future of the nation. If women’s organizations and activists had not forced their way onto the agenda, they would not have been present at all. This is despite UN resolution 1325 which requires parties to a conflict to ensure that in the post conflict regeneration process women are equally involved in decision making and policy implementation.


Gita Sahgal was suspended on Sunday, 7 February following her contacting the Sunday Times. She has not, as far as I can tell, ever returned to work between then and her departure. She could have written the above in her final week: after all, everyone knew an election would be called this year. But I suspect she didn't. It doesn't look to me, in other words, as if Amnesty has wound up its campaigning for women's rights. So where did the idea that it had come from?

44 Comments:

Anonymous HarpyMarx said...

"Unfortunately, what Ms Sahgal needed was a non-revolutionary, and probably unsexy employment lawyer."

I don't know if Gita is a member of a trade union (Unite..?) but the basic thing would have been for her to speak to the union. Actually, if she had before she went to the Sunday Times any TU rep would have advised her to seek internal resolution with Amnesty i.e. discuss the situation, exhaust every internal avenue and maybe that would include Grievance procedure and not go straight to the press as that would bring about disciplnary action....(any rep would have predicted that outcome and woulda told Gita in no uncertain terms).
And the union would have passed on her case for legal advice whether by rep or TU solicitors.
I don't know what Gita's TU status is but as this is an employment/workplace issue then the union would have been involved, so for me that begs the question of whether she sought union advice and/or is a member of a TU? Because like I said (and certainly if I was her union rep) I would have advised her not to go to the papers but to see internal solutions esp. as she presented no evidence to back up her assertions.

On a general issue, she went to the right-wing Murdoch press who have used this for their own political neocon agenda.

4/12/2010 02:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Witchsmeller Pursuivant said...

human-rights-for-all.org was registered in France by Harsh Kapoor on 7th February. It appears to be a single issue site devoted to criticising Amnesty International over the Sahgal affair. I don't think it's a charity.

4/12/2010 06:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

The AI statement released April 9th makes it clear once and for all that AI has a "relationship" with CP. Some of us knew this already, what with the collaboration on press briefings, co-publications, AI's description of CP as a "leading human rights organization" and CP job adverts mentioning the fact that: "Successful candidates will also be expected to deal with the media and other NGOs which Cageprisoners works with, such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Reprieve."

This corroboration from the horse's mouth is important as some have been at pains to distinguish between AI's use of Begg to front anti-Gitmo campaigns (Begg being perfectly qualified so to do) and working directly with the organisation he fronts.

Is anyone who is unperturbed by the thought of AI partnering with Begg slighltly less comfortable with their cosying up to CP, and if so, why?

4/12/2010 09:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oliver Kamm, who is after all very smart

Eh?

4/12/2010 11:18:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

It refers to this statement:

Due to irreconcilable differences of view over policy between Gita Sahgal and Amnesty International regarding Amnesty International’s relationship with Moazzam Begg and Cageprisoners, it has been agreed that Gita will leave Amnesty International on 9 April 2010. Gita has most recently held the position of Interim Head of the Gender, Sexuality and Identity Unit, and was in a period of consultation over possible redeployment following a redundancy process. Accordingly, Gita will leave receiving a payment based on Amnesty International’s redundancy policy.

---------

Obviously the fact it begins by mentioning the 'irreconcilable differences' between the two rather undermines Tax's argument, but then again this idea of a 'whistleblower' raises its head again, so I think the facts are as muddy again. But she seems to have accepted (or at least was offered) a redundancy payment.

4/12/2010 11:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Has anyone seen the new article by Yvonne Ridley at the Cageprisoners site?

"Poisonous tentacles of Zionism"? "Zionist meddling in the judiciary"?

This is a group that AI is happy to work with and describes as a "leading human rights organization".

Are people really going to allow that fact that it's HP editors, Cohen and Kamm pointing this stuff out to stop themselves being appalled?

4/12/2010 11:58:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Thanks Matthew, that clears that one up. AFAIK, Ms Tax is American, and that particular use of 'redundancy' is peculiar to the UK. But even so, it's a big leap from knowing that someone's job has been cut to assuming that their employer or even where they worked is being closed. That's a lot of reading into a short statement.

4/13/2010 05:02:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Brownie, don't expect me to speak up for Yvonne Ridley. I don't even know the woman. She's a mate of Nick Cohen's, IRRC.

But I assume you're complaining about the gross misrepresentation of cephalopods in her phrase. If so, I completely agree. This line of rhetoric must stop. It will not do that people continue to toss about thoughtless phrases such as 'The fascist octopus has sung its swansong.' Octopi are intelligent and possibly sensitive creatures.

Moreover, their tentacles are not poisonous. Tentacles have many uses - propulsion, catching prey, even perception, but they are not harmful to touch.

Of course, Ms Ridley may have been referring to the appendages of the great god Cth-lh-[1] (Rlyeh wgahnagl Ftagn!!)[2] whose tentacles may indeed secrete vitriol. But those of us who tremble at the thought of the Old Ones do not take easily to their equation with the comparatively ephemeral delusions of monotheism among desert dwellers who used to consider the world to be flat! May her suffering be long and terrible, may she be among the very last to be eaten!

BTW, I believe you used to support old Whatsisname. (Damn, I've forgotten. Smiled a lot. I never liked him. Mate of Bush; likes free holidays.) He has associations with this nasty crowd, doesn't he? I look forward to your denunciation. I do hope it's not going to be "Your friends' friends are all mad anti-Semites. My friends' friends are ... we were talking about your friends" etc. As always.

[1] I believe I've seen that spelling in Harry's Place's comments. I trust it's acceptable to you. Personally, I suspect that an almost infinitely intelligent being who considers the aeons to be but the blink of an eye is unlikely to be fooled by the replacement of vowels with dashes, in the way that a 4-year-old may understand the word c*nt to refer to the hundredth part of a dollar, but what do I know?

[2] Islam joke for 'balance'

4/13/2010 05:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Gita has most recently held the position of Interim Head of the Gender, Sexuality and Identity Unit, and was in a period of consultation over possible redeployment following a redundancy process.

'Interim' suggests to me that the appointment was always going to disappear from under Sahgal at some point; one explanation would be that she was in place while they looked for someone to head the Unit, and the redundancy process kicked in when they found someone. Obviously I don't know if this is what's happened; it's possible that Amnesty management's rewritten history.

Brownie - so the evidence against CP is that they've published an article written by a reactionary tabloid hack who's found God and is now trying to curry favour with her new friends by writing a different flavour of reactionary tabloid hackery. And the evidence against Amnesty International is that they've taken the view that they can do more good than harm by working with CP. And on that basis we're all supposed to wash our hands of Amnesty - not just the idiot Ridley, not just CP, but Amnesty Sodding International. For goodness sake, grow up.

4/13/2010 10:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

so the evidence against CP is that they've published an article written by a reactionary tabloid hack who's found God and is now trying to curry favour with her new friends by writing a different flavour of reactionary tabloid hackery.

Or dealing in well-worn anti-Semitic tropes, if you prefer. And her association with CP* is rather more than just a random article on their website -she's a patron and one of their more celebrated campaigners. And CP's rap-sheet extends somewhat further than merely hosting some proto-fascist shite from a harebrained Islamist. Although they're rather good at that, too, as you'll discover if you search their archives for news on Al-Awlaki.

*CP's mandate is to campaign for exsiting and former Gitmo detainees, so quite why they need to align themselves with the likes of Al-Awlaki or let Ridley scribble all over their site is anyone's guess. Mine is that they support and believe this shit.

And the evidence against Amnesty International is that they've taken the view that they can do more good than harm by working with CP.

Well, the problem for a lot of us is that AI endorses CP as a "leading human rights organization" and partners with them on campaigns and PR. This has the dual effect of legitimising CP and delegitimising AI.

And on that basis we're all supposed to wash our hands of Amnesty - not just the idiot Ridley, not just CP, but Amnesty Sodding International.

Are we? Who's telling you to do that? I'm certainly not. I think AI is well worth saving, hence these discussions and my desire to see it put clear blue water between itself and CP.

4/13/2010 01:22:00 PM  
Blogger Andrew Bartlett said...

"I think AI is well worth saving"

Which is why I am determined to burn down the village.

Oh, and the village belonging to Human Rights Watch, etc.

4/13/2010 01:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

This has the dual effect of legitimising CP and delegitimising AI.

How can AI legitimate CP and at the same time be delegitimated by them? Brane hertz.

As far as I'm concerned the effect of the association on CP is to legitimate them as an organisation campaigning for human rights, which presumably even HP would concede is one of the things that they do. And the effect of the association on AI is none.

I think AI is well worth saving, hence these discussions and my desire to see it put clear blue water between itself and CP.

If you honestly, sincerely think that the aim of the campaign against the link with CP - sorry, the campaign against AI "cosying up" to CP, making Begg a "poster boy" and so childishly on - if you sincerely believe that the aim of that campaign is to save AI, then I beseech you in the bowels of your deity of choice to consider that you may be mistaken. It really, really, really doesn't look like it from here.

4/13/2010 01:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

sorry, the campaign against AI "cosying up" to CP, making Begg a "poster boy" and so childishly on

What's the word for this kind of rhetoric, by the way? It's more than just coat-trailing - when you're picking a fight by coat-trailing you can use beliefs the other person is proud to hold, even phrased in terms they can agree with ("what else can we expect from someone who still believes the Iraq invasion [was|wasn't] justified?") Tricks like using "cosying up to" in place of "having a working relationship with" are aimed at putting the opposition on the back foot, but in a different way - the demeaning language conveys contempt as well as hostility, so the message is not so much "I challenge you to deny you believe X", more "I challenge you to deny that you're an idiot". Nasty.

4/13/2010 03:22:00 PM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

chardonnay chap - perhaps this will ease yout trembling a little.

Perhaps Brownie should take note of this ection of the Ridley article;
The campaigners had been accused of making “comments about Jews, Israelis, and the State of Israel”, but during a three-day legal debate at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, a BBC audio recording of the event revealed that there had been no reference made to “Jews”
as he and his friends seem to spend so much time making similar accusations with as little foundation.

Phil - although I Am Not A Lexicographer, shouldn't that be legitimise rather than legitimate?

4/13/2010 04:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Well, we talk about legitimation rather than legitimisation, so even if it's a back-formation 'legitimate' (verb, last syllable pronounced 'mate') seems, well, legitimate (adj., last syllable pronounced 'mutt') - albeit potentially confusing.

4/13/2010 05:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Thanks to skidmarx, I've just read the Ridley article; I was rather pleasantly surprised. There are a couple of sentences which should have been deleted, but the rest of it is actually a pretty good article - the G20 sentences were appalling, the SPSC verdict was good news, and they're both well worth knowing about.

4/13/2010 05:59:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

@Brownie:

..."Successful candidates will also be expected to deal with the media and other NGOs which Cageprisoners works with, such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Reprieve."

Not just AI, but "Human Rights Watch and Reprieve" and unnamed others! You're going to be busy, aren't you?

This corroboration from the horse's mouth is important as some have been at pains to distinguish between AI's use of Begg to front anti-Gitmo campaigns (Begg being perfectly qualified so to do) and working directly with the organisation he fronts.

But that's NOT the distinction I or others make. CagePrisoners as I understand it exists solely to raise awareness of the plight of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and other detainees held as part of the War on Terror. And Begg is, as you say, perfectly qualified to speak about this. I don't see the difference between working with Begg on this matter and working with CagePrisoners. I think you're arguing that CagePrisoners has a covert agenda - that of taking over the world via violent jihad, etc. But as you believe that's also Begg's covert agenda, I don't see why you care whether AI works with one or the other. If, like me, you believe that CP exists for the reasons it says it does, there's not a problem. OK, what have I missed here?

@skidmarx Ahh. And he sang my song too. Sweet. Tell all your friends and other bags of water before it's too late! Horrible tortures in dank and rotting lairs should await humourless Xians and lawyers.

4/13/2010 06:57:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Oh crap, wrong CP link, should have been their about us page.

@Brownie BTW, if I understand Gita Sahgal correctly (and I'll need to look for the quotation), she didn't have a problem with working to free Moazzem Begg; it was working with him that she objected to. Again, if I understand her position, and I may not, she has no objection to "rais[ing] awareness of the plight of prisoners". So, working with CP is again not a problem. But why did you even need "corroboration from the horse's mouth" when you already knew that AI worked with CP?

4/13/2010 07:14:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Well, I've read Ridley's piece and it confirms my opinion: she's a nut. I'll quote a bit more than Brownie:

The injustice of what happened in Bradford did go largely unchallenged, but I can tell you that Judge Denniss is about to be judged himself – and held to account on his own performance. It is quite obvious Judge Denniss’s sentencing has been unfair and unjust – some might say it is biased and politically influenced while others believe it smacks of Islamaphobia. For the last four decades I’ve sat through many trials and I have to say that most judges and magistrates deal with issues in a fair and just manner.



But what I witnessed in Bradford and more recently in Isleworth has been neither fair nor just.

For too long have we allowed the long, poisonous tentacles of Zionism and Islamaphobia to twist and weave their way into British courts. Ordinary, law-abiding citizens of faith and no faith have had enough of seeing our courtrooms hijacked by those who believe some are more equal than others when it comes to freedoms and liberties.


Apart from "(un)fair" and "(un)just", she's terribly fond "hijacked", "common sense" (you can tell she used to write for the Mail, that's "common sense" as in "Victory for common sense as boffins concede that mosques cause cancer!") and so on. It's like watching a child play with a lego set where most of the pieces have been glued together by a lunatic. And really, where did the calumny against cephalopods come from? She's wittering about some things being fair and just, while other things are neither fair nor just (though she leaves us wondering about cases which are unfair but just or fair but unjust), and suddenly tentacles, and long, poisonous ones at that, wind themselves in to her narrative. If she wasn't a Muslim, I'd say that her martinis need more olive and less gin.

4/13/2010 07:36:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Is anybody planning a posting on the Widow Twankey?

4/13/2010 08:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Not with you there, ejh.

4/13/2010 09:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Thanks to skidmarx, I've just read the Ridley article; I was rather pleasantly surprised. There are a couple of sentences which should have been deleted, but the rest of it is actually a pretty good article

I've no idea where she's got it from, but my 5 year old daughter has recently started saying: "Christ on a bike!"

Chap,

Okay, so the distinction between Begg and CP is one that's been made on other sites, as in there are those who are prepared to give AI the benefit of the doubt using Begg, but who have indciated they would draw the line at - or at least be more troubled by - an association with CP.

I think both are suspect, but I can sympathise a bit with the argument that, used in a very specific way and with a very tight remit, Begg could be a useful PR tool as regards keeping the spotlight on Gitmo. I think there are other reasons that mean this is a flawed strategy from AI, but I won't pretend the rationale of the counter-argument escapes me entirely.

CP is a different matter. It's all very well quoting what they say on their own site about their public mandate, but anyone who is familiar with their work and the writing that appears on CP from time to time will know that they're not particularly good at sticking to their mandate. Al-Awlaki, ffs? What on earth did Ridley's piece have to do with Gitmo, for example?

They are Salafi Jihadi sympathisers which is why they fete the likes of Al-Awlaki. AI shouldn't be touching the likes of CP with a barge pole. They stink the place up.

4/14/2010 12:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

What on earth did Ridley's piece have to do with Gitmo, for example?

They are Salafi Jihadi sympathisers


What on earth did Ridley's piece have to do with Salafi jihadi sympathies? Can you show us something that actually matches the picture you're painting, without the aid of selective quotation and an unsympathetic reading?

4/14/2010 07:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

What on earth did Ridley's piece have to do with Salafi jihadi sympathies? Can you show us something that actually matches the picture you're painting, without the aid of selective quotation and an unsympathetic reading?

Um, the point is that whatever CP's stated mandate is, they don't restrict themselves to simply lobbying for the rights of Gitmo detainees. Now, don't get me wrong, they can do whatever the hell they like - it's their organization. But if "whatever the hell they like" includes feting the likes of Al-Awlaki, then defneding a relationship with AI on the basis of the CP mandate won't wash. You're no longer dealing with an organization merely lobbying for detainee rights, but an organization that is helping to promote a Salafi Jihadi worldview.

It's a bit like being a hack who writes "great articles" but can't help sprinkling them with the most obvious anti-Semitic tropes.

Do you know anyone who promotes the views of Al-Awlaki who isn't a Salafi Jihadi sympathiser, by the way?

What sort of material on the CP website would it take for people to be convinced about nature of this org? With whom would they have to consort before you started to grow just a little more suspicious?

Right now, the answers to those questions appear to be:

1 - Something worse than obvious anti-Semitism

and

2 - Someone more objecitonable than Al-Awlaki.

It's going to take pictures of child porn and a link to Jim Davidson's fanclub, isn't it?

4/14/2010 08:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Brownie - you used the words "great articles" in quotes. Where were you quoting from?

defneding a relationship with AI on the basis of the CP mandate won't wash

I've already been through this. As I said above, as far as I'm concerned the effect of the association with AI is to legitimate CP as an organisation campaigning for human rights, which presumably even HP would concede is one of the things that they do.

4/14/2010 08:40:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

off topic - have been away so haven't looked over the site exhaustively but has nick's most recent 'TV' column been covered yet? it's about radio, weirdly, and nick outs himself as an admirer of Alan Green, who can be an entertaining commentator but has also been censured at least twice in the past for racism on air.

funny how nick manages to ignore that sort of thing when it suits him.

4/14/2010 09:18:00 AM  
Blogger cian said...

Amnesty International also works with the Catholic Church. So that's probably the child porn angle covered.

I'm always reminded on these kinds of threads of the difference between political poseurs and activists. Activists are concerned at getting things done, and form all kinds of questionable alliances to achieve this. Its not pretty, but the world improves. Purists get fuck all done, but keep their souls nice and pure.

Amnesty International has achieved quite a lot. Remind me again, Brownie, what have you and HP achieved?

4/14/2010 12:52:00 PM  
Blogger Andrew Bartlett said...

Ohh! Ah! I know the answer to that one. 'Provided 'left-wing' cover for wars, occupations, and legal black-holes, condeming human rights organisations, smearing opponents and bullying small-fry out of their jobs, all the while allowing a comments space for the airing of some spectacuarly racist and eliminationist rhetoric'.

Am I right?

4/14/2010 01:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Which is why I don't really think the 'purist' label fits, with its connotations of unworldly idealism. HP is all in favour of hands getting dirty and things getting done - just not, much of the time, the kind of things the rest of us think ought to get done.

4/14/2010 02:02:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

True, but its the model they try and impose on everyone else.

Actually HP has had some fairly associations of its own, even if you ignore some of Brett's nuttier outbursts.

4/14/2010 07:04:00 PM  
Anonymous magistra said...

OT: Christopher Hitchens is among those calling for the Pope to be tried for crimes against humanity (due to his alleged cover-ups of child abuse). Because of course a man who supported a war of aggression which killed hundreds of thousands of people has such great moral superiority over a man who opposed a war of aggression which killed hundreds of thousands of people.

4/14/2010 07:11:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

@Brownie I think Ridley is an idiot (and a very boring one) and an anti-Semite. I have to say it; I disagree with Phil here: that wasn't a sentence which should have been cut - as far as I could tell it was central to her argument.

This is a massive, possibly unbridgeable difference between us. I think both CagePrisoners and Amnesty have some very important things to say about Guantanamo and the US prosecution of the "War on Terror". I gather you (as part of Harry's Place) didn't like the slogan "Not in my name". Let me be a boring Libertarian for a moment. I pay taxes: I pay for this government. I have a right to criticise it. It's a nasty idea, I agree, but let's call it "No taxation without representation" a snappy, populist and easily dismissed phrase, no doubt.

As far as I can tell, most (all?) of Cage Prisoners' contributors are nutters. I'm something of what I call an Enlightenment Fetishist, as are, I believe, your lot. You do realise that Newton (of Do not patronise me sir, I invented physics) was something of a religious, alchemist fruitcake? (Read Neal Stephenson if you don't believe me.) Being crazy in one sphere is no barrier to being right in another.

I can see you in the 17th century; the Bible says the world is flat; anyone who says different is an anti-Semite. Nyah, nyah. Isaac thinks base metals can be turned into gold, poor fool. He must be wrong about the planets, being stupid and all.

It doesn't work like that. Drop the ad hominem stuff and take on the ideas.

4/14/2010 09:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Amnesty International has achieved quite a lot. Remind me again, Brownie, what have you and HP achieved?

And in one brief paragraph, Phil inadvertanly provides intellectual cover for the highest-achieving megalomaniacs in world history.

Bravo, Phil.

Chap,

So far as I can tell, you're effctively saying that AI should turn a blind eye to CP's inate dodginess; CP "have some very important things to say about Guantanamo and the US prosecution of the "War on Terror"", so if they promote Salafi Jihadists in their spare time and their patrons scribble anti-Semitic OPs on the website, we just have to accept that no NGO is perfect and hold our noses? Am I reading you correctly?

Assuming I am, my questions at 08:27 are back in play. I'd genuinely like to know what it would take from CP that meant the "very important things they have to say about Gitmo and the WoT" were no longer enough to sustain a relationship with AI? I'd like to know what sort of things the patrons of CP would have to say that finally had you shaking your head and rejecting the notion that CP is a "leading human rights organization"?

I go back to one of my first comments on the Sahgal episode, which is that even if you could convince yourself that AI's relationship with Begg and CP was morally justifiable, wouldn't you still question this partnership on strategic grounds? Whomever you regard as responsible for the recent furore - and ignoring the wailing of those who were always antipathetic to AI - can anyone seriously claim that AI has not been damaged as a result of the whole Sahgal/Begg/CP affair? Would AI be any worse off today if it had drawn the line at partnership with CP, if not Begg? Wasn't one of the core criticisms of the Iraq war from this place that the basic law of 'don't do anything to make things worse' applied?

I've punted past Newton's room a few times (he wasn't in) but I can't say I know much more about him than that he gave his name to 3 laws, or something, but I think understand the point you're trying to make. I'd say in response that I agree it is possible to maintain credibility in one field whilst spouting utter shite in another (Daniel Davies remains good with statistics, for example). But there are tipping points, and the less distance there is between the credible and hysterical stuff, the quicker you reach that tipping point. So T.S. Eliot is still rated as a poet despite his dodgy views on Jews, but the fact Enoch Powell has some very important things to say about race and immigration hasn't prevented his legacy from being forever tainted. And quite right, too.

Anti-Semitism is antithetical to support for human rights, so AI has no business conferring "leading human rights organization" status on a group that enjoys the patronage of someone you've just called an anti-Semite. Doing so means AI plays its own small part in the mainstreaming of anti-Semitic discourse, something which is not only indicative of a flawed strategy, but is morally indefensible.

4/14/2010 10:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Well, I think it's both possible and appropriate to read Ridley's piece much more charitably. Firstly, there's about as much evidence for Brownie's suggestion that the article is "proto-fascist shite" as there is for his suggestion that I think Ridley writes "great articles". It's about some sentences for rioting which were appallingly harsh, and a prosecution for alleged racism which should never have been brought. Both of those stories are worth telling, and worth getting upset about. I'd already read about both of them, so the article didn't tell me anything new, but (apart from a couple of sentences which I don't endorse) it didn't shock or offend me either.

Secondly, I don't believe that anti-Zionism is the same thing as anti-semitism, even when the anti-Zionism takes an offensive form. To put it another way, it's possible to cross from anti-Zionism into anti-semitism, but it's also possible to be anti-Zionist without being anti-semitic, and I think it's important to keep that possibility open. I don't want anti-Zionists to start thinking that anti-semitism is part of the package; perhaps more ambitiously, I would like to think the odd Jew-hater might repent and become a decent, tolerant anti-Zionist. Insisting (as HP contributors do over and over again) that anti-Zionists are already anti-semites really isn't helpful.

4/14/2010 10:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Amnesty International has achieved quite a lot. Remind me again, Brownie, what have you and HP achieved?

And in one brief paragraph, Phil inadvertanly provides intellectual cover for the highest-achieving megalomaniacs in world history.

Bravo, Phil.


That was cian, not me. It's as if there's a distortion filter that kicks in if you inadvertently give an accurate quote.

4/14/2010 10:25:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

So T.S. Eliot is still rated as a poet despite his dodgy views on Jews, but the fact Enoch Powell has some very important things to say about race and immigration hasn't prevented his legacy from being forever tainted. And quite right, too.

Well, I think you've tricked yourself here. Eliot's legacy is is tainted too: it's more or less impossible (in polite society) to mention him without saying "dreadful anti-Semite, though". The poetry stands alone. Ditto Wagner. Powell's legacy, being one partly of action, rather than merely writing, is more complex. His political career ended in failure, as he said all political careers do. Even his racism wasn't a simple thing: "Nor can we ourselves pick and choose where and in what parts of the world we shall use this or that kind of standard. We cannot say, 'We will have African standards in Africa, Asian standards in Asia and perhaps British standards here at home'. We have not that choice to make. We must be consistent with ourselves everywhere." I rather think you and Gita Sahgal would agree with that. His Morecambe Budget certainly had a legacy: it was very like what became known as 'Thatcherism'. People may not put up statues of Enoch Powell, but he influenced a couple of generations of Tory politicians the way Eliot influenced poets. (OK, maybe 'the way' there is an exaggeration.)

Shorter me: you should be saying, "is this a fact?" You are saying, "but they're nasty men, who cares what they say?" You're far from alone in this: most of the papers seem to think that carrying a knife in the streets is a terrible act in itself, but slashing Ian Huntley's throat was - well, he had it coming, didn't he? I think CP have salient things to say about Guantanamo. Even Yvonne Ridley, who I think is barking mad, can spot an injustice. You're always trying to play the man, not the ball.

4/15/2010 05:31:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Doing so means AI plays its own small part in the mainstreaming of anti-Semitic discourse, something which is not only indicative of a flawed strategy, but is morally indefensible.

Isn't this the sort of cant that Ophelia Benson likes to pull apart by the way? Discourse? Bloody hell. Christ on a bike, even.

4/15/2010 05:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Martin Wisse said...

Actually, there was nothing wrong with that Ridley article other than that she's a terrible, terrible writer. Reading it after reading brownie's description of it makes it once again clear that nobody should be too upset about Harry's Place being sued for libel, as they bring it on themselves with their overblown rhetoric and, well, out and out lying.

4/15/2010 06:32:00 AM  
OpenID splinteredsunrise said...

I'm not certain about this - it's years since I was anywhere near the place - but I seem to remember there being a statue of Enoch in Wolverhampton.

4/16/2010 11:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Sonic said...

"I can't say I know much more about him than that he gave his name to 3 laws, or something, "

You seem amazingly proud of your ignorance, why not go and find out about Newton, amazing person.

4/17/2010 01:03:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

But the tropes! THE TROPES!

4/17/2010 02:34:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Sorry to take so much time to get back to you on the Widow Twankey: my point was, Ridley is a pantomime dame and not to be taken more seriously than that.

There's a serious point to be made about who one should or should not have as one's allies. But it's not remotely a clearcut point, and those who inist on it most strongly often draw attention to those they thmemselves have as their allies. One can ask, for instance, how the supporters of the Iraq War can possibly live with the central role played by the genocidal John Negroponte. Or how supporters of the Afghan War justify having, as allies in the war against the Taliban, the Northern Alliance. And so on, and so on.

4/17/2010 07:52:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

And of course that question is about whom one should have as an ally, and not about any other topic: obviously making the wrong decision about who to co-operate with doesn't mean you're wrong about anything else.

As an extreme and far-fetched example, just to sharpen intuitions: if a human rights group should focus on victims who are in some way or other deemed nasty (e.g. they have nasty religious beliefs), or if the HRG in question should associate with another HRG on whose website there might be 1. an article which is basically OK but includes phrases which to the expert eye can be seen to express nasty tropes, or 2. a friendly interview, by a victim with nasty beliefs, of another victim who has been accused of being extremely nasty by people who are constantly falsely accusing people of being extremely nasty, then that wouldn't establish that the human rights group in question is a bunch of scumbags who are, say, always making up nasty stories in order to discredit the IDF.

4/17/2010 09:55:00 PM  
Blogger Charlie Pottins said...

Getting back to the topic, Amnesty International - much as I value its work - should be subject to scrutiny and criticism, particularly if it appears to be straying from its aims.
But we should also be aware that some of its detractors are interested parties from whom hostility can be expected - e.g.the Murdoch press, and contributors to Harry's Place, are not likely to be happy over Amnesty's espousal of Palestinian rights, or opposition to the "war on terror" and what it entails.
Gita Sahgal, from what I know, comes from a different angle, as reflected by her background in Southall Black Sisters and Women Against Fundamentalism. There are many Asian people of genuine liberal or left-wing views who are concerned that the Left here romanticises reactionary regimes and movements in the name of "anti-imperialism" or that both the British state and the Left have connived at the hijacking of minority rights and identity by reactionary religious or political organisations. (That is not a problem confined to any one religion or minority community, btw).
Unfortunately, I think Gita misreads Amnesty's co-operation with Cageprisoner or particular individuals for agreement on issues other than those on which it is concerned. She then strays into bad company herself -i.e. the Sunday Times, whose report seems to regard opposition to Guantanamo detention as wrong in itself, along the line that they must be guilty or they wouldn't be locked up, and also allegedly misrepresents Muazzem Begg's view and denies him the right to reply.
Maybe Amnesty in the past was too precious about whom it gave support(I'm told it denied it to Nelson Mandela because he was accused of violence). If someone is held without trial, in inhuman conditions, and tortured, then that is surely part of Amnesty's remit, regardless of whether we approve of the person's political views, or what they are supposedly suspected of doing, or their attitude to women.
Now we get the retrospective argument that Cageprisoner published a letter by Yvonne Ridley which could be interpreted as antisemitic (or not). So what? I can recall objecting to an item by an Observer writer on similar grounds, and wrote to that paper. Does that mean Nick Cohen is guilty by association for having remained a columnist in the same paper? This guilt by association ploy is typical of witch-hunting propaganda. It is the kind of trick used by both antisemites and Zionists, and in this case, used to lead discussion way off track into whether one agrees with Ridley or what one thinks of her - nothing to do with the case.
Has Amnesty abandoned issues of gender inequality or attacks on women, particularly in Moslem countries? Not so, from what I have recently seen.
But in any case, whatever we think of Amnesty and its way of working, let us not fall for a spurious "criticism" from hostile quarters that don't want to "save" it but to undermine and smash its legitimate campaigns.

4/25/2010 08:00:00 AM  

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