Where is the international solidarity movement for Gypsies?

Violetta and Cristina, Roma girls dead on an Italian beach, sunbathers behindI started this post at the beginning of the month but SimplyJews and Bob from Brockley, who links to a grim CNN report, sent me back to it.

“On a windy Saturday afternoon a group of Roma girls were selling trinkets on a beach outside of Naples. Sometime during lunch time, the girls set down their wares and ventured into a rough sea. Two of the Roma, cousins Violetta and Cristina, aged 12 and 13, according to Cardinal Sepe, struggled to stay afloat amid a strong rip tide.

Emergency services responded 10 minutes after a distress call was made from the beach and, according to local press accounts, two lifeguards attended the girls upon hearing their screams. But they were too late. Cristina and Violetta drowned.

Their bodies were pulled from the sea, covered with towels, feet exposed. Witnesses say they lay on the beach for hours — and so did many of the sunbathers who allegedly watched the drowning and, according to some press accounts, did little but stare and carry on with their Saturday afternoon.”

More from The Independent.

The Guardian’s correspondent in Rome reports that Italy’s highest appeal court ruled that it is acceptable to discriminate against Italy’s c.160,000 Gypsies on the grounds that they are thieves.

“The ruling by the court of cassation, which appears to provide judicial backing for the government’s policies, was handed down in March, but reported only yesterday. The judges overthrew the conviction of six defendants who signed a leaflet demanding the expulsion of Verona’s Gypsies in 2001.Among those convicted of racially discriminatory propaganda was Flavio Tosi, an official of the anti-immigrant Northern League, who has since become Verona’s mayor. He was quoted by a witness at his trial as having said afterwards: “The Gypsies must be ordered out because, wherever they arrive, there are robberies.”

The court of cassation decided this did not show Tosi was a racist, but that he had “a deep aversion [to Roma] that was not determined by the Gypsy nature of the people discriminated against, but by the fact that all the Gypsies were thieves”. His dislike of them was “not therefore based on a notion of superiority or racial hatred, but on racial prejudice”. The judges scrapped the two-month jail sentences and ordered that the case be reheard.”

In Italy the Roma are confused with immigrants from the newly acceded Romania, and both are blamed for a rising crime rate. On the 13th of May, a woman in Naples claimed that a Roma girl had tried to steal her baby – an old lie about Gypsies is that they steal children (see the recent BBC 4 documentary What Happened Next, a continuation of They Steal Children, Don’t They?) and although there was no evidence the community erupted in violence and burnt down Roma homes, triumphantly reported by Stormfront as a ‘nativist rebellion’. The Italian government, far from confronting the prejudice, had already begun a registration of Gypsies which has been reported as more like a dawn raid than a census, but after the judgement was announced, rabble-rousing Interior Minister Roberto Maroni felt sufficiently encouraged to announce a nation-wide clampdown to fingerprint all Roma, including children, as an emergency security measure which would allow illegal immigrants to be identified. This was applauded by Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, who until earlier this year was the European Commissioner for Justice and Human Rights. However, the current European Human Rights Commissioner Thomas Hammerberg observes:

“The Nazis and the Fascists used the same methods of singling them out in the 1930s. It’s not surprising that they are frightened.”

Indeed, the Nazis proceeded to attempt to wipe out the Gypsies entirely.

Contrast with Tanzania’s albinos, another population living in fear having been slaughtered in horrifying numbers (25 in the past year) for the their hair, blood and limbs, said by witch doctors to confer wealth if drunk as a potion. The Tanzanian government is carrying out a census of albinos in order to better protect them, and for the albinos this can’t happen soon enough. People know if their government is on their side.

Getting rid of the Roma seems to be the ultimate aim of Berlusconi’s government – the Daily Mail reports 68% support for the expulsion of all Roma in a recent Italian opinion poll. And Italy is not the only country where Gypsies suffer discrimination. In Greece this year they have been fighting to keep their children in the same school as non-Gypsy children whose parents object. In Russia they have been campaigning against state-sanctioned discrimination in the criminal justice system and media hate speech unopposed by the state. In Hungary, Roma are trying to convince the authorities that the high number of their children in care is a function of bad housing and poverty, rather than something intrinsic to the Roma character. In fact Gypsies are fighting on practically all fronts for rights other people take for granted.

Passing policy which singles out Gypsies as criminals-in-waiting or people who don’t belong is absolutely discriminatory, racist and specifically antiziganist.

I could stop there but more occurs to me. The movement against Israel is on my mind at the moment and a number of comparisons and contrasts present themselves.

There are countless differences between Gypsies and Israelis, and between the groups enacting the policies against them. Berlusconi’s Italian coaltion includes the ‘post-fascist’ and ‘far right’, whereas the British boycott of Israel is supported by a coalition of New Stalinists pushing a bastardised anti-imperialism, Jews who want other Jews to assume collective responsibility for the acts of Israel, people who want Israel gone – people who detest Jews make up an uncertain proportion, but where they are present their hatred is suppressed as socially unacceptable. Gypsies face violence and Berlusconi’s government wants them gone, whereas the boycotters insist they merely hope to instrumentalise Israelis to lever change in Israeli policy – nobody dies or is terrorised as a direct result. While the Gypsies endure acute poverty, Israeli – cultural and academic figures targeted by PACBI in particular – are relatively well-off and secure. While Israelis have some, albeit limited, influence on state decision-making, Gypsies are largely excluded from the organs of Italian policy-making and are preoccupied with gaining even modest civil rights and a decent living standard. The impact of being turned down, as an Israeli, for contracts, collaborations, reviews, performances and conferences is vastly different from being, as a Gypsy, finger-printed, having your only home deemed illegal and bulldozed by your own government, or knowing that an entire beachful of fellow Italians would watch you drown and impassively sunbathe around your corpse.

But both Gypsies and Jews, including the Jews who now defend their state, have a long history of subjection to discriminatory laws, marking, killing, deportation and resettlement and exterminatory or genocidal measures – particularly, in the case of Gypsies, sterilisation and adoption – in other words, hatred.

After the Holocaust the UN ratified a state for Jews – Israel. Gypsies do not have a national home. If Russian popular antisemitism becomes unfightable, Russia’s Jews will have a place to go. Russian’s Gypsies will have to fend for themselves.

The inability (where it had the will – and there are voices speaking out for Gypsies in Italy and in the U.N.) of the left to resist the fascist assaults on the rights and dignities of the Jews and Gypsies of Europe (and you could also mention the Bosnian Muslims and the Kosovar Albanians) is a testament to the advantages of self-determination and self-defence.

And yet there is this anti-Israel campaign. The Palestine Solidarity movement is burgeoning. It is teeming with activity. And it is a barely-disguised, and for some un-self-aware, movement whose logic is the cancellation of the world’s only Jewish state, on the premise that smashing Israel as if it were an imperialist bridgehead is the only just resolution for Palestinians.

Gypsies are not the notional target of Imperialist aggression, and therefore the organised left – the left which scrutinises the Israeli economy, follows the nutritional status of Gazans, shrieks about Israeli atrocities real and fictional alike – is unmoved or perhaps even bored by the persecution of Gypsies.

That is one answer to why there’s no International Solidarity Movement for Gypsies.

Disgusting, isn’t it.


From buying ice lollies at my local Costcutters.

I tried to return the only one I’ve ever bought there because it was defective (Rowntree Fruit Pastille lollies are supposed to have five distinct fruit-flavoured segments but the one I unwrapped today (the hottest day of the year) had melted and refrozen into one pond-coloured mass with a soft syrupy tip and quantities of stale-tasting (I did try it) frost.

I received a refund, but also an accusation of having tried to return an ice lolly the previous week and a ban from buying any further ice lollies.

My protest and denial fell on deaf ears.

I think I’ll chalk it down to a very hot and irritating day and possible worries about slim margins, but for me it’s been a bad week for service.

Samir Kuntar and the apologists for terror

A lot has been written and said about the terrorist Samir Kuntar, exchanged in Lebanon last week for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers, but I collect some of it together because it’s important to recognise apologists for terror.

Smadar Haran described the slaughter of her family in a 2003 Washington Post article.

“Outside, we could hear the men storming about. Desperately, we sought to hide. Danny helped our neighbor climb into a crawl space above our bedroom; I went in behind her with Yael in my arms. Then Danny grabbed Einat and was dashing out the front door to take refuge in an underground shelter when the terrorists came crashing into our flat. They held Danny and Einat while they searched for me and Yael, knowing there were more people in the apartment. I will never forget the joy and the hatred in their voices as they swaggered about hunting for us, firing their guns and throwing grenades. I knew that if Yael cried out, the terrorists would toss a grenade into the crawl space and we would be killed. So I kept my hand over her mouth, hoping she could breathe. As I lay there, I remembered my mother telling me how she had hidden from the Nazis during the Holocaust. “This is just like what happened to my mother,” I thought.

As police began to arrive, the terrorists took Danny and Einat down to the beach. There, according to eyewitnesses, one of them shot Danny in front of Einat so that his death would be the last sight she would ever see. Then he smashed my little girl’s skull in against a rock with his rifle butt. That terrorist was Samir Kuntar.

By the time we were rescued from the crawl space, hours later, Yael, too, was dead. In trying to save all our lives, I had smothered her.”

Lisa Goldman has translated Samir Kuntar’s interview with the Israeli journalist Chen Kotes-Bar published in the newspaper Maariv. The translation was also in The Guardian. Lisa Goldman:

“So what a shock it was to see Kuntar greeted as a hero in Lebanon. How could the head of state and the head of government line up alongside Hezbollah leaders and Druze leaders to kiss a child murderer on either cheek?

In our paranoid Middle East insane asylum, a lot of those people who greeted Kuntar with open arms didn’t believe he committed the crimes of which he was convicted in a court of law. In our paranoid Middle Eastern insane asylum, facts are dismissed as propaganda – or ignored because they distract from political agendas, which are far too often sacrificed on the altar of basic human compassion. And a psychopath is embraced by political leaders who are using him to gain or maintain power. Michael Young explains here.”

So, back to Kuntar, in fragments:

We were given political lectures and they showed us films about Israel. We lived for the stories about the Yom Kippur War in 1973 – how we succeeded in destroying the myth of the invincible Israeli soldier. We read about the fighters who successfully attacked Israeli towns like Kiryat Shmona and Maalot [in 1974 the DFLP attacked a school in Maalot, killing 21 high school pupils – LG]. We admired them.”

I am anti-Zionist, not anti-Jewish. I am against the politics of Zionism. I think the establishment of the State of Israel was a mistake, but I do not hate Jews.”

You say I am a terrorist with ‘blood on his hands.’ That is a cynical phrase. You have blood on your hands, too. Every Israeli citizen who pays taxes to the state has blood on his hands. All of you.”

Today I love Hassan Nasrallah very much.”

I knew that if they had released me in 2004, your soldiers would not have been abducted. There would not have been a war at all. You are responsible.”

Like so many anti-Israel public figures, Kuntar is two-faced. He presents himself as a moderate pragmatist to Western journalists, but to his anti-Israel constituency he speaks hatred. Arik Weiss, in an addendum to the Ma’ariv piece which never made it into The Guardian:

Over recent years Bassam Kuntar, Samir’s younger brother, established a website calling for his release [samirkuntar.org, but it’s been disabled since his release. – LG]. The site was translated into Hebrew, English and Arabic, but the texts in the different languages do not match. According to one of the articles on the site, “On the day I left the beach of Tyre I was sad, but at the same time I was bursting with happiness because I knew that I was going to fulfill my obligation: to kill Jews. I no longer had any patience. I knew that I had to sacrifice myself.”

“…to kill Jews”. And, in 2008 in response to the death of senior member of Hesbollah Imad Mughniyah:

[my] place has always been on the front lines of the battle…which is soaked with the blood of the dearest people. I will continue in my path until the final, complete victory.”

The state of Israel was established in hateful times to provide a home for a million Jews displaced by the Holocaust. Today as part (Coming Home, BBC Radio 4, 9.02am) of the Charles Wheeler season, an English woman who had hurried to Belsen to nurse survivors described how quickly the inmates of the camps ceased to be viewed as victims and became something of a nuisance, an albatross – they started to be referred to generically as ‘displaced persons’, and later simply ‘DPs’. They had nowhere to go. No great power would take them. They were a burden. But unlike the other displaced people, the Jews were displaced for genocide.

Jews who already lived in Palestine had been attacked a long time before the UN set up their state and they militarised themselves against the many of their neighbours who hated them. The acts of terror against Israeli Jews have been continuous since 1914. If you attack Israeli Jews for having the temerity to attempt to set up their own state after centuries of persecution culminating in the Holocaust (note that it is not particularly the occupation Kuntar hates, but Zionism, the idea of a Jewish state) then you also attack Jews collectively. Jews have a state, for the reasons above. That boat has sailed. Europe blew it, and then the post-War powers blew it again. Israel exists. People need to get over it and throw themselves behind the peace process – getting rid of the wrecker-terrorists and other aggressors, getting rid of the settlements, squashing the Israeli and Palestinian expansionists, building the Palestinian economy, tackling racism, and sharing resources equitably. And I’m coming to the conclusion that campaigners should butt entirely out of ‘criticism’ unless they are fully conversant with what is actually going on in Israel and Palestine.

And yet you will hear Kuntar’s kind of reasoning – making terrorist attacks on civilians the moral equivalent of the efforts of Israelis to defend their state – advanced by University and College Union activists, senior Green Party committee members, most of the Socialist Workers Party, and some writers in newspapers of quality like The Guardian. Like Kuntar, these are bourgeois people and there’s a certain flavour to what they say which, to borrow from Linda Grant, makes them appear addled by Marxism-Leninism (or a perversion of it):

“Kuntar fits no model of the impoverished refugee driven to despair by occupation. Nor can he be seen within the context of Iranian-backed Islamism. When he emerged from prison last week it was as a relic of a bygone age: of that era of self-appointed middle-class revolutionaries, like the Weather Underground and Baader-Meinhof Gang.”

“Kuntar invented himself as a revolutionary at an early age, and his ardour for the struggle has not dimmed after nearly 30 years in prison. Individuals like him – affectless, without empathy – have always played leading roles in revolutionary movements. Drawn to political organizations of the far left and far right, they are people who have the passion and the excitement for violence, the glamour of violence. Those who are motivated by a desire for the alleviation of poverty or the redressing of injustice, lack the thirst for blood.”

Some, like the affectless Alex Callinicos, see the world as a chessboard on which to apply their scientific socialism. There are others, like Ilan Pappe, who gush with empathy for Palestinians, but can only see bad in Israel. They are probably equally wrong.

It’s important to recognise apologists for terror.

International law and genocidal military leaders

“A tall, athletic man with a bouffant hairstyle” is how The Today Programme reporter described the Radovan Karadžić of the 1990s, a Serbian military commander indicted for ordering the Srebrenica massacre and siege of Sarajevo, finally apprehended last week on a bus in Vracar.

Marko Attila Hoare refers to him as a secondary figure in the conflict but emphasises that it is the indictment which drove him and the higher command into hiding and permanently marginalised them from power. For the same reason he welcomes the indictment of Omar Hassan al-Bashir, President of Sudan, by the International Criminal Court on suspicion of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. Marko Attila Hoare slams The Guardian (of New Stalinism), whose line is to oppose this indictment, presumably as just another figleaf for Western imperialism.

“Veteran Sudan correspondent Julie Flint has aligned herself with the appeasers on this question; she really ought to know better. As for Guardian journalist Jonathan Steele, his polemic in opposition to the indictment of Bashir is an absolute disgrace; he actually uses phrases like ‘The conflict in Darfur is too complex and the attempts to resolve it are too delicate for so one-sided and blunt an approach’, and even ‘Atrocities have been committed on all sides’. Steele followed this up with a eulogy to the Russian regime of Dmitry Medvedev, even complaining that Medvedev has been ‘pilloried in Britain and the US for allegedly backing down on sanctions against Mugabe.’ Pilloried for defending Mugabe – how outrageous! Even as I write, no doubt many a bereaved mother in Zimbabwe and Chechnya is shedding tears of blood for the indignity suffered by the Russian President. According to Steele, ‘Russia has not always behaved well over the past decade and a half, but it is more provokee than provoker.’ If Steele can reduce Moscow’s slaughter of the Chechens, defence of Mugabe and attempts to sabotage Kosova’s independence and Balkan stability to it having simply ‘not always behaved well over the past decade and a half’, it is unsurprising he is less than enthusiastic about the prospect of Bashir being made to answer for his crimes. And it is a good reason why any sane person should support the opposite of what he advocates.”

Update: for a poem about the reluctance to call the genocide in Darfur a genocide, scroll to the bottom of David T’s post about poet Kevin Higgins whose anthology Time Gentlemen, Please marks

“a moving on for me from the far left causes which I used to support”.

“From the age of 15 to 27 I was an active Trotskyist,” he says. “I was the leader of the anti-poll tax campaign in the London Borough of Enfield when I lived there. From the age of 27 until, say, 38, a couple of years ago I thought it was a pity socialism was clearly now not going to happen. I was in a kind of mourning, I suppose. But now I think that, for all its faults, the society we have is far preferable to anything the ‘comrades’ would bring, were they, Lord protect us, ever to stumble into power.”

The question is, has the world changed or have I changed?

Funding pots can’t cure veruccas

Moan, moan, moan, moan, moan. These anti-boycotters are never happy. Just belt up, get a life.

But, but, but. The arguments I’ve found most convincing against the boycott of Israeli academics always stopped short of attributing antisemitic intent to pro-boycotters. With the exception of a small minority who were evidently hateful people associated with Holocaust denial (which is always politically motivated), who am I to say what they meant by their attempts to bring about a total social and material boycott of Israel? Effect, not intent, is the important thing here. Unintended racism is still racism. The boycott effectively discriminates against Jews. Intent, therefore, was not at the crux of the argument. But, although it’s a hard argument to have, intent matters.

Interesting developments this week. A generous pot of money unveiled for academic collaborations between the EU and its neighbouring countries (including Turkey and the Occupied Palestinian Territories). The Israel programme’s budget is E1m (for how long I’m not sure) excluding running costs. In the words of European Commissioner for Media, Culture and Sport, Jan Figel, the effect of this funding (though maybe not its aim) would be to make “boycott efforts a lose-lose situation”. It certainly does reinforce this lose-lose point.

A few days later, Gordon Brown announced a new UK-Israel academic partnership too – £700k over five years.

The funding will advance knowledge, help academics, and build international awareness and understanding. If you boycott, you lose out on these opportunities – simple. Very good idea. It effectively ends the boycott. Effectively. Just like the legal opinion in 2007 effectively ended the boycott. Until it came back with a self-righteous vengeance the following year passed by a group of UCU delegates who “will not be intimidated”. The next slogan, equally wide of the mark, will probably be “We will not be bought off”.

Funding doesn’t argue against the root causes of the boycott. The senior politicians who secured the budget simply rejected the very idea of a boycott by riding roughshod over it, in much the way that UCU rejected its members worries about antisemitism. The effects of funding collaborations effectively negate the boycott. Leaving the verucca-type thing on the left and in the unions isolated but untreated. The roots are still there.

The boycott is, and always has been, an occidentalist, essentialising campaign advanced by anti-imperialists who think that the US and Israel, as its supposed bridgehead in the Middle East, are the source of the world’s problems. It’s a campaign which needs oxygen of controversy, and in that respect it’s good to blow it out of the water. When boycotters rehearse their arguments against Israel, and inevitably against the people who make Israel’s case, from this fundamentally bad premise they expose themselves to, and often regurgitate, many of the old antisemitic themes about Jewish which have come to attach themselves to Israel. Steve Cohen has observed this in anti-Israelists, and so has David Hirsh.

The will to boycott Israel, or to talk of Israel as a pariah state, is a political (ethical and strategic) matter which also needs a political response as well as what appears to be something of a funding-as-decoy response.

So it’s that intent does matter after all – not as well as the intent to harm Jews, but also the intent to carry out a boycott which is generally accepted to contravene anti-racist law.

Wikipedia says that salicylic acid often works.

The Howbeck Lodge, Hesket Newmarket, Cumbria welcomes vegans

Further to this debacle I delegated all calls to Matt, having lost confidence in my powers of persuasion in potentially hostile terrain and fearful that everywhere would tell me to take my custom elsewhere and we’d have to sleep in hedgerows or churches with nothing to eat but berries, green corn and communion wafers.

When Matt called Monday’s bed for the night, the sweet and helpful Howbeck Lodge, Hesket Newmarket, Cumbria, I was out consoling myself in the pub. This is what Matt told me about the conversation. The daughter answered. Matt said he wanted to talk about packed lunches. The daughter said “You’ll need to talk to my mum”. So Matt gave our number. The mum phoned back within half an hour.

“We’d like some packed lunches. One of us is vegetarian, the other is a vegan”.

“Oh yes. The vegetarian’s fine but I’m not sure about the vegan.”

“Well, something like sandwiches with hummus or peanut butter would be fine.”

“OK, I’m sure we can manage that.”

“Well, can I just check what is in the rest of the packed lunch.”

“I normally put in some home-made cake, a piece of fruit and a drink, but obviously your partner won’t be able to eat cake because it has egg in it.”

“Well, I think if you could put two pieces of frut in then that would be OK.”

[short exchange about how much food there’d be, Matt asked for two rounds of sandwiches since we’d be walking far, and upwards.]

“Oh but what about breakfast? Because obviously you won’t want meat…”

“Well, we might want meat but we won’t be having it.”

“Well I can do mushrooms and tomatoes.”

“That would be fine – could you do some beans as well?”

“Yes of course. There will be cereals but she won’t be able to have the milk, will she?”

“No don’t worry, she doesn’t usually put milk on cereals”.

“Well, would you like me to buy some soya milk?”

“Yes, if it’s no problem.”

“That’s fine – I just need to remember to put it on my shopping list.”

[Short discussion about the local pub, The Crown or something, where we’d have dinner.]

“Well thank you, you’ve been very helpful – much more helpful than the first place we spoke to who basically turned us away.”

That’s the Howbeck Lodge, Hesket Newmarket. Welcoming, helpful, considerate, professional accommodation for everybody, including vegans.

The Salutation Inn, Threlkeld, Cumbria, doesn’t welcome vegans

“Hello, I’m just calling to let you know about something for our stay next week.”

“Oh yeah?”

“One of us is vegetarian, the other is vegan.”

“That’s not a problem. Bye -”

“Hang on. So that’s OK, you know what a vegan is?”

“Oh yes, that will be fine.”

“OK that’s really wonderful. We’ll also be needing a packed lunch – will that be alright for a vegan?”

“Oh yes – you just pick one of the sandwiches and a drink and a chocolate biscuit – ”

“And what sandwiches would you have?”

“Well, we have ham, tuna, prawn…”

“Hang on, none of those are even vegetarian. Do you actually know what a vegan is?”

“Well I was just telling you what sandwiches we did.”

“That’s OK. So what do you have for a vegan?”

“Well, what do you eat?”

“Um, no meat, fish, dairy or egg. Peanut butter is alright, and – ”

“Oh yes, that will be fine. OK, bye – ”

“Hang on – I think I’d better speak to the kitchen. Oh, or maybe it’s busy at the moment – dinnertime and that…”

“Oh yes, it’s very busy.”

“Well could you tell me a time to call back?”


“What kind of time?”

“After 12. Bye.”


And you would be amazed how often this happens.

Then the woman phoned me back to tell me that she had talked to the chef and it was going to be salad or nothing. She told me I was free to bring anything I wanted. I tried to debate her. I talked about how peanut butter is cheap and how it keeps, but how it is also rather heavy for a walker to carry – we’ll be walking 120 or so miles that week. She said I could leave the peanut butter when I left the next morning. I reminded her that there would be the next place to worry about, and the place after that. Probably where I lost her is trying to defend veganism and suggesting that she should be prepared to cater for vegans since there is so much choice for us now. I dared to suggest that non-vegetarians could equally enjoy food that was vegan. She said she didn’t need a lecture and suggested I stay elsewhere. I said I’d be lucky to find anywhere else (we’re on a walking holiday and it’s in the middle of the country) and I would like to keep my reservation. I thanked her for finding out the information, which I appreciated, and told her that reluctantly I would resort to carrying a jar of peanut butter around the countryside to stave off malnutrition. Then I said goodbye. I wasn’t looking forward to staying there anymore, but I didn’t think we’d have much choice this late on in high summer.

Then she called me back again and told me we couldn’t say with her. I told her she’d left us high and dry. She asked for my address to refund the deposit.

I’m very tired of this kind of thing. And that’s about all I have to say on it at the moment because I’d better look for another place to stay. And I’m also a bit upset because I’ve been made to feel like an unwanted guest.

All I asked for was peanut butter.

Point taken

Anyway, earlier in the week I was conveniently speculating about “most Muslims” and “ordinary Muslims” and how they don’t support terrorists. Then Seumas Milne said they did. The Quilliam Foundation says they might possibly.

Okay, okay – I don’t know. The latest CIF post from Musa Bora (formerly The Islamicist, these days Mr Moo) made me feel a bit satirised actually:

“One Muslim family were flitting between our field and another field next to it, where a small picnic was taking place. We were informed that these handful were the last remaining “ordinary, decent, hardworking” people left in the country…

An ordinary decent hardworking man told us of his plight: there used to be hundreds of thousands of people like him, and MPs based entire election manifestos around their group. But singletons, indecent, lazy and eccentric people had all influenced the group till there were only six families left. “Once the internet started, that was the end for us. They all started blogging, or commenting,” he said. I beat a hasty retreat.”

This is not a good feeling. Usually Musab Bora is making me laugh. Now I’m making him laugh (or would).

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita’s game theory and the Israel-Palestine conflict

Professor Bruce Bueno de Mesquita is a political scientist – specifically a mathematician specialising in game theory and rational theory. He produced a computer-based model that predicts the outcome of any international conflict, providing the initial input is accurate.  Unsurprisingly – because he works as if most things can be expressed in numbers – he’s a controversial figure, but he has a track record of accurate and – riskily for him – very specific predictions. He believes in being specific because, among other work, he advises the Pentagon.

Here is an excerpt on the Israel-Palestine conflict from a wider ranging and dramatically-titled piece The New Nostradamus in GOOD Magazine (I got to this via Marginal Revolution which was a click from the front page of Pickled Politics at the time).

“Recently, he’s applied his science to come up with some novel ideas on how to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “In my view, it is a mistake to look for strategies that build mutual trust because it ain’t going to happen. Neither side has any reason to trust the other, for good reason,” he says. “Land for peace is an inherently flawed concept because it has a fundamental commitment problem. If I give you land on your promise of peace in the future, after you have the land, as the Israelis well know, it is very costly to take it back if you renege. You have an incentive to say, ‘You made a good step, it’s a gesture in the right direction, but I thought you were giving me more than this. I can’t give you peace just for this, it’s not enough.’ Conversely, if we have peace for land—you disarm, put down your weapons, and get rid of the threats to me and I will then give you the land—the reverse is true: I have no commitment to follow through. Once you’ve laid down your weapons, you have no threat.”

Bueno de Mesquita’s answer to this dilemma, which he discussed with the former Israeli prime minister and recently elected Labor leader Ehud Barak, is a formula that guarantees mutual incentives to cooperate. “In a peaceful world, what do the Palestinians anticipate will be their main source of economic viability? Tourism. This is what their own documents say. And, of course, the Israelis make a lot of money from tourism, and that revenue is very easy to track. As a starting point requiring no trust, no mutual cooperation, I would suggest that all tourist revenue be [divided by] a fixed formula based on the current population of the region, which is roughly 40 percent Palestinian, 60 percent Israeli. The money would go automatically to each side. Now, when there is violence, tourists don’t come. So the tourist revenue is automatically responsive to the level of violence on either side for both sides. You have an accounting firm that both sides agree to, you let the U.N. do it, whatever. It’s completely self-enforcing, it requires no cooperation except the initial agreement by the Israelis that they are going to turn this part of the revenue over, on a fixed formula based on population, to some international agency, and that’s that.”

Just makes me think again about how I wish I was good at maths, I wish I understood game theory better and I wish more of this kind of conflict resolution was going on.