Palestine Amiss in Priyamvada Gopal’s Insurgent Empire

Britain has no anti-imperialist tradition. There may have been the occasional outburst from this or that literary, cultural or political figure but such outbursts have always had very limited public appeal. In recent years opinion polls have shown the British public has an overwhelming positive view of the days when the British imperialist writ ran supreme over a very good proportion of mankind. Tens of millions of souls may have perished in slavery and destitution; hundreds and thousands  of millions of pounds may have been looted from what is now referred to as the Global South. But hey, let’s look on the positive of Empire: we eventually abolished slavery and built the railroads in India.

The Cambridge University academic, Priyamvada Gopal over the last several years has become known as a critic of British imperialism, imperial nostalgia and also of contemporary British racism. Her latest book, Insurgent Empire: Anticolonial Resistance and British Dissent is apparently informed by her admiration of Edward Said. As she states, the “late Edward Said’s work continues to nourish my mind and the impact of his thought will, hopefully, be evident throughout this book.”[i] Professor Edward Said distinguished himself as one of the world’s most preeminent intellectuals in the study of imperialism. Among his much esteemed books are Orientalism, The Question of Palestine and Culture and Imperialism. His writing was no doubt influenced by his status as a refugee as a result of British imperialism’s policies in his native Palestine.

The hypothesis that drives Gopal’s book is that anti-colonialist and anti-imperialist resistance in the British Empire influenced political dissent in Britain itself. In the introduction of the book there are numerous repetitions of this claim. For example, struggles in the Global South, “were not without impact on metropolitan ideologies and practices.”[ii] And more forthrightly: Continue reading

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Robin Yassin-Kassab: A Case Study of Israel in Syrian Regime-Change Propaganda

The unvarnished truth about the war in Syria can inadvertently seep out even in the most unlikely places. That is, among the regime-change peddlers and propagandists. Admittedly, one needs to be highly attentive but it’s right there in front of one’s eyes for any objective observer. So if we turn to one of Britain’s leading regime-change propagandists, Robin Yassin-Kassab, co-author with a certain Leila al-Shami of the much praised apologia for the Western backed insurgency in Syria, “Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War”, he clearly states that the uprising was militarised and weaponised from the beginning. In fact, he writes that all Syrians were purchasing smuggled weapons “since the crisis began. These were ubiquitous in the Lebanese, Turkish and Iraqi border areas where the black market thrived and the armed conflict burned earliest.”[i]

Needless to say, it isn’t the first time that external actors have attempted to use Syria’s borders as a pathway to overthrow its government. In 1957, British and American intelligence planned “to stage fake border incidents as an excuse for an invasion by Syria’s pro-western neighbours.” This 1957 plot, according to The Guardian, called for funding of a “Free Syria Committee” and the arming of “political factions with paramilitary or other actionist capabilities.” If this plot had materialised, the Free Syria Committee, no doubt, would have had an army. 

For some strange reason, Yassin-Kassab neglects to mention in his propaganda book the other border through which arms flowed, namely Israel’s. Throughout the war against Syria there have been rumours that Israel has been supporting and arming Syrian fighters, collectively known as the Free Syrian Army (FSA). The official story now is that Israel began supporting militants in 2013 and not when the insurgency began in 2011. The first time Yassin-Kassab even hints at Israeli involvement in the war on Syria appears well into the second half of his book where he recounts an act of brutal sectarianism committed by al-Qaeda’s franchise, Jabhat al-Nusra in 2015 in southern Syria on the border with Zionist entity. In retaliation, for the sectarian killing of 23 Druze inhabitants by al-Qaeda rebels, local Druze in the occupied Golan attacked an ambulance carrying wounded and rescued Syrian rebel fighters being transferred to Israel for hospitalisation. But according to Yassin-Kassab, it is nothing but “Assadist media conspiracy theories which imagine Israel and Nusra in alliance”.[ii] Continue reading

George Orwell, Hitler and the British Empire

A conventional understanding of George Orwell’s political legacy more often than not begins with a studious appreciation of his classic novels, Animal Farm or 1984 rather than his first-hand detestation and rejection of the British Empire. His tenure serving in the Imperial Police Force in 1920s in a part of British occupied India, that was known as Burma, and now called Myanmar provided him with the unvarnished and ugly truth of Empire. The five years spent here imposing the Empire’s will on a subject people had made him realise the Empire was a grandiose self-deception rooted in brutal fraudulence. This realisation found literary expression in the first novel he wrote, Burmese Days. The main character, Mr. Flory, formulates the raison d’etre of the British Empire as such: Continue reading

How Yassin-Kassab Portrayed the Jihadi Capture of Aleppo as “Liberation”

Robin Yassin-Kassab has distinguished himself as one of Britain’s leading regime-change propagandists. Whether it’s Libya, Syria or Venezuela, Mr. Yassin-Kassab can be handsomely relied upon to supply the clever and poetic armoury to push forward narratives to facilitate Western imperialism militarily overhauling a nation-state not to its predisposition. For most of the last decade, Syria was his favoured target for spewing regime-change propaganda. His byline has furnished The Guardian, Foreign Policy, Newsweek as well as the media of the Gulf state despots such as Al-Jazeera, The National and Al-Araby. Yassin-Kassab’s main contribution to the Syria regime-change campaign culminated in a book he co-authored with a certain Ms Leila Al-Shami titled, ‘Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War’.

War or regime-change propaganda is obviously nothing new. For the hundred years before the outbreak of the war on Syria, the Western establishment have provided bogus claims as pretext for war. Among the most infamous are Huns eating Belgian babies during World War One; Vietnam’s Gulf of Tonkin when the United States directly attacked Vietnam on the pretext of falsely claiming it was attacked by the Vietnamese; Iraqi soldiers removing babies from incubators in Kuwaiti hospitals in 1990; Weapons of Mass Destruction falling in the hands of al-Qaeda peddled by George Bush and Tony Blair regimes; Iraq’s purchase of Uranium from Niger; African mercenaries on Viagra killing and raping their way through Libya before the regime-change in Libya commenced. This essay argues that Yassin-Kassab’s account in ‘Burning Country’ of what happened in Aleppo in July 2012 must be seen in this ignoble historical context of regime-change propaganda. He begins his account of Aleppo with the following:   Continue reading

Cordoning Yemen: A Saudi War at British Geopolitical Bidding?

The latest reports of British special forces injuries fighting in the Saudi led war on Yemen once again provides further evidence the British political establishment are the main Western backers behind the war launched in March 2015. It’s not for the first time British elite forces operating in Yemen are reported to have been injured. Yet western commentary, especially before these injuries became known, largely blames the United States as the main instigator behind the current destruction of Yemen. For example, former British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband’s latest article on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen claims that the war is a “strategic failure” and only the United States possesses the might to put it right. Above all else, he implies the US is the nation most responsible for the dire situation.  Last year, the same Miliband was forthright and declared after a visit to Yemen, that the United States, has a “threefold responsibility” for the crisis in Yemen without mentioning the British role in assisting the Saudis. But in the light of these latest reports of British injuries how accurate is it to say or imply that the United States is the main global power behind the war on Yemen? Continue reading