Meet the DUP – the monstrous allies of Theresa May

British Prime Minister Theresa May has finalised a deal with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party to prop up her minority Tory government. This arrangement, made in the wake of the surprising and encouraging surge of electoral support for the leftist Labour candidate Jeremy Corbyn, has focused public attention on the nature of the Theresa May’s new friends. Indeed, the link between the English ruling elite and the DUP are extensive and run deep.

Corbyn overcame an inner-Labour party conflict, a hostile media campaign, and initially poor opinion polls predicting a Tory landslide. He won over enough of the electorate on an anti-austerity manifesto, and achieved the largest vote swing to Labour since the 1945 election of Clement Attlee.

However, this result should not blind us to the emergent danger in our midst – the political alliance between the Conservative Party and the DUP. In an article published in Jacobin magazine, authors Kerby Miller and Connor Lewis examine the nature and political platform of the DUP. In their article, entitled ‘May’s Monsters’, they reveal deeply sectarian, ultra-right wing and bigoted politics of the DUP and its base of support. Not only does it advocate an exclusively Protestant state for Protestant people to the exclusion of all others, it has extensive links with Loyalist paramilitary terrorist death squads.

Using the label ‘monsters’ to describe the nature of the DUP is not an exercise in wilfully slanderous intent, nor does it minimise the toxicity of their brand of ultra-right wing Protestant fundamentalism. It is meant as a description of the poisonous effect they will have on British politics. As Miller and Lewis explain in their article:

Founded by conservative zealot Reverend Ian Paisley, the DUP most closely resembles the racist blood-and-soil fascism of the British National Party and the European far right. Paisley first came to prominence by crusading against the faintest whiffs of ecumenism from Canterbury or Rome in the 1950s. Over the next twenty years, he emerged as a hardline opponent of the Northern Irish Civil Rights Association as well as the power-sharing agreements aimed at restoring peace in the North.

The DUP are a party of racist, homophobic and creationist bigots who will turn the clock back in the UK on a range of social and political issues. The DUP oppose reproductive rights for women, are against marriage equality for same-sex couples, and intend to impose a biblically literalist interpretation of education in schools. It is not wrong in and of itself to have a debate about abortion, contraception, same-sex marriage equality or religious education in schools. However, it is toxic for a society when a party turns the clock back on social and political issues based exclusively on a strict, literalist interpretation of a holy scripture.

May’s deal with the DUP is a slap in the face for all those who have worked for decades to promote science education in schools, who have fought and campaigned for LGBTI and reproductive rights in Britain, and who are facing discrimination on the basis of their gender identity or sexual orientation. The DUP will return the public to stone age times, so to speak. Campaigners and groups across Britain, from the Royal College of Midwives, the Trade Union Council and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, are calling upon May to stop the reactionary agenda of the DUP.

It is interesting to note that May never actually raised any of the above issues during the election campaign. She had ample opportunity to put these questions to the electorate. However, in the wake of the poor showing of the Tory party in the election, she immediately approached the DUP for an electoral alliance – a desperate move by a beleaguered politician. In order to hang on to power, however tenuous or fragile her hold on power is, May has openly sided with a party that not only vilifies gays, Muslims, Catholics and Irish nationalists, but is in many ways a Vanilla ISIS.

In an article exposing the ultra-sectarian origins of the DUP in Ulster loyalism, Connor Kelly writes that the DUP is the last refuge of desperate Tories. Kelly writes that the DUP’s electoral appeal proceeds across class lines, drawing voters from working class Protestant communities as well as wealthier middle and upper class constituencies. This cross-class voting is solidified by a sectarian hatred of everything Irish Nationalist, republican and Catholic. Founded by the late Reverend Ian Paisley, an Ulster fundamentalist and bigot, the DUP has consistently operated as a prop for the British state in the north of Ireland.

One of the issues that did arise during the election campaign were the talks that Jeremy Corbyn held with representatives of Sinn Fein, the Irish nationalist party. Corbyn was immediately assailed by the Tory party and associated heavyweight media for being a terrorist sympathiser. That accusation is not only ironic, it is hypocritical in the extreme, given that the DUP, May’s new friends, have longstanding and deep roots in the Ulster loyalist terrorism that has plagued the north of Ireland for decades. Sectarian hatred is not something new or a recent development in the Protestant statelet, sadly. Ulster loyalism was built into the political framework of that statelet since the partition of Ireland in 1922.

Britain has ensured that Unionist control was maintained through the application of gerrymandering electorates, brute force and discrimination. British military intelligence recruited, trained and armed Protestant loyalist groups that went on to become terrorist death squads. The various paramilitary groupings – the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) – were all established to provide a strong underpinning for British imperial rule in the north of Ireland. Ulster unionism, organised into the Orange Order, has always been a barrier to Irish nationalism and has bolstered British rule in that country.

Counterfire magazine published an informative article by Chris Bambery, examining the loyalist paramilitary origins of the DUP. Bambery wrote that in the north of Ireland, the Protestant supremacist order was maintained by violence:

It is commonplace to blame the Northern Ireland Troubles that ran from 1968-1969 until the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 on the IRA. Yet Loyalist killings, and those of the security forces, predated the IRA’s military campaign. The 1966 UVF killings were in many ways the start.

While the IRA is usually blamed exclusively for bringing weapons and guns into the Irish-British conflict, political violence is not the single preserve of the Irish nationalists. In fact, politically-motivated violence – sectarian-based, fundamentalist violence – was practiced by the Unionist side since the early days of partition. The DUP, formed in the early 1970s on the basis that traditional Ulster politicians were ‘too soft’ on Irish nationalism, was also following in the footsteps of ultra-violent predecessors. Make no mistake – Loyalist violence was always at least tolerated – and sometimes organised and encouraged – by the British military-state apparatus. Connor Kelly wrote that:

We cannot examine any political support the DUP gave to loyalist death squads without also looking at the direct military and intelligence support that the British State lavished on these groups. Collusion between loyalist groupings and the RUC is, at this point, well known. But British Intelligence (military and otherwise) also aided and abetted – and sometimes organised – atrocities committed by people who have been described by former Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan as “serial killers.”

This level of collusion should not be surprising, given that Ulster loyalism has been a significant force in suppressing the civil rights movement of Irish Catholic communities in the 1960s. The DUP is merely the continuation of the ugly, sectarian reaction that has helped maintain British rule in the Protestant supremacist statelet.

We should note in this connection, that the DUP is a strongly pro-Israel, Christian Zionist party. It has been a vociferous supporter of the settler-colonial state in the Middle East, and has maintained links with the Israeli state. The DUP and Zionism have a shared history, being sectarian partitioned states organised against the wishes of the indigenous populations. No less a figure than Sir Ronald Storrs, the first British military governor of Jerusalem, noted the connection between the Zionist project in Palestine and Ulster in Ireland:

Enough [Jews] could return, if not to form a Jewish state … at least to prove that the enterprise was one which blessed him that gave as well as him that took, by forming for England ‘a little loyal Jewish Ulster’ in a sea of potentially hostile Arabism.

Ulster loyalism derives its rationale as a Protestant supremacist statelet by couching their project in terms of fulfilling God’s mission in Ireland, in much the same way that Zionism justifies its settlement project in Palestine as a Biblical ‘return’ to the Holy Land.

The Tory party, the primary political instrument of the English ruling class, is in deep crisis. In a move reeking of desperation, the Prime Minister has turned to the DUP to form a toxic and fragile alliance. The crisis of the Tory party will continue, in as much as this arrangement is doomed to failure. However, the crisis is not just about the Tory party, but the project of neoliberal capitalism. Millions of Britons rejected not just the Tory party, but the entire programme of austerity. Bringing the DUP in to shore up a minority government is at best a temporary fix. The DUP will only aggravate the crisis of neoliberalism. It is high time to break not only with the DUP and the Conservatives, but with neoliberal experiment of austerity.

 

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Australian free speech defenders silent on the issue of Palestine

A few months ago, we wrote about the issue of free speech, and specifically the Australian politicians who were most zealous in their desire to defend this noble ideal. Several ultra-right wing political figures, Murdoch media commentators and free-market fundamentalist fanatics took up the cause of free speech when demanding the repeal of Section 18C, the provision of the Racial Discrimination Act that outlaws racially-motivated hate speech.

Over the last couple of months, there was a case which afforded the opportunity for the partisans of free speech to demonstrate their commitment to the cause. Sadly, these voices have failed to live up to the lofty goal of free speech. The Australian Federal government of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull denied an entry visa to a Palestinian human right activist Bassem Tamimi, only a few hours before he was due to board a plane bound for Australia. He was scheduled to address the annual Marxism Conference in Melbourne, before travelling to other Australian cities to address various Australian audiences.

The decision to revoke Tamimi’s visa was justified by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection on the grounds that while Tamimi himself was no threat, Australian audiences may take offence at some of his views. Jeff Sparrow, writer for The Guardian, wrote that the free speech defenders were curiously silent on the denial of the Palestinian activist’s right to free speech.

Turnbull, Immigration Minister Dutton, and others in the federal government had subjected Australian audiences to strident denunciations of those who would restrict our right to free speech for months on end. The centrality of Middle East politics to international affairs is not being denied – but it is strange that we are being prevented from hearing the views of the Palestinians, whose lives and plight are central to the politics of the Middle East.

Bassem Tamimi, who comes from the town of Nabi Saleh in the occupied West Bank. He and his fellow residents have organised peaceful protests against the ongoing encroachments of Israeli settlements onto Palestinian land. In 2012, the European Union designated Tamimi a human rights defender. Tamimi, a vocal critique of the Israeli occupation, has been subjected to sustained attacks and smears by Australian Zionist groups and their political allies.

During this entire debate, the free-speech warriors were remarkably absent, maintaining a studied silence on the issue. Sparrow, writing in the Guardian, highlighted this hypocrisy in his article. Tim Wilson, Liberal MP and policy director for the Institute for Public Affairs, was quite clear on the issue of free speech. He wrote that:

“We should always be wary when the government uses migration law to indirectly decide the views that can be expressed, and more importantly the views that Australians are allowed to hear.”

That is interesting he should state that – because he wrote that in 2015, defending the visit of Geert Wilders, the ultra-rightist Dutch Islamophobic political bigot. Wilders had ample opportunity to freely defend his views during his Australian tour. Interestingly, racist far-right politicians from Europe are vociferously anti-Islamic, and Wilders denies that Palestine even exists – but the historically anti-Semitic far-right are vigorously pro-Israel. Ultra-rightist parties in Europe, since the end of World War Two, have held a grotesquely cynical view; the optimal way to fulfil the anti-Semitic removal of European Jewry is to advocate for their tribal relocation to the Israeli state.

Wilders, back in 2015, expounded his views without any curtailment on his right to free speech. For the record, I oppose his brand of Islamophobic bigotry and anti-immigrant xenophobia. If anything, his views have incited others to commit acts of violence against ethnic minorities. Wilders and his Australian co-thinkers publicised their views, and achieved media coverage.

As for Tim Wilson – he is still silent on the banning of Bassem Tamimi.

 

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Wilders was not the only ultra-rightist politician from overseas provided a platform to advocate his views. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, back in February 2017, became the first sitting Israeli prime minister to visit Australia in 70 years. His government is a coalition of far-right settler and ultra-Orthodox parties – similar to the attempted Tory-DUP coalition that British PM Theresa May is trying to achieve at the time of writing.

Netanyahu received an effusive welcome in Australia – he was feted by PM Turnbull, and had several rounds of dinners with business leaders and political figures. In the ruling circles of Australian politics, Netanyahu was greeted as a heroic statesman, with billionaires, financial moguls and political heavyweights (past and present) lining up to pay their respects to the Israeli prime minister. Australia’s relationship with Israel has been one of unstinting cooperation in all matters – political, economic and military. Dashiel Lawrence, a research fellow at the University of Melbourne, wrote that:

Relations between the two states have been buoyant for nearly seven decades. Australia has been famously described as a midwife at the birth the State of Israel in 1948. Doc Evatt, the head of the Australian delegation at the San Francisco conference in 1945, played a critical role developing Article 80 of the UN Charter. This paved the way for Jewish settlement in what was then known as Mandatory Palestine.

For his part, Turnbull has consistently identified with and defended the colonial-settler state in the Middle East. At least Turnbull is being ideologically consistent – the white settler-colonial state of Australia is a sister ally of the white settler-colonial state in the Levant. With Canberra’s solid defence of its ally in the Middle East, Australia has become complicit in the ongoing dispossession and displacement of the Palestinians. Netanyahu’s government has escalated the building of settlements in occupied Palestinian territories, creating facts on the ground in order to push for greater advantage in any final peace settlement.

 

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We have another important opportunity to revisit the Palestine issue in Australia. This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War. That war, during which Israel invaded and annexed East Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Gaza strip, the Golan Heights from Syria the Sinai from Egypt – is currently the longest running conventional military occupation in contemporary history. This war is still shrouded in myths and half-truths – the most egregious being that Israel faced the prospect of annihilation at the hands of the numerically superior Arab armies.

The Jewish David inflicted a stinging defeat on the Arab Goliath – at least that is what we have been told over the last fifty years. Israeli political and military leaders have exposed this myth with their own words; the Six Day war was a war of conquest and subjugation. One of the Israeli generals involved in the June 1967 admitted that the thesis that Israel was facing extermination was a complete fiction.

Surely it is time, fifty years after the event, to listen to the voices of those whose lives have been directly impacted by this occupation – the Palestinians? A re-examination of the lies and myths of the June 1967 is long overdue. Mehdi Hasan, writer for The Intercept, published an article entitled “A 50 Year Occupation: Israel’s Six-Day War started with a Lie.”  Hasan explains that the conflict and subsequent occupation has had reverberations that have persisted until today:

Fifty long years of occupation; of dispossession and ethnic cleansing; of house demolitions and night curfews; of checkpointswalls, and permits.

Fifty years of bombings and blockades; of air raids and night raids; of “targeted killings” and “human shields”; of tortured Palestinian kids.

Fifty years of racial discrimination and ethnic prejudice; of a “separate but unequal” two-tier justice system for Palestinians and Israelis; of military courts and “administrative detention.”

Fifty years of humiliation and subjugation; of pregnant Palestinian women giving birth at checkpoints; of Palestinian cancer patients denied access to radiation therapy; of Palestinian footballers prevented from reaching their matches.

Hasan also makes the obvious point – fifty years of ongoing settlement activity has been punctuated by successive and failed peace negotiations – Madrid, Oslo, Wye River – the list of treaties goes on. While peace talks continue, one side continues to construct settlements, thus capturing more ground and rendering any subsequent peace treaty futile. Building settlements sounds like an innocuous activity, until you realise that the purpose of these mini-garrisons is to expand the religiously-motivated tribalist project of extending exclusive Israeli control over greater portions of occupied Palestinian territory. Indeed, constructing settlements is a way of establishing a form of apartheid – and the United Nations has described in great detail how this resurrected apartheid is being built in the occupied Palestinian territories.

It is high time to listen to the voices of those who are subjugated to this apartheid regime, the Palestinians. We would do well to support the right of free speech for those whose lives are blighted by occupation. We must speak out against those who impose an apartheid-style regime.