Further evidence of the Israeli-Saudi Alliance: Pinkwashing Yemen

This piece, by an American undergraduate intern at The Tower magazine, was picked up by the Irish Times on the weekend, and it is the most cynical bit of “pro-intervention” journalism I have seen for some time. Someone on Tara Street should get their knuckles rapped for running it, and not lightly.

Yemen threw off its Saudi-US puppet, the “internationally backed” Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi in a popular uprising in January (Hadi come to power during the Arab Spring in a deal which meant his predecessor could step down without facing criminal charges; Hadi was the sole election candidate and he claimed to have won over 99% of the vote). The uprising had been conducted under the aegis of the Houthis, a Shia-orientated power bloc which represented huge swathes of the country. Naturally, the Saudi royalty and other Emirati were terrified, as their brittle monarchies are particularly susceptible to popular revolution. As they are wont to do (see Bahrain), they blamed Iranian subterfuge for the fall of Hadi, rather than admit to their own inherent, undemocratic weaknesses, and thus the Houthi are portrayed not as any kind of national movement but simply as the agents of Tehran.

Consequently, a military alliance has been formed, to take back the country for the ousted placeman (he resigned, actually, but the details are convoluted). The Saudis and the UAE have ground troops inside the country. The UAE would appear to be working in loose conjunction with Al Qaeda, also an active force inside southern Yemen. Egypt, under Sisi, has also allied itself with Riyadh, although only in so far ( I believe) as offering to deploy some friendly warships. The US and the UK, both long-term opponents of popular government in the Middle East, are helping with intelligence-sharing and targeting (and they’ve been atrocious at it). I wouldn’t be surprised if some spec ops were involved too.

Formally, Israel and Saudi Arabia are sworn enemies, but it’s long been speculated they formed a secret alliance after “the redirection” of 2007, a theory supported by Gladstone’s article. The Tower magazine is the house publication of The Israel Project, an organisation described (by its supporters) as “Israel’s most effective nongovernmental public relations agency”, being “a private initiative funded by wealthy backers that [engages] journalists (and others) with information targeting their working needs.”

Founded in 2002, The Israel Project quickly became “one of the Jewish community’s fastest-growing organizations”, and is noted (again, by its supporters) for its “aggressive, in-your-face, style of operation”. It is headed by a guy who used to work as communications director at AIPAC. Everything The Tower publishers serves to advance Israeli interests. By its own admission, the magazine and the body behind it serve no other purpose. Surely the Irish Times must know this? It explains the article is an extract from a longer Tower piece in the footer.

Gladstone’s article is an example of pinkwashing, which is not a uniquely Israeli technique by any means, but the country does have a reputation for doing rather a lot of it. Homophobia is a major problem inside Israel itself, of course, but it would much rather use LGBT rights as an excuse to bomb countries it sees as geopolitical threats than attend to its own domestic problems.

Gladstone is fairly simple in his approach. Essentially, he argues that the Houthi are terrible because they have made it more difficult for middle class homosexuals to have house parties. You might think the Saudi bombs posed a bigger danger, and to Yemeni of all sexualities, but that’s not how pinkwashing works.

Bombing for gay rights!

Bombing for gay rights!

Irish Times readers might be interested to know that the article was originally titled ‘Will Yemen’s Gay Community Survive the Iran-Backed Militias Trying to Take Over?’ However, the article offers absolutely no evidence for any increased jeopardy whatsoever, and omits the fact that in Yemen, as in many Arabic countries, homosexuality has long been punishable by death. In short, it forgoes all context in order to construe a Houthi-related human rights emergency. It also repeats unqualified claims that the Houthi are Iranian-backed, and falsely asserts that Hadi is Yemen’s legitimate leader.

I have contacted Gladstone’s sole named interviewee for his opinion on the article but he has not yet responded. I understand he left the Yemen when he was three.

For those who are interested, I blogged about pinkwashing here.

Media reportage of events in Yemen has been appalling, so I will endeavour to construct a reliable timeline sometime over the next few days. If this is possible I will blog it, but if you know where to find one, please say.

What’s at the end of the GCHQ rainbow?

Did you know that the 17th of May is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia? I didn’t. IDAHTB (or whatever clonking acronym it goes by) has been going since 2004, and I’m sure it’s probably a well-intentioned and positive thing. GCHQ celebrated the day by getting itself lit up in rainbow colours. Dave Cameron promptly tweeted about it.

gchqgay

Looks quite nice, doesn’t it?

Cameron mentioned Turing, of course, because the life and suicide (in 1954) of Britain’s greatest code-breaker, Alan Turing, is a sorry episode of homophobia at work. But I’m sure that GCHQ is now as meticulously impartial and institutionally tolerant as any other government department, which is a good thing. In fact, I doubt the private sector will ever be able to match the public sector in this or any other aspect of employee welfare. Nevertheless, you have to give this light-show a thumbs-up. Except. Except, except, except. There are some humongous caveats.

GCHQ is an institution with no regard for privacy, that helps disseminates propaganda, and which facilitates death and division – and this is simply assertion of fact, not a criticism. Which is why, over on The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald describes this rainbow gesture as “a deeply cynical but highly effective tactic… Support for institutions of militarism and policies of imperialism is now manufactured by parading them under the emotionally manipulative banners of progressive social causes.”

He does have a point. Issues of equality are increasingly used as justification for military action. There’s a crowd of people, here and in the US, who believe we can achieve greater sexual equality in Iran, for example, by bombing and starving their people, and then forcibly imposing an undemocratic government on them. There are even people stridently insistent that this should happen, who consider any contrary position to be moral cowardice.

Most recently, this tactic reared its head in Russia, over the winter olympics at Sochi in 2014, in the aftermath of the Urkainian Euromaidan, and concurrent with Russia’s annexation of Crimea. The media, and a swathe of government-funded NGOs, relentlessly pushed the line that Russia was a homophobic country worthy of sanction and boycott – policies which by no small coincidence were at that same time being pushed by Washington, Langley and the Pentagon for entirely geopolitical reasons. Russia certainly looks like a homophobic country to me (a Levada poll had 85% of Russians against same-sex marriages, for example, and a further 87% against gay pride marches) but let’s not forget that according to several studies, the Ukraine is more homophobic still. Russia’s vaguely worded law against “gay propaganda”, which proved so controverisal in the west, was passed in Kiev without a murmur of disapproval – or even awareness. And the extremely right-wing street thugs at the forefront of the Kiev coup, so ardently supported by the West, are the ones in the vanguard of Ukraine’s violent intolerance.

Ukrainian nationalists scaring the country's first Gay Pride march off the streets.

Ukrainian nationalists scaring the country’s first Gay Pride march off the streets.

At exactly the same time Western governments were vilifying Russia for homophobia, they were effectively encouraging it in her Ukrainian neighbour. So these LGBT concerns are transpararently hypocritcal, even without taking into account the gross sexual prejudice to be found in other Western allies, such as Saudi Arabia. It’s worth stressing that homosexuality is not a crime in Russia, as it is in Nigeria, India, or all the Arab emirates, for example.

Incidentally, this “gay propaganda” we’re talking about? Much of it appears to be distributed by US- and NATO-funded NGOs, and it would be considered pretty provocative in many parts of the US and the UK, let alone Russia.

34c_zpsd15d6df3

A provocative, counter-productive waste of money, unless you’re a neocon propagandist.

A final point. Russia’s biggest LGBT organization, the Russian LGBT Network, opposed the sanctions and boycotts and general Western hysteria over Sochi. It wasn’t really helping, they said. But all the organizations that beat the drum over Sochi were either Western, or Western-funded, and they did not care. Russian gays, like Russian Crimeans, Russian Ukrainians, like the Russians of South Osettia and Transnistria, like the Shia of Iraq and Yemen, like the secular Arabs of Assad’s Syria, or the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, simply do not exist in the eyes of the West. They are invisible people, and so they cannot really suffer. Their opinions do not count.

Before we send over the bombers, before we freeze the bank accounts, and before we commence our finger-wagging, holier-than-thou diatribes over the importance of sexual equality, or gender equality, or religious equality, or any other force-fed issue de jour, we need to respect our common humanity first. Tolerance comes from love and acceptance. It does not come from bombing, from spying, from propaganda, from hatred, from intimidation, from capitalist greed or imperial avarice.

There is something sickening and transparent about a regime which trumpets its tolerance for lesbians and gays and bisexuals and all other members of the sexual spectrum while denying the most basic human rights to Palestinians, or Russian Ukranians, or any other ethnic group. But it happens an awful lot these days.