In Distinguished Company 41

My name appears in extraordinarily distinguished company in this letter to the Guardian published today:

We speak out for the people of Gaza. What is happening there is a crime against humanity. We are asking everyone to be at Speaker’s Corner in London at 12.30pm on Saturday 10 January, and join the march to the Israeli embassy.

Tony Benn President, Stop the War Coalition

Andrew Murray Chair, STWC

Annie Lennox, Michael Nyman, Brian Eno, Alexei Sayle, Terry Jones, Dr Richard Horton, Bill Bailey, Vanessa Redgrave, Nigel Kennedy, Janet Suzman, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Samuel West, Caryl Churchill, AL Kennedy, Tariq Ali, Corin Redgrave, John Williams, Lauren Booth, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Roger Lloyd Pack, Jehane Markham, John Pilger, Susan Wooldridge, Katherine Hamnett, Kika Markham, David Gentleman, Professor Hilary Rose, Iain Banks, Miriam Margolyes, Professor Steven Rose, Mark Thomas, Timberlake Wertenbaker, Mark Steel, Andy de la Tour, Professor Paul Gilroy, Michael Rosen, Janie Dee, Kathy Panama, Mike & Kate Westbrook, Craig Murray, Ed Harcourt, Dave Randall, Ian Macdonald QC, Michael Kustow, Michael La Rose, Louise Christian, Ali Hussein, Liane Aukin, Eugene Skeef, Keith Burstein, Peter Gabriel

I will certainly be there – I needed some new shoes anyway.

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41 thoughts on “In Distinguished Company

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  • eddie

    Distinguished! Most of them are nonentities, has beens and/or apologists for fascist regimes. Peter Gabriel and Bill Bailey are the only ones I would give the time of day to.

  • lwtc247

    Eddie. You do a great diservice to some of the people on that list who are indeed distunguished.

    In amongst the crowd is my favourite Journalist… John Piler and his latest article (on his website today) is superb.

    I seriously recommend a read…

    Craig. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE stand for election. I am sure you could easily pick up Galloways seat (I think, but am not too sure, he said he was standing Bethnel Bow 'n Green once only) Whatever, there are other seats you could get.

    We need a whole bunch of independent brave, honest and good spirited people such as your goodself in there.

    Do us all a favour Craig and stand.

  • mary

    Not totally distinguished company. It's a pity Benn did not support the move to have Blair arraigned as a war criminal. He also canvassed on the phone for Blair in the last election. He is just a phony and a windbag.

    'A letter was signed by over 4000 people, including this author, which sought the arraignment of Blair and his cabal for war crimes. It was addressed to Kofi Annan and headed by Tony Benn, president of STWC. A meeting to make a final decision is recorded thus in Tony's new diary:-

    'Lindsey German and Nicholas Wood came to see me about the next stage in the campaign on the war crime question, about how we could advance the cause of the letter. There's been no coverage in the press, although Kofi Annan has replied. We went on to discuss the whole question really of whether we were demanding a war crimes tribunal. My view is that you shouldn't do that. I think it's a complete waste of effort trying to put Blair and Bush on trial : (a) it won't happen; (b) it's so negative: ( c) it's all about personalities.' –

  • I k wymer


    So glad I have found your Blog.

    Your book is very impressive and I was particularly interested because I,too, was forced out of my job (chief executive of a college) by the same tactics.

    Incidentally, I was very close to Clare Short when I lived in her constituency – we shared bottles of scotch on Friday nights.

    I have just started a Blog but am not very good with the technology

    Keith Wymer

  • Ruth

    I think it's quite the reverse. All those people on the list are in your distinguished company.

    How many people on the list would have given up a career such as yours to stand up for the suffering of others?

  • Tom Kennedy

    One of my favourite musicians/poets will be there: Linton Kwesi Johnson. There are similarities between the situation black British people faced in the 80s and the situation British muslims are in now, at least in terms of the discrimination they face. He wrote/sang about the solidarity between the various groups opposed to racism and the 'sus' laws. I would love him to get involved (and perhaps he is already) in the fight against Islamophobia in the UK.

  • George Dutton

    I have big misgivings about Tony Benn, judge people by their action not what they say. He gave us nuclear power stations, if you go back to that time you will find out that he had the wool pulled over his eyes? by the nuclear industry over the need to have them. What happened was in fact criminal there was a big stink about it at the time. When Benn found out? what had happened he was asked what should happen to those who had done it, his reply was… "well it's done now and nothing can be done about it now"… Hmmm, not what I would have said the people responsible for what had happened had their pictures in the papers at the time. What did happen to them they walked away with suitcases full with great wads of cash.

    Some more on the way Tony Benn thinks…His granddaughter Emily Benn was selected to stand for the parliamentary seat of East Worthing and Shoreham… "Emily says she's a Benn not a Bennite, and admits she was one of the only pupils in her school to support the war"… Tony Benn has said he supports his granddaughter?

    He has also said he is very proud of his warmongering son Hilary Benn…

    "10th November 2007"

    "Cash-for-access row as former Labour minister Ian McCartney entertains nuclear boss in Commons"…

    "15 November 2007"

    "Two former Labour ministers are under fire over their links with the nuclear industry"

    "Former trade minister Ian McCartney has been appointed as an £115,000 a year adviser to US engineering giant Fluor"…

    "23 May 2007"

    "Labour and the nuclear lobby"…

    "26 November, 2002"

    "Ian McCartney: Blair's backstage fixer"…

  • ingo

    So were is the new central leadership of the Green party then in this honourable line up, Dr. caroline Lucas to be precise?

    She might not share the pre conceptions of a defunct democratic left, always at each others throat unless a major confligration raises its nasty head, but she is a good egg that would share the platform with most in this venerable line up.

    Or has one conveniently forgotten to invite her? has politics been a factor in this demonstration?

    Nobody had her email address?

    whatever it was that moves behind the scenes, its not nice and its not fair to those who are making an effort in this rotten archaic political system.

  • writerman

    Much as I'd like to see a person with Craig's obvious qualities in Parliament, I don't think he should stand. He wouldn't stand a chance and would be lucky to get 5% of the vote. George Galloway is an outstanding candidate and more to the point he is very, very, tough and resiliant.

    Craig and his wife would be savaged by the media with no holds barred and no mercy shown. Lies and filthy character assassination would be the order of the day. An awful lot of grief for no real reward. Don't do it!

  • lwtc247


    If at first you don't succeed…

    You took on 'giz a peek' Jack Straw, and from what I read about that constituency election there were a number of dirty tricks used, and I think Straw broke the law didn't he? hosting a free buffet [bribe] or something yes?

    You took him on as a matter of principle Craig. You should have stood elsewhere. It would not have meant an abandonment of principle as if elected, you could have challenged the slime ball in the Commons with Parliamentary privilege (affording you a measure of protection against Usmanov/Shillings or whatever they are called). Your cause for justice and decency would have been better served getting elected anywhere than simply disposing of the Straw idiot… It's nike neoLabour dont have many clones waiting in the wings.

    Anyway, I'm sure it can be done mate. You are a lot more well known now and you've blown the lid off torture transits (aka extraordinary rendition)

    I thought I heard GG was giving up politics like Tony Benn because there are 'more important things to do'. If he is I'm sure he would endorse you as a worthy successor (he may even advise RESPECT RENEWAL don't field a candidate). GG likes you Craig, even though he called you conservative.

    But if GG is standing then it would be better to seek election from elsewhere.

    You are more well known now Craig. Media exposure was a problem last time. You weren't able to get your message across. In fact, I think it's how I first got to know about you.

    If you into shameless book plugging, it would help that too, win or lose.

  • eddie


    Calling John Pilger a journalist is like calling a cat a dog. He is not a journalist he is a polemicist who has a one sided, distorted view of the world. Journalists report, Pilger pontificates, obfuscates and distorts. Linton Kwesi Johnson is ok, but I seem to remember he did appallingly badly on Celebrity Mastermind. Ruth, do you ever read Private Eye? They have a column called OBN.

  • Craig

    My relationship with George Galloway is complex because it goes back to Dundee in 1977. We were not on the same side in Scottish politics (although we did co-operate in the Anti Apartheid Movement, the Friends of Palestine and the Anti Nazi League). I have more respect (no pun intended) for him now than ever before.

    Yes, Blackburn was an eye-opener on just how undemocratic the UK is in Labour's rotten boroughs. I'll do a posting on that shortly.

    Meanwhile, I thought I might launch a bid to take over George's radio spot until they invite him back.


  • Mwami

    I see this blog has the attention of the Sayanims who are trying to thwart or discredit criticism of Israel. Not going to work this time boys the world is on to you.

  • eddie

    I see this blog has the attention of anti-Semites who equate Judaism with Zionism and Gaza with the Warsaw Gehetto.

  • Craig

    I don't equate Judaism with Zionism. But I lived four years in Warsaw and met survivors of the Ghetto. I think it is a comparison which is valid in mny ways.

  • eddie

    Craig I don't disbelieve you but would be interested to know who you met as there were few survivors of the ghetto, and I would be very surprised if they made such an analogy. Given that 100,000 (i.e. 20% or more) of the ghetto's inhabitants died from disease and starvation and given that it was basically a holding area for the death camps I think the analogy is specious, frankly, and does great discredit to your cause. Both Galloway and Livingstone have used it and it seems to have found common currency on the far left. It is this kind of thing, and your abuse of the english language by talking of "Holocaust" and "genocide" in the context of Gaza that turns many people away from your cause, (as well as placards reading "We are Hamas" – god help us) – incidentally, I have yet to discover how many Gazans have died of starvation to date despite constant scare stories about malnutrition.

  • Craig


    I was in Poland in the mid-1990s and took part in events including the commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the uprising and of the liberation of Auschwitz and of other camps. (For some reason I always found Majdanek the most stark and horrible).

    I did not claim that Ghetto survivors made the comparison.

    But, as with Gaza, most of those in the Ghetto were not the original inhabitants of the Jewish quarter, but Jews displaced from their homes and squeezed into a tightly packed area, walled off, with limited access and supplies and surrounded by a overwhelming military force.

    Everyone of those things is precisely true of Gaza.

    I have never used the terms Holocaust or genocide in the sense you say I have. Ethnic cleansing on a massive scale and serial human rights abuse, including war crimes, yes Israel is guilty of these atrocities.

    Genocide, no. But I am now for the first time convinced that many of these hard-faced Israelis would like to do it.

  • eddie

    I don't think you do yourself any favours by making such an analogy. I have just been watching the Diary of Anne Frank and to make any comparison between what is happening in the Middle East with the Holocaust, in my view, does you a great disservice. There is simply no comparison. It makes me very sad that people should try to do this, it disfigures your viewpoint. Read Primo Levi. Question: Do you not think that Hamas is guilty of war crimes, or do you think they are excused because they are not "at war"? People complain that the Israeli response is not proportionate. Presumably you accept that the Israelis should be allowed to respond to the firing of random missiles into their teritory? So what would be proportionate.? Should the Israelis fire random home made missiles into Gaza, the exact mirror image of what Hamas is doing? Would that be proportionate?

  • Craig


    It's not their territory. They stole it from the Palestinians.

    But no, I don't approve of the rockets. I don't approve of Hamas. I dislike theocracy.

    yes it's obviously grossly disproportionate. let me turn your question back on you. Over a hundred dead Palestinian children – just couning the kids. And five hundred wounded, many maimed for life. You plainly think that's proportionate. How mny dead children are needed before it's disproportionate Eddie?

    I am desperately sorry for Ann Frank. It was awful. But why are you concerned for her and not for those little Palestinian children whose killing you actively support.

    It is you, not I, who needs to look in the mirror Eddie.

  • writerman

    My comments keep vanishing into the ether somewhere. I'm starting to get slightly paranoid. It only seems to happen when one's written something critical about Israel though.

    I'm all for putting war criminals on trial, on both sides. The evidence of Israeli warcrimes is, however, overwhelming in my opinion, though I'd prefer to see this issue settled by an international court or a special tribunal.

    Arguably the Israeli attack on Gaza, is, in itself, a warcrime, and contained in this overarching crime are lots of smaller ones almost too numerous to mention. Once again Israel's 'disproportionate' resort to illegal military methods and tactics dwarfs those of the socalled Hamas terrorists.

    And this tired old defence of 'intention' doesn't really wash. That massive 'collateral damage' and civilian deaths are somehow accidents that can be excused because one didn't deliberately target civilians with a view to slaughtering them, doesn't make real sense. Dropping huge bombs on a civilian area like Gaza, where people live like sardines in a tin and alleging that somehow one is surprised at collosal civilian deaths is ridiculous.

    Obviously we must reject the Israeli attitude that one Israeli life is worth a hundred or a thousand Palestinian lives. This kind of reckoning is absurd and fundamentally racist.

  • writerman


    Is your sight under sustained attack? My comments keep vanishing and it seems impossible to post anything anymore!

  • eddie

    Yes of course I support the killing of children and civilians. Idiot. You tell me what the ISraeilis are supposed to do when indiscriminate rockets are being fired into their territory? Nothing or something? If something, what should that something be?

  • Craig


    we have been under attack, but also suffering more prosaic problems of site creakig under sherr weight of traffic. Some kind of major technical change is being planned.

  • writerman


    I'm an idiot, and you, clearly are not. So what's Israel supposed to do? Hamas wouldn't accept that they are firing rockets into Israeli territory. They regard it as *their* territory, occupied territory, stolen by foreigners, an invading army from Europe. Many of the hundreds of thousands of refugees in the camps in Gaza come from land taken by the Israelis by force decades ago. Many of the Palestinians can even see their farms and former homes from Gaza. It must be terribly traumatic to see ones home yet be unable to go back their.

    What are these people who've been ethnically cleasned from their land supposed to do and think about the invaders?

    These rockets are a side-issue, they have no real military significance, but they do have propaganda value for Hamas, they are an attempt to force Israel to remember them and negotiate. Though Hamas doesn't really believe Israel wants to negotiate or is interested in peace.

    Why would Israel want to negotiate when it is so much stronger than the Palestinians? Israel wants the Palestinians to accept that they have lost, been totally defeated and have no real choice but to accept these facts on the ground and surrender on terms dictated by Israel and be grateful that Israel doesn't take it all.

    This is asking a lot of the Palestinians in my opinion. Israel wants to destroy the Palestinians as a people and drive them out, one way or another, and they haven't finished the job by a long way. Gaza is being starved and is under seige. It's a tactic as old as war itself. The slow strangulation of Gaza.

    Gaza is now the single largest Palestinian area under nominal Palestinian control, the 'reservations' on the occupied West Bank are far smaller and under control. So 'free' Gaza is seen as a threat to the longterm strategy of pressing the Palestinians into smaller and smaller and less viable 'prisons' or 'reservations' and then gradually one can remove them one by one. Then one can start on the Palestinians inside Israel itself, because they are seen as a demographic timebomb and threat to an ethnically 'pure' and exclusively Jewish Israel.

    Now, arguably this strategy is illegal, racist in nature and a form of genocide. Israelis get very angry when one points out the 'racist' nature of their state and especially when one uses the word genocide, but what does one call a strategy of deliberately trying to destroy a people, their nation and their culture, and replacing it with another one, the culture of the victors, the conquerers?

    I hope this alternative veiw, in contrast to the benign Israeli, nationalist view, was idiotic enough for you, Eddie.

  • eddie

    That response is so iditoic it barely merits a response. Apart from anything else it evades my original question. And secondly it totally ignores the history of the six days war and events since. Israel is a state, a member of the UN, that is surrounded by countries and peoples who want to see it destroyed. If you take the view that Israel should not exist then there is no point debating with you becasue that view is racist and crass. The owner of this blog wants to see Israel destroyed. Is it any wonder the Israelis are fighting back? The Gazans have had plenty of opportunities to live in peace and have open borders but have rejected it every time. Settlers were forcibly removed from Gaza as part of this process. Remember Hamas is an organisation that throws its fellow Palestinians off tall buildings, kills apostates and collaborators, supports polygamy and is inherently racist and homophobic. Have you ever watched Hamas TV? How can you possibly support these people? I am making a distinction between Hamas and the Palestinian people by the way. Hamas uses the Palestinians like human shields.

  • writerman

    In a world that's mad, who decides who is the sane man and the idiot?

    Eddie your origional question is so full of tacit assumptions that answering it is far from simple.

    Why shouldn't Hamas dream of destroying Israel some day? Israel has destroyed Palestine and wants to destroy it's people, denying them a right to exist. Does Palestine have a right to exist as well, or does that only apply to Israel?

    I sometimes wish I was a member of some tribe. It would make everything so simple. I would feel at home. I'd recognise my people and know with certainty that we were good, right and just, and that the others were not.

    Israel isn't fighting back. That implies it was attacked first. That is a nationalist myth, but a necessary one. Israel has always used terror to get it way. Israel was created by terrorists who stopped at nothing to achieve their goals. To hear Israelis, of all people, criticising the use of 'terror' is grotesque in the extreme.

    I don't actually support Hamas, but I do understand why they have chosen to fight back and defend themselves against the forces of militant Zionism that wish to wipe them and Palestine off the map.

    Hamas is but a mirror image of Zionism. Strange to think the Zionism and Israeli nationalism have created and nutured an 'evil' twin, dedicated to Israel's destruction, as Israel is to theirs.

    And Israel cannot pick and choose which bits of the UN charter are relevant, only the ones that suit its purposes, who do you think you are fooling? You are only deluding yourself, Eddie. What about the UN resoultions that demand that Israel leaves the occupied territories? What about the millions of Palestinians that have a right in international law to return to the homes they were driven out of?

    Israel is an iherently racist state. The very idea that Israel is a permanently Jewish state illustrates this to perfection. The Israeli's don't have any right to exist, anymore than any other nation has. This claim for special status for Israel is merely a rhetorical device and has next to no merit.

    Israel is turning into a state that's an army dragging along a country behind it. Israel doesn't want peace. It wants to crush the Arabs and force them to surrender on its terms. Why can't you at least be honest about what you want?

  • eddie

    "Hamas is but a mirror image of Zionism" – that is bullshit and you know it. Polygamy, homophobia, suicide bombing, theocratic clerical fascism – none of these things are part of the Israeli state.

    "The Israeli's don't have any right to exist, anymore than any other nation has." That is true. But every state has the right to live in peace and not to have suicide bombers and rockets killing its people.

    "It wants to crush the Arabs and force them to surrender on its terms". Um, I think you'll find the very reverse of that statement is true. Hamas in its charter pledges to destroy Israel. Perhaps you can point me to a clause in the Israeli constitution that calls for the destruction of its neighbours?

    "Israel has destroyed Palestine and wants to destroy it's people…" – "its" is a possessive pronoun and has no apostrophe. For someone calling himself Writerman your grammar really is very poor.

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