Globalization is Dead?

I have to admit that I have a soft spot for genuine liberals that is probably not entirely rational. One Canadian writer who falls into this category for me is John Ralston Saul, the husband of Canada’s governor general, Adrienne Clarkson. I have read all his books, and he strikes me as someone who really knows a lot more than he says. It might not be the case: I just like to think that he’s secretly a radical, even though he makes all kinds of inconsistent arguments (in Voltaire’s Bastards, for example, he says the trouble with the US methods of waging war is that they don’t work, because generalship wins battles not hardware. That might be true, but the big problem with US methods of waging war are the ends of those wars and the slaughter they bring). Anyway, he’s recently published an article proclaiming the death of globalization…

It is fun to read (phrases like: “This was the crucifixion theory of economics: you had to be killed economically and socially in order to be reborn clean and healthy.”) , but I don’t really buy it.

He pokes fun at pompous neoliberal ideologues, he provides some interesting historical context (though I’m not sure of its accuracy), and he gives novel interpretations of events. It’s also nice to hear a liberal acknowledge the genocide in the Congo and at least hint that the West had something to do with it, as he does:

“In a global world of economic and social measurement, we are bombarded daily by apparently exact statistics measuring growth, efficiency, production, reproduction, sales, currency fluctuations, comparative levels of obesity and orgasms, divorce, salaries and incomes. Yet we don’t know, or don’t care to know, whether it was a million or half a million Rwandans who were massacred. And the genocide was facilitated by Paris and Washington, using old-fashioned nation-state powers at the UN security council to block a serious international intervention. The Rwanda catastrophe then morphed into the Congo catastrophe, involving 4.7 million deaths between 1998 and 2003. Or was it 3 million? Or 5.5 million?”

And yet. As much as I enjoy the essay, it suffers from all the liberal flaws:

-Rwanda is mentioned as a ‘failure to intervene’. The ‘successful’ interventions where civilians were, and are being slaughtered (Afghanistan, Haiti, Iraq…) are left untouched.

-Globalization policies ‘don’t work’. Don’t they? Or are they doing exactly what they are intended to do — distribute wealth from the poor to the rich?

-Likewise, there’s a problem with nationalism:

“What we do know is that there has been a return across Europe of 19th-century-style negative nationalism. Although usually the product of fear, it reappeared in countries that had nothing to fear: Jorg Haider in Austria speaking out against immigrants, while echoing race and monolithic national myths. Italy governed by three nationalists, one of them the leader of Mussolini’s old party. Related phenomena in Belgium, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland. A sudden revival of sectarian nationalism in Northern Ireland. The defeat of a compromise in Corsica. Everywhere these nationalists are now in coalition governments or are leading oppositions.”

The problem? John might have noted the major flag bearer (waver?) of what he calls ‘negative nationalism’ is the United States, rallying it to attack helpless countries, threaten others, etc.

That’s the trouble with this kind of politics: it makes elites seem like they’re ‘lost’ when they actually know exactly what they’re doing; it exhibits a blind spot when it comes to one’s own society; it takes on the easy battles but avoids the ones that would bring serious flak down on a good ‘public intellectual’.

Still, I’m a sucker for a liberal who can turn a phrase.

Muslim Refusenik and Me, Part II

I thought I’d publish my correspondence with Manji in parts, but now I just want to get it over with. Spending more time on someone so far beneath contempt is unjustifiable when this morning’s CBC report said there have been 280 Iraqis killed in Fallujah alone since Sunday. Western media deflate Iraqi casualties; there are more cities that the Americans are attacking; these numbers come from hospital estimates and it is guaranteed that not everyone is getting to the hospitals; in other words, there is a major massacre unfolding here. Manji is an unaffordable diversion. So, I’ll publish the entire correspondence below, and have done.

When Manji wrote me the first time, I was as much amused as anything else. She was obviously bluffing. I hadn’t read her book yet, but I had seen her speech and gone through her website carefully and it was quite clear that she was not someone who was going to put her body on the line to protect Palestinian civilians (though I didn’t realize the depths of her racism until I read her book). So, I figured I would call her bluff. Here’s what I wrote back (interspersed, her words in italics):

Dear Justin,

Greetings. Irshad here. I’m writing to explore next steps with regard to sending me on a journalistic mission under the auspices of the International Solidarity Movement. I’ve checked out both websites that you’ve given to me, and look forward to learning more.

Given my crazy schedule for the next several months, I would hope to go in the very late spring or early summer.

Late spring or early summer sounds fine. The ISM normally has a ‘freedom summer’ campaign. Should you go in late spring, you will be between campaigns, but there will still be plenty going on.

Next steps?

ISM is normally caught up in issues of the moment — house demolitions, incursions, volunteers being deported, and so on — so the Palestine-side folks won’t be able to help much until you’re there. But folks in Canada probably can, at least somewhat, at least to answer your questions — you can certainly write me to answer any questions, for example. But basically all you need to do is go through the website, follow the instructions, travel there, and attend the training and screening in the territories.

From this point on in the email, you should take this as a personal email from me and not as a note from a ‘representative’ of ISM. Having read your book, I should tell you that this mission wouldn’t be like the one you went on in July 2002 — ISM is not in a position to pay plane tickets or expenses for volunteers, who normally raise their own funds through events and so on.

Volunteers get to the occupied territories and then join the ISM for trainings and then (nonviolent) actions, reporting, etc. As you can imagine, given that many would-be volunteers have been turned away, and others have been arrested, deported, (in the case of Tom Hurndall, Brian Avery, Coimhe Butterly, and others) shot and even (in Rachel Corrie’s case) killed by Israeli authorities, ISM is quite conscious of security and has a screening and training process. It asks that participants agree to some basic principles of unity, which you can find at both sites. These include adherence to nonviolence in practice, but they also include solidarity with the rights of Palestinians under international law and others, as you can read about. If you can in good faith agree with these principles and can join ISM without endangering yourself, other ISM volunteers, or Palestinians, then you’re set to go. My own feeling, having read your book and heard your talk, is that you would not be able to accept these principles of solidarity. But it is not my decision.

Last, and again speaking not as an ISM volunteer, I have written a review of your book for a radical site called ‘ZNet’, where I’m a frequent writer. Some of those you mention or reference in your book, including Noam Chomsky, Robert Fisk, Tariq Ali, and the late Edward Said, have writing featured on this site. Likewise a lot of progressive Israelis, notably Amira Hass, Gideon Levy, Tanya Reinhart, Baruch Kimmerling, and Neve Gordon. If you’d like to respond to the review, ZNet would probably publish your reply, along with my own reply to your reply.


Her next reply escalated the bluff, and admittedly had me worried. It became obvious that she did not want to debate, but instead wanted to turn this into an opportunity to attack the ISM. I should have understood that from the beginning: while for me, the invitation and the correspondence was an opportunity to show the world what a fraud she is, from her point of view, this was an opportunity to join the mainstream chorus denouncing, smearing, and slandering ISM and spitting on the grave of people like Rachel Corrie.

Here’s her next note:

Jan 2, 2004

1) I knew about your review of my book when I emailed you the first time. I’ll be posting your review on my website shortly. Ain’t democracy great?

2) I’ve gone through the ismcanada website and, unless my eyes deceive me (very possible), I’ve missed the statement of unity that you mention. Do you mean familiarizing myself with the following:

* Going For the Right Reasons
* Respecting the Spirit of the ISM

If so, I’ve read it and I’m not sure what you think is so distasteful to me. On key fronts, I want the same things that the ISM does: an independent Palestinian state alongside a sovereign Jewish state, an end to the Israeli occupation (with clear and enforceable guarantees that the Israeli people will have secure borders after a withdrawal of troops), justice for the people of Palestine (which entails ending the corruption of the PA – an issue I don’t see tackled by the ISM). What is it about any of the above that the ISM would disagree with, even if it isn’t vocal about the need to be critical of PA human rights abuses and monetary manipulations?

In the spirit of my questions above, I will not be told what to think. Indeed, the conditions under which I went on my first, CIC-sponsored, trip to Israel were a) that I would be able to ask any questions I wanted, no matter who approved or disapproved; and 2) that I would have a hand in helping to shape the itinerary.

Will both conditions be met on any trip to the Occupied Territories under the International Solidarity Movement? Will representatives of the ISM attend meetings with Zionists in Israel, just as Canada-Israel Committee reps attended meetings with anti-Zionists in the Occupied Territories (and beyond)? If so, I can go with integrity.

But if not, I won’t pander to double-standards.

The choice is the ISM’s.


Between her chortle about ‘democracy’ (there is a bizarre part in her book where she, presumably quoting from Fareed Zakaria without attribution, says it was ‘democracy’ that brought the Nazis to power so democracy isn’t always good… leaving aside the fact that it wasn’t ‘democracy’ that brought the Nazis to power but a putsch, I suppose one can’t expect her to remember her own book in every email), her talking about ‘integrity’, her failure to find the ISM’s principles of unity that are more or less front and centre on the website, and her failure to understand the disproportion between Israel (that is deliberately starving hundreds of thousands in Gaza) and PA corruption, I was rather too stunned to realize a simple fact: if all she wanted to do was a ‘journalistic mission’ why would she need ISM or anyone else to co-set up an itinerary?

But when I got that note, I was quite worried that I had created a situation where ISM activists and Palestinians would suffer for my writing to Manji. She would get a little more fame, perhaps prolong her 15 minutes, and the ISM would get a little more bad press, leading to more headaches and more problems for an organization that has already been hit extremely hard by repression. So, I made a point of telling her that she wouldn’t be welcome with ISM: the ISM has a screening process, and she could consider herself screened out.

In retrospect, I could simply have laid out an itinerary for her — the real refuseniks, some real journalists with integrity (Amira Hass, Gideon Levy), some serious researchers (Jeff Halper, Tanya Reinhart, Ilon Pappe, Baruch Kimmerling), some serious peace activists (Uri Avnery) — and all this without her ever having to leave Israel’s borders. I could have told her to try to get into Rafah, and spend some time watching bulldozers slowly raze the place to the ground… perhaps take one of those embarrassing photos of herself in front of a bulldozed house or a bullet-filled building, or maybe even in the wreckage of a missile attack. But instead, I wrote this:

Jan 2, 2004

Starting with 1), and me, as opposed to ISM. On the review and your posting it — I do agree that the most open and free debate and discussion is important, that pandering to double standards is a bad thing. If you want to debate on the internet any of the points raised in the article — on your site or elsewhere, ZNet for example, feel free to engage on any of them, and we will proceed from there. I would be pleased to have our correspondence go in that direction.

I said that I didn’t think that you would fit ISM’s criteria, and let me clarify further, because I think I miscommunicated something. My intention was to let you know that ISM has an open call for volunteers and that you could easily have gone to join ISM and seen ‘the other side’, to use your expression, and were not limited to presenting the limited and distorted view of the conflict that you present because ‘no one answered your email’. If you really are interested and ISM doesn’t fit, there must be other groups that probably have delegations that are closer to what you are looking for. The Bay Area’s ewish Voice for Peace (, perhaps, or a journal like MERIP, (, or Toronto-based groups like the CJP-IP, etc.

Having said that, I think that your going with ISM would be a waste of their time and yours, at best. At worst, I think you would endanger the lives of activists working under very difficult conditions. I also think you would end up smearing and slandering ISM and misrepresenting its views the way you have smeared people like Edward Said, Tariq Ali, and Robert Fisk, all of which is spelled out in my review of your book. ISM has been smeared and slandered before, and survived it, but it isn’t something they should have to deal with on top of everything else.

But in any case, if you took what I said at Ryerson and in my review to mean that ISM could arrange a special fact-finding mission for you, that was my mistake. It can’t. It can only afford to take sincere, principled activists who want to work in genuine solidarity with Palestinians. This includes plenty of Israelis, of course, and plenty of people who consider themselves Zionists, which should also be obvious. But again, having read your book, I don’t think it applies to you. If there is a miscommunication here, it is my fault, for misrepresenting ISM’s open call to people of conscience to be an invitation to you to go on a fact-finding mission equivalent to that of the Canada-Israel Congress. I don’t know too much about the CIC, but I suspect that their offices have not been raided, dozens of their volunteers arrested and deported, and some of them shot or killed (as I detailed in a previous email). The ISM does not have the resources to arrange a special fact-finding mission for you — it does not do fact-finding missions, it is for committed activists who want to (nonviolently) act against the occupation under very difficult conditions. A solidarity trip is different from a fact-finding trip. This has nothing to do with telling people what to think or double standards. It has to do with what the ISM does and is. Again, I take responsibility for the miscommunication.

Dealing with 2), and ISM specifically, as opposed to me, my views, and my mistakes in communication.

The relevant parts of the site for activists to decide if they can accept ISM’s call for volunteers are on the site. They are here:

Particularly these — this is the ‘statement of unity’ you were looking for but didn’t find:

“*We support the Palestinian right to resist the occupation, as provided for by International Law;
*We call for an immediate end to the occupation and immediate compliance and implementation of all relevant UN resolutions;
*We call for immediate international intervention to protect the Palestinian people and ensure Israel’s compliance with International Law.”

But the entire page is relevant.

Also, the ISM’s mission is here:

This is highly relevant. One expression of their invitation to people of the world is this:

“Because Israeli violence against civilians in Palestine has worsened, and the repression of the Occupation has tightened, many international allies of the Palestinian cause want to do more than write letters, demonstrate, present programs, form solidarity delegations, or send humanitarian aid. They want to do something more dramatic to stop Israeli attacks on Palestinian neighbourhoods and people with bombs and bullets, or closures and curfews, and to stop the United States from massively rewarding Israel for its brutality and protecting its occupation of Palestine They want to take direct action that will oppose the Occupation and force Israel to withdraw from the West Bank East Jerusalem, and Gaza.

“If this describes your feelings, this call is for you.”

The 4 goals stated in the mission statement are as follows:

“The International Solidarity Movement aims to do four things:

1: to dramatize the terrible conditions under which Palestinians live because of the Occupation, and to protect them from physical violence from Israeli soldiers and settlers. We work under the leadership of Palestinian peace activists, supporting them in their creative resistance to the Occupation, and lending support to Israeli and other peace activist groups.

2: to pressure International news media to focus on the illegality and brutality of the Occupation, and to so change public opinion that it demands that Israel respect international law, and that America stops funding Israel with billions of dollars each year.

3: to recruit volunteers from other nations to undertake non-violent resistance to the Occupation.

4:to establish divestment campaigns in the US and Europe to put economic pressure on Israel the same way the international community put pressure South Africa during the apartheid regimes.”

These are the most relevant parts of the ISM site to help you decide if you can join the ISM. It is an open call, to people who share these goals and principles and want to act on them. Those are ISM’s criteria.


And so ended my interaction with the Muslim Refusenik, who is now making money in the United States and being paraded on television as a middle east expert (she cites one op-ed from the Boston Globe on the Sudan five times when discussing Israel/Palestine). A debate with me would have been no help to her career, I suppose. It’s just as well: there is little time for this nonsense right now.

The Muslim Refusenik and Me, Part I

The blogging and reporting on Iraq has been so good that I won’t do another roundup here, other than to lament, as someone who is subjected to the Canadian media, how dreadful the asymmetry is. The most ‘liberal’ paper in the country, the Toronto Star, had a massive headline: “12 more marines die in Iraq”. The subheadline, much smaller — “3-day toll is 30 Americans and 130 Iraqis” (that would be my emphasis). The casualties are almost certainly far higher for Iraqis, as the US has sealed Fallujah off to commit atrocities unnoticed there. It seems that I have commented on Iraq, after all. But the purpose of this entry is to discuss my correspondence with that intrepid ‘Muslim Refusenik’, Irshad Manji… read on, if you have the stomach.

So, Norman Finkelstein called Alan Dershowitz a ‘raving lunatic’ in a recent interview, and I patterned my own review of Irshad Manji after Finkelstein’s work. Unfortunately I lack Norman’s imagination for terms of abuse, although that’s probably just as well: Dershowitz’s strategy is plagiarism and fabrication under the veneer of Harvard University. Manji’s strategy is flagrant displays of ignorance in order to elicit abuse, which she can then use as proof of how intolerant her detractors are. That’s why I stuck to the fact that she’s a fraud in the review, rather than on any opinions I might have of her character.

Anyway, at the end of my review I wrote this:

“Let me say publicly that on Nov. 20, 2003, at her public talk at Ryerson university in Toronto, in front of several hundred people who came to listen to her speech, “Defending Israel is Defending Diversity”, I told Irshad Manji that she has a standing invitation to go to the Occupied Territories with the International Solidarity Movement. I gave her my email address and the sites for ISM Canada ( and ISM ( She has not replied to my invitation.”

A few weeks later, Manji did indeed write to me! I’ll post the first email, and then leave you hanging… posting the next round in a later post.

December 16, 2003

Dear Justin,

Greetings. Irshad here. I’m writing to explore next steps with regard to sending me on a journalistic mission under the auspices of the International Solidarity Movement. I’ve checked out both websites that you’ve given to me, and look forward to learning more.

Next steps?



P.S. Sorry I couldn’t follow up with you sooner. I’ve been on book-related travels. Life gets even more hectic as of mid-January, so let’s be sure touch base before then.

Welcome Aboard…

Hello all. I apologize in advance for the gruesome name of the blog. The name comes from an essay by Michael Albert, that dates back to Operation Desert Storm, I think, written when I was just a little too young to have found or read it. I came across it years later though, and I thought it would make an appropriate image. I was able to find a re-published version in 1999. This is what it says:

Suppose a hypothetical god got tired of what we humans do to one another and decided that from January 1, 1999 onward all corpses unnaturally created anywhere in the “free world” would cease to decompose. Anyone dying for want of food or medicine, anyone hung or garroted to death, shot or beaten to death, raped or bombed to death, anyone dying unjustly and inhumanely would, as a corpse, persist without decomposing. And the permanent corpse would then automatically enter a glass-walled cattle car attached to an ethereal train traveling monotonously across the U.S., state by state, never stopping.

One by one the corpses would be loaded onto the cattle cars and after every thousand corpses piled in a new car would hitch up and begin filling too. Mile after mile the killing train would roll along, each corpse viewed through its transparent walls, 200 new corpses a minute, one new car every five minutes, day and night, without pause.

By the end of 1999, on its first birthday, the first day of the new millennium, the killing train would measure over 2,000 miles long. Traveling at 20 miles an hour it would take about five days to pass any intersection. By the year 2009, assuming no dramatic change in institutions and behavior, the train would stretch from coast to coast about seven times. It would take about six weeks from the time its engine passed the Statue of Liberty to when its caboose would go by. God still wondering when pitiful, aspiring humanity would get the message.

Think how a young child sometimes points to a picture in a book or magazine and asks for an explanation, “Tell me about a tree?” A car? A boat? Or a train? A big train? The killing train?” Go ahead, answer that one.

I have, in the past, been accused of ‘overquoting’ in my writing. But blogs are supposed to reflect their authors. So I think I shall have to finish this first blog entry with more quotes. These are all by people I admire, similar to the tone of Mike Albert’s ‘Killing Train’, and I suspect that they will provide some idea of the motivation behind the postings here (they don’t, however, provide a preview of what the postings will be — the next message will describe what I want to accomplish in the blog).

A recent quote by Robert Fisk, on the Iraq War:

Well as a matter of fact this afternoon, I took several roles of filmreel film, not digitized camera film into my film development shop here, and was looking again at the film of children whod been hit by American cluster bombs in Hilla and Babylon whom I took photographs of. Im rather shocked at myself for taking pictures of people in such suffering. I would have to say, and one must be fair as a correspondent, that I think that the Iraqis did position military tanks and missiles in civilian areas. They did so deliberately; they did so in order to try and preserve their military apparatus in the hope that the Americans would not bomb civilian areas. The Americans did bomb civilian areas. They may or may not have destroyed the military targets; they certainly destroyed human beings and innocent civilians.

War is a disgusting, cruel, vicious affair. You know, I say to people over and over again: war is not about primarily victory or defeat, its primarily about human suffering and death. And if you look through the pictures, which I have beside me now as I speak to you, of little girls with huge wounds in the side of their faces made by the pieces of metal from cluster bombs, American cluster bombs, its degoutant, as the French say, disgusting to even look at. But I have to look at them. I took these pictures.

An interview with Subcomandante Marcos, interviewed in the Mexican journal, ‘Proceso’:

Poverty is much more than an emaciated body. It’s the child Heberto Castillo saw clutching a stone, her daughter, it’s the fifty girls of a refugee camp sharing the remaining shreds of a doll. And you, Marcos, what’s your picture of poverty?

Also a child. A girl who died in my arms, less than five years old, of fever, in the community of Las Tazas, because there was no remedy to lower her temperature, and she died in my hands. We tried to lower the temperature with water, with wet rags, we bathed her and everything, her father and I. She died on us. She didn’t require surgery, nor a hospital. She needed a pill, a little remedy… It’s ridiculous, because that girl was not even born, there was no birth certificate. What is there more miserable than being born and dying and nobody knows you?

And you, what did you feel?

Impotence, rage. The whole world falls in on you, that everything you believed and everything you did before is useless if I can’t prevent this death, this unjust, absurd, irrational, stupid…

And if these terrible emotions are multiplied over a wide area, do I sense, brewing in the background, although they’re not declaring it, a fight to get even?

That’s the danger. If that general bitterness doesn’t find a social voice, revenge is bound to follow. And in the case of indigenous groups it can tend toward essentialism, and there’s certainly no worthwhile dialog in that… That’s why we say it’s preferable that the discontent get organized. In any case, let the movement in its wisdom or knowledge make the choice.

Marcos, how many victims lived without knowing what life was?

That’s what we don’t want repeated any more. We don’t want any more people who aren’t born and don’t die, who don’t exist, who don’t exist for you, for the public, for Fox or for anybody. Beyond their families, they didn’t exist for anybody. Now, with indigenous communities taking a stand, we lowered the mortality rate to between two and three hundred per year. We used to have, before 1994, fifteen thousand per year, mostly under five who never had any birth certificate (…)

The last one is by Arundhati Roy, about India:

Unfortunately there’s no quick fix. Fascism itself can only be turned away if all those who are outraged by it show a commitment to social justice that equals the intensity of their indignation.”

“Are we ready to get off our starting blocks? Are we ready, many millions of us, to rally not just on the streets, but at work and in schools and in our homes, in every decision we take, and every choice we make?

“Or not just yet…

If not, then years from now, when the rest of the world has shunned us (as it should), like the ordinary citizens of Hitler’s Germany, we too will learn to recognise revulsion in the gaze of our fellow human beings. We too will find ourselves unable to look our own children in the eye, for the shame of what we did and did not do. For the shame of what we allowed to happen.

I suppose these quotes function as a personal statement of motivation — so you, dear reader, know something about the person whose blog you’re reading. As to what you’ll find in the blog — that’s for the next post.

After the Common Sense Revolution

After 8 years in office, the Ontario Tories were finally thrown out on October 2, 2003. They were replaced by a Liberal majority government that won 72 seats to the Tories’s 24. The social democratic NDP, after a strong campaign, won 7 seats. As is virtually always the case in North America, the electoral outcome was a poor reflection of the popular vote, which would have given the Tories and the NDP more seats. The Liberals took 47%, the Tories 33%, and the NDP 16%.

Continue reading “After the Common Sense Revolution”

Palestinians struggle against deportation

The Coalition Against the Deportation of Palestinian Refugees was formedby a group of Palestinian refugees with the help of organizers from No Oneis Illegal and Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights in Montreal. TheCoalition immediately found that there are a significant number ofrefugees set for deportation and a large number awaiting their first courtdate.

Continue reading “Palestinians struggle against deportation”

The Ontario Quandary: Worst or next worst?

What is a public to do in an election where the incumbents have spentyears engaging in scandals, polarizing society, abandoning its mostvulnerable members, tearing the health and education infrastructure toshreds, and destroying labour standards?

Vote them out, of course.

Continue reading “The Ontario Quandary: Worst or next worst?”

Canadian Premiers are revolting!

It’s backlash week in Canadian politics. Ralph Klein, Alberta’s neoliberal premier and the closest thing Canada has to George W Bush (Klein would take that as a compliment) sent a letter to the US ambassador to Canada, repudiating the Prime Minister’s (rather ambivalent) anti-war stance and talking about Alberta’s “abiding friendship with the United States, a friendship based not only on mutual interests but also on shared values. In short, the president and your nation have exemplified leadership”

Continue reading “Canadian Premiers are revolting!”