Monday, January 31, 2005

Follow-Up (Anti-American Nights): "The French"

Perhaps inevitably, my “photo essay” on the Parisian “Anti-American Nights” elicited some harsh words about “the French”, both in the comments section here and in comments sections and forums elsewhere on the web. It is a mistake, however, to regard the anti-American bile to which some of the visitors to the “American Nights” in Paris’s 3rd arrondissement gave expression as representative of the attitude of “the French” as such.

In the first place, the 3rd arrondissement of Paris is not France. The principal supports of anti-Americanism as in ideology in contemporary France are to be found among the governmental, academic and media elites, and the anti-Americanism they peddle finds its most favorable echo also among relatively privileged segments of the French population: those that can easily identify with the elites or even aspire to belong to them. As I indicated in my essay, the sociological profile of the average resident of the 3rd arrondissement – relatively densely populated by “bobos” [bourgeois bohemians] or members of the so-called “caviar left” – would put him or her squarely in this latter category. Setting aside the continuing but dwindling influence of the French Communist Party among unionized workers, more popular segments of the population are not as affected or at least not as seriously affected by the anti-American virus. I strongly doubt that an event similar to the 3rd arrondissement’s “American Nights” held, for instance, in a more modest neighborhood somewhere in the French provinces would have elicited similarly hateful reactions. Indeed, given that the “American Nights” of the 3rd arrondissement were clearly designed to elicit such hateful reactions, I strongly suspect that a similar event held in a more modest neighborhood in the provinces would only have inspired indifference. On the other hand, given a certain affinity for American culture that is also quite evident among more popular segments of the population – and that the elites attempt to combat in the name of the French “cultural exception” or even (hypocritically) in the name of “cultural diversity” – an event organized with the sincere intention of promoting “understanding” of American political and cultural trends might in fact have been a great success.

This brings me to my second point, since, despite the alibi created by the quaint outdoor performances, the “American Nights” hosted by the Mayor’s office of the 3rd arrondissement were clearly not organized with any such intention. As discussed in my essay, starting with the poster for the event and its not-so-subtle invocation of the phantasm of American “empire”, the essentially hostile spirit animating the “American Nights” was abundantly obvious in virtually all their programmatic details. Indeed, the “indoor” program constituted a veritable catalogue of the anti-American “memes” which have been the lifeblood of so much of the French (and, more generally, European) media for the last four years: “racist” criminal justice (“A Perfect Suspect”), “imperial” foreign policy (Ken Loach on 9/11), media tycoons (Rupert Murdoch, of course), “bad” cops (Abel Ferrara’s “Bad Lieutenant”) and so on. As I stressed in my piece, what is especially notable about the event is that Parisian municipal government officials should thus have hosted and subsidized what amounted to two nights of anti-American incitement. It is hardly surprising that many of the visitors should have proven susceptible to this incitement. If they were not susceptible, they would likely have not attended.

Nonetheless, even among the public at the 3rd arrondissement’s “American Nights”, there were some who seemingly came in the naive belief that the event would be about the “understanding” the Mayor's office had advertised. This was reflected here and there in some neutral or even friendly grafitti.

In short, one should certainly not imagine that all “the French” are impressed by the anti-American histrionics of the French elites. As one polite middle aged lady who spoke with Trans-Int’s correspondent at the “American Nights” put it: “Do you know what’s the difference between France and Belgium? Belgium is a small country and it knows it....”

Friday, January 28, 2005

Anti-American Nights: a Photo Essay (with Update)

(Note: Click on photos for larger images)

In the run-up to the inauguration of George W. Bush’s second term of office, an increasing number of notably conservative voices in the United States could be heard suggesting that the time is right for a thawing in transatlantic relations. On this view, the differences that arose between the US and certain erstwhile European allies – often in this style of discourse stylized into “Europe” as such – in the context of the Iraq War were merely of a conjunctural nature and the fundamental values that the US and “Europe” are supposed to have in common can be expected to reassert themselves now that the passions provoked by the US-led intervention have had time to calm. As in this opinion piece by Robert Kagan, an imagined unity of purpose of the American administration and the EU in the Ukraine election crisis is frequently cited as evidence in favor of this hypothesis. As I have repeatedly had occasion to point out in my posts on Ukraine (see sidebar), the current American administration has much reason to be wary of European favorite Viktor Yushchenko and his “Orange” coalition and – contrary to a myth widely disseminated on the “left” and adopted for their own purposes by some ostensibly conservative commentators like Kagan – it did not in fact take any notable measures to support them.

The expectation that the publics in those European countries that most actively opposed the Iraq intervention – Germany and France – will now suddenly be prepared to recognize a commonality of values and interests with the United States overlooks the effects of four years of ideological conditioning by the dominant media in those same countries. During this period, the media in question became the platform for a veritable campaign of incitement directed not only against the current American president – which would be a serious enough matter in itself given the democratic legitimacy he enjoys – but against America itself. I gather this claim will not seem controversial for regular readers of Trans-Int, as I have written extensively on the matter here. Newcomers might have a look, for instance, at “The Legend of the Squandered Sympathy” or “American Beheaders (or How a Publicly-Financed Franco-German 'Cultural' Channel Creates Moral Equivalence between America and its Enemies)”. Thankfully, moreover, bloggers in France and Germany have dedicated themselves to systematically documenting anti-American prejudice in their local media and the disinformation that is the result. For France, see, notably, the contributions of Eric Svane on Le Monde Watch [recently mostly in French] and ¡No Pasarán! [English] and for Germany, those of David Kaspar and Ray D. on Medienkritik [in English].

The effects of this campaign of incitement cannot be reversed so quickly. The fact, moreover, that many of the media outlets that have been the worst offenders are either state-owned – Arte in France and Germany, France2, ARD in Germany – or receive substantial state support, whether in the form of fiscal advantages or direct subsidies, suggests that the relevant public authorities are not interested in reversing them.

As evidence of the atmosphere of frenzied anti-Americanism that now obtains in the Franco-German “heart” of Europe – and of the complicity of public authorities in fueling the frenzy – I want to return here in the form of a “photo essay” to an episode that occurred in the trendy 3rd arrondissement of Paris, a neighborhood much favored by Parisian “bobos” [bourgeois bohemians], in mid-October. In anticipation of the upcoming American elections, the mayor’s office of the 3rd arrondissement hosted an event at the local townhall over two consecutive weekend nights, starting at 5 in the afternoon and going to 5 in the morning, titled “Les nuits américaines”: “The American Nights”. (Note: each Parisian district or "arrondissement" has its own "mayor" [maire] and "townhall" [mairie].) Here is a picture of the poster for the event:

Whereas the mayor’s office billed the event as a contribution to “understanding” and the mayor himself, Pierre Aidenbaum, in his opening address spoke of promoting “Franco-American friendship”, the poster already expressed a quite different spirit. Note the little globe attached to the finger of the Statue of Liberty by a string, the image thus cleverly connoting the common European phantasm that America somehow controls the destiny of the planet. It is not hard to appreciate how this phantasm could be of use to European elites at a time when the collective GDP of the 25 EU member states exceeds that of the US and the EU influence in international institutions – whether informally by virtue of the EU states’ financial clout or formally by virtue of the block of votes they represent on issues of common accord as opposed to the single vote of the US – is likewise markedly superior to that of the US. The blurb on the program printed by the Mayor's office, which featured the same image as the poster on its cover, likewise mobilized the phantasm of American global "empire", inviting visitors to try to understand a mythical figure named "Sam": "that American who is going to vote and determine our destiny, the future of the world". This is hardly a description that is apt to provoke "friendly" feelings - unless it can be supposed that the French prefer having "Sam" determine their destiny rather than determining it for themselves.

A brief glance at the content of the program for “The American Nights” (reproduced here), consisting of quaint folkloric performances in the town hall’s courtyard – break dancing, an Elvis film, a gospel choir, and the like – and ostensibly more serious panel discussions, lectures, and films inside, also makes clear the essentially hostile character of the “understanding” the Mayor’s office was promoting. Thus, for example, a lecture on “the power of the media in the United States”, complete with obligatory denunciation of Rupert Murdoch’s seemingly inescapable Fox News, was followed by a showing of Citizen Kane – just in case the public had missed the point. In the same spirit, the panel discussion on “The American Judicial System” was followed by a showing of the French documentary “Un coupable idéal” ["A Perfect Suspect", released in English with the more innocuous-sounding title "Murder on a Sunday Morning"] about a black teenager accused of homicide in Florida who will eventually be acquitted. Now, this apparently shocking turn of events - an acquittal! - is somehow for much of the French public supposed to be taken as proof of the racism of the American judicial system. Thus one French website introduces the film as follows: “Winner of the Oscar for Best Documentary in 2002, this film was made by a Frenchman who went to the USA in order to look at the American system of justice. On the point of leaving for lack of material [sic !], he stumbled upon this story that allows him to make known, above all, American injustice.” Such programming choices on the part of the mayor’s office are hardly innocent – not to speak of the "breakfast-debate" on the topic “Sexuality, Hostage of American Democracy” or the fact that the session devoted to “September 11” featured the short film by the lefty British director Ken Loach on September 11, 1973, i.e. the date of the purportedly CIA-sponsored coup d’Etat against Salvador Allende in Chile.

In order to add an interactive, participatory component to its “American Nights”, the mayor’s office placed paper on the walls of the stately central hall of the townhall building and provided magic markers. In the name of “free expression”, visitors were invited to “express themselves”. The inevitable result is documented in the photos that follow.

The Frenzy Begins

Better Rimbaud and Mallarmé than Rambo Armed to the Teeth

War Criminels [sic.]

USA - The Best Democracy Money Can Buy?

USA: The only country which is not threatened by a coup d'etat,
because there is no American embassy there.

Perhaps the most astonishing aspect of the "American Nights" was the presence on the opening night of a representative from the American Embassy in Paris. Here he is listening to the mayor's speech at the opening ceremony. Note in the background the graffiti: "War is a Weapon of Mass Distraction".

(Merci C.S.!)


It should be noted that some of the most rabid grafittis scrawled on the walls of the 3rd arrondissement's townhall during the "American Nights" were put there by a small group of American expatriate - let's say - "activists". Here is one of the "activists" eagerly getting down to business at the start of the festivities.

According to literature made available at the "American Nights", the "activists" apparently belonged to a group called "Americans Against the War". On first glance, the "contributions" of the "Americans Against the War" might seem to represent a mitigating circumstance with respect to the responsibility of the mayor's office in the orgy of anti-Americanism that the "American Nights" quickly became. They should definitely be kept in mind in attempting to evaluate the response of the French public to the Mayor's initiative. At any rate, the French contributions were generally in smaller letters.

Kissinger to the Hague Tribunal!

And some even refused the Mayor's invitation to ventilate.

I don't want to express myself (it's my right)

With respect to the specific responsibility of the Mayor's office, however, the "contributions" of the "Americans Against the War" represent, if anything, an aggravating factor. For in fact the mayor's office showed remarkable indulgence toward the American "activists". By the second of the "American Nights", the "Americans Against the War" had set up a table to distribute their literature in the entry hall of the townhall building.

They had been permitted to plaster their posters over the information plaque in the entry hall...

...and to hang their signature "Wanted: George W. Bush, War Criminal" banner.

Just to be clear: the above banner was hanging in the entry hall of the 3rd arrondissement's townhall - thus on the public premises of a Parisian municipal government building.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Forthcoming: More on the "Anti-American Nights"

The photos I have published so far in "Anti-American Nights: a Photo Essay" do not tell the whole story of the Parisian "American Nights". It should be noted that some of the most rabid grafittis scrawled on the walls of the town hall were put there by a small group of American expatriate - let's say - "activists". On first glance, this fact might seem to represent a mitigating circumstance with respect to the responsibility of the mayor's office in the orgy of anti-Americanism that the "American nights" quickly became. Tomorrow I will publish an update to "Anti-American Nights", including some additional photos. As we will see, on closer inspection the "contributions" of the American "activists" only make the responsibility of the mayor's office in the affair all the more grave.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Forthcoming: Anti-American Nights, a Photo Essay

For various reasons, including technical difficulties on Blogger, I have not been able to keep to my recent practice of posting Monday, Wednesday, Friday.

With the inauguration of George W. Bush's second term in office, many conservative commentators have been suggesting that the moment is well-suited for a thawing in transatlantic relations. This is to underestimate the massive damage that has been done in Europe by four years of incessant propaganda and incitement in major European media.

Poster for an Event held at the Townhall of the 3rd arrondissement of Paris in mid-October 2004:
"The American Nights"

I will be back tomorrow (around noon EST/5 pm GMT) with some reflections and photographic evidence of the anti-American (not merely anti-Bush) frenzy that is the result.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Debate under Surveillance: The European Parliament's "Rapid Reaction Force"

The European Parliament has set up a “rapid reaction force” to respond to what one of the project’s initiators calls “distortions and misrepresentations” of the “European Constitution” – or more simply put, “lies” – emanating from opponents of the “constitution” in the run up to referenda in several European member states. According to reports in the European media [see below], the European Parliament offices in each member state have been tasked with monitoring the local media and in the event of the discovery of suspicious items should report back to the “rapid reaction force”, consisting of eight prominent pro-“constitution” members of the parliament [MEPs]. “Within three hours, or at least within the same day,” says Jo Leinen, a German Social Democratic MEP and one of the initiators of the “rapid reaction force”, “we want to react to lies and distortions about the constitution” – apparently via press releases and letters to the editor. Mr. Leinen did not specify how the “reaction force” expects to insure that the media in question also publishes its “corrective” missives. Mr. Leinen does not hide the fact that the group’s ostensible monitoring of “distortions and misrepresentations” is tantamount to monitoring of opposition to the European “constitution” as such. Thus, his own press release on the matter concludes: “In this decisive phase, the opponents of the European idea should not be given the chance to lead their countries into isolation and a political dead-end through their opposition to the European Constitution.” The original German version of the press release is still more chilling, since it quotes Mr. Leinen to the effect not merely that the opponents “should not” be given the chance, in effect, to influence the outcome of the referenda, but that they “must not” be given this chance or, more literally, “must not be permitted” [dürften...nicht] to have it.

For more on the European Parliament’s “rapid reaction force”, see the Times of London, The EUObserver, or this article [in German] from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. And for the observations of a prominent critic of the final draft of the EU "constitution" and MEP, see the latest newsletter from Jens-Peter Bonde.

(Hat tip Y.B. - Merci!)

Friday, January 21, 2005

Abandoning Development for "Identity": the UNDP and "Minority Rights"

Hillary Clinton is not alone in pushing the “minority rights” agenda. The United Nations Development Program – which used to promote economic development – has also taken up the banner in its latest human development report titled Cultural Liberty in Today’s Diverse World. Despite being called a “report”, the document does not in fact bear the usual attributes of a work of research, but more closely resembles – and exhibits all the subtlety of – a high school textbook, i.e. a text designed for pedagogical purposes. This style has the effect of converting what are in fact highly contentious propositions, the very sense of which is frequently unclear, into simple matters of fact. Thus, the opening section, for example, lays out a series of supposed “myths” about “policies recognizing cultural diversity and encouraging diversity” and helpfully proceeds to “debunk” them on behalf of the reader – as in:

Myth 1. People’s ethnic identities compete with their attachment to the state, so there is a trade-off between recognizing diversity and unifying the state.

Not so. Individuals can and do have multiple identities that are complementary—ethnicity, language, religion and race as well as citizenship. Nor is identity a zero sum game. There is no inevitable need to choose between state unity and recognition of cultural differences.
Note here the reduction of citizenship – a legal status implying definite rights and obligations – to simply an “identity”, i.e. among others. This conflation can also be read as implying that the other “identities” should likewise be legally formalized and furnished with specific rights, and even a brief perusal of Cultural Liberty in Today’s Diverse World makes clear that this is indeed the point. Logically, of course, if the other “identities” are being elevated to a status analogous to that of citizenship, then they ought also to be burdened with specific obligations. It is, however, a symptom of the fact that “minority rights” are not really a matter of “rights” in the customary legal sense of the term that they do not imply any such additional obligations for supposed members of the “minorities” in question.

In keeping with its propagandistic vocation, a brief perusal of Cultural Liberty in Today’s Diverse World also reveals it to be a wealth of distortions, strategic omissions and outright disinformation. Thus, for instance, it favorably cites the Croatian parliament’s reserved seats for national minorities (see p. 7) as a positive example of how to guarantee “minority representation”. No mention is made in this context of the fact that Croatia’s most important “national minority”, namely the “Serb national minority”, has seen its numbers more than halved (from some 582,000 persons at the time of Croatian independence to barely 200,000 today) since its members' minority status was first “recognized”. The “report” also repeats one of the key myths of recent EU-led campaigns to install systems of “minority rights” and/or create “multi-ethnic” or “multi-national” “federative” orders in regions under its influence – most notably, in the Balkans: namely, the notion that Switzerland is a “multi-national federation” whose constitution “recognizes multiple identities” (see p. 50). In fact, the Swiss constitution is promulgated in the name of a single undivided “Swiss people” and the units of the Swiss federation, the cantons, are defined in territorial, not ethnic, terms.

That the UNDP would publish such a document is further evidence of a kind of “triple alliance” among the EU, the UN bureaucracy, and the Democratic Party elite or at least its Clintonite faction. It should be noted, moreover, that the director of the UNDP at the time this report was drafted, Mark Malloch Brown, has lately been named Kofi Annan’s Chef de Cabinet.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Hillary Clinton and the Trouble with 'Minority Rights' (complete)

Part I: Civil Rights versus "Minority Rights"

Last November 8th, Hillary Clinton gave the keynote address to a conference on the "Plight of the Roma" hosted by Columbia University's Institute for the Study of Europe (text here and video here). She prefaced her remarks by noting that she had immediately agreed to the invitation to talk on the issue of Roma in Europe,

...because during my time as First Lady in a number of my visits to Central and Eastern Europe - focusing on the plight of the Roma, particularly the children - it was something that I tried to bring more attention and broader public awareness of, both in the host country and in our own.

Furthermore, Senator Clinton placed the question of improving the condition of Roma in Europe squarely under the banner of "ethnic minority rights" as "embraced", as she put it, by the European Union:

Many of you know everything I'm about to say about the Roma and ethnic minority rights in Europe, but the significance of this conference is not only because individual nations are beginning to address the challenges that Roma people face in being integrated into their larger societies but it is in many respects a civil rights movement that the European Union has been willing to embrace. And because it is about civil rights and human rights and about shared responsibilities and opportunities, I think it has resonance to those of us in our country as well.

Mrs. Clinton repeatedly emphasized the importance of "minority rights", notably in recounting her visits to Central and Eastern European countries as First Lady, which, according to her reminiscences, also included some seemingly disagreeable visits to Roma-majority neighborhoods:

When I visited countries with large numbers of Roma - Bulgaria, Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary - I would often visit the areas where they predominantly lived which were often without up-to-date utilities and services; rundown, rather despairing-looking places. And it is now for the first time, largely because of the expansion of the European Union and the willingness to look at some of the internal problems that Europe will face if they are not dealt with now, that the issues surrounding the Roma are being addressed....

The leadership of the countries were often not enthusiastic about my visiting these places and talking to the representatives of the Roma community. But I thought I needed to make it a point to do so, especially as so many of these nations were in the midst of a transition to democracy and were struggling to understand concepts that we take for granted like minority rights....

So in explaining democracy often the situations they had at that time only five or six years of experience [sic.], stressing the role of minority rights I thought was a critical ingredient for them to acknowledge....

Now, contrary to what Senator Clinton seems to suggest, the concept of "minority rights" is by no means "taken for granted" by most Americans- perhaps she was addressing only the European members of the audience - and this is hardly surprising since it is virtually unknown in American law. It could be argued that it is implicit in various "affirmative action" provisions - and indeed when these are linked to either explicit or de facto quotas, they do approximate one aspect of what are known as "minority rights" in the European context. However, as even Senator Clinton would admit, such measures are in principle supposed to be temporary. Hence they are not, strictly speaking, a matter of rights.

By contrast, the "concept of minority rights" is nowadays a commonplace of European political discourse and is even enshrined in European law: both in inter-state European conventions - most notably, the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities - and in the national legislations of European states supposed to uphold the terms of the latter. Indeed, per the so-called "Copenhagen Criteria", guarantees of the "respect for and protection of minorities" are a condition for accession to the EU and, according to the European Commission's own declarations [1], this criterion is interpreted in practice by reference to the Framework Convention.

There is here a fundamental incompatibility between European law and American law that Senator Clinton's presentation - by assimilating the European notion of "minority rights" to "civil rights" and, in any case, saying nothing specific about the content of said "rights" - manages to obscure. Whereas American law, of course, prohibits discrimination on the basis of "national origins" and whereas the elimination of de jure and de facto discrimination was the principal goal and indeed achievement of the American civil rights movement, European "minority rights" law in fact positively requires such discrimination. This is because the holders of the rights in question are differentially defined as the members of their respective "national" or "ethnic" minorities and in contrast to the "majority" nation. The assimilation of "national" minorities to "ethnic" minorities in this context, moreover, shows that the notion of "nationhood" in play is precisely that pre-political, fundamentally racist - or if one prefers "racialist" - notion that I have touched upon in some recent posts (see here and here): a notion of "nationhood", in effect, according to which "nations" are not coextensive with the citizenries of states and there can even be "nations" without states. The very attempt to subsume the question of "Roma rights" within the framework of "national minority" or, as according to Mrs. Clinton's preferred formula, "ethnic minority" rights makes this clear.

This attempt is not as self-evident as Mrs. Clinton appears to believe, however. Indeed, there is a certain irony in Mrs. Clinton having chosen precisely a discussion of the Roma as the occasion for her plea on behalf of European-style "minority rights". For in fact the eligibility of Roma for "protection" under European"minority rights" law is a highly contentious issue. This is because in practice the definition of "national minorities" in the national legislation of particular European states further discriminates between members of "minority groups" that are supposed to have "traditionally" inhabited the national territory - so-called "autochthonous" minorities - and members of "minority groups" who have not: so-called "allochthonous" minorities. The latter do not count as "national minorities" at all. Though certain European states (Germany, for instance), whether as a function of political correctness or historical guilt, have, nonetheless, recognized Roma as a "national minority", it is not hard to see how such provisions would tend to exclude Roma - the non-sedentary "people" par excellence - from "minority rights" protections. As I have discussed in my "Anti-Semitism and Ethnicity in Europe", they also tend to exclude Jews. Finally, they exclude, and are indeed designed to exclude, all more recent immigrants: for example, the some 2 million persons of Turkish origins currently living in Germany or the 1-2 million persons of Russian descent in the Baltic states.

Thus Estonia, for example, in ratifying the Framework Convention submitted a declaration to the effect that it would only recognize as “nationality minority” such “citizens” (presumably the idea is rather groups of “citizens”) as “maintain longstanding, firm and lasting ties with Estonia” – a condition clearly devised in order to exclude ethnic Russians. On account of similar concerns about its large Russian population, Latvia has not yet ratified the Convention. But the performance of the European Commission – indeed the very fact that it found Latvia to have satisfied the political conditions for EU membership despite its refusal to accord ethnic Russians “national minority” status – shows that it has nothing to fear from the EU in this regard and that the EU as such accepts in practice the criterion of “autochthoneity”.

There is, moreover, yet another reason why Mrs. Clinton's choice of the Roma to illustrate the supposed virtues of European "minority rights" law is ironic, and in this case the irony is particularly bitter. For arguably the greatest catastrophe to befall Roma in Europe since the Second World War was the direct consequence of European agitation - followed by combined US and European intervention - on behalf of another supposedly oppressed "ethnic minority".

Part II: Forgetting Kosovo

Last June 10, the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) published a report titled “Five Years of Ethnic Cleansing of ‘Gypsies’ from Kosovo”. Its opening paragraph reads as follows:

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the ethnic cleansing of Roma, Ashkaelia, Egyptians and other persons regarded as "Gypsies" from Kosovo. In the wake of the cessation of NATO action against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in June 1999 and the subsequent return of predominantly ethnic Albanians from abroad, ethnic Albanians violently expelled approximately four fifths of Kosovo's pre-1999 Romani population -- estimated to have been around 120,000 -- from their homes. In the course of the ethnic cleansing campaign, ethnic Albanians kidnapped Roma and severely physically abused and in some cases killed Roma; raped Romani women in the presence of family members; and seized, looted or destroyed property en masse. Whole Romani settlements were burned to the ground by ethnic Albanians, in many cases while NATO troops looked on. A number of Romani individuals who disappeared during the summer months of 1999 remain to date missing and are presumed dead.

It is significant that the ERRC dates the beginning of the expulsions to June 10, 1999: i.e. the very day of the suspension of the NATO air campaign against then Yugoslavia following the agreement by Belgrade to withdraw its troops and cede control of Kosovo province to NATO. It is remarkable that Mrs. Clinton, who claims to have been so touched by the “plight of the Roma” during her time as First Lady, should ignore the tragic consequences of the major foreign policy decision of her husband’s tenure as President for the Roma of Kosovo.

The Kosovo example is illustrative of the risks involved in a policy of promoting “minority rights”: risks not only for the stability of existing states, but even indeed for those persons who might find themselves classified as belonging to “minorities”. There is a sort of inverse relationship between the two sets of risks. The stronger an ethnic-national “minority” movement is and the more capable it is of obtaining concessions in the form of “rights” or even local governmental competencies (“autonomy”), the more fragile and or dysfunctional become the central state institutions. Thus, a state recognizing “minority rights” – and hence necessarily distinguishing between “national minorities” and the “majority” nation, i.e. ethnically construed – will have an objective interest in reducing the demographic weight of “minorities” in its population. The late Franjo Tudjman, the first President of independent Croatia, is accordingly said to have regarded the reduction of Croatia’s “ethnic Serb” population, from the roughly 12% of the total population it represented on independence to under 3%, as a “strategic goal” [link in German]. By the time of the 2001 Croatian census and following the mass expulsion of Serbs from the Krajina in 1995, this “goal” had nearly been reached. While the “extreme” nationalism of Tudjman and the party he founded, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), is nowadays condemned even by some of his erstwhile European patrons, it cannot be said that Franjo Tudjman did not understand the nature of the ethnic-national state. Even “moderate” nationalists, if their nationalism is of the ethnic variety and if they are consistent, would arrive at conclusions similar to his.

In any case, the nationalist militants of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and the political formations affiliated with it – on whose behalf, in effect, NATO intervened in the Kosovo conflict – did not need to enter into such complicated calculations. Whereas Bill Clinton presented their struggle to a woefully misinformed and under-informed American public as the defensive struggle of a threatened “ethnic minority”, more knowledgeable observers, such as the German Balkan specialist Wolf Oschlies, saw something rather different. Writing in the August edition of the Blätter für deutsche und internationale Politik, Oschlies notes:

...radical Albanians from Albania and Kosovo have always understood the conflict as a ‘war against the Serbian people’, as a militant contribution to the ‘idea of Albanian national unification’, which has first to be carried out against the Serbs, then against Greece, Macedonia and Montenegro…finally against Russia (the supposed ‘protector’ of the Serbs) and Italy (in the South of which approximately 100,000 Albanians live). Illuminating details are to be found in the Manifesto of the Albanian Academy of Arts and Sciences in Tirana, which was published in mid-May 1999 [n.B. in the very midst of the NATO bombing campaign - JR] with the title ‘Starting Points for a Solution of the Albanian National Question’: the most ancient Balkan nation, the Albanians, needs a ‘ethnically pure’ state, to which also belong Kosovo, parts of Southern Serbia, of Macedonia, of Montenegro and of northern Greece.

It was inevitable that the victory of a movement animated by such an ideology would spell disaster for such residents of Kosovo as were not recognized as belonging to the “Albanian nation” – and this even though the UN-appointed administrator of Kosovo graciously promulgated a “constitutional framework” that promised them all the “protection” afforded by the “Framework Convention”. Not only local Serbs, but, as the ERRC report makes clear, local Roma have paid a heavy price for NATO’s ostensible defense of the “minority rights” of the Kosovo Albanians.

It could be thought that Hillary Clinton’s taking up the cause of “minority rights”, though very European, is without dangers for America and Americans. Lest anyone harbor this illusion, it is worth recalling Henry Kissinger’s remark to the effect that if Yugoslavia could be expected to accept foreign troops on its soil in the name of securing the autonomy of Kosovo and on the grounds of changes in Kosovo province's “ethnic” demographics, then by the same logic the US could also be expected to accept the presence of foreign troops in order to “return the Alamo to Mexico” and on the grounds of the “ethnic” demographics of southern Texas. If Americans are not attentive to the practical meaning of "minority rights", Kissinger’s observation might some day prove prescient.


[1] See the chapter on the Copenhagen Criteria in European Commission: Strategy Paper and Report 2003: "As regards respect for minority rights and the protection of minorities, the Commission devotes particular attention to the implementation of the various principles laid down in the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities." It is commonly supposed, and this formulation would indeed seem to imply, that ratification of the Framework Convention is thus itself a condition for accession. It should be noted, however, that Latvia was admitted to the EU without having ratified.

Monday, January 17, 2005

The Railway

The state-owned German railway service, Deutsche Bahn AG, has ambitious plans to use the liberalization of European rail services to expand throughout the European continent. As reported in a series of articles on (in German here, here, and here), Deutsche Bahn has already made substantial progress in this direction through strategic acquisitions in, for instance, France (Joyau), Switzerland (Handgartner) and Denmark (Scandlines, jointly-owned by Deutsche Bahn and the Danish Ministry of Transportation). As noted by, commenting on Deutsche Bahn’s strategy paper “Railway 2020”, “already today the Deutsche Bahn AG is active in almost all of Germany’s European neighbors, where it operates rail services (Denmark: “Railion Denmark”; Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg: “Railion Benelux”) or other transportation services.” Deutsche Bahn’s strategy mirrors that of other former German state monopolies, such as Deutsche Telekom and Deutsche Post, which, while remaining largely state-owned and still enjoying quasi- or even outright monopolistic positions in their home markets, have sought aggressively to exploit their domestic advantages to expand into foreign markets.

Deutsche Bahn is not shy about its ambitions. Thus whereas its logo consists of the company’s initials “DB”, on its home page and in advertisements these initials are interpreted as standing not for "Deutsche Bahn" but simply “die Bahn”: not for the "German Railway" - but simply "The Railway". Search, for example, for international rail connections on the website of the Slovenian Office of Tourism (click on “information about timetables”) and you will be transferred to the website of “die Bahn”. The company’s megalomania in appropriating the definite article “die” is perhaps only matched by the megalomania of Deutsche Telekom, which, while similarly and with similar implications dropping the adjective "deutsche", has appropriated the letter “T” for “Telekom”: as in “T-Mobile” or “T-Online”. Deutsche Telekom has gone so far as to take legal action in order to defend the letter "T" [link in German] as its exclusive trademark.

Frankness about its history and, more specifically, the role played by its legal predecessor, the German Reichsbahn, in the deportation of European Jews, is apparently not consistent with “the” railway’s European strategy. See “Eleven Thousand Children” on (and here for the German original).

Thursday, January 13, 2005

This Just In

From today's Le Monde [dated 14.1.2005; link in French]:

France has announced that its military aid operation in Indonesia will be ready Friday when two ships arrive, including the Jeanne-d'Arc....

If they stay, they will be there in time for the next Tsunami.

On a more serious note, the same article from Le Monde notes that in Aceh province:

The some 4 million Achehnese are pious and proud Muslims who want to govern their own affairs.

Under a 2002 agreement between the Indonesian government and the rebel forces of the Free Aceh Movement, Aceh enjoys a special autonomous status. Unlike the article from Le Monde, an article from yesterday's Le Figaro [link in French], citing the local imam Salman al-Farisi, gives some idea what this autonomy means in practice:

"The Achenese have betrayed Allah. They strayed from the recommendations of the Koran," the imam Salman al-Farisi explains. In the context of the special autonomy status accorded in 2002, the Sharia has been promulgated in the province, unlike in the rest of Indonesia. "Only the good Muslims have survived." At the entry to his camp near the military airport, he has put up a sign: "Islamic Law Applied".

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Find the Racist - or the Color of our Character

Speaking of racism and since Trans-Int’s European readers are likely to have missed at least one of the quotations reproduced below, here are a series of quotes, one of which reflects some of the basic assumptions that, in “Basque Nationalists Want to Know”, I have claimed are characteristic of racism as an ideology: including the, if you like, “soft” racism or “racialism” that makes no explicit claims about the superiority or inferiority of supposed “races”. (As suggested by George W. Bush’s famous criticism of the “soft bigotry of low expectations”, however, “soft” racism or “racialism” can often implicitly contain “hard” racist assumptions about the capacities of different “races”.) I will be back on Friday with some reflections on how this racist ideology – which in the form of ethnic nationalism, and frequently under the cover of the protection of “minority rights”, is making a significant comeback in Europe – might also infiltrate American politics. If you are able to find the racist, you will have a clue as to where I think the threat lies.

So, in the meanwhile: find the racist!


I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal....
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

- Martin Luther King, Jr., the “I Have a Dream” speech,
Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C., 1963


J'aimerais qu'on oublie leur couleur pour qu'ils espèrent
Beaucoup de sentiments de race qui font qu'ils désespèrent
Je veux les portes grandements ouvertes
Des amis pour parler de leur peine, de leur joie
Pour qu'ils leur filent des infos qui ne divisent pas

[I’d like us to lose our color, so that we can hope
Feelings of race that make one lose hope
I want the doors to be wide open
Friends to speak of their pain, of their joy
Let them spread news that does not divide]

And when a child is born into this world
It has no concept
Of the tone the skin is living in.

- Youssou N'Dour, “7 Seconds”


Yes, we want to be judged by the content of our character and not the color of our skin. But what makes up character? If we don’t take race as part of our character, then we are kidding ourselves.

- Hillary Clinton, the “Then We Are Kidding Ourselves” speech,
Trinity Baptist Church, the Bronx, 2003
(source: The New York Sun, 21 January 2003)

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Blogging Schedule

For the time being, expect a rate of about 3 posts per week here on Trans-Int: that is to say, three more or less substantial posts. If so inspired, I might drop in some briefer materials in between. But for the lengthier posts, we should be talking one every other day with weekends off.

All that to say: I'll be back tomorrow....

Monday, January 10, 2005

Basque Nationalists Want to Know: Israel and Ethnic Nationalism

In “Ethnic Nationalism and the Basque Challenge”, I suggested that the Basque version of ethnic-nationalism, like every version of ethnic-nationalism, is a form of racism or, in other words, as I put it in a subsequent post, necessarily involves racist premises. This remark inspired a series of seemingly agitated comments from one “Blex” and the repeated demand by him, seconded by an apparent sympathizer of his, that I should answer the following question: if all versions of ethnic-nationalism are forms of racism, then how does this “play when it comes to Zionism or the state of Israel?” Blex added that he was asking me the question “since you seem to be so knowledgable of Israel and the Jewish community.” As I noted in an initial response in the comments section, I am not particularly knowledgeable either of Israel or of the “Jewish community”. Indeed, while I do know that Israel is a state and I also know a bit about its history – on which more later – I am so ignorant of the “Jewish community” that I don’t even know what it is. As I likewise noted, given that nothing in my writings, either on Trans-Int or elsewhere, would suggest the expertise that is here attributed to me, I find this attribution rather curious and can only speculate that it is somehow supposed to follow from my last name. Such an attribution is thus seemingly symptomatic of precisely the sort of racist assumptions that I have claimed underlie ethnic nationalism as an ideology.

Blex would no doubt (I suspect will no doubt) say that this is not the case, since, according to him, “racism” is only “if you think that your ethnic group is better than someone else's”. I, however, do not think I “have” an “ethnic group”. I would submit, moreover, that the ascription of individuals to “ethnic groups” or “communities” is necessarily founded on a myth of “common origins” of the individuals in question – that is to say, their biological descent from common ancestors – and, furthermore (since the use of the term “group” in this context suggests something more than just a numerical set) implies their sharing certain cultural attributes or "values" and experiencing or “feeling” a certain communal solidarity as a result of these “common origins”. The individuals with “common origins” constitute, in short – and whether they like it or not – a “community”. It is this package of assumptions – the linkage of assumed common ancestry, culture and communal solidarity – that I am calling “racism”. If one prefers to reserve the term “racism” just for this set of assumptions plus the assertion of the superiority or inferiority of some “races” or “ethnic groups” vis-à-vis others, then I suppose one could call the basic set of assumptions “racialism” rather than “racism”. But this strikes me as unnecessarily complicated. One should keep in mind, moreover, that, for example, Adolf Eichmann - who persistently maintained that he had nothing against Jews per se but merely thought that inasmuch as a non-Germanic “people” they did not belong in Germany - might not count as a racist according to these criteria.

The very opening sentence of Juan José Ibarretxe’s “Proposal for Coexistence in the Basque Country” provides a classic expression of the sort of racism I have in mind inasmuch as it speaks of a “Basque People or Euskal Herria” that has “its own identity within the community of European peoples, repository of a singular historical, social and cultural heritage”. It is the making of the “people” a “repository” of a “historical, social and cultural” content – and thus, in effect, the subordination of the individual liberty of the persons supposedly comprising said “people” to their collective “identity” – that is so symptomatic here of the racist or “racialist” aspect of ethnic-nationalist thought.

Now to turn to Blex’s question: It may well be that classical Zionist texts express similar assumptions. Contrary to Blex’s expectations, I have no particular expertise in the matter. I would welcome comments from persons who are better informed than I am. However, it is impossible to ignore – or at least ought to be impossible to ignore – the defensive aspect of the historical Zionist movement, i.e. its character as a reaction to European anti-Semitism and the perceived rejection by the larger European societies of which Jews formed a part of Jewish assimilation. Thus, as regards Zionist claims that Jews constitute a distinct “people” or “nation” (i.e. in the “ethnic” or, as I put it, “pre-political” sense), the German scholar of anti-Semitism Thomas Haury cites Theodor Herzl to the effect that: “We are a nation [Volk] – our enemies make us one whether we want it or not.” [1] This could not be much clearer. Even given the incentive provided by ordinary European anti-Semitism, moreover, the historical Zionist movement was a failure. Haury cites a figure of 3-4% support among western European Jews for the Zionist movement. In the 1920s, annual Jewish immigration to Palestine numbered in the low thousands. As Matthias Küntzel has noted in his excellent book Djihad und Judenhass, it was the rise to power of the National Socialists in Germany that provided the first major impulse to Jewish immigration. After WWII, of course, hundreds of thousands of survivors of Nazi Germany’s exterminationist Jewish policy from all across Europe - many of them temporarily “parked” by the occupation authorities in refugee camps in Germany itself - left Europe for Palestine.

This brief historical background suggests the answer to the second part of Blex’s question: namely, how does my observation about ethnic nationalism and racism “play” as concerns Israel? The creation of Israel as a Jewish state was not a result of ethnic nationalism as an ideology. The creation of Israel as a Jewish state was a result of the Nazi persecution of European Jews and its culmination in the Holocaust. To ignore this, frankly, smacks of negationism.

[1] See Samuel Salzborn, ed., Antisemitismus: Geschichte und Gegenwart (Giessen: Netzwerk für politische Bildung, Kultur und Kommunikation, 2004), pp. 129-130.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Seeing UNA-UNSO (with Update)

Now that Viktor Yushchenko's ascension to the Ukrainian presidency has been assured, one prominent American news organization, the Associated Press, has finally recognized the presence in his "Orange" coalition of the UNA-UNSO or Ukrainian National Assembly-Ukrainian National Self-Defense. According to this January 1st AP article, it was paramilitaries of the UNA-UNSO - distinguished by their "dark green uniforms and Iron Cross-like insignia", but apparently supposed to have been hitherto somehow invisible amidst the sea of orange-clad youth - that "provided much of the muscle behind the weeks of protests in support of opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko." Here on Trans-Int, of course, I have been writing about the UNA-UNSO for over a month now. And another source, which I dare not mention by name, because unlike the AP it is supposed to be biased and unreliable, called attention to the UNA-UNSO role in the "Orange" coalition even earlier.

The AP article identifies the UNA-UNSO as a "far-right nationalist group", an expression that in AP nomenclature is presumably meant to be laden with rather negative connotations. Lest, however, it be thought that the AP was belatedly here achieving some degrees of separation from the "Orange" in the interest of objectivity, the article ends with a series of paragraphs clearly meant to suggest that the UNA-UNSO is not so bad after all.

Thus, citing UNA-UNSO paramilitary leader Ihor Mazur, the AP piece notes that "Mazur rejects widespread claims that the organization is anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi." Most reassuringly of all, the AP reporter has managed to find a Jew, of all people, to agree... I mean: who agrees!:

Leonid Finberg, the head of the Kiev-based Jewish Yudaica Institute, agreed. "Five or six years ago there were people with such sentiments, but that was not part of that organization's policy," he said.

I am not an expert in the matter. But I believe this "Jewish Yudaica Institute" would in plain English be the "Jewish Judaica Institute" - which strikes me as a bit of a pleonasm. We get the point, AP! Leonid's a yid. So, what me worry?

Finally, in order to seal the deal, the AP trots out the myth, with which Trans-Int readers will already be familiar, of the "bad", i.e. neo-Nazi, UNA-UNSO that, strangely enough, shares the same name as the "good" UNA-UNSO forming part of the "Orange" coalition and is thus supposed to be responsible for having sullied the reputation of the latter:

Much of UNA-UNSO's bad reputation comes from another group with the same name that paraded through downtown Kiev with Nazi flags. In a move to distance himself, Yushchenko urged that group's leader, Eduard Kovalenko, to offer his support to Yanukovych instead.

Mazur insisted that his group has no relation with Kovalenko's faction. "We want a democratic Ukraine in a unified Europe," Mazur said. "We are here because we are Ukrainians, not because of our nationality or religion."

As I have shown in "Viktor Yushchenko, Iraq and 'Fascist Thugs'", wherever the theatrically neo-Nazi UNA-UNSO of Eduard Kovalenko may have emerged from, scrutiny of materials published on the website of the UNA-UNSO of Andriy Shkil, i.e. Yushchenko's coalition partner, shows that it is perfectly capable of having secured its "bad reputation" on its own. Among other things, as we have seen, the website includes an article citing Shkil's praise for Joseph Arthur de Gobineau (whose Essay on the Inequality of Human Races had a major impact on the development of Nazi racial ideology), Nazi "racial theorist" Walter Darré, and even, though unnamed, the author of Mein Kampf - that would be, in other words, Adolf Hitler. Even without the "Nazi flags", I would think that such opinions should normally qualify an organization and its leader for being suspected of neo-Nazi tendencies. And, to paraphrase a German friend of mine, who prefers that things be called by their names, perhaps one ought to drop the "neo".

What is perhaps most amazing about the AP article is that in its earliest versions as picked up by various papers and websites on 1 January, it was followed by a link to the UNA-UNSO website containing the material just cited! The webpage at the Las Vegas Sun to which I link above, for instance, still contains this link to the UNA-UNSO site. Elsewhere, as on this page on the ABC news site, the words "Organization Web site" still appear, but they are followed by a blank.

UPDATE: Here, btw, is the missing link from the AP piece: And here is the link to the collection of English language materials on the UNA-UNSO site: I strongly advise anyone having doubts about the ideological tendencies of UNA-UNSO to have a look. The English language collection includes both articles about UNA-UNSO from English-language sources and programmatic statements from the organization itself. Keep in mind as concerns the articles by third parties - which, incidentally, repeatedly identify UNA-UNSO as a racist organization - that it is the UNA-UNSO itself that has chosen to make this material available and hence presumably regards it as good publicity. Among the programmatic statements, you'll find, for instance, a statement headed "Aims of the International Conference: New Order in Ukraine. New Order in Europe" that contains the following passage:

In Order to resist cosmopolitan anti–national forces we must unite our efforts we should realize that antinational regimes in our countries are only puppets of the World capital. Good [sic.] created different races, and nations with their own mentalities and cultures. Dictator Ship [sic.] of liberalism, leading to pacifism, homosexuals, Negro music, abortion etc, is crimes against Nature and God. On the eve of new millennium, struggle between. Good and Bad is getting more sharp. There fore we – nationalist must join out forces and gain victory in order to confirm new order in Europe and the World.

While the "New Order" statement clearly recycles many of the classic motifs of National Socialism (including, btw, the opposition to "World Capital" - National Socialism was not called "National Socialism" for nothing), another statement titled "Doctrine of Destabilization" adopts a still more delirious tone in advocating the use of violence to political ends:

Party is army. Party itself must struggle. Without practice of military struggle the program points are gossips. When I hear word, my hand looks for gun. For us violence is alone way of communication with people. Bombs against machinery of oppression we throw into the mass consciousness. Their challenge is murder, our response is murder. They murder, we repay with murder. In murder their argument, in murder our refutation....

Shatter doggy heads! [sic.] There are no innocent! When a plant has bad ventilation, one should burn apartment of manager. Act of revolutionary justice is the most humanistic act in society, divided into classes. Being a terrorist nowadays dignifies each human being of good will.

"Doctrine of Destabilization" ends with the following series of exhortations:

Yankee, go home!
We want everything and at once!
Ways of the Revolution lead eastwards!

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Ethnic Nationalism and the Right of Self-Determination: Some (Self-)Citations

Below, in “Ethnic Nationalism and the Basque Challenge”, I suggested that “the Basque version of ethnic-nationalism – like every version of ethnic-nationalism – is a form of racism”. This remark, somehow stripped of the clause between dashes that makes it clear that I am precisely not claiming that Basque nationalism is unusual in this regard, is apparently the source of some chagrin among certain Basque bloggers. Trans-Int, which is essentially devoted to the empirical details of contemporary European politics, is probably not the place to try to demonstrate the general proposition involved here: i.e., to formulate the point a bit differently, that ethnic nationalism invariably involves racist premises. I have, however, tried to demonstrate this proposition in other settings, as well as to identify the sources of the present revival of the ethnic nationalist ideology in Europe and to cast some light on the tenuous and ambiguous connection of ethnic nationalism to the principle and/or “right” of self-determination as contained in UN law. Whereas I have published what I consider to be (relatively) compact and systematic presentations of my analysis of these matters in German and French, unfortunately I have yet to publish a similar text in English. I am working on correcting that. There are, however, a couple of English texts available in which I touch on the same set of issues. Anyway, for those who might be interested and have any of the relevant languages, here are the references:

In German:

“Zwei Begriffe der Selbstbestimmung”, in Klaus-Gerd Giesen, ed., Ideologien in der Weltpolitik (Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, 2004);

In French:

« Sur un nouvel ethno-nationalisme », in Les temps modernes, no. 623 (février-mars-avril 2003).

And here are the links for two essays available on-line in English in which I touch upon the question of ethnic nationalism:
“Anti-Semitism and Ethnicity in Europe” (Policy Review, October-November 2003)

“Kosovo and the ‘Jewish Question’” (Monthly Review, February 2000).

In the Kosovo essay, see, in particular, the section titled “The Trouble with Minority Rights”; and in the “Anti-Semitism and Ethnicity” essay, that titled “A 'Law of Ethnic Groups'”.
I'll be back to writing about other matters besides myself tomorrow probably.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Ethnic Nationalism and the Basque Challenge

I’ve touched upon the issue of ethnic nationalism at various points on Trans-Int and written at greater length on the matter in other publications (I’ll provide some references in a subsequent post). The very expression “ethnic nationalism” is not common in contemporary English language discussions, wherein the term “nationalism” is typically associated simply with the defense of the sovereign prerogatives of the state. In this latter sense – which does not in fact have a particularly long tradition, but has lately gained popularity in academic and journalistic settings by reason of political expediency – “nationalism” is, of course, massively rejected by convinced “EU-ropeans” or "Europeists", as well as by the euro-wannabees in America who have their natural habitat in universities and Democratic think-tanks. As I’ve tried to show in some of the writings to which I’ve alluded above, however, at the same time the process of European integration favors the development of what could be called “micro-nationalist” movements of an ethnic sort – or, more simply put, of ethnic nationalism.

As the expression implies, ethnic nationalism is premised upon the existence of ethnic groups: whether these are supposed to be demarcated by language, culture or “blood” (or, in other words, presumed common ancestry). Closer inspection of ethnic nationalist discourse shows that the assumption of some supposed “blood” tie is essential to the coherence of ethnic national ideology – even if contemporary ethnic-nationalist ideologues in Europe tend to be careful to deny such an assumption...even while making it. The central tenet of ethnic nationalism as a political ideology is that each ethnic group ought to have if not its “own” state – though this is the preferred solution for ethnic “nations” enjoying sufficient mass and a sufficiently “compact” territorial concentration – then at least distinct political representation in “autonomous” institutions of some sort. The right of “peoples” or “nations” to so-called “self-determination”, as recognized in various key UN resolutions, is nowadays often interpreted in this sense. Thus the assumption of ethnic-nationhood is also in the process of being smuggled into international law, where in fact it previously had no place.

If it was not already the case, with the Basque Parliament’s approval of Juan José Ibarretxe’s plan for a “free association” of the Basque country with Spain, the Basque country has now become the front-line of what promises to be a long conflict in Europe between ethnic nationalism and the liberal democratic conception of the state. The formula “free association” is, incidentally, taken from the UN-sponsored process of decolonization (and, more specifically, General Assembly Resolution 1541). It implies, in effect, that the Basque country is already substantively separate from Spain and hence that it is up to its inhabitants or perhaps indeed just its presumptively “indigenous” inhabitants – “the Basques” in the presumed ethnic sense – to determine their relation with the latter: i.e. to determine their relation to a state of which they are already citizens and whose current Prime Minister would not have been elected without their massive support.

Thankfully, the Barcepundit is there to cover the Basque challenge to the Spanish state and with a sensitivity to and knowledge of the fundamental political stakes involved that the mainstream English-language media decidedly lacks. See his recent post on “Zapatero’s First Big, I mean Really Big Test” and his follow-up posts here and here. (For the morbidly curious, see also here and follow the relevant links for the Barcepundit's attempt at dialogue with the blogger "Blex", who has also in the meanwhile left some comments on this post.) And for anyone who might doubt that the Basque version of ethnic-nationalism – like every version of ethnic-nationalism – is a form of racism, see too the post by John Chappell on Europundits to which Barcepundit links regarding the “Philosophical Basis of Basque Nationalism”.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

The Silski Visti Affair Revisited (with a complete translation of the Yushchenko-Timoshenko-Moroz statement "Hands Off Silski Visti")

I suppose now that the Ukrainian people have apparently voted correctly, the Ukraine story will pass from the headlines in the European and American press. I wonder whether those conservative American commentators who have celebrated the December 26th re-run of the Ukrainian presidential election as an unambiguous triumph of democracy will prove as enthusiastic should, say, militants from MoveOn decide four years from now to blockade government buildings in Washington until such time as a Republican victory is overturned and the Democratic Party candidate installed.

Be that as it may, before turning also here on Trans-Int to more topical matters, I wanted, as promised, to revisit the "Silski Visti affair". As regular readers of Trans-Int will recall (see here and here), Silski Visti is a mass circulation pro-"Orange" Ukrainian newspaper that was ordered closed last January by a Ukrainian court on charges of incitement after publishing what can safely and uncontroversially be described as blatantly anti-Semitic material. (The court order, incidentally, was never enforced.) For anyone who doubts this characterization, consider the following extracts from Silski Visti as reproduced in an April 2004 article on the Ukraine Now website:

...Jews today strive to rule over Ukrainian people and enrich themselves at their expense. One of the ways of achieving this is demoralization, deprivation of cultural wealth and denationalization, and another is capturing political power. Both the first and the second ways are functioning perfectly today... the phantom of Zionism in Ukraine has turned into abnormal reality....

...Today the Jewish community in Ukraine is not experiencing the rebirth of a national minority but is in the process of legalizing its dealings as an apolitical and economic structure, which is well planned, organized and financed. This so-called minority exhibits extreme aggression. It poses an elevated threat to the national security of Ukraine. As a foreign political body that practically oversees international trade, national finances, mass media and publishing, it must be placed under strict government and sate [sic.] control, and must be regimented and regulated.

...In the 1930s, all Ukrainian gold that had been passed down from generation to generation ended up in Jewish wallets after the famine organized by Jews and Ukrainians had to reach deeply into their pockets. However, Jews were not able to enjoy those stolen goods as German fascism changed the course of events. Today the gold of Ukrainian Jews, these gold diggers of the Ukrainian Klondike, is in banks in Switzerland.

Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Timoshenko came to the defense of Silski Visti, joining their Ukrainian Socialist Party ally Oleksandr Moroz in publishing a statement titled “Hands Off Silski Visti" - or, more exactly, as I have learned now, "Keep Dirty Hands Off Silski Visti". At the same time, in an article published on the official website of the "Our Ukraine" (i.e. "Orange") coalition (and reproduced here), Viktor Yushchenko was quoted as saying in response to the court decision: "The government will get more and more upset with truthful information in mass media the closer we get to elections and it will not be surprising to see increased pressure at other oppositional publications." He would later claim that in defending Silski Visti, he had merely wanted to defend freedom of the media.

In one of my earlier posts on the Silski Visti affair, I wrote the following:

Yushchenko's initial reaction to the January court decision - "The government will get more and more upset with truthful information in mass media..." - suggests something other than just a content-neutral defense of principle. Perhaps a complete English translation of the "Hands off" statement would help to clarify this matter.

Thanks to the good offices of Prof. Dominique Arel of the University of Ottawa and the Ukraine List newsletter, I now have such a translation at my disposal. With the kind permission of Prof. Arel and the Ukraine List, I am reproducing it here. Readers may decide for themselves if they consider the "Hands Off" statement an appropriate response to the Ukrainian court order.

Get Dirty Hands Off Silski Visti
Ukraina Moloda (Kyiv), 30 January 2004
[translated by Ilya Khineiko for UKL]

On January 28, 2004, the Shevchenkivsky district court in Kyiv issued verdict to close down the newspaper Silski Visti allegedly for stirring up inter-ethnic hostility. The Ukrainian court made such an unprecedented and audacious decision – to forbid publishing the most popular Ukrainian newspaper with 84 years of history behind it – without good reasoning, examination of the source base, without taking into account the polemical nature of the article. The article that was used as a pretext to close down the popular media outlet may be the subject of academic or societal discussions. Yet, a court order cannot solve the problems in Ukrainian society that have mounted after the years of Kuchma’s rule. The extermination of the highest circulation political newspaper in Ukraine, which was done in such haste through a lower court, serves as evidence to the political nature of the case.

There is a criminal regime behind this verdict, the political forces that brought Kuchma to power and because of which Kuchmism emerged as a shameful phenomenon of our life. For twelve years Ukraine had witnessed the relentless, fearless fight put up by the Silski Visti staff against the regime. A good testimony to the high respect in which the newspaper is hold by society is the fact that two of its representatives have been elected to the Verkhovna Rada, and that the periodical has the highest circulation in the country. According to the well documented sources, Leonid Kuchma was directly involved in the persecution of the newspaper in 2000. To this day he has not given up on the attempts to get over with the independent publication. As before, Bankova Street [Kuchma’s official residence – I.Kh.] is acting through a proxy, using the ourt as a political instrument.

The Ukrainian opposition will not let the regime destroy Silski Visti. We, the representatives of the democratic opposition, will mobilize the world community. We will rally up the entire Ukrainian society to come to the defense of the most popular people’s newspaper. By defending Silski Visti we are defending democracy and freedom of speech in Ukraine, the people’s right to have a better life and to express their will freely. Society must realize what kind of a future the current regime is preparing for Ukraine.

In the name of all opposition forces that preach democratic ideals and see the future Ukraine as a free country governed by the rule of law we state the following: “Get dirty hands off Silski Visti. We are urging President Kuchma not to bring disgrace upon Ukraine and himself in front of the world yet another time by prosecuting the people’s newspaper. We are appealing to the judicial authorities “Do not disgrace yourselves issuing political decisions. Your mission is to protect citizens and not to serve the regime of crooks and criminal clans.

We are together with you all, the journalists and readers of the Silski Visti! When we are together we cannot be defeated!

Oleksandr Moroz

Viktor Yushchenko

Yulia Tymoshenko

[Note: Readers interested in subscribing to the Ukraine List newsletter on Ukrainian affairs may contact Dominique Arel at]