Government ministers have condemned the video that shows British troops beating Iraqi teenagers – talking about “a few rotten apples”.
But last week, before the video came to light, defence secretary John Reid, said Britain was dealing with, “an enemy unconstrained by any legality, any morality... Where we are facing that kind of enemy, let us be very slow to condemn our troops, our forces, and very quick to support them and understand them.”
When ministers live in a world where the occupiers hold the moral high ground against an “immoral” resistance, then they give a green light to the kinds of abuse that are only just beginning to come to public knowledge.
The problem with one rotten apple is that it ruins the whole barrel.
Standing firmly united
It shouldn't be a difficult question for the left. A right wing paper in a country with the worst anti-immigrant laws in Europe prints propaganda equating Muslims with terrorists.
The same paper refused to print cartoons it deemed offensive to the Christian majority in the country. It is the duty of socialists to stand up for and alongside the oppressed – and not alongside a millionaire-owned paper and its racist images.
The phenomenal response to last week’s Socialist Worker, which took precisely that stand, shows that large numbers of people in Britain instinctively understand that.
Many more sense the racism behind cynical talk of “freedom of speech” and, after discussion, come down firmly against the scapegoating.
But some who claim to be on the left have disgraced themselves. Much of the organised left were absent from the rally in Trafalgar Square against Islamophobia last Saturday. Some left publications have been silent on the issue.
Far too many are behaving as if European media moguls are the natural allies of working people, rather than Muslim immigrants who work in the lowest paid sectors across Europe.
Some say that Muslims cannot experience racism because Islam is a faith and not a “race”. Is anti-Semitism – racism against Jewish people – also a theological dispute?
Islamophobia is a pillar of George Bush’s “war on terror”. In its wake comes further racism. This is the dividing line - either with those who are demonised or with racism. Those who cross that line can end up in noxious company.
A tiny group called the Alliance for Workers Liberty has published the racist cartoons. The only other political organisation in Britain to do so is the Nazi British National Party. The left in Britain faces a choice - becoming a radical, multi-racial, mass force or degenerating into a clapped out prop for the status quo. Socialist Worker will continue to fight for a vibrant new left.
Bill to silence dissent
What would happen if you decided to hold a celebration of Hamas’s election victory in Palestine? Hamas is listed by both the US state department and the European Union as a proscribed “terrorist” organisation.
As Socialist Worker went to press MPs were due to vote on a bill that if passed will make it an offence to “glorify” or “justify” terrorism. The bill is meant to silence those who oppose the government’s war drive and its attacks on civil liberties. Whether it is passed or not we must stand united and refuse to be silenced.