For several months now, certain quarters of the internet have played host to a steady stream of ‘revelations’ by a certain Marko Attila Hoare. This is a man who has held himself out as knowing the inner workings of an organisation he claims to have been closely associated with. That is the Henry Jackson Society (HJS), of which I am Executive Director.
Marko Attila Hoare bases his ‘exposes’ on having been a “senior member” of HJS. He was never any such thing. Hoare was one of a number of people who many years ago set up an HJS committee as a largely student society in Cambridge. His holding himself out as having been at the heart of HJS is therefore rather like someone who was on the committee of the Cambridge University Conservative Association or Labour Club at one time claiming in later life to have been a ‘senior member’ of the Conservative or Labour Party.
He subsequently claims that he was somehow ‘senior’ because he was at one stage a “Section Director” of a section of our website. This is a fancy way of saying he was once a freelancer – which is what all such posts at HJS were in the days before HJS was a professional and fully-staffed think-tank. Before then, Hoare was paid, in common with a number of other freelancers, £50 per month. For this he was expected to produce one original piece on the website and one piece he had the permission of a different author to republish. Both pieces were on Hoare’s area of expertise, the Balkans, which although a subject close to my own heart, has not been one at the centrepiece of global affairs in the past decade. Interestingly, and unlike several other more senior members – myself included – who provided contributions to HJS free of charge in the early days, Hoare never failed to collect his small fee for services rendered.
We were of course grateful for Mr Hoare’s contributions on the subject of the Balkans, but there came a point in 2011 when having established ourselves as a much larger organisation, we needed to professionalise our structure. One requirement was to abandon the freelancer system, and replace it with full-time, properly paid members of staff. Hoare resigned after being told that his work – which had already strayed from his area of expertise – would no longer be published on the site without prior approval of a staff member, in common with all other freelancers HJS utilises.
His frustration at this was obviously considerable. Perhaps more so seeing that after ceasing to write for the HJS site, his sole outlet has appeared to be his personal website. The only exceptions are pieces he publishes elsewhere which attack HJS based on his alleged insider knowledge. Hoare possesses no such knowledge. He has not assisted the organisation’s development or had any say in the organisation for many years, nor did he venture an opinion indicating he had anything to offer in this regard. In the five years we have had physical offices, I cannot recall him visiting more than twice. He has never even met any members of the current HJS staff. We find it sad that a person should develop such an unhealthy fixation, but think it necessary to correct the misleading way in which he presents himself.
As for the fundamentals of Hoare’s claims, and his insinuations that our organisation verges on racism, in short order:
1. Is HJS a hard-right organisation? – No. Our members, supporters, board and affiliates come from a variety of different political backgrounds and many have no political labels at all. We will never endorse a political party and are avowedly cross-partisan in our approach. It is interesting that our critics fail ever to mention the significant body of human rights, democracy development, foreign aid and reform of capitalism work that we engage in. Are Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Nate Silver, Andrei Sannikov, Salman Khan and Evgeny Morozov hard-right wingers? Because they have all spoken at HJS in the past two months alone. Nor are we anti-immigration. We welcome productive migrants to these shores, as well as those facing persecution, but have serious reservations about the criteria for managing the immigration process and the way this has been carried out over the past decade, and the failure of the British state to properly integrate new arrivals regardless of race, colour or religion. We are also avowedly anti-racist and will shun and expose all those who seek to stir race hatred, whether on the political Right or Left.
2. Is HJS an Islamophobic organisation? – Absolutely not. Muslims have worked and will continue to work for HJS, and to speak at HJS events. We only oppose manifestations of Radical Islam that threaten Muslims and non-Muslims alike, just as we do similar totalitarian-style movements. We have no issue with mainstream variants of Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, Sikhism, Buddhism or indeed of other religions, and support the right of followers of religion to practise their religion as an essential and fundamental human right. Nor is HJS opposed to Islam in Europe – both Professor Brendan Simms and myself have well-established track records of support for the Bosnian Muslim population for example.
3. Is HJS a pro-Israel organisation? Yes, HJS is certainly pro-Israel, just as it is pro-UK, pro-USA, pro-Canada, pro-India, pro-Australia, pro-Japan, pro-Taiwan, pro-Brazil, pro-Chile, pro-Uruguay, pro-Ghana, pro-South Africa, pro-Mongolia, pro-South Korea. We think you get the picture. We support those full democracies in the world which respect civil rights, free press, the rule of law and minority rights. That doesn’t mean we can’t criticise specific policies, but it does mean that these countries should have the benefit of the doubt when confronted with undemocratic and authoritarian opposition.
4. Is HJS a rabidly anti-European organisation? No it is not. HJS was founded explicitly as a pro-European organisation and it remains so today. However, we should not confuse being pro-European with being pro-European Union in its current form. The dismal state of the EU, with its massive democratic deficit, confused system of control and inefficient functioning needs serious reform and overhauling. We therefore see no conflict in supporting seemingly divergent ideas such as Professor Brendan Simms’ Project for a Democratic Union, which seeks to unify the Eurozone but in a citizen-mandated style rather than from above, and a looser relationship than current for countries such as the UK. The key to both is the test of democratic legitimacy that each approach will have to pass to endure.
5. Is HJS a war-mongering “neocon” organisation? – Again, no. HJS does not support the use of force in international affairs except in very specific circumstances: when any and every alternative short of this has been used to try and resolve the most critical issues of our time from a security perspective, or if acts of genocide can be averted by military intervention. We are thus rigidly orthodox in our attitude to force 99.9% of the time. What separates us from many others is a belief that for a diplomatic tool kit to be effective, all tools need to be present within it, whether soft power related or hard power related. And very occasionally, we cannot be afraid to use all those tools if the circumstances demand, even military ones.
We trust that this sets the record straight. But there is one unanswered question. Why do our enemies like calling us a hard-right, “Zio-con”, Islamophobic organisation when it isn’t true? The answer is simpler than you might think. When critics have no serious, structured and thought out answer to the many policy prescriptions and ideas that we put forward, they are left with only one recourse: that of the coward. Trying to smear us through labels that mean nothing enables them to distract attention from their own weakness of thought without having to engage us in the battle of ideas. In doing so, all they are proving further evidence of is their own irrelevance.