Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Solidarity with Iranian labour

I have been posting about the situation of Iranian trade unionists Mansour Osanloo and Majid Hamidi, which raises broader issues about the importance of solidarity from the West for the labour movement in Iran. The labour movement in Iran is important in its own right: as the expression of the working class of Iran. And it is important as a central plank of Iran's repressed civil society and future democracy. The union that Osanloo represents has 17,000 members: that represents a formidable force for change in Iran.

Lance, at Second Hand Conjecture, takes up the issue.

Shiraz Socialist reported on Monday that Osanloo is back in jail, and yesterday that he has been sentenced to five years in jail.

MORE HERE: Closet Republican, Second Hand Conjecture

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

"Folk music", folk music, trad jazz, and the trad left

Further to the "folk music" issue from last week (here - read the comments too), Jogo sends a link to this nice article at MRZine by Sophie Guthrie. Extract:
Woody (who didn't listen much to his own records) played the song totally differently, adding new chords, changing beats, and even improvising a few new verses. Unlike highly disciplined and organized dancers, folksingers are known to veer. Woody would simply state, "If you're the same, the weather's different, and if the weather is the same, and even you're the same, you breathe different, and if you breathe the same, you rest or pause different." Later he would explain, "if I want to take a breath between verses, I play a few extra chords. And if I forget the lines and want to remember them, I play a few extra chords. And if I want to get up and leave town, I get up and leave town."
I was working on a second installment of my "Lexicon for our times", which would have had an entry for "Trad Left", but I'm going to bring it forward as it relates directly to this quote from Woody.

The phrase "Trad Left" comes to me from the 60s/70s libertarian communist group Solidarity, for example in this article "Third Worldism or Socialism" (the funkily hirsute guy in the photo is Sri Lankan "anti-imperialist" Rohana Wijeweera, not a Solidarity member!). For me, the phrase works by analogy with "Trad jazz", meaning traditional (as opposed to modern) jazz: the British movement of the 50s+.

Pre-modern jazz was full of innovation and change and creativity and genius (see, for example, Willie The Lion Smith, Sidney Bechet, Wild Bill Davison). But when modern jazz came along, playing the old style became formulaic and repetitive. Fun for a Sunday drinking real ale in a pub, but you wouldn't want to buy the records.

That's kind of what folk music became once it was codified and frozen and ripped out of its folk context, i.e. when it started getting called "folk music", and started having folk music fans ("folkies").

Now, there's nothing really wrong with music being formulaic and repetitive. Capitalism likes innovation, but that doesn't mean innovation in art is necessarily good. Playing far-out jazz like Gilad Atzmon or Don Byron is not intrinsically better than reworking old New Orleans style riffs or Appalachian songs.

But in political analysis you need to constantly change - because the world constantly changes. To use the word "imperialism" as if it is still 1916, for example, doesn't work in today's world.

So, getting back to Trad Left. Like pre-modern jazz, the Old Left was full of innovation and change and creativity and genius - Paul Mattick, Henryk Grossman, Karl Korsch, Anton Pannekoek, Rosa Luxembourg, Alexandra Kollontai, Sylvia Pankhurst, etc. But to use the analysis these people developed, without taking acount of the way the world has since changed, is not OK. Sometimes you need to play a few extra chords. And sometimes you need to get up and leave town.

***

Jogo also sent me the above image of Woody, saying:

It would be fun to photoshop Woody's guitar so it said "this machine kills Fascists but not Stalinists." Boy, would that piss off the old Commies.

And isn't he setting a bad example for kids? (cigarette in mouth)


Previous Woody Guthrie: Funky Woody Guthrie (This Land Is Your Land); Woody Guthrie's Hanukah songs.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Che Mart: Vive La Merchandise!

Che-Mart - browse away.

P.S. WW4 Report: Aleida Guevara says Che is not Chamran. Hat tip: New C in comments here (follow the comments thread at WW4 as well).

(Ta: Jogo)

From the street: Andrew Sullivan, Kanye West and doo-wop

A guest post from Jogo

I don't know if I would agree with Andrew Sullivan's taste in music. I rather doubt it. In any case, music isn't one of the reasons I seek out Andrew's views.

I appears that he likes the new Kanye "Stronger." But I think it's awful, and I think the video is horrible, also. Really ugly, and a rip-off of its Japanese predecessor.

But I love the "Bigger, Stronger, whatever" sample that runs through the Kanye thing. After I found the wonderful "hands" video -- quite some time ago, can't remember when -- I rooted out Daft Punk and I thought (think) they're terrific.

I'm not trying to be a silly purist by condemning "commodified" music. Some very good music is produced as commodity, and by means of commodifying production technique and even commodifying decision-making. But hip-hop faces a particular challenge in that its roots (which are recent, relatively speaking) in the street are improvisational and low-tech, thus "original" hip-hop was dependent on the virtuosity, boldness and personal style of the griot-performers. And for a long time -- amazingly -- hip-hop has retained the authentic flava of the street .... by "keeping it real" as far as that root is concerned.

But as hip-hop becomes more and more an unabashed corporate enterprise -- on the Kanye West level, where there is MUCH at stake -- the root calls to the leaf at ever lengthening distance. Some guys can pull it off, some can't.

******

Doo-wop also came from the street. Direct from the street.

The consequences of withdrawal from Iraq

But, I am a Liberal! helps us think through the consequences

Respect melt-down continued

This was passed on to me by a friend, from a list he is on. (If you are the author and don't want it here, get in touch!
Well, the SWP are portraying the dispute as a Left versus Right dispute. Apparently Respect doesn't have enough socialism in it and it is communalist in terms of its appeals to the Muslim community.

George Galloway, Salma Yaqoob and Nick Wrack (expelled from the SWP) - say it is about SWP control freakery and their failure to engage in reasonable criticisms of their input into Respect. One of the major complaints would appear to be that Respect is "on and off" for the SWP - off in between elections and on again at election times.

As I see it the SWP liquidated the Socialist Alliance in favour of a coalition with "progressive" forces such as the Muslim Association of Britain and GG. They used their size in the Socialist Alliance to smash it up despite the opposition of nearly everyone else - who saw it as an abandonment of a commitment to building an explicitly socialist organisation.

I don't support the politics of these "progressive" forces, and GG and his allies hardly insisted on proper internal democracy in the first place. However - you could argue these people signed up to Respect in good faith and it ain't their fault that the SWP have decided they don't want to play any more. I suppose those who got the same treatment in the Socialist Alliance can say "told you so".

As for the SWP, what can you say? Yesterday they were condemning critics of Respect's non-socialist and classless appeals to the Muslim community for being Islamophobic - today they accuse Respect of being communalist. Yesterday, when they smashed up the Socialist Alliance, they argued that Respect wasn't an abandonment of socialism, today they say it is.

I really have nothing but contempt for the SWP. I feel sympathy for any non-SWP activists who joined Respect in good faith.
My view is that forming a coalition with the SWP you have to expect to be fucked over by their sectarian/opportunitistic maneouvring at every opportunity, and working with MAB and Galloway you have to expect your activists to involve themselves in corrupt practices and communalist propogandising, so they both got what they paid for.

Blog comment: The Sewage Swamp Spilts (Shiraz), The politics of the Respect split (Dave's Part); "You want Respect? Fucking Have it!" (Harry's Place), The Swiss Toni school of international relations & Left-right in the split(Splintered Sunrise), What would a new party look like? (A Very Public Sociologist), Respect implodes shock (Labour Left Forum), The Democratic Deficit which Stunts the Growth of the Left must be Replaced by a Democratic Culture (Organized Rage) - plus loads from AWL and, of course, especially Socialist Unity.

Meanwhile, the Stop the War Coalition could do with some melting down. TWP gives an excellent account of its degeneration here and HakMao on their silence on the real issues facing Iraq here.

A nanny state versus a totalitarian state


Last week I posted the LabourStart appeal on Majid Hamidi. But I Am A Liberal also posted eloquently on it. And The Poor Mouth has an excellent post, comparing the "nanny state" we live under in the UK with the sorts of states that really do criminalise dissent. Highly recommended.

Related: Terry Glavin on solidarity with Iran.

(I've tagged this post with my Liberal infoolectual and Liberal glitterati categories, not because Roland and Jams are such, but because of Ewan McGregor.)

Natacha Atlas: Jew/Not a Jew


I haven't been keeping up with my "Jew/Not a Jew" series, so in the wake of last week's Natacha Atlas post (and its little comments thread), I'll kick off with her. I have edited her wikipedia page to be a bit clearer about this. The relevant bit now reads:
In a 2003 interview with Muslim Wakeup, she was asked "MWU!: You’ve commented about some of the rumors that are spread about you--that you don’t know Arabic, because of your Jewish heritage, etc.. How does all that make you feel?" She replied: I am a Muslim. With the Jewish thing, it’s one of those things where someone had a grudge against me and wanted to hurt me. My great great grandfather was Jewish, so may be I have 10% or something. But Jews have always been part of Arab society, so it’s not so unusual for someone to find out that they have Jewish blood. At the end of the day, we really are so connected
P.S. Here's some blog comment from Radmila:
I've been a fan of Natacha Altas's music for a long time. However, I've seen her interviewed a couple of times, and she's a bit of an ass. I don't know if it's the language thing, or if she really is an ass for sure. She is a graduate with Honours of The Middle Eastern Sledgehammer School of Etiquette. I thought that perhaps the couple of interviews I saw back in the late ninties were exaggerated memory, but then I read this quote from Natacha on Wiki:

"She has denied claims that her father is a Sephardic Jew; she concedes to being "maybe 10 percent or something." She says the claim her father is Jewish is "one of those things where someone had a grudge against me and wanted to hurt me."

I remember specifically, Natacha riding the "I'm half Jewish and half Arab" train to help her music career. To read the above now, well...eh, you've probably never heard of her...so, it's not like it helped anyway. Here's Yalla Chant by Natacha Atlas.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Friday miscellany

The crying conundrum, Halle Berry's Jewish nose gaffe and Bolivian prostitutes protest (Dollymix)

Turkey blames US Jews for genocide bill (Jerusalem Post)

Holocaust Denial and the French Ultra-Left (Infoshop News)

The Max Rayne school, where Arab and Jewish children study together (Independent)

Assimilation and the Jewish Radical, on Mark Rudd of the SDS (New Voices)


Acknowledgements: Jogo and Arieh

Pete Seeger denounces Stalin


A guest post by Jogo

Amazingly, I did not notice this NYTimes story when it appeared Sept 1. I read about Seeger this evening on worldnetdaily, the rightwingy website, and then I googled and found the Times article. The article links to a short piece by Seeger's former student Ron Radosh.

The story had been linked to and commented upon by many blogs, but this was all news to me until a few minutes ago.

***********

If you did not live through my time and in my environment, and did not experience him many times yourself, you can know only intellectually who Seeger was in the Left community of the 40s and 50s. There is no comparable person today. The outsized Bono is no Pete Seeger. He doesn't make the emotional connection Seeger made.

Joan Baez came close for a while, but she didn't have Seeger's longevity. John Lennon, Bob Marley and Fela Kuti were global Pete Seegers, but they were grandiose characters who didn't operate on the humble man-with-a-banjo level of Seeger.

Victor Jara was probably on Seeger's level, but he was murdered by the fascists he sang against. Seeger was never murdered, and while his fascist enemies gave him a hard time, they have allowed him to sing, travel, speak his mind, make many recordings (to the point of becoming an icon of American folk music generally), own property and live a very long, very happy life.

A great man, Pete Seeger, despite being a Useful Idiot.

Nonie Darwish

I've been intending to blog about Nonie Darwish and the Islamo-Fascist Awareness Week, but haven't had time, so I'll leave it, for the moment, with this, from Jogo:

It takes no courage to heckle a meeting. But it takes very great courage to be Nonie Darwish.

London diary

Love Music Hate Racism
Battle of Lewisham/Black History Month gig at Goldsmiths
Saturday 27 October - Free
Features Don Letts
http://lewisham77.blogspot.com/2007/10/love-music-hate-racism-gig.html

---

Ecomemoria and Movimientos presents... Sembrando
Hip hop – Salsa – Reggeaton – Funky Latin Beats - Food & Bar
7.30pm till late £7 / £5 cons. Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, WC1
CONTACT: 020 7357 0057 / 07956 527 409 Ticket outlet: El Vergel, 8 Lant St, London SE1 1QR

  • El Rickshaw: A short documentary recently made by a group of young Latin cinematographers living in the UK, looks at the life of young Latinos in London.
  • FUNA – in memory of Victor Jara: Made by the FUNA Commission, this documentary features a human rights protest denouncing those involved in Chilean folk singer Victor Jara's assassination.
  • My Mother's promise: Looks at the life of a Chilean exile and how deep the ties are with her motherland when she returns to recover her sister’s hidden remains.
  • Not In Vain - The Death ofPedro Zamora: About the murder of PedroZamora, a trade union leader, in Guatemala in January 2007.
Ecomemoria is an UK-based NGO that works with local communities, human rights and ecological groups worldwide, planting trees for every disappeared and executed victim of the Pinochet regime.
Movimientos is dedicated to the promotion of Latin American culture in the UK and beyond, providing a space for organisations that promote awareness or campaign on issues relating to the continent. movimientosuk@googlemail.com

---

Talking Books - 'Rebellion & Resistance: On the The Slave Ship and Beyond'
Monday 5th November Birkbeck
Selma James and Marcus Rediker - Organized by BIH in collaboration with the Naked Punch Journal.

Etienne Balibar - "From Cosmopolitanism to Cosmopolitics"
Tuesday 6th November 2.30 - 5pm Room B03 & B04 43, Bikrbeck
“The lecture will introduce a third possibility, that of a genuine cosmopolitics of the universal, which avoids both the idealism of cosmopolitanism and the technocratic predicaments of global governance.”

---

Lewisham ’77 Commemorative event
Goldsmiths College, New Cross
Martin Lux, Lez Henry, Les Back, Paul Gilroy, Balwinder Rana, plus film screenings and photography exhibition
http://lewisham77.blogspot.com/2007/10/lewisham-77-30-years-on.html


First London Jewish Humanist Shabbes
Tagline: Jewish Humanism, Secular Judaism, Cultural Judaism
Host: London Jewish Humanist Congregation
Time: 10:00am - 12:30pm
Location: Kings Cross Venue
For details contact madrichalaura((AATT))yahoo((POINT))com
http://www.geocities.com/madrichalaura/ourpage.html
dz((POINT))updates((((aatt)))yahoo(POINT)co((POINT))uk


---

More:
Chagall and the Apples 19 November
Radio Gagarin: Experiments in Sunday Socialism
25th November
8 Nights with Oi Va Voi 11th December 2007
www.yadarts.com info@yadarts.com

And another one

(Following this post,) Daniel sends me word of another contender for the Brockley Bob name: Bob Brocklebank (scroll down the left here). Daniel says "I always knew it Bob Brockley is a bloody Jewish Banker".

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Good news and bad news from Iran

Eric Lee of LabourStart writes:

As many of you will be aware, jailed Iranian labour activist Mansour Osanloo faced the loss of vision in one eye while the regime refused him medical treatment. A massive online campaign involving Amnesty International, the International Transport Workers Federation, and many thousands of LabourStart readers has resulted in Osanloo receiving the medical treatment he needed last weekend. The more than 10,000 messages you sent to the government in Tehran had a great -- and immediate -- impact. Thank you!

But only hours before Osanloo had his much-needed surgery, we received some very bad news from elsewhere in Iran. Last Thursday, five masked men fired seven bullets into 48-year-old Majid Hamidi, a labour activist. Iranian labour activists believe that an armed attack of this type could only have been carried out with the involvement and knowledge of the regime.
In a country where trade unionists are routinely arrested, jailed, and beaten, this represents a considerable escalation. There are fears that Iran may become one of those countries, like Colombia, where trade unionists are routinely gunned down.

We have been asked to mobilize as many of you as possible to send off urgent messages to the International Labour Organization (ILO) asking it to take action now. I am asking you to help us in two ways --
  • First, please visit the campaign page and send off your message now.
  • Second, please forward this message on to other members of your union today.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Hot music/Arab women

Two YouTube videos from the Eygpt Blog: Natacha Atlas, the wonderful Jewish/Maghrebi/Belgian singer, and Lebanese Nicole Saba, who makes rather cheesy Euro-pop in Arabic, but in this video rather bravely takes on the issue of domestic violence and police brutality (I think).

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Meme progress report

Updating this post and this post

1. Political influences

This meme about political influences came from Some Random Thoughts, moved on to The Poor Mouth (as well as Mike Ion and the Kommissar), and got some good follow-ups, including Harry Barnes (here). I got it (slightly dishonestly) from the Poor Mouth (my list here) and tagged Courtney, Andrew, Noga, The New Centrist and ModernityBlog. Noga’s interpretation of the task was focused on influential readings, and she posted excellent extracts. ModernityBlog’s list was more personal. The New Centrist combined both approaches. And now Andrew has finally weighed in. All great lists. Still waiting for Courtney, but that was a long shot. It seems the meme’s lifespan is not destined to be great. Of my taggees, I think only Noga passed it on, to Boycotted British Academic, Bold-Headed Geek [sic?], Anti Racist and Freemania. I believe that, of these, only the Geek responded, with another impressive list, and will get added to my blogroll.

Not suprisingly, George Orwell features heavily amongst the influences.

P.S. JRD has more here (on Benn) and here (on his grandmother, Mary Wragg, a lovely post.)

2. Ten songs

This meme went from Suzanne219 (S) and then went to Richard (C), where I got it. The idea is 10 songs beginning with a letter, and you ask for a letter by commenting on the blog. I did R. Others getting it off Richard were Someday I Will Treat You Good (M) and Stumbling and Mumbling (F). That last one is probably the best of all the lists, in my opinion. And, crushingly, not one blogger has asked me for a letter to keep the meme alive.

Then Darren ruled my list was out of order because I had things beginning with “The” etc – only because he managed to come up with a cool list without resort to articles. So, no “To Ramona”, but “Ring Them Bells” instead. No “The River” by Springsteen, which won approval from 2somewhere. (Digression: nice acoustic cover mp3 by Josh Ritter at Anyone’s Guess.) I’m replacing this with Alabama 3’s “REHAB”, one of my favourite songs, which also has a lot of emotional resonance for me.

And no "The Revolution Will Not be Televised". What to replace it with? Resorting to my My Music folder, which I didn’t want to do, I find lots of candidates: Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “Rabbit Foot Blues”;“Rainy Night in Georgia” (originally the underrated Tony Joe White, many covers including Ray Charles, plus a cool reggae version “Rainy Night in Portland” by Watty Burnett and soft rock “Rainy Night in Paris” by Chris de Burgh, who I have an embarrassing soft spot, and “Rainy Night in Soho” by Nick Cave); Blondie’s “Rapture” (the only Blondie song I really like); Hank Williams’ “Ramblin’ Man”; Merle Haggard “Rambling Fever”; “Ranking Full Stop” by The Beat (B-side to “Tears of a Clown”); Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” (no relation to A3 song); Cassandra Wilson’s Miles Davis tribute “Run the Voodoo Down”; Irma Thomas “Ruler of My Heart”; Jarvis Cocker’s “Ruling the Wordl”; Nu Yorican Soul “Runaway”; and Roy Ayers “Running Away”. Hmm. How to decide? I think I’ll just leave it at 9 songs.

NB: Some of these links are to posts of mp3 files.

Bob's beats artist keywords: Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Amy Winehouse, Merle Haggard

Beatles in Yiddish

Following up my string of Yiddish and Jewish related music posts, here's the Beatles in Yiddish, via Metal Jew, plus some Yiddish hillbillies.

Previous: Yael Naim and the Harlem Experiment; Yiddish metal, JAP-hop, etc; Hebrew indie, Jewish exotica, etc; Hava Nagila with Harry Dean Stanton; Hybrid musics; Bagels and Bongos.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Jogo on the 9/11 Truth Cult and the storming of Bill Maher's show

Jogo writes:

This is the video of the now-famous Bill Maher HBO show where disruptive 9/11 Conspiracy protesters were kicked out.

It's a funny moment -- and Bill Maher shows his considerable mettle -- but it is also shocking.

* The 9/11 Conspiracy people are not merely "lunatic fringe," like Code Pink -- they are actual lunatics. Truly mad. And they're getting more numerous, more organized, more bold. 9/11 Conspiracy is a kind of cult.

* I hate to say it, but Ron Paul is the Dr. Frankenstein of these lunatics. They would exist without Ron Paul, but Ron Paul has become a kind of Pat Robertson for them.

* You cannot call 9/11-Conspiracy thinking "leftist" because it infects the whole spectrum of politics, and is found in extreme rightwing people, Evil Jew-conspiracy people, all sorts of people. But, in whomever believes it, it is a product of Bush Derangement Syndrome. And one should ask: which political interests and goals -- at this present political moment in America -- does 9/11-Conspiracy serve? Practically speaking, it serves the ANSWER, anarchist, extreme anti-globalist, et. al. agendas. And that is something to ponder in terms of who -- mostly -- is undermining the American civic body It is not Ann Coulter, it is not Bill O'Reilly. It is not even Fred Phelps.


Bob adds:

Personally, I'm not sure whose agenda the Truth Cult serves. Basically, I think, in a perverse way it serves the status quo, because as long as people identify imaginary conspiracies as the source of our political problems, there will be no positive change. But it also serves to create a pool of potential recruits and useful idiots for a range of non-mainstream positions: the right-wing paleo-libertarianism of Ron Paul/Justin Raimondo, the left-wing sects like ANSWER, and the "anti-globalization" movement more generally.

Previous: The Leftover left; The Loose Change virus.

Friday, October 19, 2007

A little more Jewish music (of sorts)

From Aurgasm comes Yael Naim, a French/Israeli singer-songwriter with a lovely voice, who works with a sparse jazz-ish accompaniment

From DJ Durutti comes The Harlem Experiment, who recreate the various textures and rhythms that have made Harlem, and through Harlem made American music itself. Obviously, this includes the sounds of African-American and Latino Harlem, but also less expected sounds, which has a certain resonance for me, as my grandfather was born in Harlem, before moving to Flatbush as a kid. As the press release says, ‘It makes sense that the Klezmer style of Don Byron's clarinet transcends the playful jazz on "Reefer Man" and the funkified Yiddish folk song "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen."’ For those that don’t know, Don Byron, from the Bronx, has made music deeply rooted in soul, funk and blaxploitation music, but has also – since his days with the key klezmer revivalists, Klezmer Conservatory Band – worked on a lot of “Jewish” projects, including with Uri Caine, Geduldig un Thimann and Daniel Barenboim, not to mention his own tribute to Mickey Katz. Byron's work is generally a little far-out for me (yes, even me), but he's a great musician.

Previous: Yiddish metal, JAP-hop, etc; Hebrew indie, Jewish exotica, etc; Hava Nagila with Harry Dean Stanton; Hybrid musics; Bagels and Bongos.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The other Brockley Bob

Noga compared "Bob from Brockley" with "Robin of Locksley".

Now, even more scarily, Daniel sends me news of one "Bob Brockley" who has impressive attributes I can only dream of.


Previous: Men in Tights

RAISE THE FLAG

Andy at Socialist Unity blogs about "Raise the Flag", the grassroots fan-based anti-racist campaign in English football to rescuse the game, and the flag, from the far right. Kind of interesting, and relates to a mini-debate we had here a long while back.

Mansour Osanloo needs your help

From LabourStart:

Mansour Osanloo, the jailed leader of the bus workers' union in Tehran, faces the possible loss of his eyesight unless he receives urgent medical attention -- which the Iranian authorities are denying him.

Amnesty International has just now launched an online campaign calling on the Iranian government to allow Osanloo to receive medical attention. I urge all of you to sent off your messages today. The Iranian government must be made aware that the world is watching.

The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), which has spearheaded the international campaign in defense of Osanloo, has now produced a short film entitled "Freedom Will Come" which tells his story. It can be viewed online on YouTube, and will shortly be available as a DVD as well.

If every reader of this message passes it on to a few friends and colleagues, we can flood the Iranian government with email messages -- but we must do this quickly, before Osanloo loses his vision.

More: ITF news on Iran; LabourStart Iran news.

P.S. I have completely re-written my post about Hands off the People of Iran.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Jewish/music

Note to non-bloggers: feel free to ignore the dedications at the end of these links. I found myself dedicating one or two things to various virtual people, and decided to go the whole hog and dedicate 'em all. I know, it's an irritating blogger-y thing to do, like using the words "hat tip", which is another habit I ought to stop.

Note to all: I wrote most this post some weeks ago, and it's been languishing in my draft posts folder, so it has a kind of weird frame of reference in time. (Like, Northern State? That's such old news.)

Since I wrote this post, I was shocked and saddened to see that Megan Matthews, one of my favourite bloggers, died, incredibly young. I could never aspire to me as smart and loveable a writer as her.


Yiddish metal:

Two from Keith: Gevolt are Russian Israelis who do metal covers of Yiddish classics (more here). And this is an odd klezmer/metal mashup video (and another).
==I'm dedicating this to cyber-Yiddishist The W, even though I know he's a hip hop fan not a metal fan.==

Northern State:
Two-thirds Jewish New York all-girl hip hop outfit Northern State have their record out, produced by a Beastie Boy. "Mic Tester" is kind of Lady Sovereign meets Beastie Boys (listen to mp3 at Bathysphere), as is "Sucka Muthafucka", with its heavy sound and intelligent/stoopid political lyrics. (Listen to mp3 at The Late Greats, where you can also find:) "Three Amigas" (mp3 from Spinnennetz) has a cool spaghetti western thing going on - kind of like the girls from Russ Meyer's Faster Pussycat doing the Spice Girls' "Zig A Zig Ahh". "Away Away" I like less, kind of guitar power pop (mp3 and interview at partyends).
Read: Jewess » Some Anti-J.A.P. Rap to Get Your Morning Hip-Hopping…; Northern State’s Rap Against J.A.P. - Forward.com
==I'll dedicate these to Kate, as she's a feisty lady, and I haven't linked to her for ages.==

Yiddisher shvartser Mezz Mezzrow and negro cantor Willie "The" Lion Smith:
Megan at Moistworks
==That's for Daniel, who turned me on to Mezz, and for the trad jazzers over at Shiraz Socialist.==
ADDED: Jim "The Lion" Denham has a post on Willie The Lion Smith.

A Jewish take on Christian music:
Ben at Moistworks on Larry Norman
==For lack of a better idea, I'll dedicate this to Will, to provoke his atheist rage.==

Two posts on Jewish cowboy music:
1. Kinky Friedman; 2. Scott Gerber.
==I'm dedicating these to Jogo, nearest this blog has to a Jewish cowboy.==

Israeli hip hop and reggae:
Soulico are an Israeli hip hop outfit who draw on some cool Middle Eastern sounds as background to their Hebrew ragga-inflected rapping. There's an interesting interview (and mp3 of the quite lame "Pitom Banu") at The Music Slut. "How we do it" (here) is nicer - a kind of laid back reggae thing.

Habanot Nechama are an Israeli acoustic folk/reggae band. A little lighweight, but a nice sound, ideal for a campfire on a beach as a summer evening draws to a close. Shades of KT Tunstall and Finlay Quaye. Two mp3s at Aurgasm.

Jewish/Latino:
According to Tofu Hut,
Roberto Rodriguez is an instrumental innovator who synthesizes his Cuban roots with traditional Jewish music and avant-garde jazz.

On his mix of traditional Cuban and Jewish musical influences:
"I think it is a natural connection. I came to the United States and I lived in Miami with the Jewish community, so I was able to vacillate between the two cultures. In Caribbean, as well as South American sounds, we look back to Spain and there's a connection with Judaism there. I realized later on in my life that there is a line there that crosses all the borders..."
Listen to the interview at this podcast. Hear Roberto Rodriguez with his wife Susie Ibarra here, talking and doing weird percussion stuff.
==I'll dedicate that to Noga, for whom I was looking for something in Ladino, but couldn't find any.==


Previous: Klezmer idol; Feed Your Ears; World music/Jewish music.

SWP/Respect melt-down continues

The latest here. Two things are fascinating to me. One, the extraordinary level of control freakery within the SWP (and especially around John Rees) revealed by this, which exceeds even what I expected. It is clear that they don't want Respect to be an open, democratic party - just as they refused to allow the Socialist Alliance to be. And two, the fact that even the SWP internally admit that Yaqoob and Galloway are playing at communalist politics, the accusation the decent left has been making all along.

This is from an e-mail that got forwarded to me, not sure of the author:
It would seem that the SWP has now taken a Left turn and started adopting some of the criticisms of Respect that opponents aired when this un-popular front was first proposed. Rob Hoveman, Nick Wrack and Kevin Ovenden have been expelled - presumably they have gone "native" in terms of the current line. This happened earlier when Ger Francis was expelled, although the line hadn't shifted quite so much back then. Of course it was Ger Francis who organised the witchhunting of the independent socialist and FBU militant Steve Godward from being an officer of both the Birmingham Socialist Alliance and Stop the War. As a long term critic of the SWP's Right turn with the destruction of the Socialist Alliance and the formation of Respect - you might think I could be tempted to embrace the SWP now.

I can't but think back to the history of the Cominterm and the way that the Stalinist parties would periodically have to adopt to sudden changes of line - the result every time was to expel comrades who had gone "native" or where still advocating class politics when the line said required it to be abandoned. For example the turn from Third Period politics to Popular Frontism (at least the Stalinists had the hopes of alliance between the Soviet Union and powerful imperialist countries against Nazi Germany - what do current day popular fronts offer apart from a reason to abandon class politics), the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (need to rapidly shift
to the Left and denounce the imperialist war intentions of the imperialist opponents of Nazi Germany), the Nazi attack on the Soviet Union and the switch back to popular frontism and so on.

I think it was Trotsky who described the Stalinists as a cancer in the workers movement. What are the SWP?
Bonus links: John's Labour blog 1 & 2

UPDATE: Lots more material appearing on Socialist Unity.

Previous here and, before that, here.

The leftover left

Two critiques of the left-over left: one from an anarchist (from a text I don't otherwise agree with), the second, a bit more complicated, from a Marxist academic.

Chuck Munson on the anti-war left:
Meanwhile, the Leftover Left(tm) continues to organize through other coalitions, including the Communist Party-dominated UFPJ and the various front groups being organized by the Revolutionary Communist “We Worship Bob Avakian” Party. It’s been amusing to watch the RCP start a front group for IMPEACHMENT, of all things, called “World Can’t Wait.” I pointed out early on that WCW was the RCP’s rather clever effort to suck money out of the pockets of angry liberals. It worked, to the point where the RCP was able to open new offices and buy ads in newspapers. ANSWER, taking a cue from the Stalinist robots that run the Worker’s World Party, has evidently decided to start their own pro-impeachment money-laundering operation.
Moishe Postone in interview:
The collapse of the Soviet Union in no way signals the end of the socialist project – in the sense of a fundamental critique of capitalism that points to the realization of the emancipatory potential that capitalism has both historically generated and, yet, also constrained and undermined. And, yet, it has made manifest a great deal of disorientation. This disorientation expresses, in part, the negative historical effects of Marxism-Leninism on the socialist imaginary. It also expresses, in part, the difficulties of formulating a socialist critique in a post-statist epoch that, on the one hand, while critical of the market and private ownership of the means of production, is not focused most fundamentally on such bourgeois relations. And yet working toward such a critique – which would also entail recovering a notion of internationalism that is not simply an ideological formulation of an essentially nationalist worldview (defending the “socialist camp”) – is absolutely crucial. It is crucial because capitalism is truly global and cannot be adequately understood as colonialism, that is, as the imposition of western values and institutions on other parts of the world. Capitalism may have contingently arisen in the West, but it fundamentally transformed the West, Just as it is transforming the rest of the world. The only theory that provides an adequate foundation for a rigorous critical theory of global capitalism is that first articulated by Marx. The critical theories that were so apparently powerful in the 1970s and 1980s, such as post-structuralism, are helpless in the face of global capitalism. Failure to build on the intellectual legacy of Marx by formulating a post-traditional critical theory of capitalism leaves the field of critique over to extremely reactionary and dangerous forms of “anti-capitalism” and “anti-imperialism” that are no more emancipatory than fascist “anti-capitalism” and “anti-imperialism” had been in the first half of the 20th century.

Blog action day

Apparently, today is blog action day, when bloggers are invited to post on a topic, this year the environment, and donate their blog earnings to the good cause. I don't have any blog income, but I'm going to post on the environment. However, I don't have any original thoughts on this, so I'll confine myself to the following observation: the global environmental crisis will only be tamed when global capitalism is brought to an end.

Eco-action round-up: Keith: Metal, Jews and the environment; Late Greats: Green songs; DZ: Kings Cross Car Culture; Love Lewisham: Act locally; Green Ladywell: Climate change and obesity.

Related: I haven't decided what I think of the Al Gore Nobel prize. Jim Jay is positive. Neo-Jacobin, Second-Hand Conjecture and Incognito are skeptical.

Censorship in Stop the War

Post dramatically changed Tuesday 16th October.

Yesterday, I posted the whole text of a press release from Hands Off the People of Iran (HOPOI) about the controversy in the Stop the War Coalition (StWC). Since then, the press release has been published on Indymedia and features prominently on the CPGB front page (the Communist Students blog has also featured the issue), so I have decided to reduce the space it took up on my page by replacing it with this post.

Basically, to cut to the chase, Stop the War has made the putative coming war on Iran a central theme of its forthcoming conference. HOPOI and Communist Students have been disaffiliated from the Coalition (specifically by its Stalinist chair Andrew Murray) as "hostile" to StWC because they are critical of the theocratic regime in Iran, as well as opposed to any "imperialist" attack on Iran (Murray's e-mail is in the press release).

Of course, I don't give a shit about who the Coalition allows in, as I am not a supporter of it. But the issue dramatises the utter lack of democracy within the movement, and the refusal of critical thought too. At the same time, the Stalinist heritage of the CPGB makes me none too supportive of them, despite many admirable features. Follow some of the links below if you want to make your own mind up.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

What country in the world boasts the highest rate of suport for Israel?

"What country in the world boasts the highest rate of support for Israel? The United States? Wrong. The highest rate of support for Israel can be found in the Ivory Coast, where 61 percent support Israel and only 16 percent support the Palestinians. The same ratio is true where support for Hamas is concerned: Only 2% have a favorable opinion of Hamas and 37% have a 'very negative' opinion of this organization."Read the whole thing at Jerusalem Post

Thanks: La Empanada

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Miscellany

The Zeitgeist movie, pornography for paranoids, has been doing the rounds of the internet, sustaining the insane 9/11 "Truth"Cult and borderline anti-semitic conspiracy theories, by propping them up with a bizarre post-Da Vinci Code New Age cosmology. It is debunked here and here.

The Spanish Civil War is one of my abiding interests. Here is an article posted at libcom about Trotskyist lies on anarchism: Felix Morrow on Spain.

Ruth Benedict, the anthropologist, was part of the American occupation of Japan after the war. For some leftists, that amounts to treachery. But her work was also a force for peace and reconciliation. OpinionJournal links to a 2003 NYT article on this: "As the occupation of Iraq appears more complex by the day, where are the new Ruth Benedicts, authoritative voices who will carry weight with both Iraqis and Americans?" OpinionJournal ventures an answer: "Some of them are working with the U.S. military. Perhaps the Pentagon was belated in enlisting them, but there is a move by some anthropologists to blacklist their peers who cooperate with the U.S. military. This effort may be anti-American in intent, but if it is successful, it will also be anti-Iraqi in effect."

Camille Pisarro was a left libertarian Caribbean Jew* who lived in South London - how more appropriate for this blog can you get? Here's two pieces: "Shabby Jews of Lower East Side Meet Pissarro's Leisure Class"("Curator Karen Levitov emphasizes Pissarro's anarchist -- that is, anti-authoritarian -- political views, though these are hardly evident in his painting") and "Camille Pissarro: Impressions of City and Country" ("The artist espoused an anti-bourgeois, anarchist ideology and was passionate about the plight of the working classes").

Grateful acknowledgements: Jogo and Arieh

*Word Jew linked to wikipedia as my small part in the google war on JewWatch.

Funky Woody Guthrie

Thanks to Andrew, I have discovered Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, superb old school southern soul singer. She blows Joss Stone and even Amy Winehouse out of the water. As an old leftie, I particularly love her cover of Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land", with some slick horn-playing from the Dap-Kings.

Sharon Jones’ version is not hard to find; for example, it forms part of a nice July 4th mix from Some Velvet Blog. You can listen to Woody’s original at Music for Humans, who appropriately puts it in a September 11 post, or at the wonderful Keep the Coffee Coming, who gives some context to the song, or at Midwestern Housewives, who rightly describe Woody as a punk rocker. Keep the Coffee Coming also has a version by Commie folksters the Weavers, who are part of the sound of my childhood (see number 1 here), and by another Folkways giant, blacklisted during the McCarthy years, Cisco Houston. The grossly underrated Tennessee Ernie Ford also did a version, which can be found at this July 4th post from Record Robot (note to Europeans: the post might be too American for your delicate old world sensibilities). For a somewhat odder, but very affecting, version, check WFMU, who give us the Hi-Hats, a band made up of musicians with learning disabilities (and a vocalist who sounds very much like Pete Seeger).

All posts on: Sharon Jones, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger.



Key words: Moe Asch, mp3, mp3s, download, music

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

My political influences (Meme #2)

I managed to inveigle a tag from Jams for the My political influences meme. So, here are five key political influences. I decided not to steal Jams' idea of negative influences (e.g. Margaret Thatcher) or JRD's of personal influences (I might get tempted into an embarassing Oscar moment). The order is more or less chronological.


1. Karl Marx
Unusually, I think, the first Karl Marx I really read was the Eighteenth Brumaire, on the shag pile carpet of my ex-Communist grandparents' bungalow. I think it's the best place to start with Karl, and worth going back to again and again.

2. George Orwell
We had to read George Orwell at school: Animal Farm and 1984. Even then, it had a big impact on me, and probably helped shape my democratic socialism and revulsion at Stalinism. A little later, as I became a leftist activist, I read "Politics and the English Language", which helped me navigate a good way (I hope) through the murky sea of real politics. A little later, I read Homage to Catalonia. By then, my sympathies would already go straight to the POUM and the anarchists, so I can't say it changed my perspective, but it certainly helped clarify my anti-Stalinism. More recently, Hitchens' Orwell's Victory has helped me make sense of the post-9/11 world, while re-reading 1984 made me appreciate Orwell as a great artist, and reading his essays on anti-semitism have been influential for me too.
Extra link: Hitchens on Orwell on Radio 4.

3. CLR James
At a lonely time in my life, when I was around 18, I systematically went through every library in South West London (where I was living then) devouring everything I could find by or about CLR James, except, for some reason, for Beyond A Boundary. James taught me a lot about Marxism, helping me to turn my revulsion against Leninist "democratic centralism" into a coherent Marxist theory.

4. Bill Hicks
I saw Hicks live a couple of times towards the end of his life. I started thinking about him after reading V's post on him. I think what Hicks taught me was a politics which equally has a place for rage and a place for love. Hicks was misanthropic, and did not love "humanity" in the abstract, and was full of anger - the sort of anger that's driven me to continue to be passionate about politics. But he was also a person who truly loved real humans: "It's just a ride, and we can change it any time we want. It's only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings and money, a choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your door, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as one."

5. Hannah Arendt
Hannah Arendt is a more recent influence for me. This post explains why I love her.


Now I'm going to tag five bloggers to post about five of their influences: Courtney, Andrew, Noga, The New Centrist and ModernityBlog. (Don't feel obliged to write anything about them - feel free just to list!)



P.S. Check out Harry Barnes' great list here.

10 Songs (meme #1)

The idea is 10 favourite songs beginning with a letter, from a meme that came from Richard (whose list of songs in C included two absolute greats: "Clube Da Esquina" by Milton Nascimento and "Captain Saint Lucifer" by Laura Nyro. I got allocated R - and the task is harder than harder than you'd think!


Tom Waits "Red Shoes by the Drugstore"
If you don't know this song, read the lyrics. Listen to the mp3 at Motel de Moka.

Bob Dylan "To Ramona"
Is this cheating? It's my favourite Dylan song

Lee Scratch Perry "Roast Fish and Cornbread"

"Round Midnight" (I couldn't decide which version of this is my favourite: Thelonius Monk, Miles Davis, Amy Winehouse, Chet Baker, Chet Baker as remixed by the Gotan Project...)

Rachid Taha "Rock El Casbah"

The Staple Singers "Respect Yourself"
I have to confess, I quite like the Bruce Willis cover too...

Rolling Stones "Ruby Tuesday"

George Gershwin "Rhapsody in Blue"
Romanian doyne meets swing era jazz. Original recording here.

Gil Scott-Heron "The Revolution Will Not be Televised"
A bit naff these days, I know...

Bruce Springsteen "The River"
This is naff too, I know, but it makes me emotional, as it resonates with my teenage years, and all the friends I left behind along the way.


And instead of tagging anyone, you're supposed to come get your own tag, by leaving a comment, and then I'll give you a letter.

A few audio files for yer (let me know if you're the owner of the intellectual property here and want me to remove them):
The Staple Sing...ct Yourself.mp35 MB

Rachid Taha 02 Rock el Casbah.wma2 MB

Lee “Scratch” P...ryCornbread.mp35 MB

Chet Baker vs Gotan Prject 01 'Round About Midnight.wma3 MB

Friday, October 05, 2007

Singalongachavez

The Poor Mouth: Singalongachavez

Free Burma



I haven't yet blogged about Burma, because it is not my area of expertise, but here are some links that I'd urge you to follow.

Activism:

Blog comment:

A Jewish perspective:


Picture above taken from James. Thanks, as always, to AL for some of the links.

Iran's crackdown on the Baha'is

Via Jogo, this article from the Chicago Sun-Times on (as Jogo puts it) the fate of a peaceful and beautiful community that is a light unto the world, for which the "progressive" left could do with finding a little compassion.

The spirit and the letter of democracy. Putin’s Russia…

The spirit and the letter of democracy. Putin’s Russia… « The Cedar Lounge Revolution

This nice blog post reminded me of that old Lenny Henry comedy sketch where he plays a Mugabe-type African revolutionary leader. "After the revolution, we introduced 'one man one vote'." I was that one man.

A shamefeul nonsense

Writing in the Guardian today, Cambridge don Priyamvada Gopal lambasts the UCU for dropping its debates on an academic boycott of Israel.

There are a number of inaccuracies and objectionable statements in the article.

First, and most importantly, the article claims the Union is suppressing the planned debates on the boycott and therefore curtailing free speech. This is wrong on two counts. First, it is wrong as a simple matter of fact: the debates testing members' views on the implementation of an illegal boycott have been cancelled as no longer appropriate, while leaving union branches free to debate the issue at their leisure. The debates were scheduled in a rather rushed way, with hefty amounts of the union's budget devoted towards them, and would only have been able to be attended by a small percentage of membership (on a quota basis), so the fact they are happening is hardly a loss. The fact that the speakers had been invited to put forward positions on a boycott that has been clearly shown to be illegal means that there is no way the debates could have proceeded in their planned form anyway. (For the actual union position, see its statement here.) It is rather irresponsible of the Guardian to publish such an inaccuracy.

The claim is also wrong in the sense that cancelling specific debates cannot be interpreted as shutting down debate in general. Branches remain free to discuss the issue; no doubt the UCU activists e-mail list is buzzing with discussion on it.

Second, the article locates the decision in the context of a broader "assualt" on academic freedom. "Even as freedom of speech is invoked as the great western value to be spread across the globe, by force if necessary, its limits are marked by two unbreachable taboos: anti-Americanism, and criticism of the Israeli state and its occupation of Palestine." The absurdity of this claim is evident from the simple fact (mentioned later in the article) of one of America's most prestigious academic institutions actually extending an invitation to speak to Mahmoud Ahmenijad, possibly the person in the world second most well-known for anti-Americanism and criticism of the Israeli state (the most well-known being Osama bin-Laden). If such views are off-limits, how did his invitation go out?

Dr Priyamvada Gopal uses the emotive word "ban". She says Minnesota's University of St. Thomas "banned" Desmond Tutu. The definition of "banning" is not allowing someone in. In fact, if Tutu turned up at the university, I am sure he would be welcomed. What happened was that an invitation was not extended to him.

This is part of a wider misinterpretation of the issue of free speech at large in the culture today. If I believe in someone's right to free speech, that does not mean I have to let him come in to my house and do it there - and certainly doesn't mean I am obliged to extend an invitation to him to do it there, not to mention put up the costs. Banning someone's views from being expressed would, for instance, be forcing their publisher not to publish their books, or putting them in prison for their views; not inviting someone is not the same as banning. Not holding a series of resource-intensive regional adversarial debates is not the same as banning discussion of an issue.

Finally, Gopal makes small change out of the Walt-Mearsheimer controversy, claiming that they came under fire "simply for attempting to open discussion on US-Israel relations" (when clearly they have done a lot more than "open discussion"), which has nothing to do with threats to academic freedom or free speech (I don't believe anyone has tried to ban Walt and Meersheimer), and only serves to raise the (effectively if not necessarily intentionally anti-semitic) spectre of an "Israel lobby" (or, as Tutu puts it, "Jewish lobby") pulling the strings behind the UCU decision.

Added: a little more from Martin.
Plus: Contentious Centrist on Desmond Tutu

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Battle of Lewisham commemorative walk

I still haven't got around to posting my account of the Battle of Lewisham commemorative walk last month, but in the meantime, have a look at Peter Marshall's photos of the event or click on the "Battle of Lewisham" button just below here for all my posts on this, if you don't know what I'm talking about.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Brick Lane and the republic of letters

I quite liked Monica Ali's Brick Lane. It wasn't a great work of literature, but it was well-written, interesting, and moving in places.

The book has next to nothing to do with Brick Lane itself: it's mainly set in a housing estate near Brick Lane. Its "issues" include a woman's struggle to find her own identity in relation to her intellectually aspirant but emotionally un-intelligent husband; the confrontation between fascists and the Asian population in the East End, and the rise of militant Islam among the young generation. I believe the publishers urged the title Brick Lane to exploit the emotional cache of that famous street.

A tiny number of stupid local Bangladeshi bigots - Sylheti nationalists, not Islamic fundamentalists - objected to the book. They claimed it was racist against Sylhetis (assuming the words of the husband, hardly the hero of the book, to be the views of Monica Ali). And they resented that a half-white, middle class woman whose dad was from Dhaka not Sylhet should write about their world.

A film has been made of the book, and the bigots campaigned to stop if being filmed in "their" turf. Germaine Greer waded in on the side of the bigots, and then Greer's old enemy Salman Rushdie waded in on Ali's side, which upped the temperature a little. I wrote extensively about this in 2006. (See here.) Basically, Greer said Ali has no right to write about Brick Lane, because she's not there. As Noosa Lee puts it, this is the conceit "that a fiction writer has no jurisdiction beyond her a posteriori experience when referencing living cultures. This is fairly restricting unless you’re content with writing episodes of Doctor Who or live next door to Pete Doherty."

The film is due to be released soon, so the whole thing is flaring up again. For some reason, the queen was given an opportunity to see it: it was chosen as this year's Royal Film Performance. - a highlight of the film world's calendar. In a piece of extreme understatement, Baz Bamigboye writes "I guess the Royal Family needs to be jolted with a bit of realism now and again." Then, Islamophile Prince Charles decided to pull out of the Royal Film Performance.

On one level, I don't give a shit about what the prince does. But this is kind of important. Parminder Vir OBE, an advisor on the film, eloquently objects to his decision:
"It is very sad that the film was announced and then withdrawn just a few days later because someone at Clarence House, or wherever, had seen the film and fears that it will damage the Royal Family in some way," says Parminder Vir, who collected an OBE from Prince Charles in 2002 for her services to broadcasting and film.
"This plays into the hands of people who want us to live in fear of immigration and Islam. Showing this film would not damage anyone. It is not a film about race but about one woman's struggle in a new country. She just happens to be a Muslim from Bangladesh."
Nick Cohen describes the Prince as "spineless".
a group of self-appointed ‘community leaders’ stopped the crew filming in Brick Lane and threatened to burn Ali’s novel last summer. They claimed the film would show a Bengalis infested with lice. It doesn’t. That it would insult them. It doesn’t do that either. Their bluff was called during one demonstration, when a young Asian man stepped forward to ask if the protestors had actually read the book. The furious reaction suggested they hadn’t.
As so often, the intelligentsia behaved worst of all...
After all this time, do you still need to know what is wrong with Germaine Greer and Charles Windsor? The short answer is that if we don’t take them on London will be balkanised into mono-cultural ghettos too frightened to tell stories to each other for fear of offending opportunist reactionaries and their royal backers.

The Atheist lobby on the Zionist conspiracy

normblog: As far as Dawkins can see
So, Richard Dawkins has somehow managed to yoke his obsessive hatred of religion together with a half-digested version of the Walt-Mearsheimer-Petras-Irving "Israel Lobby" conspiracy theory, to create the idea of a "Jewish lobby" controlling American foreign policy for their bizarre religious ends. Hmmm.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Negative Judeocentrism

Via Jogo, an excellent long essay on Walt and Mearsheimer by Jeffrey Goldberg in TNR, situating them within the concept of "negative Judeocentricity" - the idea that Jews and their power are central to the way the world works.

Extract:
In the inflamed universe of negative Judeocentrism, there is a sliding scale of obsession. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, seems at times to view the world entirely through the prism of a Jewish conspiracy, and he regularly breaks new ground in the field of state-supported Holocaust denial. In Cairo, the activities of Jews, Israeli and other- wise, are a continual source of worry. Many of the monarchs in the Gulf countries, by contrast, will sometimes exploit anti-Jewish feeling for political reasons, but they do not seem to be personally obsessed by Jews. They are too worldly for that. In Europe, too, one finds great variations in the expression of Judeocentrism. There are still traces of Holocaust-induced philo-Semitism in places like Germany; but there are also figures such as Clare Short, the former British cabinet minister, who recently blamed Israel for global warming.
I missed the Clare Short story. Last month, Short made the claim that no progress was possible on climate change treaties because Israel "undermines the international community's reaction to global warming". [Source, via Attila and VDH] As her comments (made at the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, hosted by the European Parliament) were rather under-reported, I am not sure what the context of that claim was, but according to Emanuele Ottolenghi, her reasoning was that, "since Israel distracts the world with its unruly behavior, the world does not spend enough time, attention, and resources on the real issue: man-made climate change."

In a perverse way, Short's point is kind of right. Because of the phenomenon of negative Judeocentrism, because of the obsession of the liberal world and "anti-imperialist" left with the Middle East, the bigger, more fundamental questions are dodged: the survival of the human race, global justice in a neo-liberal world, the countless states across the planet that deny their citizenry basic human rights. (Hence the UCU's endless conference hours on boycotting Israeli biochemists, and utter lack of conference hours on fighting for access to education in the planetary South. Hence millions marching over the Iraq war and almost no-one on the Western street in solidarity the Burmese revolution. And so on.)