Thursday, July 31, 2008

Justice Illuminated: The Art of Arthur Szyk

The New Centrist posts some wonderful images by Arthur Szyk, of which this is just one.

Fuck Washington, fuck Obama and fuck you

A tragicomic story about Barack Obama trying to extricate an American woman from an abusive marriage to a Palestinian man.

Israeli Policy and Academic Freedom

Israeli Policy and Academic Freedom

By Noga at ZWord

The color of my cage

A fantastic post by Selma in Tehran. Extract:
...I wonder if you guys out there can understand the feeling …even our men here really don’t get it … the second before going out of the door every morning, you look into the mirror not asking yourself “do I look good” or “how does my hair look today” but wondering if what you are wearing is “legal” and fearing what if this manteau isn’t long enough (below knees, wearing trousers mandatory too) and if it is loose enough and if black is dark enough for them?...
H/T: Noga

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Fascism, Islamo-fascism and anti-fascism

1. Via Drink-Soaked Will:
Victor Davis Hanson and Christopher Hitchens take on the WWII revisionists, centering on Patrick J. Buchanan who is a complete fucknut. Video here.

Chapter two now available here.

Chapter three now available here.

Tipping top hat to Doddyman

2. Champagne Charlie, one of the Shiraz Socialists, has forced the Gruan to accept that "Islamo-fascist" is not a hate term. Read the correspondence. (Incidentally, the Gary Younge article which sparked the debate, about the respectiable fascism of the BNP, was actually on the whole pretty good, marred by that one piece of liberal groupthink.)

3. Roland reports that anarchists have defaced a memorial in Stalinoid Frisco to the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, the American Stalinist stooges who fought against Franco's totalitarianism but for another. Like Roland, I am against this sort of vandalism: the dead in general should be respected, and these men were noble, if deluded. But, like Roland, I agree with the sentiments of the graffiti: "Viva Durruti Y Orwell".

4. Ourfriendinthenorth: We are all neocons now - read it.

Image credits: ALBA, HistoriaSiglo20

Well met

Our sixth (my fifth, I missed one) Lewisham Bloggers get together at the Honor Oak (which is in Greater Brockley). In attendence: Andrew B (our leader), The Dame, Clare (who I didn't actually really manage to meet), Andrew O, Michael, John, Andrew M, Claudia, Helen, Neil, Rob, and Max.

Glad that the gender balancing of the Lewisham bloggers has inched forward. And that this time Andrew, Neil and I managed to avoid singing "The Red Flag" as we walked home past Jim Connell's house.

Less glad that Facebook seems to have become the communication medium of choice for the Lewi-Bloggers (I'm a Facebook virgin, and determined to protect that virginity).

Found music

Midnight Special
I love Odetta, who is still touring in her eighties, and "Midnight Special" is one of my favourite songs. So, here's Odetta singing it at Keep the Coffee Coming. Like Jonathan Richman's "Buzz Buzz Buzz", though, this song will always be a sad song for me now, as it makes me think of my friend Paul, who is no longer with us.

South London song
Brixton's Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine covering the Pet Shop Boys' "Rent" is South London's revenge on the West End. Listen at Vinyl Villain.

North London song
A band who evoke for me what London feels like even more than Carter do are North London's St Etienne. Some great tracks at Pain or Plan.

More brass

If you liked this, check out Boban I Marko Markovic Orkestar Brass Madness at Mainstream ain't so bad.

More cool Israeli music
Aurgasm does a good line in Israeli music. Here is J.Viewz, Tel Aviv jazz/electronica producer, with "Muse Breaks", a South London-sounding drum & bass track with a ragga-style male vocal and cool muted trumpet.

A Land Called Paradise
Kareem Salama's "A Land Called Paradise" is an extremely mainstream-sounding country music track by a Muslim-American singer. I can't say the song is that great in itself, but the video is very interesting. Richard Silverstein posted the video and has some sensible comments. Here's Kareem's website.

Hannukah in July

The Late Greats present some out-of-season seasonal music, including:
  • The Klezmatics ~ Hanukah Tree
  • Brave Combo ~ Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah
  • Adam Sandler ~ The Chanukah Song
  • Brigid Kaelin ~ Mazel Tonk
  • The Klezmonauts ~ Santa Gey Gezunderheit

Previous: Brass, 4th of July.

Rare doings at Camberwell

Radical South London from Past Tense Publications:
there's a brand new pamphlet from past tense publications: RARE DOINGS AT CAMBERWELL: a short tour through Camberwell’s radical and subversive history.

A wild ramble through SE5’s murky past, including a dubious cast, including rowdy fairgoers… proletarian artists… rioting chartists… squatters… General strikers… feminist authors… mad folk… anti-fascists… and the occasional transsexual trotskyist housing officer. Visit Camberwell Fair, banned by the local bourgeoisie in 1855; local asylums Camberwell and Peckham Houses; the Havil Street Workhouse; squatted centres at Dickie Dirts, the Labour Club and Warham Street. Upturned local stones, firsthand accounts and painstaking research: from the General Strike to Reclaim Bedlam; from the Camberwell Secular Society to the struggle against the BNP in the Elmington Estate.

'Rare Doings at Camberwell' is available from past tense for just £1.50 for 66 teeming pages, plus 50p postage and packing... Drop us a line with a cheque for £2 (payable to A. Hodson) to Past Tense, c/o 56a info Shop, 56 Crampton Street, London SE17 3AE...

ALSO AVAILABLE: A revised and improved new edition of the Past Tense favourite, 'NINE DAYS IN MAY: THE GENERAL STRIKE IN SOUTHWARK.'

In May 1926, the leaders of the Trades Union Congress called a General Strike. Nearly 2 million workers all over the country joined the strike, in support of a million miners, locked out by mineowners for refusing to accept wage cuts of up to 25 per cent, after the ending of the Government's coal subsidy. Nine days later, afraid of the losing control of the situation, in the face of massive working class solidarity, the TUC General Council called the Strike off.

This pamphlet describes some of the events of the General Strike in the then Metropolitan Boroughs of Bermondsey, Camberwell and Southwark, now united into the London Borough of Southwark. How the strike was organised locally, how news was distributed, clashes between strikers and police... With accounts from local participants.

Price: £1, plus 50p P&P, available from the above address.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Follow up

1. On anti-Roma racism and creeping fascism in Italy
Following this post (linked to sternly by Hak Mao at the Popinjays), read this brilliant one at Flesh is Grass (thanks Modernity for tip).

2. On Radovan Karadzic
This post was posted at Engage, where it has generated some interesting debate. The debate at Shiraz Socialist (surely actually more influential than me!) has also been interesting. As noted there, the deniers and apologisers - the RCP's Mick Hume, freelance weirdo Neil Clark - are already out in force. In the discussion at Dave Osler's excellent post, Andy Newman of Socialist Unity, who strikes me as a generally decent bloke, seems to give the deniers some moral courage by suggesting the figure of 8000 for the Srebrenica massacre may be media-massaged. Modernity has been responding vigorously, including posting links to resources that can help combat the deniers.

Flesh is Grass also has an excellent post on Karadzic, which includes a link to this great piece at HP (on which also see Kellie). Shiraz Socialist returns here.

3. Best blogs

Flushed from my placing 160th in the Wikio's completely objective and scientific list of "influential" UK blogs, I notice at Socialist Unity that Iain Dale is touting for his top 100 political blogs list again. You have to be listed at Total Politics to be nominated, which I am, which means you can vote for me:
Simply email your Top Ten (ranked from 1 to 10) to . If you have a blog, please encourage your readers to do the same. I’ll then compile the Top 100 from those that you send in. Just order them from 1 to 10. Your top blog gets 10 points and your tenth gets 1 point. The deadline for submitting your Top 10 is Friday August 15th. Please type Top 10 in the subject line.
Or, you could consider voting for: Flesh is Grass, A Cloud in Trousers, Paul Anderson's Gauche, Ian Bone, Modernity or Shuggy (to list, in no particular order, the blogs I like which I notice at Total Politics, and not counting NormBlog which will get loads of votes anyway).

And talking of Shuggy, read his brilliant post on workfare.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Italy's fascist revival

Hak Mao sez:
This CNN report, found via SimplyJews, was bad enough. Two drowned Roma girls are left to lie on a beach near Naples, while sunbathers sit around them, apparently quite unconcerned - sunning themselves or eating their lunch. This report is worse:

Witnesses say they lay on the beach for hours - and so did many of the sunbathers who allegedly watched the drowning and, according to some press accounts, did little but stare and carry on with their Saturday afternoon.

Naples is also where thugs firebombed Roma camps last May in one of a series of racist attacks on Roma and other ethnic minorities in Italy - in the same period in Rome, a mob smashed up shops run by Bangladeshi migrants. According to this report, a survey found that 68% of Italians want Gypsies 'expelled' from Italy, whether or not they are Italian citizens. Expel Italy from the EU and demand all EU funds back.
(Bob sez: Personally, I am so indifferent to the EU that I don't want to endorse the final sentence.)


An extraordinary claim

I read slowly. I subscribe to the London Review of Books. I'm currently reading the 10 April edition. On the bus this morning, I was reading a review by Henry Siegman of two books about the Israeli settlements in the Occupied lands. The review is a sharp indictment of the settlement movement, and the wider Occupation policies of the Israeli state.

About half-way through came this extraordinary claim:
the driving force behind the settlements is a small religious-nationalist group, whose members are widely considered the most savvy, well connected and effective political operators in Israel. Their ideology combines an intense form of religious messianism with an extreme nationalism that has far more in common with the religious and ethnocentric nationalism of the Serbian Orthodox militias of Mladic and Karadzic than with any Jewish values I am familiar with. That Sharon and some of his settler friends were virtually the only politicians in the West (other than Serbia’s Slavic supporters) who opposed military measures to prevent Serbian ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Kosovo was not an accident.
As a lifelong opponent of Ariel Sharon and even more so of the religious-national movement with which he has sometimes been uneasily allied, I have no wish to defend him. But this seems to me an example of an anti-Zionist so deeply enmeshed in hostility towards Israel's leaders that any criticism will stick.

Let's take a look, in this week when arch-cleanser Radovan Karadžić has finally been arrested, at Serbian ethnic cleansing. First, Bosnia, where ethnic cleansing took place mainly between 1992 and 1995 (that is, more or less exactly coinciding with the Rabin years in Israel, when Sharon was in the political wilderness). The first significant action by "politicians in the West" took place as war clouds gathered: the 1991 arms embargo, which was a great boost to the Serbian forces who had inherited most of the Yugoslav national army's arsenal, and a great threat to the future victims of ethnic cleansing, who were unable to defend themselves and thus left, essentially, at the mercy of "politicians in the West". Politicians in the West then stood by during the Foča massacre and the Prijedor massacre before UN troops were committed: to defend the international airport. The rest of the story is essentially the story of Western politicians' utter inactivity: a refusal to name what was happening as genocide in order to avoid the legal and moral responsibility to act, and literally standing by while massacre after massacre occurred.

What was the position of Western politicians? Some Western politicians, like Bob Dole, called for action. The majority of the Bush I clique American politicians, epitomised by James Baker, Lawrence Eagleberger, Dick Cheney, Brent Snowcroft and Colin Powell, opted for a "realist" response: doing nothing, shifting responsibility to Europe. Samantha Power has dubbed the Bush policy as a policy of disapproval: disapprove, but do nothing. In Baker's memorable words, America "did not have a dog in this fight".

Clinton, who won the Democratic Party nomination for president during the period of ethnic cleansing, called for action. It was only after his election at the end of '92 that intervention became politically possible. But despite some American politicians (notably Dole, Frank McCloskey, Al Gore and Joe Biden, as well as Madeline Albright), calling for action to finally be taken, the majority of Republicans and Democrats denounced them as war-mongers.

Thirteen months into the war, well over a hundred thousand Bosnians massacred, Clinton finally sent Carter-era hack Warren Christopher to Europe to persuade the Europeans not to actually act but to lift the arms embargo so the victims of cleansing could defend themselves. He came back having changed his mind, and the Bush I policy of disapproval and inactivity continued for months, a continuity signalled by Colin Powell remaining in post. Warren Christopher even claimed the Muslims were themselves responsible for their own genocide. The official line was: this is a tragic civil war, there's nothing we can do.

Meanwhile, on this side of the pond, the David Owen led European diplomatic initiative was signally ineffective. The UN came up with a tepid "safe areas" plan over a year into the slaughter (de facto accepting genocide outside the safe areas), but failed to send anywhere enough troops to defend them. France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark were the only European countries to actively support this. Mitterand, under pressure from both left and right-wing politicians to act more decisively, accepted a minimal UN presence. Only when Chirac took over in 1995 did France take a more robust position. Italy opposed intervention from the start. Greece not only opposed intervention but supported Milosovic. Helmut Kohl, to the intense irritation of Major and Mitterand, took a stronger line - but Germany's official military neutrality stopped it from actually committing troops.

What was Britain's position? Under John Major and Douglas Hurd, Britain took an even more anti-interventionist "realist" position than Bush I. As Melanie McDonagh puts it:
In the Bosnian war, Britain supported Milosevic. It dealt with him as a peace broker - from the start, it had set its face against the idea that the Bosnian government should be supported in fighting to prevent the dismemberment of its territory. And by maintaining the arms embargo, Britain consolidated the weakness of the Bosnian army vis-a-vis the Serbs. Indeed, as a forthcoming book by the Cambridge academic Brendan Simms makes clear, Britain was decidedly lukewarm about the establishment of the international war crimes tribunal for former Yugoslavia, lest it make Milosevic that bit less likely to strike a deal.
Or, as Ed Vulliamy, a witness to genocide has written:
It was David Owen whose endless, futile maps and plans bought the Serbs time and which seem so grimly absurd with hindsight. The enduring image of the bungled history of Unprofor will be of General Michael Rose supping on suckling pig with the butcher Ratko Mladic.
It was the British who objected to food-drops over Srebrenica, lest the Serbs see them as the thin end of the wedge of air strikes. But: 'The Bosnian Serbs need to realise they are not going to gain what they have grabbed by force,' proclaimed Major's Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd in May 1993. And yet Hurd was the leading critic of any attempt to check the Serbs by military means. At his side, always, was Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, former chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee.
It took the Srebrenica Massacre and the shame of the failure to stop the Rwandan genocide before the West finally actually intervened in August 1995, with a bombing campaign that halted the ethnic cleansing of Bosnia within weeks.

So, so much for Israeli exceptionalism.

Further reading:

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

More influential than Johann Hari

Wikio's blog ranking is one league table I like. I have leapt this month up 73 place to 160th most influential UK blogger. That puts me one below Pub Philosopher and two above Johann Hari. In my league, but ahead of me is The Poor Mouth, while Shiraz Socialist and Freeborn John are somewhere below me.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Music and peace

These are three touching YouTube music videos that Daniel sent me. Descriptions are his.

More stuff

And here's what I've read today. Extra points to readers who can discern a common theme amongst them.

Meanwhile, here are some of my recent google referrals (hyperlinks to the posts google recommends). The two usual themes (Jews and sex, especially the two in combination) have emerged again.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Something else for the weekend

OK, here's what I've liked today:
  • Poor Chav: Little Richardjohn on middle class ressentiment
  • South Africa's false halo: Ben Cohen at ZWord on South Africa's dubious moral authority (h/t: Snoop)
  • UK government's good Islam franchise: Francis Sedgemore on Hazel Blears' patronage of "moderate Muslim" theologians
  • Barack Obama is an imperialist thinker: FresnoZionist passes on Barry Rubin's criticism of Obama on 9/11, with the money quote on imperialist thinking highlighted.
  • Bettye Swann: Paulie knows good music
  • Gilad Atzmon's defenders: The anti-Zionist "Azvsas" (Tony Greenstein?) weighs in against the latest acolyte of the odious Atzmon and his henchman Paul Eisen, one Roy Ratcliffe, which has been published by Mary Rizzo's racist and much-misnamed website Palestine Think Tank. Unfortunately, Azvsas' response is formatted to make it utterly unreadable, so you have to copy and paste to Word or something, and it is flawed in its philosophy, but the Ratcliffe piece is truly evil, despite (maybe because of) its appearance of erudition.
  • Che is dead - get over it! Molly publishes a long interview with MLC, the Cuban libertarian movement, assessing the possibility of freedom in post-Fidel Cuba.
  • Mullahs v workers: Amir Taheri on the Iranian theocrats' anti-trade union authoritarianism
  • One brave little girl: NeoConstant on Nujood Ali, a ten-year-old hero for women's rights. (Neo: thanks for adding me to the blogroll, will reciprocate!)
  • Primal Scream/Maya Deren: History is Made at Night on Bobby Gillespie's dodgy politics, and on Maya Deren, "Jewish refugee from the Ukraine, sometime trotskyist, dancer, anthropologist, avant garde film maker and vodou practitioner", who I'd never heard of before.
  • Life expectancy: Ross reports that men in my manor live longer than men in Glasgow East, and therefore only slightly longer than men in the Gaza Strip. (Following up the discussion here.)

Knife crime: reality and perception

I don't have anything whatsoever to add to the debate about knife crime, but I strongly recommend the following pieces, which add some sanity to this hot button issue:
(P.S. This also relates to discussions at Transpontine the other week - see here and here.)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Iranian Supreme Court upholds Kurdish teacher's death sentence

On Friday 11 July the Iranian regime's Supreme Court upheld the death sentence passed against Farzad Kamangar, a teacher, journalist and civil society activist for alleged membership of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Turkey.

H/T Will

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Blogging too much

I've overdone it lately, but won't have much time in the next few days. The three things I really want you to look at are:
  • Bob's beats: Arabs, anger, etc

    Music post on Natascha Atlas, suicide bomber chic in Primal Scream, and Richard Nixon's visit to Egypt
  • Brass

    Music post on brass music from the Balkans, New Orleans, New Mexico and elsewhere
  • Anti-fascism: where next?

    On Searchlight's Hope Not Hate and the future of the anti-BNP movement in the UK

From Cairo to Damascus: Under cover amongst the fascists

Solomonia presented, in June, a series of extracts from John Roy Carlson's 1943 book, Under Cover (1943), an expose of the American fascist movement of the pre-WWII period. Now, he is presenting a series of extracts from Cairo to Damascus (1951), in which Carlson travels the Middle East during Israel's War of Independence. Both series are fascinating. Check out the whole series here (I'd start at the bottom, print out all the posts in chronological order and read 'em all).

Hate figures

I hate Pat Buchanan. And I hate Norman "the imp of the perverse" Finkelstein.

Hillaballoo July 19th - South London Songs

From Transpontine:
Hillaballoo takes place in and around Telegraph Hill Park on Saturday July 19th. It aims to celebrate views and visions of Telegraph Hill.

Transpontine is sponsoring an afternoon acoustic music event, themed around South London Songs. Singers/performers will include: Nathan Persad, Ceri James, Little Devils, Jude Cowan Montague, Apopsi, Brockley Ukulele Group, Quaggy River Boys plus 'Purple Stripes, Blue Jeans & The Occasional Converse' - the year 6 leavers group from Edmund Waller School. I will be singing a couple of songs.

The event is scheduled to take place from 2 pm to around 4:00 pm next to the park in Cafe Orange, Kitto Road, SE14. Admission free.

There will also be lots of other things going on in Telegraph Hill Park from 11 am, plus a craft fair in St Catherine's Church.

More at Transpontine

Bob's note on edit: I originally pasted this in to a post without attribution, making it seem like I will be singing a couple of songs. I am glad to be able to reassure you that no such torture will be inflicted on the people of South London.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Keeping the link love flowing

A few links I'd like to acknowledge.

First, the excellent Daily (Maybe) included me in his prestigious (in my eyes) "Posts from other places" section, for my post on anti-Gyspy racism, a post which of course required absolutely no writing skill on my part, just cutting and pasting skills. Go and vote for something other than "Israeli goods" in Jim's what to boycott poll. And go and read this very intelligent guest post on aliens, archaoelogy and history (by Moll, the author of this incredibly impressive blog, which I would particularly recommend to my sister, except I know she never reads what I write ever). Currently featuring in "Posts from other places":the ever-reliable Charlie Brooker on 9/11 conspiracies. I also reached, via this rubbish post, this excellent Andrew Anthony TV review (on Bonekickers, Islamophobia and Tribal Wives).

Similarly, the Tory Troll, who I recently added to my blogroll, included my acid brass post in his "Top blogging" section. I liked this image from the Troll, on Boris Johnson's £40,000 "bluewashing" of London.) Other links worth following: the Boris gaffopedia, BorisWatch on RiseGate, Devil's Kitchen on Boris' faux-libertarianism. By the way, I added Dave Hill to the blogroll at the same time as I added Tory Troll. And see also Last Bus Home about Rise.

Two from Flesh is Grass: Anti-imperialism tightens further this tangled knot. And this post on the BNP in Redbridge links to my post on Hope Not Hate.

ADDED: And the New Centrist has included the Brass music post in his Monday miscellania, as part of a general increase in the music (especially hardcore) content on his blog (see e.g. on the Minutemen and the Crumbsuckers).

Other reading (which doesn't link to me):
  • Martin on the registrar who refused to officiate at a same-sex partnership.
  • Boris Johnson contrasted to the British Muslim Initiative at Engage.
  • Hopi Sen on Alan Duncan and the royal family of Oman.

Jews, blood matters, Officer Krupke and a new civil rights horizon

A fantastic post from Flesh is Grass

Fascism in Italy and anti-fascism in Britain

A long time ago, I said I was going to add Nation of Duncan to my blogroll, but I never did. Well, I am now. Further to this and this (on anti-Gypsy racism in Italy), read this. And further to this (on the anti-fascist movement in Britain), read this.

P.S. and on the Roma in Italy, more on the comments here (at the DSTs).

Friday, July 11, 2008

Anti-Gypsyism in Italy

Imagine this.

May – June 2008

Four Molotov cocktails are thrown into a Jewish neighborhood in Italy. Two days later, assailants burn down another Jewish neighborhood causing approximately 800 residents to flee. Crowds of people are seen cheering live on the main national TV channel RAI yelling: Jews out! The riot police is not even alerted at the time the broadcast takes place.

During the next weeks, a number of similar incidents happen. The minister of interior, known for his anti-Semitic stands during his previous job as the minister of employment, decides the Jewish children should be fingerprinted for what he calls “safety reasons”.

The OSCE, organization which deals mainly with security issues and conflict prevention and resolution, known for taking extensive commitments to combating racism and promoting tolerance, announces it will discuss in one month’s time, during its next meeting in Vienna , on Jewish-related issues.

The OSCE plans to have the following three sessions:

  • Role and responsibility of regional and local authorities to assist in integrating Jews
  • Good practices and major challenges in improving the situation of Jews at local level: examples from municipalities
  • Policies to facilitate equal access of Jews to public services, in particular social services and education

Indeed the above are hard to imagine. Both the incidents and the reactions would be hardly believable even to the existing wishful European hardcore anti-Semites. It would be out-of-the-question that the OSCE would address only issues on the extreme margins of the relevant issue, and avoid mentioning ethnically motivated attacks or the blatant Italian officials anti-Semitism. Would be expected from leaders of the democratic world to speak harshly against Italy and condemn the acts of hate targeting Jews.

The European Jews and Roma as ethnic groups have been primary targets for European racism for centuries and were the main targets of extermination policies of the Nazi Germany. There are many similarities regarding between anti-Semitism and anti-Gypsyism which makes the comparison salient.

Unfortunately when it comes to Roma the European Union, the UN and the OSCE seems to have a blind spot. Blatant racism, hate speech and nazi style demonstrations against Roma are rather justified than fought against.


[Previous post on this.]

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Anti-fascism: where next?

Join the debate at Hope Not Hate.

(Note: I have issues with Searchlight, but think this is a timely initiative.)

H/T: Voltaire.


I just posted the below long comment at Shiraz Socialist. As it is so long, I thought I'd reproduce it here. Some of the comment refers to this post and its comments thread at Socialist Unity (SU). I have corrected my typos, added a couple of hyperlinks and spelled out the initials and acronyms.

I too have concerns with Searchlight - not Bob Pitt’s nonsense that they are Zionists who pander to anti-black racism - but their 1980s/90s history of divisive stirring in the anti-racist/anti-fascist movement (e.g. effectively forcing the black left to disengage with Anti-Fascist Action [AFA] and join the Socialist Action [SA] front Anti-Racist Alliance [ARA - now merged into the SW's Unite Against Fascism]) and their bizarre smear campaigns against Green Anarchist - actions which led many people to suspect they were dumping on the left in exchange for co-opertaration with the state.
However, I like to think that history is behind them. I agree with most of what Nick Lowles says, of Paul Meszaros’s contribution, and of the perspective Andy Newman puts forward at SU. It seems churlish to point out that this analysis was more or less precisely that made by AFA in the wake of the BNP breakthrough at Millwall, 15 years ago, as set out in their Filling The Vacuum (FTV) document.
Meanwhile, the organised left has spent 15 years following its two most reactionary outlets, SA and the SWP, down the blind alleys of electoralism and big, expensive carnivals that preach to converts and have no impact on the white working class communities that vote BNP, while Searchlight has been slowly moving towards a sensible understanding of the situation.
I guess the difference between AFA’s FTV and what Lowles is proposing is that the former callde for an explictly working class local pole of attraction to fill the vacuum left by the labour movement (hence the formation of the IWCA), while Lowles is proposing something that is basically working class in content, but does not name itself as such, and appeals to all sections of the community.
Fifteen years ago, I would have dismissed Lowles’ cross-class position as Popular Frontism. Whether I’ve gotten more right-wing or the collapse of the labour movement has made stereotyped appeals to class consciousness sound even more dogmatic and out of touch - I don’t know. But I think he’s basically right about working with whatever forces are there on the ground locally, whether they speak the langauge of class or not.
Where I disagree slightly his emphasis, is that he seems still overly focused on the ballot box, without addressing the question of whether or not to basically endorse voting Labour. I think that elections ARE important for the BNP, which is why it remains important to urge people to vote Labour (except in the small number of places where there is any kind of meaningful alternative, such as the Greens in some wards of my own borough Lewisham, independents in some areas, or the left candidates in the tiny number of places where there is a viable left candidate, e.g. parts of Coventry where the Socialist Party still has an electoral base). BUT a shift in focus to the year-round work of community organising is much more valuable.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


I am making a trombonist friend of mine a mix tape, and I thought I'd share some of it with you. It's all brass band music, in the widest sense.

Note: not sure where I got all of these. Let me know if I am violating your intellectual property or otherwise being unethical, and I will take down. Listeners, think about buying the albums.
Acid Brass "What Time Is Love?" Version K (mp3) 7 MB
I'm not sure if I've blogged about Acid Brass before, the brainchild of Jeremy Deller, my second favourite contemporary artist, which married together the two quintessential working class arts of the British Northwest, acid house music and the colliery-style brass band (the latter as featured in the lovely movie Brassed Off, which I will blog about some day). Here, Stockport's Williams Fairey Band (a factory band rather than a colliery band), take "What Time is Love" by neo-situationist house pranksters the KLF - a song whose wikipedia page rates as a classic of citizen scholarship. Blog links: Music Like Dirt, cyberinsekt, cubikmusik. Buy Acid Brass.

Goran Bregovic "Get The Money"(mp3) 4 MB
To me, Acid Brass sounds kind of Balkan. Balkan artist Goran Bregovic has featured heavily in the weird films of Emir Kustirica. Sarajevo-born, he is probably one of the former Yugoslavia's biggest exports. Although I prefer him when he tones it down a bit, in "Get the Money", Bregovic brings a kind of punk/ska sensibility, and a hint of Lionel Bart, to the proceedings. The first version of this song was for the Kusturica film Arizona Dreams, and featured the vocals of Iggy Pop. Bregovic did a version without Iggy for the albums Songbook and P.S., but this comes from his Greatest Hits, and I assume that's Goran singing and not Iggy, but am willing to stand corrected! Buy any of these.

Dirty Dozen Brass Band "Ain't nothin but a party" (mp3) 9 MB
Rebirth Brass Band "Do Whatcha Wanna" Part 3 (mp3) 5 MB
New Orleans deep and dirty brass band funk. Dirty Dozen "Ain't Nothin'" from Medicated Magic 2002 (buy). "Do Whatcha" from Mardi Gras Party 1991 (buy). Blog links: Lil Mike 1, 2 and 3, Mainstream Isn't..., Funkjester.

Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra "Indictment" (mp3) 11 MB
Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra "I.C.E." (mp3) 16 MB
Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra "Si, Se Puede" (mp3) 14 MB
Super intense political pop in the tradition of Fela Kuti, Manu Chao or Ozomatli. Antibalas come from Brooklyn. Lots of their live music is available at the amazing Blog link: Swan Fungus.

MarchFourth Marching Band "Crackhaus" (mp3) 3 MB
MarchFourth Marching Band "YiddishBlues" (mp3) 6 MB
Like Antibalas, MarchFourth (website/myspace), from Portland, Oregan, are heavily influenced by Fela and the Rebirth Brass Band, but these two tracks highlight their more Balkan/Jewish side. "Yiddish Blues" is a 1919 composition of Lieutenant Joseph Frankel, also recorded by early klez-revivalists Klezmer Conservatory Band (featuring Don Byron) and more recently the Czech Prague Klezmerim, the fantastic Shirim Klezmer Orchestra and a German band actually called Yiddish Blues (mp3 of their version). The Frankel song is important and interesting because he came from Kiev, where he was classically trained, and then wound up involved in theatre music in New York. According to Mark Slobin, the song takes "the Mi Shebeyrekh cantorial mode" ["May he who blessed" - a healing prayer] and combines it with a ragtime rhythm, illustrating the crossover between urban immigrant Jewish music and the "Oriental foxtrot" genre dance bands were playing then, and which black bands like Duke Ellington's and Fats Waller's would develop more ambitiously later. Blog links: Guess I'm Floating, SoundRoots. Buy.

Mariachi Brass featuring Chet Baker "These Boots are Made for Walking" (mp3) 7 MB
1966. Lee Hazlewood's "These Boots..." was a hit for his muse Nancy Sinatra. According to Wikipedia, along with Chet's version, many other versions came out the same year: Hazlewood's own version, The New Christy Minstrels on the album New Kick!, Mrs. Miller on the Mrs. Miller's Greatest Hits, Jane Morgan on the Fresh Flavor and The Supremes on Supremes A' Go-Go. But the Chet Baker version, produced by the great Jack Nitzche, surely stands head and shoulders over most of these. The idea, obviously, was to replicate the commercial success of "musical mensch" Herb Alpert. Unbelievably, Chet churned out no fewer than four albums of this stuff. Info: Ace, and the Chet Baker Tribute site. Blog links: WFMU (also check out Al Tijuana & His Jewish Brass - Downtown, The Yellow Rose Of Texas, Never On Sunday, Tsena, Tsena, etc etc), Lil Mike, and Lil Mike again.

Slobodan Salijevic "A Moj Babi" (mp3) 3 MB
I think I must have taken this from SoundRoots, from where I get all the information I know about Salijevic, a Gypsy musician from Prekodolce in Serbia (a town lacking a wikipedia page if there are any Balkan experts out there). Anyway, I thought it followed on well from the Chet Baker/Mariachi brass music, as the band has a nice bittersweet, kitschy feel ot it, above which the lead (presumably Salijevic) soars in a slightly Chet Baker-ish way. Buy Slobodan Salijevic.

A Hawk and a Hacksaw "Ihabibi" (mp3) 6 MB
A Hawk and a Hacksaw are a hipster faux-Balkan band from New Mexico. I disapprove of bands starting their names with the indefinate article, but there you go, at least they're not called something like "Architecture in Helsinki", "Radio 4" or "British Seapower", names of which I very strongly disapprove. I also mildly disapprove of the fact they did the soundtrack for the Slavoj Zizek documentary. On the other hand, I strongly approve of the fact they feature Willie "The Lion" Smith's "Echoes of Spring" on their website. Smith was a black and Jewish god of pre-war jazz. "Echoes of Spring" echoes the European romantic movement's interest in the folk musics of Eastern and Central Europe (thus influencing Duke Ellington's later work in this tradition) and as such has a kinship with klezmer and Balkan music. Anyway, "Ihabibi" is from AHAAH's 2007 collaboration with Budapest's The Hun Hangár Ensemble and sounds, to me, quite klezmerish, like a Romanian doyna.

Previous: 4th of July.

New Israel Fund

This blog featured on the New Israel Fund website frontpage, in the "NIF in the news" section, like so:

Monday, July 07, 2008

Circular logic

Here are four posts which have linked here recently, and are all worth reading in their own right:
How nepotistic is that?

UPDATE: And this post from Antigerman Translation, linking to Airforce Amazons via this post, and to another post where I linked to him/her. So, less circular than Moebius strip.

Friday, July 04, 2008


Further to my post about the South London Limmud on 13 July (for which there are still places) and my post on Sudanese refugees in Israel, I noted that there is also a JCORE/JCC event next week on asylum-seekers in Israel, featuring Ellen Goldberg of the New Israel Fund (NIF), one of the Limmud speakers. (Typically, it is in NW3.) Also related, here's another speaker, JCORE's Edie Friedman, in conversation with multiculturalism-backlash tsar Trevor Phillips in the Jewish Quarterly (ignore the title, where the JQ subeditor appears to have married them off...) And here's the NIF on racism in Israeli football. And here's NIF's blog.

I also googled another speaker, Bryan Reuben, and found him to have interesting views on many of the topics addressed at this blog. See, e.g., here, here, here, here.

Anyway, have a good weekend, and maybe see you next weekend at Limmud.

Something for the weekend

1. In Italy, discrimination against Roma people is ruled acceptable, because they are all criminals. (More: Snoopy/hak)

2. Anthony Julius on antisemitism's fellow travellers. (H/T: Snoopy)

3. Usually, left of centre politicians like to say the Gaza Strip is worse than the Warsaw Ghetto. Unusually, the SNP are saying that Glasgow is worse than the Gaza Strip. (H/T Shuggy)

Bob's beats: Fourth of July

Happy Independence Day, American readers!

Note: not sure where I got all of these. Let me know if I am violating your intellectual property or otherwise being unethical, and I will take down. Listeners, think about buying the albums.

See also:
Official websites and places to buy CDs: Ani Di Franco, Richard Shindell, Neko Case, Mountain Goats, Danny Michel, Bettye LaVette, Sharon Jones and the Daptones, Barbara Dane, LCD Soundsytem.

Previous: Arab anger etc.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Anarchism, Jewish and African

Two things related only by an anarchist angle:

1. Alexander Schapiro, a figure from East London's pre-WWI Jewish anarchist scene, and the diasporically dispersed anti-Stalinist milieu of the interwar years.

2. Anarchist perspective on Zimbabwe.

Bob's beats: Arabs, anger, etc

I've posted about Natascha Atlas - possessor of one of the most extraordinary voices in contemporary music - on this blog before: here, then here, then here, and in passing here. I promised I'd post her "Yalla Chant", but never did. Luckily, Acid Ted has a post all about her, including the mp3 of the Youth and Banco De Gaia remixs of it, which doesn't quite let me off the hook.* "Yalla Chant" not to be confused with "Yalla Yalla". For the Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros version of that, go to I am Fuel, You are Friends.*

Oh, and the obligatory South London reference: according to Transpontine, Tim Whelan of Transglobal Underground, the band with whom Atlas had a very close relationship, once lived in the Sanford Housing Co-op in New Cross/Deptford.

Anyway, Natascha has a new album out soon, Ana Hina. Apparently, it is more traditionally Arabic than her previous records (following the line of drift since her career began with the. Transglobals). It includes tunes by Abdel Halim Hafez, who was a wonderful crooner of mid-twentieth century Eygpt, who invites comparison with Beny Moré or Nat King Cole. Hawgblawg has a post with some information about the new Atlas album and about Abdel Halim.

He adds:
"Lammebada," the opening number [on Ana Hina], is a revered song from the Arab Andalusian tradition, that has been recorded numerous times. Check out Catalonian singer Maria del Mar Bonet's live version, on youtube. It has also been recorded by La Mar Enfortuna, who opened for Natacha at the Old Town School of Folk Music in September 2006. I'm never fully convinced by tracks recorded by Natacha in English, but her version of Nina Simone's "Black is the Color" is serviceable. Also worth mentioning is the very pretty, "He Hesitated," an anti-war song, which is about a soldier pondering whether or not to shoot.
Worth adding that the Arab Andalucian musical tradition still contains traces of Jewish influence.

I got to Hawgblawg (a friend of a friend of this blog, via New Cross's own John Hutnyk) from Anti-German Translation, with a post on suicide bomber chic:
Following the Michelle Malkin / Dunkin’ Donuts / Rachael Ray kefiyah kerfuffle (see also Sex Sells, Kufiya feigale), "radical" American anthropologist Ted Swedenburg has been fighting for the rights of fashionable Americans to show their couture-solidarity with suicide bombers. This is my fave, as it would probably upset Nasrallah the most.
On suicide bomber chic, what about Primal Scream, a band I loved when I was sixteen? Their new song, downloadable free, is a cover of Hawkwind's "Urban Guerrilla". Hawkwind's 1973 classic was a sharp retort to the spirit of flower power, a crawl in the dark, violent underbelly of the hippy era. The Primals add the words "I'm a suicide bomber" to the lyrics. One blogger fan writes "It rocks like a suicide bomber in the public gallery of The Houses of Parliament!". Hmmm. (Wonder what Jams, a big Hawkwind fan, would make of this.)

Here's the Graun's review of a recent Primals/MC5 gig:
...the mid-set pairing of Suicide Bomb and Uptown kills the momentum. The latter, an 80s-style pop ballad, sounds as if it were written to soundtrack a seduction scene in the original Miami Vice TV series. The former, with typical tact, sees Gillespie so sexually excited he's "going off like a suicide bomb".
Evidently, suicide bombs feature heavily in their lyrical content these days.

Turning back to Arab music, WFMU has a cool post on Eygptian themes:

[...]The story of Richard Nixon's laughable skedaddle to the Middle East in June of 1974 became rich fodder for the duo of Ahmed Fouad Negm, a poet and folk hero who spent nearly two decades in prison for his subversive writing, and the blind troubadour Sheikh Imam Eissa. Together they wrote and performed songs lauding Che Guevara, denouncing the war in Vietnam and mercilessly ridiculing every Egyptian leader since 1962, when they began their partnership.

Listen to: Sharaft ya Nixon Baba (MP3)
Cheikh1 Cheikh2
There's a scene in the Egyptian writer Ahdaf Soueif's first novel, In the Eye of the Sun, where a doctoral candidate in linguistics attempts to decipher the lyrics to "Sharaft ya Nixon Baba." An excerpt of this scene is posted on a blog by the Moroccan writer Laila Lalami.[...]

*I started writing this in April; some links are probably dead...

Previous: Foxes of New Cross, Jew-ish Music, Hasidic hip hop, Kode9, Non-random music selection.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Arguing for discrimination

Johan Hari: It can be right to discriminate against the religious: "If you are for human rights, then you have to be against amorphous and toxic “religious rights.”" Yep.

Hitch's cojones

Jim on Hitchens on waterboarding

A great quote and a great poem

The great quote here. The great poem here.

South London Limmud

In a couple of weekends, what looks like it should be a fantastic event is happening in Bromley: a South London Day Limmud. Limmud is a cross-communal Jewish educational thing. The event on 13 July is an all-day event with eight different streams of talks, workshops and seminars. The full line up is here. Some highlights (from my perspective) include:

Ellen Goldberg
Kick Racism Out of Israeli Football
(Session 3)

Did you ever hear "Death to the Arabs" chanted at a football match? Could you believe that a team wouldn't hire a fantastic footballer because of his ethnicity? These are some of the problems that New Israel Fund's campaign to Kick Racism Out of Israeli Football works on solving. Come and hear how it's being done, and what role the English FA has played in this effort. This session is for anyone interested in human rights, social justice and football!

Ellen Goldberg joined New Israel Fund's staff as Associate Director in Israel in 2001 and has been Executive Director of NIF (UK) since 2007. She worked in social and health service development in Israel since making aliya from the US in 1980, especially for Ethiopian immigrants, the elderly, and children at risk.

Benita Hide
Co-existence - an alternative approach
(Session 3)

A brief history of Neve Shalom - Wahat al-Salam (NSWaS), its raison d'etre and description of its educational institutions.

Benita Hide has been working in the NGO sector on human rights for the past 15 years, and with British Friends of NSWaS for nearly ten.

Edie Friedman
Opening doors - myths about asylum seekers and refugees today
(Session 4)

Refugees and asylum seekers are among the most vulnerable and disempowered people in the world. In Britain, they are also one of the most vilified. Anti-asylum media campaigns have exercised enormous influence on government policy and political discourse, resulting in the belief that we are sinking under the weight of refugees clambering onto our island. The facts show otherwise: two thirds of the world's refugees are in the Middle East and Africa. Britain's hardening stance means that the number entering now are negligible and steadily declining. In this session Edie Friedman will attempt to show how current attitudes reflect a centuries-old tradition of ambivalence towards the world's dispossessed, fuelled by economic protectionism and the perceived need to maintain social cohesion.

Edie Friedman is a regular speaker and writes on race and asylum issues. In 1976 she founded the Jewish Council for Racial Equality (JCORE), of which she is now a director.

Ben Gidley
Jewish Radicals in London's East End
(Session 4)

An account of the radical movements among the immigrant Jews of East London, including stories such as Jewish radicals eating bacon sandwiches outside synagogues, ultra-Orthodox housewives making gefilte fish sandwiches for striking Catholic dockers, and Rudolf Rocker, the non-Jewish bookbinder who learnt Yiddish and led the Jewish anarchist movement before being interned in Alexandra Palace as an enemy alien during World War One.

Ben Gidley is a researcher at the Centre for Urban and Community Research at Goldsmiths, University of London. He has researched the history of Jewish radicalism in London's East End, focusing on the First World War. He is working on a study of Jewish community leadership for the Rothschild Foundation Europe and is an associate of New Jewish Thought.

Jon Mendelsohn
Is there a new Jewish agenda? Jews, Israel, Politics and the World
(Session 5)

What are the challenges facing the Jews and how well are we doing in responding to them?

Jon Mendelsohn is a former political adviser, campaigner, third sector Chief Executive, communications professional and businessman. He is currently working professionally as an investor and in a voluntary capacity for both the Labour Party and his local synagogue.

Louise Ellman
Parliament and Jewish Community Issues
(Session 6)

This session will deal with issues in Parliament that are of particular concern to the Jewish community. This will include how Israel is viewed by MPs, Britain-Israel relations, anti-Semitism and how the All-Party Committee Against Anti-Semitism and the Government is combating anti-Semitism. The issue of Iran and the threat it poses to international peace and security will also be discussed.

Louise Ellman has been the MP for Liverpool Riverside since May 1997. She is Chairman of the Transport Select Committee, Vice Chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party Regional Government Group, Chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, Vice-Chair of Labour Friends of Israel and Vice-Chair of the All Party British-Israel Parliamentary Group. She is also a Council Member of the Holocaust Educational Trust and a director of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.

Bryan Reuben
Deconstructing the 1948 War of Independence (Session 6)

Social groups have narratives through which they define their history and which underpin their attitudes. Thus the 1948 war looks entirely different through the eyes of Jews, Arabs and bystanders. Accounts by Yigal Allon, Howard Sacher, Avi Shlaim, Benny Morris, Glubb Pasha and others will be compared, and the basis of historical revisionism discussed. What can be said about the post-modernist teaching that all narratives are equally valid?

Bryan Reuben is Professor of Chemical Technology at London South Bank University. Since going emeritus (i.e. unpaid) he has written books on the chemical, pharmaceutical and process industries, and many letters to the press. He worries that, when professional historians write about events where he was present, there seems to be little correlation with what he remembers.

There's also a culinary history of Italian Jewry, a history of Ethiopian Jewry, David Newman on Israel at 60, Fiyaz Mughal on interfaith action, an Anglican priest talking about Rothko and Chagall, a veteran of the displaced persons camps and the Israeli war of independence, a talk on the wonderful Janus Korczak, plus lots of religion, music, dance and more!

Sunday 13 July 2008 Bromley College Rookery Lane, Bromley, Kent BR2 8HE

Book online

Join them on YouTube or Facebook!

Links: Listing at Lewisham website, Listing at UJS site,

South London Jews: Bromley Reform Synagogue, South London Liberal Synagoue, Catford and Bromley [United] Synagogue, SE London Synagogue history at Transpontine.