Thursday, February 12, 2009

Thursday linktastica


Professor M said...

Re anti-semitism in Europe:

I want to make distinctions that this survey (or is it the Miami newspaper?) only partly, it seems, wants to make. "Europe" is too big an abstraction, and anti-semitism doesn't have the exact same points of origin and perpetuation everywhere. For example, Spain is only 30 years away from a long fascist regime, partly characterised by its racism, so it shouldn't be surprising that anti-semitism persists strongly there.

Similarly, there is no "European" pro-intifada movement in the way you assert, but varying, uncoordinated expressions of sympathy or support for Palestinians in their current plight. Take Spain as an example again: it has experienced relatively little agitation in support of the Palestinian cause, perhaps because it also registers more anti-Moslem prejudice than other European countries.

The Contentious Centrist said...

" also registers more anti-Moslem prejudice than other European countries."

I used to have the same impression before I read this article in the New Yorker, 4 years ago:

"One evening, I went to a pub with some Spanish cops. “There is this legend that Spain and the Arab world were friends,” a senior investigator said. He nodded toward the waitress and the customers at several nearby tables. “Here in the bar are five Arabs sitting next to you. Nobody used to think it was strange. Now people are reacting differently.” He paused and said, “They want to smell the jasmine of Al Andalus and pray again in the Granada mosque. Can you imagine the mentality these S.O.B.s have?”

It is hard to believe that Spaniards are not as anti-Muslim as any other European nation, considering Spain's history of the "Castillian principle" (unity of religion, nation, and territory) which is often advanced as the reason for its antisemitism.

Also I don't understand why levels of antisemitism would be so high due to the fascist racist past, but not anti-Muslim sentiments? Where exactly is the redeeming quality in such an assessment? To speak more plainly, why would the Spaniards "forgive" Muslims their Muslimism but not Jews their Judaism?

bob said...

A few years ago, certainly before the Madrid bombings, I spent some time in Andalucia. In Granada, there is was a very strong scene of young hip Spaniards getting totally into recreating some idea of Al-Andalus: sitting around in drinking rosewater smoking scented hookahs wearing kaftans and cultivating facial hair. There was a whole strip of Arab-run coffeebars playing Maghrebi/techno fusion on the hill facing the Alhambra.

Heading back to Malaga to fly home at the end of my adventure, I passed Tarifa, whose graveyard is full of un-identified North African bodies that washed up on the shore, and spent some hours in Algeciras, which was full of sullen migrant workers. On the road, I frequently saw North African men being stopped by police, and all the most menial jobs were done by North Africans.

Clearly, some people had not forgiven Muslims their Muslimness, while the young hipsters seemed to be expiating their guilt for driving out the Moors. Those two positions might overdetermine attitudes towards Palestinians.

Jews only seemed to figure in terms of curating sites for North American tourism. But, of course, these are just the observations of a tourist...

Dave Semple said...

I am surprised at your promotion of the first article, Bob. Martin Bright seems to throw almost every stereotype in the book at these Leftists who "gather around the Palestinian cause" just as they "gathered around Iraq".

I can't help but feel that this sort of ad hominem attack is degrading - and not at all your usual standard. So why promote it?

It caricatures the position of many thousands of considerate socialists to present their differentiation between Israeli and Palestinian (i.e. IDF and Hamas) actions as "a matter of ideological faith" or as suffering we care more about than any other issue, turning us into unprincipled wagon jumpers.

I care about the situation of the Palestinians, and for socialists it is right to raise the issue again every time there's a new spat. It's one thing to condemn us for raising the Palestinian side only (and emotive attempts to do this aren't uncommon) but to say that Palestinians living in what is effectively a concentration camp not of their own making have it as bad as Israeli citizens (Arab or Jewish) is simply not true.

This doesn't mean that, when there's a conflict ongoing between Hamas and the IDF that I suddenly stop caring about everything else - and it's ludicrous to presume so for other Leftists as well. It's an emotive issue - almost a gateway issue for young people coming new to politics. It helps them understand things about concepts such as the use of force, terrorism, the role of the State etc.

But we don't suddenly stop campaigning on homelessness, jobs, welfare, the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, secularism and other socialist causes whenever a Middle Eastern conflict breaks out into new violence. To say so is rather execrable - and Martin Bright says so.

I won't continue this, I think you take my point. If you think I should write an article, and would be interested in reading these views in more detail, do say so.

bob said...

Thanks Dave. I'll try and answer more thoroughly tomorrow, but for today a quick answer.

I think that most socialists (and most anarchists, etc) carry on campaigning around the usual issues even during a war like the recent one. To take two very different examples, Martin Bright's points could not be extended to either the Socialist Party or to Libcom.

However, there are large sections of left and liberal and anarcho opinion that seem to be mobilised only in relation to this one issue, and not to any other. I remember checking Indymedia UK, for example, every day or to from when the wildcat strikes in the oil industries broke out for a week or so: Gaza totally dominated the website, with hardly a mention of the strikes. The SWP are similarly completely fixated on the situation in the Middle East.

My union branch today passed its umpteenth motion about Palestine, plus one about something political and work-related, the latter being something that hardly ever happens in my branch. No motions about the refinery strikes, the situation in Sri Lanka or any number of other issues that seem to me as serious in their way to Israel-Palestine. (Indeed, someone explicitly described the magnitude of the situation in Iz-Pal as "unique" in relation to ALL other instances of "oppression" globally.)

So, the question is: why? Why this one issue? And one answer, I'm afraid, seems to call out...

Sorry, that was a long answer after all. By the way, some great stuff at your place recently on EP Thompson and on the strikes (all printed out in my bus reading pile! will certainly make my next linktastica).