Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Today's snippets

Steve Cohen
A nice obituary for Steve Cohen (to add to the ones I linked to here) from Ionnek at Indymedia London (currently the lead item on the front page, which is gratifying), which includes a bibliography of some of his writings.

Just good blogging
My two favourite blog posts of the week: the Fat Man on George Orwell, and Terry Glavin on the Kuchis of Afghanistan. In the former, a few clear well-written paragraphs and well-chosen quotes demolish some of the myths about Orwell; in the latter a tiny number of words and a perfect juxtaposition of image and video makes a profound, subtle point. (Added: Rosie also has a good piece on the Julian Barnes Orwell article.)

I'd planned to ease off on this sort of thing. After all, Engage, ZWord, Greens Engage, CC and others do it far better than me. But I went for lunch at the cafe I often frequent, Cafe Crema in New Cross, and found the blackboard no longer says "Please boycott Israeli goods. Thank you." It now says "We do not use any Israeli products. We are not anti-semitic but anti-fascist. Jews are as welcome here as anyone else." So now, in my world, Israel is not just bad, it's bad and fascist.

Keith Kahn-Harris' piece at Prospect on Anglo-Jewry has ignited a surprisingly fierce debate, probably over-heated by its coinciding with a terrible article in the Indy by Tony Lerman. Discussion at Prospect blog, Flesh is Grass, Engage. I've intended ito weigh in, but am having trouble articulating my response. [Update: I have now "weighed in" at Engage and Prospect. Unfortunately, at Engage I accused Mark G of the CST of something he was innocent of but that Jonathan H of the ZF was guilty of, which is embarassing, and now contents are closed. In the unlikely event Mark reads this, sorry!]

Following Seven Jewish Children (opening tomorrow in Dublin, by the way) comes Go to Gaza, Drink the Sea. A debate at the JC between drama critic John Nathan and Palestinian writer Raja Shehadeh. There's also a good review at the left-leaning Time Out. And, also at the JC, Israeli soldiers on the Operation Cast Lead experience.

In the New Statesman, Rhoda Koenig on English dinner party antisemitism. [Via Engage/ZWord]

A blog I've only just notice, but will be adding to the blogroll: Old World New Ideas.

One law for all!
A report on Saturday's anti-racist march and conference against Sharia law here, with videos and pics. (Added: a report, and some questions, here from Ms Flesh.)

Local matters
An anonymous report on the re-election of the SWP's Jennifer Jones to the Goldsmiths Student Union in the comments here.

Brockley a transition town? More here. And another good cause: cobblers.

Fighting the BNP
From Progressive Viewpoint:

the reason that people are inclining towards voting for the BNP is not because they have all suddenly become goose-stepping fascists, but because they are angry, alienated, afraid and ready to give mainstream politicians a kicking. People who have decided that the political mainstream is the biggest problem will not be impressed by efforts by the Labour Party in particular to lecture them on who not to vote for. The political establishment has been largely (but not exclusively) responsible for creating the conditions in which the BNP can prosper. The same political establishment may not be able to turn this situation around in short order. It is wishful thinking to believe otherwise.
See also Phil, with whom I broadly agree, although I think the "Bonapartist" analysis is a little too shallow.


ModernityBlog said...

So are you going to boycott the Cafe Crema?

G said...

If anyone announces they'll boycott Crema on the strength of that, then I'll go more there more often to make up the difference, and spend more money than usual.

bob said...

I guess I better not "announce" a boycott then, for fear of offending G. I'm still thinking. Any advice?

Anonymous said...

wow, what's next, segregated lunch counters? i'm old enough to remember signs hanging on the walls of various bars and cafes that read "we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone." and, as one of those "anyones" who was sometimes refused service, that's exactly what the notice in the cafe you mention reminds me of.

so currently in the uk, there's not only a call to boycott "israeli" stores, but also an effort to exclude "zionist" customers. is this the case? well, i guess hip capitalism has learned to employ the mechanism of social exclusion.


ModernityBlog said...


I think Les's suggestion is probably the way to go, ask the Cafe to have two or more lines "Non-Zionists", "Zionists" and "Anti-Zionists" then see if they can connect the dots?

I doubt they will

maps said...

Hi Bob,

this is off-topic, but I thought you might be interested in these anti-semites, who are making quite a ruckus in NZ:
Unfortunately they are getting large number of readers and (as is noted in the comments under the post) they are now moving into outright Holocaust denial and organising a conference/rally. Bad news.

Anonymous said...

Les, the sign doesn't say anything about 'zionist' customers being excluded. I think the sign is, to say the least, clumsy (rather than maliciously intended) and probably best sorted out through an actual conversation with Chris in the Cafe rather than turning it into a global cause celebre.

bob said...

I like the idea that this blog might spark a "global cause celebre"...

Maps- Not off topic: Cafe Crema and Harvest Whole Foods probably have a similar vibe...
Here's the direct link folks: Reading the Maps: Organic yohurt, tofu - and neo-Nazi nutbars?

Bob said...

I'm going to need to go back into Crema to get the exact words on the blackboard (any readers got them?) - assuming Chris hasn't already responded to this "global cause celebre" ;) and removed it.

But, just a little proportion, re Les & co: they don't say they won't serve [to] Israeli customers; they say they won't serve Israeli products, which is not quite segregated lunch counter time.

On the other hand, re the second Anonymous, I doubt Chris will cave in: Crema has been wearing its anti-Israeli political stripes pretty prominently on its sleave for some time: this is a deeply held conviction, not a passing fad.

ModernityBlog said...


why not print off a copy of Steve Cohen's work, drop it off at the Cafe and see if the penny drops?

Anonymous said...

bob--sounds like a good idea. it's always important to verify the text. by the way, i suppose i wrote my own comment about exclusion partly out of a concern or fear that that's where the situation at times seems to be heading. maybe we're all caught up in a bad dialectic, a bad history of entrenchment and "existential threat" that makes real dialogue difficult, if not impossible, especially the kind of dialogue that can break the current impasse. i think it's fitting to quote steve cohen's own words in this regard.

"Is there any way out of this mess? Particularly is there any way out of this mess for socialists in this country trapped politically between the existential linkage of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism? Is there a wisdom of Solomon? In all humility I think so. Of course we can all have our own politics on the way forward as regards Israel/Palestine. My own vision is of a federated secular and socialist middle east. This maybe is utopic but so is socialism. So is the revolution. So is all meaningful change. However there is going to be no way forward without a recognition of the fundamental block towards any change whatsoever—namely the world wide antagonism between Jews and Muslims. The international nature of this cleavage is central. Only joint and grassroots solidarity between the players in the game can possibly open up any dialogue."

and, of course, it's nice when a conversation of that nature can go on in a cafe, or a diner or even a deli.


TNC said...

Reminds me of the "Rainbow Grocery" collective in SF. They were considering a ban of Israeli goods for quite a while. Not sure if it was ever officially approved.

The Contentious Centrist said...

"We do not use any Israeli products. We are not anti-semitic but anti-fascist. Jews are as welcome here as anyone else."

1. About that non use of Israeli products, how can I be sure? How can I be certain that the person who made my sandwich did not eat an Israeli orange just before coming to work? How do I know the barrista did not take a pill made in Israel? How can I be sure that the computerised cash register does not include an Israeli developed and manufactured component?

If we are talking moral purification, let's have it all the way to its logical end, shall we?

2. How far a leap it is from this, not at all well-intentioned, statement to this: No patrons allowed who use, have used (for the last 6 hours, two days, or ever) or intend to use, Israeli products?

3. And how would all you broad-minded people feel if instead of: "Jews are as welcome here as anyone else.", the sign would further elaborate:

Jews and dogs are as welcome here as anyone else.

Entdinglichung said...

personally, I can find a good reason to boycott nearly every state in the world (I would probably exclude a few, e.g. Dominica, Vanuatu, San Marino or even Uruguay and Bolivia) ... what I find most striking is, that the reasons put forward would pretty much apply to Britain itself (historical and contemporay, see Diego Garcia) but boycotting Britain would be much harder (especially if you want to win over at least parts of the British population) ...

P.S.: would Cafe Crema welcome Mordechaj Anielewicz?

bob said...

Also relevant: Food Fight: Brooklyn Co-op Mulls Israel Ban – [h/t Jogo]

ModernityBlog said...

Adam Holland has update that co-op ban story

I liked this:
In the words of Allen Zimmerman, a coop administrator (read here: comment #8):

The Park Slope Food Coop has 15, 000 members, 3 of whom have expressed their opposition to the Israel conflict in Gaza. The issue of a boycott was raised by a single member at our January membership meeting during our open microphone period, and no one else spoke on this at all. That is the entire extent of this issue so far. I am part of the management team at the coop. When Fox News came to interview me on 2/19, they roamed the store, interviewing members. Later, I asked them how it went. They told me that they were unable to find a coop member who favored a boycott of Israel. They were disappointed, because like me, they couldn’t find the tempest in our teapot"

3 of 15,000!


TNC said...

Thanks, Mod.
3 out of 15,000.
Makes me consider actually joining the co-op. It's in my hood but I can never find the time to do the "volunteering" they require for co-op members.

bob said...

Anyone following this thread might want to check Chris the proprietor's response here: BobFromBrockley: Weekending

G said...

Anon writes:

"i suppose i wrote my own comment about exclusion partly out of a concern or fear that that's where the situation at times seems to be heading"

Absolutely! This boycott is a slippery slope towards race-based segregation. It could even lead to segregated roads, it could lead to parts of the population being barred from certain professions. It... oops. Seems I'm describing Israel (Arabs barred from certain jobs) and the West Bank (where illegal Israeli colonists get exclusive use of their own roads, closed to Arabs).

Boaz said...

I'd like to ask Crema's owner: "if you are such a friend of all the opressed peoples, I presume that, along with your boycott to Israeli products (by the way, which ones do you have in your café?), I assume you also boycott all kinds of Chinese cheap stuff for China's un-ethical treatment of Tibetans and baby girls; Cuban rum and sugar because of how journalists are treated there; Belgians chocolates for their genocide in the late Belgian Congo; Mexican Tequilla for the Chiapas Indians; Burmese rice for their opression of Democracy; Russian vodka for Chechenya... Right? And you don't use Saudi, Nigerian, Venezuelan and Iranian diesel in your car, do you?"
Stupid ridiculous man...