Friday, January 30, 2009

Updates

OK, that's probably me for the week. Three final links: Your Friend in the North on half truths and "must watch" massacres, TNC on The Nation and Ignoblus on Walt and Mearsheimer.

I have added things to almost every post I've done this week, apart from the big one, so even if you've already read them, go read the bonus links at:

Karl Marx to Abraham Lincoln

I missed this, but Hak Mao posted, on the occasion of Barack Obama's inauguration, a greeting from the International Working Men's Association to newly re-elected President Abraham Lincoln. Great stuff.

Greens Engage/Antisemitism real and imagined/Jews and shoes

If you read this ("Friends of the Earth") at Harry's Place, please immediately go and read this ("Friends of the Earth Middle East impersonated by Anti-Zionists") at the excellent Greens Engage website. Oh and while you are there, re-read Kellie's excellent piece of prose "Gaza - whose fault?". And then stay long enough to read this by Mira on Abed Rabu’s case and what it means.

I've been spending time at Reading the Maps lately. I have some responses to make to Comrade Maps' comments in a couple of my posts. In the meantime, read this, and follow the fascinating comments thread. Well, don't follow it all the way as it gets quite tedious about half-way through (but feel free to jump to my contribution comment no.41!).

Finally, I know I've been down on the London Review of Books lately, but I want to recommend this article by Jenny Diski to Noga and any other Jewish shoe-lovers who might be among my readers.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Jump

Long post just below this. For those of you who don't like scrolling down, you can jump it by clicking on one of these, my recent posts:

Henry Siegman’s Lies

[Cross-posted at Engage]

Note: I am writing this as someone who opposed the Israeli blockade of Gaza, who opposes the Settler movement in the Occupied Territories, who opposed the Israeli incursion in to Gaza in November which helped precipitate the recent round of conflict, and who was angered at Israeli conduct during the December/January phase of this conflict. I write this also as someone who subscribes to and greatly appreciates the London Review of Books. I write, then, not in support of Israel, but against the taking of sides against Israel, against simplistic thinking, against the attempt to reduce a complex conflict into the battle of good and evil.

The LRB, a key platform for the liberal establishment that dominates British intellectual chatter, consistently takes a stridently anti-Israeli position. A piece, entitled “Israel’s Lies” by Henry Siegman, which kicks off the 29 January issue, is no exception. Like most of what the LRB publishes, it is a fine piece of writing, but, like most of what LRB publishes on this particular topic, is marred by a particular form of intellectual and moral dishonesty. Henry Seigman has form in this area, and it comes as no surprise that, at a time when much of the British left feels the need to take sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the LRB would want to publish his lies.

Siegman purports in the piece to take apart a number of Israel’s lies. Among Israel’s purported lies is that Hamastani Gaza has become “a launching-pad for firing missiles at Israel’s population” rather than a step towards Palestinian statehood. Despite the obvious truth of Gaza’s role as a launching-pad for such missiles (1,639 in 2007, 2378 in the first half of 2008, up to 3000 during the recent round of conflict), Siegman purports to refute this notion by claiming this:

“First, for all its failings, Hamas brought Gaza to a level of law and order unknown in recent years, and did so without the large sums of money that donors showered on the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority. It eliminated the gangs and warlords who terrorised Gaza under Fatah’s rule. Non-observant Muslims, Christians and other minorities have more religious freedom under Hamas rule than they would have in Saudi Arabia, for example, or under many other Arab regimes.”

If we were to accept what Siegman says here as true, the argument would have the same structure as the following argument: “The notion that Germany under Hitler murdered its Jews is a lie because in fact Hitler made the trains run on time and in any event Stalin killed more people.” Or: “The claim that the My Lai massacre was a war crime is a lie because the American occupation made lots of Vietnamese people rich and anyway Pol Pot did some worse things.” Or “A chicken is not a bird because it’s really a farm animal and anyway a duck is more of a bird than a chicken.”

Quite simply, the extent to which Hamas brought Gaza law and order and religious tolerance is irrelevant to the question of whether it used this orderly and tolerant haven as a launching-pad for rockets. The extent to which the Wahhabi monarchy is a theocratic dictatorship is irrelevant to the question of Hamas’ responsibility for the attempted mass slaughter of Israeli citizens.

But even if we ignore Siegman’s request that we look the other way (at Fatah’s corruption and the Saudi’s religious totalitarianism), we cannot avoid the fact that he is lying about Hamastan. Gaza under Hamas has been lawless: a law and order situation that is summed up in the labyrinth of tunnels beneath its borders, by the persistence of independent terrorism by Islamic Jihad, by the extra-judicial detention, beatings and murder of Fatah activists and other oppositionists, by the naked rule of Hamas-linked warlords on the streets, by the carte blanche given to Hamas client clans such as the Doghmush, by the repression of trade unions including those of journalists and doctors. And, of course, beyond this, Hamas uses densely populated civilian areas as the base for its paramilitary assaults on Southern Israel, thus endangering the lives of the people they are supposedly keep safe.

As for religious tolerance, the period of Hamas rule has not only seen a Holy War against the Zionist entity; it has seen an attempt at the ethnic cleansing of the Christian population. In build-up to the Hamas coup in 2007, 40 purportedly Christian internet cafes and book outlets were bombed in Gaza. Days after the coup, a convent and convent school was bombed. Later in the year, there was the murder of the manager of Gaza’s only Christian bookshop by a Jihadi group (the Righteous Swords of Islam) which Hamas have tolerated. Today, Gaza’s Christians live in fear.

Moving on, Siegman takes on Israel’s next “lie”: that Hamas is a terrorist group. “In fact,” he writes, “Hamas is no more a ‘terror organisation’ (Israel’s preferred term) than the Zionist movement was during its struggle for a Jewish homeland.” Again, even if we accept Siegman’s counterclaim as true, it has the same structure as the refutation above: a chicken is not a “bird” because a duck is a “bird”. Whether or not Zionists committed terrorist atrocities (whether or not a duck is a “bird”) is irrelevant to the question of whether or not Hamas does (whether or not a chicken is a “bird”). The truth is that Hamas most manifestly does commit terrorist atrocities: it constantly fires rockets intended to kill civilians in southern Israel, because it does not see a distinction between civilian and military targets.

But what of his claim that “the Zionist movement” was a “terror organisation”? It is true that the IZL and LHI committed acts of terrorism from 1937. However, IZL (Irgun, the military wing of the right-wing Revisionist minority current) were marginal within the Zionist movement; LHI (the Stern Gang) was even more so. The overwhelming majority of the global Zionist movement and of the Jewish community in Palestine, the Yishuv, condemned LHI and IZL. The 1937-8 terrorist attacks by IZL on Arab civilians (during the second stage of the small-scale civil war known as the Second Arab Revolt) was condemned throughout the Palestinian Jewish press and by the Yishuv’s leadership. There was a brief period of co-operation between the terrorist right and the Haganah, in Autumn 1945, when they jointly carried out operations against British military infrastructure targets like bridges. But for the most part, to quote the source Siegman uses (Benny Morris’ Righteous Victims), “due to its meager resources and manpower, almost consensual Yishuv opposition to anti-British terrorism, and successive, effective British clampdowns, sometimes assisted by tip-offs from the Haganah and IZL, the LHI’s stance was never really translated into action” until 1946, while IZL’s 1946 return to terrorism under Begin’s leadership (targeting buildings rather than people) led to the “Saison”, when Haganah teams attempted to wipe out IZL. IZL’s 1937-38 outrages against civilians and LHI’s brief, spectacular period of full-blown terrorism in summer 1946 – when the King David Hotel was bombed, with 91 casualties, British, Jewish and Arab – were the aberration rather than the rule before the 1947-48 war.

Benny Morris characterises the war as really two wars: a guerrilla civil war between two armed citizenries up to May 1948 followed by a conventional war between the State of Israel and the combined armies of its Arab neighbour states. It was during the second phase of the civil war – after the Jewish community had suffered sustained damage at the hands of Arab guerrillas who initially outgunned them – that the Haganah committed the acts of ethnic cleansing Siegman mentions. Although I would condemn those acts, they cannot be seen as “terrorist”, but as part of a spiralling guerrilla war. They comparable not to Hamas’ ballistic assaults but to some of the phases of KLA action during the Balkan civil wars or to some of the atrocities of the Republican armies during the Spanish Civil War.

To talk of “the Zionist movement” as terrorist in this period, then, is like talking about “the socialist movement” as terrorist because of the brief existence of the Red Army Faction and the Weather Underground. This kind of sloppy totalising narrative, with “the Zionist movement” presented as a single, homogeneous, undifferentiated and eternally unchanging entity plays into the antisemitic narrative of “the Zionist entity” and mirrors right-wing discourse on the inherently terrorist nature of “the” Arabs or “the” Palestinians. In fact, LHI had far less claim to represent “the Zionist movement” as a whole than Hamas has a claim to represent the Palestinian nationalist movement as a whole.

And what of Hamas? Siegman says “it is too easy to describe Hamas simply as a ‘terror organisation’.” True. It is too easy to describe a chicken “simply” as a “bird”, but it is a bird nonetheless.

The terrorist actions of the IZL and LHI were disastrous for the Zionist cause. The 1937-8 IZL anti-Arab bombs turned neutral Arab opinion in Palestine towards the Mufti and his far right Palestinian nationalist movement, making the possibility of the two people sharing the space less possible. The 1946 LHI anti-British bombs halted Churchill’s move towards a workable two-state solution, leading to the zero sum game that the two sides have been playing since 1947, which neither side can win without wiping out the other. Hamas’ rockets have likewise been a disaster for the Palestinian cause, undermining any steps towards meaningful Palestinian freedom. Henry Siegman and the LRB, in seeking to exonerate Hamas, are complicit in this disaster.

Remembering

A song in remembrance of appalling loss. For Holocaust Memorial Day.

Added: Martin M, linking to Peter' post, writes:
To assault the Jews is to assault civilisation and life; the eruption of the Satanic principle last time, and its toxic outworking of the poisons built up throughout the European mind, proved it. And, guess what, Adolf? They are still here and still singing. They will so long as human beings exist, and then some.
A comment at his post takes us to the wonderful Sephardic Music site, which I strongly recommend.

Added 2: Alternate YouTube links for Savina Yannatou singing "El Rey de Francia", h/t Jogo: 1, 2. Jogo sez:
This is one of the greatest classic songs of the Sephardim. I have it and others on David Saltiel's magnificent CD. You should buy the CD for the excellent booklet that it comes with. Saltiel is not a concert Sephardic singer. He is not even a "recording artist." He is the real thing, a down-home Thessalonika Sephardic uncle. Here is a review of Saltiel's CD.
ADDED 3: Now read Noga's lovely post here, on her Salonika in-laws, rembetika fans.

Keywords: Ladino music, Salonika

Fascism watch: South London (no.2)

Ross of Save Catford, after a long hiatus, is back, with a post on the despicable neo-Nazi Tess Culnane, standing in the upcoming Downham by-election, down the road from me. Among other things, Ross notes Culnane's association with Lady Michelle Renouf. More on this story later!


Thanks to T for tip.

Fascism Watch South London no.1. All BNP posts. Previous Tess Culnane post.

Sense/nonsense

Sense from Nick Cohen: 1, 2. (On class versus race.)

Nonsense from Dave Renton: here. (On Richard Seymour on Nick Cohen and his ilk.) [ADDED: The Fat Man deconstructs.]

Bonus link: Snook cocker.

Monday, January 26, 2009

A propos of the BBC's "impartiality"

Some sensible Israelis. And some more.

Hat tips: Orthodox Anarchist, Simply Jews.

Bonus link: DZ on the DEC

Antisemitism watch

In Rome, the Pope welcomes ultra-conservative Catholics back into the fold, including British Holocaust denier Richard Williamson, who last week told Swedish TV “There were no gas chambers.” Peter Risdon (profiled here) usefully draws out the continuities between today's British elite antisemitism and that of Orwell's day. Red Star Commando tracks the lumpen-ization of this elite antisemitism (and argues for a no-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict). Peter Ryley, in a series that could potentially become endless, keeps an eye on the false Holocaust/Gaza analogy (also known as the Holocaust/Gazza analogy). Norm responds to Anne Karpf's use of the analogy, in the context of the Jewish resistance story related in Defiance. Robert Fisk, to my surprise and to his credit, rejects the analogy.

[Some hat tops to the Sots]

Bonus link: Joseph K analyzes the left's politics of ressentiment. [H/t: Anti-German]
Bonus link 2: BBC radio hosts have to think quick
Bonus link 3: Howard Jacobson on the Israel Must Lose letter

Friday, January 23, 2009

Follow-up questions

1. Barack Obama was absolutely correct to take steps to close down the Camps at Guantanamo as one of the first moves of his presidency. The Camps are a stain on America, a stain on humanity.

But it will be interesting to see the extent to which those European liberals who have clamoured so vocally for its closing are equally vocal in welcoming the released inmates to their shores.

And, as inmates are released but cannot be returned to their home states because they will be tortured or executed there - such as the ethnic Uyghurs, who cannot be returned to China because of the routine detentions and extra-judicial executions of those Uyghurs who call for the self-determination of their 8 million-strong people, or the Algerians, whose government imprisons its lawyers simply for calling attention to the impunity of its judiciary - it will also be interesting to see the extent to which the liberals' loathing of George W Bush for his war crimes is transferred to these other regimes, whose carceral systems make Camp X-Ray look like Sunday School.

2. In yesterday's Independent, Robert Fisk rather uncharitably criticised Obama for not using the word "Gaza" in his inauguration speech. (Note: For this, Fisk not surprisingly gets plaudits from Respect [sic].) Well, it's odd to say this, Robert, but Israel-Palestine isn't actually the centre of the world. Why did Obama not mention the war in Sri Lanka in his speech, which parallels, but is far more brutal than, the one in Gaza? Or the war in Congo, which has now claimed 5.4 million people and intensified in the same period as Operation Cast Lead?

3. I notice that David Miliband has provoked the ire of India and what we might call the India Lobby in mildly suggesting a solution needs to be found to the Kashmir and Jammu situation. Miliband is probably the most Eustonite of Labour Front Benchers, and hence is held in particularly low esteem by the Indecents. Kashmir is a hot topic for Islamists, probably fourth after Palestine, Iraq and Chechnaya in the litany of oppressed Muslims, although it provokes less sympathy among the Islamists' white leftist useful idiots. Now Miliband appears to be siding with the Islamists, will they take up his cause? And will claims that the India Lobby tries to silence all "dissent" about Kashmir start flooding the Indecent blogosphere?

That's all.

Twelve Fountains of Blood

For Noga, and I hope this is OK with Jams, I am re-posting "Twelve Fountains of Blood" by Simin Beh'bahāni from The Poor Mouth.


(For what sin was she slain?)

On her shirt flowed the blood from twelve fountains of blood.

In the dust of madness laid her twin jasmine braids.
streams of blood ran down her body as if not from wounds.
her mouth was open, as if an angel had made her smile.
It was as if her clothes were not sprinkled by a tyrant’s lead,
but the sky had sprinkled starts in the cup of her body.
She who sat in my class, politely, for a year, has fallen.
She does not mind me anymore.
What would Ahriman want from an angel so pure?
His kiss and death have branded her breast,
even though the two buds there had not yet blossomed.
Who has the heart to surrender to a shroud
a body like porcelain, once accustomed to wearing silk?
Her presence will never again light up her father's eyes.
Brothers, what happened to her shirt in the thick of the night?

What was her sin? Tell me. It must be asked.
Don't keep it a secret, if you hear anything about it.

From A Cup of Sin - Selected Poems.

Written in 1985 the poem was inspired by the death of one of her students during a crack down of dissidents. The 12 fountains refers to the number of bullets in a clips used by semi automatic weapons used by Iranian armed forces at the time.
The quote at the top is from the Qoran (The Sura of Darkening) "When the seas shall be boiling, when the souls shall be paired with bodies, and when the girl who was buried alive shall be asked for what sin was she slain"

The Blog Opium and Saffron has a superb post on Simin Bebhahani. It is well worth a read.

More: Wikipedia, Iranian.com, archipelago, Artists Without Frontiers, Washington Post, Iran Chamber Society.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Wednesday linktastica (mostly music)

This morning, nothing to do with Israel and Gaza.

Transpontine informs us of a Deptford archive project, inviting you the local resident to contribute, and reminds me a of some happy Deptford memories: the Use Your Loaf squatted social centre which closed in 2004. At the other end ofoma the High Street, the Deptford Dame pays homage to SE8's fish shops.

At Transpontine's other place, History is Made at Night, he celebrates London's urban radio scene.

Which brings us to the question of racial profiling and grime music. Personally, I don't see grime as being higher risk than other urban music genres, or black youth as higher risk than other ethnicity youth, and thus am against the "Form 696" profiling that appears to be going on. I say that on the basis of some experience of young people and the music scene in inner South London, rather than any kind of quantitative break-down of trouble at venues (although it is interesting that, as far as I know, the Metropolitan Police have not presented any such breakdown to justify their actions. It is true that there is a strand of grime that aestheticises urban violence - but equally there is a strand decrying it. More typically, like the early pre-commercial days of hip hop, the music is more often story-telling about urban reality rather than either glorifying or criticising crime. It is also a defining feature of grime that it is a very trans-ethnic scene, not an exclusively black thing.

Moving on to a very different genre of music, I've featured some of the wave of Balkan-, klezmer- and Gypsy-influenced music on this blog in the past. Murúch reviews (and posts mp3s from) Luminescent Orchestrii, another example of the genre s/he calls the "demented circus" genre.

If you haven't been keeping up with Locust Avenue's journey through the twentieth century, 1911, including the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, Bartok, and young Mao and music from Bahia, is great.

I've been meaning to put together a music post to celebrate Obama's inauguration but just haven't managed. Instead, then, go to Locust Avenue, Star Maker Machine, Cover Lay Down and Keep The Coffee (1,2).

Finally, a beautiful poem by Simin Bebhahani at The Poor Mouth.

Today's Gaza links

I have been doing regular link round-ups on Gaza (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). I don't need to do that today, because Kellie's done such a good job already.

Free pussy from Palestine

The above words probably constitute my strangest google referral yet - and I've had some strange ones. This blog was google's eighth choice. Its seventh was a San Diego Metropolitan review of Ziad Doueiri's film Lila Says, which contains the line "If I have to choose between pussy and a free Palestine, I'll take pussy."

Monday, January 19, 2009

Bloggery

Still haven't acted on these updates yet, and I have more to add, such as Trinketization and On A Raised Beach. Will do it, honest.

The war in Gaza and Southern Israel continues in Britain

Last updated 16:24 Brockley time.

First, some links about the "Israel must lose" letter I blogged about on Friday. For Snoopy, it crosses a line. For David Hirsh, it's right on the line. Yaba Yaba points up the absurdity of the us/them delirium, and to some actual forms of concrete solidarity it would be much better for the British left to "start with". The Rebbetzin's Husband also writes on the us/them delirium.

For the academo-Marxists of the "Israel must lose" letter, we need to "start with" a campaign of boycott, divestments and sanctions. As I wrote, that translates all too easily into the harassment of underpaid workers and of Jewish university students. Brett gives some examples of the idiotic war on Starbucks of the pro-Hamas direct actionists who are the academo-Marxists' lumpen disciples. (Francis: "This proves that anti-Zionists do on occasion serve a useful purpose … in providing work for glaziers.")

The logic is also followed in the smashing up of an AWL placard at a Palestine solidarity demo in Sheffield.‍ I spent some time looking at the photo-essay at Indymedia. The placard says "No to IDF. No to Hamas." (One carried by the same group says "Solidarity with Women, Workers and the Left".) How can anyone on the left object to that? But a steward, after apparently shouting through a megaphone at its carrier, grabs the placard and stomps it. An SWP paperseller adds some muscle, white peaceniks applaud, and Muslim children get an education in democratic politics. (It may or may not be relevant that the person carrying the placard was a woman and the steward was male.) Luckily, not everyone on the left shares this sort of idiocy: the Anarchist Federation and Workers Liberty stand out. (At the same demo, see here for cool terrorist chic. More reportage here, here. Plus London reportage from Kate Belgrave and DZ. Via the latter, beautiful photos from Deptford Visions, clearly showing antisemitic placards, masked conspiracy theorists, histrionic flag-burning, and, from the previous London demo, Holocaust relativisation and fascist flag-waving.)

Brett makes an excessive Holocaust analogy, calling this Kristallwoche. However, the more common Holocaust analogy is that which compares Israel's actions to the Nazis', or tendentiously claims the Israelis are using the Holocaust to legitimise their actions. Snoopy gives Sir Gerald Kaufman the Sir Gerald Nincompoop of the Year Award for his version of this Holocaust abuse. Ben Cohen provides analysis.

Are the attacks on Starbucks part of a growing trend of antisemitism? CST stats and JC reportage suggests so. Perhaps, if Julia Pascal* is right, the success of Rowan Atkinson in the revived Oliver also suggests so. The Elder of Ziyon certainly thinks so.

Meanwhile, in the real world, there is a fragile ceasefire. Read reflections on that from Jeff Weintraub, Ben Cohen and Eamonn McDonagh.

UPDATE: Have failed to check in with Daniel Z, who has returned to blogging with a vengeance. Read him at Liberal Conspiracy and at his own place (1,2,3,4,5) as well as voices he brings us from Israel-Palestine.

*h/t: Jogo. ‍ h/t Engage. ˚h/t Flesh is Grass

Friday, January 16, 2009

Pernicious nonsense

A group of British Jews (mostly associated with IJV) and Muslims have a relatively sensible letter in today's Guardian:
As members of the Jewish Black Asian Forum, we are distressed and outraged at the pointless loss of life and humanitarian disaster in Gaza. The values we share, and the stories of loss and exclusion we bring to our discussions , drive us to speak out together. As members of British communities closely connected to Israel and Palestine, we call on Israel to immediately end its use of military force in Gaza and on Hamas to cease firing rockets into Israel. Our government, together with other governments and international actors, must engage with the authorities in Israel, Palestine and Gaza to help facilitate a lasting peace in the region and an end to the occupation.
More or less what I think, although the word "the occupation" is a little ambiguous.

At the other end of the liberal spectrum is a letter from Eva Figes, which is so vitriolic I'd like to believe she fired it off while drunk if it weren't for the fact she has previous:
At last the west is coming clean. Palestinians are freedom fighters, not terrorists, who have suffered 60 years of injustice inflicted by the real axis of evil, Israel and the US. The murderous attack on Gaza is an insane attempt at ethnic cleansing before Obama takes over.
What, all Palestinians are freedom fighters? No terrorists at all?

Somewhere in between on this spectrum was a long letter (the top one on the page) by a very long list of people, some of whom I respect a lot (indeed, one even links to this blog!).

Many of the signatories profess one or another form of Marxism. Yet, in the utterly ahistorical framing of its argument, the letter violates one of Marx's core principles: that politics is always historical, that categories are always in movement. A "a war that Israel has been waging against the people of Palestine for more than 60 years. The goal of this war has never changed..." Here, history dissolves. "Israel" becomes a mythical beast, frozen in the endless repetition of its evil actions. Did the Israel of 1948 use "overwhelming military force"? Or, rather, were not the weapons it had to hand those the Palestinians used in the First Intifada?

And what do "the principle of democratic self-determination" and "the right to resist military aggression and colonial occupation" mean in concrete terms? What, specifically, is the democratic self-determination of one ethnic group, if it denies that to another? What, even more to the point, does "Israel must lose"? The obligation to take sides the signatories claim is no more pressing in this case than it is in the case of the Hutu and the Tutsi, where self-determination for one can mean extermination for the other in a zero-sum game. "Justice and peaceful co-existence" cannot spring from the defeat of Israel by Hamas, any more than justice and peaceful co-existence can be achieved by bombing Gaza into dust.

It is true, of course, that the conflict is not symmetrical, and that Gaza's electorate voted for Hamas. But the signatories of the letter are stuck in the reality of the First Intifada, when the figure of "Palestinian resistance" was the child throwing stones at an Israeli tank. Since then, we have seen the militarisation of the Palestinian struggle, the evacuation of all social content from it: the suicide bomber rather than the stone thrower. And, now, in this Third Intifada, the stones have been replaced by rockets supplied by the Iranian theocracy.

So, when the signatories talk about "the right to resist military aggression and colonial occupation" and say "Israel must lose", the reality is the triumph of a fascist state, not the beginning of justice. The Hamas regime, which continues to fire on Israel, which continues to deploy its its children as human shields, which murders its political opponents, which brutalises its own population, does not represent "the people of Gaza and the West Bank", any more than the Ayatollahs represent the people of Iran or the Nazi state represented the people of Germany.

What the people of Gaza need, rather than this sort of hollow gestural pseudo-solidarity, is precisely a ceasefire and humanitarian assistance. Cheering on their war-mongers will not bring them justice or peace.

The reason this letter is not just nonsense, then, but pernicious nonsense, as J Frank Parnell might have said, is the politics that follows here in the UK. The "British people must take all feasible steps to oblige Israel to comply with these demands," they write, "starting with a programme of boycott, divestment and sanctions." Starting with boycott, divestment and sanctions means starting with the harassment of underpaid workers in Belfast shopping malls and London Starbucks branches. It means starting with besieging scholars at SOAS and violently demanding their political loyalty. It means starting with racist threats against Jewish citizens in the UK.

And if that's where it starts, where does it go next?

UPDATE: MORE HERE.

Today's links

Last updated 15:53 Brockley time

Israel, Gaza, Hamas

UPDATE: MORE HERE AND HERE.

Other things

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A break from Gaza: On the buses

Darren's quote of the day:
As Charlie Brooker – one of the first people to donate to the Atheist Bus Campaign – says: "Public transport in Britain suggests there isn't a God anyway, but in case anyone hasn't noticed, or feels isolated for thinking such a thing, this campaign should help."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

And yet more

I wasn't going to add any more of these today, but...
UPDATE: LOTS MORE HERE

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

More links

Last updated 15:36 Brockley time.

Please note: non-Gaza stuff at the bottom of this post too!

Israel, Gaza and Hamas

(Note: I have posted more than one links to Socialist Unity in this series, but I am disgusted that they publish, without editorial comment, statements from Hamas (1,2) and a cartoon by Latuff, the antisemitic cartoonist lauded by Iranian Holocaust deniers. What next, publishing BNP press releases?)

UPDATE: YET MORE HERE.

Other things

Monday, January 12, 2009

The war between Israel and Hamas

I guess I've remained silent on this blog about the terrible conflict in Gaza and southern Israel so far. This is because I really don't know what to think.


So, here are some of the blog posts and opinion pieces I found compelling.
UPDATE: MORE HERE.

Anarchism and trade unionism in Venezuela

Two articles from Anarchism Today:
More from El Libertario (English section).

Friday, January 09, 2009

Weblog Awards 2008

The Weblog Awards are, as usual, a dull and pointless affair. A couple of categories this year have blogs worth voting for however.

In the "UK Blogs" category, I will not (unlike Phil) be voting for last year's winner, Neil Clark, who may be less distasteful than Melanie Phillips but should not be seen as in any way a representative of progressive politics. Recent weeks, for example, have seen him relatavising and minimising the Holocaust by comparing Israel's actions in Gaza to the mechanised mass murder of millions and saluting authoritarian thug Hugo Chavez.

Instead, of course, I voted for the wonderful Olly's Onions, currently trailing somewhat, although thankfully ahead of Ian Dale.

Like Phil, though, I voted for Madame Miaow in the "culture blogs" category.

In the "religion blogs" category, I voted for Dervish, for this post and this post.

In the "Middle East or Africa" category (not exactly sure if it should be), I voted for Michael Totten. Although if I'd realised he was winning so handsomely, I might have voted for the Elder of Ziyon.

Polls close Tuesday. You can vote every 24 hours, if you feel so inclined.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

New year welcomes

I have noticed a couple of new blogrolls I have joined.

Well, thanks, and happy new year to all of you. Blogroll additions/amendments to follow.

And happy new year to all the rest of my (oh, so many) readers. And, in particular, to those who have linked to me, created conversations in the comments boxes, and sent me blog fodder, such as Arieh, Jogo, Waterloo Sunset, Andrew, Noga, TNC, FiG, Transpontine, Kellie, Jim & the other Shiraz Socialists, Graeme, Will & the other Sots, Snoopy, Roland, Jams, and those who have momentarily slipped my mind.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

2008's highs and lows (mainly musical)

I'm back. 2008 included 9 great months for me, including two of the happiest days of my life. Last 3 months were a bit miserable, due to my precarious labour situation in the neo-liberal world. My private troubles coincided with the public issue of deepening global financial crisis. The election of Barack Obama (and the outburst of optimism that unleashed in America and worldwide) was, for me, a small ray of light in that dark time. And the year ended even worse, with the horrific situation in Gaza and southern Israel.

I tried, over the Christmas period, to block out the Middle Eastern situation, and indeed the whole world outside the cocoon of my extended family. I also managed to avoid TV almost completely (apart from a bit of Wallace and Gromit). My media highlight of the seasonal period was the extracts of Alistair Cooke's Letters from America that Radio 4 was featuring. I feel overwhelming nostalgia when I hear his warm, mid-Atlantic voice: my parents listened to him when I was a kid, and he reminds me of my late grandfather, both for the way you can hear the h in words like "where" and "overwhelming" and for the lucidity of expression.

I had some nice presents, with a bit of a Yiddish theme: the final (Ghanian!) album by the king of Yiddish song, Leo Fuld; a book of beautiful poems by Emmanuel Litvinov; a wonderful French collection of postcards of Yiddishland; Jonathan Lethem's awesome superhero comic Omega The Unknown; the Seasick Steve album (uneven, but growing on me); a collaboration between Cuba's heavenly Omara Portuondo and Brazil's divine Maria Bethânia.

2008 was a quite good year for music - although a bad year in terms of great musicians dying. Looking at my Windows Media Player library, I only have 3 tracks rated five stars with release dates in 2008. They are:

I've got loads of tracks I've rated 4 star though.

  • Adele's 19 was overrated, but she's sort of from South London and it had a couple of stand-out tracks, including "Hometown Glory" and "Make You Feel My Love".
  • Sticking with white girl soul, the Dan Le Sac Vs. Scroobius Pip mix of Amy Winehouse's "No Good": you don't realise it's a remix, until Scroobius' rap kicks in at about 2 minutes. I think I stole this from Music Like Dirt.
  • Andrew Bird's freaky indie-chamber-blues cover of "Jesus Gonna Make My Dyin' Bed" (see Fong/SMM/CBC for details).
  • Loads of great remixes of classic soul and funk, including the Bobby LaBeat Re-work of Archie Bell's "Tighten Up", the Shoes re-edit of Bill Withers' "No Hands, Gramma", Santogold's remix of Aretha Franklin's "Save Me", Kenny Dope's remix of James Brown's "There Was a Time".
  • Lots of great remixes of classic rock tracks, such as the Springsteen one above, and Canned Heat "Wanda Road Again" (Wade Nichols Edit).
  • Blind Lemon Jefferson's "See that my grave is kept clean" as performed in a funky gospel fashion by the god-like BB King on his new One Kind Favor. B.B. King was one of the first great artists I saw live. I saw him twice when he was merely in his 60s and touring 300 days a year. He's now well over 80 and his new album is a knock-out.
  • Bar Kokhba Sextet "Sother" from Bar Kokhba plays Lucifer: Book of Angels Volume 10 on Tzadik. Cyro Baptista, Greg Cohen, Marc Ribot and others play John Zorn.
  • Obama election year covers of Sam Cooke's beautiful "A Change Is Gonna Come" by Ben Sollee and Chango Malo.
  • Billy Bragg "The Beach is Free (Solo Version)" from Mr. Love And Justice. A socialist anthem for the 21st century.
  • Calexico "Victor Jara's Hands" from Carried To Dust. A solidly good album, with a couple of highlights. Mariachi, spaghetti western, ska, atmosphere, emotion, dust.
  • Calle 13 "La Perla" (ft. La Chilinga & Ruben Blades) from Los De Atrás Vienen Conmigo. 2008 was a good year for this sort of mutant electronic music from the southern hemisphere, a category I call "global crunk" in my Media Player library.
  • Erik Byrd's tribute to Ray Charles "I've Got News for You" on Brother Ray. Bluesy, sexy, cool.
  • Esau Mwamwaya, Santogold, M.I.A & Radioclit "Get it up". Also falls into the "global crunk" category, but is pretty deep and intense.
  • The Felice Brothers "Whiskey in my Whiskey" off their rather uneven eponymous Americana album, overly loved by the mp3 blogosphere.

I'm going to stop there, even though I'm only up to F, as I've got better things to do!

Obligatory Celebrity Big Brother post

I have been writing a long, thoughtful summation of 2009, but I've been really busy so it's taking a while. In the meantime, it's January, which means Celebrity Big Brother time, so I thought I'd provide you with links to my previous Big Brother and Tommy Sheridan posts. Tommy Sheridan is, of course, well known to readers of this blog for his love of fake tan, his grassing of poll tax protesters, his sexual shenanigans, and the damage he has done over the years to the socialist movement.

How well I've used this blog over the years, eh? For more sensible comment, go to A Very Public Sociologist, Mr Eugenides, Madame Miaow, Tendance Coatesy, Splintered Sunrise.

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