EDL in Cambridge

Sarah has a post at HP about the EDL in Cambridge.
I was surprised a while back when a friend told me she had been celebrating Eid at Kelsey Kerridge Sports Hall.  The reason is very simple – the current Cambridge Mosque is housed in a fairly small building on Mawson Road and cannot accommodate everyone who wants to worship there. So a new mosquehas been planned on nearby Mill Road. 
I saw today in the local paper that the EDL plans to march in protest against the new mosque on 9 July.   They explain:

“We are against the building of this mosque which will be the biggest in East Anglia and we have had a lot of people in Cambridge contacting us who are worried about it. We are against the building of all mosques because they preach homophobia and anti-Semitism which we should not tolerate in this country.”
This blog has featured many posts on homophobic and antisemitic groups and preachers.  I am fully in favour of exposing such activities. But there is a big difference between criticising specific instances of bigotry and protesting against plans for a replacement mosque in a city which contains countless churches of all denominations, two synagogues and a Hindu Temple.
This is a typical ‘worried’ response, which was posted on the Cambridge News website.
I live very close to Mill Rd and most of my neighbours are fed up with the muslimisation of Mill rd, I have been walked into by muslim men, spat on as I cycled down mill road and so on . The muslims near to me say they want to take over Mill rd and that once their mosque is built it will happen. We are selling our home as we dont want to be near a mosque and suprisingly ONLY muslims have viewed our property so far.
I’ve lived in this area for ten years – a few minutes away from both the new and the old mosque sites – and this is completely absurd.  I’ve never had any concerns about the ‘muslimisation’ of Mill Road – though I am a bit concerned at the prospect of a visit from the EDL.
The usual vitriol, bigotry and inanity in the comment thread. A small number of  more sensible comments, however:
Brownie: As it happens, I live just outside Cambridge and spent many of my formative years getting pissed on or near to Mill Road. Mill Road is where you want to live in Cambridge when you’re young and social. I’m still a regular visitor and the idea it is threatened by “muslimification” is racist pot-stirring, simple as.
Moobs: What is it that those commenters who oppose the mosque hope to achieve?Is the idea that if the State denies Muslims (and, it would seem from the comments, only Muslims) facilities to worship that that will somehow defeat jihadism? Does it really take more than a moment’s thought to recognise how unlikely an outcome that is? The muslims of Cambridge would rightly feel they were being singled out and discriminated against.
To rail against “multiculturalism” and identity politics and then to insist that all Muslims be treated as suspicious is plain idiocy. We need to combat the notion that our nation should be divided into discrete communities and that whatever self-appointed loudmouth who steps forward and claims to represent each community has to be engaged with and deferred to. To lump all Muslims together (or all Jewish people, black people, Irish etc.) just plays to the agenda of these petty demagogues.
This isn’t a left or right wing issue; it is a question of those who believe in the Rule of Law and those who do not. There is freedom of religion in this country and those who would have it otherwise, whether they be Muslim, Christian, Jewish or Jedi can expect to be vigorously opposed.
Would that there more people who, like Sarah, are not prepared to surrender to prejudice. 
Vildechaye: There is an existing mosque that, by the sound of it, harms nobody. I would think that is what everybody would like to see from all the mosques in the U.K. And that little, harmless Cambridge mosque is what this thread is about. To conflate expanding that mosque with radical islam, the east london mosque, or any other Islamist/Salafi group or facility seems to be the very definition of bigotry.
Alfie: The EDL take their image of Islam, and their contention of Muslims being a unitary undifferentiated mass, straight out of the Islamist textbook. There is a mirroring of binary bigotry between Islamic Identity Politics, and the EDL.


Sarah AB said…
Thanks for posting this Bob. Although I agree with your analysis of the comments, I'd just like to put in a good word for Alan A and Gene from HP who commented supportively.

I was walking down Mill Road today, looking at the huge range of shops and restaurants, Korean, Chinese, Indian, West Indian, Eastern European, Italian, not to mention English, and reflected on how completely bonkers some of those comments were. In whimsical moments I wonder whether some of the commenters are actually from HuT or somewhere, working hard to ensure that people think it is impossible to raise concerns about Islamist extremism without being a bigot.
bob said…
Yes, Gene in particular is pretty sound.

Interesting how many people were absolutely certain about Saudi funding, with absolutely no evidence. A quick look on the web shows lots of telethons and sponsored walks and such like, but no info on Saudi funding, no suggestion of Wahhabi or Salafi connections.

Sarah, you were also voice of reason on Benny Morris thread.
Flesh said…
That is a good idea Bob, keeping the anti-racist comments for posterity.
Sarah AB said…
There *was* some Saudi funding in fact, but the (real life) person I asked - I mention this towards the end of the HP comments as I did not know the answer to begin with but happened to bump into someone who attends the mosque - noted that the prince in question has donated far more money to Cambridge university. Of course people have a right to scrutinise the preaching at any mosque - and clearly there are problems with some mosques - but in some ways there might be more questions to be asked about the effects of funding a university, which gets public funding too, than an otherwise entirely privately funded mosque. And there has clearly been a lot of local fundraising for the new mosque.

Interesting article in the local free paper - representatives of various local Muslim bodies say they support the right of the EDL to march.

"Mirza Baig, of Cambridge Muslim Council, said 'EDL members have some fears about the Muslim community. That should not be taken completely negatively.'"

The same person expresses reservations about UAF - says he doesn't think it'll help - says he would welcome the chance to talk to protestors about their fears.

Thanks WRT Benny Morris - odd thread, that.
Bob, you commend Sarah on being a
"voice of reason on Benny Morris thread."

I was curious to know what a voice of reason would sound like so I checked the thread. Needless to say, though I am saying it, I think she is wrong to impute racism to Morris's mentioning of girls with scarves as being Muslim. Why is this wrong?

A few years ago I was in conversation with a woman who was interested to know what I was reading. It was a book about the difficult relationship between popes and the Jews. I explained to her the premise of the book and she got very upset about it. She did not challenge the theory from any valid historical aspect with facts. She just went into a rant. That rant would make little sense coming from a disinterested academic student. It made a lot of sense if you consider that this person was a nun.

I see Morris providing proper context to the level of vehemence and barely contained animosity emanating from some of questions which were less questions and more fulminations, based on emotion and a refusal to deal with historical views that contradict one's deeply held assumptions.

And then there is this from Sarah:

"... I’m not Jewish – I am just concerned about antisemitism, particularly (or that sparked my initial interest) when it’s associated with something I’m a member of like the UCU or (until recently) Amnesty. I’m pretty anti-anti-zionist – tend to get into fights with the anti-zionists on other blogs.

face – I think associating BM with genocide is way over the top – but his Haaretz interview wasn’t great and I can understand why Muslim students don’t appreciate his visit though of course I don’t think he should be intimidated and I get the impression he’s actually a very balanced historian overall."

Two points:

Why is the fact that she is not Jewish even mentioned? Is it because she wants to provide us with some additional explanation so that we can better evaluate (and appreciate) where she is coming from?

And having agreed earlier with the commenter who accused Morris of being a racist, why is she now agreeing that Morris is "actually a very balanced historian overall." ??

Can a racist, big or small, ever be "very balanced"?
Sarah AB said…
cc - he made a reference to Muslim women and then said that some wore scarves - as I said at the time it wasn't so much any particular detail but the repeated references to Muslims/Arabs which had a cumulative effect.

Someone said I was a typical Jewish, left wing academic, or something similar, which is why I mentioned not being Jewish.

I have only read accounts of his work and heard bits of the talk but he seems willing to look at different perspectives and also doesn't seem simply to seek out the answers he wants from the evidence. However he doesn't always seem very sensitive to language, which is a problem when you are dealing with challenging facts and ideas.
bob said…
I had another look at the thread, and thought maybe I misjudged it. It got interesting further down, and Michael E's intervention was quite persuasive.

I have found Benny Morris' work as a historian very useful, and I also find it to be very balanced. Some of his interview remarks have been at the very least intemperate.

As I've said before, I don't like the idea of Benny M or anyone else as "a racist" - or indeed as "not a racist". I think lots of people, most people, say and think and do racist things from time to time. I know I do. Banning someone from campus for the level of racist remarks he has made seems to me utterly ridiculous.

I was thinking about this last night while watching the "Affirmative Action" episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm.
levi9909 said…
With regard to Benny Morris's racism, check out this interview of Benny Morris by Jonathan Freedland.

Freedland is clearly disturbed by the explicitness of Morris's racism.

I'm not sure what it means for a historian to be balanced. Norman Finkelstein's Image and Reality demonstrates how Benny Morris frequently draws conclusions which simply don't tally with his findings and that was the old Benny Morris, the new historian, before he became the new Benny Morris, the old historian. Finkelstein describes what Morris attempted to do in The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, as a "happy median" effort which could, I suppose, be described as balance but Morris has moved to the right since then.

Something on line that critiques Benny Morris's latest approach to history is by Ran Greenstein at Monthly Review, titled Benny Morris's War on History.

I think between the Freedland interview, the Finkelstein book and the Ran Greenstein article, Morris is shown to be a dishonest historian and a nasty racist.
Bob: You must excuse my stupidity here, but please I need it explained to me in what way can Morris be tagged a racist?

Sarah's explanation about the frequency of the appearance of Arab/Muslim in his report about the LSE's event is insufficient. It reminded me of the man who went to the doctor to ask for a cure for death. "You will beat the grim reaper," said the doctor, "if you never think about pink elephants." Morris is an Israeli historian who researches Arab and Muslim attitudes and positions and records towards the state of Israel, Zionism, and Jews. We Israelis read and follow written stuff that is being said by Arabs and Muslims about us all the time. We pay attention when we watch rallies about Israel. We are very concerned about Arab/Muslim rhetoric and conduct and activism when it comes to Israel, Zionism and Jews. We are concerned because these attitudes inform the levels of worry we have about the safety of our families and friends. So, when we discuss the I/P conflict, as Morris does, the words Arab and Muslims are likely to occur with great frequency.

How is that racist? Should he have omitted from his report that he set upon by a small mob of Arab/Muslims? Was it wrong for him to recognize the people who accosted him as Arabs and Muslims?


levi manyzeros has nothing to say about the matter; for him pretty much everyone who does not support the cancellation of the state of Israel is a racist. Quoting from Finkelstein, who actively incites Arabs and Muslims,in Lebanon, in Egypt, to make war on Israel as someone who can credibly define a racist is beyond irony.
levi9909 said…
CC - You've misread what I wrote.

I said it's the interview with Freedland, not Finkelstein, that established that Morris is a racist. Try watching the interview.

The work by Finkelstein shows that Morris ignores his own findings to draw conclusions favourable to Israel and that was before Morris moved to the right. Try reading Image and Reality - the first chapter, I think.

I do not think that everyone who supports the two state solution is a racist. Both Finkelstein and Chomsky support the two state solution. And Ran Greenstein isn't in favour of the "cancellation of the state of Israel" either.
In trying to essentialise Benny Morris as a racist, Freedman analogizes Morris's distinction between (Israeli) Jews and Arabs to a black/white dialectic of supremacy and humiliation. It's an analogy often used by the more incontinent extremes of the Anti-Zionist crowds so it surprised me to hear this mainly propagandistic means being employed by a relatively more thoughtful person like Freedman.

Oliver Kamm once said that "Historical analogies are never exact but sometimes useful. If they are to be useful, then the precedent needs at a minimum to be stated accurately".

This is a good and useful rule by which to measure Freedman's analogy of Jew/Arab in Israel to black/white elsewhere, in the US and SA.

In what way does the Israeli Jew resemble the white man in America, or South Africa? Have the Jews imported and enslaved the Arabs for 400 years? Are the Jews the dominant people in the region? Have the Jews taken possession of Arab natural resources to enrich themselves? Are the Jews responsible for the fact that 60% of the Arabs are illiterate, poor, ignorant and incapable of competing in this world? Are the Jews responsible for the fact that Arabs do not really understand what democracy means? By which I mean, that populism, belligerence, open antisemitism and reneging on international treaties are not the first consequences that jump to mind once a nation has gone democratic, as we see happening in "liberated" Egypt.

Are the blacks in America anything like the Arabs in the Middle East?

So, in what way can Freedman's silly analogy be useful to anybody who wants peace and reason to dominate the Middle East? In what way does it state the previous, in order to make the case that Morris's Jew/Arab juxtaposition is like that past racial atrocity?
Anonymous said…
I am not entirely sure where there is an English restaurant on Mill Rd. One or two may serve mainly Ebglish food, but I don't think they are English run. Take the "Tudor Rose" for instance. All day English breakfast but when told banning guide dogs was against the law, the manager said he "didn't agree with English laws". All plays into the hands of the EDL.
levi9909 said…
CC - Aside from indulging your own manifest racism here you have managed to get the name Freedland wrong when you are making a point, according to yourself, about accuracy. It's kind of analogous to your notion that no-one can be taken seriously if they don't know how many Arab states there are.

Anyway, from what you have said you are the last person to look to for an opinion as to whether or not someone is a racist. I do agree with you on one point you didn't mean to make and that is that Israel's racism stands alone without any need for analogies good or bad.

I take it you concede the points about Morris's dodgy history. Or if you just need to be a little more convinced, here's a piece by Gabriel Ash that details the racism and the dodgy history.

Anonymous, if you think someone is falling foul of the law you might consider calling an appropriate authority rather than invoking the EDL.
Let's get on the spaceships said…
What kind of a religious fucktard bans guide dogs just because they're dogs?

ahhhh, dogs are unclean, waaah I'll not get into heaven if I have a guide dog in me shop!

why do we pander to these unevolved fucknuts? Darwin must be spinning in his grave.
levizero: I have not conceded anything, especially to you. That you should write this "Israel's racism stands alone without any need for analogies good or bad." and feel righteous about it is a phenomenon that belongs on a psychiatrist's couch. No reasonably sane person can help you there.
levi9909 said…
You haven't actually argued a point either, Noga. You don't know how a person feels, especially from the internet so it's best to stick to the substantive points. And you even managed to misread those.

The Morris/Freedland interview alone is enough to establish Morris as a racist and that's without further articles that merely confirm the same thing in addition to exposing Morris's bogus history.

Also, there are elements of Israel's essentially racist system that compare with other colonial settler and segregation systems of the past, both eliminationist and exploitative. But, we don't need to compare or analogise given that the racist system is explicit in Israel's laws, institutions and the statements of its mainstream politicians and ideologues.

Some time around 2004 Morris began to advocate the wholesale ethnic cleansing of the Arabs from the whole of Palestine including the pre-67 Israel boundary. That is racist by most people's standards but if you can excuse the first round in and from 1947 as either not having happened or being justified then you won't see any future plan for more of the same as being racist.

But don't worry about how I feel. You need to count the number of Arab states, since it's important to you, indeed you hang a person's entire credibility on it, get people's names right especially if you're accusing them of inaccuracy and understand what racism actually means, which you don't seem to.

I rarely agree with Freedland, but his beef with Morris appears to be the explicitness of his racism. In other words, even Freedland can see it.
bob said…
Blimey, managed to overlook this whole comment thread. I have to pop out now, but it looks like I might have to come back with my moderator's hat on later.
Sarah AB said…
WRT English restaurants - there's The Sea Tree (fish and chips) and there's a new organic shop with a cafe a couple of doors down. There are also things like Costa and The Black Cat Cafe. If the dog story is right, that's a shame, but so many of these stories turn out to be false ...
israel shamir et al said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Waterloo Sunset said…
I have to pop out now, but it looks like I might have to come back with my moderator's hat on later.

I wouldn't bother meself. Noga has previously made it clear she doesn't need or want you to heavily moderate Levi on her behalf. Unless he says otherwise, I'm inclined to assume Levi feels the same way.

I always get the impression that both of them kinda enjoy these exchanges anyway, so my view would be that the rest of us just leave 'em to it, unless it gets to the stage of disrupting non-Israel related discussions.
Actually I think that bob must have meant the fulmination under "Let's get on the spaceships said." would have to be moderated. I don't see anything bobbically wrong in anything I or levimanyzeroes said unless my guileless nickname for levi's zeroness offends.
Waterloo Sunset said…
I assumed that "Let's Get on the Spaceships" was Will, although I could be wrong.
I would have thought the language is too restrained to be Will's.
levi9909 said…
WS - It is only Sarah AB's response that had me re-reading the anonymous comment and not only do they suggest that disrespect for English law is a case for the EDL to deal with but they also believe that foreign ownership of eateries plays into the hands of the EDL. Pure racism.

And I'm the one threatened with moderation? What have I said that ought not appear in the thread here?

Not only that, we also have someone calling themselves "Israel Shamir et al" promoting an antisemitic site, zymphora.

You also seem not to have noticed the sheer explicitness of Noga's anti-Arab racism. It's not something I enjoy at all. In fact I don't really like arguing with anyone. I prefer to agree.

I felt drawn in by Noga's insistence that Benny Morris isn't racist and Bob's remark that Morris is a balanced historian when he uses his "history" for genocidal advocacy.

I'm surprised you didn't notice what anonymous was saying. I'm not so surprised you didn't notice Noga's anti-Arab racism.
Anonymous said…
Interesting thread:

levi9909 said…
a ban on anonymous commenting might help
Waterloo Sunset said…
I ignored the anonymous commentator because of the high possibility of it being trolling. "Don't feed the trolls" is generally a good rule of thumb, I think. And yeah, people not even bothering to use a username makes it even more likely that they're a troll in my book.

And considering that I a) have never read Morris and b) am bored shitless of endless discussions about Israel, are you really surprised that I chose not to bother getting involved in that discussion?

(Considering our previous exchanges, I suspect Noga will be as startled at the implication that she and I are somehow political allies as I am).

And I'm the one threatened with moderation? What have I said that ought not appear in the thread here?

Um, I don't know that you have been threatened with moderation. I assumed (possibly wrongly) that Bob was talking about the exchange between you and Noga and feeling it was getting too personalised. I said I didn't think it had.

Y'know, if you're genuinely not enjoying those discussions, you could always comment on something else. The EDL say, or anti-cuts stuff.
Sarah AB said…
I had also assumed it was anonymous who had alarmed Bob. I didn't even bother pointing out the racism, but I do want anyone who reads such threads to know that people who support the EDL say things which are not just offensive but are also simply untrue - eg that there are no English restaurants on Mill Road - there aren't many,certainly, but that's true of a very high proportion of restaurants in England. It's very interesting to me to read all the lies about Cambridge as it helps me evaluate the likely truth of similar statements about places I haven't been to.
levi9909 said…
WS - Last first. I don't like the name calling, the personal abuse and the smears, the last of which usually taking the form of misrepresenting what a person said. I do however feel conscience bound to contribute if I think I have something to offer the discussion in terms of critique.

I didn't personally abuse Noga, I simply responded to what she said and pointed out that Morris is both dishonest as a historian and he is a racist. I was actually agreeing with what Sarah was saying and adding more detail to her position, ie, Morris has a lot of form for racism, including genocidal advocacy. I was of course disagreeing with what Bob was saying.

Noga's response was a racist diatribe against Arabs that seems to have passed beneath your (and everyone else's) radar together with some personal abuse of me by reference to my screenname and a general misrepresentation of my position.

Your assumption was that it was me who faced moderation and that Noga should be the one to decide whether or not that should happen.

The last time I saw combating the EDL being discussed here (on the EDL in Redbridge post), I saw either Sarah or Flesh likening islamist groups to the EDL and you coming close to agreeing with them. I don't think that the EDL can be compared with islamist groups in the UK for the purpose of combating the EDL. I think the position on the EDL should be unconditional defence of their potential victims. Start criticising islamist groups in the context of anti-fascist activism against the EDL and you're into an islamisation argument and putting the EDL in a position where they can say they agree with you on what matters most (to them) and that the rest is just misunderstanding. Opposition to the EDL, whichever form it takes, should be unconditional.

Meanwhile the main (substantive rather than personal) target of Noga's ire is the assertion that Benny Morris is a racist and her question as to how he can be balanced as a historian if he is a racist. I wonder if Sarah and Bob could address those points. Personally I think it's Morris's racism that makes him a very bad historian. Of course that can be useful to some but not to people who base their worldview on reality rather than those who tailor reality to their worldview.
levi9909 said…
Sarah - whether or not it is true that certain restaurants are "English" owned is irrelevant. Suppose these "English" owned restaurants got taken over by "non-English" people. Would the EDL or their anonymous friend here have a point. Again, opposition to the EDL should be unconditional.

I understand, you're not saying that the national origins of owners is relevant but to even argue over it suggests that it is indeed relevant. It's a bit like the vetting of opposition to the EDL. Best not to do it.
bob said…
[I wrote the comment below after getting to about 21:29 last night but it went astray. I haven't yet read more recent comments.]

On Cambridge, I don’t know anything about this bizarre guide dog story, but it seems an odd example of Islamification. Is the all day breakfast halal? In my area, most of the traditional British cafes are staffed by Turkish people, at least nominally Muslim, but they have no problem serving bacon and sausages. The Tudor Rose sounds like a pub name to me. If so, do they refuse to serve alcohol? If the only index of their refusal of British ways is not respecting relatively recent equality laws which require premises to be open to guide-dogs, that’s a pretty week index of Islamification. (What would it say about Christian b&b owners who refuse to respect “English law” when it comes to gay guests?) And the idea that the traditional English pub (or even cafe) as a symbol of “English law” is a little bizarre, when our drinking culture has historically been based on lock-ins, underage drinking and the like.

On the more serious but also baffling argument over Benny Morris. I haven’t looked yet at the Freedland interview, but I’ve seen some instances of Morris saying things which sound at least borderline racist against Arabs and Muslims. But I would repeat that it is not in any way productive to label someone as “a racist” on this sort of basis, and even worse to try and get them banned from campuses, as anti-Zionists have successfully done in Morris’ case. It is helpful to talk about racist discourse, racist parties, racist movements, racist policies, racist ideas. But indicting one individual as “a racist” on the basis of some scattered comments that need to be excavated and pored over in order to make the case seems bizarre and unproductive.

I also find it perverse that Morris is so vehemently attacked for his racist comments by people who have absolutely no interest in the much more unambiguously racist comments of any number of anti-Zionist activists, including Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims and others, who regularly speak in British universities under the aegis of Palestine solidarity.

On Morris as a historian, this is worth arguing over and examining carefully. I am trying to think of a single historian of the Is/Pal conflict who would be universally regarded as lacking in flaws of the magnitude that Morris is accused of. And, like many other historians, he has shifted his position over time, so these shifts need to be attended to carefully – are they purely ideologically motivated, or are they based on new evidence, or both?

On my comments on my moderator’s hat, it is the extreme personalisation of the debate here that I don't like, including picking over the details of petty tangents in previous comment threads: it is the kind of debate which alienates anyone that wants to have a serious, open-minded discussion about the real issues.
bob said…
On the EDL and Islamist groups. I see them as mirroring each other in very profound ways - Anjem Choudhary's outfits feed off the EDL as the EDL feeds off him; they need each other, and in a fight between them I'd not be sad if they all killed each other Reservoir Dogs style.

Opposition to the EDL and support for its victims should be unconditional: their programme is based on anti-Muslim racism. Opposition to Islamism and support for its victims should also be unconditional: its victims are mainly Muslim, but we are all at risk from it. Anyone with a working moral calculus, in my view, should be unconditionally opposed to both.

They are not equivalent, and there are ways in which one is worse than the other and other ways in which it is the other way around. (The EDL inspire more street assaults on people who have the wrong colour skin in the UK; Islamism inspires major terrorist attacks. The EDL is a day to day problem on the streets of this country, in a way that Islamism isn't; Islamism is a global threat. And so on.)

But we also need to think tactically, about what are the best ways to tackle the EDL strategically, and it might be the case that tackling Islamism might be part of the mix.
levi9909 said…
Morris has openly criticised Ben Gurion for not finishing the job of driving the Palestinians out of all of Palestine and he has said that if a future war creates the opportunity Israel should indeed avail of that opportunity and expel what remains of the Arab population from Israel and the occupied territories. He has also praised the annihilation of the native American Indians. Some of this is referred to in a wikipedia entry with a citation of a Ha'aretz interview. Unfortunately the interview is no longer on Ha'aretz but many references to it can be found via this google link:

I don't know what it is that Palestine Solidarity supporters have said that compares to support for past or future ethnic cleansing or genocide.

I have noticed that Benny Morris tends to go for dissembling in interviews but he was fairly clear in the Ha'aretz one and in the Freedland one.

And has no-one noticed anything racist about what Noga said about Arabs? Was it not racist? Borderline? Ever so racist? I'd go for number three.

Re the EDL. If tackling islamism is part of the mix, then opposition to the EDL is not unconditional. All you should say is where you stand generally. You don't have to wade into the EDL by saying "by the way, I don't like islamism either". You simply assert your position. Ernst Mandel was very good on this sort of thing.

And I wouldn't get into a debate over who is more respectful of English law nor about the ethno-religious composition of restaurateurs. The former might do for a joke but the latter, like the tackling of islamism, would be to accept much of what the EDL is saying.

Regarding tackling islamism, surely opposing imperialism and zionism is part of that mix. Fascism arises out of a crisis of capitalism. What does islamism arise out of?

I don't know how far from or close to the topic tackling islamism is. I think it should be far removed from the topic of unconditional opposition to the EDL.
bob said…
Re the EDL. If tackling islamism is part of the mix, then opposition to the EDL is not unconditional.

I disagree. Opposition to the EDL is unconditional, but it is worth thinking what are the best strategies and tactics to oppose it are. Should we decry it as racist? Should we adopt the slogan of "defend multiculturalism"? Should we adopt the slogan of "defend Islam"? Should we organise Muslim Defence Leagues? Should we call for much tougher policing? Should we be militantly challenging them in the streets? Should we orient towards the victims of the EDL, or towards those who might be attracted to it? Should we reclaim an inclusive form of English patriotism?

As I've said before, I think one of the best models for effectively tackling the EDL was offered by Whitechapel United Against Division - see http://whitechapelanarchistgroup.wordpress.com/whitechapel-united-against-division/
Waterloo Sunset said…
@ Levi

Your assumption was that it was me who faced moderation and that Noga should be the one to decide whether or not that should happen.

Um, what? I specifically said that I got the feeling that neither you nor Noga mind the aggressiveness of the exchanges and hence no moderation of the discussion was necessary. In the spirit of depersonalisation you ask for, I'm happy to accept that I may not have worded what I was saying clearly enough, hence the unintentional misinterpretation on your part. Are you alright with us both assuming a breakdown in communications and moving on? I just feel that the EDL discussion is more likely to bear fruit.

I don't think that the EDL can be compared with islamist groups in the UK for the purpose of combating the EDL.

How about on ideological grounds? They're both far right movements.

I think the position on the EDL should be unconditional defence of their potential victims.

Two points on this. Firstly, despite EDL rhetoric, Islamists are not a potential victim. If you look at their history of activity, they've invariably ended up brawling with everyday Muslims. Not once have they gone toe to toe with Islamists.

Secondly, the idea that there should always be unconditional defense of their victims is a political non-starter. Sometimes "a plague on both their houses" approach is the correct one. I'd generally stand in solidarity with the victims of Combat 18. However, when they were beating up members of the BNP, I didn't.

Equally, I'd suggest that we don't try and counter the EDL's current attacks on paedophiles by putting out pro paedophile propaganda. This is where "unconditional defense" logically leads.

Start criticising islamist groups in the context of anti-fascist activism against the EDL and you're into an islamisation argument and putting the EDL in a position where they can say they agree with you on what matters most (to them) and that the rest is just misunderstanding.

As opposed to the current situation, where the EDL are happily claiming that all their opposition are actually pro Islamist? In terms of a propaganda coup, that's far more to their benefit.

Opposition to the EDL, whichever form it takes, should be unconditional.

It is. Categorically. The existence or otherwise of Islamists would make absolutely no difference to the need for the EDL to be opposed.
Sarah AB said…
I think I partly agree with Levi although maybe he talks up the ethnic cleansing aspect of the interview. But there seems enough there, on the surface, no need for special digging, to explain why he upsets people so much. But there are many others whose (worse) antisemitism gets overlooked of course, and I have no sense that BM wishes any harm to any group.

Levi - I agree about English restaurants - but remember that it was I who first mentioned that there were English restaurants and Anon denied it. I particularly wanted to reinforce the point that his comment wasn't simply xenophobic - it was factually incorrect.

The Tudor Rose is a sort of English cafe by day and a Turkish restaurant by night. It definitely sells alcohol - I'm not sure about bacon etc.
levi9909 said…
Waterloo Sunset - yes you did express yourself badly and yes I did misunderstand you.

I think you have to look at what begat fascism and what begat militant islamism. The former arises out of a crisis of capitalism and is a defence of capitalism. Islamism has arisen in modern times as a wrong-headed paradise lost movement against imperialism and in the west as a response to racism. It is simply wrong to equate them. Zionism too can lay claim to being a response to antisemitism but it quickly collaborated with it and, of essence, has collaborated with imperialism. But having said that, I would no more challenge someone I was inviting to oppose the EDL on where they stand on zionism than I would challenge them on where they stand on islamism. That doesn't mean I support either. I don't.
levi9909 said…
Sarah - did you read this:

***And today? Do you advocate a transfer today?

"If you are asking me whether I support the transfer and expulsion of the Arabs from the West Bank, Gaza and perhaps even from Galilee and the Triangle, I say not at this moment. I am not willing to be a partner to that act. In the present circumstances it is neither moral nor realistic. The world would not allow it, the Arab world would not allow it, it would destroy the Jewish society from within. But I am ready to tell you that in other circumstances, apocalyptic ones, which are liable to be realized in five or ten years, I can see expulsions. If we find ourselves with atomic weapons around us, or if there is a general Arab attack on us and a situation of warfare on the front with Arabs in the rear shooting at convoys on their way to the front, acts of expulsion will be entirely reasonable. They may even be essential."

Including the expulsion of Israeli Arabs?

"The Israeli Arabs are a time bomb. Their slide into complete Palestinization has made them an emissary of the enemy that is among us. They are a potential fifth column. In both demographic and security terms they are liable to undermine the state. So that if Israel again finds itself in a situation of existential threat, as in 1948, it may be forced to act as it did then. If we are attacked by Egypt (after an Islamist revolution in Cairo) and by Syria, and chemical and biological missiles slam into our cities, and at the same time Israeli Palestinians attack us from behind, I can see an expulsion situation. It could happen. If the threat to Israel is existential, expulsion will be justified."***

Even that's not the worst of what he says but I don't know how you can say he doesn't want to harm anybody.

And that is just the racism. His history has gone a long way to establishing what the zionists actually did to create the Palestinian refugee problem (and a viable Jewish majority) but he then turns his own findings on their head. For that you might want to read Norman Finkelstein's Image and Reality or Nur Masalha but I can't remember what the latter's book was called.

Sarah, I would hate to come between you and your friends but you may find that the more you examine zionist history the more you will find the zionist project thoroughly repugnant to even mainstream liberal values.
Anonymous said…
At the LSE event Morris was challenged about the 2004 comments Elf is determinedly mining. Morris responded that he'd made the comments in the light of the intifada when Jews were getting indiscriminately blown up by Palestinian terrorists. He didn't apologise (but then, he had just been accosted in the street, and was being grilled by anti-Zionists in the lecture theatre) but he did have sufficient a sense of personal responsibility not to draw any attention to the fact that so much worse is routinely said about Israelis and Jews in Palestinian media - but I will because, as Levi well knows but chooses with typical selectivity to ignore, in that region it's getting so that anti-racism is the exception rather than the rule.

If Avi Shlaim can see past what Morris said in 2004 and look at the history, I think Levi should pull himself together and make an effort. http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2008/may/31/history1
levi9909 said…
I read the Avi Shlaim review and it's remarkably generous and does indeed suggest some balance to Morris's work though it doesn't contradict anything about his racism and it points to significant differences between findings and conclusions particularly with regard to why it was that the zionists/Israel ethnically cleansed the Arabs of Palestine.

I said that Benny Morris has a tendency to dissemble in interviews. Youtube is replete with examples and the example you give seems to be more of the same.

"Morris responded that he'd made the comments in the light of the intifada when Jews were getting indiscriminately blown up by Palestinian terrorists. He didn't apologise..."

He didn't retract either. He merely excused what he said.

I don't see the relevance of what gets said about Israelis and Jews in the Palestinian media. I think Tony Greenstein and Roland Rance have been barred from campuses before now and neither of them have said anything about Israelis or Jews to equate with what Morris has said, unapologetically, about Arabs, Muslims and Palestinians.
Anonymous said…
They're utterly barking.

levi9909 said…
I thought the previous anonymous comment was you Mikey and so it proved to be.

The allegation you made against Tony followed David Aaronovitch buckling to a threat of libel action [http://tinyurl.com/4377hyq] when he allowed you to comment on his moderated blog that Tony had been intimidating Jewish students for years. Some time after that Tony complains that you tried to trip him up at an IJAN meeting. You claim he simply kicked you out of the blue. Not very likely given the libel result.

Anyway, I don't think the UJS got Tony and Roland barred from campuses through the eighties, nineties or noughties because of a bogus allegation you made on Harry's Place in 2008.

Back to the thread, thank you for providing the link to Avi Shlaim but it doesn't quite make the point you intended and supports both my contentions about Morris being a racist and one whose conclusions fly in the face of his findings. It would be nice to hear back from Sarah as to whether she read the same article as me.

And to tie the thread to the post, I don't think promoting a hardcore racist like Benny Morris is very conducive to anti-fascist unity.
Sarah AB said…
@Levi - yes I did - I just felt, for example, that you slightly flattened what he said when you put it like this:

"and he has said that if a future war creates the opportunity Israel should indeed avail of that opportunity and expel what remains of the Arab population from Israel and the occupied territories."

I have raised this interview more than once on blog discussions myself, and I don't think my view of it is terribly different from yours. But I suppose my judgement of him is tempered by the fact that the situation in Israel is so fraught - and I'd cut Palestinians some slack in the other direction - yet some voices on that side (not all Palestinian though) are too hateful and racist to overlook of course.
Anonymous said…
Erm. It's not Mikey. But you carry on will your wild conjecture, Levi. It's so you.
"... my contentions about Morris being a racist"

I'm a little perplexed as to why posters here are reluctant to concur with levi's judgment and yet are APPEAR to be equally reluctant to defend Morris against such charges. What is so difficult to understand about the difference in motivation, sentiment and intention, between what Morris is saying and bona-fide racism?

And why the reluctance to stand by him?
Anonymous said…
What would standing by him look like Noga?

Isn't it a case of standing by him when he's accosted, expecting him to investigate his jihad theories rigorously, reminding his detractors that 2004 was a long time ago and there was a terror campaign on, and politely requesting he makes some of his points less amenable to the kind of people who collect reasons to hate Muslims?
I see. On the one hand, he is not a racist. On the other hand, he is a racist.

My question remains unanswered.
levi9909 said…
Sarah - You'll have to be more specific than saying that I "flattened" something. I neither added nor subtracted anything from what Morris was saying in that interview and there is nothing to suggest in subsequent writings or interviews that Morris has changed his mind now the heat has died down. And if things are or were fraught in Israel imagine how it must have been in the occupied territories and not just or even for the settlers.

Morris has shown that he has been totally immersed in the history of zionism and the Palestinians. He knows perfectly well that there is nothing that the Palestinians have done at any time in terms of violence or killing that has not been done to them by Israel to a far greater degree. The idea that he simply spontaneously lost his rag under fire is preposterous.

Also, note what he said about America. What were the native Americans doing at that time or any time to justify his saying that their near annihilation was justified?

I haven't noticed you cutting any slack to Palestinians with regard to what most of them have suffered or in terms of what any of their leaders or activists have said or done. Do you have any examples you could show us?

It's curious that you find the statements or behaviours of Israel's victims "too hateful and racist to overlook" and yet justification of past and future ethnic cleansing is somehow mitigated.

I am finding more and more that there is no line that Israel (or its advocates) can't cross without people defending it (or them) by reference to what the victims did to deserve to be victimised.
Sarah AB said…
"he has said that if a future war creates the opportunity Israel should indeed avail of that opportunity and expel what remains of the Arab population from Israel and the occupied territories"

Levi - I don't think your summary (above) reflects what he says quite - and *how* he says it - you imply he'd jump at the chance, but he expresses a sense of reluctance, of such a step being possibly necessary only in the most apocalyptic circumstances.

I said 'I'd cut' the Palestinians some slack, not 'I have cut' so I don't see why I need give examples.
bob said…
First of all, please out of courtesy could anonymous commenters just take a handle for the sake of the discussion - doesn't need to be real name, just easier to keep track of the back and forth. I'd rather not ban anonymous commenters.

Second, enough already with the personal back and forth stuff. There are important issues here, and no need to get into the personalities. I'll start deleting personal stuff.
bob said…
On the EDL:

I think you have to look at what begat fascism and what begat militant islamism. The former arises out of a crisis of capitalism and is a defence of capitalism. Islamism has arisen in modern times as a wrong-headed paradise lost movement against imperialism and in the west as a response to racism. It is simply wrong to equate them.
No-one here has said that Islamism and the EDL are equal or the same. What some of us have said is that they resemble each other in certain, important ways. You don’t have to be begat the same way to resemble someone else. My friend Mark and my friend Trevor have a striking resemblance: the way they talk, the way they dress, their faces and physiques. But they were very definitely not begat by the same parents. Islamism is a far right ideology, closely related to fascism. The EDL is a far right movement, closely related to fascism. That’s a very clear resemblance.

I also find the thumbnail explanations here extremely simplistic, perhaps inevitably in concise summaries. Islamism is indeed a modern phenomenon and a wrong-headed paradise lost movement, and fascism indeed has a relationship to capitalism’s periodic crises, but i think there is much more to it than that. Both of them are simultaneously creatures of western modernity and anti-occidental anti-modern movements. It is wrong to over-emphasise the material context and under-emphasise the ideological.

In particular, the importance of “imperialism” is often over-emphasised. Islamism has arisen, for example, in postcolonial states like Algeria that are relatively de-linked from the capitalist world-system, in failed states like Somalia and Sudan where imperialism is largely irrelevant, in wealthy countries that are imperialist rather than subaltern like Saudi Arabia, and it thrives in the UK which is an imperial metropolis.

Similarly, the relationship between fascism and capitalist crisis is far from straightforward. Just taking British fascism, it is true that the golden age of classic fascism was the Great Depression and the NF’s high tide was in the 1970s economic crisis, but the emergence of the proto-fascist anti-alien movement occurred in an economic upturn, the post-war resurgence of fascism was at a time of affluence, and the high tide period of the BNP exactly coincided with a sustained period of economic growth (while it has failed to capitalise on the financial crisis of the last couple of years). I see no evidence, especially in the UK, that it is a “defence” of capitalism; only small fractions of industrial capital backed it in the Mosley period and 1970s, while today it is utter anathema to the bourgeoisie.

Finally, just as it is simplistic to call Islamism “Islamo-fascism” or “clerical fascism” (terms I’ve sloppily used myself), I think it is simplistic to call the EDL fascist. Although there are fascists in its leadership, I think it is less ideologically coherent and departs from generic fascism in a number of ways; it is, I think, better called “proto-fascist”, along the lines of the British Brothers and other early anti-alien groups.

The EDL feeds off the spectacular Islamism of Islam4UK etc, and anyone who attacks the former while giving the latter a free pass lacks credibility. Islam4UK etc also feed off the EDL. Anti-fascists, in orienting to those under attack from the EDL. need to drive a wedge between militant members of Muslim communities under attack and the far right Islamists that attempt to lead their militancy, and doing so requires a very clear, strong and smart critique of Islamism.
bob said…
On getting banned from campuses: myself, I'd be against most campus bans, unless there's a very strong case. For example, I'd be completely against a campus ban on Rance and Greenstein for their views (possibly they were banned for intimidating behaviour, which would be totally different, but I don't want a debate here about their behaviour). I wouldn't want Nir Rosen getting a job at the LSE, but I wouldn't want him banned from speaking on campus. I don't think free speech trumps hate speech, but I think hate speech has to be pretty heavy to lead to campus bans.

There's a related issue, which is the constant claim from the anti-Zionist movement that criticism of Israel is suppressed or people are afraid to speak out about it because of the way the Zionists cry antisemitism. But the only instances I have come across in the last few years of people being stopped from speaking in British campuses on these sorts of issues are Benny Morris and Matthias Küntzel, so the anti-Zionist claim seems thin to me. (Maybe there are other instances that refute my position - I'd be interested to hear if they are.)
bob said…
On Benny Morris: I have read and looked at bits of a few of the interviews now. Just a few, so these comments are quite tentative. It seems to me that Morris has made comments that can be interpreted as de-humanising Arabs and Muslims, makes them into an abstract, faceless "them". He has also engaged in his interviews in something close to what-aboutery, but which I have a great deal of sympathy for (he is clear that Israel committed war crimes in 1948, but he contextualises them in comparison with the far greater war crimes committed by others but which do not receive the same public condemnation) but the problem is that he does it very coldly. This coldness is perhaps a professional deformation of the historian, who has to step back from the morality and look at a bigger picture; it might be a strength in a historian, but it might be a flaw in a political commentator.

His attackers, on the other hand, distort and exaggerate these flaws, by taking them out of context, by hiding the nuances. For example, there is no sense in which he "praises" the annihilation of the native American Indians. He clearly sees it as a harsh and cruel act, but wonders if the overall, final good justifies this cruelty. Nor, as Sarah says, does he in any sense relish the sorts of expulsions and cleansing he says might be justified: he sees them as unavoidable in certain circumstances or as lesser evils compared to genocide of his own people. I disagree with him on both these points, but I don't see his views on them as beyond the pale, unless you twist them out of context.

I think that Morris' views also need to be seen in the context of the "existential" threat against Israel - much as Palestinian antisemtism needs to be seen in the context of the oppression and violence they face. If we heard what British people in the bomb shelters of 1941 said about Germans, I expect we'd get de-humanising and abstraction of Germans. The war - the Second Intifada - at the end of 2003/start of 2004 when the interview took place had been going through its most violent period. I think 2002 was the worst year for deaths in suicide attacks and the interview came shortly after the Maxim restaurant bombing and several bus attacks, and I think at a time when the Qassam rockets were starting to fall more frequently. This does not excuse racism, but it excuses a certain amount of de-humanising, and it excuses thinking about whether expulsion might be a lesser evil. Again, I utterly disagree with Morris, but think this should be taken into account in condemning him as some kind of vicious racist. If he has a "sickness is of the mental-political kind" (as Ash puts it), so probably do all Israelis and Palestines.
bob said…
I am also struck once again by the anti-Zionist obsession with uncovering the hidden truth of the Zionist soul, as in Ash's "diagnosis" or Levi's scouring of the sources for evidence of Morris' essential racism. Levi says Morris often "disembles" in his interviews. But the same interviews are the sources of our evidence of his racism! Which is it: are the interviews windows into his deeply racist soul, or performances in which he tries to throw us off the scent and hide his true deep racism?
bob said…
I mean "dissembles".
levi9909 said…
Benny Morris is an intellectual. He is not under fire and he knows that the "existential" threat to Israel was/is purely demographic. Morris cannot be compared with ordinary Israelis or Palestinians precisely because he is an intellectual. And I do not have to scour sources to find examples of Morris's racism or his dishonesty. Even the Shlaim review exposes both and that is praising his work, ie where he findings don't tally with his conclusions. And Sarah noticed his racism from what he said after the LSE business.

"are the interviews windows into his deeply racist soul, or performances in which he tries to throw us off the scent and hide his true deep racism?"

Jonathan Freedland's interview shows examples of both. He claims he is not being racist because he is not mentioning genetic issues. Does anyone described as racist these days ever get into genetic issues?

Similarly, he claims that it is the hostility of the Arabs under proposed Jewish rule that is the problem, when given that the Arabs were a majority, it was their not being Jewish that was at issue. They needed to be purged into a more manageable minority. Morris now laments that this more manageable minority should have been purged or should be in future with no regard for how their treatment has led to what he perceives as their attitude or behaviour. In fact glosses over what led to the breakdown of talks between Arafat and Barak. Avnery parks the issue entirely at Barak's door. For Morris the whole thing is used as another example of the inherent hostility of Arabs/Muslims to Jews. There is no excuse for that.

The problem with Morris vis a vis Israeli state and society is that his move to the right has mirrored that of the state and society so his racism isn't simply the opinion of one man but a real possibility given that it has all happened before. Though of course there are many in denial about that.

I don't think either Bob or Sarah would be willing to cut any slack to an Arab or Muslim who spoke of Jews the way Morris speaks of Arabs and Muslims. When Sarah spotted Morris's more recent expression of racism she seemed not to realise that Morris would have such vociferous defenders so she wants to back-peddle from her previous observation. I saw this over the Roma on Harry's Place. She condemned anti-Roma feeling and behaviours only to call herself Roma-sceptic when the full blown Romaphobes came to call.

I don't think it's a good idea trying to meet racists half-way.

Which brings us to the EDL and islamism.

I don't think there is any state that could be said to be insulated from imperialism. But even if we accept that there are, the issue of islamists in the UK is not the same as islamists in predominantly muslim countries but I'll have to give more thought to the issue of islamists in the UK vis a vis the EDL.

In my area I see the EDL picketing a former English butchers earmarked for a mosque on most days and they march most weeks with no opposition. All a bit upsetting. However, whenever I am anywhere near a gathering outside a mosque say in Whitechapel/Aldgate, I have no idea whether it's a run of the mill religious meeting or a political show going on. What I don't sense is the triumphalism or intimidation at Muslim gatherings.
bob said…
The idea that Morris is not under fire because he is an "intellectual" is a bit disingenuous, given that we don't know how many "intellectuals" were in Maxim when it was bombed in 2003 or in the various buses in Jerusalem. That's the context he was talking in in that notorious interview, not some abstract demographic threat. Maybe "existential" (which I scare-quoted anyway) is not the right word for it, but "under fire" almost certainly is.
bob said…
I don't think either Bob or Sarah would be willing to cut any slack to an Arab or Muslim who spoke of Jews the way Morris speaks of Arabs and Muslims. Well, we'll have to see. I don't think that in the six or so years I've been blogging here I've devoted any time or space to attacking individual Palestinians for making comments de-humanising Jews/Israelis or for calling for solutions as radical as the transfer solution Morris advocates. I don't see it as my place to criticise prevalent Palestinian low-level racism against Jews/Israelis. (Although if I were an Israeli, I might feel differently.)

My concern is more with the people over here, mainly white and privileged, who express racist views against Jews in the name of the righteous Arab victims.

When Sarah spotted Morris's more recent expression of racism she seemed not to realise that Morris would have such vociferous defenders so she wants to back-peddle from her previous observation. I saw this over the Roma on Harry's Place. She condemned anti-Roma feeling and behaviours only to call herself Roma-sceptic when the full blown Romaphobes came to call.

As I've said, I rarely follow HP threads so have no idea what you're talking about, but I do know that Sarah has many times used her HP posting rights to raise awareness of anti-Roma racism.

On this issue, it seems to me it is not the vociferous defenders of Morris who have made Sarah "back-peddle" but rather the vociferous attackers of Morris whose company she'd rather disassociate herself from. I don't think she has in any way expressed a change of view on the racism of the Morris interview; she's simply pointed out the gap between a straightforward criticism of some racist expression and an attack dog savaging of Morris as some kind of deep, essential racist that we need to completely disassociate ourselves from to remain pure.

Finally, to repeat myself, altho it doesn't seem to sink in, I see no profit whatsoever in deciding whether Morris is or isn't "a racist", whatever that might mean. The issue, instead, should be his racist expression and the effect of that.
bob said…
On the EDL, if they were demonstrating in my area "most weeks", I'd not be spending my blogging time arguing about Israeli historians and European working definitions.

Most "Muslim gatherings" in the UK are not Islamist gatherings, and we wouldn't expect to see any intimidation at them. But Islamists are intimidating people in the UK, and denying it because the EDL are ugly is not a sensible strategy. It's not either/or.

I agree that Islamism in the UK (or other non-Muslim majority countries) and Islamism in Muslim-majority countries have different material and ideological explanations.

I don't think there is any state that could be said to be insulated from imperialism.

Well, maybe not, but if it's everywhere then it's kind of nowhere too, as an explanatory factor. I don't see how the power of Wahhabi Islam in Saudi Arabia can be blamed on "imperialism"; how (American-born) Anwar al-Awlaki or his foreigners in Yemen have anything to do with "imperialism", how the rise of the FIS in secular postcolonial Algeria is caused by "imperialism", etc.
Sarah AB said…
Just to clarify - I described some HP commenters as 'Roma-sceptic' - intentionally sarcastic understatement WRT some. I think I then said that I was not myself Roma-sceptic but neither was I at the opposite extreme - I was thinking of the fact that someone had invoked a gushy, mushy piece romanticising everything to do with Roma culture in a rather relativist way which I agreed I also didn't like. I resented being picked up on this by stalkers from my left who had never commented on anything else I had written about the Roma.

WRT the Indians - I do in fact find Morris's peculiar reference to their 'annihilation' pretty disturbing, in the middle of a discussion of the rather different (though still nasty) issue of ethnic cleansing. It is too easy to think of other circumstances in which not dissimilar statements might have been articulated. And yet although you could interpret all this in some horribly sinister way - I suspect in fact BM hadn't thought carefully enough about what he was saying. But what he says about Islam being a kind of fifth column in the West - that was awful too.

"And in your view these new barbarians are truly threatening the Rome of our time?

Yes. The West is stronger but it’s not clear whether it knows how to repulse this wave of hatred. The phenomenon of the mass Muslim penetration into the West and their settlement there is creating a dangerous internal threat"

Again, as with so much of the interview, I feel there is the germ of a fair point here about Islamism - but expressed with a complete lack of nuance or sensitivity towards a diverse group (Muslim immigrants).
Waterloo Sunset said…
@ Levi

I think you have to look at what begat fascism and what begat militant islamism. The former arises out of a crisis of capitalism and is a defence of capitalism. Islamism has arisen in modern times as a wrong-headed paradise lost movement against imperialism and in the west as a response to racism.

The former is obviously pretty standard Trotskyist analysis. While there's some stuff from Trotsky on fascism I think is valuable (ironically, it's the stuff that's largely ignored by modern Trotskyists), but I think his analysis is heavily flawed on this and has been extremely damaging. By seeing fascism merely as a radical defense of capitalism, it means we don't analyse fascist ideology and movements as the independent factors they actually are. Fascism is more than just a capitalist variant. It is truer to say that no fascist movement has come to power without the support of the capitalist class (the times it's been tried, like with Codreanu's Iron Guard in Romania, it's invariably been crushed), but that isn't the same thing. Hence the existence of fascists when capitalism has been strong.

And I think you make the same mistake with Islamism. While understanding the context it arises in is useful, it's not as important as analysing it on its own terms as far as its ideology and practise is concerned.

But having said that, I would no more challenge someone I was inviting to oppose the EDL on where they stand on zionism than I would challenge them on where they stand on islamism. That doesn't mean I support either. I don't.

Sure. Apart from anything else, I think that doing so would undoubtably lead to people targeting Muslims as Muslims for their challenges. But whether we also publically stand against Islamism is a different issue.
levi9909 said…
I'm only skimming here because I do not do disingenuous or dishonest. You do it all the time Bob and Sarah does it too though not quite as much as you do.

What has happened here is that Sarah spotted Morris's racism from a very recent talk he gave. I merely pointed out that he has form going back to 2004. Even an anonymously posted review here, praising his research, criticised his dishonesty and his racism (clash of civilisations and all that). And Jonathan Freedland was appalled at the explicitness of his racism being expressed far more recently than 2004.

Noga has hollered that Morris is a very important zionist ideologue and he is. She actually says that he can't be racist because Arabs really are inferior.

So Bob and Sarah dust off their tandem and back-peddle for all they're worth. They would excuse Palestian expressions of racism but apparently so far they're just too bad to excuse and what they have suffered so far isn't enough to excuse them anything.

Waterloo Sunset - I really don't know much about Trotsky's analysis of fascism or how to oppose it. Someone posted a link to Ernst Mandel (I think it was here recently) and I thought that was a useful position. I am highly suspicious of people who want to focus on islamism at the the expense of domestic fascism and zionism particularly when you consider the twists and turns you see going on over Benny Morris in this thread.

My concern is that you start by condemning islamism and you then move to understanding white racism. I am not saying that you are saying this but you have seen how Harry's Place and now Bob deal with these things. I know it puts me in a cleft stick when it comes to dealing with fascist variants that don't treat me as a constituent but as long as a war is being waged against muslims and Arabs in various places, that position is where I find myself. I'll oppose white racism and largely ignore the rest unless someone can convince me to re-prioritise.
Levy says: "I'm only skimming here because I do not do disingenuous or dishonest."

And goes on to state:

"Noga has hollered that Morris is a very important zionist ideologue and he is. She actually says that he can't be racist because Arabs really are inferior."

I'd like to see where I claimed that "Morris is a very important zionist ideologue".

And where exactly did I say that "he can't be racist because Arabs really are inferior."

I can guess which of my comments induced this interpretation by levi who suffers from the chronic
disability of dealing with recorded realities, as are reflected, for example, in this interview with Al-Jazeera Editor-in-Chief Ahmed Sheikh:

"You sound bitter.

Yes, I am.

At whom are you angry?

It's not only the lack of democracy in the region that makes me worried. I don't understand why we don't develop as quickly and dynamically as the rest of the world. We have to face the challenge and say: enough is enough! When a President can stay in power for 25 years, like in Egypt, and he is not in a position to implement reforms, we have a problem. Either the man has to change or he has to be replaced. But the society is not dynamic enough to bring about such a change in a peaceful and constructive fashion.

Why not?

In many Arab states, the middle class is disappearing. The rich get richer and the poor get still poorer. Look at the schools in Jordan, Egypt or Morocco: You have up to 70 youngsters crammed together in a single classroom. How can a teacher do his job in such circumstances? The public hospitals are also in a hopeless condition. These are just examples. They show how hopeless the situation is for us in the Middle East.

Who is responsible for the situation?

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the most important reasons why these crises and problems continue to simmer...

Do you mean to say that if Israel did not exist, there would suddenly be democracy in Egypt, that the schools in Morocco would be better, that the public clinics in Jordan would function better?

I think so."


The difference between me and the Editor-in-Chief Ahmed Sheikh is in the solution to the state of Arab stagnation, poverty and ignorance. He thinks the disappearance of Israel will solve those problems. I suspect that levi would agree with this solution. Not because he agrees with Sheikh about the condition of Arabs (that would be racist wouldn't it?) but because Israel's disappearance is a perfect absolute good that does not need to be excused by anything. It is a free-standing benefit to all.
bob said…
Once again with the "I'm honest, all of you lots are liars" meme from Levi, obsessed always with uncovering the deeper truth and unmasking the dishonest. I have no idea what back-"peddling" Sarah or me are supposed to have done (both from the start disturbed by borderline racist elements in Morris' expression, both from the start not seeing him as evil incarnate, neither really changing that position while learning more about him) but I am not going to continue this discussion. Further comments of the you-said-I-said variety will be deleted. Constructive discussion of EDL and Islamism or of Morris as historian more than welcome.
bob said…
Levi, are you sure you mean Mandel (Ernest)? I'm that not familiar with his work on fascism/anti-fascism, but had the sense he is the most orthodox of ortho-Marxists on this, not departing at all from Trotsky's position, and most extremely arguing the economic determination line.
Sarah AB said…
Levi - I probably find your instinct to oppose racism rather than Islamism more congenial than the the opposite instinct. But it's also a problem, I think, partly because that attitude actually drives some who feel their (fair) concerns are being overlooked to the EDL - partly because to some degree it's the same group (Muslims) who suffer most from both types of extremist. I feel so frustrated sometimes that there is this sharp line down the middle of the blogosphere, of politics, which is separating, I feel, natural near allies from each other. Although I sometimes feel that Sunny Hundal, say, has got things quite wrong, there's also a sense in which I feel Pickled Politics plays Rocky Island to Harry's Place's Craggy Island - the two rival groups of priests in Father Ted who mirror each other uncannily.I noticed on Pickled Politics (though I'm in a sulk with them so I didn't comment) that they have posts on whether Salah should have been banned from Britain and on whether Andrew Gilligan is over reacting to a 'homophobic' session at the ELM. This is exactly the kind of issue I think it should be possible to have a genuine discussion about - I think it's important not to allow a legitimate concern about homophobic hate preachers to lead to scrutinising mosques more intently than churches WRT teaching about homosexuality and I also feel much clearer about being appalled that Labour MPs were prepared to share a platform with him than about whether or not he should have been allowed in the country - I'm not losing sleep over him being banned but these exclusions can seem arbitrary.
levi9909 said…
Bob - "Once again with the "I'm honest, all of you lots are liars" meme from Levi"

It was you who accused me of being disingenuous and you didn't substantiate what you said.

Morris's racism has been overt since 2004. If anything his position has become more robust since 2004 backdating justification for Israel's ethnic cleansing by reference to islamism.

What I meant by back-peddling (though I may be spelling it wrong) is that Sarah noticed his racism in his most recent talk and I pointed out that it has been his position for the past seven years but you have both decided that it doesn't really count as racism because he has been shocked by the awful behaviour of the Palestinians. I assume that you are both now defending him because Noga let on that he is a very important player in the zionist project.

I had hoped that there would be some common ground over this but you clearly believe that zionist racism (of which Morris's, and Noga's, is typical) is the fault of its most numerous victims, the Palestinians.

Yes I did mean Ernest Mandel. I gather he is a disciple of Trotsky but I still don't know that much about Trotsky.

The piece I find very useful is this about WWII:


Noga, if you want to pretend you don't know what I mean you shouldn't then let on that you do know what I mean. Was Bob and Sarah's defence of Morris enough or do you think they should sink even lower?

Here have a Leon Rosselson song.
"Morris's racism has been overt since 2004."

Does that mean that his racism was "covert" when he wrote the first "new history" book you and your ilk applauded so for many years? And then he decided that it was safe to proclaim it?

Isn't there something thoroughly disturbing about levi's use of "Zionist" as if it were some evil? Something that goes far beyond what could be construed (with a great deal of effort and good will) as his concern for Palestinians? He often reminds me of my favourite Arab blogger for whom lying and slandering when it comes to Israel are virtues -- the more you do it, the more moral you are.

levi is a true believer. He does not even need excuses or evidence or even reading comprehension. He knows.
bob said…
Sigh. OK, rephrasing: The idea that Morris is not under fire because he is an "intellectual" is wrong, given that we don't know how many "intellectuals" were in Maxim when it was bombed in 2003 or in the various buses in Jerusalem. That's the context he was talking in in that notorious interview, not some abstract demographic threat. Maybe "existential" (which I scare-quoted anyway) is not the right word for it, but "under fire" almost certainly is.
bob said…
Been browsing a little bit of Mandel. Found these two fascinating early essays on the "Jewish question" - from 1946 and 1948. On fascism itself, the SWP's Dave Renton summed Mandel up well in 1997: "Some writers, including Ted Grant and Ernest Mandel, have maintained that the only compelling Marxist theory of fascism is Trotsky's." This review, by Kit Adam Wainer, summarises the critiques of Mandel by two of my favourite Marxists, Norman Geras and Michel Lowy. (Wainer is a little too ortho-Marxist for me.) Here is a closely related Geras text to the one Wainer is summarising, which I think is superb. Enzo Traverso, politically very close to Lowy and also an excellent writer, has a similar line of critique to Geras and Lowy. Here is a left communist take by "Mac Intosh" which summarises Traverso and Geras, and critiques the latter, but shows the inadequacy of Mandel's orttho-Marxism well. Callinicos of the SWP is also an advance over Mandel, but only slightly. His response to Geras in 2001 is, in my view, extremely limited. He states a Trotskyist understanding of fascism very well, but fails to go beyond its limits and to adequately deal with Geras' critique. It is interesting to think of the gap between Renton in '97 and Callinicos in '01 and how the SWP's anti-Zionist politics and orientation from 2001 towards a kind of Islamo-populism begin to cloud Callicos' intellectual judgement.
levi9909 said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
bob said…
I'm bringing this to an end now. Which I should have done some time ago. Apologies to anyone who has got this far and still cares.
Matt said…
Found this on a left-wing site:

"... the first comment - to which this (moderator) responds - sports a hilarious jungian slip: it says 'ethic' instead of ethnic origin ... and claims the squid made it to bloodsucker status in russia long before jews. May well be (given that jews are a relatively young ... ehh .. phenomenon, something like last in e- first in devolution"

Anonymous said…
Waterloo Sunset said…
Mob full of nonces. You're just a mob full of nonces.

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