Friday, December 23, 2011

Last miscellaneous round-up post of 2011, probably

Post of the week: Johnny Guitar: Defending the indefensible with the absurd.

Kellie rounds up some of the commentary on the passing of Vaclav Havel. And here’s a superb Hitchens post I would’ve included in the last one if I had read it sooner. Oh, and another from Rosie.

Two blogs to add to the blogroll: Sean Lynch's Coal not Dole and Will Bradshaw's eponymous blog.

Congratulations to our friend Carl Packman on his very interesting looking book plans.

Via Engage, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre’s “top ten anti-Israel/anti-Semitic slurs” [pdf]. I find  some items on the list a little problematic. The no.1 “slur” is Mahmoud Abbas talking about Palestine as a Holy Land without mentioning Jews – a sleight, perhaps, but hardly a major league slur. Similarly, this at no.10 from (Obama’s mentor) Reverend Jeremiah Wright: “The state of Israel is an illegal, genocidal place… to equate Judaism with the state of Israel is to equate Christianity with [rapper] Flavor Flav.” That’s excessive rhetoric, but it’s not antisemitic. It seems to me that the inclusion of these two examples at the bookends is pure politics and also dangerous self-defeating politics. On a related topic: Bill Weinberg on the apparently paradoxical normalization of anti-Semitism and anti-Arab racism. A very interesting review by Daniel Johnson in the Weekly Standard of Gertrude Himmelfarb’s new history of British philosemitism, which looks to make an interesting companion to Anthony Julius’ book.

I visited Occupy LSX at the weekend. They had done a poll amongst occupiers about what their politics were. “Anti-capitalist” came to something like 20%, with the largest number being “anti-central bank”, and “anti-corruption” second. Which I think gives weight my earlier diagnosis of Occupy as populist rather than anti-capitalist. There was also quite a strong presence of the bizarre Twelve Tribes Christian cult (also known as the Stentwood Farm/Stoneybrook Farm/Morning Star Ranch/Yellow Deli. While I was there, I picked up the latest Occupied Times which had some worthwhile content, in particular a welcome attack on fake-leftist conspiracy theory re-printed from New Internationalist and an interesting text on the global anti-capitalist elite. From America, I haven’t yet read this on the Platypus view of the Occupy movement but will. Related reading, I liked Russell Arben Fox on why “the protestor” was the person of the year in 2011 (via New Appeal to Reason). And here’s Hakim Bey’s pronouncements on Occupy Wall Street.

Which leads nicely to this: a fantastic dismissal of anarchism from the late Murray Bookchin via the excellent Radical Archives blog, extracted from “The Communalist Project”. Here’s an even smaller extract:
anarchism – which, I believe, represents in its authentic form a highly individualistic outlook that fosters a radically unfettered lifestyle, often as a substitute for mass action – is far better suited to articulate a Proudhonian single-family peasant and craft world than a modern urban and industrial environment... the history of this “ideology” is peppered with idiosyncratic acts of defiance that verge on the eccentric, which not surprisingly have attracted many young people and aesthetes. In fact anarchism represents the most extreme formulation of liberalism’s ideology of unfettered autonomy, culminating in a celebration of heroic acts of defiance of the state.”
I have a long post half-drafted about the EDL and the British Freedom Party, but it’s not getting finished, so I’ll post a link to this useful article on the EDL at the IRR site.

History is made at Night on two massacres.

An interesting blog: that of rabbi Howard Cooper.

Finally, I’ve been meaning to link to this, for ages, from A Jay Adler: Myanmar, Not Forgotten in the Darkness.

15 comments:

jams o donnell said...

Another excellent round up Bob. Merry Xmas!

negative potential said...

Regarding the Wiesenthal Center list, the attribution to Dierkes is just a flat-out lie.

The website of Die Linke in Duisburg was an open posting forum. An anti-semitic flyer was posted to the website, and the actual scandal was about how a left-wing party could allow something like that onto its webpages.

The configuration of the Wiesenthal Center list makes it seem like it was something Dierkes said. Even saying that he posted the flyer is a lie.

Talk about Stalinist methods...

bob said...

Thanks NP. It seemed fishy.

bob said...

I went to Engage to post NP's comment there, but see he visited, but I was glad to read Marko's comment:

‘Speaking to the world, Abbas omitted any reference to the Jewish people’s connection to the Holy Land. No reference to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, nor King David, King Solomon, or Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel.’

I haven’t seen the rest of the speech, but it’s a bit OTT to put Abbas’s quoted sentence in the same category as the anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi statements below it. Portraying Palestine as a country with a Christian and Muslim heritage, without reference to its Jewish heritage, is broadly equivalent to describing Israel as a Jewish state, without reference to its Muslim and Arab elements. Or describing Spain as a Christian country, without reference to its Muslim past.

Of course, in an ideal world, Palestinian leaders would proudly acknowledge their country’s Jewish heritage and Israeli leaders would proudly acknowledge their country’s Arab and Muslim heritage. Unfortunately, nationalists generally prefer to impose an imagined homogeneity on their national pasts, and to write The Other out of it. But equating that sort of thing with defending Hitler simply makes the struggle against anti-Semitism look silly. Nobody seriously believes that

‘I come before you today from the Holy Land, the land of Palestine, the land of divine messages, ascension of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him and the birthplace of Jesus Christ peace be upon him, to speak on behalf of the Palestinian people’

is equivalent to ‘I love Hitler…People like you would be dead.Your mothers, your forefathers, would all be f****** gassed’.

They’re not remotely comparable.

Waterloo Sunset said...

It seems to me that the inclusion of these two examples at the bookends is pure politics and also dangerous self-defeating politics.

Isn't the uncritical citing of it, plus the support for it from several Engage regulars, also a pretty good indicator that Engage isn't simply a single issue campaign against antisemitism? I think it's pretty clear that Engage are, in part, an organisation that sees its role as advocating for the Israeli state. Which is their right. But I think they should stop dishonestly pretending that isn't the case.

I think Bookchin has some good points on anarchism (as you know, I can be pretty blunt about the state of the anarchist movement myself), but I think his view is somewhat skewed by his experiences of the US anarchist movement. The American anarchists are, if anything, even more fucked than the UK scene.

negative potential said...

Yeah, I'm starting to be confirmed in my suspicions that Engage really is more concerned with justifying Israeli policy than with actually combatting anti-Semitism. After I pointed out that the Dierkes "quotation" is a flat-out fabrication, they responded by basically saying Dierkes has said other things they don't like.

So in other words, never mind that the SWC list falsely attributes a quotation to the guy, the point is that they just don't like him and his positions on Israel/Palestine.

My latest response is on that blog thread, for anyone who cares...

bob said...

My comment at Engage, awaiting moderation: It is undeniable that there is a problem with antisemitism within Die Linke, and the SWC are not wrong to draw attention to it. However, in this case, they seem to have been extremely sloppy in their research and even more so in their presentation of the evidence. This is compounded by the fact that they have aimed their allegation at a named individual who does not appear to have said the hateful thing they claim he said.

The source quoted by SWC, soerenkern.com, says this: "Also in May, Hermann Dierkes, the leader of the Left Party in Duisburg, penned an “Open Letter” in which he compared Israeli policy towards the Palestinians with the Nazi regime." The open letter soerenkern.com links to however says nothing of the kind as far as I can see. The source then in a following paragraph says: "In April, the Duisburg branch of the German Left Party posted a flyer on its website with a swastika morphing into a Star of David, and called for a boycott of Israeli products. The flyer, which calls Israel a “rogue state” and a “warmonger” states: “Oppose the moral blackmail of the so-called Holocaust! Truth makes free!” This is a pun on the “Arbeit macht Frei!” sign which is located above the entrance gate to the Auschwitz concentration camp." This is what the SWC should be getting upset about, not Dierkes' open letter. However, even here soerenkern.com simplifies the story, making it seem as if the whole branch was responsible, which I don't think any other evidence confirms. Dierkes' open letter was a response to the leaflet. His open letter is an utterly inadequate response to the leaflet, but he says nothing anything close to what SWC says he said.

Is Soeren Kern even a reliable source? His site says "Soeren Kern is the Senior Analyst for Transatlantic Relations at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group." So, he's not just some blogger, but nor is he either a primary source or a newspaper of record.

The lack of evidence in a claim by the SWC seriously undermines their credibility. If they had done this in a blog post, say, this would be bad enough. But they have done is in a top ten of 2010 document that is circulating extremely widely, and this makes it an even more serious mis-step. In my view, they either need to show us evidence for Dierke saying this, or withdrawn and apologise.

From the perspective of fighting antisemitism, what makes this affair even worse is that it is fuel for those who would attempt to avoid any scrutiny of left antisemitism in general or in Die Linke in particular. It makes it easier for left antisemites and their enablers to get away with hateful statements.

bob said...

Btw, I wouldn't blame Engage for assuming that SWC are going to pass on true facts. They don't explicitly endorse the SWC statement.

Nor would I identify the administrators and activists of Engage with the wider community who comment in its comment threads, who tend to be more pro-Israel than the actual posters/administrators.

bob said...

And I agree US anarchists seem a lot more fucked up than UK ones.

Waterloo Sunset said...

How are you defining "activists"?

Sarah AB said...

I think I agree with Bob's comment about commenters vs editors on Engage.

bob said...

By "activists", I mean the people who are involved in their unions, mainly UCU, from an Engage point of view. The website is a rallying point, but there are more people and more forms of activity behind it than might be obviously apparent to someone who only knows them via the net. The comment thread folks are obviously overlapping with that group, but more likely to be in the US or Israel than the activists, and less likely to be in the unions.

bob said...

To add to my next round-up: http://entdinglichung.wordpress.com/2011/12/26/vermischtes-63/

SaneLynch said...

Hi Bob, thanks for the shout out for my blog! But, it's called "Coal Not Dole" not "Coal Not Done". Have a good New Year!

bob said...

Sean, sorry for the typo, which I have just got around to correcting. Thanks for visiting.