Saturday, June 30, 2012

Snips and snipes

Concluding my last post
I didn't have time to finish off my last post, on racist graffiti. Here's my conclusions. First, that hate transcends lines of ethnicity, race and politics. Second, that the zero sum comparison/competition between different victimologies is on a hiding to nowhere because of the intimate connections and overlaps between different hatreds. 

Circumcision politics
As reported and discussed at Mystical Politics, a German district court (Cologne/Koln) has banned circumcision, or, more strictly, ruled that the "fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity outweighed thefundamental rights of the parents" and that doctors carrying out circumcision are committing grievous bodily harm. While there are forms of circumcision that do constitute GBH and quite rightly should be treated heavily by the law (link h/t Jogo), the Cologne ruling is outrageous, and racist (against Jews and Muslims) in effect. 

On this topic, I whole-heartedly agree with the Torygraph's pet right-wing Marxist contrarian Brendan O'Neill, who asserts that the rebranding of circumcision as 'child abuse' echoes the ugly anti-Semitism of medieval Europe. He goes further: "The labelling of religious practices as “child abuse” is the most cynical tactic in the armoury of today’s so-called New Atheists." Two so-called (I think it's him that calls them it, not what they call themselves) "New Atheists" who have robustly hit back are Zinnia Jones and Ophelia Benson, both very smart people, but I'm not convinced by their response. 

Lining up with Jones and Benson is Larry Derfner of +972, who supports the ban. One tweeter summarised this as "or How to Lose Jewish Friends and Alienate Jewish People", and indeed as if +972 and the Israeli left are not marginal and out of touch enough in the global Jewish community, this is rather bad politics for them. Note this almost Atzmonesque and rather racist sentiment: "this point has to be made loudly and repeatedly to all Jews, Muslims and other tribal types who feel they have no choice but to put their sons through this." In other words, thank the enlightened Aryan goyim for rescuing these backward Semites from their barbaric practices. 

This weekend's links
Francis Sedgemore/Lewisham NUJ: NUJ helps win Living Wage for London science interns; Charlie Brooker on Clive James, and a vintage letter from James about Pankaj Mishra (h/t Shiraz Socialist); Eric Lee and Paul in Lancs on Bomber Command; James B on internet piracyfighting to commemorate the Munich Olympic massacre; Reuben: The pwnership of a Tory minister does not negate the awfulness of Jeremy Paxmanmy first and last cassette LPsFlesh on Greeking the EUMarko v Ed on Croatian immigrants swamping the UKSarah AB on Maya Sela v Alice Walker on boycotting Hebrew translation; Alan Johnson on the Jihad at home; Adar Primor brilliantly summarises the rise of the European right, and concludes with two paragraphs of pure bullshit; the Soupy One on Stephen Sizer; Moshe Dayan's lesson for the Israeli left; Civil liberty or old-fashioned antisemitism?; Libya's Islamists; and that's probably more than enough for now.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Inscriptions of hatred

I am struck by how many references to hate graffiti have been in my inbox and twitter timeline the last day or two. I suspect that this constant drip of intolerance and bigotry into the public square goes on all the time and that this week is not exceptional - but maybe there's something in the stars.

In Jerusalem, members of the wacko haredi sect, Neturei Karta, have been arrested for spraying pro-Nazi messages in Hebrew at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Centre: "Hitler, thank you for the Holocaust", "If Hitler did not exist, the Zionists would have invented him", and "Jews, wake up, the evil Zionist regime doesn't protect us, it jeopardises us". It strikes me that the second two slogans could so easily appear in almost any mainstream anti-Zionist website, and it's not such a huge leap from them to the first one. The suspects are also accused of being responsible for graffiti at Ammunition Hill on Remembrance Day and vandalizing army memorials throughout the Jordan Valley. On one of the memorials they wrote “Shimon Peres is Amalek,” a biblical reference to the enemies of the Jewish people.

Graffiti is a major weapon of extremist forms of Zionism in Israel/Palestine too, with the so-called "price tag" vandalism perpetrated by settlers. Last week, for example, settlers set fire to a mosque in Jab'a village, near Ramallah, and sprayed graffiti on the mosque, including the words "Ulpana war". (Some settler leaders have recently condemned the price tag violence.) Meanwhile, Muslim writings were graffitied in the entrance hall of a synagogue in moshav Maor in central Israel. "Police have launched an investigation into the vandalism but do not have any suspects."

"Allah Wakbar" has been daubed on the 9/11 memorial at the WTC site in New York. This is presumably a mistaken rendering of the Takbīr, "Allāhu Akbar (الله أكبر)", Allah is the greatest. Whether the misspelling suggests an illiterate Jihadist, or an ignorant Islamophobic provocateur, it's a horrible and damaging act of hatred. Anti-Muslim racism certainly manifests in graffiti: a couple of weeks ago saw a fire at a building allegedly covered with anti-Arab graffiti near a mosque in Dearborn, Michigan. Swastikas have appeared on a Jewish synagogue in Jackson, Michigan, at schools in Burnaby, British Columbia, on a synagogue and other sites in Borough Park, Brooklyn, and in Springfield, Oregan. While Jews were the targets in some of those instances, in the BC there were no specific ethnic targets and in the Oregon instance the perpetrators are suspected to be a white gang who have been attacking black residents. Antisemitic and racist slogans were combined in profuse graffiti on a Baptist church in Richmond, Virginia at the start of the month. And swastikas featured in graffiti harassment of a biracial couple in Newmarket near Toronto. Antisemitism and racist are also found together in this case from Davis, Northern California: "A swastika and the n-word were spray painted on a bike trail underneath Interstate 80."

Pure old-fashioned antisemitism is behind graffiti in Hungary too:
Two men thought to be behind the vandalism of several statues and Jewish memorials were arrested on Friday, Budapest police announced. One suspect is the Budapest leader of the nationalist youth movement HVIM. The far-right party Jobbik subsequently demonstrated outside a city centre jail for his release from pre-trial detention.
In Arlington, Texas, a bunch of teenagers have been arrested for spraying dozens of homophobic slogans and reportedly also racist slurs on cars and garages. The police took a while to register it as a hate crime, and I can't find a report on the content apart from one obvious homophobic one Apparently, racist graffiti, targeting Arabs among others, has been epidemic in North Texas lately.

More bizarrely, in Hastings, in the South of England, police are investigating slogans such as "Roman Devils" and "Evil Queen" on Anglican churches, and the erasure of the letters "St" from streets named after saints. They describe the graffiti as "anti-religious" (although I'd say that it is either specifically anti-Christian or more likely the work of a heterodox Christian mad person) and as a "hate crime":

"These are being treated as hate crimes. Sussex Police is committed to reducing all forms of hate crime and works closely with community groups to increase reporting, widen awareness, and build confidence with victims to help bring offenders to justice."
Whatever the motivation, the police response should be taken as refutation for the bullshit notion widely circulating among our cultural conservatives that the state only cares about hate crimes against Muslims and brown-skinned folk. 


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Stuff that makes me sick and stuff that makes me happy

I started writing a post on things that make me sick, which would have featured Julian Assange and his gullible cultists who stumped up bail money for him which they've now thrown away (which would have been an opportunity about the time I spent in Ecuador, when it rained every day and when I was literally sick), and self-regarding novelists issuing pathetic gestures of denunciation and other worthy but wrong moralisers, and Henry Kissinger the mass murderer who was obscenely given an Israeli presidential award for “his significant contribution to the State of Israel and to humanity” (wtf?), and various other targets.

But I ran out of time, so you're spared that and instead get one of my usual reading lists, this one made up only of the bloggers I will plan to induct into the second circle of adepts of Bobism at the weekend.

George Szirtes is one of my favourite bloggers. Recently, he has blogged a lot on the depressing situation in his native Hungary - read So it goes in Hungary: the fascist at Radnoti's feast or The rehabilitation of the far right in Hungary 3: Hijacking the culture. Such posts are essential reading, and I don't link to them enough. He also tweets, cutting beautiful little gems that epitomise the platform's capacity, using the 140 character limit the way a haiku master uses the rigour of that form.

Shaun tweets as Jams O'Donnell and blogs as The PoorMouth. Read him on anarchists smashing the system, among other things.

Michael Ezra ("anti-communist and hedge fund guru") tweets tirelessly as himself, and blogs at Under the Ocular Tree, channelling uncannily timely voices from the dust of the archive. Read him on the Perdition affair and Auberon Waugh on the WRP.

Kellie Strom tweets as himself, blogs elegantly at Airforce Amazons (read Before and After Torture) and has put in a wonderful guest appearance at Bob's Beats.

Michael Harris tweets as himself. His recently re-designed website now looks very funky. It has sections on free expression, what to do in Lewisham (where he is a Labour councillor), material on the former Soviet empire and on the Labour Party. He can also be found at Index on Censorship's free speech blog and occasionally in the Telegraph too.

Francis Sedgemore blogs as himself. He blogs lucidly on fashionable nonsense (read Science babes put girls off studying science and “Sod the facts, it works for me”), Tory misrule (read Gove gets away with it while Hunt takes all the flak and Camerons put work experience philosophy into practice) and Londonism (read Down with LOCOG and the horse it rode in on).

Reuben is one of the main voices at The Third Estate and is presumably the main voice in its Twitter identity. Read: Workfare is hemorrhaging credibility: it’s high time that Labour’s leaders opened their timid mouths and My prediction proves correct: Brendan O’Neill claims that anger over treatment of unpaid stewards is just middle class paternalism.

James Bloodworth tweets as @ObligedtoOffend and blogs angrily at Obliged to Offend, but also for the Indy (read A quarter of Sunday Times rich list are Tory Party donors) and HuffPo (read It's Time the Left Apologised for Its Denial of the Srebrenica Massacre).

Scott Neil tweets as and blogs at Some Disco, one of the more interesting and hard to categorise blogs you'll see.

Carl Packman tweets as CarlRaincoat, blogs thoughtfully as Raincoat Optimism at Though Cowards Flinch (read him on Jimmy Carr and Moazzam Begg) but also writes for Left Foot Forward (read The sick anti-Semites at the heart of Galloway’s band of bigots), the New Statesman and LibCon.

Marko Attila Hoare tweets as himself and blogs intelligently at Greater Surbiton (read him on Bosnian Muslims in WWII).

Dave R tweets as himself and blogs for the CST. Read him on antisemitism in Toulouse.

I've missed a couple but I've run out of time.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

And still it comes

Once again, I am building up quite a backlog of links. Here are some things of note: 

Deptfordism: To add to the list here, Lil Richardjohn has a good concise post on the BBC Deptford doc.

Fascism and anti-fascism: Tony Greenstein's take on the tangled web between Neturei Karta, Alexander Baron, Troy Southgate and Gilad Atzmon (drawing on Waterloo Sunset's post here), plus interesting analysis of this milieu from Mark Gardner. At Workers' Liberty, Rebecca calls out Hope Not Hate for its sexism. Loads of new material on 1980s/90s anti-fascist in Britain at the Anti-Fascist Archive, including  the important “Filling the Vacuum” strategy document by London AFA and the pamphlet ”Bash the Fash” by K. Bullstreet (both already available at Libcom).

Bloggery: James Bloodworth profiled here.

Israel: False Dichotomies on +972's blame game on the anti-migrant pogroms, and Sacha Ismail on racism poisoning Israeli society (both relevant to this discussion).

A different Bob: Did the secret policeman and pro-Islamist Bob Lambert firebomb a department store while infiltrating the Animal Liberation Front?

Also: Ben Cohen on antisemitism and the Hugo Chavez regimeReuben on Brendan O'Neill's kneejerk anti-paternalism; Dave Rich on antisemitism in France after Toulouse; Raziq on Abid Hussain, Baroness Warsi and Hizb ut-Tahrir; Max Dunbar on family migration; and Sarah AB on multiculturalism.

More from Max Dunbar:
My review of Ed Vulliamy’s book about the Bosnian War, The War is Dead, Long Live the War, is now available at 3:AM. This was a long one to write and I consulted Nick Cohen’s chapters on Bosnia in his seminalWhat’s Left, which provides an overview of the war and a demolition of the denial claims. My paras on the Leuchter Report and holocaust denial rely heavily on Deborah Lipstadt’s Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory
A piece on Colin Shindler’s book about the relationship between Israel and the left 
An article explaining why John Lanchester’s Capital isn’t very good

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Streets of Deptford, chavs of Clapham, fascists in tower blocks

OK, I'm going to get into bed with the BBC iPlayer and watch episode 1 of The Secret History of Our Streets, about Deptford High Street. I will only then read the following: Ken's response, the Brockley Central discussion thread, the Crosswhatfields postthe Deptford Dame's response, Caroline's comments. (I have, however, read Bill's post on sexy fish and the Les Back/Dawn Lyons production it links to.) I am sure that watching the programme, I will be thinking a lot of Pete Pope and what he would have said, especially having seen the lovely photos here.

Image credit: LSE via Xfieldswhat.


Three non-local posts to add to last night's big fat miscellany: James B on chav hate not always being about class, Nick Cohen on the media and the massacres of the Yugoslav war, and the IWCA on 21st century fascism. I'll leave you with a quote from the last of those, because I think it actually relates to the politics of resentment and backlash that I think the Deptford film touches on:

Friday, June 08, 2012

Awaiting shelving

I've been busy and travelling lately, so quiet here. Writing this listening to intense rain and wind outside in dark South London.

I want to blog about the recent Jews and the left conference in New York, but for the moment read Noga's post and TNC's comment. Also at Noga's, this lovely Lorca re-post. While I'm doing my housekeeping, thanks to Snoopy for this kind recommendation of my Chomsky/Monbiot post:
Bob from Brockley has done another great post. Which by itself is not a scoop, since with Bob it's kinda habitual. This time it's a great and amazing post. It will shake the found... aw, what the heck - just go and read it. Hurry.
Also on a housekeeping note, I need to shelve some of the links in my "awaiting shelving" section, some of which ought to be promoted to "comrades, friends and favourites". I thought about doing some filing, but felt defeated pretty quickly, but you should check out some of the things there.

For example, looking at Ben Cohen's pundicity, I notice he has not only written about Vidal Sassoon, but also Ed Miliband. And that reminded me I failed to get hold of the New Statesman's special Jewish issue a couple of weeks ago, so I tried to find it on-line but didn't have much luck. However, it did make me look at Rachel Shabi on Muslim-Jewish unity against the far right and Michael Rosen, "the accidental communist", on where he parted from Hitchens.

He also pointed me to this thoughtful conservative reaction to my near-neighbour Kenan Malik's Montenegro lecture on multiculturalism. I'm going to have to print out Malik's other recent things, specifically parts 1 and 2 of another overlapping lecture on multiculturalim (I wish I could write and think half as well as he does), as well as Lloyd Newson's defence of DV8's Can We Talk About This.

David Shraub is another blogger too prolific for me to keep up. Here he is on the evolution of Alan Dershowitz, for example. He reminded me of David Hirsh's wonderful article on "Portia, Shylock and the exclusion of Israeli actors from the global cultural community", which I can't recommend highly enough. 

David S also links to two extremely thought provoking pieces by Nancy Leong: a blog post asking "Is diversity for white people?" and a paper on racial capitalism.
Racial capitalism — the process of deriving social and economic value from racial identity — is a longstanding, common, and deeply problematic practice. ... The Article focuses on instances of racial capitalism in which white individuals and predominantly white institutions use non-white people to acquire social and economic value. Our affirmative action doctrine provides much of the impetus for this form of racial capitalism. That doctrine has fueled an intense legal and social preoccupation with the notion of diversity, which encourages white individuals and predominantly white institutions to engage in racial capitalism by using non-white people to acquire social and economic value. ... The process of racial capitalism requires commodification of racial identity, which degrades that identity by reducing it to another thing to be bought and sold. ... And the superficial value assigned to non-whiteness within a system of racial capitalism displaces measures that would lead to meaningful social reform. 
It's Complicated links to a very interesting article by Martha Gelhorn, who I've always hated as a Stalinist fellow traveller, and finishes by commenting on some winners of the award named after her: John Pilger,  Robert Fisk, Julian Assange and Jonathan Cook. Talking of Israel, Souciant has a piece by Mitchell Plitnick on what the occupation has done to create "fertile ground for xenophobia". Here's what he says on the anti-migrant riots:
In today’s Israel, we can add economic stratification, thanks to years of neoliberal policies imported from the United States and Great Britain. Then we throw in the fact that Israel, with the most open and diverse economy in the region by far, is naturally going to attract those who flee their own countries, and we have a perfect recipe for the hatred that boiled over in Tel Aviv this past week. 
The events in the Hatikva neighborhood in South Tel Aviv (an ironic name for a poor neighborhood; “hatikva” means “the hope”) are hardly unique to Israel, of course. The crowds were composed of the working class of Israel (the majority of whom are Mizrahim, Jews of Middle Eastern descent, Ethiopian Jews and other, non-European groups,) a class which is increasingly struggling to make ends meet and which sees its own position as being threatened by Sudanese and Eritrean refugees. These Israelis have watched their social safety net fray and tear, and their leaders make sure to keep that fact separate in their constituents’ minds from the massive amounts of shekels that are poured into the settlements.