Friday, November 23, 2012

Hospitals, Palestinians, antisemites, etc

Lewisham hospital
Lewisham readers (and indeed London readers), don't forget the demo tomorrow to save our A&E department. The march starts at 2pm on Loampit Vale, getting to the hospital around 3pm.

Read Ralph Seliger: Enough Money, Too Much Occupation*: fascinating despatch on Palestinian Authority finances, from a trip to Ramallah
"It's not so much that the PA is a basket case, but rather the international community which is willing to keep dumping money into a bottomless bucket rather than hold Israel accountable, is the real basket case."
This is from the Open Zion section of the Daily Beat, edited by Peter Beinart. I don't really like Beinart, and obviously I disagree with many of the commentators in Open Zion,  but for those interested in Israel/Palestine I strongly recommend it, for a range of interesting views.

And read Yaacov Lozowick on three ways to be against Israel,* reflecting on the attitudes appearing in the Twitterverse during the recent phase of the Israel/Hamastan conflict, is also very well worth reading.

Antisemitism watch
Antisemitism in the West tends to spike with every spike in the Israel/Palestine conflict, suggesting that anti-Zionism and antisemitism will always have at least a blurry space between them. One example comes from Antwerp, a Belgian city with a sizeable (mainly Haredi) Jewish population.
Approximately 150 extreme-right and extreme-left activists gathered Sunday afternoon outside the Provinciehuis concert hall in Antwerp to protest the Israel Defense Forces Orchestra’s performance there, according to the online edition of the Flemish-Jewish magazine Joods Actueel.
Several demonstrators can be heard chanting “Hamas, Hamas, all Jews to the gas” in recordings from the demonstration, which Joods Actueel posted on its news website...
Another wing of the demonstration comprised activists from the extreme right, including Eddy Hermy, an activist of the N-SA movement, Joods Actueel reported. He has twice been convicted of racist speech and his articles are regularly published on the neo-Nazi website
Another example comes from Rome, where Tottenham, a football team with Jewish connections, played Lazio, a Rome team with a large far right support base. At the match, Lazio fans, who are not known for their pro-Arabic or pro-Muslim sentiments, waved Free Palestine banners and Palestinian flags. The following day, a group of neo-Nazis, chanting antisemitic slogans, violently attacked Spurs fans in a bar, with police collusion according to at least one British witness. Two AC Roma fans have been arrested, although Roma and Lazio are rivals, suggesting an organised, non-football-related, specifically anti-Jewish incident.

Closer to home, last Thursday the Guardian published a cartoon by the great Steve Bell, depicting Netanyahu as not just a warmonger using rockets on Gaza to boost his electioneering (true) but also as a puppetmaster controlling William Hague and Tony Blair (not only untrue, but perpetuating an old antisemitic stereotype of the Jewish puppetmasters controlling whole governments). The CST complained, very carefully, and were portrayed, predictably, as playing the antisemitism card to stifle criticism etc etc.

And in Sweden, a prominent TV personality, Eurovision presenter Gina Dirawi, recommended an antisemitic book by the ex-leftist conspiracy theorist Lasse Wilhelmson.** In Poland, an agricultural researcher, Polish nationalist and Anders Breivik fan has been arrested for an anti-Jewish bomb plot. Meanwhile, an activist in the main opposition party, Law and Justice, wrote on his website: "As they [Jews] going here and harm Poland and me, I have only one thing for them - get the f**k out!" (Law and Justice are part of the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists, secretary general the UK's Dan Hannan.)  Finally, in Canada, a pro-Israel Jewish professor had “Heil Israël” graffitied on his door.

And also
Here's something else you should read: "Moscow-on-ThamesBritain's Conservatives are rolling out the red carpet for Vladimir Putin's wealthy oligarchs" by Michael Weiss.

Hat tips: *The New Centrist. **Jonas Vils.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A shorter miscellany

Just a couple of links tonight. First, two on Gaza: the excellent "Palestine solidarity, Israel solidarity" by Flesh is Grass and "My people, who say yes to lies" at False Dichotomies. Totally unrelated, Paul Stott's thoughts on the opening of the Red Action archive. And, on the Balkans, Marko Attila Hoare: "Vindication or travesty? Operation Storm’s Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac acquitted".

Monday, November 19, 2012

Get killed by Jews: A semi-re-post

I have no desire to blog about the current round of conflict between Israel and Hamastan. The Soupy One has had a rolling updated post here, which is as good a starting point as any to the wealth of material out there with people who have much more to say than I do, and I've also been tweeting several links to some texts which have caught my eye.

However, I thought it was appropriate to return to a text I wrote towards the end of the summer, when the internal conflict in Syria spiked in brutality, without any real attention from the Western mainstream media.

This week, the tragic situation in Gaza has been rarely out of the news headlines in the UK, and I presume in America and elsewhere too. Meanwhile, there has been almost no attention to Syria, where the slaughter has meanwhile intensified, and in fact far outstrips what's going on in Gaza. Syria saw something like 111 deaths yesterday, 78 Saturday, around 100 on Friday, 63 on Thursday. Today the Syrian government has itself claimed to have killed 230 "terrorists" in one operation in Aleppo. In other words, the death toll per day exceeds the whole death toll so far in Gaza.

Meanwhile, London and other Western cities have already seen marches and rallies denouncing Israel's actions, supported by many left parties - sharply contrasting to a lack of solidarity action from the left or peaceniks in relation to Syria.

Every life is precious, and we should mourn and protest every civilian death in Gaza, southern Israel, Syria. It is perverse to measure them against each other. I am not devaluing what's going on in Israel/Palestine by saying "what about Syria". But there's something very wrong when Arabs getting killed by Jews gets so much attention compared to Arabs getting killed by non-Jews.

Here's a slightly shortened version of what I wrote back then.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Letters to the Weekly Worker: On rape apologism and anti-Germanism

I extract these letters partly for another kick at the reactionary Stalinoid anti-imperialist trad-leftism of the likes of Julian Assange, George Galloway, Tony Greenstein, and co, who all turn out to have very reactionary positions on what was once known as The Woman Question. But more seriously, it might help us reflect about the triangulation between the "the left" (whatever that is and the principles of anti-imperialism and anti-fascism. 

I enjoyed this letter by Heather Downs in a recent Weekly Worker:
Tony Greenstein uses the familiar tactic of setting up a series of straw men to distract us from the discussion of women’s oppression, in this case relating to Julian Assange and rape apologism (Letters, October 4). 
Tony seems concerned that I have not obediently placed women at the end of a very long queue, including Zionism, imperialism, racism in the deep south (against men - racist-inspired sexual violence against black women isn’t mentioned), the chequered political biography of individual feminists, etc; and, more importantly, I have failed to subordinate my own interests to those of pretty much everybody else. How unfeminine. Tony suggests that feminists are concerned with democratising capitalism. I suspect many, from Andrea Dworkin to Sheila Rowbotham, might be surprised to learn that their political ambitions were so limited. He also points out that some feminists became fascists. So did some socialists - for example, Oswald Mosley, who was originally in the Labour Party - while many feminists were socialists and communists, notably Sylvia Pankhurst, many Poplar councillors, Dora Montefiore, Charlotte Despard, etc. 
To clarify, Assange has been accused of rape, defined as penetration without consent. That seems to many of us to be a serious offence. The behaviour of the women before or after the event is irrelevant. The only thing that counts is consent. Not whether they spoke to Assange, talked about Assange, consented to penetrative sex with Assange at some other time. No grey areas. No implied consent. Just actual consent. In contrast to Tony’s suggestion, ‘Yes means yes and no means no’ is more than a throwaway slogan - in fact, it turns out that the absence of yes means no, too - so a man needs to ensure he has reasonable grounds to believe the woman consents.

Monday, November 12, 2012

UK anti-fascist links

The antifa section of my link list seems to now mostly contain defunct sites. Here are some of the more live UK anti-fascist sites.

Militant anti-fascism
  • Anti-Fascist Network: This is the website of the fairly recently formed network of grassroots, local militant anti-fascist groups.
  • 3CAFA: 3 Counties Anti-Fascist Alliance is a network of anti-fascists based in Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire. Its website is pretty good. In the tradition of AFA, they believe in both physical and ideological struggle against fascism. 
  • Beating the Fascists: The site of the book by "Sean Burchill" which tells the story of Anti-Fascist Action in the 1980s-90s. 
  • East Midlands Antifascists: Like 3CAFA, a fairly regularly updated website focusing on regional issues.
  • Liverpool Antifascists: Probably the liveliest and best-looking militant anti-fascist website, mainly locally focused on Merseyside but with a  lot of non-local material.
  • TWAFA - Tyne and Wear Anti Fascist Association: Another regularly updated deep-rooted local anti-fascist group, older than the previously listed ones and, I believe, a bit more popular frontist and less exclusively militant.

  • EDL News: Most comprehensive anti-EDL blog
  • Malatesta's Blog: Enjoyably scurrilous tabloid style blog exposing the EDL. 

Liberal anti-fascism, counter-"extremism" and monitoring sites
  • Against Violent Extremism: A network of former "violent extremists" - a very interesting project and beautifully designed website.
  • Anti-Fascists Online: This essential site aggregates the main news items from the other main sources.
  • A rich resource of research and analysis about extremism.
  • Extremis Project: Very impressive website tracking extremism, both Euronationalist far right and Islamist far right.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Austerity Britain, Israeli apartheid, institutional antisemitism, etc

Austerity Britain
Local readers, I expect you are aware of the recent announcement of very harsh public spending cuts in Lewisham: £28 million over three years (reports here and here). The cuts are distributed across several services, but with the particularly big blows, I think, to the fund which prevents vulnerable people from becoming homeless, to day care centres, and to community safety team services to victims of sexual offences, domestic violence and hate crimes. As far as I am aware, there are no proposals to curb the pay of the highest salaried council executives. The Labour council is in an impossible position, it seems to me, having to pass on Coalition imposed cuts – but could they do more to resist?

The harshest blow locally is the proposed closure of the recently refurbished Accident and Emergency department at Lewisham hospital. I’ll blog about this soon; in the meantime read Clare’s Dairy and support the campaign to save it.

This week saw a large amount of attention for the Living Wage campaign, spearheaded by the Alinskyite UK Citizens movement and by the worthy Quaker reformists of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Francis Sedgemore has a nice post about the Living Wage's critics and Boris Johnson's admirable endorsement of it.

Israeli apartheid
As across Europe and elsewhere, it is indubitable that there is a problem with racism in Israel, including the anti-Mizrahi racism of many Ashkenazim (both liberal and not), the anti-migrant racism directed mainly at African asylum-seekers, and of course the anti-Arab racism which is intertwined with the on-going conflict between the state and its neighbours. In the last few weeks, literally hundreds (I've lost track now, but well over 600) rockets have been fired from Gaza into Southern Israel, which must further intensify hostility in the region's vicious cycle of hate.

A private philanthropy, the Yisraela Goldblum Fund, commissioned some research into Israeli attitudes to others. Just before Jewish new year, a telephone survey was conducted with a relatively small sample (500), spread across the disparate sectors of the Israeli population: religious, secular, "Russian"... Ha'aretz's Gideon Levy was entrusted with reporting the poll. His report, led by the notion that Israelis support apartheid, was highly inaccurate, distorting, decontextualising, mistranslating and misrepresenting the results to make the racism look far worse than the reality. Of course, Levy's version shot around the world on social media platforms, confirming what all anti-Zionists thought they already knew and deepening vulgar hatred of Israel. A number of careful refutations of Levy's misreporting - such as by Shany Mor in Ha'aretz and by the New Israel Fund's Noam Shelef- have been published, but they are not going to undo a fraction of the damage he has done. Racism in Israel, as anywhere, is a serious issue, and Levy has done a great disservice to the struggle against it (and to the profession of journalism) by his dishonesty.

Institutional antisemitism
There is currently in London an employment tribunal concerning the long-harassment of one Ronnie Fraser in UCU, a trade union. I intend to write about this, but only after the Tribunal concludes, but here in the meantime is some commentary: from Ben Cohen in Commentary, from Marcus Dysch, from the Times of Israel. [Update January 2014: I have no idea any longer what I planned to say about this, an issue of inexplicable interest to some of my readers. Here is what David Hirsh said about it, which is far more worth reading than anything I might say. Apologies too for the very bad phrasing of the first sentence of this paragraph.]

And also
The Soupy One has an illuminating post on British imperial history, the resurgent far right and the latter's promotion by global broadcasters Iran's Press TV and Russia Today. The Fat Man has a brilliant post on the different types of drones killing people in Pakistan. Mic Wright has an interesting post on what we could call the 1% Democrats of Silicon Valley, who vote Obama but live Romney. The Heeb has an amusing post on the idiot anti-Zionists of the Russell Tribunal. Over at ANT, we have some posts on Greek fascism, including one on the anti-antifa who have defaced a Holocaust memorial in Rhodes.

Thursday, November 01, 2012


A new magazine and website, Fathom, has been launched, "a new quarterly journal of expert analysis, informed opinion and genuine debate about Israel and the region", and published by BICOM. It's got an interesting editorial board, including editor Alan Johnson formerly of Democratiya (whose archive sadly seems to have dissappeared in the relaunch of the Dissent website), and various decent leftists and neoconservatives, including Paul Berman, Joshua Muravchik and Michael Walzer. Articles so far include these:

Star of David on fire during an anti-Israeli protestDefining antisemitism down by David Hirsh
What kinds of hostility to Israel may be understood as, or may lead to, or may be caused by, antisemitism? One of the ways this relationship is debated, or otherwise contested, is through disputes over how to define antisemitism. In this article I shed some light on the struggles over definition by tracing a brief genealogy… Read More
UK Task Force 2012 field trip participants meet with school children from the Young Business Leadership Programme at Rahat Community Centre
Integrating Israel’s 1.5 million Arab citizens into the workforce is central to the country’s future economic growth. This point was made forcefully by Dan Senor and Saul Singer, authors of the 2009 business bestseller Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle, and in the reports produced in advance of Israel’s accession to the OECD… Read More

Michael Walzer is one of America’s foremost political thinkers. A professor emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) in Princeton, New Jersey, Walzer’s books include Just and Unjust Wars (1977), On Toleration (1997), and Arguing about War (2004); he has served as editor of the political journal Dissent for more than three decades. He talked to Fathom Editor Alan Johnson.

israelEuropeanLeftIsrael and the European Left by Ezra Mendelsohn
At the heart of this book [by Colin Shindler] lies a paradox. The State of Israel was founded by men and women who identified with the left, socialists of one kind or another who regarded themselves as part and parcel of the world socialist movement. Among their most famous creations were the kibbutz, a model egalitarian society and… Read More

Global Palestine by Philip Spencer
The central argument of this book [by John Collins] is that the question of Palestine is fundamentally a global question, indeed the global question par excellence. It is apparently a profound mistake to think of what has been going on in that part of the world as a conflict between two sides, each with legitimate claims. Read More