Skip to main content

Fighting on

All your weekend reading:

Fight goes on to Save Lewisham Hospital

Hundreds of people gathered outside Lewisham Hospital last night in the aftermath of health secretary Jeremy Hunt's announcement in Parliament on the future of emergency and maternity services. Hunt had been forced to acknowledge the strength of the opposition to cuts and modify the recommendations put to him by the Trust Special Administrator he appointed to review South London health services. He stated that the Accident and Emergency department would now be downgraded rather than closed, retaining the ability to admit some patients who need to be taken into hospital. But in real terms this still means that there will be no full A&E at Lewisham with potentially devastating implications for the wider hospital....

Scarfe is probably not an antisemite. Bell probably is. « Shiraz Socialist

I wasn’t going to comment on the Gerald Scarfe cartoon published in the last Sunday Times, especially as Rupert Murdoch has apologised for it and Scarfe himself has stated that he hadn’t realised it would be published on Holocaust Memorial Day.
My personal view is that, on balance, the cartoon cannot fairly be considered antisemtic, but it certainly sails close to the wind, and its publication on Holocaust Memorial Day was a very serious misjudgement....

Free thought in a free body » Maryam Namazie - The big religions, not only Islam, have been created by men and in their interest; not surprisingly they want to control women’s bodies. Islamic fundamentalists cover women with veils, stealing not...

Physical Resistance Book Launch: A Big Success! - We were down in Brighton for the launch of Dave Hann’s book Physical Resistance: 100 Years of Anti-Fascism (Zero Press) last Friday which was an incredible and inspiring night. The place was packed...

The Centre Left: Why is the government letting faith schools interfere in the personal lives of their staff? - Yes, Tony Blair was wrong. The bolstering of faith schools and the consequent upsetting of the delicate existing balance between them and society at large, I wrote in 2011, was always a rather suspect idea: not because religious people have not the right to educate their children as they like – they do, up to a point – but largely because of the dangerous precedents they set with regards to human rights in general, not least of children themselves...

But, I am a Liberal!: My Time with the IDF: Jobnik Life (Part 2) - (This is Part 2 of a multi part piece. Read Part 1 here.) One of the most striking things about working with the IDF is the different role the military plays in Israeli life when compared to the p..

Yes, call out bigotry within our ranks. But we need to keep a lid on this bloodletting. - The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Counterfire members fiddle excessively with iPads and other electronica. Another, equally immutable fact of life is that people with good politics sometimes get things very wrong. Recent examples include Tony Benn, George Monbiot and Suzanne Moore. In their different ways, all three have been important allies in the struggle for a more just and egalitarian society. And yet in recent months all three have been rightly taken to task for saying some pretty awful things. The question is how we reconcile the latter with the former. How do we call people out without effectively casting them out?...

Timbuktu Endured Terror Under Harsh Shariah Law 

Shared by
Citizen Sane - TIMBUKTU, Mali — When the Islamist militants came to town, Dr. Ibrahim Maiga made a reluctant deal. He would do whatever they asked — treat their wounded, heal their fevers, bandage up without complaint the women they thrashed in the street for failing to cover their heads and faces. In return, they would allow him to keep the hospital running as he wished....

The 'Muslim Patrols' and the 'Jewish Patrols' - The Commentator - It's only natural, since we broke the story of the Muslim Patrols, that every Tom, Dick and Shariatmadari has had their say about the incident and what it means for Britain and its Muslim communities...

They of All People - It has been a fascinating week in anti-Semitism, but then they all are. The more I witness it, the more persuaded I become of the identity of the purer, more direct forms and the ignorant forms. After all, much ignorance – lack of knowledge and sophistication – is open with wonder and without prejudice, like that of a child, so ignorance is not the explanation or an excuse. I begin to think the ignorance a cover, conscious or not, for the hate, and the hate need not be virulent, but only casually alienating, marginalizing, and dehumanizing. This is true of all racism, but anti-Semitism has its longer unified and coherent history...

Is the seduction community promoting date rape? - Why is it that cults so regularly collapse into scandals involving sex? There is always the suspicion that it’s because they are invariably run by gruesome and sexless old men. The fanatical devotion they usually demand, combined with the vulnerability of those almost magnetically drawn to charismatic “gurus” who claim to be in sole possession of “the truth”, offers perhaps another explanation...

Is Liberal Conspiracy Hung Up on Jews?

Snap 2013-02-01 at 18.35.06
I like Liberal Conspiracy. As a blog it has much to recommend it, there is a diversity of posters and a variety of topics. Well, that’s what I like to think, however, some of its recent posts suggests an unhealthy concentration. At Liberal Conspiracy within the space of a few days, there have been two, rather mean spirited and fairly questionable, posts....

History is made at night: Fire at Freedom

Sad to hear that Freedom Bookshop in Whitechapel High Street was damaged last night in an apparent arson attack. The anarchist centre in Angel Alley has been a fixture of radical London life for decades - Freedom Press dates back to the 1880s, and I believe the current centre to the late 1930s. The place has been reinvigorated in the past few years as a base for various groups such as the Advisory Service for Squatters, and the scene of various social and cultural events under the banner of the Autonomy Club...


Sarah AB said…
Here's what I posted under Sunny Hundal's post about Stephen Pollard - the one Soupy objected to. I don't feel I handwring and fence sit as much as I'm said to - but maybe I was a bit here!

" I do think there is a distinction between cartoons published in the wake of physical intimidation – and then being republished in the face of similar intimidation, and a cartoon published outside that particular context. Sunny Hundal’s point about Stephen Pollard’s ‘so what if they find it offensive’ line is perhaps a stronger point. Though there is a special offensiveness in the timing (not Scarfe’s fault or intention) on Holocaust Memorial Day which does seem a little different from the offensiveness of the Danish cartoons. However I think a reputable publication would probably not want to reproduce the latter – except as part of a discussion about freedom of expression."
Rebecca said…
Bob - can I advertise a post of mine on antisemitism & David Ward MP? It's
bob said…
Rebecca, it's a great piece. I thought I linked to it already, but now I realise I haven't I will soon!

Sarah, I pretty much agree with you. I don't think the Scarfe cartoon was antisemitic, in the way that Ward's comments clearly were.
modernity's ghost said…
Surely, Sunny's post wasn't really about the cartoon(s).

It seems to have been part of a feud, with the material used as a method to attack other members of the media.

It is just cheap petty politics with HMD, etc used as a pretext.

Obviously, if Liberal Conspiracy doesn't have any issues with Jews then it would, naturally, have a few post with positive content towards them (or at the very least, defensive).

If a periodical continually publishes negative, sensationalist and disparaging material towards a particular ethnicity, then anyone with an ounce of wits would conclude it has a bias against that particular ethnicity.

I suppose the same applies to blogs, including Liberal Conspiracy?

I have never done media studies, but isn't that a reasonable conclusion?

Has LC ever, ever published a positive post on Jews, etc
Sarah AB said…
Modernity - I did a google search (not pursued to scientific lengths) and Lib Con do seem to have several posts saying something which has, or might, be thought to be antisemitic is not in fact so at all - but I couldn't actually find a post straightforwardly about antisemitism. I should add that I don't necessarily disagree, or entirely disagree, with all those posts saying something is not in fact antisemitic. And I expect if someone pitched a good post on antisemitism to Lib Con - they might well take it.
modernity's ghost said…

This is the problem with this medium, it tends toward literalism, you talk of antisemitism, whilst I expressly didn't.

I wrote about negativity towards ethnicities.

See the distinction?

Why must everything around this topic venture back to the 1930s, to the days of crude racism, etc?

It shouldn't.

People nowadays do not dress as they did in the 1930s, nor do they express themselves in a similar fashion.

We do not even see expressions of racism as we did in the 1960s and 1970s.

Further, publications dominated by the middle classes don't tend to go in for crude racism.

Let's think how we would analyse *any* other publication, the Daily Express, the Daily Mail, etc

Negativity towards an ethnicity is not merely crude words or lurid images and to assume such is to miss its prevalence in societies.

So I suppose the questions would be:

1. are the vast majority of posts on Jews, etc at Liberal Conspiracy negative?

2. is there a concentration on the activities of Jews at LC to the exclusion of other topics?

3. in comparison with other ethnicities how does LC treat Jews and related topics?

Finally, if we were to change the name of the publication from Liberal conspiracy to Daily Mail/Express and the object to immigrants/Muslims then I suppose the basic methodology would be the same and you could draw whatever conclusions the evidence led to.

But as I say I know nothing of media studies.
"1. are the vast majority of posts on Jews, etc at Liberal Conspiracy negative?

2. is there a concentration on the activities of Jews at LC to the exclusion of other topics?

3. in comparison with other ethnicities how does LC treat Jews and related topics?"

Stalking, slandering, singling out. The three "S" that can always be found in antisemitic utterances or representation. The same three attributes can be easily identifiable and decried as racism when pointed at other groups but for some reason, it is not enough to meet the onus of evidence when it comes to Jews/Israel. People seem to have a real hard time admitting that antisemitism is a factor playing here. And why so?

“The cause of the Jews would be half won if only their friends brought to their defense a little of the passion and the perseverance their enemies use to bring them down."

As long as virtuous people like Sarah and Bob (for example) struggle and do acrobatics to try to be "fair minded" and find some exonerating aspects for the cartoon such as this (which is a clear case of blood libel, nothing more nothing less), then the Jews will always be the losers.

What I mean is, that there comes a moment when one has to take an unambiguous position.
bob said…
Bell's cartoon and Ward's comments, and the comments of Ward's many supporters, were undeniably antisemitic. Some of the defence of Scarfe is definitely dodgy, and Sunny at LibCon has said some pretty close to the wind things about it. But I just don't see the antisemitism in Scarfe's cartoon.

I don't think it portrays Netanyahu in a way that is any more extreme or racialised than how Scarfe portrays any other head of state (in fact, the Arabs look more extreme and racialised to me). Yes, there is blood, and possibly one or maybe two children, but Scarfe trades in images of blood, and I don't think there are any real blood libel echoes in the image.

If Scarfe portrayed Arab leaders as cuddly, then came out with this cartoon, you could say maybe he's got a problem. But look at how he portrays Thatcher or Blair .
modernity's ghost said…

The cartoon is merely a motif for the thinking that goes on in the West.

It is the reaction that's telling.

Do you remember how quickly many supposed antiracists in the West were ready to excuse Ahmadinejad ?

Slowly over the years, but the grudgingly fewer and fewer "activists" mention Ahmadinejad, weary of defending him, but you can find such material at places like SU blog recently, if you look.

It's a broader point, that when instances of anti-Jewish racism occur, how do people react?

PS: Isn't Ben "understanding antsemitism" White a regular contributor at Liberal Conspiracy and friend of the site's founders?

"I was somewhat startled by this, since I do not consider myself an anti-Semite, yet I can also understand why some are"
bob said…
Mod, I probably agree with you about LibCon. I don't visit it enough to have a real feel for this, but there is certainly more than enough Ben White and his ilk to say there's at least a problem.

On Scarfe, though, I was responding to Contentious Centrist, who described the cartoon as "a clear case of blood libel, nothing more nothing less". The anti-Zionists love to say that the Zionists call all and any criticisms of Israel antisemitic, and use antisemitism allegations as a stick to hit critics of Israel. On the whole, that's a complete lie, so it is a bit embarrassing to see Pollard and also Mark Gardner (whose judgement is usually extremely sound) and co calling antisemitism in this case, when it really doesn't seem justified. I think part of the problem is that the whole Holocaust Memorial Day moment this year was so overclouded by the disgusting comment by Ward (and previously by Lee Jasper and so on, and then by Chris Davies and co) that perhaps we reacted too quickly in this case.
It's not about racialization in this case. It is about Jewish context. When the head of the only Jewish state in the world is depicted as using human blood for mortar, it is a smear on all Jews who live in that state and it is no different from the classical blood libel which was about Jews using the blood of Christian children to prepare the Passover matza. I would find it nearly impossible to believe that the cartoonist could have been unaware of this immediate association, or that he had not intended it to have that kind of reverberation.

It reminds me of the case of Ms. Duisenberg, the wife of Mr. Duisenberg, who was, or is, president of the European Central Bank. She draped a Palestinian flag over a balcony outside the couple's Amsterdam home. On a radio interview Ms. Duisenberg gave, she was asked how many signatures she intended to collect for her pro-Palestinian petition. She paused, laughed and then responded, ''Six million?''

dave brockley said…
Sad to think that Murdochs intervention against the Scarfe cartoon will only provide fuel for those who see a jewish conspiracy everywhere .No suprise to see a debate in the Independant about the extent of the power of the "Israel lobby" in the US.
It is often win/win being anti semitic at the moment .If your anti semetic comments gets support it provides more evidence of its popularity .If it is condemned ,it can be explained conveniently as the power of the jewish lobby.Thus providing greater justification for the original anti-semetic viewpoint.
Regards Scarfe it is at best negligent to do a cartoon of a jewish politician without knowing it is around HMD . Scarfe should also know it is unwise of using blood in a cartoon of a jewish figure.
Bob, I'm bemused and amused (and probably some other adjective with use in it) at how you and I have completely reversed positions from our responses to Maureen Dowd's "puppet master" usage. I did somewhat revise my original response to Dowd - much in consideration of yours - and as my recent post (to which you kindly link here) indicates, I am inclined now to agree with The Contentious Centrist. "Puppet master" doesn't hold a candle to what Scarfe produced (regardless of the day), for the reason, as I offered, that every element of the cartoon is a demonizing lie. Bending over backwards to designate that kind of commentary this or that kind of hateful activity, but not necessarily anti-Semitism, is getting to be the kind of gymnastics of discrimination that simply breaks one's back.
modernity's ghost said…
"The anti-Zionists love to say that the Zionists call all and any criticisms of Israel antisemitic, and use antisemitism allegations as a stick to hit critics of Israel."

Bob, I got that.

You'll notice I am exceedingly careful who and what I call antisemitic.

I think this discussion touches on the issue of subjectivity and racism. Or how we each see it slightly differently, in a different context and with different arguments.

There isn't an ideal checklist to verify such material against, where we can tick boxes and then conclusively say "ahh, yes it is".

But I'll give you a counterexample, you remember Caryl Churchill's play: Seven Jewish children?

Unambiguously aimed at Jews, yet anti-Zionists, for the love of them, couldn't see the issue?

What about Ahmadinejad shouting barely concealed racism? Anti-imperialists (better to call them that, as they don't give a damn about Zionism) couldn't see the issue, even now many will say "he was talking about Zionism not Jews," etc

The problem is, no argument, no evidence would convince them otherwise.

I think academic sometimes overrate the effect of rational arguments on political activists and anti-imperialists.

Norm was right to characterise this as alibi antisemitism.

Also, there is an issue as racism morphs its not the same today as it will be tomorrow, themes exist but change and like art its often hard to pin down.

So I think there are legitimate areas for discussion, a degree of subjectivity, but little short of Scarfe reprinting in every detail the vilest cartoon from Der Sturmer then anti-imperialists/anti-Zionist would quibble.

Quibbling is key to their politics, it is all about the diminishment of antiracism and critical faculties.

PS: If the Sunday Times didn’t know it was HMD then I’d sack the editor. It is a basic to know about current events, what’s coming up and when things happen in the Print.

No excuse. Like Jamie Oliver forgetting what a frying pan is for. A basic.
bob said…
Sorry folks, but in relation to Scarfe I just don't get it. He has done (I think) a cartoon for the Sunday Times more or less every week for nearly five decades now. They are a Sunday paper. They always come out on a Sunday. There was absolutely no plausibility in suggesting this was deliberately timed to come out on Yom HaShoah. Of course, the editors knew it was - they featured it elsewhere in the paper. But they stupidly failed to put 2 and 2 together. That's the worst crime at stake here.

The cartoon is a comment, albeit not a coherent one, on someone who had just won an election, and on the wave of acts of violence perpetrated by settlers and IDF around the wall in the West Bank, such as the shootings of Odai al-Darawish, Samir Awad and others. In other words, it is topical, and that it is why it was published when it was published.

I don't accept this is a variant of the blood libel. Yes, it is extreme and there is blood. But are all images of blood involving Jews a variation on the blood libel? Surely not. There is no implication of ritual bloodletting, of consuming the blood, of targeting children or anything else normally associated with the blood libel.

Just because Netanyahu is the head of state of the only Jewish state does not mean that any attack on him is an attack on all Jews. The head of state of the only Jewish state cannot be beyond satire.

While many of Scarfe's defenders have used it as an excuse to roll out the usual antisemitic apologstics (the Livingstone Formulation, the Jewish power/conspiracy myth, etc), the attack on Scarfe has been a tactical disaster for the fight against antisemitism, giving them more than enough rope with which to hang us.
modernity's ghost said…
"There was absolutely no plausibility in suggesting this was deliberately timed to come out on Yom HaShoah. "

Is that the argument? Don't believe so.

Rather that the Sunday Times, as a purveyor of current events knows what's happening.

Its journalists constantly discuss what coming up, what events they should be covering, weeks, months in advance.

Its editors are aware of future events, so for them to publish this awful cartoon is really just insight into their incompetence and insensitivity.

I can't imagine even the Daily Express or Daily Mail running disparaging ethnic related cartoons during Black history month, even they would have more sense.

But the seeming notion (embedded in the media) that they can do no wrong, how we must excuse all of their mistakes in a way that we wouldn't anyone else is peculiar.

" the attack on Scarfe has been a tactical disaster for the fight against antisemitism"

If discussing these items raises people’s consciousness and the wider issue of antisemitism then there's no need for doom and gloom.

As for those who argue the contrary (that basically “there is little or no antisemitism, its all made up”), then they would say that, wouldn't they?

Remember Churchill's Seven Jewish children? A clear cut case and yet people quibbled?

They will always argue the toss, that's their political nature.
Bob said…
Just to be clear, I agree the timing was insensitive, and this reflects very badly on the editors.

Re: "'There was absolutely no plausibility in suggesting this was deliberately timed to come out on Yom HaShoah.' Is that the argument? Don't believe so".

I was responding to this, from CC: " I would find it nearly impossible to believe that the cartoonist could have been unaware of this immediate association, or that he had not intended it to have that kind of reverberation."

I know it's not the same thing as saying it was deliberately timed for maximum offence, but I have heard people say that.

As for the damage or not, there are legions of those who will always quibble with every accusation of antisemitism, the Ben Whites and so on. But there are a larger group of people, the average Sunday Times readers I guess, who can be swayed one way or the other. With David Ward and "the Jews", even the likes of Mehdi Hasan and George Galloway were swift and uncompromising in naming this antisemitism. It was a disastrous own goal for the antisemitic strain of anti-Zionism, an goal that David Ward has embarrassingly hastened to turn into a hat-trick. In the case of Scarfe, especially with Murdoch's intervention, I fear the own goal was ours, and the swaying has gone the other way. (Although Bell's responses have revealed a very nasty tone in his attitude to Jews, which may prove ultimately embarrassing to Scarfe's defenders.
modernity's ghost said…

Concerning timing, the Sunday Times is not run by Gerald Scarfe, there are numerous, dozens of people who handle his material before it gets printed.

Editors, sub-editors, incidental flunkies, etc yet not one of them put the issues together in his or her head?

Insensitive? Unfeeling or stupid? If so, why?

As to the content, there is a legitimate debate to be held on what constitutes such racism, and that's true with a lot of material, where do you draw the line?

As I pointed out, Churchill’s material was aimed squarely at Jews and yet there were apologists for it.

Unless something is an absolute copy of Der Sturmer's vilest image, and then held up by a tattooed neo-Nazi shouting obscenities, some or many "activists" are going to argue the contrary.

That's what they do.

Such people simply don't understand racism but can't admit it.

I will give you one example. David Ward's comments, you can find "anti-Zionists" who had no problems with his comments, who didn't see any racism in anything he said.

So if you've got people defending Ward's offensiveness then they'll defend anything, subtlety or Gerald Scarfe doesn't come into it.

Popular Posts