The socialist case against Scottish independence … in a nutshell

June 2, 2014 at 6:45 pm (AWL, internationalism, national liberation, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism", scotland, Steve Bell, workers)

Steve Bell 25.2.2014

I’ve never seen or heard it expressed better, or more succinctly, than this from my comrade Patrick Murphy:

Something I will never understand is left wing support for Scottish independence.

This is not a matter of championing the RIGHT to self-determination against national oppression, rather it consists of socialists running around trying to persuade an electorate which has been consistently opposed to independence and prefers unity that they are wrong and should separate from their fellow-workers across national borders

The default position of the entire socialist tradition is for internationalism and no borders. The right to self-determination is an important exception to address particular conditions (colonies, Ireland, Palestine etc). It’s not the norm and we certainly shouldn’t be agitating for it where those conditions don’t exist in any meaningful sense.

Yet another bizarre reflection of a loss of political bearings.

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Does Steve Bell think antisemitism is a joke?

February 6, 2013 at 9:39 am (anti-semitism, Art and design, conspiracy theories, Guardian, media, Murdoch, Steve Bell)

Steve Bell’s ‘If’ strip in the Graun has recently been concerning itself with imagery about Murdoch, Netanyahu and a glove puppet, plus references to a so-called  “Aunty Semitic” “Trope.” Guardian readers who are unaware of the background to this will have been mystified as to the meaning of it all – but then that’s not unusual with a Bell cartoon. Regular readers of Shiraz should be aware of what lies behind it: a Bell cartoon back in November was was widely criticised for reproducing the long-standing antisemitic “trope” (ie: “stereotype”; in this case, that of the puppet-master, as widely used in Nazi and contemporary Middle Eastern propaganda). Eventually, the Guardian‘s reader’s editor agreed (to a very limited degree) with the criticism. Bell refused acknowledge even the possibility that his cartoon was ill-judged and seems to have been smarting ever since.

Steve Bell's If ... 05.02.2013

The issue re-emerged again in January, when an anti-Netanyahu cartoon by Gerald Scarfe appeared in the Sunday Times. Critics claimed that the cartoon evoked the ‘blood libel’ and was all the more unfortunate because it appeared on Holocaust Memorial Day. Scarfe almost immediately apologised for the timing of the cartoon’s publication and Murdoch himself then issued an unreserved apology.
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Bell defended the Scarfe cartoon  (and, by implication, his own ‘puppet master’ image) in an intemperate rant on the Radio 4 Today programme. Shiraz covered the matter here.
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The present theme of the ‘If’ strip would appear to be Bell’s riposte to those who’ve criticised him. At best it’s petulent and childish. At worst, it suggests someone who feels that antisemitism is a suitable subject for humour.
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Let’s bend over backwards to be charitable to Bell, accepting that his original ‘puppet master’ cartoon was not consciously antisemitic (ie that he, as a leading cartoonist, was unaware of the existence of that particular “trope”): even so, can you imagine a good liberal-left Guardianista simply dismissing complaints of racism – let alone mocking them – under any other circumstances? Of course not. The only explanation that makes sense is that Steve Bell thinks that virtually all claims of antisemitism are made in bad faith by people who have a hidden political agenda. In other words, they’re part of a conspiracy.
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In the course of his Today programme rant, Bell said this:
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“Extraneous notions like blood libel are
dropped in and sensitivities are talked up .. the very word
‘antisemitic’ becomes devalued…
“.. they throw it around with such abandon. If there really is
antisemitism it’s actually getting ignored…”
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You have to wonder what exactly Steve Bell would recognise as “real” antisemitism?
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Mr Bell: you need to take a long, hard look at yourself.

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Scarfe is probably not an antisemite. Bell probably is.

January 29, 2013 at 9:44 am (anti-semitism, BBC, conspiracy theories, Guardian, israel, Jim D, Middle East, Murdoch, palestine, Steve Bell, zionism)

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.

Political cartoonists frequently depict political leaders as blood-smeared, and they (the cartoonists, that is) sometimes seem unaware of, or indifferent to, the significance of the “blood libel” in the history of antisemitism.

Mark Gardner, of the Community Security Trust, very sensibly comments that the artist’s subjective intention is not necessarily the crucial consideration:

“As ever, we are immediately drawn into the old ‘is it antisemitic, isn’t it antisemitic’ routine – as if anybody could ever prove what actually goes on in Gerald Scarfe’s head; and as if what goes on in his head is the most important thing in all of this.

“For sure, Gerald Scarfe has ‘a thing’ about blood. It is a theme that repeats in his cartoons. For example, his Sunday Times cartoon of 26th February 2012, literally shows Syria’s President Assad guzzling blood from a cup that has “children’s blood” written on it. So, he has not singled out Benjamin Netanyahu for the blood treatment and he is perfectly capable of drawing a full-on blood libel should the mood take him. Neither has Scarfe singled out Netanyahu for physical disfigurement. This is how he draws people, regardless of their nationality or religion.

“Unfortunately for Jews – and for satirists – antisemites and antisemitism also have ‘a thing’ about blood; and especially about the allegation that Jews murder others (children in particular) in order to use their blood or organs for heinous purpose. It is a harsh fact that blood has long played a profoundly disturbing part in the history of antisemitism, and this has obvious consequences for Jews and antisemites today. The actual intentions of Gerald Scarfe and the Sunday Times count for very little within this broader context of history, and its contemporary emotional and racist impacts.”

But, as I said, I wasn’t going to comment until I heard Steve Bell “defending” the cartoon on the Today Programme this morning. Bell’s rant (against Stephen Pollard of the Jewish Chronicle who didn’t, in fact, want such cartoons banned) was vile, full of stuff about “you people,” the “Zionist lobby,” how strange that even Murdoch has been forced to apologise (the “Zionist lobby” you see), an extraordinarliy ignorant claim that the blood libel is never used these days, and the alleged “fact” that the root cause of the problem is the foundation of Israel itself, based as it is (according to Bell) on “ethnic cleansing.”

This quote from Bell, in the course of this morning’s discussion, must never be forgotten:

“Extraneous notions like blood libel are
dropped in and sensitivities are talked up .. the very word
‘antisemitic’ becomes devalued…
“.. they throw it around with such abandon. If there really is
antisemitism it’s actually getting ignored…”

When the Guardian published this much-criticised cartoon by Bell last year,

I was inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt against charges of antisemitism. I wouldn’t anymore.

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Attack on Spurs fans shows anti-semitism is alive and well

November 25, 2012 at 12:21 am (anti-semitism, Guardian, israel, Jim D, Middle East, palestine, sport, Steve Bell, thuggery)

Anti-semitism is the only form of racism that sections of the the left and liberal/left seem willing to contextualise, excuse, “understand,” downplay or even deny altogether. It’s one of the most pervasive leftist urban myths that the charge of anti-semitism is usually raised as a ploy by “Zionists” in order to deflect criticism of Israel.

Steve Bell's cartoon published on The Guardian (The Guardian)

When the Guardian recently published a cartoon (above) by Steve Bell  that (I believe, inadvertently) recycled a classic anti-semitic trope, and Mark Gardner of the Community Security Trust wrote a very measured letter pointing this out, the response from Graun letter-writers was all too predictable: “Mark Gardner plays the dog-eared antisemitism card” wrote Edward Pearce, “(it’s) the old trick of pretending all criticism of the Israeli government is antisemitic” wrote Mike Scott while one Steve Smart dismissed Gardner’s letter as”preposterous” and people with such concerns as “zealots.”

Whatever you think of the Bell cartoon, can you imagine the charge of racism being dismisssed in such terms by liberals in any other context? Bell’s own response was particularly disappointing.

Well, smug Guardian readers and cartoonists who refuse to recognise anti-semitism as a real issue, may like to consider what happened in Rome on Thursday, when a group of Tottenham Hotspur fans were attacked by a masked gang armed with knives, knuckle-dusters and batons, shouting “Jews!” Whether or not any of the victims were, in fact, Jewish is neither here nor there: Spurs is a club that traditionally has a large Jewish following and has come to symbolise the London Jewish community. The question of whether the attackers,  Italian football hooligans, had any serious political motivation, is also largely academic. In the tribal world of a certain kind of soccer fan, apolitical abuse and semi-political communalism merge into one and the same thing. At the game itself, Lazio fans chanted “Juden Tottenham” and unfurled a “Free Palestine” banner. Similar scenes of Jew-baiting (and the same banner? See video below) were seen at a women’s match in Edinburgh this June when Israel played Scotland. The Jew-baiting was at least partially organised by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign and lovingly reported at the Socialist Unity website.

The saddest part of all this is that it does nothing to help the just cause of the Palestinians, but certainly helps alienate and antagonise Jews everywhere. Genteel Guardianistas on the one hand, and football supporters who regard the situation in the Middle East as merely an excuse for tribalism and hooliganism on the other, are both singing from the same anti-semitic hymn sheet.

[As we were saying: 'What is left anti-semitism?']

[Jonathan Freedland -in the Graun ! - denounces those who treat the Israel/Palestine conflict as though it's  a football match]

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Bell on the judicial murder of Troy Davis

September 23, 2011 at 9:09 pm (crime, Guardian, Jim D, murder, Racism, Steve Bell, United States)

Once in a while Steve Bell hits the nail on the head:

23.09.11: Steve Bell on the execution of Troy Davis

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Blair’s faustian pact with Murdoch

July 12, 2011 at 5:03 pm (apologists and collaborators, crime, history, Jim D, labour party, media, Steve Bell, Tony Blair)

Lest we forget:

Murdoch’s courtship of Blair finally pays off

By Fran Abrams and Anthony Bevins

The Independent Wednesday, 11 February 1998:

“In July 1995, Tony Blair flew halfway round the world to cement his relationship with Rupert Murdoch at a News Corporation conference.  Introducing him, the media tycoon joked: ‘If the British press is to be believed, today is all part of a Blair-Murdoch flirtation. If that flirtation is ever consummated, Tony, I suspect we will end up making love like two porcupines – very carefully.’

“For Mr Blair, the relationship bore fruit when he was elected with the key support of the Sun. But Mr Murdoch had to wait until yesterday for full satisfaction when No 10 launched a passionate attack on his critics after the Lords passed an anti-Murdoch amendment to the Competition Bill.

“A year earlier, few Labour MPs would have believed such a scene was possible. In fact, in July 1994 the shadow financial secretary to the treasury, Alistair Darling, sponsored a Commons motion condemning a newspaper price- cutting campaign by Mr Murdoch. “The newspaper industry is not only an important business but also a vital organ of the democratic process …  predatory pricing, with the intention of forcing rivals out of the market, will reduce choice and undermine competition,” it said, before calling on the Conservative government to prevent the practice. No fewer than 81 Labour MPs signed the motion. Among them was Nigel Griffiths, who as competition minister could now be expected to take the Competition Bill through the Commons and to lead the government defence of Mr Murdoch’s price cuts. A week earlier, a separate motion signed by 59 MPs said the price-cutting battle would lead to “fewer titles, fewer jobs, less choice for readers and a further dangerous concentration of ownership”. One signatory was Peter Mandelson, now minister without portfolio and a friend of Elisabeth Murdoch, the tycoon’s daughter.

“Altogether 24 ministers and 55 MPs still in the Commons backed one or both of the critical motions. Labour boycotted News International titles for a year after the move to Wapping in 1986 that led to the dismissal of 5,000 print workers.

“In 1992 Murdoch’s flagship Sun claimed it had scuppered Labour’s election chances by suggesting that if Neil Kinnock won, the last person to leave Britain should turn out the lights. The day after the election it boasted “It was the Sun wot won it!”.

“Even before he became leader, Mr Blair met Mr Murdoch at a dining club in Belgravia. It was reported that the tycoon was impressed by the politician’s ‘puppy-dog, youthful, company-lawyer image’.

“Once Mr Blair was elected, things moved quickly. Mr Murdoch gave an interview to Der Spiegel magazine in which he mused: ‘Last year we helped the Labour government in Canberra. I could even imagine supporting Tony Blair.’ In September 1994, the two men and their wives were dining in the private room of a London restaurant with Gus Fischer, chief executive of News International. Although there was no talk of how Mr Blair could help Mr Murdoch, there were separate meetings with Mr Fischer at which ‘issues of mutual interest’ were discussed.

“By March 1995, there were reports that Labour plans for cross-media ownership would not force Mr Murdoch to sell any of his empire. And a year into his leadership, Mr Blair was on Hayman Island, Australia, listening to praise from Mr Murdoch at the News Corporation conference for his “courage” in attending.

“On the first day of the 1997 election campaign, there was proof that the courtship had not been in vain. ‘The Sun Backs Blair,’ the headline on Mr Murdoch’s leading tabloid read. The manoeuvring had paid off.”

Later…

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