Warm Endorsement

September 30, 2011 at 11:57 pm (anti-semitism, Rosie B)


Above: how Atzmon portrays his critics Newman and Aaronovitch – “caught together naked holding ideological hands” (the image is Atzmon’s, not ours).

Atzmon says: “Zionism clearly  maintains and sustains  its ‘radical left  opposition’ and the logos behind such a tactic is simple-  ‘revolutionary’ left is totally irrelevant to both the conflict and its  resolution. Hence, Zionists cannot dream of an easier opposition to  handle. When the Zionists detect a dangerous rising intellect who aims  at the truth, they obviously utilize and mobilize the Jewish left  together with the few willing Sabbath Goyim executioners to gatekeep the emerging danger. Seymour, Newman and a just few others are always happy to slay the emerging intellect.”

[Jim D added this bit.  I could have done without the pic myself.  Seymour, Newman and Aaronovitch “caught together naked holding ideological hands” was an image I didn’t really want to dwell on in my head, let alone on the webpage.  However if anyone feels up to portraying them “slaying the emerging intellect” I would post that. – Rosie B]

"Slaying the emerging intellect" - anyone handy with Photoshop?


As everyone in the blogosphere knows, Gilad Atzmon has written a book, The Wandering Who, published by Zero Books and with a blurb of warm endorsement  from Professor Mearsheimer – “fascinating and provocative .  . Should be widely read by Jews and non-Jews alike.’  This has caused a storm.  Professor Mearsheimer defends himself here, and in his comments thread he is in turn warmly endorsed by every Nazi nutter and Holocaust denier in town.

I haven’t read Atzmon’s book, and as I wouldn’t buy it or ask the library to get it, I suppose I never shall.  But I did check out Atzmon’s warm endorsement of his own book (here) which has  put “the entire Zionist network is in a total panic” (according to him).  Atzmon has also photoshopped pictures of the heads of his critics onto naked bodies.  Somehow I don’t think he and the Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago are in the same intellectual milieu.

Atzmon’s account of the controversy:-

“. . .the Islamophobic agent-provocateur “Harry’s place” [Atzmon doesn’t know what an “agent provocateur is, evidently] – who never miss a chance to muddy the water – joined in, intimidating and harassing  a London academic  just because she tweeted that she likes Atzmon’s book

Just before London Tea Time, America woke up. Within the hour, her Zionist stooges were ready to join the campaign. EX- IDF concentration camp guard Jeffrey Goldberg had a clear plan to chew Professor John J. Mearsheimer circulating the same banal and unsubstantiated accusations.

At that stage, it appeared to be a campaign that was run by hundreds of Zionist enthusiasts – but if one scratches the surface, it was actually an orchestrated move of barely more than five Jewish bloggers, [Richard Seymour? Andy Newman?] who have managed to mobilise another twenty or so book burners or shall we call them ‘wandering  sockpuppets’ that habitually attack in different areas of the net and the press, co-coordinating to harass, bully and intimidate, with the same dull, repetitive, accusations, ‘arguments’ and smears.

By Sunday night the Guardian published an appalling piece by one Andy Newman of Swindon, who, according to one of his “Socialist Unity” editors, attacked Atzmon simply to appease the relentlessly Islamophobic “Harry’s Place” public.

[Now since when did Socialist Unity “appease” Harry’s Place?  They have just put up a very rude piece about them  – or is this merely a cunning Zionist smokescreen?]
.  . .

In a final desperate attempt to jeopardize the publication of the book and to silence its author. Richard Seymour AKA ‘Lenin Thumb’,  authored a new anti Atzmon manifesto.

I read Richard ‘Lenin’ Seymour’s text with interest and found out that for some reason, both ‘avant-garde revolutionary’  Seymour’s text, and Guardian’s ‘socialist’  Andy Newman’s drivel are suspiciously far too similar to the unforgettable ‘Aaronovitch Reading Atzmon’ performance at the Oxford Literature Festival.  [This reading is of the choice bits of antisemitism in Atzmon’s work.  Why Seymour, Newman and Aaronovitch should quote the same choice pieces of antisemitism is moronically obvious.]


One may wonder how come Seymour, an alleged revolutionary radical Marxist, Andy Newman, a mediocre socialist  and Neocon pro war Aaronovitch are caught together naked holding ideological  hands. [Yes, how would a far left anti-Zionist like Seymour pick up with the liberal Aaronovitch?]

How is it that the three try  to prevent myself and others from criticising Jewish political lobbying. For some reason they also don’t want us to look closely into the events that led to the financial turmoil. [Jews’ fault of course] How is it possible that a hard core Zionist and ultra radical leftists are not only employing the same ideological argument but also performing the exact same tactics?  Clearly, there is an obvious ideological and political continuum between Aaronovitch, Newman and Seymour. The Wandering Who? scrutinizes this very continuum.

Zionism clearly maintains and sustains  its ‘radical left opposition’ and the logos behind such a tactic is simple- ‘revolutionary’ left is totally irrelevant to both the conflict and its resolution. Hence, Zionists cannot dream of an easier opposition to handle. When the Zionists detect a dangerous rising intellect [Atzmon of course – he tells it like it is] who aims at the truth, they obviously utilize and mobilize the Jewish left together with the few willing Sabbath Goyim executioners to gatekeep the emerging danger. Seymour, Newman and a just few others are always happy to slay the emerging intellect.  [Atzmon again – in case you didn’t get the first time who this “intellect” is].

Indeed they were effective for years. From an intellectual perspective our movement is pretty much a desert. Every deep thinker we have ever had [Atzmon for instance]  has been targeted and destroyed by the Jewish Left and their Sabbath Goyim.  But for some reason, they somehow failed with me. My views on Palestine and Israel are now circulated on most dissident journals [bringing them into discredit] and my book The Wandering Who is endorsed by the most important people scholars and activists in our discourse. [please – list of names besides Professor Mearsheimer’s?]

So far, all efforts to stop the book have fallen apart. There is no sign of anyone pulling the book out but there are clear signs that the Hasbara orchestrated campaign has backfired. No one surrendered to the Zionist campaign and its stooges. As they said in Tahrir Square, ‘we have lost our fear.’ [ Oh who do you think you are!]   The Wandering Who is now a best seller for more than a week (as far as Amazon ranking can tell). On the Jewish best seller list, it is even more popular than the Babylonian Talmud and the Torah. I guess that this is indeed a great concern for Zionists and  their stooges, but there is nothing they can do about it.

The sheer dreadfulness of this writing passes description. How could a distinguished academic like Professor Mearsheimer read such self-important, bragging crap and pat its author on the back?  OK, this is not Atzmon’s book – but if this is how the guy writes – the juvenile abuse, the total idiocy on how left and liberal writers in the UK operate, the paranoia, so that if people criticise him they must be in some kind of “Zionist” conspiracy, its general craziness – now, how could Professor Mearsheimer read anything from a writer like that and endorse it? What was he on?

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Cable Street 75

September 30, 2011 at 11:17 pm (anti-fascism, democracy, good people, history, humanism, Jim D, left, London, music)

Cross-posted from Poumista:

Cable Street 75

The 75th anniversary of London’s Battle of Cable Street is fast approaching. here are some dates for your diary, if you live in that part of the world (plus one in Leeds).

On-going until 4th October

Restoring the Past: the Cable Street mural today. Exhibition at Studio 1:1, 57a Redchurch Street E2. Weds-Sunday 12 noon-6pm


JD: sorry, this went up too late to let you know in time about the gypsy-jazz group Manouche’s gig, but…

Manouche are an all-live, electrified, gypsy swing ensemble. Performing specially arranged works of Django Reinhardt and swing classics of the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s, they fuse elements of Electro Swing dance beats and Surf Guitar into their own up-beat compositions.

Look up Manouche on Facebook. Or check out their music on the Manouche youtube channel

Saturday 1 October

11.00am Anti-fascist footprints: a walk through the East End, from Gardiners Corner to Cable Street Led by David Rosenberg, for the Bishopsgate Institute Tickets: £8/£6 Info: 020 7392 9200

5.00pm Anti-fascist footprints: a walk through the East End, from Gardiners Corner to Cable Street Repeat walk, this time for Iniva Tickets: £6/£5 Info: http://www.iniva.org/events/what_s_on/anti_fascist_footprints_walking_tour

Dances and elegies at Wilton’s Music Hall. 730pm This concert provides a frame for the Cable Street events at Wilton’s – extraordinary music for extraordinary times. As the Spanish Civil war was starting, Benjamin Britten played his Suite Op 6 at a concert in Barcelona; the same evening, in the same city, the premiere of Berg’s ‘Violin Concerto’ was played by Louis Krasner, who later became Peter Sheppard Skaerved’s teacher. At the centre of the programme, a most English piece by a German composer – Paul Hindemith’s extraordinary ‘Trauermusik’-‘Music of Mourning’ for George Vth. This wonderful elegy for viola and strings ends with the chorale “Vor deinem Thron Tret ich hiermit”-better known here as ‘All people that on earth do dwell’-the ‘Old 100th’.

Jewdas: ¡No Pasaran! Cable Street – Party like it’s 1936! In a time of austerity, riots, and a rise in the price of beigels, Jewdas returns to Cable Street………. Live Bands, Film, Talks, Cabaret, Fascist Baiting and Revolutionary Borscht. Live Music from: Daniel Kahn & Merlin Shepherd – a mixture of Klezmer, radical Yiddish song, political cabaret and punk folk, accompanied by top UK Klezmer clarinettist; Klezmer Klub feat. David Rosenberg – songs of Yiddish London telling the story of the Jewish east end from 1900 to the 1930s; The Ruby Kid – Hip-hop and spoken-word poetry, influenced by the cinema of Woody Allen, the politics of Hal Draper and the music of Aesop Rock; The Electric Swing Circus – electro swing sensation.Big band swing. Gypsy jazz. Thundering drum beats. Phat bass lines; + Stephen Watts reciting poetry of the East End; + Full film programme of riots, resistance and rabbles; + Talks on Gandhian resistance, Spanish Civil War, Anti-fascist activism today as well as performance poetry. + Communist-Fascist Arm Wrestling, The Three Yentas, Live Guernica tribute painting, Cantorial Drag; + DJ Notorious spinning speeches, 30s swing and hard beats; +…more. Dress Code: 1930s chic. Fascist, Communist. Yiddish Musical Hall. Free entry for all who were there in 1936! For the rest of you its £7 on the door and £5 if you book in advance here.

Sunday 2nd October

75th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street.  March from Braham Street Aldgate at 11.30am to a rally at the Cable Street mural at 1pm. Speakers; Max Levitas Battle of Cable Street Veteran; Frances O’Grady Deputy General Secretary TUC; Matthew Collins Searchlight; Robert Griffiths General Secretary Communist Party; Bob Crow General Secretary RMT; Kosru Uddin Labour Councillor; Julie Begum Swadhinata Trust; David Rosenberg Jewish Socialists’ Group; Gail Cartmail Assistant General Secretary UNITE; Diana Holland Assistant General Secretary UNITE; Akik Rahman Altab Ali Memorial Foundation. More info on UnionBook.

Noon-10pm: Exhibitions and events at Wilton’s Music Hall, 1 Grace’s Alley E1 8JB. info@alternativearts.co.uk   020 7375 0441 12-6 // 12-6 Stalls all along Graces Alley by campaigning groups, local organisations and supporters with street theatre and music by Spanish civil war re enactment group La Columna, The Lost Marbles, The Fairly Fresh Fish Co, Klezmania andThe Cockney Awkestra. Plus, inside, Protest and Survive photo exhibition, featuring Phil Maxwell etc. // Launch of Five Leaves’ five Cable Street books at 3.00pm with Bill Fishman and other Cable Street veterans as guests. // Five Leaves’ panel on “Rebel Writers of the 1930s” at 4.00pm, with Andy Croft, Ken Worpole and Mary Jouannou. // Continue into the evening with Billy Bragg, Shappi Khorsandi, Michael Rosen and The Men They Couldn’t Hang. // Produced by Alternative Arts for The Cable Street Group. // full programme here.

JEECS Walk: The Battle of Cable Street Clive Bettington discusses the events of the iconic battle and discusses some of the myths which have arisen. 2pm Tower Hill tube £10 (£8 Jeecs members) 07941 367 882. Booking recommended

Monday 3rd October

7.30 Crossing the Street, Wilton’s Music Hall. Video installation by Shiraz Bayjoo and Jessica Harrington. Curated by Carole Zeidman, Commissioned by Wiltons Music Hall. The battle of Cable Street 75 years ago reveals much about the character of and the sense solidarity between its residents. The area has historically housed a celebrated mix of people from varying backgrounds, cultures and with different economic circumstances. The riots of 1936 were emblematic of an attitude and belief that people could be brought together successfully to fight for a shared interest despite other differences. 75 years on and the memory of Cable Street has entered local mythology, but how does it resonate with local residents now and what significance does the area hold for them today?

8pm –  David Rosenberg illustrated talk with readings to Leeds Jewish Historical Society at Shadwell Lane Synagogue

Tuesday 4th October:

Film: from Cable Street to Brick Lane, by Hazuan Hashim and Phil Maxwell. Wilton’s Music Hall, 1 Grace’s Alley E1 8JB. From Cable Street to Brick Lane” is an independent documentary dealing with the fight against racism and fascism in the East End of London. The film will explore how different communities came together in the 1930′s, 1970′s and 1990′s to challenge racism and intolerance. Focusing on the two iconic East London streets of Cable Street and Brick Lane, the film will feature interviews with veterans of the battle of Cable St and of the more recent struggles around Brick Lane. Driven by these eyewitness accounts and observations Hashim and Maxwell examine the impact of these interrelated historic events and how they relate to contemporary issues in East London. See www.cablestreettobricklane.co.uk for inspiration. info@alternativearts.co.uk   020 7375 0441.

The Battle of Cable Street at LJCC.  10.30am-3.30pm £35.00.  This anniversary falls during the Ten Days – there could be no better way to reflect on the conflicts of the past and prepare for the challenges of the future. Speakers will include Ian Bloom and David Rosenberg.

JEECS Walk: The Battle of Cable Street Clive Bettington discusses the events of the iconic battle and whether certain of the myths which arose are true 11am Hill tube £10 (£8 members of JEECS)   07941 367882 Booking recommended

Wednesday 5th October

7pm at Housman’s Bookshop, 5 Caledonian Road, N1. Readings and discussion with authors Roger Mills and David Rosenberg about their East End/Cable Street related books.

David Rosenberg (Jewish Socialist Group) author of Battle For The East End and Roger Mills (Cable Street Group) author of Everything Happens in Cable Street discuss their new books, just published by Five Leaves Publications, in the context of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street.

The Battle of Cable Street was a landmark event in British anti-facist struggles, when an estimated 300,000 demonstrators, including many Jewish, socialist, anarchist, Irish and communist groups, built roadblocks in an attempt to prevent a march by the British Union of Fascists, led by Oswald Mosley, through London’s East End. Ignoring the strong likelihood of violence, the government refused to ban the march and a large escort of police was provided in an attempt to prevent anti-fascist protestors disrupting the march. Despite the actions of the police and the government the anti-fascist’s motto of “They Shall Not Pass” won the day.

6th October 2011
Images of resistance 1936 in film: Films about Cable Street and the Spanish civil war
At the Jewish Museum NW1. An evening of films documenting and responding to the anti-fascist events of 1936. The launch of Yoav Segal’s two commissioned films, The Battle of Cable Street and No Pasaran, supported by the Pears Foundation. Followed by Eran Torbiner’s film Madrid before Hanita about volunteers from the Jewish community in British Mandate Palestine, who joined the International Brigades to fight fascism in Spain. Meet veterans after the screening and join the Q&A. £10 including free entry to museum galleries. http://www.jewishmuseum.org.uk/whats-on?item=340

Sunday 9th October

11am inter-generational walk: How the East was won with David Rosenberg, for the Jewish Museum. For children aged 10+ accompanied by an adult. £15 for child+adult. This is part of the museum’s 1936 Radical Roots season

Monday 10 October: 7.00pm
Fighting Together for a Better Past: the story of Cable Street. Panel discussion with David Rosenberg, Tony Kushner and Nadia Valman
Jewish Museum London, 129-131 Albert Street, London NW1 7NB. Free with museum admission Info: http://www.jewishmuseum.org.uk/whats-on?item=341

Tuesday 11th October

Everything happens in Cable Street. Talks, presentations and walk with Bernard Kops, Roger Mills and David Rosenberg at London Metropolitan Archives, 40 Northampton Road EC1  in the morning and Cable Street Walk in the afternoon.Tickets: £15/£10
Info: ask.lma@cityoflondon.gov.uk, 020 7332 3851

Wednesday 12th October

David Rosenberg Reading/discussion at England’s Lane Bookshop

Thursday 13 October

5.00pm David Rosenberg on The Battle of Cable Street Presentation with images and readings Small Hall Cinema, Richard Hoggart Building, Goldsmith’s College, London SE14 6NW Info: info@fiveleaves.co.uk

16 October

Bernard Kops: The Battle of Cable Street, London Jewish Museum. 3pm. £10 including free entry to the galleries. Kops, who grew up in the East End and was 10 at the time, witnessed the events as they unfolded. In conversation with publisher Ross Bardshaw (Five Leaves Publications) Kops will read from his short play about the day’s events as well as from his memoir and his other written work. The reading and conversation will be followed Q&A.

18th October 2011
7pm 75 years on: the British Far Right. Discussion led by journalists on the strategies employed by far-right groups in Britain today. Join journalists James Montague, Rebecca Taylor (Time Out) and Nick Lowles (Searchlight) for a debate about activism, nationalism and political memor.  At the Jewish Museum. £10 including free entry to museum galleries. http://www.jewishmuseum.org.uk/whats-on?item=342

Thursday 20th October

6.30pm Brick Lane bookshop, 166 Brick Lane E1 David Rosenberg/Roger Mills reading/discussion

Saturday 22nd October

Anarchist Bookfair, from 10am-7pm at Queen Mary College, Mile End Road, E1, includes meeting on the Battle of Cable Street at 11am

Monday 24 October

10.30am-12.30pm for five weeks Jewish Responses to Fascism in the 1930s A course based on Battle for the East End. Includes a guided walk around the East End. Tutor: David Rosenberg. London Jewish Cultural Centre, Ivy House, London NW11 7SX
Info: www.ljcc.org.uk/courses

26th October 2011
7pm The rear-view mirror: art and remembering. An illustrated discussion with speakers including curator Corinna Till (Whitechapel Gallery, Reclaim the Mural) and art critic and writer Sacha Craddock, for an illustrated conversation chaired by Michael Keenan (curator, studio1.1 gallery), based on the exhibition Restoring the Past – the Cable Street Mural Today At studio1.1 gallery. £10 including free entry to museum galleries. http://www.jewishmuseum.org.uk/whats-on?item=344  7pm, tickets £10.

27th October

The rear-view mirror: art and remembering: Conversation with Paul Butler at the Whitechapel Gallery. 7pm.


Battle for the East End: Jewish responses to fascism in the 1930s

268pp ISBN: 978 1907869181 Five Leaves Publications, 2011, £9.99

During the 1930s, Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts intensified their campaign against the Jewish community, particularly in London’s East End. As that campaign became more overtly antisemitic, and more physically intimidating, Jewish groups debated how to deal with the Fascist threat, ultimately building their own defence organisations, and forging alliances with other campaigners.  The simmering tensions in East London culminated in the Battle of Cable Street, when more than 100,000 people, especially from the local Jewish and Irish communities, prevented Mosley’s troops from marching through the East End.

In Battle for the East End, David Rosenberg charts the changing nature of the British Union of Fascists’ ideas about Jews and describes the growing rifts between the official leaders of the Jewish community and those who wanted to mount an active resistance to the fascists.

Battle for the East End is written by an anti-fascist activist with a real feel and connection both to the politics and the geographical area he writes about. For anyone who wants to understand the political, historical and cultural context in which the Battle of Cable Street took place then Battle for the East End is a must for the bookshelf.” Searchlight Educational Trust

Order it online: To purchase the book online go to: http://inpressbooks.co.uk/battle_for_the_east_end_jewish_responses_to_fascism_in_the_1930s_david_rosenberg_i022676.aspx

Battle for the East End is one of five publications that Five Leaves are publishing to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street. To see the other titles visit: http://www.fiveleaves.co.uk/: Roger Mill’s  Everything Happens in Cable Street; and re-issues of classic titles The Battle of Cable Street by the Cable Street Group; October Day – Frank Griffin‘s long-forgotten novel with a new introduction by Andy Croft, and Street of Tall People – Alan Gibbon‘s book aimed at 10-13 year olds

Newham Bookshop, London: www.newhambooks.co.uk
Eastside Bookshop, London: www.eastsidebooks.co.uk
Joseph’s Bookstore, London: www.josephsbookstore.com
The Bookcase, Lowdham: www.thebookcase.co.uk
News from Nowhere, Liverpoool: www.newsfromnowhere.co.uk
Housmans, London: www.housmans.com
Wordpower, Edinburgh: www.word-power.co.uk
Andrew Burgin, mail order posters & books: www.andrewburgin.com
Pages of Hackney: www.pagesofhackney.co.uk

Continue below for a couple of extracts from the Five Leaves blog.

Cable Street good, Cable Street bad

People will have to forgive me for returning to Cable Street again and again this month. If you look at our events listing http://www.fiveleaves.co.uk/events.html you will see that Cable Street has become rather significant at Five Leaves Mansions at the moment. The purpose of this brief posting is to draw attention to the new Philosophy Football T-shirt, based on the old street sign. Copies cost £22.99, which seems expensive at first until you realise that a) they are of good quality b) they are made by people who are paid proper wages c) they are a fashion item (did I really mention fashion?). Find them at www.philosophyfootball.com/view_item.php?pid=739.
Mark Perryman, the leftie who runs Philosophy Football, will certainly not be attending one Cable Street event – the one organised by the Stalin Society. It would be nice to think nobody would attend, but there is such a group: “The aim of the Stalin Society is to defend Stalin and his work…” and it has a meeting on Cable Street. I’m not going to say where or when it is, but google will tell you if need be. The Society only costs a fiver to join, £2.50 for the unemployed. A great bargain if you are an unemployed Stalinist.
As far as I know Stalin was not at Cable Street, but 1936 was a busy year for him, what with the first Moscow Show Trial (which resulted in the execution of Zinoviev and Kamenev and others) and the start of the Great Purge. It is hard to see what such a Society could offer us.
Yesterday was not the best of days. You don’t need to know why, but it was saved by the post. You know, that old fashioned stuff that comes through a hole in your door. Top of the charts here was the Searchlight Education Trust special publication on the 75th anniversary of Cable Street. Never mind that it drew on and gave great coverage to our five new books on the subject, Steve Silver has put together a very attractive and readable pamphlet, which included his own family stories of the Battle. You can get hold of Steve’s pamphlet on http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/shop/cablest for four pounds. On the same subject, the latest of the dozens of Cable Street events is a party by Jewdas in Brick Lane on 1st October. “Party like it’s 1936″ they say. Kids, eh? Also in the post was a tenth anniversary compilation from Jewish Renaissance, a magazine that regularly reviews our books, features the occasional article by me and whose poetry editor is Liz Cashdan (currently waiting patiently for Five Leaves to publish her “New and Selected” in 2013). Janet Levine, editor of JR, said that people doubted the journal would last two years (or even two issues) when it started. Congrats to her and her team for JR‘s success.Back to Cable Street – we now have a bundle of brochures advertising Cable Street 75 March and Rally on 2nd October, which we are sponsoring. The speakers at the rally include Maurice Levitas, aged 96, a Cable Street veteran, who will also be at our collective book launch the same afternoon.

Finally, read David Rosenberg on the anniversary in History Workshop Journal and, even better, Martin Sullivan and Richard Price on the myths and realities in What Next.

Full event listing here. History / Gallery/ Mural/ Wikipedia.

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Bechet’s Indian Summer

September 30, 2011 at 6:53 pm (Guardian, jazz, Jim D, song)

Us Brits have been enjoying what is generally known as an Indian summer over the last couple of days (though pedants like the Graun dispute this); anyway, it’s an excuse to revisit the old Victor Herbert standard, as performed by the phenomenon that was Sidney Bechet (1940, with Sonny White on piano):

The scratchy old 78 reminds me of my youth; but if you’d rather see and hear the tune performed live (by a relatively young Japanese Bechet fanatic), try this.

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Matgamna to Cliff: “Your stance, I contend, is anti-semitic.”

September 28, 2011 at 9:04 am (anti-semitism, AWL, israel, Jim D, Marxism, Middle East, palestine, socialism, stalinism, SWP)

What with Ian Birchill’s new hagiography of SWP-founder Tony Cliff, and the recent Guardian discussion on “left wing” antisemitism, now seems like a good moment to republish Sean Matgamna’s 1988 open letter to Cliff, on antisemitism and the left:

Dear Cliff:

The present nightmarish reawakening of the furies of Judeophobia in Eastern Europe demands of honest socialists whose commitment to the destruction of Israel puts them in an attitude of comprehensive hostility to all but a handful of the Jews alive in the world today that they look at their own political features in the mirror of these events.

After Hitler, anti-semitism disguised itself, and drew new nourishment from the conflict between Arab and Jew in the Middle East which had been intensified by the Holocaust. It was a doctrine that dared no longer speak its old name except in whispers and occasional back-alley fascist shouting; but by the ’70s it had another name which it dared to speak, indeed to shout, in a loud chorus in which participated most of the governments and states of the world, including some of the worst governments in existence. A new name: anti-Zionism.

Of course, not all anti-Zionists were, or are, anti—semites, but almost all anti-semites were, by the ’70s anyway, anti-Zionists

That allowed them to enlist in the vast chorus of progressive, anti-colonialist humanity. It conferred a new self-righteousness, and a new broad respectability, on their Judeophobic obsessions.

From obscure, intellectually low-grade, and discreditable theories about economics, and from racial myths which flew in the face of science and everyday experience as well as contradicting all hopes of human equality and solidarity, anti-semitism had risen to a higher plane of existence. It found a place on the revolutionary left it never had before.

After the 1967 war, Israel’s continued occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and the manifest intention of some forces in Israel progressively to annex those territories, outraged the powerful mid-20th century sentiment of anti-colonialism. All democrats and liberals, Israelis too, and of course other Jews, condemned it, or aspects of it.

The hardened anti-semitic “anti-Zionists” could sing along in chorus, sharpening the note and intensifying the beat of the political chant here and there.

At the time of the June 1967 war the far left still universally accepted the right of the Israeli Jews to a nation-state, and demanded changes on that basis. Afterwards the left passively absorbed the new Palestine Liberation Organisation policy of the ‘secular democratic state’ (i.e. an Arab state over all Palestine, with religious rights for Jews).

To Israel was posed the ultimatum that its citizens must surrender self-determination and the possibility of defending themselves, and dissolve their nation, settling for the rights of a religious minority in a projected Arab secular democratic state — which Arab state, by reason of size and the military force required to establish it, would be at the mercy of the bigger Arab states like Iraq or Syria, not one of which recognises minority rights.

To Jews who identify instinctively with Israel, most of the left is inexorably  hostile. And none more hostile than the SWP, Comrade Cliff! The relationship is symbolised for me by lines of Socialist Workers Party members at the conference of the National Union of Students, many of them in the regulation tough-guy ‘revolutionary’ leather jackets, harassing young Jews about the Middle East.

Your stance, I contend, is anti-semitic.

It packages a comprehensive hostility to most Jews — that is, what has always been the content of anti-semitism — in socialist and anti-imperialist verbiage. Those in the Second International who tried to express hostility to capitalism through hostility to Jews (“the Rothschilds”, etc.) were aptly described as preaching a “socialism of idiots”. What much of the left says today about Zionism, Israel and imperialism is the anti-imperialism of idiots. A central part of your political work for decades, comrade Cliff, has been to cultivate and spread that idiocy.

We should support the right of the Palestinian Arabs to have their own state; but to deny the Israeli Jews the same right, and to advocate a Socialist United States of the Middle East without self-determination for all the small nations in the region, is to step from democratic politics into the politics of communal and national revenge, and implicitly to assert that there is such a thing as a “bad people” undeserving of rights.

You, comrade Cliff, consider those politics Trotskyist. You consider especially intense, militant advocacy of those politics to be a hallmark of Trotskyism. In fact they stem more from Stalinism than from Trotskyism. It spread to the left from the USSR and the satellite countries, where, after World War 2, official government anti-Zionism provided a new flag of convenience for the Judeophobia long endemic there. (See Stan Crooke’s article in Workers’ Liberty no. 10 [2]).

This official left “anti-Zionism” spread from the East throughout the labour movement. It spread to the non-Stalinist left partly by way of Stalinist influence, partly as a by-product of the 1eft’s proper involvement with campaigns against colonialism and imperialism.

You, comrade Cliff, bear a great deal of the responsibility for this state of affairs.

The shift after the 1967 war from radical criticism of Israel to support for its destruction happened almost imperceptibly over time, almost by political osmosis between the left and militant Palestinian Arab nationalists to whom the left adapted itself.

But that happened because the left had been “educated” on this question by “anti-Zionist” horror stories in such works as your 1967 pamphlet The Struggle in the Middle East, which were completely devoid of any proper historical perspective on the events of the Jewish-Arab conflict and, while confining themselves to radical criticism of Israel and not supporting its destruction, were ambivalent at best on our programme.

The position we took on the June 1967 war put the finishing touch in practice. In 1948 the Trotskyists had sided with Israel or been for the defeat of both sides. In 1967 we came out for the destruction of the Israeli Jewish state and nation. One could not be defeatist here as, say, you could be defeatist for France or Germany, where even the worst defeat would not lead to national destruction. For Israel it would.

In 1967 we had all felt obliged to differentiate from PLO leader Ahmed Shukhairi, with his chauvinist calls for “driving the Jews into the sea”. But soon we endorsed the call for the complete subjugation of the Jews in its new “reasonable” packaging – the call for a secular democratic state.

We thereby took our place in one of the strangest parades in history – the march of anti-semitism from the condition of utter disorientation Hitler left it in back to respectability.

No people in recorded history ever did anything comparable to what you ask the Israeli Jews to do: surrender their state, disarm, and place themselves at the mercy of their bitter enemies of many decades.

And if you want pioneering gestures arising out of boundless self-sacrifice or confidence in human goodness and solidarity, only a fool would go looking for them from the relatives of those who died in Hitler’s murder camps! Of course nobody expects it, and all such talk is just the build-up of moralistic lubricant for the real conclusion: that the Arab states should be supported against Israel.

In SWP-speak that conclusion is hedged about with ifs and buts and hopes and fantastic aspirations for a socialist solution to magically change the terms of the problem. The Arab working class will solve things.

I too fervently wish that the powerful Arab working class should emerge as an independent force. Like you I believe that the Arab working class will change the situation and that the Arab working class will win socialism in the Arab countries.

But to invoke the Arab working class as the element which will wipe away the national conflict is a strange mixture of political sleight of hand, muddled thinking and wishful thinking.

Think about it. So, the workers of the different Arab countries become politically active and independent? But what will their programme be for the Jewish-Arab conflict? What should international socialists propose to the Arab workers that they should do about the Jewish-Arab conflict?

In fact, Cliff, your own programme is identical to the Arab nationalist programme! You cannot advocate that the Arab working class breaks with its own bourgeois nationalists’ programme!

In response to the charge that the SWP is effectively anti-semitic, Chris Harman wrote in Socialist Worker some time back that the National Front was always denouncing the SWP as Jewish because many of its leaders are Jews. This was a not quite delicate way for Harman to say that some SWP leaders are Jewish. As if that was decisive, as if that wiped out the comprehensive hostility to most Jews and the unique attitude to Israel!

It is a good example of the self-deception practised on the left on this issue. We are not Nazi-style racists, or any sort of racists; we are not against Jews; some of us are Jews, and would be or are persecuted by Nazi-style racists; and we are not Christian bigots hostile to Jews — ergo, we can ’t be anti-semites!

But you are comprehensively hostile to almost all Jews! You want to destroy the Israeli Jewish state and the Israeli Jewish nation. A sizeable part of the left considers Israel to be imperialist-racist evil incarnate, deserving of nothing but fire and sword in a holy war! The left now is in the same moral position vis-a-vis individual Jews as the medieval Christians who could say honestly that they wanted to save the Jews from themselves. They wanted to convert them.

They loved and tried to save the sinners, while hating the sin. The obdurate sinners in the dungeons and tires of the persecution probably didn’t find that much compensation.

The “anti-Zionist” left thinks of itself not as persecuting but as the opposite; not as hate-mongering, but as promoting love and solidarity with the oppressed; not as murderous but a protest against murder and a crusade to stop it.

And yet… and yet… at its heart it proposes policies which amount to the murder of a nation, a nation which arose out of the ashes of the greatest mass murder in recorded history. And yet it does preach hate for a whole people, for a nation and for its diaspora of supporters around the world who will not “see reason”. And yet, it does side with the potential oppressors of that nation.

Honest and uninhibited people, like Tony Greenstein and Uri Davis, face this straight: they say that anti-semitism does not matter now. Implicitly they say, as you do, what one of the world’s biggest neo-Trotskyist groupings (the “Morenists”) says explicitly: “Today Arab racism against Israel is progressive”.

In which case we have just seen a ‘progressive’ political wave sweep across Europe! And things may get a lot more progressive yet.

Cliff, I suggest that your politics on this question are the opposite of the general Marxist teaching on how to resolve national and communal conflicts. I suggest that your approach to the question is not that of a Marxist at all, but that of someone who is rabidly subjective on the question — someone who is still fighting old faction fights with Zionists back in the Palestine of the 1930s and ’40s.

If that isn’t so, if your position on this question is derived from Marxist and socialist considerations and not from special feeling, then why, Cliff, don’t you advocate the collective right of return for the ten million and more Germans driven out of Eastern Europe at the end of the Second World War? Why do you not demand that Gdansk be renamed Danzig and returned to Germany? You have not always had your present position. You did not have it even as late as 1967. An article by Robert Fine shows that you had radically different views back in 1938.

Yet — and I’ll finish on this point — you now consider seriously mistaken the position you took in the ’30s and ’40s in favour of the right to enter Palestine for Jews who could get out of the clutches of the Nazis (and who had nowhere else to go). So you said in an interview published in the SWP magazine a while back.

In retrospect you think that the British imperialists were right to shut the door in the face of Jews facing death! Let them die if the alternative is letting them into Palestine! Those were the alternatives, and that — in retrospect: you had better instincts at the time — is your choice.

Could anything show more clearly the monstrousness of the position you now hold than that retrospective judgement? Cliff, the fact that you are a Palestinian Jew has given what you say on this question an authority which you have not had to win by argument. Your nationality disarms the obvious criticism. But you left Palestine in 1946. You could get a passport and the means to come to Europe. What should the other Jews in Palestine have done then? Emigrated too? But nobody would have taken them, any more than they would have the many thousands of ‘displaced’ Jews then languishing in refugee camps in Europe.

I recall a passage in Trotsky’s writings about Germany in the early ’30s. He pours scorn on Communist Party officials who “are very much inclined to spout ultra-radical phrases beneath which is concealed a wretched and contemptible fatalism”. Meanwhile “they get their passports ready”.

“Worker Communists, you are hundreds of thousands, millions ; you cannot leave for any place; there are not enough passports for you. Should fascism come to power, it will ride over your skulls and spines like a terrific tank. Your salvation lies in merciless struggle”.

The Jews in Palestine couldn’t leave either, Cliff. There were “not enough passports”, just like in the ’30s. The “merciless struggle” followed and goes on. There aren’t “enough passports” now for the Jews migrating from Russia.

In that struggle you do not now represent the internationalism which the isolated and heroic (though I think in some respects politically mistaken) Trotskyists in Palestine defended in 1948; you have slipped back to communalism and nationalism. Only you have “changed peoples”, and now function as an Arab chauvinist, the mirror image of the Jewish chauvinists you broke with in your youth.

In your youth you despised the chauvinists on both sides; now you are a propagandist on one side.

It is time that you stopped miseducating young people on this question, Cliff, including some young Jewish people revolted by the brutal realpolitik of Israel.

High time. There is no solution, still less a socialist solution, in Jewish or Arab (or vicarious Arab) chauvinism. Cut it out, Cliff!

Sean Matgamna

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Cable Street revisionism in ‘History Today’

September 27, 2011 at 9:05 am (anti-fascism, Anti-Racism, anti-semitism, history, Jim D, stalinism)

As the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street approaches, the usually excellent History Today marks the event with a terrible article by one Daniel Tilles, a PhD student at Royal Holloway, University of London. Here’s the conclusion to give you a taste of how appalling it is:

“The demonstrators at Cable Street, and their successors in the
anti-fascist movement, have understandably taken pride in their
achievements that day. Yet far from signalling the beginning of the end
for fascism in Britain, or even in the East End, the demonstration
yielded a significant short-term boost for the BUF, and did nothing to
hinder it in the longer term. True, it succeeded in demonstrating the
strength of hostility to Mosley, confirming that his political ambitions
would never be realised. But this had long been clear. By 1936 the BUF
was a local irritant but a national irrelevance and destined to remain
that way. Instead, Cable Street drew unnecessary attention and new
adherents to the party. However laudable the motivation of the Jewish
participants that day, the primary consequence of their actions was to
make life significantly worse for their fellow Jews in the East End,
with their involvement used to justify the commencement of the most
intensive phase of anti-semitic activity in modern British history.”

The full article is here.

Now, there’s nothing wrong in principle, with ‘revisionist’ history that challenges accepted truisms and asks us to look afresh at orthodoxy. And it’s true that Stalinists like Phil Piratin have, over the years, promoted a very simplistic view of “Cable Street,” attributing the decline of Mosely and the Blackshirts more or less entirely to what happened on that day.  But Tilles’ piece is simply bad history. A few points:

* Not one mention of the ILP (Independent Labour Party) which had more members and mobilised more people on the day, than the CP (Communist Party).

* He argues that Cable Street led to more BUF (British Union of Fascists) attacks on Jews but gives no information on the level of attacks on Jews before Cable Street.

* Most of his sources are anecdotal or from the BUF’s Blackshirt paper.

* Little discussion of the effect of Cable Street on the Jewish anti-fascist movement and none on its effect on the CP. The ILP not even mentioned. It gave all of these added confidence and prestige.

* No analysis of who the 100,00 anti-fascists on the streets actually were.

* Serious histories of fascism in Britian are pretty much unanimous in concluding that the BUF was in steep decline by 1937. They revived somewhat after Munich with their “peace” campaign. Maybe the cause wasn’t Cable Street, but overwhelmingly,  the evidence is against Tilles’ contention that the BUF was on the rise at this time.

A much better and more balanced account here.

‘Cable Street 75’ blog here.

H/t: Dave and Cath

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Newman on Atzmon and antisemitism

September 26, 2011 at 9:09 pm (anti-semitism, blogosphere, fascism, Jim D, Racism, SWP)

Regulars will know that I don’t have a very high opinion of Andy Newman and his bizarre semi-Stalinist blog ‘Socialist Unity.’ Indeed, for a considerable while Mr Newman banned me from even commenting at his site on the grounds that I’m a “racist” (I’d been rude about a contributor who happened to be non- white).

Nevertheless, Newman does have one thing in common with us at ‘Shiraz’: unlike a lot of the so-called “left” he takes antisemitism seriously. He has, for instance, frequently denounced the holocaust-denying conspiracy theorist and neo-nazi Gilad Atzmon, a modestly-talented jazz saxophonist once lionized by the SWP. Unlike a lot of the “left” (especially in the Stalinist circles he now moves in), Newman does recognise that someone calling themselves an ‘anti-Zionist’ and proclaiming solidarity with the Palestinian cause, can still be an antisemite.

Newman has an article in today’s Graun (entitled “Root out this hate speech” in the print version but retitled “Gilad Atzmon, antisemitism and the left” online),  that is quite good, though it tells you nothing you won’t have read many times here at ‘Shiraz.’ He once again calls out Atzmon for the antisemite he is, notes the SWP’s role (until relatively recently) in promoting him and Indymedia’s role in defending him. Newman also notes other examples of “left” antisemitism, like the US magazine Counterpunch defending unsubstantiated claims about Israeli organ-harvesting/smuggling (the old blood libel tricked out in a new garb), and closes by warning that:

“It is incumbent upon the left and the Palestinian solidarity movement to both be aware of the conscious efforts of far-right antisemites to infiltrate the movement, and to vigoruosly oppose and exclude antisemites. We would not hesitate to condemn racists, homophobes or sexists, and must be equally robust in opposing anti-Jewish hate-speech.”

Excellent sentiments and, I’ve no doubt, entirely sincere. But we do need to ask Andy Newman why it is that ‘Socialist Unity’ continues to carry pieces by someone who is quite clearly a “left” antisemite of precisely the kind denounced in the Graun article: one Mr John Wight.

NB: Newman’s Graun article is here; his follow-up posting at ‘Socialist Unity’ is here: both are worth looking at if only for the predictable comments apologising for “left” antisemitism and/or refusing believe it exists and/or if it does exist it isn’t a problem, etc, etc, etc…

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Farewell Comrade Eamonn

September 25, 2011 at 1:05 pm (Brum, good people, Jim D, socialism, solidarity, SWP, workers)

Eamonn Lynch, a long-standing member of the SWP in Birmingham, died last Tuesday.

I cannot remember the last time I spoke to Eamonn, or even exactly when and where I last saw him. In recent years it was obvious that his health was not good and he seemed to have become prematurely aged (he was probably about them same age as myself); I also got the impression that his vision had deteriorated. Whenever and wherever it was I last saw him, my recollection is that he didn’t see me. And, to my bitter regret, I didn’t go over and say hello.

Not that we’d ever been close friends, but we’d known each other well enough to share the occasional chat, joke and drink over a period of about thirty five years. He’d appeared as a member of the IS/SWP in Birmingham sometime in the mid-to-late seventies, just after I’d been expelled from that organisation. He was a printer (whether professionally trained or self-taught I do not know) and ran the printshop in the SWP  bookshop that existed in Birmingham in the seventies and early eighties. He was unfailingly good-humoured and friendly and on the relatively few occasions that we discussed political differences it was without the rancour or self-righteousness that all too often, even in the seventies and eighties, tended to characterise such discussions, and which these days seem virtually par for the course.

I suppose I got to spend most time with Eamonn during the 1984-85 miners’ strike, when he was the only SWP member in Birmingham (and possibly, anywhere else) to be involved in the Miners’ Support Committee and its support and fund-raising activities in the first six months of the strike. The official SWP ‘line’ at the time was to publicly ignore these committees, and in private, to sneer at them and their work as “left-wing Oxfam” and “the baked beans brigade.” Eamonn never openly criticised his organisation and would not be drawn on any discussions about its ‘line’, but his very presence at the Committee meetings and fund-rasing events made it obvious that he didn’t agree with the ‘line.’ I can clearly remember the almost palpable pleasure and relief that came over him when, six months or so into the strike, it became apparent that the ‘line’ had changed and the SWP began to involve itself in the work of the support committees throughout Britain (though, typically, with no accounting for the change).

After the strike our paths crossed less often, but we would still meet from time to time at political events, demos and in the ‘Prince of Wales’ pub in Moseley (a favourite haunt of Birmingham lefties). For a while he ran a little one-person printing business and I was able to put some work his way. But new technology put him out of business sometime in the late eighties and I don’t think he ever had paid employment again. I would still occssionally see him in the street, as he lived near where I was working at the time. He was still friendly, but something had changed: he seemed a bit vague, a bit distant and gradually, with the passage of time we didn’t have a lot to say to each other once the small-talk ran out. For all his bonhomie, he always struck me as a rather lonely figure, and that loneliness seemed to increase over the years. To be honest, towards the end, he also looked as though he was rather down on his luck.

To the best of my knowledge, Eamonn remained a member of the SWP to the end, though not terribly active in his last years. There was a dogged loyalty about Eamonn that I suspect kept him in the organisation even when he didn’t agree with it on certain issues. In the words of James P Cannon (in ‘Notebook of an Agitator’) , he was:

 “…a friend and partisan of all good causes, always ready to circulate a petition, help out a collection or get up a protest meeting to demand that wrongs be righted. The good causes, then as now, were mostly unpopular ones, and he nearly always found himself in the minority, on the side of the under-dogs who couldn’t do him any good in the tough game of making money and getting ahead. He had to pay for that (…) but it couldn’t be helped. (He) was made that way, and I don’t think it ever entered his head to do otherwise or live otherwise than he did.

“That’s just about all there is to tell of him. But I thought (…), that’s a great deal. Carl Sandberg said it in this way: ‘These are the heroes then – among the plain people – Heroes, did you say? And why not? They gave all they’ve got and ask no questions and take what comes to them and what more do you want?’ “

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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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A Drunk Man Looks at the Israeli Flag

September 23, 2011 at 1:09 am (anti-semitism, israel, Middle East, palestine, Racism, scotland, wankers)


By Stan Crooke

“Cupar Racism Verdict Hands Weapon to Zionists” proclaimed the headline in ‘Scottish Socialist Voice’ (SSV), paper of the Scottish Socialist Party. The verdict, brought by Cupar Sheriff Charles Macnair, claimed the article, “hands a major victory to the Zionist lobby.”

The two defendants in the case – the second defendant had a “not proven” verdict returned against him – were both drunk at the time of the incident at the centre of the case.

According to SSV, this drunkenness was exploited by the Zionist lobby: “What is clear is that given that [the two defendants] were both inebriated, their action presented an opportunity to the Zionist lobby which they duly grasped.”

In fact, the article continued, no-one should be led astray by the fact that the two defendants had been drunk: “Despite efforts to spin this case as a drunken escapade by hooligans, it actually forms part of the ongoing Zionist campaign to criminalise opponents of Israel.”

Chanan Reitblat, whose complaint had triggered the hearing, was defined in the article as “a hard-line Zionist” and “an ultra-Zionist”. According to the article: “There can be no doubt that he (Reitblat) is a willing instrument in the ongoing Zionist drive to marginalise Israeli policies of occupation, bombing and repression.”

(Presumably, the author meant to refer to an alleged Zionist drive to marginalise critics of Israeli policies. But the overall incoherence of the article makes it impossible to separate out the substantive incoherence from the incoherence arising out of typing mistakes.)

Scottish Jews for a Just Peace (SJJP) are also much troubled by the verdict. An SJJP statement explained: “It would appear that Paul Donnachie’s protest was directed not against Chanon Reitblat as a Jew or indeed as a person, but against the political view he espoused.”

According to a letter from Dundee-based SJJP member Sarah Glynn, published in Fife’s “The Courier” newspaper, the verdict had “moved us a step closer to an Orwellian police state.”

Following the sentencing of Donnachie, Glynn told Reitblat’s family that their actions were “scandalous” and that “as Jews, you should be ashamed. This is devastating.” Just for good measure, she also told a rabbi who had given support to Reitblatt that he was “destroying Judaism.”

The Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC), of course, was outraged by the verdict. How dare a Scottish court suggest that one of its members should be guilty of racially aggravated conduct!

“Same Old Song: US Supporter of Israeli Apartheid Dishonestly Claims to be Victim of Racism” reads the headline of one of the many articles on the SPSC website in defence of Donnachie. (Reitblat is an American who was studying in Scotland at the time of the incident which triggered the case.)

“Zionist Jew Reitblat,” explains another article on the SPSC website, is “a supporter of colonialism, ethnic cleansing and burning Palestinian civilians with white phosphorous.”

“This American citizen,” explains the SPSC, “suffers from the familiar ‘Israel syndrome’: simultaneously arrogant and prone to violence, whilst at the same time claiming to be terrified for his safety.”

Reitblat, the SPSC continues, was “almost certainly egged on by his Zionist comrades” to complain about the incident at the core of the case.

“What is behind the case?” asks an SPSC leaflet, helpfully providing the answer: “As pressure mounts on Israel … so Israel resorts to its last line of defence and claims criticisms of its actions are racist.”

The SPSC has praised its member’s defence speech in court, in which he argued that his actions were a political statement about Israel rather than an attack on Reitblat as an individual: “The citizens of a country cannot be held responsible for the actions of a state.”

And this from the campaign which advocates a boycott of anyone or anything associated with Israel – football players, academics, Starbucks, cricketers, oranges, film-makers, Lloyds Bank, scientists, dates, musicians, Eden Springs Water, trade unionists … etc., etc!!!

The court hearing which has given rise to such self-righteous indignation amongst Scotland’s ‘anti-Zionists’ heard conflicting evidence about the incident at the core of the case. There are also inconsistencies in media coverage of the case. But the basic events are not in dispute.

It is not disputed that Donnachie and another student turned up at Reitblat’s flat in a St. Andrews University hall of residence at half one in the morning of 12th March. Donnachie and his friend had been drinking heavily. They wanted to check up on Reitblat’s flatmate, who had also been drinking heavily and had gone to bed earlier.

(In the quaint language of the SPSC, Donnachie and his friend had “overindulged in ales” and went to check up of their third drinking companion, who had “retired earlier that evening, somewhat the worse for wear.”)

It is not disputed that on entering the flat Donnachie saw an Israeli flag pinned to the wall, a present to Reitblat from his brother, who had served in the Israel Defence Forces. Donnachie put his hand down his trousers, rubbed his genitals, and then either wiped his hand on the flag or rubbed the flag with one of his pubic hairs.

(This incident is dismissed by the SPSC as “a gesture apparently common among St. Andrews undergraduates.” Testifying in court, Donnachie blamed the flag for his behaviour: “By displaying a flag of Israel you are making a controversial statement which invites criticism.”)

It is likewise not disputed that Donnachie then said that Israel was a terrorist state and the flag was a terrorist flag.

(Or, as the SPSC puts it: “Donnachie saw the Israeli flag and, as many opponents of Israeli crimes would do, for a few pints had not broken his moral compass, pointed out that Israel is a terrorist state committing unspeakable crimes against Palestinian people.”)

It is further not disputed – although the SPSC makes no mention of it – that after the incident in Reitblat’s room Donnachie posted a number of Facebook comments.

Some of the comments were bog-standard ‘anti-imperialism’ (“Fuck the IDF” and “Victory to the Intifada”). But one was clearly directed at Reitblat as an individual: “There is a Zionist in my hall (of residence).”

Other aspects of what occurred are less clear.

According to one BBC report, for example, after leaving Reitblat’s flat Donnachie and his friend wandered the corridors of the hall of residence shouting “Nazi, fascist, terrorist.” But this is not mentioned in other coverage of the incident.

Crucially, there is also a dispute about whether Donnachie said to Reitblat, after having referred to Israel as a terrorist state and its flag as a terrorist flag, that he (Reitblat) was a terrorist. Reitblat said that Donnachie said this. Donnachie denied it.

The Sheriff found that Donnachie had called Reitblat a terrorist, and that he had done so because of Reitblat’s perceived “membership of Israel” i.e. Reitblat’s perceived identification with “terrorist” Israel was sufficient, in Donnachie’s head, to justify calling him a terrorist.

In the Sheriff’s words, Donnachie “displayed malice toward Mr. Reitblatt because of his presumed membership of Israel. … The part of your behaviour that I found to be most serious was that you described Mr. Reitblat as a terrorist. That is the direct equivalent of suggesting all Muslims are terrorists.”

The penalty imposed on Donnachie was 150 hours community service and a payment of £300 compensation to Reitblat.

While Reitblat was booed by SPSC members after the trial and had to be escorted to his family’s car by the police, Donnachie commented: “I understand that Mr. Reitblat is a very rich individual, and my concern is that this money I am being forced to pay will ultimately go to Zionist organisations.”

Alternatively, other reports quote him as having said: “Mr Reitblat was an American studying over here so he’s from a rich family – I hope he gives the compensation to a good cause and doesn’t just fund his own greed.”

According to Donnachie’s lawyer, his client is “extremely remorseful.”

Whatever the trial may say about Donnachie as an individual, and whatever his chances of success on appeal – when appeal judges will scrutinise whether there was an evidential basis for the Sheriff’s conclusions – the most striking political aspect to the trial is the response of Scotland’s ‘anti-Zionists’ fraternity.

There is no readiness by ‘anti-Zionists’ to acknowledge that Reitblat might have genuinely found the behaviour of Donnachie and his friend to be offensive – being drunk and disorderly in his flat at half one in the morning, abusing his personal property, urinating in his sink, and targeting him in a Facebook comment – and that this triggered his complaint.

Instead, Reitblat’s complaint is portrayed as one made in bad faith: Reitblat was “almost certainly egged on” by Zionists and was doubtlessly their “willing instrument”.

Rather than focus on Donnachie’s action – the subject-matter of the complaint – the ‘anti-Zionists’ turn their attention to Reitblat himself. He is “a hard-line Zionist” and “an ultra-Zionist”. He is “a US supporter of Israeli apartheid” who supports “colonialism, ethnic cleansing and burning Palestinians.”

In a particularly incoherent passage the SPSC even puts Reitblat, a 21-year-old student spending a semester at a Scottish university, on the same level as Bush, Blair and various other embodiments of evil incarnate:

“Against the likes of Bush, Blair, the pro-Buddhist junta in Burma, the Hindu chauvinist BJP in India, the brutal Saudi regime and its corrupt Ulema, and Zionist Jew Reitblat, we can do no better than commend the words of the courageous American, Father Berrigan … ….”

Reitblat is dismissed as a liar – “he dishonestly claims to be a victim of racism” – and his complaint is really part of a Zionist campaign to gag and criminalise their opponents:

“The legislation put in place to fight the scourge of racism continues to be abused in an attempt to stifle criticism of Israel and stifle its supporters. … Israel resorts to its last line of defence and claims criticisms of its actions are racist.”

Nor is there any acknowledgement by ‘anti-Zionists’ that identification with Israel formed part of Reitblat’s personal beliefs and identity as a Jew. (In a press release Reitblat wrote: “I am Jewish and had an Israeli flag on my bulletin board above my head. … Israel is an important part of my religious belief.”)

Instead, an SPSC statement claims that during the incident of 12th March, “no-one’s ‘Jewishness’ was remotely impugned.” (The inverted commas around Jewishness are in the original.)

A 2010 survey of British Jews found that over 70% self-defined as Zionist, and for over 80% Israel was important or central to their Jewish identity. But in the strange, and deeply unpleasant, political universe inhabited by the SPSC, it is the likes of the SPSC, not Jews, who determine what constitutes Jewishness (or ‘Jewishness’).

Suppose, for a moment, that a Black person complained of abuse and that there was at least a perceived racist element to that abuse.

Would anti-racists, as Donnachie and his friends in the SPSC believe themselves to be, instinctively respond by claiming that the Black person was really a tool of other Black people and had raised the complaint in order to stifle criticism of the alleged crimes of those other Black people?

Would anti-racists attacks the politics of the Black complainant – as if some kind of political purity test has to be passed before a person can complain about racism – and insist that they, not Black people, should define what it means to be Black?

Just asking such questions is to answer them.

But, as the ‘anti-Zionist’ indignation at the verdict passed on one of their number demonstrates, other factors come into play when the complainant is a Jew.

NB To appreciate the wittiness of the headline, readers should be aware of Hugh McDiarmid’s epic poem “A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle”.

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LabourStart on trade union struggles in Kazakhstan and Georgia.

September 22, 2011 at 11:09 pm (Jim D, Russia, solidarity, unions, workers)

Strikers at Hercules Steel, in Georgia.
It’s been twenty years since the USSR collapsed, but you wouldn’t know it from the way workers and their unions are being treated in some of the former Soviet republics.
Today we’ve been asked to pass on urgent appeals for messages of protest and solidarity from trade unions in Kazakhstan and Georgia.
Workers at Hercules Steel in Georgia — Stalin’s birthplace — are facing employer-government collaboration in strike-breaking and union-busting.There are even charges of forced labour and trafficking of Indian migrant workers.
You can make a difference:  the Georgian government relies on the good will of democratic countries abroad, especially Western Europe and the United States.
For that reason, messages from you to the Georgian government will have an effect.
Please take a moment to learn more and send off your message today:
Meanwhile oil workers in Kazakhstan have waged the largest strike action in the whole former Soviet bloc since 1989.They’ve shown remarkable discipline, commitment and strength.
And today they need your help.  Read more and send your message here:
You won’t hear much about this on CNN, Fox News or the BBC.Your fellow union members are unlikely to know any of this.Please forward this message — let’s engage thousands of union members who’ve never participated in an online campaign before!
Thank you.
Eric Lee
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