Archive for the ‘Ethiopia’ Category

Jewish Voice for Peace’s Commitment to Fighting Anti-Semitism

March 12, 2019

The Israel lobby smears also Jewish critics of Israel and pro-Palestinian activists as ‘anti-Semites’, often with a viciousness that exceeds the venom with which the lobby attacks its gentile opponents. Critics like Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker, Martin Odoni and many, many others, are decried as ‘self-hating’ and subjected to abuse that would certainly be considered anti-Semitic if it came from non-Jews. They will have their Jewishness denied in coarsely racist terms. Jackie Walker was told that she couldn’t really be Jewish because she was Black, thus denying the existence of Black Jews from Ethiopia. Some of the remarks are particularly vile. Tony Greenstein was told by one affronted Jewish Zionist that they wished his family had died in the Holocaust.

But the vast majority of Jewish critics of Israel are anything but anti-Semitic or self-hating. Tony Greenstein is a veteran opponent of all forms of racism and Fascism, which includes Zionism. Jackie Walker is the daughter of a Black civil rights activist with some Jewish blood, and a Russian Jew, who met on a civil rights march. She is Jewish by faith and heritage, has a Jewish partner, and sends her daughter to a Jewish school. She herself has been an anti-racist activist, and opposes Zionism because it is a form of racism. Martin Odoni again is another critic of racism.

Jewish Voice for Peace is a pro-Palestinian organisation which genuinely works for peace with Israel’s indigenous Arabs, rather than masking their continuing persecution and dispossession with liberal statements about peace and democracy like the Israeli state. In the fifth clause of their mission statement, ‘Jewish Communities Centred around Justice’, they make it very clear that their stance on justice for the Palestinians is grounded in their Jewish identity. The passage reads

We are inspired by Jewish traditions to work for justice and such work is part of our own liberation. We work to build Jewish communities that reflect the understanding that being Jewish and Judaism are not synonymous with Zionism or support for Israel. Our work is part of a broader struggle and commitment to end racism, anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim, and anti-Arab bigotry, and all forms of oppression.

https://jewishvoiceforpeace.org/mission/

They also make it very clear that they are also committed to fighting anti-Semitism in a piece from October last year, 2018. This came after a Jewish community centre in Virginia was defaced with swastikas and in the face of rising anti-Semitism and racism in Trump’s America. The passage ‘We Must Fight Anti-Semitism in All Its Forms’, runs

Two days ago, the Jewish community in Fairfax, Virginia woke up to find 19 swastikas defacing the local Jewish Community Center, the second time in 18 months that the center was defaced with antisemitic graffiti.

Incidents like this are deeply terrifying. They are less about the actual property damage, and more about the symbolic message – that Jewish people are not wanted, that we should fear for our safety, and that white supremacists in the United States are becoming more open, more empowered, and more visible.

What is also deeply concerning is that rather than believe that antisemitism is relegated to the fringes of our society, we see the highest echelons of the government trafficking in antisemitic conspiracy theories. Just this last week Donald Trump claimed that the impassioned protesters outside the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings were hired by George Soros, repeating a popular right-wing conspiracy theory that sees Jewish money behind leftist movements – a claim that Nazis in upstate New York repeated just today.

Antisemitism operates through symbols and tropes, and seeing them repeated by those in power is dangerous and wrong. We send out love to those impacted by the vandalism, conspiracy theories, and hate and stand against antisemitism whenever it occurs. Only together can we fight for a better world for all of us.

https://jewishvoiceforpeace.org/we-must-fight-antisemitism-in-all-its-forms/

The organisation is obviously Jewish-based and led, but it is also open to non-Jews. And although it is primarily an American organisation, it also accepts for foreign members. And it makes the point that anti-Zionism is most definitely not to be conflated with anti-Semitism.

For more information about the organisation, go to:

https://jewishvoiceforpeace.org/mission/

Jewish Voice for Peace and organisations like it, as well as doing tremendous work in solidarity with the Palestinians, by their very existence refute the lie that Jewish opponents of Zionism must be self-hating anti-Semites. It is this truth that the Israel lobby fears, as increasing number of Jews, and particularly young people, are disgusted with Netanyahu’s viciously racist regime and are turning away from supporting Israel. It’s why one Israeli official said that they now had to turn to support from America’s Christian Zionists, rather than its Jews. It’s why the abuse and demonisation heaped on Jewish critics of Israel is so vicious. and the attempt to silence them so determined.

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‘I’ Newspaper Smears Corbyn’s Labour as Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theorists: Conclusion

March 10, 2019

Verber ends his strange concoction of fact, insinuation and outright lie with the paragraph ‘What Labour should do now’. This runs

A hallmark of Labour’s anti-Semitism crisis is that the argument that if someone is anti-racist, they cannot be anti-Semitic. Many socialists – and Marxists in particular – view Jews not through the prism of race or religion, but through that of class. Jews, in their eyes, are a white, rich, powerful elite, unworthy of the solidarity or protection normally afforded to ethnic minorities. This is not just racist, it is also false: there are many Jews of colour, and there are many Jews who live below the poverty line. But it also swallows, hook, line and sinker, the conspiracy theories that I have laid out here.

To conquer the crisis, the Labour leadership needs to educate itself to understand what these conspiracy theories are, and why they’re so pervasive; it needs to disavow them publicly; and its needs to educate Labour members to spot these pernicious stereotypes and call them out when they appear.

Let’s start taking this apart. Firstly, it is massively hypocritical for any Zionist to start talking about the conditions of Jews of colour. Jackie Walker, whom the Israel lobby has foully smeared, is very much a Jewish woman of colour, who has fought against racism, including anti-Semitism, all her life. In Israel also Black Jews from Ethiopia and elsewhere are also suffering prejudice and often violent persecution, because they, like Walker, are not seen as Jewish because of their skin colour. Also, in Britain, as Tony Greenstein has pointed out, Jews are not persecuted. They are largely upper middle class and don’t suffer the same level as violence, prejudice and state discrimination as other ethnicities. No-one has forcibly put them on to planes to deport them, as they did the Windrush migrants and their children. Nor has anyone in any part demanded that there should be more prejudice against them, as Rod Liddle has with the Tories and Muslims. The anti-Semitic abuse and attacks are largely directed against Orthodox and Haredi Jews, because of their distinctive dress and lifestyle. Only 7 per cent of the British public hold anti-Semitic views. That’s too much, but it’s small, especially to the vicious hatred directed against Blacks, Asians and Muslims. Greenstein and those like them aren’t anti-Semites by any stretch of the imagination. But they are against hack propagandists like Verber grotesquely inflating the level of prejudice against Jews in order to justify smearing critics of Israel as anti-Semites, holocaust deniers and conspiracy theories.

Far from apologising for anti-Semitism that doesn’t exist in the Labour party, I think Williamson was right. It’s time to take a robust approach and defend the innocents, who have been smeared by people like Verber, the CAA and JLM, and publicly make the point that there is a real smear campaign against Israel’s critics by the Israel lobby, just as Peter Oborne and al-Jazeera have.

 

Private Eye: Corporate Donor Trevor Chinn Moving From Watson to Lib Dems

March 7, 2019

Here’s a little piece from this fortnight’s Private Eye, 8th-21st March 2019. According to this article, the Labour donor Trevor Chinn may be abandoning Tom Watson and switching his support instead to the Lib Dems. The article on page 11 runs

As Labour deputy leader Tom Watson tries to rally his party’s “moderates”, one of his loyal financial backers seem to be drifting towards the Lib Dems.

Since 2015, businessman Trevor Chinn has given Watson £50,000 towards his office costs, the last £5,000 coming in November. According to the latest register of MP’s interests, however, Chinn has now given £5,000 to former Lib Dem leader Tim Farron MP to help fund his office.

The apparent drift suggests a financial vote of no confidence in Watson’s prospects as he tries to “convene” a new group of Corbyn-sceptic backbench Labour MPs in the “social democratic” tradition to pressurise the party leadership.

Chinn, senior adviser to private equity firm CVC Capital Partners and a former chair of the RAC, is a long-term Labour funder, mostly for the moderate wing. He gave £27,000 to Owen Smith’s leadership campaign in 2016, and £20,000 to Ivan Lewis MP the same year. All told, he has given around £260,000 to various Labour MPs and groups since 2010.

Chin reportedly gave £500,000 to fund Tony Blair’s office in the 1990s, before figures were made public. Electoral Commission records show  no previous donations from Chinn to any Lib Dems.

I might be wrong, but I think Chinn is one of the corporate donors for the Israel lobby, the Zionist businessmen donating money to right-wing Labour MPs to encourage them to support Israel.

This seems to fit with a story Mike put up yesterday about 100 or so Labour MPs writing to the Jewish Labour Movement requesting them not to break their links with the Labour Party. As Mike points out, the Jewish Labour Movement is an explicitly Zionist organisation, former Paole Zion, or Workers of Zion. It is the sister party to Havoda, the Israeli Labour Party, which has heartily supported the Israeli state’s policy of apartheid and systematic oppression and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. It’s former national director, Ella Rose, previously worked at the Israeli embassy. It was also mentioned by Israeli embassy official Shai Masot as one of his allies when he was caught by al-Jazeera plotting to remove Alan Duncan from the Tory cabinet.

It is one of the organisations within the Labour party responsible for the campaign of lies and smears against Mike and other decent, anti-racist folk, accusing them of anti-Semitism. One of the victims Mike highlights in his piece was the academic and anti-racist activist Jackie Walker, a Jewish lady of colour with a proud personal record and family tradition of standing up against racism and anti-Semitism. But she was smeared and has suffered the most foul abuse, some of it vitriolically racist. According to these campaigners for racial purity, Walker can’t be Jewish, because she’s black. Despite the fact that there have been Black Jews in Ethiopia for millennia.

In his article Mike deals with the accusations against him, such as that he claimed that Paole Zion did not represent Jews – false, as Mike said that they only represent Zionist Jews, and that by attacking Zionism he was attacking the Jewish people’s right to self-government, although that notion applies only to individuals, not nations. And by supporting Israel the Paole Zion and its protectors within the Labour party are denying the Palestinian’s right to self-government.

Mike concludes that the Labour party should be throwing them out, not begging them stay.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/03/06/labour-should-be-throwing-the-jewish-labour-movement-out-on-its-ear-not-begging-it-to-stay/#comment-114287

Looked at together, these stories suggest that the Israel lobby is seriously worried about its waning influence in the Labour party. It looks like it’s picking up its ball and its money and is debating going elsewhere. And the Blair project was also dependent on Israeli cash. According to Lobster, Blair was able to remain financially independent of the trade unions, and thus act against them, because he had funding from the Israel lobby, raised through Lord Levy, whom he met at a party at the Israeli embassy.

And no-one knows exactly who is funding the Jewish Labour Movement. As Paole Zion, it was more or less moribund until two years ago, when suddenly it was revamped and given a massive cash injection. Those 100 MPs – almost certainly Blairites – are probably partly motivated in their attempts to persuade the JLM to stay for fear of their own places in the party. If the JLM goes, and Chinn takes his money to the Lib Dems, then corporate support for them may also dry up. In which case they become even more vulnerable to the Corbynite grassroots, who aren’t impressed with their disloyalty.

Hopefully this means that the Israel lobby in the Labour party is weakening. If that’s true, then perhaps in time we can look forward to seeing a genuine, socialist Labour movement and government determined to work for the ordinary people of this country. Which includes Jews along with all the other ethnicities, religions and philosophies of this great and diverse land. And not a bunch of corporatists determined to back the interests of an interfering and oppressive foreign nation at the expense of their constituents.

YouTube Video for My Book on Slavery in the British Empire, ‘The Global Campaign’

February 18, 2019

This is the video I’ve just uploaded on YouTube about my two volume book on slavery, its abolition and the campaign against it in the British Empire, The Global Campaign, which I’ve published with Lulu.

The video explains that it grew out of my work as a volunteer at the former Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol, helping to catalogue the archive of government documents that they had been granted by the Commonwealth Institute. I was busy summarizing these documents for a database on materials on slavery the Museum wanted to compile. Going through them, it became clear that the long process of its abolition in the Caribbean was just part of a wider attempt by the British to suppress it right across our empire, from Canada and the Caribbean across the Cape Colony, now part of South Africa, the Gold Coast, now Ghana, Sierra Leone, founded as a colony for freed slaves, central Africa, and what are now Tanzania, Malawi and Uganda, Egypt, the Sudan and the North African parts of the Turkish Empire, to India, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, Java and Malaysia, and into the Pacific, in Fiji, Australia and the Pacific Island nations. Legislation in one section of the Empire, for example, the Caribbean, was also passed elsewhere, such as Cape Colony, Mauritius and the Seychelles. The British were aided in their campaign to stamp out slavery in Egypt, the Sudan and Uganda by the Egyptian ruler, the Khedive Ismail. They also signed treaties banning the slave trade from East Africa with the Imam of Muscat, now Oman, the ruler of Zanzibar and Pemba and the suzerain of some of the east African coastal states. There was also an invasion of Abyssinia, now Ethiopia, in retaliation for their raiding of the neighbouring British territories for slaves.

As well as trying to suppress the enslavement of Africans, the British were also forced to attack other forms of slavery, such as the forced kidnapping and sale of indentured migrant labourers from India and China in the infamous ‘Coolie Trade’, and the similar enslavement of the indigenous peoples of the Pacific for labour on the sugar plantations in Fiji and Queensland.

I also explain how one of the first English-speaking countries to ban slavery was Canada, where enlightened governors and judges twisted the interpretation of Canadian law to show that slavery did not officially exist there.

The video’s about ten minutes long. Unfortunately, I don’t say anything about the role Black resistance to slavery, from simple acts like running away, to full scale rebellions had in ending it, or of colonial governors and legislatures. But the book does mention them.

Here’s the video:

Maggie Cousins – the Racist Defender of Labour’s Racist NEC

November 16, 2018

One of the things that is very clear from Mike’s kangaroo court hearing is that Mike is no racist. He never was, and never will be. And growing up in the 1980s when the NF was once again seeking power, racism was attacked by a new generation of Black activists and Black politicians took their place as Labour MPs, we became very conscious of this issue and the need to combat it everywhere and every time it arose. One of the subjects Mike tackled in his attack on the false claims of anti-Semitism levelled against other Labour party members, was the racist abuse directed at Jackie Walker, the vice-chair of Momentum. Walker had attended a Holocaust Day training workshop organized by the Jewish Labour Movement, formerly Paole Zion, the British branch of the Israeli Labour party. She had then committed the unpardonable sin of objecting to the workshop’s exclusive focus on the suffering of the Jews to the exclusion of other groups, who have also suffered genocide. Her comments were secretly recorded, she was accused of anti-Semitism, and suspended from the party.

It is a farcical, shameful accusation from hypocrites and moral nullities. Walker is Jewish and a woman of colour. Her father was a Russian Jew, and her mother a Black American civil rights activist. They met during a civil rights march. Both sides of her family thus know only too well the reality of bigotry, racism and violent intolerance. After her comments were leaked, she suffered further racist abuse from those pretending to be the opponents of anti-Semitism. Mike discussed this in one of his posts, and the faceless Stalinists of the party bureaucracy accused him in turn of anti-Semitism. The NEC dismissed Mike’s concerns out of hand, and made a pompous statement that Mike’s very mention of the issue was

grossly offensive to those the Party seeks to represent particularly the Jewish community. Comments like these have had and continue to have a serious impact on the Party’s position as an inclusive organisation, which stands against antisemitism.

and ‘dismissive of anti-Semitism’.

Utter bilge!

Mike and some of the Jewish bloggers have shown the vile tweets directed at people like them on Twitter by Zionists, who very much claim that the focus should only be on the Jewish Holocaust. And the racist abuse suffered by Walker herself was appalling. Among the insults hurled at her was the charge that she couldn’t be Jewish, because she was Black. This is despite the fact that there are African Jews, of which the Falashas are probably the best known. Indeed, the Bible records that one of Moses’ wives came from Cush, which is now part of modern Ethiopia. There have been a number of documentaries and pieces by journalists exposing the violent racism in Israel against Black Africans, including Jews of Ethiopian heritage, who have come to Israel. Furthermore, the transatlantic Zionist right, or at least elements of it, also take the view that only Jewish suffering must be commemorated on Holocaust Memorial Day. Kathy Shaidle, an extreme right-wing Canadian Conservative/ Republican activist made that very clear on her blog, Five Feet of Fury. She took particular ire at Bernie Farber, the head of the main Canadian Jewish organization. Because Farber was a decent man, who felt Jews should sympathise and show solidarity with all other marginalized and persecuted groups. When Darfur in the Sudan was attacked and its people killed and rape by the Islamist Janjaweed militia, Farber organized a ‘Shabbat for Darfur’, a day of fasting and prayer in the Jewish tradition. Farber also had the temerity to take part in gay pride march to show his solidarity with Canada’s gay citizens. And Farber’s not alone in his views. As one left-wing, anti-racist Jewish activist said, to be a Jew is always to support the oppressed, never the oppressor.

There is no question that in making this accusation, the NEC were very much supporting racism. Mike makes that clear in his blog post about this issue, and condemns it as disgusting.

And when Mike argued against the accusation, posing awkward questions of his own, Cousins interrupted to prevent those presenting the accusations from answering. And when Mike succeeded in getting them to answer, it was clear why Cousins was so keen not to let the presenter answer the questions: she couldn’t. You can read Mike’s account of this over at his blog, at
https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/11/15/labours-ruling-committee-is-racist-the-evidence-is-undeniable/

Nor is Mike alone in finding the NEC’s and Maggie Cousin’s persecution of decent members of the Labour party under the pretext of combating anti-Semitism racist.

Jackie Walker made the same accusation in an event in Islington in May this year, 2018, which was part of a tour of the country by Marc Wadsworth, supported by the comedian Alexei Sayle, and Jackie Walker and others, including a number of Black anti-racism activists. Marc Wadsworth was the Black anti-racism campaigner, who was himself smeared by Ruth Smeeth and a complicit Tory press as an anti-Semite because of a remark he made about her passing on information to a Torygraph hack at Labour party meeting. Wadsworth didn’t know she was Jewish and made no reference to Jews in his comments. But Smeeth, a Zionist and Blairite, smeared him as an anti-Semite anyway.

And as with Walker, it’s a charge that is utterly ridiculous. Wadsworth was a dedicated campaigner, one of his whose achievements was getting the parents of the murdered Black teenager, Stephen Lawrence, to meet Nelson Mandela. He had also worked closely with the Board of Deputies of British Jews in fighting the BNP in the ’80s and ’90s after a series of anti-Semitic assaults in parts of London. He is very, very far from being an anti-Semite. But he was a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, and so the Blairite and Zionist right of the party chose to smear him in the campaign to topple the Labour leader.

And presiding over the kangaroo court that smeared him as an anti-Semite was – yes, you guessed it! – Maggie Cousins.

The three other Black speakers that evening were also concerned about the racist persecution of the Windrush generation, and anti-Black racism within the Labour party. They claimed that the report by Shami Chakrabarti on racism with in the Labour party, had been ignored when it came to other races. One of these speakers, Angela Lee, a presenter on the Genesis channel, was particularly concerned about low expectations of Black children and the higher rates of expulsion for them in schools, including those in Islington. See http://islingtontribune.com/article/the-muddle-around-a-conflict-within-labour

Cousins is a hard-right Zionist, but she isn’t a member of the Jewish Labour Movement or Jewish Voice for Labour on the other side, and so she masquerades as being impartial.

As for Zionism, non-Zionist Jews like Tony Greenstein and David Rosenberg have argued very strongly and convincingly that it is itself a deeply and perniciously racist ideology. It is anti-Semitic, in the sense that it is a capitulation to anti-Semitism. Its founder, Theodor Herzl, believed that anti-Semitism could not be overcome, and that Jews’ only hope lay in creating a state of their own, for which they should co-operate with anti-Semites. He thus praised Arthur Balfour, for passing the Aliens Act against eastern European Jewish immigration to Britain, as well as the British Brothers’ League, a racist organization campaigning against such immigration. The Zionist organization in Nazi Germany fully supported the racist Nuremberg Laws at the time other Jewish organization were campaigning against them. Its newspaper, the Judischer Rundschau, even told its readers that they should wear the yellow Star of David forced on them by Nazis with pride. Chaim Herzog opposed the kindertransport, which evacuated Jewish German children to Britain. He stated he’d prefer it if nearly all of the Jews in Germany were exterminated, if only a few went to the Jewish settlements in Palestine rather than the majority were saved by going to Britain. In Hungary, Rudolf kasztner made a deal with the Nazis to send some tens of thousands of Jews to the death camps, on the condition that some might be spared to go to Israel.

And Israel is still making alliance with real Nazis and anti-Semites, praising the far-right regimes in Poland and Hungary, and hosting British and American influential far right figures like Stephen Bannon, Richard Spencer and Tommy Robinson. And they have the same vile opportunism towards genuine anti-Semitic atrocities. After the Pittsburgh massacre last weekend, the Israeli ambassador to America claimed the rise in anti-Semitism in America was partly due to ‘left-wing activism on campus’. This was a coded attack on the BDS campaign, amongst other things. He also urged Jews to move to Israel.

The shooter had chosen the Tree of Life synagogue, because they were active helping asylum seekers come to America through a Jewish charity. An Israeli rapper notorious for his Fascistic lyrics odiously declared that you couldn’t blame the shooter and those like him, because they were fed up of liberal Jews interfering in their country’s politics.

Utterly, utterly repugnant.

There is also a very strong streak of what would be rightly seen as anti-Semitism if it came from gentiles in Zionist attacks on Israel-critical Jews. They are viciously attacked as ‘kapos’, with some wishing that their families had died in the Holocaust.

And David Rosenberg on his blog, Rebel Notes, has posted his account of how the Board of Deputies of British Jews in the 1980s was strongly opposed to Jews going on anti-racist marches when they were to protect and defend other racial groups. Thus meetings of Jewish anti-racists had to be held in venues like Quaker Meeting Houses because many synagogues closed their doors to them. The official reason was that the Board was afraid Jewish marchers would be exposed to anti-Zionist propaganda. But some left-wing campaigners believed the real reason was that the Conservative Jewish establishment wanted to keep them away from the Left.

And this is apart from Israel’s persecution of the Palestinians, its imprisonment of them in a system of apartheid and slow, ethnic cleansing. None of which can be defended, which is why Israel’s advocates smear those, who criticize it as anti-Semites.

This is what Cousins and Labour’s NEC are supporting: a vicious, hypocritical and persecutory ideology and state, which attacks real anti-racists and opponents of anti-Semitism. It is an ideology, who strongest advocates in Britain have never wanted British Jews to involve themselves in the struggles of other ethnic groups for equality and dignity. The Israel lobby in the Labour party wishes the genuine sufferings of Blacks in history to be ignored, rather than commemorated with that of the Jews. And for the marginalization of Labour’s Black members and those in Labour-run councils to continue in silence. Ken Livingstone was also concerned about Black representation in the Labour party. It’s in his book, Livingstone’s Labour. Which may well be another reason they smeared him as an anti-Semite.

So perhaps it’s about time we fought back, and named Cousins and the NEC for what they are, and tell them very firmly what we tell the BNP, National Action, the EDL and the rest of the thugs and bully-boys of the Far Right:

Off Our Streets, Fascist Scum!

New Series Next Tuesday on African Civilisations

May 23, 2018

Next Tuesday, 29th May 2018, at 10.00 pm there’s a new series beginning on BBC4 entitled Africa’s Great Civilisations. It’s a six part series, with the first part on ‘origins’. The blurb for it on page 77 of the Radio Times reads

Henry Louis Gates jnr. takes a new look at the history of Africa, from the birth of humankind to the dawn of the 20th century. he takes in the city of Great Zimbabwe, the pyramids of Meroe and the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia.

The little piece about it on page 75 by Gill Crawford also gives the following description of the show:

Celebrated African-American literary scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr presents this wide-ranging, grand-scale six-part history of the African continent, originally shown by the PBS network in the US.

In this first episode, we start in the heart of Ethiopia, where the story of humanity began. And while we now that many African peoples migrated away from the continent to create other societies, others stayed to form great civilisations in Egypt, Sudan and Nigeria, culminating in the Queen of Meroe who stood up to the might of the Roman Empire.

It’s a fest of splendours, and Gates is an eloquent guide.

There have been a number of series on African history over the years. Back in the 1980s the Black African historian, Dr. Ali Mazrui, and the White Afro-centrist historian, Basil Davidson, both presented series on Africa. Eight years ago in 2010 the Black art historian, Gus Casely-Hayford also presented a splendid four-part series on BBC 4, The Lost Kingdoms of Africa, on the continent’s pre-colonial civilisations. I also seem to recall a BBC4 programme, which I thought was presented by Aminatta Forna, but I might be wrong, on the great Islamic civilisation of medieval Timbuktu.

Africa has been the centre of some very advanced civilisations, such as Benin and its superb bronzes, Nubia and the Swahili of what is now Tanganyika. The Swahilis built their cities from coral, and covered them with a limewash made by burning the same material.

Ancient Meroe, however, remains a mystery. It was a literate civilisation, using Egyptian hieroglyphs, and they left inscriptions on their monuments, like their pyramids. However, their language is unrelated to any spoken today, and no parallel texts in known languages, like the Rosetta Stone for ancient Egyptian, have been found. So although we can read their tests, we’ve no idea what they mean. Who knows what wealth of information is in there? It’s all very frustrating. Grrr!

Radio Programmes on the Anniversary of the Birth of Israel Next Week

May 8, 2018

This year it’s the 70th anniversary of the birth of Israel, and Radio 4 are broadcasting a number of programmes next week marking the occasion. At 8.00 pm Tuesday, 15th May 2018, there’s Present at the Creation. The blurb about it in the Radio Times runs

On 14 May 1948, a few hundred people crammed into the Tel Aviv Museum of Art to hear a proclamation that would change the course of history-the establishment of the state of Israel. Jonathan Freedland meets the last two surviving eyewitnesses of the ceremony and gets a rare glimpse of the original document containing the declaration. Contributors include Palestinian foreign minister Nabil Sha’ath and Israeli novelist Amos Oz, both children on this momentous day.

Then at 11.00 am Thursday morning, 17th May 2018, the foreign affairs show Crossing Continents is on ‘Shades of Jewish in Israel’. This tackles the very controversial issue of Israeli racism. The blurb for this runs

Since its founding in 1948, Israel has seen itself as a safe haven for Jews from anywhere in the world who are seeking to escape persecution. But now that policy is under threat. As Jewish communities in Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya are finding, a debate has arisen about who is “Jewish enough” to qualify. David Baker investigates claims that decisions are being made not on the basis of ancestry or religious observance but on the colour of people’s skin.

And then at the same on Friday, historian Simon Schama is giving his personal view of the foundation and history of Israel. It’s entitled Israel at 70: A Personal Reflection, and the blurb runs:

Simon Schama was three in May 1948 when the state of Israel was born, and here he offers a personal account of the nation’s troubled and often bloody history, featuring contributors from Israeli and Palestinian historians and writers, a rabbi, entrepreneurs, and people working across borders for the exchange of resources. (p. 131).

The additional paragraph about it on page 130, by Simon O’Hagan, also states

Simon Schama presents this programme from the perspective of a British Jew who was three years old when the state of Israel came into being in 1948, and who feels that the Israel story and that of his own life have always been intertwined. He has, he says, followed Israel’s evolution with a mixture of “pride, anxiety, joy, and sometimes profound exasperation”. Arab voices share time with Jewish voices, and the tone of the programme is exemplary. Israel, Schama says, was made from a “dark crucible”, while for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, its formation was “Nakba”-“The Catastrophe”. The existential threat to Israel has never gone away, but there’s a striking note of optimism with which Schama concludes. An extremely moving half-hour.

Some of the Black African Jewish communities are likely to be extremely old. Herodotus in his Histories records an instance where the Jewish squaddies in garrison in Southern Egypt deserted, and headed over the border to Nubia. When their commander called out ‘What about your wives and children’, they pointed to their crotches to show that so long as they had everything down there, they’d also have wives and children.

The Falashas, who were a sect of Ethiopian Jews famously rescued from persecution by Israel in the 1980s are the most famous of the African Jewish communities, but there are many others. The kings of Ethiopia traced their descent from King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Each Ethiopian Orthodox church has an ark, though this term can cover any kind of box, so don’t get your hopes up about the Ark of the Covenant. These facts have been cited by some historians as indicating that the country may well have been Jewish before it converted to Christianity.

Tony Greenstein has reported on and discussed the immense racism in Israel against Black African Jews, as well as African asylum seekers trying to reach Europe, as part of his campaign to show just how racist the country is.

Simon Schama’s programme could also be interesting. Very interesting. The Palestinian Nakba is part of history. Amox Oz talks about it in his book, The Israelis, though it’s definitely not widely known. And I’ve no doubt the Israel lobby in this country, the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, Jewish Labour Movement, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the rest of them would very much like that to stay. It’ll be interesting to hear if the programme mentions that the Palestinians were subject to a series of terrible massacres, and that 400 villages were destroyed. Or if the Beeb will simply go along with the old Zionist lie that they all left in terror of their own accord, and there were only a couple of massacres. Either way, I expect the Israel lobby will be listening very closely, ready to accuse the Beeb and Schama of ‘anti-Semitism’.

The Beeb probably feels that Schama may well have a better chance of escaping this smear. He’s a very well respected historian, and has presented his own ‘History of the Jews’, now being repeated on BBC4. I wish him the best of luck with that, as the Israel lobby and Likudnik politicians have also smeared very definitely self-respecting Jews and Beeb foreign correspondents as anti-Semites when they’ve mentioned awkward facts. Like Israel’s massacres of the Palestinians, or those of its Christian allies in Lebanon. As Mike pointed out, Natalie Portman was accused of it after she was awarded the Genesis prize for being such an excellent role model for Jews. Portman wouldn’t go to Israel because of the dodgy situation at the time to collect it, and so Likud and the rest of them went berserk. She was accused of being self-hating, part of the BDS movement – she isn’t, and made that very plain-and one Likudnik Member of the Knesset demanded that she be stripped of her Israeli citizenship.

Likud and the Israel lobby in Britain demand absolute obedience to the narrative they want to present, even when it contravenes well-established historical fact. And no matter how big or respected someone is, no matter if they’re Jewish or gentile, and how sincere they are fighting racism and real anti-Semitism, they will attempt to smear and destroy them.

These programmes sound fascinating.
The Israel lobby and their smears on the other hand, are utterly despicable.

Radio Programme on Sylvia Pankhurst’s Support for Ethiopia against the Fascist Invasion

February 1, 2018

There are a number of programmes next week marking the centenary of the passage of the Representation of the People Act, which gave some women the right to vote. One of the most interesting of these looks like a programme on Radio 4 on Monday, 5th February 2018, at 8.00 pm, Sylvia Pankhurst: Honorary Ethiopian. The brief description of it in the Radio Times runs

Suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst got involved in the Ethiopian cause following its invasion by Italy in 1935 , and would later be recognised as an honorary citizen and given a state funeral. Here, Helen Pankhurst explores her grandmother’s role in the fight for Ethiopian independence.

Bristol and Bath have a connection to Ethiopia’s struggle for independence, as those cities were the home of Haile Selassie’s children during the War. They used to go to Victoria Park, though I think this was the one in Bath rather than Bristol.

There were some western intellectuals, who sided with the Italians during their invasion. One of these was Lady Kathleen Simon, who wrote a book on slavery. The Ethiopian emperor, Menelik II, had formally ended slavery in the country, but slaving still went on. British officers like Major Darnley, the author of Slaves and Ivory, complained that Ethiopian slavers were crossing the border to abduct the indigenous peoples of Uganda, then very much part of the British empire. His book was an account of his undercover mission into Ethiopia and a description of the way various provinces had been devastated by slave raiding by the Ethiopian aristocracy. It was partly written as a piece of polemic. Darnley was incensed that the authorities were taking no action against the slavers, and that in fact an area in Uganda around the border with Ethiopia had been declared a ‘no-go zone’ to British personnel. At the end of his book he argued that we should invade and conquer Ethiopia in order to halt their raiding into British territory, as well as the horrors of slavery and the slave trade in Ethiopia itself.

I don’t think Darnley supported the Italians, but Simon certainly did. At the end of her book, entitled simply Slavery, she also discusses Ethiopian slavery and slave raiding, and praises the Italian invasion as she believed that it would put a halt to it. I don’t think Mussolini had much of an interest in slavery, if any. He was far more keen to build a mighty new Roman empire. And issues like personal freedom certainly were very much not the concern of the man, who invented totalitarianism. Still, Simon’s book shows how some members of the British aristocracy supported Italian Fascist imperialism for ostensibly liberal motives.

History Today on the UN, the Holocaust, and Post-1945 Genocides

October 12, 2016

I found the definition of Genocide according to the UN’s Genocide Convention, and a list of genocides that have occurred since 1945 in an article by Ronnie Landau, ‘Never Again?’ in the March 1994 issue of History Today, pp. 6-8. Landau was the head of Humanities at the City Literary Institute, and the author of The Nazi Holocaust, published by I.B. Tauris in 1992. Her article traces the origins of the word and the concept of genocide, coined by the international jurist Raphael Lemkin in 1943, examining and criticising the repeated failure of the international community to stop genocides recurring and to bring the perpetrators to justice. The article is worth discussing here, as it deals with many of the issues involved in the latest anti-Semitism smears against Jackie Walker.

Landau notes in the article that Lemkin was concerned not just with the punishment of existing crimes against humanity, but also with prevent further atrocities. The UN responded three year later, in 1946, by setting up a committee to consider drafting a convention on such crimes. The committee’s provisional definition of genocide declared it to be ‘deliberate acts committed with the intent to destroy a national, racial, religious or political group on grounds of the national or racial origin, religious belief or political opinion of its members.’ This led to the final Convention, which left out the references to economic and political groups. (p. 6).

The UN Convention on genocides states that

Genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy in whole or in part, a national, ethnical racial or religious group, as such:

A) Killing members of the group;
B) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
C) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
D) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
E) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Landau goes on to describe how various nations attempted to eviscerate this convention. The Soviets did so by stating that genocide, like the Holocaust, was the result of decaying imperialism and implied that the convention would be inapplicable in the future. In the Soviet bloc, the Holocaust was considered part of the wider crimes by the Nazis against the peoples of eastern Europe. Furthermore, the UN caused massive popular outrage around the world by failing to invoke the Convention against Pol Pot and the vile Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. This has resulted in many believing that the UN has lost its right to be regarded as a serious preventative force against such mass murders.

The article goes on to list the post-1945 atrocities, which may be defined as genocide according to the UN Convention as follows:

The Bengalis, 1971;
the Hutu of Burundi, 1972;
Ache Indians of Paraguay, 1968-72;
Kampucheans, 1975-79;
East Timor Islanders, 1975-present;
The French against the Algerians, 1945-62;
Governing Sudanese against Black Christians in South Sudan, 1955-present;
Post-Sukarno regime against Indonesian Communists, 1965-70;
General Pinochet in Chile against political opposition 1965-67;
Nigerian army against Ibo people in Biafra, 1966-70;
Guatemalan army against Mayan Indians, 1980-present;
Ethiopian regime against Tigre and Eritreans, 1980-present;
Iraqi government against Kurds, 1988 and 1991;
Pakistan, later Bangladesh, against Chittagong Hill Tract tribes, late 1940s-present;
Brazilian and Paraguayan governments against Ache and other Amerindians, 1960s-present.
Communist China against Tibet, 1959-present;
Indonesia against West Papua, 1969-present.
Stalin’s regime against the Communist party and selected elements of the population, up to 1953;
Macias government of Equatorial Guinea, 1968-79;
Idi Amin against the Ugandans, and particularly the Ugandan Asians, 1972-85;
the Argentinian junta against the ‘Left’, 1978-79. (p. 7).

The article then discusses the issue of whether aging Nazis should be tried for their complicity in the Holocaust, especially as those responsible for other horrors, such as Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein et al have never been hunted down or punished. It also notes that the Nuremberg Trials were remarkable in that they were ever held at all. When Landau was writing, there had been no further international trials either of Nazis or other genocides. She also states that there is a clear difference between the treatment of homicide and genocide. Those responsible for individual murders know that this is a crime, and that the police and other authorities will attempt to arrest and punish them. This is in contrast to genocides, who, as people in authority, rarely feel remorse, or are found guilty and punished.

She also discusses the difficulties in treating each genocide as equally serious, and not privileging the extermination of one group over others. She states

How can the international community show even-handedness i9n their investigation of such monstrous crimes, and thus avoid the construction of a hierarchy of suffering which condemns some genocides and atrocities to virtual oblivion, while others remain at the forefront of our consciousness? While preserving the distinctiveness and unique character of each genocide, are we prepared to make ‘connections’ between different genocides- identify common features – which may enable us to establish early warning systems to prevent the continuing abuse, persecution and destruction of groups, and the possible obliteration of cultures? (p. 8).

She goes on to discuss some of the features common to genocides, which may allow for its effective prosecution and prevention.

She also raises the question of whether it is possible to formulate a new code, based on previous conventions and what has been learned from the Nazi Holocaust, to set up systems for the international monitoring of potential genocides, with, if necessary, the deployment of UN forces. She then goes on to criticise current international inactivity over the war crimes in Bosnia, and compares it to the dilatory stance the international community took to the Holocaust, which led to the deaths of 6 million Jews and 5 1/2 million other innocents before the Nazi regime was wiped from the Earth.

The Holocaust, Jackie Walker and the Anti-Semitism Allegations

This article is acutely relevant to the latest smear against Jackie Walker, the former vice-chair of Momentum. Walker was accused and dismissed from her post because she had behaved ‘insensitively’ at a Labour party training day on Holocaust Memorial Day, because she had raised the issue of why it should not include other Holocausts. The organisers have claimed that it does, but this is refuted by the fact that it does not cover genocides committed before 1945. The definition of anti-Semitism they used also considers as anti-Semitic criticism of Israel, because of which it is not generally accepted. Furthermore, her Jewish supporters in Momentum have pointed out that the Israeli authorities and academics consider the Holocaust to be an experience unique to Jews. This list shows that this is clearly not the case, and that Walker was quite right to question the unique focus on the Jewish Holocaust.

This sole focus of the Israelis on the Jewish Holocaust also raises the issue of whether Israel can be considered an enabler of genocide. Israel is certainly guilty of the mass murder of Palestinians, and has followed a policy of ethnic cleansing of its indigenous Arab population since its foundation. In that sense, it would be guilty of genocide. But as Landau notes, the formulation of the whole concept of genocide by Lemkin was intended to prevent it from recurring. In this, the Jewish experience of the Holocaust was seen not just as unique in itself, but also an example of the horrors perpetrated against multitudes of others. By stressing the uniqueness of the Shoah, the Israeli authorities are undercutting part of the historical framework for the prosecution of other, similar crimes.

Finally, the initial smear against Jackie Walker as an anti-Semite came from a very selectively argued complaint about a conversation she was having on Facebook several months previously with two others. There she discussed Jewish complicity – but crucially, not complete responsibility – in the slave trade. But her point was to do exactly what Landau also raised in her article – make the point that there should be no ‘hierarchy of suffering’ which privileges some groups over others.

Tony Greenstein, one of the others, who was suspended from the Labour party by the Blairites for unspecified thoughtcrimes, has written an excellent article in the Weekly Worker demanding that Walker should be reinstalled as Momentum’s vice-chair and criticising Lansman, Momentum’s leader, for caving in to the Zionists. Mike over at Vox Political has reblogged Mr Greenstein’s article, with his own comments. He notes that Mrs Walker has a case for prosecuting those involved in the smears for libel and invasion of privacy under the data protection act. And as I’ve mentioned in a previous piece, far from being anti-Semitic, Mrs Walker’s discussion of the involvement of some Jews in the slave trade is certain not unique. Other historians have also, including several mentioned by Mrs Walker herself in her statement clarifying her comments.

The Israel lobby, as I have said before, are smearing decent people as anti-Semites, simply because they dare to criticise Israel and its ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. In doing so, and insisting on the Holocaust as an experience unique to Jews, they are obstructing its application as a template of what constitutes genocides to other cases, and are therefore weakening the ability of the international community to protect other groups. This is to be resisted, as is the smearing of individuals.

The Pre-Fascist Solution to Corporate Influence in Parliament

September 3, 2016

I had the bizarre experience of finding that something I’d written about getting rid of the problem of the corporate corruption of parliament was right. I was reading through Adrian Lyttelton’s book on the rise of Fascist Italy, The Seizure of Power: Fascism in Italy, 1919-1929. There’s a section, where he discusses the way Mussolini used partly-nationalised industries to develop those sectors of the economy, that private industry couldn’t. In this case, I think it’s probably one of the very few areas where Mussolini was doing something right. This does not make his dictatorship, with its beatings, torture and murder of dissidents, the imperialism and the organised massacres of Arabs, Ethiopians, Yugoslavs and the deportations of Jews to the death camps any less the disgusting. It just means that occasionally, even the worst regimes can do something right, on the principle that a broken watch is still correct twice a day.

But the use of partly-nationalised industries predated Fascism. It had been started by the Liberals as a response to the entry of businessmen into the Italian parliament, wanting something to be done for their companies. Now in a previous blog post, discussing how we should deal with the corporate corruption of parliamentary politics, I suggested that we should have a workers’ chamber to balance the influence of the businessmen in the House of Commons, and nationalise their companies, as well as the outsourcing firms. And now I’ve read, that part-nationalisation was same solution – more or less – that Italian liberalism adopted.

So all I can say is, it seems I was right! Or if not, at least that others tried the same solution. Viva Italia, and a basta Thatcherismo!