Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

‘I’ Newspaper Smears Corbyn’s Labour as Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theorists: Part 3

March 10, 2019

The next anti-Semitic conspiracy theory Verber claims is held by people in the Labour party is ‘Twisting or denying the facts of the holocaust’. The example he gives of this is ‘Chris Williamson’s series of unfortunate events’. He writes of this conspiracy theory

Wander into any coffee shop in Tel Aviv and you will hear all manner of Israelis criticising the government of the day. But none of the Nazis’ anti-Semitic policies are remotely similar to any passed by Israel. The Nazis set out to murder every Jew in Europe and then – had they got their way – across the globe.

Each innocent Palestinian life that has been lost in the conflict with Israel is a tragedy, as it every Israeli life. But Gaza is not Auschwitz. Comparing the two is a lie, a low blow deliberately calculated to cause hurt and pain to a community still in trauma.

Other versions of this conspiracy theory include attempts to play down the Holocaust’s significance or event to question its existence.

Now look what’s being done here. It’s a classic example of ‘bait and switch’. For most people, ‘twisting or denying the facts of the Holocaust’ would mean straight out Holocaust denial, or the noxious variants of it that minimise the numbers murdered. But that’s not what concern Verber. He’s upset because, gasp, some people are comparing Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians to the Nazis. His statement that none of Israel’s policies are comparable to the Nazis is a flat-out lie. Firstly, Israel is an apartheid state. Only Jews can be citizens. This is identical to the Nazis’ policy that only ethnic Germans could be German citizens. The country’s indigenous Arabs also live under separate laws and may only use specific roads. Many municipalities in Israel have passed legislation forbidding property to be let to non-Jews. Furthermore, the country was born partly through a series of massacres against the Arabs. Those making the claim that Israel resembles Nazi Germany, like Tony Greenstein, qualify that statement by saying that it is like Nazi Germany before the launch of the Holocaust in 1942. Gaza is not Auschwitz, as Verber says. But I don’t think anyone has said it was. It has, however, been described as an open-air ghetto.

As for comparisons to Nazi Germany being hurtful to a community still in trauma, this is massively hypocritical. Israelis accuse their politicians of being Nazis all the time. There was even a cartoon in one newspaper of Netanyahu in Nazi uniform.

Now we come to what Verber calls ‘Chris Williamson’s series of unfortunate events’. This begins with Williamson signing a petition against Islington Council’s banning of Jazz saxophonist Gilad Atzmon, a Holocaust denier. Verber notes that he later claimed that he didn’t know about Atzmon’s views. It’s possible. Atzmon considers himself to be a supporter of the Palestinians, although the mainstream Palestinian solidarity movement doesn’t want to have anything to do with him because of his toxic views about Jews. But Atzmon is hardly a household name, and if the petition claimed that he was being banned because of his support for the Palestinians, then it’s quite possible that Williamson signed it in all innocence.

But there is more half-truths and malign insinuations that follow. He states that Williamson has several times shared a platform with Jackie, who has been suspended for falsely accusing Jews of financing the slave trade and playing down the importance of the Holocaust, and defended Ken Livingstone, who said that Hitler supported Zionism. I’ve dealt with the accusations against Walker and Livingstone ad nauseam. Neither of the two are racist, and especially not Walker, who is a Black Jew, believes in Judaism as a religion, sends her daughter to a Jewish school, and has a Jewish partner. The quote the CAA used to claim that she believes Jews financed the slave trade was lifted out of context from a personal discussion with three friends, where it was understood that she was talking about how some Jews financed and profited from the slave trade. Which is true, as she cites the literature and authorities to back up her comment. As for downplaying the importance of the Holocaust, she did no such thing. She was secretly recorded by the Jewish Labour Movement at their Holocaust Memorial Day workshop questioning the exclusive focus on Jews at the expense of other ethnicities, that have also suffered Holocausts. She also asked them to give her a definition of anti-Semitism she could work with. When Marc Wadsworth asked the same question at his tribunal, when he was smeared as an anti-Semite, the tribunal called for an adjournment. When they returned, it was accompanied with four lawyers, all arguing. Walker was singled out because she did not accept the I.H.R.A. definition of anti-Semitism, because it is used to suppress criticism of Israel. As for Leninspart, he was right about Hitler and Zionism. Before the Final Solution was introduced, the Nazis were keen to find anyway of getting rid of Germany’s Jews. And this meant sending them to Israel through the short-lived Ha’avara Agreement. Which is historical fact.

Verber also goes on to say that Williamson has warned of ‘certain dark forces ‘ using their contacts in the media and power to undermine Corbyn. But as we’ve seen, there is abundant evidence to show that these fears are not unfounded, not least as regards Israel.

Verber concludes this section with the words

Outright Holocaust denial has been moved to the fringes even of the world occupied by conspiracy theorists. Given the vacuum, new and more subtle ways of trivialising and attacking the Holocaust have had to be created.

Well I dare say, but this doesn’t apply to criticism of Israel for ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians or the smears against Walker and Livingstone. The last two haven’t denied or played down the Holocaust at all, and neither has Williamson. This is just more lies and smears from him, to try to make them seem anti-Semitic monsters.

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Moshe Machover, Israeli Anti-Zionist, Speaking at Labour Against the Witchhunt Meeting

March 2, 2019

This is another excellent video from the public meeting of Labour Against the Witchhunt on the 29th January last year, 2019. LAW was founded to stand up for people, who had been unfairly targeted by the right in the Labour party for expulsion, chiefly, but not exclusively, on bogus charges of anti-Semitism. Although one young woman was suspended or expelled because – gasp! Shock! Horror! – She was a fan of the Foo Fighters! LAW’s chair is Jackie Walker, a Black, Jewish anti-racist activist, who was falsely accused of anti-Semitism. Here she introduces Professor Moshe Machover, a very well respected Israeli mathematician and a staunch critic of Zionism. Here he tells the story of how he was also smeared, expelled and re-admitted for ‘supporting another party/not supporting another party’.

Walker states that many people were uplifted when the NEC were forced to go back on their knee-jerk response and reinstate him. This happened because they were at the Labour party conference and the offending article that many have spoken about that Moshe wrote, which touched on some of the issues that Ken [Loach?] spoke about, was in a paper on the side. And Jeremy Newmark, the chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, came out, took a photo of them, smiled, and said something like ‘Well, we’ll have you now.’ Within hours Machover had been fingered. What is extraordinary is that in two years, 18 months, more people have been suspended and still do not know what the allegations against them are. It is extraordinary that at times, given that, Labour’s disciplinary unit can respond so quickly. She then hands over the Mike to Prof Machover.

Machover’s rather elderly, so he apologises for speaking from a sitting position. He states he wants to make a few technical points. It is not only about false allegations of anti-Semitism. There are two things that are combined, and in his case they were combined. The allegations of anti-Semitism are the most despicable, they are a form of character assassination. But they can only suspend you for it. They did not use that allegation to expel him. There is a more draconian rule that was used him against him and many other people, which has zilch to do with allegations of anti-Semitism. It is the infamous Rule 2.14.4b in the Labour party rule book. This allows the bureaucrats not to suspend, but to expel automatically. The procedure shares with the allegation of anti-Semitism the absence of natural justice. There is no due process. This is about who the accuser, the prosecution and the judge are. They are the same people: the committee that is expelling you or adjudicating in your suspension. They are the judges and the prosecution. You cannot cross-examine the witnesses. You cannot know who is accusing you. This applies to both cases. The draconian rule that allows automatic expulsion, or prevent you joining the party. Some of this would be just, if it was accompanied by due procedure, natural justice. For example, if you demand people vote for a rival candidate to a Labour candidate in an election. That would be a just case for expulsion. If someone is caught with a bloody knife over a corpse, they still have a trial. They’re not sent to prison automatically. Unlike this rule.

And some of the ground for automatic expulsion are absolutely absurd, a bureaucrat’s dream. This is membership or support for a political organisation not affiliated to the Labour party. But they do not define what a political organisation is. It could be Refuge. It could be Momentum [which was not at the time affiliated to the Labour party]. it could be anything. And what does ‘support’ mean? In Machover’s case, it was comical. Membership is a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ thing. But what does ‘support’ mean? They accused him of supporting a rival organisation. Why did they pick on this organisation? They did not call for voting against Labour. On the contrary, they encouraged people to vote for Labour candidates. What does support me? It’s not a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ issue. He supports some things, but not others. He says he did not respond to that part of the question when the bureaucrats wrote to him about it, because he didn’t really give him any definition of what support meant. When he was expelled, the evidence against him was the article he had published in the weekly journal of the CPGB [Communist Party of Great Britain]. This is something a lot of people do. Jeremy Corbyn has published many articles in the Morning Star, a lot of Labour leaders have published articles in journals inimical to the Labour Party. When they grudgingly reinstated him they said that they construed his reply as evidence that he did not support this organisation. He did not admit or deny support, but they arbitrarily decided that first he did, then he didn’t. That shows the arbitrariness of the whole procedure.

Coming to the accusations of anti-Semitism, it is true, as Walker said, that the accusations started when Corbyn became a candidate. That was a shift of gear in a campaign that started a few years previously, which had little to do with the Labour party, Britain, or specifically Jeremy Corbyn. It is a campaign orchestrated by the Israeli government, specifically by the Ministry of Strategic Affairs led by the cabinet minister Gilad Erdan. This was a response to Israeli’s declining reputation and falling support internationally,  among the left but also among liberal opinion, and particularly among the young, including young Jewish people. And so they decided to fight against it by accusing people who were against Israel and its crimes, and against the Zionist project of colonisation, branding them as anti-Semites. And the bastards fight dirty. You don’t need to go further than look at the al-Jazeera expose. He recommends that if you haven’t watched the four part series, you should, as he found it personally entertaining in a macabre way, but also import to see how the whole thing works.  He then goes to make the following points:

The campaign against Corbyn by the right, including the Labour right, which still holds very important bureaucratic positions, latched onto it and used it as a cudgel against Corbyn. This was a confluence of those who believed in Israel almost like a religion, who were prepared to eat alive anyone who dared to make even the most justified criticism of Israel. This coincided with the people on the right, both inside and outside the Labour party, who care zilch about Israel, Palestinians and anti-Semitism. They just want to use anti-Semitism as a weapon against Jeremy Corbyn personally. This is combined with a characteristic of the elite, not just in this country, but generally in the international community, in what used to be called ‘the free world’. This is led by the United States, which is led by, you know who. And Israel is playing a very important role for the US, not only as their regional watchdog, but as their supplier globally of the hardware and software of mass repression, such as the drones used not just for reconaissance but also assassination. Israel is the United State’s rottweiler, which is at the head of the international community. And so if that rottweiler pisses on your shoe, you don’t kick it, but say ‘Good dog! Good dog!’

He then ends his talk with a remark about Momentum. Many branches of Momentum mobilised to pass resolutions in his defence and in the defence of other victims. But where are Momentum’s national leaders? John Lansman, Momentum’s leader, is on record as saying ‘You mustn’t mention Zionism.’ But you can’t open an Israeli paper without Zionism being discussed – ‘Is it consonant with Zionism, is it not consonant with Zionism?’ Zionism is the ideology of Israel. It is not possible to mention Israel without mentioning Zionism, like Communism was the ideology of the old Soviet Union. What stops the central leadership of Momentum from saying a word about this. He thinks they should raise this question.

Jackie Walker Speaking at Labour Against the Witchhunt Public Meeting

March 2, 2019

This is a video I found on YouTube of the superb Black Jewish anti-racist activist, Jackie Walker, speaking at a public meeting of Labour Against the Witchhunt on the 29th January 2018. Labour Against the Witchhunt is a group founded to protest against the anti-Semitic smears and expulsions of decent party members and activists. Among its founders and leaders are Tony Greenstein, a long-time Jewish enemy of racism and Zionism as well as Walker herself. Also present on the panel with her is the Israeli mathematician and anti-Zionist intellectual, Moshe Machover, and Marc Wadsworth, the Black anti-racist activist, who was smeared by Ruth Smeeth.

It begins with Walker introducing herself and stating that she is the chair of Labour Against the Witchhunt. She has not only been suspended, but processed by Labour’s NEC and she is still waiting to hear when she will have a hearing by the NCC, the highest court in Labour. The explains that she is mentioning this because the structures of the Labour party have a lot to do with the reason they were meeting that evening. They don’t just want to see individuals like Moshe Machover being let off, but also a revision of the disciplinary process. Two or three years ago, before Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour party there was no link between the Left and anti-Semitism. There was no link between the left and abuse, and if you had said that at the time people’s mouths would have fallen open. But the smears started when Corbyn became a candidate. And suddenly things began to appear in the press and the media – stories about abuse, misogyny and anti-Semitism. She says its extraordinary, and it was an extraordinary learning curve for her about how the media in this country works.

At LAW they don’t want to see the end of all disciplinary processes, because every organisation needs them. What they want to see are proper disciplinary processes that are appropriate for a party that has a proud record of defending the oppressed, in terms of being the party that wants justice and transparency. She notes that many people there were trade unionists, and says that as trade unionists they would be appalled if they had to defend people in tribunals with processes like Labour’s. For example, you may not know all the charges against you until you actually arrive on the day. You may not be able to pay for representation, as the party insists you have to have an acting solicitor who speaks for you. You cannot just take a friend, who will represent you. You cannot know who you accusers are. She says that in fact your accusers are protected more than you are. She says that as someone who has had her personal data not just sent to the papers, but to all the news media. And she had it tweeted out from what must have been a closed session of the NEC. They want to see the kind of processes that are right and apt for the type of organisation they have.

They are also not rejecting the fact that racism exists in the Labour party. The Labour party is a reflection of society as a whole. Except usually it’s better than society as a whole. Racism exists. Anti-Semitism exists. But it exists at a level a lot lower than in the Tory party. How dare the Tory party with Boris Johnson point his finger at us as racists with his attitudes towards people of colour and others. She says that proudly as a picaninny with even more than a watermelon smile.

Very soon after the smears against Corbyn started he was being called a terrorist. They got that footage and they did what they did to all Labour activists – they cut it how they wanted and took it out of context. I’m sure Ken [Loach] could make any of us look saints and sinners using his skills, and they made Corbyn out to be a terrorist sympathiser. This is the MP that has probably had the reputation in the last 20 or 30 years of being the person who stands out the most for civil rights and anti-racism. The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism has had over a hundred articles suggesting that Jeremy Corbyn is an anti-Semite. You could say that they are just another bunch of trolls, except that the disciplinary unit are using material from them against people like herself, Greenstein, and Wadsworth. What is happening in an organisation that is falling over itself to discredit its own leader?

She says that she thinks the LAW was established, it has been hugely successful. And one of the reasons is that they are not just interested in people, who have been hauled up with false allegations of anti-Semitism. This is important, as in the last leadership election a woman was suspended because she liked the Foo Fighters. The Foo Fighters are a pop group, and Walker says she thinks somebody in the NEC didn’t know who they were or read the charge properly. They suspended hundreds of Corbyn supporters at that time, and one of the accusations made against Walker and some of the others is that they have said that there is a witchhunt against the Left. The irony is that if you say that there is a witchhunt against the left, you are guilty of being anti-Semitic, or abusive, or something. It’s quite, quite a laugh.

Since the LAW was established they’ve held very successful public meetings, they’ve had a really good lobby of the NEC, which she hopes people will continue to support. That lobby was followed by the media, and they even had excerpts on TV, which is extraordinary, as many of those, who have been suspended, have found it impossible to get their voices out into the media.

So what is the way forward? Walker suggests that one way is to insist that the party implement the findings of the Chakrabarti Commission. She would like Chakrabarti to go further. Here is a party that commissioned the report, the report disappears from its website, to reappear after inquiries, but it still waits to be implemented. And those of the party, who have not appeared yet before the NEC and NCC should not be processed until the Chakrabarti recommendations have actually been put through. Labour stands for justice, for justice for the small people against power, and this is what Labour Against the Witchhunt is about, and she hopes that the audience will encourage people join and attend their events.

Sinn Fein Senator Niall O’Donnghaile Demands Expulsion of Israeli Ambassador over Gaza

February 12, 2019

This is a video posted on YouTube by the Sinn Fein senator, Niall O’Donghaile, of his speech in the Irish Senate last May demanding sanctions against Israeli and the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador for Israel’s continued bombing of Gaza and the genocide of the Palestinian people.

Senator O’Donghaile pays due tribute to the efforts of the Dublin government to reach a diplomatic solution to the crisis, but he rejects this approach. He says it assumes that the conflict is between two equal countries, and that Israel is interested in diplomacy. They are not. And the bombing is not a one-off situation either. It is part of the continued genocide of the Palestinian people. He also says that the Americans would block any diplomatic attempt to end the Israeli action. He states that they know from their own history when to support diplomacy and when not. He therefore calls on the Irish government to boycott Israeli goods and follow South Africa’s example and expel the Israeli ambassador. He also states that, as Ireland has also suffered from imperialism and colonialism, they should stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people.

I realise that this going to be a controversial video, not least because of the speaker. I remember how Sinn Fein was the mouthpiece of the IRA during the Troubles and the carnage caused by Ulster terrorists. I am also very much aware that it was through efforts of Sinn Fein politicians like Gerry Adams that the Good Friday Agreement was reached and peace and normality returned to the Six Counties. A peace that remains fragile, and has been upset thanks to the breakdown of government at Stormont and Brexit, which threatens the open border to the South.

And I am also very much aware how desperate the Tories and their lackeys in the press and media have been to find any link between Jeremy Corbyn and Irish Republican terrorism, as well as Palestinian and Arab groups.

But Senator O’Donnghaile is right here, and his speech is a very statesmanlike summary of the realities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Israeli state is not interested in a just and equitable peace. It is only interested in carrying through its decades long policy of the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. The speech also shows that I was correct in linking the Irish boycott of Israeli goods from the Occupied Territories with the Irish nationalist campaign against British imperialism. And possibly more closely than Mr. O’Donnghaile realizes. A few weeks ago Tony Greenstein put up on his blog a very long piece describing how Britain promoted and armed Saudi Arabia in the 1920s to attack and overthrow the traditional Arab and Muslim authority in the region because they would not support the region’s partition and continued to support the Palestinians against the nascent Jewish settlements. And it was very much about preserving and extending British power in the region.

After Ireland passed its BDS legislation, Netanyahu went on a predictable rant about them being anti-Semitic – they weren’t: Ireland still recognizes Israel and purchases Israeli goods. They just won’t purchase them if they’re made in the West Bank. The Israelis also called in the Irish ambassador for a telling off.

Senator O’Donnghaile says in his speech that Ireland is a small country on the world stage. Which is true. But as I pointed out in a previous post, Ireland has massive cultural cachet through its music and literature, especially in America and Australia, which have very strong Irish populations. In America the Irish formed a major constituency for the Democrats, at least in New York, while I understand that in Australia they were the backbone of the Labor Party. What Ireland says or does about an issue therefore carries weight far above the country’s economic or demographic figures.

I’m also very sure that Mr O’Donnghaile’s speech is what Israel fears the most, and why the Israel lobby has been so keen to smear Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters as anti-Semites. They are afraid of him standing up in parliament to make a speech like this, and of Britain also passing BDS legislation. Hence also Shai Masot’s shenanigans a year or so ago, where he took it upon himself to decide who should be in Theresa May’s cabinet, forcing Alan Duncan out because he was insufficiently loyal to Israel.

Unlike Ireland, Britain is a major economic power. Or we were up to the point the Tories decided to wreck it with their inept plans for Brexit. If we ban goods produced in the Occupied Territories, it will be a profound blow. And it would encourage more countries to begin criticizing Israel. And the Israeli state cannot tolerate that. We can expect more hysterical denunciations of decent people for anti-Semitism as the Israelis try to stop more people following Ireland’s example.

Netanyahu Rages as Eire Passes Pro-BDS Legislation

February 10, 2019

Last week the Israel lobby was on the warpath again. We had the Blairites and Likud sycophants in the Labour demanding that Jenny Formby show them what’s being done to root out all the anti-Semites they claim are in the party, the Jewish Labour Movement, formerly Paole Zion, and the recidivist liars and Fascist shills the Jewish Chronicle hysterically proclaiming that there was a culture of anti-Semitism within Labour. And Rachel Riley, Frances Barber and their army of trolls tried attacking Mike and Owen Jones as anti-Semites, and got their rear ends royally handed to them. And Wes Streeting decided that he could combat Jew hatred by falsely accusing a 70-year old woman of it and doxing her.

This video below from the Middle East Monitor might explain why some of that rage and fear suddenly erupted. The Dail – the Irish parliament – a fortnight ago passed legislation banning Israeli exports from the Occupied Territories. And predictably Netanyahu was not amused, and accused the Emerald Isle of anti-Semitism.

The video’s just under two minutes long, and begins with footage from the Irish parliament of Fianna Fail senator Niall Collins saying, ‘We need to do the right thing here and that is what that legislation simply sets out to do. The video explains that the Irish parliament has passed a bill banning the import of Israeli settlement goods. Senator Collins asks, ‘Why should we turn a blind eye to blatant and flagrant breaches and abuses of international law?’ This video goes to say that the legislation

‘would make Ireland the first EU country to take such a bold action against the Israeli occupation despite attempts by the US and Israel to thwart it. The bill was backed by all of Ireland’s opposition parties and was voted in with an overwhelming majority of 78-45.’

The video then shows Frances Black, an Independent senator, explaining that ‘The Occupied Territories bill is a modest piece of legislation that stands up for basic human rights and international law.’ It then moves to Senator Collins, who says, “It simply isn’t good enough condemning the ongoing expansion of settlements across the West Bank’.

It then goes back to scenes inside the Dail, and explains that ‘after the vote Israel reprimanded the Irish ambassador, and quotes the office of Israeli prime minister Netanyahu. Which ranted

‘Israel is outraged over the legislation against it in the Irish parliament, which is indicative of hypocrisy and anti-Semitism.’

It then goes back to a speech by Senator Collins, in which he very effectively rebuts these accusations by Netanyahu’s minions. He says,

‘This outrage and offence which has been built up by Israel that we’re somehow anti-Semitic. We’re not! We recognize the state of Israel and we will trade with them but they are on the off-side line in terms of the Occupied Territories.’

The video goes on to say that ‘the move is seen as a great victory for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.’ It quotes a tweet from Senator Black, who said ‘Ireland will always stand for international law + human rights, & we’re one step closer to making history, Onwards!’ The backdrop to the tweet shows a group of Irish and Palestinian adults and children, a Palestinian man wearing the distinctive keffiyeh, while the kids have the tricolor on the cheeks in facepaint.

The law very obviously isn’t anti-Semitic. It’s not against Jews nor Israel as a whole. It’s only against Israeli goods produced in occupied Palestine. Now I’m sure there are anti-Semites along with other varieties of racist in Ireland, and the country, like just about every other western nation including America and the nascent Jewish colony in Palestine also had a Fascist movement. This was Owen O’Duffy and his Blue Shirts. They fought in the Spanish Civil War but seem to have vanished after that. I’ve certainly not heard of them surviving into the Second World War. I doubt most people in Ireland and elsewhere have even heard of them. They’re only claim to fame is that the great Irish poet, W.B. Yeats, was briefly a member c. 1919 before giving up on them. Most people when they think of Irish nationalism are far more likely to think of the various Irish independence movements and associated militant groups, like the Fenians and later the IRA and other Republican terrorist organisations in Ulster. They one thing the majority of folk won’t associate with Irish nationalism or national identity is Nazism and anti-Semitism.

However, the Irish, it seems to me, do take state terrorism and Fascism in other nations very seriously. Way back in the early ’80s, when Reagan was backing the Contras in Nicaragua and other Fascist butchers in Latin America, there were mass protests when he decided to pay a state visit to Ireland. I think it was during his birthday, as the news showed footage of him being given a present by someone in full Irish patriotic dress, who told him that it came from Irish-Americans everywhere. Well, I wonder, as I always under that Irish-Americans in New York were traditionally the backbone of the Democrats. And Reagan was definitely not welcomed by a large part of the Irish population. There were boycotts and demonstrations at the airport and at Trinity College in Dublin, as I recall. The explanation the Beeb gave was that Ireland was closely involved with the Roman Catholic charities working in Latin America. And therefore they weren’t going to be impressed by Reagan and these Fascist regimes’ death squads torturing and murdering the very people they were trying to help. I got the impression from reading some of the pieces written by Irish contributors to the radical American magazine and website, Counterpunch, that left-wing Irish people see themselves and their country as anti-imperialist, and this piece of BDS legislation strikes me very firmly as within that tradition.

Economically, I’m not sure how much damage this will do. Ireland’s a small country with a small population. I think it might be around 4-6 million. But culturally the country is a very big hitter. There’s a large Irish diaspora spread across the globe, particularly in Australia and America, where it’s very politically important. Irish music and literature are enjoyed everywhere. Classic Irish bands include the Dubliners, Planxty, Clannad and the Chieftains, and you can’t get away from the Pogues’ ‘Fairytale of New York’, which is played every year at Christmas along with Slade’s ‘So Here It Is, Merry Christmas’. The Dail’s vote to pass this legislation could be immensely influential simply because of the country’s immense cultural cachet.

And that’s what Netanyahu and his thugs are afraid of. Because once one EU country passes legislation banning goods from Occupied Palestine, others may follow suit. It’s why the Israeli state and its minions over here have been trying their level best to smear Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters as anti-Semites, simply because he supports the Palestinians and genuinely condemns further Zionist expansion and human rights abuses.

The Israeli state is running scared. Thanks to the BDS movement, 1/3 of Israeli businesses in the West Bank have been forced to close. Young Jewish Americans are increasingly turning away from Israel. Many are repulsed by its treatment of the Palestinians. Others simply think that it’s ridiculous for them to be expected automatically to support a country they were not born in and have no intention of moving to, when the indigenous inhabitants of that country are being forced out. It’s why the Likudniks are increasingly looking to Evangelical Christian Zionists for support in America instead of the country’s Jews.

Now that Ireland has banned Israeli goods from occupied Palestine, it’ll be interesting to see how many other countries start to debate doing the same. And you can bet the angry smears of Corbyn and his supporters will get even louder and more shrill over here on this side of the Irish Sea, as the Israel lobby fears that under him, Britain will be next.

Xelasoma on his Favourite Artists of the Fantastic

February 3, 2019

And now, as Monty Python once said, for something completely different. At least from politics. I found these two videos from the artist Xelasoma on YouTube, in which he discusses six masters of fantasy art and how they have influenced him. They are Roger Dean, Patrick Woodroffe, and Rodney Matthews in video 1, and Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud, Philippe Druillet and Ian Miller in video 2.

Roger Dean will be remembered by fans of ’70’s prog rock for his amazing album covers for the bands Yes and Asia. Woodroffe and Matthews are also artists, who’ve produced record covers as well as book illustrations. Moebius and Druillet are two of the geniuses in modern French SF comics. Moebius was one of the ‘Humanoides Associes’ behind the French SF comic, Metal Hurlant. Among his numerous other works was Arzach, a comic, whose hero flew across a strange fantastic landscape atop a strange, pterodactyl creature. As Xelasoma himself points out here, it’s a completely visual strip. There’s no language at all. It was also Moebius who designed the spacesuits for Ridley Scott’s classic Alien. Xelasoma describes how, after he left art school, Moebius spent some time in Mexico with a relative. This was his mother, who’d married a Mexican, and the empty, desert landscape south of the border is a clear influence on the alien environments he drew in his strips. Xelasoma also considers him a master of perspective for the way he frequent draws scenes as viewed looking down from above. And one of the pictures illustrating this is of a figure in an alien planet looking down a cliff at a sculpture of rock legend Jimi Hendricks carved into the opposite cliff face. Druillet, Xelasoma feels, is somewhat like Moebius, but with a harder edge, drawing vast, aggressive machines and armies of fierce alien warriors. He’s also known for his soaring cityscapes of vast tower blocks reaching far up into the sky, which also influenced Ridley Scott’s portrayal of the Los Angeles of 2019 in Blade Runner. The last artist featured, Ian Miller, first encountered in the pages of the British Role-Playing Game magazine, Warhammer. His style is much more angular, deeply hatched and very detailed. Fans of H.P. Lovecraft will recognize several of the pictures Xelasoma chooses to represent his work as depictions of some of the weird, sinister gods from the Cthulhu mythos. They include not only Cthulhu himself, but also of the half-human, amphibious, batrachian inhabitants of the decaying port in the short story, The shadow Out of Innsmouth.

What Xelasoma admires about all these artists is that they don’t follow the conventions of modern western art established by the ancient Greeks and Romans and the Renaissance. They alter and distort the human form and that of other objects and creatures. He describes Dean’s landscapes as organic. Patrick Woodroffe and Matthews also create strange, alien creatures and landscapes, and with the creatures Matthews depicts also very different from standard human anatomy. Many of the creatures, machines and spaceships in Matthews’ art are based on insects, and appropriately enough one of the bands whose cover he painted was Tiger Moth. This featured two insects dancing on a leaf. Another picture, The Hop, shows an insect band playing while other bugs trip the light fantastic in the grass, surrounded by items like used cigarettes. His humanoid figures are tall, stick thin, with long, thin, angular faces and immense, slanted eyes. Xelasoma admires the way Matthews can take a train or a deer, and turn them in something uniquely his, as he shows here. He states that he first encountered Dean’s and Woodroffe’s art in the art books his mother had, such as Woodroffe’s Mythopoiekon. He also identifies somewhat with Woodroffe, as neither of them studied at art school. Woodroffe was a French teacher, while for Xelasoma art was far too personal for him to submit to formal training.

Xelasoma points out that these artists were creating their unique visions before the advent of computers using the traditional artist materials of paint and brush, and before courses in SF, Fantasy and concept art were taught at colleges and universities. Nevertheless, he finds their work far more interesting and inspiring than modern SF and Fantasy art, which may be more anatomically accurate, but which, too him, seems very ‘samey’. He complains that it doesn’t make him hallucinate, which the above artists do. Well, I hope he doesn’t mean that literally, as that could be very worrying. But I know what he means in that Dean, Woodroffe, Matthews, Moebius, Druillet and Miller create strange, fantastic worlds that have a striking intensity to them. They seem to be complete worlds, either in the far past or future, or parallel realities altogether, but with their own internal logic drawing you into them.

Discussing their influence on him, he is critical of artists that simply copy the work of others, changing a few details but otherwise keeping to and appropriating the other artists’ own unique visions, some times trying to justify this by saying that their work is a ‘hommage’ to the others. Xelasoma is well aware that his own work is very different to the artists he talks about here, and that many of his viewers won’t be able to see their influence. But he goes on to describe how they have influenced him at the general level of form or composition, while he himself has been careful to develop his own unique style.

Dean, Woodroffe and Matthews have produced books of their work, published by Paper Tiger. Matthews and Miller also have their own websites, for those wishing to see more of their work. Moebius passed away a couple of years ago, but was the subject of a BBC4 documentary. There’s also a documentary about Roger Dean on YouTube, presented by that grumpy old Yes keyboardist, Rick Wakeman. Xelasoma believes in their fantastic depictions of landscapes and animal and human forms makes them as important and worth inclusion in museums and galleries as Graeco-Roman and Renaissance art. I wouldn’t go that far, but I would maintain that in their way, they are far more significant than many contemporary artists that have been promoted as ‘official’ art. Xelasoma’s documentary really shows only a few pieces from these artists’ works, and the bulk of these videos are about the particular impact they have on him. But nevertheless it’s a good introduction to their work, and explanation why they should be taken seriously as artists beyond their origins in popular culture.

Part I

Part II

No Sun, No Fun in Bristol? Yaaay!

January 26, 2019

This is intriguing. When Dad went down to get a copy of the I this morning, he overheard the harassed newsagent telling perplexed customers that he didn’t have any copies of the Scum or a number of other papers because they weren’t available for the Bristol region for another three hours and were being reprinted. The Mirror was still in stock, though, so that’s one paper that wasn’t affected by whatever was wrong with the others.

It’s all very mysterious! All I can think of is that the Scum and some of the other foul denizens of the right-wing press have made some kind of glaring mistake, or perhaps printed something very libelous, and so have had to be recalled and pulped. But that’s just my view of what’s happened. I wonder if Private Eye will have something to say about this in their next ‘Street of Shame’ column?

Ah, it makes you want to sing the old song

‘So tell me why,
There’s no sun up in the sky,
Stormy weather…’

Rapper Fab 5 Freddy to Host Beeb Film on Renaissance Art

January 25, 2019

More arts news. Also according to yesterday’s I for Thursday, 24th January 2019, the New York rapper Fab 5 Freddy is due to hos a Beeb documentary about the Renaissance. The article, written by Adam Sherwin, ran

Move over Simon Schama, Fab 5 Freddy wants your spot. The New York hip-hop pioneer and former graffiti artist is the unlikely choice to present a BBC 2 documentary on Italian Renaissance Art.

Fab – real name Fred Brathwaite – was approached to do the film, ‘A Fresh Guide to Florence with Fab 5 Freddy’, after the BBC learnt that he was an art lover who worked closely with Jean-Michel Basquiat in the early 80s, curating the cult artist’s Manhattan shows.

“Amidst superstar artists such as Michelangelo and powerful patrons such as the Medicis, Fab discovers groundbreaking images of a multi-racial and multi-ethnic society that have slipped through the cracks of art history,” the BBC said. (‘A ‘Fresh’ take on the Renaissance’, p. 21).

It might be a surprising choice, but it seems to be a good one in line with current arts policy of getting different voices to open up the arts. A number of BAME artists have appeared in the news complaining that there aren’t enough Black artists shown in museums and art galleries, and that when they were small they weren’t interested in visiting them because there was nothing for them there. It therefore looks like the Beeb is trying to appeal to a younger, Black audience with Fab 5 Freddie in order to stop it being viewed as just something made by old White guys for White guys.

I am also not surprised that they chose a former graffiti artist for other reasons. Archaeologists have been working with graffiti artists for several years now in order to explore rock art and its links with modern graffiti art. I can remember attending an archaeological seminar at Bristol university at least six years ago in which one of the speakers presented a piece about their research about the graffiti in a particular area of one of the Spanish towns. And Radio 4 a few years ago also presented a programme about rock art which included comments from some of Britain’s leading street artists.

As for the Renaissance, Florence was a major centre of trade and industry, but historians have pointed out in books like The Renaissance Bazaar that many of the commercial innovations that made the Renaissance possible had their origins further east in the Islamic world. This was also a period when Europeans were turning from the Slavic east to Africa for a supply of slaves, so that you do find Blacks portrayed in art in this period. Not that they weren’t here before, of course. A 12th century manuscript from London in the National Archives shows a Black person, while one of the books that used to be stocked in shop in Bristol’s M Shed was on Blacks in fifteenth century England.

I’ve no doubt critics of the programme will decry it as ‘dumbing down’ and complain about ‘diversity’, but this could be a programme worth watching because of the original insights Fab 5 Freddie could bring.

Andrew Neil Goes Gammon As Owen Jones Brings Up Spectator’s Support for Greek Fascists

January 13, 2019

Oh ho! This is hilarious, so kudos and respect to Owen Jones for reminding everyone just what disgusting opinions some of the Spectator’s contributors have. As well as seriously embarrassing the man Private Eye jocularly refers to as ‘Brillo Pad’. I found this video, posted on YouTube by Evolve Politics, of Jones’ appearance on one of Neil’s politics shows accusing him and his magazine, the Spectator, of supporting the Greek neo-Nazis Golden Dawn.

Jones was a guest on Neil’s show This Week, opposite Michael Portillo and a woman I’m afraid I don’t recognize. They had been discussing the recent chanting and insults hurled at Anna Soubry and Jones himself by James Goddard and his stormtroopers. Jones said that he and Soubry were both called ‘traitors’ by Goddard, just as the man, who murdered Jo Cox had called her. He also mentioned the way the press had also accused other individuals and public figures of being traitors and enemies of the people as well, insults and accusations which are then regurgitated by Far Right fanatics. At this point Neil starts getting uncomfortable and tries changing the subject, but Jones keeps talking, telling him that they’re nearly out of time, so he wants to ask another question. Neil states ‘I am many things, but I’m not naive’. To which Jones simply replies, ‘You are.’ Neil obvious knew what was going to come next, but that still didn’t stop it happening. Jones then continues ‘The Spectator is a classic example.’ At which point Neil replies that he knew this was coming and wasn’t going to let Jones hijack his programme. He said that Jones’ lies and smears about him were not going to be dealt with that evening, and told him to move off it.

But Jones continued, despite Brill Pad changing the subject. Why was it, mused the former editor of the Sunday Times and the Economist, that when the Far Right behaves appallingly, it’s thuggery, but when the Left does it, it’s activism? Undeterred, Jones carries on stating that he would continue with what he was saying, and talked about how the Spectator had defended Greek neo-Nazis. Neil, having tried to talk over him and get him to shut up, then automatically denied that the Speccie had done any such thing. He then starts saying that the editor was responsible, before Jones asked him if he was the chairman of the Spectator. ‘I’m not responsible for content’, said Brillo. Jones then remarked that there was enough islamophobia in the Tory party, just as there was in the Spectator and other newspapers. At which point Brillo cries ‘Enough!’ Jones then begins to answer the question on left-wing activism, saying that he will answer it. ‘No, you won’t!’ declares Neil, ‘You’ve run out of time.’ If this is intended to stop Jones, it fails miserably, as he prompts goes back to talking about the Spectator and its support for the Greek neo-Nazis. The Spectator has incited support for neo-Nazis, and racism against Muslims and immigrants. Brillo tries to regain control of the situation by declaring that it’s an subject for another time, but another forum. ‘Tonight is not the night’, Brillo stated, ‘for your lies and smears against me’. He then ends by thanking Jones for appearing on his show. The clip ends with Brillo staring into the camera with the haunted look of the man staring at the train coming down the tracks at him.

It’s clear from this that there is some kind personal feud between Jones and Brillo. Not that this should be any surprise. Brillo seems to have offended many people wish his various utterances on Twitter. But Neil was himself wrong when he said that the Spectator did not support neo-Nazis. It may not now, but five years ago in 2013 it caused massive outrage when it published a piece by Greek playboy and convicted coke fiend, Taki, defending the Golden Dawn. The Golden Dawn are genuine neo-Nazi thugs, responsible for attacks on immigrants, particularly Muslims, and left-wingers. Their flag is one of the angular ancient Greek geometrical designs, which isn’t too far from the swastika. Their ideal of ancient Greek civilization isn’t the sublime culture of Athens, but Sparta, the militarized Greek society in which the soldier citizens ruled over the Helots, the conquered slaves, and where deformed and sickly babies were examined and murdered in a chilling system that prefigured the Nazis and their eugenic murder of the disabled.

Taki had written in his article that the Golden Dawn were not Nazis, but were simply ‘rough boys’ who were good, patriotic Greeks. They were saving their people from the political correctness which had left many Greeks living on less than what was given to illegal African immigrants, and were similarly protecting ordinary Greeks from Albanian criminals, and supporting poorer Greeks who had suffered from disastrous bank withdrawals.

Taki’s comments caused massive outrage. The Huffington Post ran a piece about his article, pointing out that the group uses racist and anti-Semitic language, and that their leader had admitted that they’d adopted the Nazi salute, as well as the fact that one of them had slapped a female Greek politico live on TV. The magazine carried photographs of the squadristi in their black shirts holding a torchlight procession and waving Greek flags.

See: https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/07/23/taki-theodoracopulos-golden-dawn-spectator-_n_3640139.html?guccounter=1&guce_referrer_us=aHR0cHM6Ly9yLnNlYXJjaC55YWhvby5jb20vX3lsdD1Bd3JKSWt2TWxUdGNMZ2dBajh0M0J3eC47X3lsdT1YM29ETVRCeU1uRTFNek13QkdOdmJHOERhWEl5QkhCdmN3TXpCSFowYVdRREJITmxZd056Y2ctLS9SVj0yL1JFPTE1NDc0Mzc2NDUvUk89MTAvUlU9aHR0cHMlM2ElMmYlMmZ3d3cuaHVmZmluZ3RvbnBvc3QuY28udWslMmYyMDEzJTJmMDclMmYyMyUyZnRha2ktdGhlb2RvcmFjb3B1bG9zLWdvbGRlbi1kYXduLXNwZWN0YXRvci1fbl8zNjQwMTM5Lmh0bWwvUks9Mi9SUz1SR1dBTmJkYkxwcTI1YTZ0WWRsTFZUUjVaQ3Mt&guce_referrer_cs=rEmNidnfvK3FO95uaiAoOA

The Liberal Conspiracy site in their piece went further, and quoted the convicted felon, who compared the Golden Dawn to other left-wing activists, claiming that their behaviour would have been completely acceptable if it came from the left.

But if they were lefties and railed against capitalism they would be treated like heroes, the way Bono, Bianca Jagger and other such untalented rappers and phonies are. Golden Dawn members might need some lessons in social etiquette, but what the bien pensant need much more is to get off the pot and their double standards. Golden Dawn members are mostly labourers, martial artists, cops, security personnel and good old-fashioned patriotic Greeks.

Which is what Neil was trying to say in his last question to Jones.

What astonished the Liberal Conspiracy author was the fact that the Speccie’s editor, Fraser Nelson, appeared to believe that the piece was absolutely acceptable, saying that it did not have a party line and published well-written pieces that their members enjoyed while disagreeing with.

See: http://liberalconspiracy.org/2013/07/23/spectator-mag-neo-nazi-golden-dawn-just-good-patriotic-greeks/

Hardly. The Spectator is a high Tory magazine, and so very definitely has a party line. And Taki has plenty of previous when it comes to anti-Semitism, as reported and commented on many times by Private Eye.

I dare say Neil wasn’t responsible for Taki’s vile piece being published by the magazine. But it is true that he did support the Golden Dawn, and that this has rightly tarnished the magazine’s reputation. And the media must share some responsibility for the rise of Fascism by promoting the fears that Fascists exploit – about immigration, Islam, ethnic minorities and violent crime. And they have vilified perfectly decent people as traitors. When a group judge ruled in favour of moving the Brexit issue to parliament, the Mail put them on the front page and hysterically denounced them as ‘enemies of the people’. Just like the Nazis attacked the opponents of their regime.

The Conservative media have therefore aided the rise of the Far Right, and the Spectator did publish an article supporting Greek Nazis. And despite Neil’s protests, Jones was right to tackle him on it.

Jon Downes and the Amphibians from Outer Space: Land of Dopes and Tories

January 5, 2019

Jon Downes and the Amphibians from Outer Space were a local band in Devon. Downes was into cryptozoology, the study of unknown animals, and, with others, ran the Centre for Fortean Zoology. Back in the 1990s they published a small magazine, Animals and Men, which covered developments in zoology ranging from recent discoveries in paleontology and dinosaurs, the new species then being discovered in South East Asia, and creatures like the Yeti and other ape creatures and the Loch Ness monster, whose existence is very definitely not accepted by mainstream scientists. His band was also unsurprisingly steeped in Fortean high weirdness, hence its bizarre name. One of the songs on their album was about the Mad Gasser of Mattoon, a mysterious figure who stalked American suburbia around the 1940s. The Mad Gasser got his name because he was believed to be responsible for knocking people unconscious with some kind of anaesthetic gas. Despite the panic he caused and an intense police search, no-one was ever caught and the Mad Gasser is thus one of those mysterious figures of urban folklore like Spring-Heeled Jack in Britain.

Downes’ lyrics often included explicit social and political comments. ‘God Bless Amerikkka/Petsurfing’ contained references to the Beach Boys as well as bitter comments on Reagan’s America and the Vietnam War. It’s lyrics ran

The Beach boys in the Whitehouse took the president out dancing
took in a drive-in movie threw a frisbee with Charles Manson.
The American dream was sweet sixteen and no-one gave a damn
and thousands of asshole students were praying for their very own Vietnam.

“Give me Liberty or Give me Death” give me concepts I can see
“Give me Librium or Give me Meths” it’s all the same to me,
God Bless America!
(I don’t mean to annoy ya as you drown in Paranoia got no reason to destroy ya in the land of the brave).
God Bless America!
(You’ve got to catch that one last wave!)

The western world just genuflects and licks its paltry leavings
so three stupid generations have got something to believe in
now style over content is the way they measure worth,
and a grinning fool has just become the most powerful man on earth.

The cretin culture faced the wall and found it couldn’t win against it
the peasants in the jungle or the troops of Ho Chi Minh,
the profit motive is a joke when there isn’t any money,
there’s no point to a joke like that, it really isn’t funny.

It also struck me that his track ‘The Stranger (L’Etranger)’ is also partly a comment on Thatcher and the British secret state, while the title is a reference to Camus’ existentialist classic.

She’s got half a mind to kill you if you don’t agree with her programme
she’s got half a mind to stop you in your tracks.
She’s got a 10% dead army, she’s got heroes ten a penny,
she’s got men she’d pay to stab you in the back.

There’s a new ideal on the night-time breeze,
(won’t you wait a while till midnight?)
There’s a new man coming through the trees,
(won’t you watch him dance by lamplight?)

In the darkness at the edge of town there’s a stranger with a knife,
and he swears he’s going to stop her with his life.
She knows he won’t forgive her, (and that he never wanted to live there),
but she still thinks he loves her like his wife.

In her mind she’s built a castle and peopled it with fear,
if you look too hard you know that it will all disappear,
she’s so lonely in her madness, it’s so lonely at the top,
If you got that far it’s really hard to stop.

The most explicitly anti-Tory lyrics in the album are in Part Two of his song, ‘English Heritage’. The song was about the government’s privatization of Stonehenge to English Heritage, who then surrounded it with a wire fence, put up a souvenir shop and charged an entry fee. The second part of the song was an explicit attack on Tory patriotism, ‘Land of Dopes and Tories’, and was an obviously parody of Elgar’s ‘Land of Hope and Glory’. It ran

Land of Dopes and Tories, gameshows and TV,
the land our fathers fought for don’t seem the same to me.
Something’s subtly different, something must have changed,
‘cos England’s now just a refuge for the terminally deranged.
Land of Dopes and Tories, land of the living dead,
land where the hope and glory only lives on in my head,
land of idiot violence where innocent blood is shed,
land where only the assholes heard what Mosley said.
Land of Dopes and Tories I don’t see the point,
Anarchy and Freedom is everything I want.
Anarchy and Freedom is everything I want.

The sleeve notes explain that the line about Mosley refers to his comment that whoever won the Second World War, Britain would be ruined as a world power.

Time and the world have moved on since the album came out, and the ’90s ended nearly two decades ago. Reagan is gone, and we had another grinning fool enter the White House in the shape of George ‘Dubya’ Bush. He’s now been succeeded in his turn by another maniac, Trump, who doesn’t grin but glowers and struts like Mussolini. Over here, Maggie also passed from power to be succeeded by John Major, the grey man who handed Stonehenge and other ancient sites to English Heritage, and who was succeeded in his turn by Blair and his sickly grin. Blair has also left government, and instead we’re run by Tweezer. Who would like us all to believe that she’s Maggie Mark 2. And she does have men ready to kill people. Not just the staff at the DWP, who are determined to throw people off benefits to starve and die at the slightest excuse – she’s also put legislation in place to put 3,500 troopers on the streets in case of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit. And British television and popular culture in the shape of the right-wing press is doing its best to distract people from how dire and desperate the situation is for very many people, not least by smearing and misrepresenting Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party. And like Maggie Thatcher, Tweezer’s also using the secret state to smear and lie on her behalf.

Maggie, Reagan and their era are gone, but Tory and Republican tactics and policies are carrying on. It’s time they were utterly discarded, and genuinely left-wing, progressive governments voted in under Jeremy Corbyn here in Britain and Bernie Sanders in the US.