Archive for the ‘Spain’ Category

Video Urging Boycott of Eurovision to Combat Israeli Artwashing

May 15, 2019

The Eurovision Song Contest is nearly upon us, and TV stations all across Europe have started showing the contestants going through their moves and ditties ready for the big event. This year it’s in Israel, and last night the Beeb started their broadcast from that country. This raises the awkward issue of how the Israeli state is using the event as propaganda, to try to present itself as a liberal, progressive nation while in fact its the reverse. It’s an apartheid state, which has practised a 70 + year campaign of apartheid, arrest, torture and ethnic cleansing against its indigenous people, the Palestinians.

This video comes from Breadtube’s European All-Stars, with speakers including the Spanish Javi, Amelia Jane, Brit Kevin Logan, and Paul Morrin. It’s done with humour, with Javi himself opening the video with a piece in Spanish explaining to his compatriots that they are to hang on, because they’re experiencing cultural difficulties. But it’s very solidly factual, and presents a powerful, irrefutable argument why decent people should not go to Israel and should boycott the Song Contest.

Amelia Jane begins by describing the Song Contest’s origins. It’s staged by the European Broadcasting Union, and was devised to pull the various European nations together after the Second World War. It’s gone from a very upper class oriented event to something rather more democratic. It’s now campy and so LGBTQ positive that it’s almost the precursor to the full Pride parades later in the year.

Despite the EBU’s claim that it is apolitical, the contest has always had its share of controversies, and even the existence of state broadcasters like the EBU in an age of post-Milton Friedman neoliberalism is controversial. Turkey pulled out of the contest a few years ago in protest at two women kissing during one of the pieces. But before that, Austria refused to broadcast it following the inclusion of Franco’s Spain. The ghastly thug was using it to open up his Fascist state to the rest of the world. Since the fall of Communism, it’s included a number of states that were in the former Soviet Union, with the exception of Russia itself. These are using the Song Contest to position themselves as more liberal, progressive, and oriented towards north-west Europe and the free market.

It’s also expanded far beyond the conventional boundaries of Europe. Since the beginning its included Israel, but now also includes Morocco and Australia. This was supposed to be only for a single time, but has somehow continued.

Here Kevin Logan takes up the narrative, talking about Israel as a colonialist, apartheid state. He states that it is a colonialist state, that took over a large proportion of Palestinian territory after the war of 1948 and the departure of the British. It is a religious state, where Jews are the privileged citizens. The indigenous Arabs, however, have been subjected to continuing arrest, massacre and ethnic cleansing. Those who remain in Israel are subjected to a form of apartheid. He states that current technology means that the Israelis cannot hide their atrocities, which include the arrest and torture of children as young as five. He compares this with apartheid South Africa, which also experienced boycotts in sport, the arts and elsewhere in protest at its racism.

This part of the video shows clips of the Israeli forces doing precisely what Logan describes, including arresting small children and a journo shot by the IDF. And to show what ordinary Israelis think of Islam and Palestinians, he shows clips from Abby Martin’s Empire Files, in which various young Israelis declare their hatred of Islam, desire to see Arabs and Israelis segregated, and that the whole of Palestine is theirs and Jews and Arabs should not intermarry, because they are God’s Chosen People.

Phil Morrin then takes over to show how the Israelis are turning to the arts and culture to burnish their very soiled image. He explains what green-, art-, and pinkwashing are. Greenwashing would be if the IDF tried to convince the world that it was now a progressive, caring organisation by putting its squaddies on a vegan diet. He declares that the real vegans wouldn’t be impressed, and would say that the diet was merely plant-based. Similarly, the Israeli state has also used Eurovision and queer issues to try to present itself as more humane and progressive than it really is. This was twenty years ago, when the Israeli contestant was bearded woman Dana International. Actually, I though International was really a pre-operative transsexual, meaning that she was biologically male, rather than completely female at that point. And then the other year their entry was a song about resisting bullying, performed by a plus-sized singer determined to combat stereotypes about body size. He wonders how that would have gone down with the 27 people the Israelis shot that year, which actually was one of the quietest.

The video ends with a call for people to get involved with the boycott campaign and stay away from Israel in order to overturn it, and create a Palestine, which is free, democratic, and where all its citizens enjoy equal rights. And this includes the wider Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement. It may not do much, but the Eurovision Song Contest now has such cachet that Madonna wanted to take part and was denouncing people, who were urging its boycott. Okay, Javi says, they’ve got Madonna, but we’ve got Roger Waters, formerly of Pink Floyd. So the guitar on our side is better, but probably not the dancing. The video ends with Javi appealing for donations.

I’ve no doubt that this video, posted on May 7th, has already got the Zionists’ teeth gnashing. It’s precisely the kind of material that will have the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, the Board of Deputies, and the various parties’ ‘Friends of Israel’ all screaming ‘anti-Semitism’, including Labour Friends of Israel and the Jewish Labour Movement. The groups, who howl with outrage at anyone, who dares to suggest that Israel has no right to exist as a state that declares itself as the homeland of the Jews, while denying the Palestinians a right to their homeland, or to live as equal citizens in a religiously and racially neutral Israel. But this doesn’t stop the video being true, and its arguments valid.

And Israel and its supporters are ultimately behind the anti-Semitism smears against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party, and the foul lies against decent, anti-racists and campaigners and anti-Semitism and Fascism like Jackie Walker, Marc Wadsworth, Mike Sivier, Martin Odoni, Tony Greenstein, Cyril Chilson, and so many, many others.

Given how the Israeli state and its craven supporters have behaved to Mike and the rest, I don’t even want to see it on TV. Go boycott it, even if you’ve no intention of going to Israel anyway. Watch something on the other channels, or put in a DVD, listen to a CD, go on YouTube, play footie, snooker, go down the pub. Do anything, in fact, but give your precious time and attention to Israel’s efforts to divert the world’s attention away from its true, horrific, Fascist reality.

 

 

 

 

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Radio 4 Programme Next Week on Attempts to Reverse Rural Depopulation in Spain

April 23, 2019

According to the new Radio Times for 27th April – 3rd May 2019, Radio 4’s Crossing Continents next Thursday, 2nd May, at 11.00 a.m., looks at a movement to repopulate the Spanish countryside, focusing on a group of single women going to meet single men in a village near Madrid. The paragraph about the programme by David McGillivray on page 128 runs

It’s hard to arrest depopulation once it’s started. But Linda Pressly finds the opposite in Spain. Initiatives to reverse the decline of the Spanish countryside include a movement of young people – they have a name, “neo-rurales” – who have begun to occupy abandoned villages. Pressly also uncovers a charming personal story. Maria Carvajal was one of a bus full of single women who arrived in a village north of Madrid to meet single men unable to find female partners. There was no preview available but I infer that she found love iwth lonely shepherd Antonio Cerrado. A caravan of love indeed.

This could be worth listening to. About a year ago Mike wondered how Labour could win in rural areas, like his part of Wales. It’s a good question, as there’s a real crisis in the countryside with poor locals being priced out of housing by wealthy outsiders, looking for second or retirement homes. Bus services into country areas are being cut, and local shops, like pubs, post offices and general stores, are closing down. There are parts of Europe where the process of depopulation is particularly acute. I was listening to a conversation between male feminist and anti-Fascist Kevin Logan and another anti-Fascist about the rise of the far right. They agreed that one of the stimuli behind the rise of the vile Alternative fuer Deutschland and its horrendous Nazi links was the massive, devastating depopulation of parts of the former East Germany, where whole small towns have been abandoned as their populations have moved west in search of better opportunities.

Rural depopulation also concerned the Nazis, who saw themselves very much as the party of the peasants. They developed a series of policies designed to reverse it, and create a healthy, ideologically and racially pure peasantry, who would feed Germany and provide the basis for its new value system. This involved a banning foreign imports, lowering taxation on agricultural goods and products, loans for people wishing to move to the countryside. They were also concerned to provide them with secure tenure. So secure, in fact, that they wouldn’t be able to escape it, and they and their descendants would be tied to the soil like serfs.

I did think that some of their ideas might be worth discussing, aside from the obviously horrific and unacceptable connections to the Nazi regime itself. However, with all the anti-Semitism smears directed against Corbyn and his supporters, the last thing I wanted to do was give the smear merchants more ammunition. They’d just love it if a left-wing blogger started discussing whether some aspects of Nazi policy was worth implementing, even if it was about farming and absolutely rejected and condemned their horrific, genocidal racism and totalitarianism.

But the Crossing Continents programme may be worth listening to, and provide some ideas on how Britain could also start to regenerate its countryside. Perhaps we need a British version of the neo-rurales?

How Many Indigenous Jews Are Emigrating from Israel?

April 11, 2019

One of the major issues confronting the survival of the indigenous Christian community in Israel is emigration. Christians constitute one of the best educated and most skilled sectors of Palestinian society and economy. Historically they have provided much of the area’s political leadership, serving as mayors, village headmen and in important positions in the P.L.O., and have also been active running businesses, particularly tourism, and providing for the Palestinian people’s welfare through charity. But their numbers have been decimated through pressure from the state of Israel on the one hand, and Islamic fundamentalism on the other, which views them as collaborators with the Israeli state. Before the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, Christians comprised about 1o per cent of the Palestinian population. Now it’s down to about 1 per cent. Unable to find suitable jobs in Israel and the Occupied Territories to due the system of Israeli apartheid, and with their businesses and farms heavily squeezed by the mass of regulations and legal obstacles put in the way of all Palestinians, many are emigrating to America, Europe and Australia.

But it’s not only the Christian community that has sought better opportunities elsewhere. I found this fascinating reference to indigenous Jewish emigration from Israel in a passage discussing Christian emigration from the Holy Land in Robert Brenton Betts, Christians in the Arab East (London: SPCK 1979) on page 76 discussing the problem of obtaining the correct figures for emigration from the Israel:

No sectarian emigration figures are available for Israel (largely because they government does not wish to acknowledge publicly the large number of Jews, especially from the Sephardim, who are emigrating as well)….

The Sephardim, or Sephardic Jews are the descendants of the medieval Spanish Jews, who were expelled from the country by Ferdinand and Isabella in the Fifteenth century with the Muslim Moors. Their vernacular language is Ladino, a form of Old Spanish. After their expulsion, many found sanctuary under Islam in North Africa and the Middle East. Israel claims to be the nation state of all Jews, everywhere, something which is denied by non- or anti-Zionist Jews, whether secular, Liberal, Reform or Orthodox. Historically Reform Judaism rejected Zionism because they felt that their future lay as equal citizens in their traditional European homelands. And many Orthodox Jews reject Zionism because they believe that Israel can only be restored by divine action through the Messiah. Until then, they believe that their duty as devout Jews is to remain in exile as commanded by the Almighty.

But the emigration of indigenous Jews from Israel raises further issues challenging the supposed identity of the state of Israel and the Jewish people. For anti-Zionists, Israel isn’t a restoration of ancient Israel, but a White settler state like the other colonies established by Europeans at the expense of the indigenous peoples in the Americas, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. They point to Israeli racism against non-White Jews, such as those from Ethiopia, as well as the persecution of the Mizrahim, Arab Jews. The Zionist pioneers initially were reluctant to admit them, calling them, amongst other derogatory epithets, the ‘dust of the Earth’. They were held to be biologically inferior to White, European and American Jews. The labor shortage due to the lack of White colonists from the West eventually forced the Zionist authorities to admit them, but they were heavily discriminated against. They were given the worst and lowest paid jobs and housing and were educated in separate schools from the Ashkenazim. As a result, many of them have become even more racist and intolerant than mainstream Israeli society. In the 1960s, tens of thousands of Arab Jews were expelled from Israel because they were culturally indistinguishable from Arabs, or so I understand. And from reading this, it appears that many Sephardic Jews, who had lived in Palestine for centuries, also left of their own accord.

Which would appear to confirm that Israel really isn’t the ‘nation state of the Jews’, whatever Benjamin Netanyahu and the other racial nationalists in his coalition say, because clearly there has been a sector of the indigenous Jewish population that has not welcomed the establishment of Israel, or been properly treated and respected by Israeli society and its authorities.

Persecution and discrimination are not confined just to Christians and indigenous Jews. All Palestinians have been brutally maltreated by Israeli expansion and colonization, whether Jewish, Christian or Muslim, and Christian Palestinians have been at pains to point out that they are persecuted because they are Palestinians, and to show solidarity with their Muslim compatriots. But there’s also a story here of the persecution of the indigenous Jewish community, who have also sought refuge in emigration. And it’s been hidden in order to maintain the stance that Israel is the state of all Jews, everywhere, world-wide. The emigration of the Sephardim strongly indicates that, at least as far as these emigrants go, this definitely isn’t the case.

 

Murdoch Demands Curtailment of Parliamentary Democracy over Brexit

April 8, 2019

Earlier today I put up a piece about an article in the I newspaper about the claim by a charity, the Hansard Society, that British people were increasingly demanding a more authoritarian leader, who could override parliament. This is obviously dangerous, as at the end of such anti-parliamentary sentiments lies authoritarian political strongmen like Vladimir Putin outright dictatorships, like those of Hitler and Mussolini. I speculated that, if the findings are correct, they’re probably due to Tweezer’s supporters getting impatient with parliament blocking her wretched, worthless Brexit deals.

It turns out I may well have been right. Brexit is involved. And so, unfortunately, is that curse of the modern press, Rupert Murdoch.

No sooner had I put my piece up then I found that the good fellow behind Zelo Street had put up a similar article based on articles about the Hansard Society and its wretched poll in the Times and the Guardian. The Thunderer’s article had the headline, ‘Brexit-weary Britons long for political strongman’, contained the following ominous statements

In findings that suggest large parts of the country are ready to entertain radical political change, nearly three quarters of people felt that the British system of governing needed ‘quite a lot’ or ‘a great deal’ of improvement.

More than four in ten thought that the country’s problems could be more easily solved if ministers ‘didn’t have to worry so much about votes in Parliament. The findings come two days before Theresa May returns to Brussels to ask the EU for another Brexit extension.

The Street says that it is no accident that the mythical desire for a political strongman is here linked to Brexit, and that the only surprise is that the Scum hasn’t received its orders to put the same demand in cruder terms. The article then goes on to discuss the Groan’s treatment of these findings, which is hostile, and quotes Rose Carter of the anti-racism, anti-religious extremism organisation, Hope Not Hate. She says

We are facing a crisis of political mistrust. And when people do not trust traditional political systems, they look elsewhere. That’s when support for political extremes grows.

The Street then goes on to describe how political strongmen look good, until they’re actually put to the test, and goes on to give examples. These aren’t just the obvious cases of Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy, but also the Greek Colonels, who left Cyprus partitioned, Salazar in Portugal, who left his country poor and illiterate, General Franco in Spain, who brought some people prosperity in the 1960s, but from a very low base; General Pinochet and his legacy of death and division in Chile; and finally Vladimir Putin in Russia. His gangster regime has brought some people prosperity, but only recently has the Russian economy started growing.

But, as the Street’s article notes, the Dirty Digger likes Donald Trump and his authoritarian style of government, as he mistakenly thinks that the Orange Generalissimo gets things done. The Street therefore concludes that, once again, Murdoch is debasing politics for his own ends.

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/04/murdoch-press-wants-dictatorship.html

Murdoch’s selfish demand for the curtailment of parliament’s powers and the establishment of the Prime Minister as some kind of quasi-dictator isn’t quite as extreme as Lord Rothermere’s support of Adolf Hitler and Oswald Mosley in the 1930s and the Daily Mail’s infamous headline ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts’. Nor is it quite like Mussolini, who was the editor of a radical newspaper, the Popolo d’Italia, which he used to promote Fascism and his personal dictatorship. It’s far more like Berlusconi, who used his vast media empire to promote his political ambitions. It wasn’t a military dictatorship, like Mussolini’s with paramilitary thugs running berserk and the banning of other political parties. But then, as the author of the book, The Dark Heart of Italy stated on a radio interview about his book on Berlusconi’s Italy, this new form of Fascism didn’t need them. Unlike Berlusconi, Murdoch hasn’t put himself forward for political office. But he has been instrumental in framing policy in several governments, most notoriously in Blair’s, where one minister described the Digger as almost being like a hidden member of the cabinet, so concerned with Blair to have his approval.

This makes Murdoch a real threat to British democracy. There are reasons why the monopolies and mergers commission sought to prevent newspaper proprietors owning too large a portion of British media, and why many people, including many Tories, were not in favour of the Digger getting hold of the Times. But they were overruled by Thatcher, and have been overruled by other Prime Ministers ever since, eager to grant Murdoch an ever-increasing share of press and television broadcasting in order to gain the support of his squalid empire. And Murdoch’s own political views are directly opposed the welfare of Britain’s working people. They’re pro-privatisation, including that of the NHS and education, because he’s moving into educational publishing. He wants low taxes, less government regulation, and, surprise, surprise, a minimal welfare state. And now he’s shown himself to be an outright enemy of parliament and the British democratic tradition it represents.

Murdoch has no right to demand this. He isn’t British, but a foreigner. He’s actually an American citizens, as the Americans have the good sense to pass regulations stopping foreigners possessing a controlling interest in the newspapers and utilities. Which is something we should have done long ago. John Major back in the 1990s finally came round to realising that Murdoch’s squalid empire should be broken up, but by that time Murdoch had ditched him and was putting his weight behind Tony Blair, who more than willingly returned the favour.

Murdoch and his wretched papers have been bad for Britain, bad for British politics, bad for its working people, and now have begun an attack on the democracy. This can’t be allowed to continue, but I fear that with his newspapers now so powerful, too many people have been brainwashed by him to make this possible.

 

Jodi Magness’ Book on Archaeology of Early Islamic Palestine in Oxbow Book Catalogue

March 31, 2019

I also found Jodi Magness’ Archaeology of the Early Islamic Settlement in Palestine (Eisenbrauns 2003), listed in the bargains section of Oxbow Book News for Spring 2019. The blurb for this goes as follows

Archaeological evidence is frequently cited by scholars as proof that Palestine declined after the Muslim conquest, and especially after the rise of the Abbasids in the mid-eighth century. Instead, Magness argues that the archaeological evidence supports the idea that Palestine and Syria experienced a tremendous growth in population and prosperity between the mid-sixth and mid-seventh centuries.

It’s hardback, and is being offered at £14.95, down from its publication price of £42.95.

Magness is an Israeli archaeologist, and I’ve read some of her books on the archaeology of Israel. This is interesting, as it adds yet more evidence against the Zionist claim that there was no-one living in Palestine before the arrival of the first Jewish colonists in the 19th century. I don’t know how far back they extend this claim, because obviously Palestine was inhabited at the time of the Crusades, otherwise there would have been no fighting in the Holy Land when the Crusaders conquered from the Muslims. In his book, Ten Myths About Israel, Ilan Pappe thoroughly demolishes the myth that Palestine was uninhabited, and cites works by a string of other Israeli historians against the assertion that it wasn’t, made by the Israeli state.

I’m also not surprised that it flourished after the Islamic conquest. Before the Muslims conquered the region, they were held by the Byzantine Empire, the Greek-speaking eastern Roman empire. This was declining like the western Roman empire, although unlike the west it struggled on until the fall of Constantinople itself in 1450. During the late Roman and Byzantine period, I understand that the empire’s population and towns shrank, with the exception of Constantinople itself. There was also severe persecution as the Greek Orthodox and associated Melkite churches attempted to suppress the Syriac and Coptic churches, who were viewed as heretics. The result of this was that the persecuted Christians of these churches aided and welcomed the Muslim conquerors as liberators. Their incorporation into the emerging Islamic empire made them part of a political and economic region stretching from Iran and parts of India in the East to Spain in the West. This would have stimulated the provinces economically, as would a century of peaceful, or comparatively peaceful rule following the Muslim conquest.

Chris Williamson Rebuts Jon Snow on Venezuela

March 12, 2019

I don’t quite know what’s going on in Venezuela at the moment, but from the little I have seen on the alternative news channels it seems that the lamestream news are very definitely not telling us the truth. According to some of their reports, the ongoing campaign to topple Premier Maduro is just another case of the US engaging in regime change against a Latin American nation that refuses to accept its place in the American Empire.

In this clip, posted on YouTube by Philosoraptor on the 9th February 2019, Chris Williamson, the now-suspended MP for Derby, replies to Jon Snow about the crisis in the South American country. Snow argues that the chronic shortages and civil unrest are all the fault of Maduro’s regime. The sanctions imposed by America are quite correct, and so are the calls for Maduro to resign and hand over government by America, Britain and other nations.

Williamson begins by describing the British government’s recognition of Juan Guaido, Maduro’s rival, as a democratic outrage. He has never been elected head of the Venezuelan national assembly and he did not stand against Maduro in last year’s election. He also flatly contradicts another contributor to the programme, who claimed that the elections had been rigged. Williamson states that he has spoken to observers from 86 countries, who have said that it isn’t true. It’s supposedly impossible to rig the elections as each voter must bring ID and each vote is twinned with their fingerprint.

Snow then moves on to ask him how it is that one of the richest countries in Latin America is now bankrupt. Whose fault is that? Williamson replies that Venezuela has very real problems, but goes back to talking about the conduct of the elections. Snow talks over him, asking him ‘Whose fault it is?’ Williamson says he’ll come back to that, and states that Jimmy Carter called the Venezuelan elections the safest anywhere in the world. As for the fault for the country’s wretched state, Williamson explains that Maduro was dealt a very bad hand. He came into office when the price of oil had collapsed, the country was then hit with street violence by right-wing forces supported by the US. This was exacerbated by Barack Obama signing an executive order declaring that Venezuela posed an extraordinary threat to the US. And Donald Trump has ratched up the sanctions even further. A UN special Raporteur has said that the sanctions are illegal and could constitute a crime against humanity. Williamson goes to say that the UK ought to be pressing the US to withdraw the sanctions, but he is once again talked over by Snow.

Snow goes on to say that Venezuela is a country on its knees when it should be towering high, brought down by maladministration and protests, and asks him what his solution would be.

Williamson states that his solution would be that rather than behaving as Trump’s poodle, the UK should be calling on him to withdraw the sanctions and try to bring the factions around the table and reach an amicable solution. Maduro himself has called for talks to stop the violence and bring an end to its economic difficulties.

Snow then interrupts him, telling him that he’s talking as if it’s just Britain on its own. But Britain is joined by many other countries – Sweden, France, and others like Italy.

Williamson responds by pointing out the nations that are also supporting Venezuela, like Mexico. He corrects Snow on Italy, and Snow changes this and says ‘Spain’. Williamson goes on to mention Bolivia, Russia, China, Italy as supporting Maduro. It is ironic that Spain opposes Maduro, as when the Catalans declared their independence and had their referendum, the Spanish state sent in the troops and security service, meted out extreme violence on the Catalan people and put their leaders in jail. This hasn’t happened to Guaydo in Venezuela.

Snow then challenges him on the human rights record of China and Russia, two of the countries supporting Madura, to which Williamson responds by pointing once again to Mexico, Bolivia and Italy. Snow goes on to state that Williamson and Corbyn ‘are in a very nasty corner now’. He says once again that Venezuela’s terrible state is due to the people who ran it and the people who support it, and asks him if it isn’t time he changed sides. Williamson says that he won’t get behind Donald Trump, but is once again shouted over by Snow, who asks him if he’s getting behind Maduro’s gross human rights abuses. Williamson responds by saying that no-one is going to support human rights abuses, and they should be called out wherever they occur. But he goes on to tackle the media’s bias, saying they’ve been a bit ‘one-eyed’ in its reportage. He’s seen footage of government supporters beaten to death, set on fire and decapitated. This needs to be called out as well, but it is tacitly supported by the US, which is financing this kind of abuse.

Snow talks over him again, telling him that he will also see the three million refugees that Channel 4 has covered pouring into Columbia, and asks him what he has to say about them. Williamson replies by saying that people in Venezuela are understandably worried about their safety and are leaving the country. But in the past millions of people have travelled in the opposite direction from Columbia into Venezuela. Venezuelan society is divided. The poor working class and the Black community predominately support the Maduro government. The middle class and elites predominately do not. We need an end to the economic sabotage, an end to the sanctions from the United States, and we need the UK to use its good office to bring about a peaceful solution to stop it from escalating out of control. The United States actions in Latin America are appalling. They wanted to make the economy scream in Chile, and that’s what they’re doing in Venezuela. At which point Snow ends the conversation, telling him he’s had a good go to make his case.

It’s very clear from this interview where Snow’s personal sympathies lie and what his views are. But Williamson has a point. I’ve seen reports from sources like The Jimmy Dore Show, which state that some of the footage used of protests from the lamestream media is fake. An anti-Maduro demonstration, which supposedly was filmed in Venezuela, was actually staged in Columbia. As for America’s opposition to Maduro, some of this seems to come from the country’s defiance of US global economic policy. I think the country refused to get behind some of America’s demands for changes in global oil output. I also remember that they sided with Russia, Iran and several other countries in deciding to change from the Dollar to another currency as the medium of payment for oil. The petrodollar is the method by which America refinances its debts, and the moment that collapses a fair chunk of the American economy is destroyed. Hence some of the bitter opposition to Maduro and Obama’s declaration that Venezuela is a grave threat to American national security.

Quite apart from the fact that America’s long history of intervention in Latin America is appalling, with liberal and socialist regimes overthrown and brutal Fascist dictators installed in their place, all to protect American economic and corporate interests.

This interview also illustrates why the Blairites and the Israel lobby were so desperate to have Williamson suspended for supposed ‘anti-Semitism’. There’s an interesting piece by one of the journos in the alternative news media, that argues that the elite in this country hate Corbyn because he is the closest this country has to an anti-imperial candidate. His sympathies are for the poorer countries, abused and exploited by the Developed World. And so they’re determined to prevent him getting into power by any means necessary.

Williamson has been one of his staunchest supporters, and by standing up for the countries bullied and invaded by the US-led West, he too has become a target.

 

 

Aaron Bastani on the ‘Independents’ as the Old, Blairite Austerity Politics

February 25, 2019

In this 20 minute long video from Novara Media, presenter Aaron Bastani utterly demolishes the new ‘Independent’ grouping of MPs. He shows that rather than being any kind of new politics, they are simply the old, Blairite and Tory politics neoliberal politics. They are radically out of tune with what people really want, especially millennials, who have left much worse off than the preceding generation by the same politics the Blairites and Tories were pushing. And they’re being promoted by the media because they represent the old style of politics the media like: austerity with a smiley face.

Labour MPs All Going Before They’re Pushed

Bastani begins the video by describing how the departure of the seven Labour MPs – Gavin Shuker, Chris Leslie, Chuka Umunna, Ann Coffee, Luciana Berger, Mike Gapes, Angela Smith, who left to form the Independents – wasn’t actually a surprise. They were all loud critics of Corbyn, and almost all of them had been subject to motions of ‘no confidence’ or were facing deselection. They were then joined the next day by Joan Ryan, another critic of Corbyn, who had also lost a ‘no confidence’ motion. They were then joined the day after that by Anna Soubry, Heidi Allen and Sarah Wollaston from the Tories, who complained about the old, ‘broken’ politics of Labour versus Tories.

Independents Not Democratic, and Not a Political Party

The Independents, however, aren’t a political party as such. Which means that they don’t get the Short Money given to opposition parties. This could add up to hundreds of thousands of pounds. They also don’t have to conform to the same standards as proper political parties, although they claim that they will try to do so as best they can.  They also don’t have a membership. You can give them your name and contact details, and make a donation, but there is no mechanism for creating a mass organisation where the membership can determine policy. It’s a private organisation more than a political party. But what concerns Bastani the most is that they don’t want to hold bye-elections, because this would ‘crush democracy’. It’s doublespeak, and the truth is that they don’t want bye-elections because they’d lose.

Angela Smith’s Racism

He then goes on to describe how the seven founding ex-Labour members claim that they were driven out of the party by its racism, only for Angela Smith to say within hours the most racist thing he’s ever heard a politician say on television. To show how badly their launch went, Bastani produces some viewing figures. On the Monday the video of their launch had 75,000 views on Twitter. The video of Angela Smith’s apology got 700,000 views. But the video of Smith making her racist comments got even more – 1.5 million views. And while the Mirror and the Guardian wanted to splash on a video by Tom Watson, which got 500 shares on Facebook, Novara’s video of their own Ash Sarkar showing the corruption at the heart of the group – she challenged smith on her chairmanship of a parliamentary group supporting water privatisation, funded largely by the water companies – got 200,000 views. Chris Leslie then appeared later on the Beeb to sort this out. Where once again he talked about their love of democracy. A love so strong, that they don’t want to hold bye-elections, thus disenfranchising the hundreds of thousands of people, who voted for these 11 MPs. They claimed to be anti-racist, but set a new record by being racist ‘pretty much by lunchtime’.

People More Politically Engaged, Not Less

But their fundamental principle is that people don’t want Labour or Tory, but what Labour used to be 15 years ago. But at the 2017 election, 82 per cent of the population voted for either of the two main parties – Tories or Labour. That was the highest percentage the parties had since 1979. In 2010 only 65 per cent of the public voted Labour or Tory. The idea that people are turning away from the two main parties when there is a clear choice, socialism or neoliberalism, isn’t true. And the claim that people are disengaged from politics doesn’t stand up either. Voter turn-out was higher in the 2017 election, just as it was higher during the Scottish reference in 2014, and the Brexit referendum in 2016. Which was the biggest democratic exercise in British history. More people voted in that than in any previous general election or referendum. And Labour now has more than 500,000 members – more than it has had in a generation. The same is true for the SNP. More people are members of political parties now than at any point in Bastani’s lifetime. And if people genuinely do want centrist politics, how is it that the Lib Dems, who got only 8 per cent of the vote in 2015, got even less in 2017? This was despite the ‘media Einsteins’ telling us all that they would do well against the two main parties in a Brexit election. It’s almost as if, says Bastani, that the media don’t know what they’re talking about when they claim to know what the public wants.

Labour Policies Massively Popular

And then there are the policy issues. Labour’s policies are very popular. They’re right at the top of the list of why people voted Labour. But they don’t want to imitate these popular policies. Chris Leslie in an interview with New Scientist said he didn’t want a top tax rate of 50 per cent. That’s not a Corbynite policy, it’s one of Gordon Brown’s. He was also against stopping tuition fees and rejects the renationalisation of the railways, both extremely popular policies. These aren’t just popular with Labour voters, but also with Tories and Lib Dems. And polls conducted by IPPR And Sky News did polls at the end of last year which showed clear majorities of the British public wanting the Bank of England to keep house prices down and a minimal presence, at least, of workers on company boards. People don’t want centrist policies. They’re moving left, as shown on poll after poll.

Millennials Left-Wing because of Neoliberalism

And there’s a clear generational difference. At the last Labour split in 1981 when the SDP was formed, there was a clear movement to the right and post-war socialist policies had become unpopular. And yet when this split happened, the Economist carried an article decrying the popularity of socialism amongst millennials both in America and Britain. This meant ‘Generation Z’ young people, who want the government to address climate change as a fundamental part of 21st century politics. And these millennials despised the Tories, as shown by footage of an anti-Tory march. These are going to be the voters of the 2020s. And they’re not going to be bought off. They’re not left-wing because of something the read in a book, or because they want to be countercultural. They’re left-wing because their living standards and expectations are lower than their parents, they have a less expansive welfare state, they’re going to have higher levels of debt and earn less, and they will have to deal with systemic crises like demographic aging and climate change. They rightly feel that they’re screwed over. And the idea that these same people are going to agree with Chris Leslie’s idea of politics is probably the stupidest thing you’ll hear this year. And this is only February.

The Failure of Centrist Parties in France, America, Italy, Spain and Canada

But since 2015 centrist politicians have been hammered in election like Hillary Clinton in 2016. Emmanuel Macron in France was hailed as the saviour of French centrism, despite only taking 24 per cent of the vote in the first round. Now he’s the most unpopular president in French history after months of protests by the gilets jaunes, which have been met with tear gas attacks by the gendarmes, which have left people losing their eyes and their lives. Then there’s Matteo Renzi of the Partito Democratico, the Democratic Party, the Italian sister party to Britain’s Labour. In 2014 they took 42 per cent of the vote. But he was out within two years, having lost a referendum by 20 points. And in the last election the party lost half of their senators, leaving Italy governed by the Five Star Movement and the far-right Liga. Then there’s the example of the PSOE’s Pedro Sanchez. The PSOE is the Spanish equivalent of the Labour party. He’s also suffered mass protests and this week Spain called new general elections, which his party are certain to lose. Centrism is not popular in Europe or America, so the Independents have to turn to Canada’s Justin Trudeau. But Trudeau is now less popular in his country than Donald Trump in the US. Not that the media pushing ‘centrism’ will tell you this.

The Centrist Real Policy: More Austerity

The unpopularity of centrist politics is due to the fact that they still haven’t solved the problems of global capitalism created by the 2008 crash. They believed that financialisation would create the economic growth that would support public services. But financialisation hasn’t created growth since 2008. And as they can’t create prosperity and tackle income inequality, all they’ve have to give us is austerity ‘with a nice smiley face’.

Labour Splitters against Iraq Inquiry, For Welfare Cuts

And not only do the eight former Labour MPs have Brexit in common, they also voted against an independent inquiry into Iraq. A million people have been affected by the war, along with those, who suffered under ISIS, and Iranian influence has expanded across the Middle East. The idea that Iraq is irrelevant is not only absurd, it is a disgrace. People have died, and it has made an already volatile region even more so. And Britain is directly responsible. The former Labour MPs also abstained on the vote of welfare reform before Corbyn came to power. They do not stand for a moral foreign policy, or for a more just social system at home.

Their politics are a mixture of careerism and opportunism, and their opposition to Brexit actually makes a new deal more likely. They are driven by fundamental democratic principles, but won’t stand for a bye-election. No members, no policies, no party democracy, no vision. Bastani states that this isn’t the future of politics, it’s the past, and the worst aspects at that. He looks forward to sensible people joining them, because they’re going to be found out sooner or later. And if we want to establish the primacy of socialist ideas, he says, then bring it on.

John McDonnell Outrages Tories with Comments about Churchill’s Villainy

February 16, 2019

John McDonnell kicked up a storm of controversy this week when, in an interview with the Politico website on Wednesday, he described Winston Churchill as a villain. McDonnell was answering a series of quick-fire questions, and the one about Churchill was ‘Winston Churchill. Hero or villain?’ McDonnell replied ‘Tonypandy – villain’. This referred to the Tonypandy riots of 1910, when striking miners were shot down by the army after clashing with the police. According to the I’s article on the controversy on page 23 of Wednesday’s edition, Churchill initially refused requests to send in the troops, instead sending a squad of metropolitan police. Troops were also sent in to stand in reserve in Cardiff and Swindon. Following further rioting, Churchill sent in the 18th Hussars. He later denied it, but it was widely believed that he had given orders to use live rounds. There’s still very strong bitterness amongst Welsh working people about the massacre. The I quoted Louise Miskell, a historian at Swansea University, who said that ‘He is seen as an enemy of the miners’.

Boris Johnson, who has written a biography of Churchill, was naturally outraged, declaring ‘Winston Churchill saved this country and the whole of Europe from a barbaric fascist and racist tyranny, and our debt to him is incalculable’. He also said that McDonnell should be ashamed of his remarks and withdraw them forthwith.

McDonnell, speaking on ITV news, said that although he didn’t want to upset people, he’d give the same answer again to that question if he was honest, and said that he welcomed it if it has prompted a more rounded debate about Churchill’s role. He said that Churchill was undoubtedly a hero during the Second World War, but that this was not necessarily the case in other areas of his life. He said ‘Tonypandy was a disgrace.: sending the troops in, killing a miner, tryinig to break a strike and other incidents in his history as well.’

The I then gave a brief list of various heroic and villainous incidents. These were

* Saving Britain from the Nazis during and helping to lead the Allies to victory during the Second World War.

* Introducing the Trade Boards Bill of 1909, which established the first minimum wages system for various trades across the UK.

* Making the famous speech about an Iron Curtain coming down across Europe in 1946.

* According to his biographer, John Charmley, Churchill believed in a racial hierarchy and eugenics, and that at the top of this were White Protestant Christians.

* Saying that it was ‘alarming and nauseating’ seeing Gandhi ‘striding half-naked up the steps of the vice-regal palace.’ He also said ‘I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion’.

* Three million people died in the Bengal famine of 1943, in which Churchill refused to deploy food supplies.

It’s in the context of the Bengal famine that Churchill made his vile remarks about Indians. The Bengalis starved because their grain had been sequestered as back up supplies to fee British troops. In the end they weren’t needed, according to one video I’ve seen on YouTube. Churchill also said that the famine was their fault for having too many children.

He also supported the brief British invasion of Russia to overthrow the Communist Revolution, and the use of gas on Russian troops. Just as he also wanted to use gas to knock out, but not kill, Iraqi troops in Mesopotamia when they revolted in the 1920s against British rule.

He also said that ‘Keep Britain White’ was a good slogan for the Tories to go into the 1951 general election.

It’s clearly true that Churchill’s determined opposition to the Nazis did help lead to a free Europe and the defeat of Nazi Germany. But according to the historian of British Fascism, Martin Pugh, he did not do so out of opposition to Fascism per se. He was afraid that Nazi Germany posed a threat to British interests in the North Sea. The Conservative journo, Peter Hitchens, is very critical of Churchill and Britain’s entry into the Second World War. He rightly points out that Churchill wasn’t interested in saving the Jews, but that we went in because of the treaties we had signed with Poland and France. As for defeating Nazism, historians have for a long time credited the Soviet Red Army with breaking the back of the Wehrmacht. In one of Spike Milligan’s war memoirs, he jokes that if Churchill hadn’t sent the troops in, then the Iron Curtain would begin about Bexhill in Kent. Churchill also went on a diplomatic visit to Mussolini’s Italy after the Duce seized power, though privately he remarked that the man was ‘a perfect swine’ after the Italian dictator declared that his Blackshirts were ‘the equivalent of your Black and Tans’. For many people, that’s an accurate comparison, given how brutal and barbaric the Black and Tans were. And as an authoritarian, Churchill also got on very well and liked General Franco. And George Orwell also didn’t take Churchill seriously as the defender of democracy. In the run-up to the outbreak of war, he remarked that strange things were occurring, one of which was ‘Winston Churchill running around pretending to be a democrat’.

Now I don’t share Hitchen’s view that we shouldn’t have gone into the Second World War. The Nazis were determined to exterminate not just Jews, Gypsies and the disabled, but also a large part of the Slavic peoples of eastern Europe. One Roman Catholic site I found had an article on Roman Catholic and Christian martyrs under the Nazis. This began with the Nazis’ attempts to destroy the Polish people, and particularly its intellectuals, including the Polish Roman Catholic Church. It quoted Hitler as saying that war with Poland would a be a war of extermination. Hitler in his Table Talk as also talks about exterminating the Czechs, saying that ‘It’s them or us.’ Churchill may have gone into the War entirely for reasons of British imperial security, but his action nevertheless saved millions of lives right across Europe. It overthrew a regime that, in Churchill’s words, threatened to send the continent back into a new Dark Age, lit only by the fire of perverted science’.

Having said that does not mean he was not a monster in other areas. The General Strike was a terrible defeat for the British working class, but if Churchill had been involved it would almost certainly have been met with further butchery on his part. Again, according to Pugh, Churchill was all set to send the army in, saying that they were ready to do their duty if called on by the civil authority. The Tory prime minister, Stanley Baldwin, was all too aware of what would happen, and when another minister of civil servant suggested finding him a position in the Post Office or the department looking after the radio, he enthusiastically agreed, because it would keep Churchill out of trouble.

As for the Bengal famine, I think that still haunts Indian nationalists today. I was looking at the comments on Al-Jazeera’s video on YouTube about the UN finding severe poverty in Britain a few months ago. There was a comment left by someone with an Indian name, who was entirely unsympathetic and said he looked forward to our country being decimated by starvation. My guess is that this vicious racist was partly inspired in his hatred of Britain by the famine, as well as other aspects of our rule of his country.

I think McDonnell’s remarks, taken as a whole, are quite right. McDonnell credited him with his inspiring leadership during the War, but justifiably called him a villain because of the Tonypandy massacre. And eyewitnesses to the rioting said that the miners really were desperate. They were starving and in rags. And Churchill should not be above criticism and his other crimes and vile statements and attitudes disregarded in order to create a sanitized idol of Tory perfection, as Johnson and the other Tories would like.

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.

Antony Gormley Presents Programme on Stone Age Art

January 25, 2019

According to the Radio Times for 26th January to 1st February 2019, tomorrow, Saturday, 26th January, Antony Gormley will be presenting a programme on the origins of art way back in the Stone Age. As well as trotting round the world looking at various Paleolithic sites, he also meets and talks to the modern practitioners of this ancient art, Aboriginal Australians. The programme’s entitled ‘Antony Gormley: How Art Began’, and the blurb for it on page 52 of the Radio Times runs

One of Britain’s most celebrate sculptors travels back in time and journeys across the globe to piece together how art began. Once we believed that it all started with the cave paintings of Ice Age Europe, but new discoveries are overturning that idea. Deep inside the caves of France, Spain and Indonesia, Gormley finds beautiful, haunting and surprising works of art. The creator of the Angel of the North asks what these images from millennia ago tell us about who we are.

There’s rather more information about the programme by David Butcher on page 50, which says

Yes, it’s a documentary about prehistoric cave art. How often over the years have we seen an arts presenter in torchlight, sighing about the ineffable power of cave painting?

But this is different. This is Antony Gormley, one of our great artists, who by lucky chance is also a better talker about art than most presenters, making a pilgrimage not just through the French caves that he first visited on his honeymoon (we see a holiday snap) but also venturing further afield to Indonesia and Australia, looking for the first stirrings of human creativity.

“This is a cathedral of joy in living things,” he says in a cave called Les Combarelles. “I think we’ve found a Palaeolithic Picasso,” he jokes in Niaux. And in an extraordinary scene at Pech Merle, with its 28,000-year-old paintings of horses, a local expert demonstrates how they were made, by chewing up charcoal and delicately blow-spitting on the rock.

The ancient cave paintings of northern Spain and southern France are superb, extremely naturalistic depictions of the creatures roaming that part of the Mediterranean during the Old Stone Age 28,000 years ago. Some of them seem to have been deliberately painted on distinctly shaped pieces of rock, so that if you come into the part of the caves where they are they appear to move. When Picasso saw them over a century ago, he was so utterly astonished at their superb quality that he declared ‘We have invented nothing!’

At the turn of the Millennium 18 years ago, Hugh Quarshie, one of the actors in Casualty, presented a programme on the art and artefacts of the Stone Age on New Year’s Eve. One of the speakers he interviewed about them was a director of Horror flicks – I’ve forgotten whom. But he made some very interesting points about the parallels between Palaelithic art and his type of movie. They were both initiatory experiences which you viewed in darkness.

There seems to have been a definite religious/ritual purpose to their production. Most of them are found in chambers deep in the cave systems, which are extremely difficult to reach. To get to one of them you literally have to squeeze through on your stomach. There was very probably an aural component to their painting as well. Quite often the rocks near them have musical properties. Their lithophones which produce musical tones when struck. It therefore seems that some of them were being played while the artists worked producing these amazing pieces of work.

No-one quite knows why these wonderful paintings were made. It’s been suggested that they may have been made to secure success in hunting, or for fertility. Others have suggested that they were produced as part of shamanic rituals, in which the painters attempted to pass through the membrane between this world and that of the spirits. Whatever the reason they were created, they’re superb. I’m not a fan of Gormley’s work, but this looks well worth watching.

Anthropologist, TV presenter and former member of Time Team Alice Roberts also talked about the ancient cave paintings of Europe this week in the last edition of her The Incredible Human Journey, the series in which she traced humanity’s emergence and spread out of Africa tens of thousands of years. This week she talked about some of the very earliest human remains found in Europe, including those of modern Homo Sapiens from around 30-40,000 years ago from a cave in Romania. A forensic artist then reconstructed what one of them may have looked like from one of the skulls found. Roberts and the artist remarked on the person’s absence of any distinct racial characteristics. It was a definite human face, but it was neither Black, White or Asian, although they pointed out that we believe the people at this time had dark, Black skin. But it comes from a time before the development of modern racial characteristics.

They also reconstructed the face of a Neanderthal from about this time. They were stocky, powerfully built people with big noses and strong brow ridges. Although they died out, some of them interbreed with the invading modern humans, so that the DNA of modern people outside Africa contains about 3%-9% Neanderthal genes. The reconstruction didn’t have any hair. Contemplating it Roberts said that although Neanderthal women probably found modern human men very handsome, and that human women obviously found something in Neanderthal males, she wouldn’t have fancied mating with them. Well, each to his or her own taste. Looking at the reconstructed Neanderthal head, it reminded me of nothing so much as that of Beeb TV presenter and former felon, Dom Littlewood.

She also covered the ancient cave paintings, talking to a French artist who worked using the same techniques. He was shown blowing charcoal on to the rock behind his hand trying to create a stenciled handprint, just like those left by the ancient artists. Like the article in the Radio Times, Roberts said that it had to be made using a distinct technique. You couldn’t take it all into your mouth and just spit it out. Instead the artist blew it out in a constant stream of spitting, leaving his hand black with charcoal. It’s quite a time consuming process, and Roberts and the artist said that some works could take as long as week.

The art of the palaeolithic is fascinating and enigmatic. We’re learning more about it and the people who produced it, but so much still remains lost in the mysteries of time.