Posts Tagged ‘Bristol University’

Correspondence with Deputy Major Asher Craig on Slavery Education in Bristol

July 9, 2020

Asher Craig (below) is Bristol’s deputy mayor from communities, which takes in public health, public transport, libraries, parks, and events and equalities, and the Labour councillor for St. George West.

Councillor Asher Craig

I sent an email to her on Tueday this week, 7th July 2020, expressing my concerns at a brief interview she had given to BBC News Sunday night, and which had been repeated that morning on Radio 4. This was about Edward Colston and the legacy of slavery in the city. The Beeb had dispatched Lisa Mzimba to Bristol to investigate this lingering issue, and sound out local people about their opinions on it. One of those he spoke to was Asher Craig. And her comments frankly annoyed me, because they appeared to show that she was unaware that the city had tackled slavery and produced books and exhibitions about it, and that there was now a gallery devoted to it at the M Shed museum on Bristol’s docks. She kindly replied to me, and I include this with my email in this article, as well as my own comments on this.

I’m very well aware how sensitive racial issues. Please don’t anyone troll her or send her abusive or threatening messages. There’s far too much of this on the net as it is, and I don’t want to stoke up more of it or increasing racism instead of trying get rid of it.

Craig had declared that Bristol had covered up its history of slavery, and that she wanted to see a museum of slavery opened here. She also said that the council was introducing a new curriculum, which would educate children about this aspect of the city’s past. This also concerned me, as I feel very strongly that western slavery needs to be put into its global context. Slavery has existed in many societies right across the world, including Africa and Islam. It was Black African kingdoms who sold the slave to us, rather than White Europeans raiding Africa directly for slaves, although that had also gone on. Furthermore, in the 16th and 17th centuries the Barbary pirates of Muslim north Africa raided Europe for slaves. Ships from Bristol were also attacked and their crews enslaved. I am concerned that these aspects of the slave trade should also be taught in order to avoid teaching a view that is equally racist but against Whites, that racism and slavery is something that only Whites do to people of colour.  And anti-White racism has also existed in Bristol alongside hatred of Blacks and other people of colour.

I therefore sent Deputy Mayor Craig the following email:

Dear Madam,

This morning Radio 4 broadcast a brief interview you did with the BBC’s news presenter, Lisa Mzimba, about the current controversy surrounding Edward Colston’s statue and the need to confront the city’s participation in the slave trade. You, like many people, feel that it has been insufficiently addressed and more needs to be done to tackle racism. Unfortunately, you made several statements which were factually incorrect and suggest that there are areas about Bristol’s education system and the various displays the city’s museums have put on to address this, of which you are unaware.

Firstly, you claimed that the city has covered up its involvement in the slave trade. This is myth, and I am shocked that it is still circulating. I understand that it comes from an incident in the 1970s when a member of Bristol’s Black community telephoned the city council whether there was anything available about the city and the slave trade. The person answering the call denied that Bristol ever took part in the trade. Obviously that is clearly wrong, and it is understandable that after this many of Bristol’s Black citizens would feel that the city was engaged in a cover-up.

However, educational materials produced at the time for teaching the city’s history in schools do cover the slave trade. The book Bristol: An Outline History for Schools, by H. Chasey (Bristol: George’s Booksellers 1975) discusses the slave trade on its page on 18th century trade. 13 years ago there was also a book published about Bristol in 1807, which was specifically brought out to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire. While this was a work of general history, it made a point of discussing the city’s participation in the slave trade. The book was available from the Central Library among other venues. The Central Library has also published a booklet of materials they hold on slavery. This was published by the Reference Library, and titled Bristol 1807: A Sense of Place – Our City in the Year of Abolition. It had the subtitle, Slavery, Abolition and Emancipation: A Reading List. The local branch of the historical association also published a booklet,Bristol and the Abolition of Slavery, by Peter Marshall.

In the 1990’s the City Museum presented an exhibition, ‘A Respectable Trade’, about Bristol and the slave trade, which coincided with the drama of that name then showing on BBC television, based on the book of the same name by Philippa Gregory. This exhibition has now ended, but there is an entire gallery devoted to the subject at the M Shed. I realize that a gallery or exhibition is not the same as the museum you wish to be built, but it does show that the local council has addressed this issue.

You also said that you had created a curriculum for schools across the city that would cover this and other aspects of Black history. I’d be very grateful if you could tell me whether this includes the participation of African states in the slave trade, and their resistance to its abolition. As I’m sure you’re aware, the slave trade was not simply a case of White Europeans kidnapping Black Africans. Many African states, such as Dahomey and Mali, had slavery long before the appearance of White Europeans in Africa. Europeans were largely confined to ghettos in some of these states’ cities, and it was these African states that led the raids and obtained the slaves, which they then sold to Europeans.

The slave trade was also not confined to White Europeans either. There was also the Arab and Indian slave trades, which saw people from central and eastern Africa enslaved and then exported to India, Afghanistan, Arabia and other countries. It was partly to suppress this slave trade that the British empire first made treaties with Imam of Muscat, who was then the region’s suzerain, and then invaded this part of Africa.There was also the Turkish slave trade, which saw Black Sudanese enslaved and transported north to Egypt and the other states of the Maghreb.Moroccan slave trade only ended in 1911, because the British empire actively opposed its conquest by the other European powers.

I realize that this goes beyond merely local history, but it is important to avoid perpetuating a simplistic view in which slavery in only something that Whites ever did to Blacks. You have made it very clear that you wish to stamp out racism. However, in my experience racism is far from being confined to Whites. There has been anti-White as well as anti-Black racism in Bristol’s schools, as well as vicious ethnic hatred between Asians and the BAME community. As difficult as this, I feel very strongly that this also needs to be addressed.

I would also like to know what you are doing to cover the subject of the White Bristolians, who were also enslaved. As you know, Bristol’s participation in the slave trade actually predates that of the transatlantic slave trade.The city sold English slaves abroad in the 11th and 12th century centuries. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Bristolian seamen were also kidnapped and enslaved by the Barbary pirates. Five of Bristol’s ships were captured in one year. While the enslavement of White Europeans was obviously minuscule compared to that of the Black Africans enslaved – 2 1/2 million compared to 12 1/2 million, nevertheless it occurred and is, I believe, partly responsible for modern prejudices towards Islam.

I would greatly appreciate it if you could tell me what you are doing to address these issues, and look forward to your reply

Yesterday I got this reply from her.

Thank you for your email.

I am very much aware of the history of slavery in this city and the resources & educational materials you refer to in your email.

It’s a pity that my interview was edited because if you had heard my full response you would not have sent me such an email.

The One Bristol curriculum will tell the full truth not the half truths of history we were all taught in school. It will celebrate our black history from Africa, Caribbean, UK but will also expand to look at the wider local history of poor white working class communities. The History Commission the Mayor is putting in place will  also I form our work going forward.

We have to start somewhere and we’ve always known that the burning platform, I’m sure you’d agree, is eliminating racial hatred & discrimination which is deeply embedded in this society.

Thank you for the history lesson but we know what we’re doing. We work inclusively not exclusively which I’m afraid is the centuries old way of white men in power.

It’s possible that the appearance of ignorance on her part was caused by the Beeb’s editing. I think if you challenged them, the Corporation would probably tell you that it was all for time. But considering their shenanigans in trying to present as biased a view of the Labour party as they can get away with, I’m not sure you can completely discount malice. I doubt it in this case, however, as by and large the broadcast media has presented Black Lives Matter sympathetically. I am very much aware that there are glaring exceptions to this from the usual crowd of right-wing shills. There is a problem with the broadcaster’s own ignorance of Bristol’s history. An ITV report on the pulling down of Colston’s statue recited some of the old myths including that about Black Boy Hill. This is supposed to be named after a slave, but the 1990’s exhibition at the City Museum showed that this probably wasn’t true, and that it was most likely named after a race horse owned by Charles II.

Councillor Craig’s statement that the history curriculum would include that of the White working class is interesting, and a positive step if that is the case. However, I’m not impressed her comment about White men. It’s been true of western society,  but in nearly all societies across the globe power has been in the hands of elite men. And most societies have been extremely nationalistic as well as hierarchical, excluding other ethnic and social groups from power and privilege. I’ve met people, who have been really shocked at how racist some non-Western nations, like China, can be.

Bristol has also been an ethnically diverse city for centuries. The latest issue of the Postscript bargain books catalogue contains a book on this aspect of the city’s history. Written by Madge Dresser and Peter Fleming, two of the history lecturers at the University of the West of England, it titled Bristol: Ethnic Minorities and the City 1000-2001 (Phillimore 2009). The blurb for it runs

Over the past thousand years, Bristol, as one of England’s most important ports, has been a magnet for migrants. From medieval Jews to 21st-century asylum seekers. This pioneering study examines the activities of the various ethnic groups who have settled in the city. Investigating how the survived economically, how they dealt with social dislocation and discrimination, and how they constructed identities for their communities, it offers insights into the wider history of the city and the nation.

Dr Dresser was one of those involved in the creation of the 1990s slavery exhibit along with several others. I think one of them might have been Dr Mark Horton of Bristol University and then Time Team fame. Dresser teaches 18th century history and the slave trade at UWE, and has published a book on how the city continued slaving after its formal abolition, Slavery Obscured. If the city is putting together a commission to produce a multicultural approach to the city’s history, then it almost certainly will contain her.

As for Craig’s statement ‘Thank you for the history lesson but we know what we’re doing’, apart from showing a certain tetchiness – she obviously doesn’t like being pulled up on her history by a member of the public – it remains to be seen if the council does know what it’s doing. They won’t be short of experts, with real insights into these issues from the city’s universities.

It’ll be very interesting to see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grimes and Starkey Get Racist Discussing Slavery and British Imperialism

July 3, 2020

Yesterday the ever-reliable Zelo Street put up a very revealing piece about one of the videos Darren Grimes had put up on the Reasoned YouTube channel. Reasoned is yet another Conservative astroturf organisation set up by the group Media and Activism, the same people who brought you Turning Point UK. That’s the Turning Point UK which is the British subsidiary of the American conservative youth movement, Turning Point. It was officially opened by Dave Rubin and Candace Owens, who immediately showed her lack of historical knowledge by denying that Hitler was a nationalist, even though he said he was and it’s in the Nazis’ name. Worse, she said that she thought that Hitler’s actions would have been all right, if only he had stuck to Germany. Which obviously suggests she thinks the dismantlement of democracy, the imprisonment of political prisoners, and the mass murder of Jews, Gypsies and the disabled would have been a-OK if it had been confined to Germany. I really don’t believe she meant to say that, but it illustrates how some people, especially on the right, really need to engage their brains and do some reading before their open their mouths.

Grimes should have avoided such massive historical illiteracy with his guest in the video Zelo Street discussed. This was Dr David Starkey, the expert on Queen Elizabeth I and the Tudors, who has himself presented and appeared on many history programmes. Grimes, who really looks like he should be in school studying for his ‘O’ levels rather than pumping out extreme right-wing propaganda for the Tories, had Starkey on to discuss British history. The video’s title was about BLM delegitimating (sic) British history. By which Reasoned presumably meant British imperial history. And the discussion became a car crash.

The pair debated the question of whether slavery was a genocide. This is a claim made by many Black activists, and it ultimately comes from the great American civil rights leader W.E.B. DuBois. DuBois had argued that it was, drawing on the descriptions of the devastation to African communities by the depredations of the slavers. Starkey denied that it was, on the grounds that the Black population had not only survived, but expanded. This is also true, and has been used by many historians and academics as an illustration of how human populations can recover quickly after they’ve been massively reduced.

You could also argue that slavery wasn’t a genocide on the grounds that, like Stalin’s purges and the deportations of whole ethnic groups in the Soviet Union, the point wasn’t to exterminate but to enslave and exploit. Back when I was doing my Ph.D. at Bristol uni, I went to a seminar in the History department given by a lad on what officially counts as a genocide. There are a number of conflicting definitions. Atrocities that count as genocide under one are excluded under another. The only mass murder which fits all the definitions is the Holocaust. The speaker’s attitude was that historians and human rights campaigners should step back from trying to make precise definitions because they actually do more to obscure rather than illuminate. Instead there should be a commonsense approach, where people knew it when they saw it without worrying too much about quibbling details.

If this attitude is taken, then yes, slavery does count as genocide because of the destruction and death inflicted on African communities through slave raiding, and the very high death rate among the enslaved as they were taken across the Atlantic – 25 per cent of slaves died during the journey – and then put to work. Time Team a while ago conducted an excavation of a plantation, including the slave village, on one of the Caribbean islands. In the programme, Tony Robinson announced that the average life expectancy on the plantations was three years. This was regardless whether someone was one of the slaves or not. Life expectancy presumably improved, as it became the custom for the slaveowners to ‘season’ their slaves, letting them rest and recuperate for a year before setting them to work. But there was a debate over how hard slaves should be worked. Some planters recommending working them literally to death to get as much out of them as possible, and then simply buying more replacements. And the birthrate among slaves is always low. This has been true throughout history, from the Romans to the Caribbean and Americas. It’s why the British government started to try to ameliorate slave conditions of slaves owned by the crown in 1816, twenty years before slavery was officially abolished.

But it wasn’t so much Starkey’s denial that slavery was a genocide that was the problem, but the way he denied it. Starkey declared “Slavery was not genocide, otherwise there wouldn’t be so many damn blacks in Africa or in Britain, would there? An awful lot of them survived”. The emphasis was Zelo Street’s, who said that here Starkey sounded like an apologist for apartheid South Africa c. 1980 but without the accent. He also said that “The honest teaching of the British Empire is to say quite simply that it is the first key stage of world globalisation. It’s probably the most important moment in human history, and it’s still with us,” adding, “Its consequences are still on … and in most ways, actually fruitful”. The Street comments “Not sure what the reaction to that would be in many of those countries that were given the benefit of this less than benign phenomenon, along with the brutal militarisation, enforced famines, and free trade that was only free if it suited the colonial power.” This is also true. The campaign for the independence of the Caribbean countries began in the 1930s with nationalists upset at the way their trade was hampered through its ties to Britain. They wished to develop their economies and sell goods to other nations, like America. And there were artificial famines across the empire produced and exacerbated by a rigid adherence to free trade. Starving populations were refused free or artificially subsidized, cheap grain because this would violate the principles of free trade. See the book Late Victorian Holocausts. And present-day globalisation is still creating misery for the world’s working people from the developing world to the west.

Starkey’s overall conclusion is wrong, but it has to be admitted that the British Empire also did some good. The expansion into Africa in the late 19th century was partly motivated from a desire to crush slavery and the slave trade, although this also led to establishment of systems of forced labour inflicted on the indigenous peoples on behalf of the European colonists. But what was offensive was obviously not so much what he said, but how he said it: ‘so many damn Blacks in Africa or in Britain’.

It’s at this point that you also wonder what Grimes and the video’s director and producers thought they were doing. If the video was being recorded rather than broadcast live, they should have stepped in and told Starkey that he couldn’t say that, then gone back and reshot the piece. But they didn’t. Nor did Grimes look uncomfortable as Starkey said it. Others would have pulled a face or shown some disapproval, but apparently Grimes cheerfully nods along. This resulted in one of the peeps on Twitter putting up a clip of him nodding in agreement to one of Adolf’s rants.

Zelo Street concludes that this should effectively terminate Grime’s and Starkey’s careers. He states

‘From here there should be no way back for either Starkey or Grimes, although Brendan O’Neill will no doubt be along soon to excuse the whole affair, blaming any criticism on “leftists”, “wokeism”, or some other excuse that allows him to pretend to understand George Orwell. Darren Grimes is fronting a racist endeavour.

Will broadcasters now think better of inviting Dazza on? Don’t hold your breath.’

It should, but it won’t. Not unless far more people see and comment on it so that any appearance by either of them is immediately greeted with strong objections and complaints. As it stands, however, I think Starkey is far too established as a TV personality and popular historian to suffer much from this, while it seems that no matter how noxious Grimes and the rest of the Paul Staines massive can be, they still seem to be feted as legitimate journalists.

Once upon a time Starkey bridled if someone accused him of racism. Now on this video, he seems to have shown that he is. And Grimes and his backers are too. And worse, they’re unashamed. If this isn’t checked, the racism will only get more overt and worse.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/07/darren-grimes-fronts-racist-endeavour.html

Julia Hartley-Brewer Sneers as Greta Thunberg Visits Bristol

February 29, 2020

Yesterday, Norwegian schoolgirl eco-warrior and global phenomenon Greta Thunberg visited my hometown, the fair city of Bristol. She was due to speak at College Green by City Hall in Bristol, before leading a march through town to the Tobacco Factory. This was exactly what it’s called, but the tobacco industry has just about vanished from Bristol, and it is now a theatre. Many of the city’s schools gave their pupils the day off so that they could join her. Her visit was naturally the main focus of the local news yesterday. Thousands went to see her, and it was a real family event. Parents and grandparents also went, and took their children and grandchildren. The teenage organisers, who had invited her, were interviewed. They were intelligent and articulate. One of them, a young man, was given the opportunity by the local TV crew to appear again promoting another, different, but equally important issue. The lad had said that he wished there was the same kind of crowds and interest for combating knife crime. He’s absolutely right, as this is a plague claiming and wrecking young people’s lives up and down the country. So the crew told him to wait a moment while they found someone he could talk to about this. With luck this should lead to positive developments so that in a few months’ time or however long, he should be back with us organising a mass campaign against that issue.

Thunberg’s visit was an historic occasion for the city. The people going enjoyed it, and it will doubtless have delighted Mayor Marvin and the other members of the council, who are trying to turn Bristol into one of the world’s leading Green cities. I didn’t go, as I still have this stinking cold, though I didn’t really feel like attending anyway. But I’m glad for the people, who did.

One person, who definitely didn’t approve of Thunberg’s visit was TalkRadio right-wing mouthpiece and howling snob, Julia Hartley-Brewer. According to Zelo Street, Hartley-Dooda got very sneering about the whole affair on Twitter. First she retweeted Mike Graham, another right-wing TalkRadio entity calling Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall a ‘plank’, because he was in Bristol with his sister and family to support the demo. Dooda herself then issue the following Tweet explaining why she wouldn’t let her daughter go on the march:

If my child wanted to join a school #ClimateStrike I’d expect her to: 1. Know enough to pass a test on climate change facts 2. Agree to give up fashion, all lifts home & all holiday flights 3. Even if she did both 1 & 2, I still wouldn’t let her bunk off school”.

She had to sneer at the Beeb’s coverage of pro-Brexit demonstrations, stating

‘At least 30,000 people.’ Or, if it was the same size crowd at a pro-Brexit rally in a BBC report, ‘hundreds of people’”.

She then sneered at the people, who did attend, with this tweet

There’s something about the people attending this #climatestrike by #BristolYS4C with #Greta that I can’t quite put my finger on… Gosh, now what *is* it? I wonder if [Jon Snow] or a BBC reporter could help out?” This was followed by “Nope, I still can’t work out what it is. It’s on the tip of my tongue but…”

This was accompanied by photos of the crowd. If she’s trying to imply that they were somewhat lacking in charisma or shoddily dressed or whatever, she’s seriously missed the mark. They don’t look like anything to me except severely normal people with their hoods and anoraks on getting soaked.

She then retweeted a piece by someone called Ben Pile, who completely denies the existence of global warming and who had attacked George Monbiot:  “George invents victims of climate change in Bangladesh and Ethiopia … Both countries have in fact boomed over the last two decades”.

She then followed this by retweeting Darren Grimes, who was in turn responding to Guido Fawkes and their endorsement of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which, you will not be surprised, also denies the existence of global warming. Grimes was moaning that, thanks to environmental concerns, Britain couldn’t build an additional airport even though with contribute less than 1% to global emissions.

The Sage of Crewe concludes of her rather mean-spirited behaviour

‘But seriously, this is a sad show of inconsiderate selfishness by someone who is regularly given a platform by major broadcasters. Just because Ms Hartley Dooda wants to carry on with her long-haul jollies doesn’t invalidate the scale of the climate crisis. And the only reason she seems concerned about the Coronavirus is because that, too, could prevent her jetting off to embark on another exhibition of conspicuous consumption.

Julia Hartley Dooda cares. But only about Herself Personally Now.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/02/julia-hartley-dooda-spooked-by-teenager.html

In fact, the event seems to have been positively received by very many teachers and educationalists. Many of the group that organised it, a group of youth climate strike activists, came from Chew Valley school. Chew Valley is the name of one of the neighbouring villages outside the city. The school said that they had been given time off for the pupils to go. One of the girls involved, a 17-year old, was given an honorary doctorate by Bristol University for her work researching birds and working for their preservation. Another teacher, who was going with his pupils, said that they were incorporating the visit into the curriculum. This apparently covers the environment and ecology. Thunberg’s visit was also important to the citizenship part of the curriculum as well, because it is an example of the right to protest.

But as a right-wing Murdoch hack, Dooda doesn’t believe in global warming or cares about the environment, because doing so gets in the way of those all-important corporate profits. It’s an attitude obviously shared by Grimes and the Paul Staines’ collective. Pile pointing to Bangladesh and Ethiopia experiencing significant economic growth is, as Zelo Streets points out, a piece of misdirection. Climate change doesn’t necessarily prevent it. But it does mean a deterioration in the environment and living conditions for those countries hit by it. Bangladesh may well be experiencing a boom at the same time it’s threatened by rising sea levels.

As for organisations like the Global Warming Policy Foundation, they are very definitely in the minority. The vast majority of scientists believe that global warming is an established fact. Groups like the Foundation, on the other hand, tend to be the pet scientists set up and funded by big business in order to protect themselves and their profits. The Koch brothers set up a number of fake ‘astroturf’ right-wing grassroots organisations and research groups denying climate change, in order to protect their companies in the fossil fuel industry.  I dare say the GWPF is a similar organisation, whose findings should be taken with the same scepticism given to the pronouncements of the various medical research groups funded by the tobacco industry, which told everyone that there was no link between ciggies and cancer.

And just looking through one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham a few weeks ago, I came across an academic book about environmental decline and the effects of global warming. The information supporting its existence is out there, if Hartley-Brewer cares to look.

But she won’t. Because that might show her that unrestrained capitalism isn’t completely good and benign, and that she herself might have to change her behaviour to save the planet. Like stop jetting around to exclusive, exotic resorts to show how much wealthier she is than the rest of us.

Everybody in Bristol seems to have had a great time yesterday, despite Dooda’s determination to sneer at it all. I hope the world pays attention to them, than hacks like her. Which will not only annoy Dooda herself, but her master, Murdoch. And that, like fighting climate change, is itself a noble goal.

Elderly Rabbi Arrested at Extinction Rebellion Protest

October 16, 2019

Yesterday’s I, for Tuesday, 15th October 2019, carried an article by Jennifer Logan reporting that an elderly rabbi had been arrested by the rozzers after praying at an Extinction Rebellion protest in London. The article ran

A rabbi who was arrested after kneeling and praying in the middle of a road during the Extinction Rebellion protests in London said yesterday that he was “standing up for his grandchildren.”

Police have now arrested 1,405 people in connection with the protests, which will continue tomorrow when activists are understood to be planning to block roads outside MI5 on what will be the seventh day of direct action over the global climate crisis.

Jeffrey Newman, the Rabbi Emeritus of Finchley Reform Synagogue in north London, was protesting alongside about 30 Jewish activists. He was arrested near the Bank of England as hundreds of people descended upon the financial centre for a second week of protests.

The 77-year-old, who was wearing a white yarmulka branded with the black Extinction Rebellion logo, said: “I see it as my religious and moral duty to stand up for what I believe in, and what I care about, for my grandchildren.

“I haven’t tried to involve the synagogue, because if you are asking for permission, you might not get it. I think it’s much more important to do what I’m doing.”

After last week’s protests, which blockaded Parliament and targeted City Airport, protesters are now focusing on the City of London over financial backing for fossil fuels. They claim that trillions of pounds are flowing through financial markets to invest in fossil fuels which damage the climate.

Extinction Rebellion said dozens of activists were due to appear in court this week, including trials connected with previous action in April.

I have to say that Extinction Rebellion aren’t exactly my favourite protest group, because their demonstrations seem to inconvenience the general public more than the politicians and the big corporations behind the fossil fuel industries and global warming. But they have a very, very good cause. Meteorologists, ecologists, along with other scientists and broadcasters like Sir David Attenborough have been warning for decades that unless something is done, our beautiful world may very well die and humanity along with it. When I was studying for my doctorate in Archaeology at Bristol Uni, one of the postgraduate seminars in the department was by an archaeologist on the impact of climate change on human cultures throughout history. He was particularly concerned about drought and desertification, which certainly has catastrophically affected human civilisations around the world. One of the most dramatic examples was the abandonment of the Amerindian pueblo cities in the Canyon de Chelly in the American southwest around the 12th century AD. The pueblo cultures had created an extensive irrigation to supply water to their crops in the southwestern desert. However, in the 12th century that part of America entered an extremely dry period during which the available water dried up. Civilisation was not destroyed, as the Amerindian peoples themselves survived by retreating to more fertile areas. Nevertheless, it resulted in those pueblos, which had survived for centuries, being abandoned.

And now we face a similar crisis in the 21st century, thanks in part to global warming and an increasingly intense demand for water. Back in the 1990s one edition of the Financial Times predicted that climate change and competition for water resources would be the major force for war in the 21st century. In West Africa one of the reasons for the conflict in the north of Nigeria, for example, between Christians and Muslims is the desertification of the traditional grazing territory of nomadic pastoralists. These are mainly Muslim, who have been forced to move south onto land belonging to mainly Christian peoples in order to feed their flocks. The result has been ethnic and religious conflict. But it’s important to realise that the roots of this conflict are primarily ecological. It is not simply about religion. Examples of desertification and global dry periods in the past have been used by the Right to argue that the current climate crisis really isn’t as acute as scientists have claimed. It’s just the world’s natural climatic cycle repeating itself. This certainly wasn’t the view of the archaeologist giving that talk at uni, who warned that there was only a finite amount of water and urged us all to use it sparingly.

It was interesting to read the good rabbi’s concern for the planet and his grandchildren. People of all faiths are now worried about climate change. One of the priests at our local church preached a very long sermon on Sunday, no doubt partly inspired by the coming Extinction Rebellion protests, on the need to save the planet. I’ve no doubt that the involvement of practising Jews in this protest, and others, will cause something of a problem for some of the propaganda used to attack Green groups. Because there was a very strong ecological aspect to Nazism, the Right tries to close off sympathy for Green politics as a whole by smearing it as a form of Nazism, even when it’s blatantly clear that they aren’t. But the IHRC definition of anti-Semitism states that it is anti-Semitic to describe a Jew as a Nazi. Which is going to make it rather difficult for the organisations and rags that follow this line to claim that Jewish Greens are somehow supporting Nazism for getting involved in protests like this.

But it seems the cops are becoming very heavy-handed in their treatment of protesters. Mike over on his blog condemned the arrest of a 91/2 year old gentleman on another climate protest. This spirited old chap used the same explanation for his actions as Rabbi Newman: he was worried for the future of his grandchildren. Or great-grandchildren. He was arrested because he was caught protesting outside the Cabinet Office, and so frightened that doughty defender of British freedom, Boris Johnson. Yeah, our current excuse for a Prime Minister, who seems to fancy himself as the heir to Julius Caesar, Admiral Nelson, the Duke of Wellington, and Winston Churchill, was ‘frit’ – to use Thatcher’s word – of a 91 or 92 year old gent. Mike concluded of this gentleman’s arrest

Conclusion: John was committing an offence against nobody but Boris Johnson. A Boris Johnson government is an offence against the very environment in which we live.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/10/09/92-year-old-man-arrested-while-supporting-extinction-rebellion-because-the-tories-dont-like-it/

As ever, Mike is correct. In a subsequent article he showed that the Tories are far more likely than Labour to vote for policies that actively harm the planet. BoJo himself ‘was also among 10 ministers who received donations or gifts from oil companies, airports, petrostates, climate sceptics or thinktanks identified as spreading information against climate action.’ Mike’s article was based on a Guardian piece, that developed a scoreboard for the parties’ and individual politicians’ voting record. The Tories on average scored 17. Labour scored 90, and Jeremy Corbyn 92. Mike’s conclusion:

if you want a government that acts against climate change and to protect the environment for you, your children and future generations, you need to vote LABOUR.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/10/12/worried-about-climate-change-then-dont-vote-tory/

And we have to stop the cops being used as BoJo’s private police force, so that no more decent people, including senior citizens and members of the clergy of this country’s diverse religious communities, are picked up because they dare to frighten BoJob and his wretched corporate backers.

Israel Graffiti Demanding the Genocide of the Palestinians

September 27, 2019

A few days ago I put up a piece reporting and commenting on the attempt by right-wing Zionist thugs to shut down a book launch in Brighton. The book in question was Bad News for Labour: Antisemitism, the Party and Public Belief, by a group of respectable, mainstream academics, Greg Philo, Mike Berry, Justin Schlosberg, Antony Lerman and David Miller. Greg Philo is Professor of Communications and Social Change at the University of Glasgow, and Director of the Glasgow University Media Unit. Mike Berry is a lecturer in the Journalism School at Cardiff University. Justin Schlosberg is a media activist, researcher and lecturer in Journalism and Media at Birkbeck College, University of London. He is a former Chair of the Media Reform Coalition and Edmund J Safra Network Fellow at Harvard University. Antony Lerman is Senior Fellow at the Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue in Vienna and Honorary Fellow of the Parkes Institute for the Study of Jewish/non-Jewish Relations at Southampton University. He has written on multiculturalism, racism, antisemitism, and Israel/Palestine for the Guardian, Independent, New York Times, Haaretz, Prospect, Jewish Chronicle and London Review of Books. And David Miller is Professor of Political Sociology at the University of Bristol. He is a founder director of Public Interest Investigations and a director of the Organisation for Propaganda Studies.

What sent the Israel lobby berserk was that the book critically examines, and takes apart their claims that under Jeremy Corbyn the Labour party is institutionally racist and a threat to British Jews, showing that the party has been the subject of ‘shocking misinformation spread by the press, including the supposedly impartial BBC, and the liberal Guardian.’ The launch was due to be held at the Brighton branch of Waterstones, but they pulled out and cancelled the even following threats and intimidation made against their staff. The launch was then moved to the Rialto, also in Brighton, where it opened an hour later at 8.30. One members of Waterstone’s staff was so troubled by the threats they faced that they were unable to return to work.

What is particularly disturbing, though unsurprising, is that this display of very aggressive bullying was not only supported by the usual horde of bigots and trolls online, but also the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Sussex Jewish Representatives Council.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/09/24/bullying-bigots-tried-to-stop-book-launch-when-will-they-be-arrested/

In fact, as Tony Greenstein has repeatedly described in his blogs, the pro-Israel right have used abuse, threats and intimidation to try and close down any criticism of Israel for a very long time. And 11 years ago Peter Oborne, a journalist who formerly wrote for the Torygraph, presented a documentary on the Israel lobby for Channel 4’s Despatches. The programme described how respectable journalists, such as Alan Rusbridger, the-then editor of the Groaniad, and the BBC’s foreign correspondent, Jeremy Bowen, had all faced false and malicious accusations of anti-Semitism by the Israel lobby when they correctly reported atrocities by Israeli forces during the war in Lebanon. Rusbridger stated that when he printed accounts of massacres and other human rights abuses by the Israelis or their Lebanese Christian allies, the Phalange, the head of the Board of Deputies would visit his office, complete with his pet lawyer in tow, demanding that these stories be pulled. His argument was that they would lead to anti-Semitism and attacks on British Jews.

On the 28th January 2009, that indefatiguable opponent of all forms of racism, including Anti-Semitism and Zionism, Tony Greenstein, published a piece on his blog. Tony was attacking the clause in the I.H.R.C. definition of anti-Semitism, which forbids comparing Jews to Nazis. Tony stated, as he has done many times since, that it is hypocritical, as Israeli politicians frequently call each other Nazis. He also supported his argument with photographs of Israeli graffiti which was bitterly hostile to Arabs to the point of demanding their death and extermination.

 

This is ugly, horrific stuff, and the people that scrawled these messages of hate are Nazis. There is no other way to describe them. These pictures also show why an increasing number of Jewish young people over in America no longer want to have anything to do with Israel. American Jews are banding together in groups to attack Israel and its genocidal policies towards the indigenous Palestinians. Take up of places on the heritage tours Israel runs to encourage American Jews to visit Israel and identify with it have fallen by half. American Jews tend to be politically liberal, and have traditionally been determined to enjoy the comfortable lives they have in the Land of the Free as American citizens, than move to Israel. As a result, mass support for Israel in America has shifted from Jews to right-wing evangelical Christians, like Ted Hagee’s Christians United for Israel.

In Israel there are also a number of courageous people and organisations challenging the government and its gross intolerance and inhumanity. These include the human rights organisation B’Tselem and the veterans organisation, Breaking the Silence. But Netanyahu is doing his best to silence them, and indeed anyone who photographs a human rights abuse by the country’s armed forces. And in Britain, America and Israel Jewish opponents of Israeli apartheid and genocide are particularly abused and smeared as anti-Semites. Decent men and women like Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker, Martin Odoni, Cyril Chilson and so many others. They are accused of being self-hating and ‘traitors’ – even though the I.H.R.C. definition of anti-Semitism states that it is anti-Semitic to accuse a Jew of being more loyal to a foreign country than his homeland. They receive vile threats and even assault. Tony was physically attacked by an American Jew. Jackie has been told she should be lynched, burnt and her body dumped in bin bags.

But despite the statement by the Israel lobby that comparisons with the Nazis are offensive, Israeli policy towards the Arabs not only resembles that of apartheid South Africa, but also Fascist Italy in its attempts to colonise Africa and the Nazi invasion of Poland and eastern Europe. The Nazis attempted the ethnic cleansing of a stretch of territory stretching across Poland into the Ukraine and beyond of their Slavic population in order to transform it into a German colony. Tony has also repeatedly compared Israeli ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians to the Nazis’ persecution of the Jews pre-1942, before the implementation of the ‘Final Solution’.

But these pieces of graffiti show that there is a section of Israeli society – the Fascists and Settlers supporting Netanyahu and his wretched coalition – who would like to see a real programme of organised genocide implemented similar to the Nazi death camps, but for Arabs.

And this raises a very, very disturbing question. If Netanyahu or someone worse did start organising the systematic massacre of Palestinians, would the Board of Deputies, Sussex Jewish Representatives Council and other Zionist organisations, both Jewish and non-Jewish, cover it up and silence those who did tried to report it, just as the Nazis tried to hide the horrors of Auschwitz and the rest of the Shoah?

The Fascist, Anti-Semitic, Islamophobic Thuggery of the Community Service Trust

September 25, 2019

Early today I put up a piece reporting and commenting on two articles on the thuggish attempt by the Israel lobby to shut down the launch of a book, Bad News for Labour: Antisemitism, the Party and Public Belief by Greg Philo, Mike Berry, Justin Schlosberg, Antony Lerman and David Miller, published by Pluto Press. The authors are respectable mainstream academics specialising in the media, Jewish-Gentile relations, anti-Semitism and political sociology at the universities of Glasgow, Cardiff, London, Harvard, Southampton, and Bristol. The book promises to reveal how the allegations of anti-Semitism have been used to misrepresent the Labour party in the press and by the BBC. This was too much for the Israel lobby, which cannot stand to have their smears against decent, genuinely anti-racist men and women, including self-respecting Jews, challenged. Like all witch-hunters, they do not feel that their victims should ever be allowed to defend themselves. And so they tried to have the launch closed down. They succeeded at Waterstones, which pulled the event due to threats and intimidation. It was moved to the Rialto, which stood up to them, despite suffering the same threats. This attack was supported by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Sussex Jewish Representative Council, and a score of foul individuals, whom Mike names in his article. Please read it, and another about this disgraceful affair by Tony Greenstein. They’re at

Bullying bigots tried to stop book launch. When will they be arrested?

http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2019/09/book-burners-r-us-waterstones-shameful.html

This is not the first time pro-Israel organisations have used threats and abuse to attempt to close down opposition voices. Tony Greenstein has posted about a number of occasions where the local pro-Israel group has turned up to throw its weight around against those demonstrating or handing out leaflets against the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians. However, Zionist organisations have also not restrained themselves to threats. On Wednesday, 6th March of this year, 2019, Tony put up a piece about the Community Service Trust. This is a charity, supposedly set up to defend Jews, their synagogues and burial grounds, from attacks by racists. However, the Trust receives training and support from both the Metropolitan police and the Israelis. It has been used to steward pro-Israel rallies, whose speakers and organisers have included the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the-then Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. As Tony describes below, the Trust has used its position at these rallies to assault and physically remove protesters, including Israel-critical Jews and women. The section where Tony describes the paramilitary activities of the CST runs

The CST is essentially, on one level, a private security contractor called upon to provide security at all pro-Israel activities from demos, conferences, fund-raisers, and to protecting the odd visiting Israeli war criminal. It has three offices and employees 69 people with an additional 3,000 trained CST troops (‘volunteers’) on call. Apparently the CST ‘mainly consists of ex-Israeli security personnel’. The CST also give combat training (self-defence) to 12,000 Jewish youth a year(2008).

The CST has a special relationship with the Metropolitan police, it receives its training from them and is granted special privileges during the policing of demos, etc. Whilst stewards and legal observers from the pro-Palestine side of a demo are not allowed to cross the police lines to approach Zionist side, the CST which stewards the Zionist side are free to cross the police line and approach the pro-Palestinian side to intimidate, take photos, etc.

The CST has a particularly brutish reputation, especially in dealing with anti-Israel protesters at pro-Israel events. Their special relationship with the MET means they have not been brought to book for their thuggery.

In January 2009, during the Israeli slaughter of children in Gaza, the Board of Deputies of British Jews who claim to be “the voice of British Jewry” – in reality the voice of Israel in the UK, held a rally in Trafalgar Square in support of Israel, essentially a celebration of genocide. The CST provided the security for the event. One brave young Jewish man, Dovid Von Neumann, interrupted the Chief Rabbi Sacks pro-Israel rant with a Jewish children’s song, highlighting how Israel has perverted a line from a Jewish children’s poem about a spinning top which were traditionally cast in lead to name their military operation “Cast Lead” which murders Palestinian children. He was pushed into the frozen fountain and stoned him with lumps of ice, then the CST thugs smashed his megaphone and dragged him out of the fountain throwing him on to the pavement. The police did nothing to arrest his assailants – the CST, instead they incredulously detained the victim for several hours before they were forced to release him without charge.

In December 2009 when the CST was providing security to a JNF conference, the Israeli ambassadors speech was interrupted by two protesters. The Jewish Chronicle reported the protesters were “punched and kicked” and dragged out of the conference, again the assailants went scot-free.

On February 9th 2010 the CST provided the security for the “Israel: Blue White and Green” seminar at the Institute of Education (IoE). The seminar attempted to ‘greenwash’ the occupation, its key note speaker David Bellamy didn’t turn up after receiving many letters urging him to boycott the ‘greenwash’. During the questions session a Jewish member of the audience asked a critical question about Israel’s role in depleting Palestinian water resources, he was prevented from finishing the question and was “carried out bodily by members of the CST and denied re-entry”. When another member of the audience, a woman this time, wished to put a question on Israels denial of water to Palestinians as outlined in the Amnesty 2009 report she was “physically dragged out of the meeting by members of the CST. “I was frog-marched up the stairs”, she said afterwards. She later telephoned the Institute of Education to complain about the treatment she and her fellow activist had received, and received an apology. “From the reports the IoE have received from their own staff, they seem to feel that the level of restraint used by the CST was inappropriate for the situation”, she said. The two ejected activists are considering taking legal advice.”

It seems after every massacre the Zionists hold a celebration, like the celebration after Gaza in 2009, in 2002 after Jenin the Israel Solidarity Committee organised a celebration ‘Stand Up For Israel’. Funded by the United Jewish Israel Appeal(UJIA), the celebration was held in Trafalgar Square with the CST in charge of security. It was a particularly ugly event with an elderly anti-Zionist Rabbi in the counter-demo being punched in the face whilst police officers two metres away stood by and did nothing. After the rally Zionist gangs roved the streets attacking Muslims with impunity, easy visible targets being women with hijab – several were attacked. Even the Saudi ambassadors son was attacked by a Zionist mob. Both the MET and the CST were castigated for their roles.

The IHRC report on the ‘partisan’ policing of the rally with eyewitness statements is particularly damming. It reveals that whilst the police prevented Muslims from approaching the Zionist rally and even helped the CST eject any Muslims found in Trafalgar Square, they at the same time allowed free movement for the CST and other Zionists to approach, even walk through the counter demo draped in Israeli flags, and ultimately attack its speaker, Rabbi Grohman, whilst he was addressing the counter-demo. The thug was simply allowed to walk through two police lines unchallenged to carry out his assault.

The Jewish Chronicle reports that the Muslim Lawyers Committee complaints against the police included charges against the CST, one, the police’s ‘failure to prevent assaults against Muslims by CST officials’ and two, ‘the intimidation of Muslim women by CST officials’. The latter may be a reference to an incident where some Muslim women in hijab were enjoying a friendly conversation with some Arab Jews from Iraq in Trafalgar Square when suddenly they were surrounded by ‘blue caps’ – CSTs, who forcefully separated the Muslims from the Jews and with police help removed the Muslims from the Square despite protests from the Iraqi Jews.

There is also an account of how, at a rally celebrating Israel’s 60th anniversary in 2008, the CST attempted to block a cameraman from photographing the event, and tried to manipulate the situation so they could have the police remove him. See

http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2019/03/manipulating-antisemitism-statistics.html

From the above accounts, it’s clear that threats and violence by the Israel lobby against those who oppose them, and especially against Jews and Muslims, are not accidental but  usual, standard tactics. And the police turn a blind eye to their antics and even assist them. This includes assaults on women, the elderly, and rabbis – people, who have dedicated their lives to guiding their congregations in the way of the Torah and the Talmud. It is also glaringly obvious that in no sense can the Board of Deputies and CST be seen as serving the British Jewish community as a whole. Not when they attack and beat ordinary Jews like Dovid von Neumann and rabbis like Rabbi Grohman. These organisations are an absolute disgrace, and they should be investigated for their thuggery, racism, and vicious islamophobia and anti-Semitism.

The Board of Deputies, Sussex Jewish Representatives Council and the others, who supported the thuggery, bullying and threats yesterday need to be investigated, and the offenders arrested and punished. Bullying racists and bigots cannot be allowed to escape the law, even when they spuriously claim to be the victims of prejudice. It doesn’t wash when the NF claim they are only defending Whites from anti-White racism. It shouldn’t wash when the above Zionist organisation equally speciously claim they are protecting Jews.

Israel Lobby Thugs Try to Close Down Book Launch with Threats and Intimidation

September 25, 2019

This can’t be left unchallenged. Yesterday a group of thugs from the Israel lobby, egged on by their fellows and supporters on social media, forced Waterstones in Brighton to abandon a book launch. When the event was moved to the Rialto, they tried the same tactics there, only for the management of that venue to stand firm.

The book in question was Bad News for Labour: Antisemitism, the Party and Public Belief by Greg Philo, Mike Berry, Justin Schlosberg, Antony Lerman and David Miller. This is a critical examination of the anti-Semitism crisis in the Labour party, particularly the denunciations of the party last summer that claimed it was institutionally racist and an existential threat to Britain’s Jews. The promotional material about the book, published by Pluto Press, however, states that

This book clears the confusion by drawing on deep and original research on public beliefs and media representation of antisemitism and the Labour Party, revealing shocking findings of misinformation spread by the press, including the supposedly impartial BBC, and the liberal Guardian.

Bringing in discussions around the IHRA definition, anti-Zionism and Israel/Palestine, as well as including a clear chronology of events, this book is a must for anyone wanting to find out the reality behind the headlines.

The authors are mainstream academics specialising in media studies, Jewish/Gentile relations and anti-Semitism. Mike, in his excellent article on the issue, gives their academic fields and qualifications. They are

Greg Philo is Professor of Communications and Social Change at the University of Glasgow, and Director of the Glasgow University Media Unit. Mike Berry is a lecturer in the Journalism School at Cardiff University. Justin Schlosberg is a media activist, researcher and lecturer in Journalism and Media at Birkbeck College, University of London. He is a former Chair of the Media Reform Coalition and Edmund J Safra Network Fellow at Harvard University. Antony Lerman is Senior Fellow at the Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue in Vienna and Honorary Fellow of the Parkes Institute for the Study of Jewish/non-Jewish Relations at Southampton University. He has written on multiculturalism, racism, antisemitism, and Israel/Palestine for the Guardian, Independent, New York Times, Haaretz, Prospect, Jewish Chronicle and London Review of Books. And David Miller is Professor of Political Sociology at the University of Bristol. He is a founder director of Public Interest Investigations and a director of the Organisation for Propaganda Studies. 

As Mike points out, they are academics, not anti-Semites. The two don’t go together, except in the pseudo-academia set up to provide a spurious intellectual veneer for the real hard right. Which these professors certainly don’t represent.

But this hasn’t stopped the Israel lobby and its supporters, both institutional and individual, going berserk and throwing around gross accusations of – what else! – anti-Semitism. The event was supposed to begin at 7.30, and would feature a panel discussion with the authors and Ken Loach. Two venues were forced to cancel it through intimidation and bullying that was so intense, an employee at one of the venues could not return to work.

The organisations supporting the bullying, and claiming the event was anti-Semitic were the Board of Deputies of British Jews and Sussex Jewish Representative Council. The individuals giving their support to it included one charmer giving his Twitter handle as #JC4 and then an icon of a toilet, Neil Barstow, Natalia Sloam, Nobody Norman Esq, Heidi Bachram, Ian Mackintosh, Jane Habib, Curry Fleur and Fiona Sharpe.

Mike states that he would like to see all the above interviewed by the rozzers about the threats suffered by the staff at Waterstone’s and the Rialto. He states it is especially abhorrent coming from those, who claim the moral high ground, and are using threats of violence to silence those they have smeared as anti-Semites and prevent them from exonerating themselves. He also points to a Tweet by one Gary Spedding, a venomous individual, who wrote an on-line article smearing Mike as an anti-Semite, which he refused to take down when Mike contacted him to show it was wrong. Spedding also added a few more ad homs against him on the way. It is to be hoped that Spedding also gets his collar felt about this.

Mike goes on to state that he does acknowledge that there is anti-Semitism in the Labour party. It just doesn’t exist in the book the Zionist fanatics were attacking, nor amongst the staff at Waterstones or the Rialto.

He concludes

These aren’t campaigners fighting prejudice against Jews.

They are vicious, hate-filled bigots.

And they need to be stopped before they seriously harm somebody.

One more thing – they did get an aspect of their campaign right: the slogan “Don’t host hate”. That’s a good slogan, and it can very clearly be applied to these bigots.

So I’m having it. If you see these people, or anyone else pushing their message, then flag it up with #DontHostHate

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/09/24/bullying-bigots-tried-to-stop-book-launch-when-will-they-be-arrested/

Tony Greenstein, another victim of the anti-Semitism smear campaign, and a self-respecting Jew, who has always campaigned against racism and anti-Semitism as well as Zionism, has more information on this disgraceful thuggery on his blog at:

http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2019/09/book-burners-r-us-waterstones-shameful.html

Tony begins his article by describing the way the Israel lobby tried to prevent the performance of the play, Sedition, by the socialist playwright Jim Allen, 25 years ago. This drew the Israel lobby’s ire because it was about the 1944 trial in Jerusalem of the Zionist leader, Erich Kasztner, who had made a deal with Adolf Eichmann which sent half a million Hungarian Jews to death in Auschwitz. The play was due to be staged at the Royal Court. It was taken off, but so great was the public indignation against the attack on it, that it was performed instead at London’s Conway Hall and became the subject of a book, Dramas Played Off Stage.

Tony continues

That is what we need to see happen with Bad News for Labour. The Zionists know that their anti-Semitism smear campaign in the Labour Party is fraudulent and that they have cowed and coerced timid Corbyn into going along with the nonsense that the Labour Party is full of anti-Semites including himself. We must ensure that this book is publicised because it contains all the ammunition and evidence we need to demonstrate that the ‘anti-Semitism’ smear campaign has nothing to do with antisemitism and has no evidential basis. 

It is shocking enough that the supporters of Israeli Apartheid have been able to ‘persuade’ through threats and abuse, venues like the Holiday Inn, Jury’s Inn and Friends Meeting House into cancelling meetings with Chris Williamson. The cancellation on Monday night of a book by 5 academics of Bad News for Labour – Antisemitism, the Party and Public Belief takes this one step further. It is an attack on freedom of thought and inquiry and demonstrates the police state mentality of Zionism’s rabid supporters.

He goes on to quote the great German Jewish poet, Heinrich Heine, “Where books are burned, in the end, people will be burned” – which prophesied the mass book-burnings and murder of the Nazis. Justin Scholsberg, one of the authors, said last night that it was worse than McCarthyism and approached the book-burnings of the Nazis. Tony states

Cancelling a book launch and threatening to boycott Waterstones for holding the event is a Nazi tactic. It demonstrates just how far along the road to destroying our civil liberties and freedom of speech the Zionists have travelled. Literally Zionism is the enemy of a free society, not only in Israel/Palestine but in Britain, Europe and the United States.

He then goes on to discuss the culpable silence of the so-called liberal press about this incident, except for The Canary and the Skwawkbox, and calls upon his readers to imagine the outrage the Right would go into if the Left had done something similar against the genuinely racist books some of them have produced, like Douglas Murray’s racist Strange Death of Europe – Immigration, Identity and Islam.

And there’s much more in his very full article about the incident and the excuses made by Waterstone’s CEO for pulling the book launch from his store.

Tony and other Jewish anti-Zionists have long provided very detailed descriptions of just how violent and threatening the militant Zionists are, and their determination to shut down any criticism of their favourite apartheid state. They smear their opponents as anti-Semites – decent people like Mike, Martin Odoni, Tony Greenstein himself, Jackie Walker, Cyril Chilson, and Chris Williamson, so that they receive vile abuse. Some, like Walker and Williamson, have been sent death threats. Greenstein has also been assaulted by Jewish American Zionists. And a little while ago Tony also put up a piece describing how the CST – the paramilitary Community Security Trust – which is supposed to defend Jews, acts like Fascist stormtroopers when stewarding pro-Israel events. This includes beating up Muslims and anti-apartheid Jews. One rabbi was even hit in the face by these squadristi.

The people organising this campaign of abuse and intimidation should be called to account. And this includes the Board of Deputies. They are not above the law, and they are repeatedly demonstrating glaringly clearly that they do not represent the Jewish community of this country as a whole. They only represent the United Synagogue, and the pro-Israel branch of that. They are a viciously sectarian organisation, who actively support those who raise their fists at the people they consider the ‘wrong sort of Jew’. 

Two Books Showing Bristol Has Not Kept Secret Its Involvement in the Slave Trade

June 6, 2019

The week before last, Channel 4’s Britain’s Most Historic Towns was in Bristol, examining its history in the Georgian period. The show’s presented by Dr. Alice Roberts, who I believe is the Professor for the Public Engagement with Science at Birmingham University. She’s had a long career in television presenting programmes on archaeology, history and human evolution, beginning in the 1980s with Time Team. She’s a medical doctor, who I believe also taught anatomy at Bristol University. She regularly appeared on Time Team to give her opinion on any human remains that were recovered during their escavations.

Channel 4’s ‘Britain’s Most Historic Towns’

Time Team was finally cancelled after a very successful run several years ago, but like its presenter Tony Robinson, Roberts has continued fronting history and archaeology programmes. Each week the show visits a different British town and explores a specific period of its history. Roberts tours the town, talking to experts on its history and architecture during the period, and very often tries on the ladies’ costume at the time. Last year among the various towns the series covered was Cheltenham during its heyday as a regency spa. This year’s series started off with Dover, concentrating on it history during World War II. Last week it was looking at Cardiff in the early part of the 20th century, when the city became the major centre of the global coal industry. And the week before that they were in Bristol, telling its history during the Georgian period. Roberts has a personal connection to the city, as it’s her home town and she went to school here. She also had a personal connection to Cardiff, as it was at its university that she studied medicine.

Georgian Bristol

During the Georgian period – the age of the four Georges, from the early 18th century to the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1837 – Bristol was one of the leading cities in Britain. It’s a port, whose location on the Bristol Channel gave it an excellent position for trading with Africa and America. The programme covered other aspects of Bristol’s history during the period, like the emergence of gin, the 1827 massacre by the army in Queen’s Square in Redcliffe of a mob demanding electoral reform, and the development of the Clifton and Hotwells suburbs as genteel residential areas for the city’s new mercantile elite. But Bristol’s wealth at the time was largely produced from the immense profits from the slave trade. Ships from Bristol took trade goods down to west Africa, where they were bartered for slaves. These were then taken to the West Indies to be sold, and the ships returned to Bristol with West Indian goods like sugar and rum in what has become known as the triangular trade. And it was on this aspect of Bristol’s Georgian history that the programme concentrated.

The show is well done and the research is very thorough. Among those Roberts talked to was Dr. Steve Poole, a lecturer at the University of the West of England; a member of Bristol’s Radical History Group, who talked about the Queen’s Square Massacre; and a couple of distillers, who showed her how 18th century gin was made. She also talked to Dr. Edson Burnett about the slave trade, going through some of the ledgers left by the slavers itemising their ships’ human cargo in the city archives. Some of these are really shocking. They simply give the number of slaves shipped aboard, and the deaths during the voyage. Those taken were simply items of merchandise, with no names. The ledgers give brief descriptions of those who died and how the body was disposed of. They were simply thrown over the side. One of the most horrendous incidents was the scandal surrounding the Zong, a slave ship, which threw its entire cargo of slaves overboard during a storm, and then tried to sue the insurance company for compensation for them as lost cargo. It’s a horrific atrocity and injustice. She also mentioned how a number of plays were written during the 18th century attacking the slave trade, many of which were set in Bristol. She then spoke to the writer and artistic director of a modern play about the trade being staged by Bristol’s historic Old Vic theatre.

Bristol and the Slave Trade

The programme’s coverage of Bristol’s history during the period was fair, although there was much obviously left out because of the constraints of the programme’s length. It’s an hour long, and it could easily take that long to discuss the city’s involvement with the slave trade and some of the architecture that was built for the merchants involved in the trade. As it was, the programme showed only one of them, the house of George Pinney, a 19th century West India planter and merchant. This is now a museum, the Georgian House, open to the public in one of the streets just off Park Street. However, Roberts opened the discussion of the city’s complicity in the slave trade with a statement that was simply wrong. She said that it was a terrible secret.

Exhibitions

Well, if Bristol’s involvement in the slave trade is a secret, then it’s a very badly kept one! Bristol’s M Shed museum, which takes visitors through the city’s history and some of its industries, including aircraft and motor vehicles built here, has a display on the slave trade. This shows not only slave manacles and the manillas, bracelet-like items used for barter, but also maps of homes and other properties owned and occupied by the slave merchants and plantation owners. This follows an earlier exhibit at the City Museum in Queen Street, ‘A Respectable Trade’, which was timed to coincide with the TV series of that name on BBC 1, based on the book by historical novelist Philippa Gregory. The book and TV series were about the slave trade, and much of it was set in the Bristol of the time. The exhibition was staged by local council and showed the historical reality on which the fiction was based. Gregory also appeared in a TV programme at the time, exploring the city’s connection to the slave trade, in which she spoke to several Black anti-racist activists.

Books and Pamphlets

Since then there have been a number of books published on Bristol and the slave trade. The city library has published a catalogue of books and other materials it holds on the subject.  There has also been a book published on the City in 1807, the year in which the slave trade was officially prohibited throughout the British Empire. Dr. Madge Dresser, a historian at the University of the West of England, has also published a book, Slavery Obscured, on the persistence of the slave trade after its formal abolition, in which merchants from Bristol were involved. And back in the 1990s the local branch of the Historical Association published a booklet on Bristol’s Black population in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Society of Merchant Venturers, the mercantile organisation that dominated Bristol’s trade in that period, has also published a catalogue of its holdings, which included it’s members’ plantations in the West Indies.

Origin of Belief Bristol Keeping Slave Trade Connection Secret

I’ve been told by members of the city’s Black cultural and anti-racist organisations that the idea that the city council is somehow covering up the city’s involvement in the slave trade dates from the 1970s. A member of the community rang the council up to inquire about what they knew about Bristol and the slave trade, only to be told that the city wasn’t involved in it. Which is wrong. I wonder if the person, who answered the call genuinely didn’t know about Bristol’s history of slaving. But whatever the reality, this planted the idea that the city council was deliberating hiding the truth. I think it was partly to dispel this idea that the City Museum staged the 1995 exhibition.

Two Books on Bristol from the 1950s and 1970s

But even before then, the city’s involvement in the slave trade was known and discussed. For example, the book Bristol and Its Adjoining Counties, edited by C.M. MacInnes and W.F. Whittard, and published by the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1955, has several pages on the slave trade in the chapter by MacInnes, ‘Bristol and Overseas Expansion’, pp. 219-230.

The 1975 textbook, Bristol: An Outline History for Schools, by H. Chasey, published by Georges, also covers the slave trade in its chapter on city’s 18th century trade, pp. 31-2. All the chapters are a page or so in length, with another page suggesting projects or containing questions for students on that period of the city’s history. The paragraph on the slave trade runs

Unfortunately, Bristol was better known at this time for its links with the slave trade. The “Blackbirds” sailed to Africa with various goods, exchanged them for slaves which were then shipped to the West Indies or North America. The ships then returned home iwth sugar and tobacco, the whole “Triangular Trade” bringing enormous profits to many Bristol merchants. Before 1760, Bristol carried about one-third of all the slaves, but this number died away by the end of the century as the anti-slavery movement made progress. (p. 31).

Few Obvious Monuments to Slave Trade in City

I also think that part of this misconception may come from the fact that there are few monuments from the time that obviously have direct connections to the slave trade. When I was studying archaeology at Bristol, one of the foreign students on the archaeology course complained to one of the lecturers that her housemate believed Bristol was racist, because there were no monuments for the slaves. The housemate was another foreign student, from Guiana, where I believe the buildings for landing and sale of slaves still exist. I think the student expected similar buildings to exist in Bristol. But they don’t, as the bulk of the city’s slave trade was with the West Indies. There were slaves in Bristol, but these were brought to the city as personal servants, rather than imported en masse as they were in the Caribbean.

Historic Buildings and Later Monuments Connected to Slaves and Slave Trade

However, there are architectural hints at the city’s connection to the slave trade all around. The city’s merchants decorated the exterior of their homes with carvings symbolising their connection to Africa or the Caribbean, such as pineapples. There are also coloured statues, representing the indigenous peoples of Africa, Asia and the Americas in St. Nicholas Market, one of which is a Black African. And several of the city’s pubs also claim a direct connection to the trade. The Ostrich, one of the pubs on the harbourside, had a cellar, in which, it was claimed, slaves were held ready for sale. When I used to drink there in the 1990s there was a poster up about it, along with reproductions of the advertisements of the time for runaway slaves. However, it may be the reality here was more prosaic. The 1995 exhibition said that many the connection of many of parts of Bristol to the slave trade may just be urban folklore. Blackboy Hill, for example, is probably not named after a slave boy, but possibly a racehorse owned by Charles II. The city has also made other gestures to commemorating the victims of the slave trade. There’s a slave walk along Bristol’s docks, and a plaque put up to those enslaved by city on one of the former warehouses by M Shed. A remarkable bridge built across the docks in the 1990s, which features two horn-like constructions, has been called ‘Pero’s Bridge’, after one of the slaves imported into Bristol. And there is a gravestone for Scipio, an African slave brought to the city by his master in one of the city’s churchyards.

Bristol has a very rich and fascinating history, of which the slave trade is one part. It’s a history that definitely needs to be told. And it has only been within the last quarter century or so that the slave trade has been memorialised in local museums, not just in Bristol, but also elsewhere. Bristol has joined Liverpool and Nantes in France in creating exhibitions and galleries on its involvement in the trade. Before then it’s fair to say that City Museum did not display anything on the slave trade. It was a period of the city’s history that most Bristolians probably would have preferred not to commemorate, but it was never forgotten nor kept hidden.

 

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.

Bakunin on the Sociological Origins of Crime

December 28, 2018

Here’s another passage from the anarchist Bakunin that’s still very relevant today, in Tory-run Britain. Bakunin was strongly impressed by sociology, and believed, like the French philosophes of the Enlightenment, that humanity and society were governed by laws. So strong was this belief, that he rejected free will completely. I very much reject this philosophical stance, along with his atheism and denial of divine providence, which he claimed made science impossible.

Humans do have free will and not just meat machines, running according to a set of biological or sociological imperatives, and while sociology is a powerful tool for investigating the basis of society and suggesting solutions to social problems, it’s very different from the natural sciences based on experiment and prediction. People are still responsible for their actions. Nevertheless, sociological influences are a powerful cause of crime. Bakunin discusses this in his piece ‘All Round Education’, quoting the stastician Lambert Queteler on the sociological origins of crime, which he believed were completely responsible for its incidence. Bakunin writes

A science of statistics is possible only because of this natural and social inevitability. This science is not satisfied with ascertaining and enumerating social facts but looks for their links to and correlation with the organization of society. Criminal statistics show, for example, that in a given country, in a given town, over a period of ten, twenty, thirty or more years, the same crime or misdemeanor occurs every year in the same proportion [to the total], if the fabric of society has not been altered by political and social crises. Even more remarkably, a given modus operandi recurs from year to year in the same proportion, for example, the number of poisonings, knifings, and shootings, as well as the number of suicides committed one way or another, are almost always the same. This led the famous Belgian statistician Quetelet to utter the following memorable words: ‘Society prepares the crimes while individuals merely carry them out.’

In Robert E. Cutler, Mikhail Bakunin: From Out of the Dustbin: Bakunin’s Basic Writings 1869-1871 (Ann Arbor: Ardis 1985), p. 122.

Now I can remember one of the postgraduate archaeological students at Bristol University making much the same point as Bakunin in a talk she gave explaining her research into the physical structure of one of Bristol’s historic hospitals. She said that the total number of prison and mental hospitals tends to remain the same, although the proportions of people going to one or the other changes. She went on to discuss the beneficial effects of natural light and contact with the natural world in healing hospital patients and reforming criminals. Despite pressures from government across the political spectrum to cut costs in the prison service and abolish them, prison farms have remained because of their demonstrably strong influence in reforming convicts.

At present, Britain is suffering a very high incidence of crime and suicide. The media has reported the shocking number of knife crimes in the capital. There has been a rise in hate crime, not just against ethnic minorities, including Muslims, but also against the disabled. Suicides have also increased, and as Mike, Stilloaks, Tom Pride and so many other left-wing and disability rights bloggers have pointed out, these have included disabled people, who were left in misery and starvation due to being thrown off their benefits. Several left notes explicitly stating that they were ending their lives due to sanctions by DWP, or being judged ‘fit for work’ under the Work Capability Tests.

Predictably, the Tories have held up their hands and claimed that there is no absolutely no link between their shabby, degrading and vicious welfare policies and the tragic deaths of these people.

This is a lie. The anti-immigration rhetoric and stance of many of the leaders of the ‘Leave’ campaign, and anti-EU parties and organisations like UKIP has led to an increase in racist hate crime. And the Tories are also responsible for stoking this hostility through their campaigns to get illegal immigrants to turn themselves, their attempt to deport the Windrush generation, despite the fact that they had a perfect right to stay in Britain, and the racist and islamophobic comments of many of their members. Like Boris Johnson and his wretch article describing women wearing the niqub as looking like dustbins and letterboxes. Only a tiny minority of Muslim women wear it, and many pro-Muslim political figures, like George Galloway are opposed to it. But Galloway also believed that women had a right to wear it, and condemned Johnson’s comments as racist. He was also bitterly critical of Johnson’s remarks along with many other people, including Mike on his blog, because after Johnson made them attacks on women wearing the burka increased. At least woman was killed. Despite this, the Tories concluded that BoJo’s article wasn’t racist, but ‘tolerant’ and ‘respectful’.

There have also been vicious attacks on the homeless and the disabled, again due to Tory policies and the rabid right-wing press, which demonizes the poor and the unemployed as scroungers and the disabled as malingerers. Thanks to rags like the Scum and the Heil, people believe that a quarter of all benefit claims are fraudulent, while the reality is that fake claims account for less than 1 one per cent of them.

The crime figures, and particularly the increase in hate crimes, clearly shows that the Tories have had a disastrous effect on British society, making it more suspicious, hateful and violent. Individuals are still responsible for the crimes they commit, but Quetelet’s and Bakunin’s views are correct. Society is a powerful influence in the amount of crime and suicide.

And the conclusion is undeniable: the Tories have prepared these crimes by deliberately creating a society where they are carried out, however much they scream and try to deny it. They have to be got out, before they cause any more attacks and deaths of the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.