Posts Tagged ‘Madonna’

Channel 4 ‘Dispatches’ Documentary from 2009: Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby – Part

March 11, 2018

The documentary then moves on to January, 2009 and the invasion of Gaza, and allegations of Human Rights abuses by Israeli forces were still circulating months later. But Oborne points out that you wouldn’t know it from the contents of the News of the World and the Mirror. Both these rags ran stories instead about the threat to Israel from the surrounding Arab nations. The hacks behind these pieces had been given free trips to Israel by BICOM, one of the wealthiest lobby groups in Britain. Oborne then goes on to interview David Newman in his office in Jerusalem. Newman worked alongside BICOM in disseminating Israeli propaganda in British universities. Newman states that there is indeed a debate within Israel about the status of the settlements in Palestinian territory. Groups like BICOM close down this debate abroad, and instead demand absolute for Israel.

Plocha Zabludowicz, the head of BICOM, is the 18th richest person in Britain. And he is very definitely not part of traditional British Anglo-Jewish society, but came up through the Jewish Leadership Council, who are described as the lords of the big Jewish donors. Oborne then interviews the head of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, Rabbi Emeritus David Goldberg, and asks if he knows him. Goldberg states that his name doesn’t ring a bell. Zabludowicz is actually of Polish ancestry. He is a Finnish citizen with a house in north London. His father made a fortune peddling Israeli arms, as did Zabludowicz himself before moving into property and casinos. His company is registered in Lichtenstein. He is, in short, ‘a rank outsider’. He was also one of the guests at Madonna’s birthday party in Italy.

Zabludowicz generously bankrolls BICOM, to whom he gave £800,000, who wrote a clause into their accounts recognising his generosity. He had given them £1.3 million in the previous three years, and has business interests in the Middle East. These cast doubt on the possibility of reaching a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. Oborne then goes on to discuss the case of one of the illegal Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestine, whose supermarket is owned by Zabludowicz. Newman states this indicates the direction in which BICOM is moving. Rabbi Goldberg states that it shows that Zabludowicz calculates that the settlement won’t be returning to the Palestinians, even under the most generous peace deal. As for Zabludowicz himself, he declined to meet the Dispatches team, but instead released a statement claiming that he was a major supporter of the creation of a separate Palestinian state, and that he understood that concessions would need to be made. Oborne was, however, successful in talking to Lorna Fitzsimons, BICOM’s chief executive. She claimed that BICOM was very open, that their donors do not influence policy. When asked about Zabludowicz, she claimed he was different from anyone else and she didn’t know about his business connections. All the organisation was doing was to make journos and people aware of the different strands of the debate on Israel.

Oborne moves on to the other groups involved in the Israel lobby – the Jewish Leadership Council, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Zionist Federation, and states that some members of these groups are very aggressive towards the TV and press. He then interviews Alan Rusbridger about his experiences of dealing with them. Rusbridger states that some TV editors warned him to stay away from them and the whole subject of Israel and the Palestinians. The Guardian was attacked for criticising Israel in a way that no other country does. There was a special meeting at the Israeli embassy between the ambassador, Zabludowicz, Grunewald of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the property magnate Gerald Reuben. They were unhappy about a Groaniad article comparing the Israeli’s occupation of Palestine with apartheid South Africa. So Grunewald and his mate, Roman Leidel, decided to pay Rusbridger a visit. Grunewald is a lawyer, claimed that the article was fomenting anti-Semitism, and would encourage people to attack Jews on the street, a risible accusation which Rusbridger denied. This was followed by complaints to the Press Complaints Commission about the article by the pro-Israel American group, CAMERA, or Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, which specialising in attacking journos critical of Israel. The Press Complaints Commission duly investigated the article, and found that only one fact was wrong. When asked about this, Rabbi Goldberg states that Israel is indeed an apartheid state. There are two road systems, one for use by Israelis and one for the Palestinians. There are two legal systems in operation. The Israelis are governed by Israeli law, while the Palestinians are governed by military law. When asked what will happen to him when his comments are broadcast, the good rabbi simply laughs and says that he’ll be attacked once against as being an ant-Semitic, self-hating Jew.

Many other Jews are also critical of Israel. Oborne goes on to talk to Tony Lerman, formerly of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, and now a Groaniad journo. Lerman states that the Israel lobby don’t take into account the diversity of Jewish views on Israel. This is confirmed by Avi Shlaim, who says that there is a split in the Jewish community over Israel. The community’s leaders are largely pro-Israel with a narrow rightwing agenda that is not typical of Jewish Brits. And libelling Israel’s critics as ‘anti-Semitic’ is now common policy.

One example of this use of libel is a New York blogger, ‘Hawkeye’, who hunts through the Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free’ column, claiming it is full of anti-Semitic bias. Rusbridger states that this is dangerous and disreputable. ‘Hawkeye’ attacked Lerman in particular as a nasty anti-Semite. Lerman states that this tactic has been adopted because it’s a useful defence of Israel. Rabbi Goldberg concedes that some people might be seriously anti-Semitic, others are just voicing genuine opinions, which should be respected. Michael Ancram, even, was accused of being anti-Semitic, which he said he takes with a pinch of salt.

But this leads into the whole question of whether the BBC has been corrupted by the influence of the Israel lobby. On record, BBC journos and spokespeople claim that the Corporation’s reporting of Israel is unbiased. Off-record, the stories different. News staff state that there is always pressure from top management for a pro-Israel slant. Oborne then interview Charlie Brebitt, an accountant at the LSE, who was formerly of Channel 4, who confirms that there is a very strong and active Israel lobby, and a sizable body of sympathy with Israel. The BBC has no choice but to respond. Honest Reporting, another pro-Israel media attack dog, and the other parts of the Israel lobby take advantage of this, alleging that there is an institutional bias at the Corporation against Israel.

In 2003 during the Iraq invasion the Beeb broadcast a hard-hitting documentary investigating Israel’s secret nuclear weapon’s programme, entitled ‘Israel’s Secret Weapon’ on the 16th March. The Israeli Press Office issued a statement comparing this to the worst of Nazi propaganda, and imposed restrictions on BBC staff in Israel. When Ariel Sharon, the Israeli leader, visited Downing Street, the only journos banned from covering the meeting were the Beeb. Honest Reporting UK complained that the programme was part of a campaign to vilify Israel. One member of the group, Nathan Sharansky, complained that the late Orla Guerin, here shown with two eyes, was anti-Semitic, and that she shared the goals of Palestinian terror groups.

Continued in Part 3.

The Global African: How Neoliberalism Infiltrated Black Politics

January 25, 2016

This is fascinating. It’s an attack on Neoliberalism from a Black American perspective, talking about the harm it has done to Black communities, churches, politics and people’s personal psychology and sense of self-worth. In this piece from the Global African, there’s a discussion between the host, Bill Fletcher, and a professor of Black Studies at Johns Hopkins university, Lester Spence about the harmful effects of Neoliberal economics. The second segment talks about the Paris conference on Climate Change, and the implications this has for communities in the Developing World.

They’re both important issues, but the piece that interested me was the first half, the critique of Neoliberal economics. Lester Spence, the professor being interviewed, has written a book about it. Apart from the economic theory itself, he also wanted to correct and supplement some of the ideas in Cornel West’s book, Racial Matters, and a work on Neoliberalism by a White academic. He admires both books, but states that the leave out vital issues, like the way Neoliberalism has corroded Black people’s ability to organise and their sense of self-worth for Cornel West’s book, and the racial dimension of Neoliberalism in the study of it by the White academic.

For the benefit of their viewers elsewhere in the world, Spence defines what Neoliberalism is. He states that it is the view that people should organise themselves as a business, and that politics and public services should also adopt the methods of private industry, including libraries. This has resulted in the destruction of the notion of ‘the public’. In the case of the churches, it has resulted in a mentality that sees the Bible as a business manual, which if adopted will not only spiritually enrich you, but also materially as well. In this it resembles the teaching of some of the earlier Black cult leaders. This is in line with Neoliberalism generally, which despite the part of the word being ‘neo’, Greek for ‘new’, takes much of its doctrines from the 19th century.

The result of Neoliberal economics, as pioneered by Milton Friedman, has been massive income inequality and the economic devastation of the working class. This has affected all Americans, but African-Americans have been particularly hard hit, in places like Detroit. Spence and Fletcher point out that Neoliberal economics was rolled out when Black Americans were first being elected to positions of political leadership, particularly in the communities that were worst affected. Thus, Black politicians and leaders became the scapegoats, charged with the failures that the economic system had produced.

Spence states that some Black people have prospered through Neoliberalism. These were middle class people, who had the education and affluent background, which gave them the entrepreneurial qualities prized by the system. People like himself. But those less privileged, like citizens with special needs, it has been devastating. They have got poorer.

He also talks about the ‘Black Nihilism’ that the economic system has spawned. This was identified by Cornel West in Race Matters, which was written about the time of the Rodney King riots. In the words of the two conversing here, it’s the lack of love Black people have for themselves and their fellow Black Americans. This takes away their power to combine and organise politically, and replaces it with therapy. The result is that Black politics has been enervated, and the ability to bring about political change nullified.

There is also a distinct racial dimension to the economic theory and its political appeal to specific American demographics. He criticises the White academic’s otherwise excellent study because it ignores this. Spence states that some of the people, who vote overwhelmingly for Neoliberal policies are poor Whites, who are suffering as much as Black communities. This needs to be explained.

Spence has also taken the unusual stem of publishing his book with a small press publisher, Punctum. It’ll be available at the price of a few dollars for about five years as PDF, then free on-line after that. Spence states that he wanted to break out from the ‘honeyed noose’ of academia, and make the book’s publishing, and not just its contents, a political act. He also disliked the appellation of ‘scholar activist’, despite his actions.

This is a very thought-provoking piece from the perspective of one of the racial groups hardest hit by the wretched brainchild of Milton Friedman, von Mises and co. It’s a perspective that needs to be taken into account when addressing the poverty and despair this pernicious theory has created.

Regarding the ‘Prosperity Gospel’, there’s an increasing movement away from it, and some of its worst preachers have attacked it. One of these was the American right-wing Evangelist, Jim Bakker. Bakker was one of the televangelists that emerged in the 1980s, with Swaggert, Jerry Fallwell and the rest of the corrupt crew. Bakker was criminally corrupt, as well as morally bankrupt, and ended up going to gaol for defrauding his church. He has since written a book criticising and denouncing the very theology he used to preach as heretical.

And the doctrine of self-enrichment through religion or spirituality isn’t confined to Christianity. It’s also in the New Age movement. Deepak Chopra, one of the movement’s leading writers, has said that he promotes ‘Prosperity Consciousness’. You can see the same corrupt ideals at work in The Cosmic Ordering Service, another New Age book that told you if you wanted something, you could get it, so long as you went through the proper New Age mental rituals. The Qabbala cult Madonna belongs to is also part of it. This isn’t much like the original Qabbala, which is a complicated system of Jewish mysticism. It’s a radically simplified version of it, which again promises its adherents worldly wealth through practicing a few basic spiritual formulas or exercises. It’s been strongly criticised by mainstream Jewish scholars for both its theological distortions and the massive profiteering involved. The person responsible for the Qabbala cult, for example, sells a copy of the Zohar for up to $300 or so. It might even be more. These are all in Hebrew, but he tells his followers that they don’t have to bother understanding this mystical text. Simply having it will confer spiritual benefits and material wealth. It’s needless to say that this is very definitely not what proper Jewish religious scholars believe.

As for White people voting for Neoliberal politics, my guess is that race, and particularly racial contempt for Blacks, has been an important element of the strategy through which it has been sold to them. Right-wing American politicians have stigmatised Blacks as being feckless welfare scroungers. The interventionist policies used to improve their conditions, such as affirmative action, merely act to prevent the benign market operating as it should. It stops virtuous, well-qualified Whites from getting the jobs they need by giving them to Blacks. At the same time, food stamps, unemployment benefit and support for unmarried mothers mean that Blacks are dependent on welfare and aren’t bothered about getting jobs.

The White poor, who are being fed this rubbish, don’t see themselves as dependent on welfare, despite the fact that many of the most hard-line, fervently Republican communities are the poorest in America. The Young Turks did one piece about a year ago looking at one county in the American south – I think it was Kentucky – where nearly everyone was unemployed and consequently dirt poor. And just about everyone in that county – 97 per cent – were White.

This is also the bilge being fed to people over here. A few years ago, The Spectator, never pro-Black in the first place, began running stories stating that, thanks to left-wing policies, White men were the only demographic group not welcome in London. It was a counterpart to the Republicans’ ‘Southern Strategy’ of targeting ‘Angry White men’. The fear of the economic and social threat of immigrants, whether from the EU or the Middle East, is being used by Cameron to try and frighten voters into allowing him to cut even more welfare benefits. You could see that in the reports Mike posted over at Vox Political on Cameron’s attempts to get the other EU leaders to deny migrants over here the welfare benefits to which they were entitled under EU and their own countries’ laws, which included payments to which they were entitled and which were paid by their countries of origin.

The Republicans and the Tories are using White racial fears to impoverish and degrade Whites, Blacks and other racial groups. And they’ll keep playing on this as long as it appears to work. Blacks and Whites need to unite to stop this, and ensure a better, fairer world for working people, whatever the colour of their skin.

David Bowie: Pop Blasphemy and Big Bucks

May 13, 2013

David Bowie was in the news again last week. According to the Independent, the video for his latest track features a gangster-priest and Bowie himself as a messianic figure. The article on it concluded that whatever the reception the song has, pop music will continue to mock Christianity. Now I’m aware that in writing this post I’m playing into Bowie’s and his promoters’ hands. There’s no such thing as bad publicity, as the saying goes. And as Oscar Wilde, whose trial was very bad publicity indeed, wrote, the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. Bowie’s foray into Christian imagery and pop blasphemy nevertheless needs to be critiqued and criticised.

Bowie is an icon of pop ‘cool’. The androgynous look he pioneered in Ziggy Stardust went on to influence Goth and certain forms of Heavy Metal. A veteran of the pop world, it seems that he resurfaces every decade or so to release another album to critical acclaim. He is, or was, the subject of an exhibition at the V&A. Yet in the use of Christian imagery to provoke, amuse or offend, he seems definitely behind the ball. Other pop stars have been doing it for years. Madonna’s more or less built her entire career on it, and it’s part and parcel of various Goth, Industrial and Black Metal bands, like Cradle of Filth. In fact the use of blasphemous or anti-Christian imagery in some pop and rock music is now so much part of the genre, that it’s hardly shocking. Indeed, it’s almost boring. Whatever the dangers of using such images were in the early days of rock’n’roll, it now seems quite safe and calculated to boost sales rather than harm them. The use of imagery from other religions wouldn’t have the same effect. It would either be seen as irrelevant, racist and even dangerous. In the case of Islam, it could result in diplomatic incidents, mass riots and people dead, including the singer. And so it’s easier to pick on Christianity. As countless scandals have shown, a bit of outrage can always be guaranteed to boost sales. And Christianity is a safe target. It might lead to the odd condemnation during a sermon, but that’s about it. You can also count on such anti-Christian images being defended as free artistic expression, or justified comment on an archaic and corrupt institution. The days when such things were really controversial are long gone. Anti-Christian imagery and shock tactics are now pretty much traditional across much of popular culture. In the case of the Heavy Rockers, it’s pretty much a stereotype. Rather than a true revolt against society, it’s now just an empty gesture. It gives the fans the sensation that they’re doing something daring and rebellious, while in fact what they’re doing is simply repeating and rehashing yet another pop cliche. They don’t even have to do something that would genuinely require a little thought and determination, like going on a protest march, joining a political party or activist group, or even standing on the picket lines protesting against the latest library or school closure. Now I’m not saying that Bowie necessarily isn’t politically aware, or that his fans aren’t. I am merely saying that the use of anti-Christian imagery can, and frequently is a substitute for any deeper message. Before Barack Obama’s election galvanised, and continues to polarise, American political opinion, people were increasingly turning away from politics. In Britain membership of the main political parties is in decline, and fewer and fewer people were turning out for elections. Some of this was due to cynicism, a belief that all political parties are the same, and all politicians are self-centred hypocrites and ego-maniacs out to deceive and exploit the electorate. It also has to be said that many people just can’t be bothered to vote. Politics can be boring, as anyone who’s ever attended any kind of committee meeting knows. It can also be highly emotive and confrontational. In addition to this, some of the issues can be arcane and difficult to follow. It’s not for nothing that economics has been ‘the dismal science.’ Why bother being bored and angry, when you can be entertained instead? Just skip the news and watch a pop video instead.

As for Bowie, for all his critical acclaim and adulation, his own heyday was in the ’70s and, to a lesser extent, the ’80’s. I’m not sure what proportion of the public actually buys his records, but my guess is that most of his fans are at least in their 30s or 40s. I doubt he has much impact on the teen market, except as someone held up to them by older connoisseurs as a true icon of pop. And as far as weird and disturbing imagery goes, he faces some extremely stiff competition, like that veteran self-publicist, Lady Gaga. Next to her, Bowie’s anti-Christian posturing looks decidedly old hat. And so once again Christianity is attacked by another publicity-hungry rocker, hoping to make more millions out of album sales.