Posts Tagged ‘Maoris’

Ken Surin on How Privatisation Wrecked New Zealand’s Electricity Grid

December 14, 2017

Today’s Counterpunch has a very interesting piece by Ken Surin giving his selective impressions of New Zealand. Throughout the article he calls the country by its Maori name, Aotearoa, and part of the article is about the poverty and marginalisation that is particularly experienced by New Zealand’s indigenous people and Pacific Islanders. He begins the article with his reminiscences of on-pitch violence by the county police and county farmers’ teams when he played university rugby back in the ’60s. This has a tenuous connection to the rest of the article as two of his team mates came from the country. He then goes on to discuss the effects of neoliberalism on New Zealand. Reading his article, I got the impression that New Zealand did not suffer as much as other nations from the neoliberal agenda of privatisation, wage restraint, welfare cuts and rampant deregulation. But at the same time, he argues that it hasn’t done as much as it could either to stop and reverse it.

From this side of the Pacific, one of the most interesting pieces of the article is his description of the way privatisation wrecked the New Zealand electricity network when it was introduced, leading to a power outage, or outages, lasting five weeks.

Aucklanders of a certain age remember the Great Power Outage, symptomatic of their country’s dalliance with neoliberalism, that lasted for 5 weeks from late February 1998.

New Zealand’s electric industry had been deregulated, and the company running Auckland’s grid, Mercury Energy, had been formed in 1992. Mercury promptly downsized its workforce from 1,411 to 600, and skimped on cable maintenance to boost profits. At the time of the Great Power Outage, Mercury Energy was also busy trying to take over another electric utility, again to enhance revenues.

One of several assessments of the handling of the Outage by Mercury Energy and the city’s administration described their response, somewhat charitably, as “ad hoc”. They predicated their responses throughout the crisis on best-case scenarios, and were flummoxed when none materialized.

Practical preparation for worst-case scenarios costs money— duh! – and thus erodes profit margins.

Auckland’s electricity was/is supplied by 4 poorly maintained mega-cables (there have been five serious outages since the 1998 crisis), which failed in quick succession.

Traffic lights stopped working, ventilation systems broke down in the southern hemisphere summer, people were trapped for hours in elevators, food rotted in supermarkets, hospitals had to cancel operations, emergency services were put under extreme pressure, workers had to hike up 20 floors in high-rise buildings to get to their offices, and giant generators had to be flown in from Australia to tide the city over while the mega-cables were repaired over the course of the 5 weeks.

Harsh jokes were made about Auckland’s Third World electricity grid. One example: what did Aucklanders use before candles and oil lamps? Answer: electricity.

The mayor, whose city was becoming a laughing stock, and whose competence was questioned as the crisis dragged on, lost his bid for reelection soon afterwards, while Mercury’s CEO died of a heart attack at his desk.

Neoliberalism can be death-dealing, even for its beneficiaries and overseers.

See: https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/12/14/selective-impressions-of-the-new-zealand-aotearoa-conjuncture/

And other economists have pointed out that neoliberalism has been no more successful elsewhere. The American author of Zombie Economics, a Harvard economist, has pointed out that privatisation has not brought in the investment the electricity industry has needed, and resulted in worse performance than when they were state owned.

The Tories and corporate apologists for private industry like to go on about how terrible the British nationalised industries were in trying to put people off voting for Jeremy Corbyn and Labour, who have promised to renationalise electricity and the railway network. A few days ago the I newspaper in their selection of quotes from elsewhere in the press had a paragraph from the Spectator’s Karren Bradey banging on about this, before stating that Corbyn was a ‘Communist’ who was hanging on to an outmoded theory because of ‘weird beliefs’. Which I would say is, with the exception of the term ‘Communist’, a fair description of most Conservatives and other cultists for the free market. They are indeed continuing to support a grotty, failed ideology long past its sell-by date for their own weird reasons. This is an effective rebuttal to their claims.

He also describes how the introduction of neoliberalism into New Zealand wrecked the economy, and created more poverty while cutting taxes for the rich:

The New Zealand economy duly tanked– shrinking by 1% between 1985 and 1992, while productivity stagnated at below 1% between 1984 and 1993, and inflation remained at around 9% a year. Foreign debt quadrupled, and the country’s credit rating was downgraded twice. Taxes were cut for top earners (from 66% to 33%), while benefits were reduced by up to 30% for the poorest families. The number of poor grew by around 35% between 1989 and 1992.

This is exactly what we’ve experienced in this country during these seven years of Tory rule. And New Zealand and Britain aren’t going to be the only nations who’ve suffered these effects. They’re general, right across the globe. Neoliberalism is responsible for these problems. Except if you’re Theresa May and the Tories, who’ll bleat constantly about how all it’s all due to the last, ‘high-spending’ Labour government.

Rubbish. Neoliberalism is an utter and complete failure. It’s promoted by the Tories as it makes the rich even richer while keeping the rest of us poor and desperate. It’s time it was ended and a proper Labour government under Corbyn was elected.

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The Origins of the Anti-Semitic Khazar Smear against the Jews

May 8, 2017

One of the smears against Jews is the accusation that they aren’t really descended from the ancient Israelites, but are really descended from the Khazars, a Turkish tribe in what is now southern Russia, who converted to Judaism in the early Middle Ages.

It’s an obscure, fringe theory, which very few people have probably heard about. It seems to have emerged as a particularly nasty offshoot of British Israelitism in the 1920s and ’30s. Donna Kossy devotes a few pages to it in her chapter on the Anglo-Israelites in her book, Kooks: A Guide to the Outer Limits of Human Belief (Portland, Oregon: Feral House 1994) 12-20.

Anglo-Israelitism, or British Israelitism, is the belief that the British peoples, and those descended from them in the Commonwealth and United States are the true descendants of the ancient Israelites of the Bible. The movement was started by John Wilson, who published Our Israelitish Origin in 1840. The idea was then taken up and publicised by Edward Hine. Wilson and Hine weren’t anti-Semites. They believed that the British were descended from the ten lost tribes of Israel, and that the Jews were therefore their brethren. Hine hoped that when the British realised their true descent from the lost tribes, they would join the Jews, who he believed were descended from Judah and Levi, in the Holy Land. The 12 tribes of Israel would be reunited, leading to Christ’s return in the Second Coming.

Kossy notes, however, that this theory was later used by anti-Semites and other racists to justify their hatred of other groups. Hine despised the various indigenous peoples, whose lands were invaded and conquered by the British, and felt they were on their way to extinction. These included Aboriginal Australians, the Maoris, and also the Irish, whom he identified with the Canaanites.

The foremost leader of British Israelitism in America was Howard B. Rand, who had been variously a lawyer, inventor and small businessman in Haverhill, Massachusetts. In 1928 he founded the Anglo-Saxon Federation of America, declaring himself to be its National Commissioner. Nine years later, in 1937, he founded Destiny Publications, to publish his writings about the movement. After the War he also tried to get himself elected as the Prohibition candidate for the office of Attorney General in Massachusetts.

Rand decided that the Jews were only descended from the southern kingdom of Judah, and stated that the Jewish exiles who returned from Babylon intermarried with Hittites and other gentile races. After the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD the Jewish nation, he believed, ceased to exist. Individual Jews, however, moved north and intermarried with the Khazars. Meanwhile, the Jews captured by the Assyrians moved west, becoming the Goths, and then the Germanic peoples of Britain, Scandinavia and Germany. (Pp. 14-15). Another writer who claimed that the Jews were really descended from the Khazars was Lothrop Stoddard, in his 1926 book, The Pedigree of Judah.

These ideas have since become a part of the various extreme right-wing movements that came to prominence in the 1990s through their confrontations with the federal authorities. Randy Weaver, who fought off the FBI for a week after they sought to arrest him on firearms charges, was a British Israelite, who believed that America was under the secret domination of the Jews, who formed the Zionist Occupation Government.

This bizarre anti-Semitic conspiracy theory comes from the view of the British Israelites that the Jews were pretending to be the true descendants of ancient Israel as part of their schemes for world domination. This is stated by one ‘Wm. Norman Saxon’, in his book, The Mask of Edom, published by Howard Rand’s Destiny Publications in 1985. (See Kossy, p. 16).

The idea that the Jews aren’t truly descended from ancient Israel, but are impostors descended from Khazars, and are plotting world domination is dangerous, ahistorical nonsense. And back in the 1990s there was real concern about the threat posed by the Militia movement in America, many of whose members believed strongly that the Zionist Occupation Government was a reality, and was determined to enslave and destroy the White race.

There is a people, the Karaim, whose name comes from the Hebrew word for ‘Readers’, living in the Crimea, Southern Ukraine and Lithuania, whose religion is Judaism, and who speak a Turkic language, that is, their language is related to Turkish and other, similar languages. As Jews, their language contains a large number of loans words from Hebrew, such as Adonai, ‘God’, sem, ‘name’, and guf, ‘body’. See Bernard Comrie, The Languages of the Soviet Union (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1981) 49. They are believed to be ‘a unique survival of Judaism as the official religion of the Khazar empire’. (Comrie, p. 47). Recognising their ethnic origins as remnants of the Khazar state certainly does not give any support whatsoever to the accusation that this applies to the Jewish people as a whole.

Secular Talk on UN Condemnation of Illegal Israeli Settlements

January 4, 2017

Last week, the UN voted 14 to none against the construction of further illegal settlements by the Israelis in occupied Palestine, with America abstaining. As you can expect, this sent Benjamin Netanyahu into the petulant rage he and the Zionist authorities in Israel adopt whenever the international community dares to criticise them. Netanyahu attacked President Obama for apparently betraying Israel to its enemies, and told the UN ambassador for New Zealand that his country had virtually ‘declared war’ on Israel. Which is an utterly preposterous statement. I’m very much aware of the poverty and marginalisation experienced by New Zealand’s Maoris, the racism against them and other indigenous Pacific peoples, that have immigrated to the country. But in many ways, New Zealand is also a profoundly liberal society. I can recall reading in one of the old encyclopedias we used to have at school that a certain number of seats in the New Zealand legislature were reserved for the Maoris. I also think that Kiwi women had the vote in the late 19th century, decades before women in Britain had it. I can also remember looking through the prospectus of one of the universities in New Zealand when I was doing voluntary work for one of the museums here in Bristol. Many of the courses were very ‘right on’, explicitly tackling racism and the brutalisation of Black people. It seems to me that, despite its problem, NZ is very far from being any kind of racist, Fascist state.

Secular Talk have put up a couple of videos about this, pointing out the glaring, risible and grotesque faults in Netanyahu’s entire position and response. Kyle Kulinski, the host, makes the point that the UN has not attacked Israel as a country or denied its right to exist. It has merely demanded that Israel should abide by international law. He notes that whenever Israel is condemned for its human rights abuses, they make a great play of demanding that Israeli should only be condemned the same way other nations are condemned. Which is Kulinski’s position exactly. Kulinski also goes further, and makes the point that by ignoring the UN’s resolution on this, which he recognises is toothless, Israel will be breaking international law, and, by definition, be a ‘rogue state’.

He also criticises Barack Obama for taking a far too indulgent line towards Israel on this matter. Obama has not condemned Israel. He merely abstained from voting, which is hardly any kind of strong criticism. Despite Netanyahu’s ranting, America has always strongly supported Israel. Obama has given billions of dollars in aid to the country, and supplied the Iron Dome missile defence system. At one point, Kulinski says that what is needed is for Obama to cut off all aid the next time the Israelis accuse America of not doing enough for them. He also makes the point that the UN condemnation of illegal Israeli settlements would actually make the country safer, as it would remove one of the major objects of Palestinian resentment.

They also put up another video commenting on an interview on American TV with the Israeli minister of education, Naftali Bennett. Bennett was asked about the illegal settlements, and responded by flatly denying there were any. He also claimed that the Israelis weren’t violating international law by taking over the Palestinian part of the city and making it their capital, because it had been Israel’s capital for 3,000 years.

This is wrong, and a grotesque rewriting of history. Yes, Jerusalem was the capital of ancient Israel after it was conquered from the Jebusites by King David. Before then, it was a Canaanite city state under Egyptian suzerainty. Diplomatic letters from its mayor, requesting Egyptian aid against the other city states, have been preserved along with other documents in the Amarna archive from that time.

But for most of the past 2,000 Israel simply didn’t exist, and Jerusalem was not the capital of a Jewish state. After the Bar Kochba rebellion of the 2nd century, the Jews were expelled from their capital, and it was refounded as a pagan city. The seat of Jewish government moved to Galilee. After the Fall of Rome, it was part of the Arab Islamic caliphate. For a brief period in the Middle Ages it was conquered by the Crusaders, and became a Christian kingdom amongst the other Crusader states of Outremer. It was then reconquered by the Muslims, and up until the British mandate was part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire.

Bennett’s statement shows the Israelis’ determination to erase Palestinian history and that of the last 2,000 years. Last year, 2016, Counterpunch carried an article about the Israelis’ attempts to destroy every trace of the Palestinians’ own connection to their land through attacks on their education system. The article pointed out the high number of schools that have been attacked by Israeli forces, and the constraints placed on the Palestinians and the teaching of their culture in Israeli schools. It is illegal, for example, to teach anything about the Palestinians’ connection to their homeland, such as poems celebrating this aspect of Palestinian life.

In his desire to remove an entire people from history as well as dispossess them of their own land, Bennett shows precisely the same attitudes towards history and conquest as the Nazis and Communists under Stalin. He and Netanyahu are utterly disgraceful and should be thrown out of office. And the construction of further illegal settlements on the West Bank should stop immediately.