Posts Tagged ‘Roman Empire’

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

March 31, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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Vince Cable Shows Contempt for Democracy with Non-Aggression Pact with Independents

February 22, 2019

I caught the headline in the I today, stating that Vince Cable has decided to go into a ‘non-aggression pact’ with the so-called ‘Independents’. This means that the two parties won’t put up candidates against each other.

Apart from reminding me of the Liberal-SDP Alliance in the 1980s, it also shows Cable’s absolute contempt for democracy, and how far his party has fallen from the ideals of John Stuart Mill. Mill’s book, On Liberty, is one of the great philosophical examinations of freedom and democracy. It’s also the foundational text of political Liberalism. Until very recently, every leader of the Liberal party received a copy of it at his election to office.

However, when the Lib-Dems were part of the coalition with Dave Cameron’s Tories, they fully supported the legislation providing for secret courts. These were special courts, where cases would be tried in camera for reasons of ‘national security’. This meant that the press and public would be excluded, the identity of witnesses could be concealed, and evidence withheld from the defendant and their lawyers.

It’s the classic kangaroo court system Kafka described in his novels The Trial and The Castle, where the accused is arrested and tried without knowing what in fact he’s being charged with. It’s the judicial system every tyrant and despot has used since the days of the Roman emperors, and which returned in the 20th century with the horrors of the Nazi and Stalinist judicial systems.

And then there’s the anti-democratic nature of the Independents themselves. This is a group, who have incorporated themselves as a company rather than a political party. They have done this in order to avoid the electoral law that demands that political parties reveal who their donors are. It also allows them to evade the laws limiting expenditure on election campaigns.

Additionally, the group is determined not to call bye-elections, despite no longer being members of the parties that got them elected in the first place. Arguably, their constituents voted for them as members of the Labour or Tory parties, and should be given the choice of whether they want to re-elect them as Independents or choose someone else to represent them from their former parties instead. But despite all the sweet-sounding stuff about respecting democracy and parliament as the best method for representing the will of the British people, the Independents definitely do not want to hold bye-elections. For the simple reason that they’d lose.

We therefore have a party that supported anti-democratic secret courts, going into a ‘non-aggression pact’ – which sounds very much like the pact Nazi Germany signed with Stalin’s Russia before they invaded the latter – with a party that withholds the identity of its donors and refuses to hold bye-elections that would give the voters their opportunity to say whether they still want them in parliament or not.

This is an ominous warning. If these two parties are starting off together with such an open contempt for democracy, what would they be capable of doing if they were to get any kind of government?

Outcry over Firms Microchipping Workers

November 12, 2018

I found this very ominous story in today’s I, for the 12th November 2018. It seems some firms are inserting microchips into their employees, and employers’ groups and trade unions have rightly come together to condemn it. The article reads

Both the employers and trade unions representative bodies have expressed alarm at reports that UK firms are considering implanting staff with microchips for security. UK firm BioTeq says it has already fitted 150 implants while Swedish firm Biohax has claimed it is in discussions with several UK firms. (p.2).

This is deeply sinister stuff, straight out of the X-Files. Never mind the bonkers conspiracy theories about aliens inserting implants into our bodies to control us, ordinary human capitalism is beginning to do that. From the article it seems that the chips are simply there to make sure employees are who they say they are, but this is nevertheless a real totalitarian move. As it stands, employees in some companies are very closely monitored. Private Eye printed a story a few months ago about how the weirdo Barclay Twins, who own the Torygraph, wished to have motion sensors attached to their hacks desks to make sure they weren’t moving around too much. They had to abandoned this intrusive and hare-brained scheme because it was resented so much by the hacks. Nevertheless, if this goes ahead uncontested, I can see more firms adopting the practice, right up to the government. After all, what better way to cut down on crime, identity theft and illegal immigration than have everyone implanted with a microchip containing all their biographical and biometric details. Blair’s government was, after all, considering passing legislation to establish compulsory electronic identity cards carrying biometric information. And I’ve no doubt other, deeply authoritarian regimes around the world would be all too enthusiastic about adopting the policy.

It also reminds me of the one part of the millennialist beliefs held by Fundamentalist Christians about the End Times and the one world global superstate they’re afraid of. In this myth, which has been around since the 1970s, once the global Satanic dictatorship is established with the Antichrist as its head, it will order barcodes to be marked on everyone’s hands and forehead. Those who don’t have the barcodes will be unable to buy or sell. It’s how they believed the prophecy in the Book of Revelation in the Bible that the Antichrist would have everyone marked with the number 666 on their hands and foreheads would come true in the modern world.

I really don’t believe in the religious right’s millennialist fears. One interpretation of the Book of Revelation is that it’s a coded description of the persecution the early church was experiencing under the Roman Emperor Nero. Both the Romans and Jews used various number codes, in which letters of the alphabet had certain numerical values. These could be used in ordinary secular ways, as well as in number mysticism, in which people tried to discern a deeper meaning in religious or mystical texts through adding up the numerical value of particular words. 666 corresponds to ‘Neron’, a form of Nero. He’s also believed to have been the person described in the Book of Revelation as ‘the great beast’, because as a young prince, before he got into power, he and his cronies thought it was jolly japes for him to go round Rome dressed as a beast and attack people. I think this is probably the right way to interpret that part of the Bible, rather than seeing it as a literal prediction of an imminent end of the world.

But even so, when faced with reports that the firms are trying to implant their workers with microchips, and Blair and authoritarian politicians after him would like to make it compulsory for us all to carry biometric electronic identity cards, I do wonder if the Fundamentalists have a point.

New Series Next Tuesday on African Civilisations

May 23, 2018

Next Tuesday, 29th May 2018, at 10.00 pm there’s a new series beginning on BBC4 entitled Africa’s Great Civilisations. It’s a six part series, with the first part on ‘origins’. The blurb for it on page 77 of the Radio Times reads

Henry Louis Gates jnr. takes a new look at the history of Africa, from the birth of humankind to the dawn of the 20th century. he takes in the city of Great Zimbabwe, the pyramids of Meroe and the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia.

The little piece about it on page 75 by Gill Crawford also gives the following description of the show:

Celebrated African-American literary scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr presents this wide-ranging, grand-scale six-part history of the African continent, originally shown by the PBS network in the US.

In this first episode, we start in the heart of Ethiopia, where the story of humanity began. And while we now that many African peoples migrated away from the continent to create other societies, others stayed to form great civilisations in Egypt, Sudan and Nigeria, culminating in the Queen of Meroe who stood up to the might of the Roman Empire.

It’s a fest of splendours, and Gates is an eloquent guide.

There have been a number of series on African history over the years. Back in the 1980s the Black African historian, Dr. Ali Mazrui, and the White Afro-centrist historian, Basil Davidson, both presented series on Africa. Eight years ago in 2010 the Black art historian, Gus Casely-Hayford also presented a splendid four-part series on BBC 4, The Lost Kingdoms of Africa, on the continent’s pre-colonial civilisations. I also seem to recall a BBC4 programme, which I thought was presented by Aminatta Forna, but I might be wrong, on the great Islamic civilisation of medieval Timbuktu.

Africa has been the centre of some very advanced civilisations, such as Benin and its superb bronzes, Nubia and the Swahili of what is now Tanganyika. The Swahilis built their cities from coral, and covered them with a limewash made by burning the same material.

Ancient Meroe, however, remains a mystery. It was a literate civilisation, using Egyptian hieroglyphs, and they left inscriptions on their monuments, like their pyramids. However, their language is unrelated to any spoken today, and no parallel texts in known languages, like the Rosetta Stone for ancient Egyptian, have been found. So although we can read their tests, we’ve no idea what they mean. Who knows what wealth of information is in there? It’s all very frustrating. Grrr!

Secretary of Jewish Voices for Labour Libelled as Anti-Semite

March 9, 2018

Another day, another smear by the Israel lobby and their collaborators in the Labour party against another decent, anti-racist individual. This time the victim is Glyn Secker, the secretary of Jewish Voices for Labour. He’s been suspended from the Labour party because of allegations that he posted anti-Semitic comments on social media.

Mike posted up a piece about it, including the condemnation of Mr. Secker’s suspension by his colleagues in Jewish Voices for Labour on Wednesday. He pointed out that, whoever Secker’s accusers are, they waited a long time before accusing him because he hasn’t posted on Twitter since mid-2016. Mike believes it has more to do with alleged anti-Semitic comments Secker made at demonstrations and gatherings at which he spoke. One of these was at Grosvenor Square, London, on the 6th January of this year. Euan Philips in the Huffington Post, claimed that his speech was full of ‘anti-Semitic slurs’. But a recording of the speech, cited by Mike, shows instead just criticism of Israel.

Which is probably what this is all about. Mr. Secker is the Director and a member of the Executive Committee of the organisation, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, and captained the Jewish boat to Gaza in 2009. So this looks very much like another smear by the Israel lobby and the Blairites against someone, who is very definitely not an anti-Semite, and whose only crime is supporting the Palestinians.

His fellows in Jewish Voices for Labour point out the unfair nature of the accusation. There is no accuser, the charges are vague, but nevertheless the head of Disputes, Glyn Matthews, is taking it so seriously that Secker has been suspended. Jewish Voices for Labour rightly state that these false allegations are bringing Labour into disrepute.

They state further

This is an absurd, politically-motivated attack on our Secretary and our organisation. We call on our supporters to move motions of censure in their branches and CLPs. To use allegations of antisemitism in this way is an abuse of power, and a degrading of the seriousness of actual antisemitism and other forms of racism. While antisemitism is monstrous – and, like all forms of racism, should be vigorously dealt with – false accusations of antisemitism are monstrous too. We call for the immediate lifting of these charges.

Mike in his article also wonders if the attack is motivated by the problems now facing the Jewish Labour Movement, who have finally called in the cops to investigate their head honcho, Jonathan Newmark. No Morals Newmark has been credibly accused of embezzling money from Jewish charities when he was head of the Jewish Leadership Council, although the Council didn’t call the rozzers in because of a desire to avoid a scandal. No Morals denies the charges, of course, claiming that he left the organisation due to health reasons.

This looks like an attempt by the Israel lobby to close down a rival organisation in the Labour party, and allow the Jewish Labour Movement to monopolise its position, casting itself as the only organisation speaking for Jews in the Labour party. Which means Jews joining such an organisation automatically have to support its policy of supporting Israel, and covering up the Israeli state’s 7 decades long campaign of massacre, ethnic cleansing and apartheid against the Palestinians.

Glyn Secker and Jewish Voices for Labour clearly present a threat to their attempts to establish this monopoly, by providing an alternative political outlet and view of Jewish identity regarding the treatment of the Palestinians. The Israel lobby can’t allow that, and so we have the fake allegations of anti-Semitism and the Kafka-esque perversion of justice. Just like Mike’s case, there’s no accuser, and the charges are vague. It’s another kangaroo court.

Mike’s article is at: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/03/08/jewish-man-suspended-from-membership-of-labour-party-for-anti-semitism/
Please read it.

I am heartily, heartily sick and tired of these smears and libels. To accuse decent people of anti-Semitism, and, in Mike’s case, Holocaust Denial, is to cast them as monsters of the same type as real Nazis like the banned terrorist group, National Action, and their grotesque conspiracy theories about Jews and vociferous demands for their persecution and extermination. And if it’s bad enough for gentiles to be labelled as such, I can only think how much worse it must be for those of Jewish heritage, because of the long history of their people’s persecution.

And I despise the skulking anonymity which protects the accusers’ identities. I dare say that if you challenged these organisations on it, they’d give you some glib twaddle about how it was needed to protect them, considering the work they do infiltrating and exposing anti-Semitism. This just looks like nonsense to me, as they seem not remotely interested in anti-Semitism per se, but just trying to silence criticism of Israel. And dictatorial regimes have always used anonymous spies and accusers to stifle dissent, ever since the Roman Empire.

Now’s the time to end this charade, beginning with the anonymity. If the people making these accusations aren’t prepared to do so openly, revealing their identity, then the accusation should be automatically thrown out as vexatious and mischievous. Also, definite charges should be made. Vague accusations of ‘anti-Semitism’ should not be allowed to pass unquestioned. If they cannot produce substantial charges, then the accusation should be thrown out as an another smear.

I also believe this attack on Mr Secker was connected to another accusation of anti-Semitism, this time by the misnamed Campaign Against Anti-Semitism. They claimed that Labour MPs were posting on a pro-Palestinian website that was making anti-Semitic accusations about the Jews, and in particular about the Rothschild’s banking family. I think there was also some accusation that the site also denied the Holocaust. It looks like the Israel lobby was going in for a coordinated attack on pro-Palestinian groups, and that the smears against Mr. Secker were part of this.

I’ve had enough of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism. They’ve done nothing but smear decent people for the benefit of the Israeli state and its friends in the British media. They’re a corrupt, sham organisation, who should have their charitable status rescinded.

It’s time to close down this witch-hunt. Anyone making further smears should be booted out of the party as a mischief-maker seeking to undermine party democracy, and a libeller.

Israel’s Ethnic Cleansing of the Palestinians and the Italian Fascist Colonisation of Libya

March 5, 2018

Yesterday I put up a piece showing the parallels between Israel’s seven decades long campaign of violence, dispossession and ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinians and the Nazis’ annexation of Poland during the War, and their ethnic cleansing of the Poles and attempts to found German colonies in the cleansed regions.

I’ve no doubt that this comparison between the Nazis and Poland, what Israel is doing to the Palestinians, will be extremely unpalatable to the Israel lobby, who object that it is hurtful and anti-Semitic to compare them to the Nazis, the Jews’ mortal enemies. But however unpleasant and disturbing these comparisons are, they are there. And as the anti-PC right like to say, hurt feelings are no reason for covering up the facts or trying to shut down honest debate.

There is also another Fascist parallel to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land, their campaign of colonisation through expanding, illegal Israeli settlements and the harassment and violence against the Palestinians themselves, and the seizure and destruction of their homes and property. It’s the Italian Fascist colonisation of Libya during the Second World War.

Italy had been trying to establish an empire in North Africa before Mussolini seized power, but had little success. Indeed, one Italian government fell because they were defeated in battle by indigenous African resistance forces. This was a massive humiliation for a European country, which considered themselves racially superior to the people over whom they sought to rule. Nevertheless, Italy continued to press for an empire, and the project was revived by Mussolini and the Fascists, who saw themselves as restoring the old Roman Empire. A brief description of the Italian Fascist occupation and colonisation of Libya is given in the article ‘Libya (Tripolitania and Cyrenaica)’ in Philip V. Cannistraro, ed. Historical Dictionary of Fascist Italy (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press 1982).

This states

The Ottoman provinces of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica became Italian possessions at the conclusion of the Italo-Turkish War of 1911-12. Patriotic rhetoric and a sensational newspaper campaign had described Libya as a ‘terra promessa’ (promised land) for Italy’s emigrants who were forced to settle in foreign lands. Italians soon found that they had acquired sovereignty over two vast desert territories, totally lacking in natural resources and thinly populated by a hostile Muslim population-scarcely an emigrant’s paradise. Nevertheless, for nearly thirty years, until the defeat of the Axis marked the end of Italian rule, Italy worked to create a “fourth shore” (to add to Italy’s Tyrrhenian, Adriatic, and Sicilian shores), a single colony, along the lines of Algeria, that would become an integral part of the mother country and would provide opportunities for emigrants to settle as small landowners.

Following the initial conquest, Liberal regimes, preoccupied with World War I and then with Italy’s postwar domestic crisis, made little attempt to establish control over the entire territory or to undertake colonisation. When the Fascists came to power in 1922, they embarked immediately on a campaign of military conquest. The repression took nearly a decade. Although Tripolitania was peaceful by 1924, the Sanusi-led rebellion in Cyrenaica lasted until 1931 and was particularly ferocious. According to official Italian figures, the population of Cyrenaica declined from two hundred twenty-five thousand in 1928 to on hundred forty-two thousand in 1931. Moreover, the livestock, the chief means of livelihood of the indigenous population, was decimated.

Under the governorship of Count Giuseppe Vulpi between July 1921 and July 1925, General Emilio De Bono between July 1925 and December 1928, and Marshal Pietro Badoglio between January 1929 and December 1933, the Italians experimented with various programs of land grants and subsidies to attract investors and colonists. Despite ever larger subsidies and increasing government regulation, the results remained unsatisfactory. Large plantations (devoted to almonds, olives and vineyards), worked by Italian labour, developed instead of a small landholders paradise.

During the last half dozen years of Italian rule, however, the outlines of a “fourth shore” began to emerge. Thanks to peaceful internal conditions, the eagerness of the Fascist regime to finance the colony’s development, and the personal energy and influence of the flamboyant Italo Balbo, governor from 1934 to 1940, the colony flourished. Colonisation companies, financed by the government and by social welfare organisations, were entrusted with programs of intensive land settlement. Balbo himself presided over two mass migrations of colonists (twenty thousand in October 1938 and an additional ten thousand a year later) chosen primarily from the Po Valley and the Veneto. Communications improved vastly with the completion of a 1,800-kilometer border-to-border highway inaugurated in 1937. Tripolitania and Cyrenaica were united administratively into one territory known as Libya with a single governor located in Tripoli. Socially and culturally the coastal regions became an extension of Italy, as tourists flocked to special events such as car races and air rallies or to visit the newly excavated archaeological sites of Sabratha and Leptis Magna. By 1939 the transformation was given legal recognition when the four coastal provinces of Tripoli, Misurata, Benghazi, and Derna were incorporated into the kingdom of Italy.

The transformation of Libya, however, was very costly to the mother country. The colony never came close to self-sufficiency and remained heavily dependent on subsidies from Italy. Nor were the Italians successful in dealing with the indigenous Libyans, on whom they depended for labour. By 1940 the Italian population numbered about one hundred and ten thousand in contrast to a Libyan population of eight hundred thousand. The failure of a “separate but equal ” policy became clear when World War II broke out. Many Libyans rallied ot the Sanusi banner once again (in alliance with the British), and the Libyans rejected any claims for even a limited period of postwar Italian trusteeship over Tripolitania. Nevertheless, a sizeable Italian colony remained in Tripoli until its final expulsion in 1970. (Pp.305-7).

When Blair, Sarko, Killary and the rest were demanding Colonel Gadaffy’s overthrow a few years ago, one Tory MP put his head up to say that the Libyan dictator deserved it, because he was anti-Semitic. The MP’s father was Italian Jewish, and was one of those, who’d been expelled. It’s possible that anti-Semitism was a factor in his father’s expulsion, as there is a very strong current of it in the Middle East. But it’s far more likely that the man was expelled because he was Italian, and therefore one of the country’s hated colonial overlords.

I realise that the parallels between the Nazi occupation of Poland, the Italian Fascist colonisation of Libya and Israel’s own persecution and colonisation of Palestinian territory aren’t exact. Nazism and Fascism were both anti-democratic dictatorships. Israel is a multiparty democracy, and there are Arab members of the Knesset, as well as a separate Palestinian authority.

But Israel was born through the massacre of the indigenous Arab population, and has imposed a system of apartheid on those who remain, most similar to the former White South Africa, and presumably something like the “separate but equal” policy implemented by the Italian Fascists in Libya. While making noises about finding a two-state solution to the problem of Palestinian statehood and equal rights, Israeli policy appears instead to be to encourage the further expansion of their settlements in the Occupied Territories, intimidation of the indigenous Palestinians through aggressive policing and military action, and the seizure of Palestinian land and homes, as well as the destruction of Arab property, by militant settler groups. All while running schemes to encourage more Jewish and Israeli emigration to these areas. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, runs a business financing and building such settlements.

The comparison between Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy and Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians can be pushed too far, but it is still there. And libelling those, who point it out as ‘anti-Semitic’ is no argument or defence against it. The truth often hurts, but honesty requires that history should be squarely faced and the horrors of the past and present confronted.

Open Britain Video Showing May’s Decision for Hard Border in Northern Ireland

March 2, 2018

I get regular emails from Open Britain, an all-party organisation supporting the EU and opposing the Hard Brexit so beloved of Boris, Mogg, Gove and the rest of the right-wing grotesques. Earlier today I got this email from them, issued by Chuka Umunna, promoting their video, which clearly shows Tweezer stating that she’s backing a hard border in the Northern Ireland.

The email ran:

It was the last chance for the Prime Minister to finally face down the Brextremists in her party and do what is in the best interests of the country. But, yet again, she failed to do so. Her speech offered no new solutions, just more empty soundbites.

As the Brexit process continues, facts are coming to light which no-one could have known at the time of the referendum. Nobody voted for a £40bn Brexit divorce bill, or for fewer nurses and less money for our NHS.

And on the key issue of Northern Ireland, Theresa May today had almost nothing new to say. Perhaps that’s because she knows her ‘red lines’ have made avoiding a hard border impossible. Yesterday we revealed a video showing that, in the days leading up to the referendum, Theresa May told the truth – that hard Brexit means having a hard border.

this video has already been viewed by over 191,000 people in just the past 24 hours. But we need everyone to see it, so they know the truth about the damage that Theresa May’s Brexit plans will really do. So please share the video and spread the word.

Please SHARE this video with friends and family on Facebook and Twitter so everybody knows what Theresa May really thinks on how her hard Brexit plans will hit Northern Ireland.

The video’s on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/OpenBritain/videos/1989256644447983/

Mike’s already blogged about how May supports a hard border in Ulster. And more than enough people have pointed out that a vital condition of the Good Friday Agreement was that there should be an open border between the Six Counties and Eire. If May and her gang close that border, then it threatens to return us to the very dark days of the Troubles.

But I doubt Tweezer is bothered by that.

Thatcher used the Troubles and the threat of Nationalist violence for all the publicity she could get. She portrayed herself as standing proud, like some Boudicaa or Winston Churchill facing down the Romans and Nazis, never willing to budge one inch against the IRA.

It was all lies.

At the same time she was posing as Britain’s defender against Fenianism, she and her government were deep in negotiations with those very same Irish Nationalists. At the very time she was vilifying the Labour party as traitors, because they were publicly advocating the same policy. Which shows how mendacious and utterly two-faced she was.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Tweezer and the Hard Brexit Tories didn’t think that they could do the same. Fix a hard border in Ulster, and then, when the province descends into chaos and the terrorists begin bombing, they can once again win over a frightened British public by posing as our ardent defenders. Even when it is her party’s policy that has created the murder and bloodshed in the first place.

And do you know what shattered Thatcher’s intransigence, and brought her round to the negotiating table with the IRA and Sinn Fein?

It wasn’t the hundreds of innocents butchered by the men of violence – Nationalist and Loyalist – in Ulster, including our courageous troops. It was because the IRA bombed Canary Wharf. That showed that they could bring down the very heart of British finance capitalism.

Ordinary lives don’t matter to the Tories. But the banks must always be protected and promoted.

Tweezer and the Tories are destroying Britain, and threatening more death and destruction in Ulster for their own electoral gain and stupid, free market ideologies. Get them out. Support Corbyn’s Labour and closer ties with the EU.
Before Tweezer and her cronies try to portray her as the second coming of Maggie Thatcher, and start exploiting the violence they have helped cause.

TNT Nation: Daily Mail Racists Freak Out as Cheddar Man Revealed as Black

February 15, 2018

One of the big stories last week was the unveiling of the reconstructed face of Cheddar Man. As Jeff Waldorf points out in this clip from TNT Nation, this is a prehistoric man, named after where he was found, and not a man literally made of cheese. Cheddar Man, or rather, his skeleton, was found in the caves in Cheddar in Somerset, England, way back in 1906. The skeleton’s 16,000 or so years old, and so dates from about the end of the last Ice Age. The scientists reconstructing his features also used for the first time DNA analysis to gauge his skin and eye colour. And it turns out that he had ‘dark to black skin’ and blue eyes.

They scientists were able to do this using DNA they were able to extract from the skeleton. This had genetic markers similar to those for dark skin, which is also present in ten per cent of the modern British population. Cheddar Man’s colouring was a surprise for the scientists, as they expected him to have white skin and blond or light hair, as an adaptation to the extreme cold. Commenting on the revelation that he was black, one scientist said that it showed that British has not always been associated with Whiteness. It had changed, and would change again in the future. I think they were also able to trace the ultimate origins of Cheddar Man’s people, as they entered Britain from a route across southern Europe ultimately going back to Turkey.

I’m not surprised by this revelation. It’s been suggested since at least the 1990s that the first anatomically modern humans – Homo Sapiens Sapiens – who entered and colonised Europe, were dark-skinned. Back in the 1990s a Channel 4 series on human evolution showed a reconstruction of these people, as they would have looked 40,000 or so years ago, edging along the primeval European countryside as Black. The programme also consciously reversed the idea, promoted in many past books and articles on them, that the Neanderthals were Black. The programme instead argued that they would have had light skins as an adaptation to the arctic temperatures in Europe. If you also look at the remains of our ancient ancestors, you also find that they have more archaic features, like a strong brow ridge, than the other humans in Africa, who were much more gracile. I think its these archaic features which led some archaeoanthropologists to state that some of these humans were of the same physical build as Aboriginal Australians, because these ancient people have also retained some features of archaic humanity.

The real shock, as one of the articles about Cheddar Man said last week, is how recently White skin and hair evolved – in the last 10,000 years or so. It’s much more recent than they expected. However, I can remember reading in a review of the film The Clan of the Cave Bear in Starburst one of the criticisms of that movie. It starred Daryl Hannah as a Cro Magnon woman growing up with a family of Neanderthals. Hannah’s blond, and the article pointed out that blonde hair is only supposed to have evolved 10,000 or so years ago – much later than the age the film, and the book on which it was based, by Jean Auel, is set.

The revelation that Cheddar Man was Black, however, set the racists off. And here Waldorf reads out and tears to pieces some of the comments about this story left on the Daily Mail’s website. And they go from the reasonable, to the completely mad.

Waldorf begins with the comment from one individual, who wonders if the genetic reconstruction is accurate, given the age of the skeleton and difficulty of extracting genetic information from remains that ancient. He states, however, that he isn’t a scientist, but has simply watched a lot of documentaries. Waldorf mocks him for this, which is actually unfair. It’s a reasonable question, as the impression I’ve had from watching the same kind of documentaries is that ancient DNA can be extremely delicate, and is very often fragmentary, so it can actually be very difficult to extract useful genetic information from human remains. I can remember reading an article a few years ago, which made this point when discussing the Neanderthals to show why scientists have not tried to recreate them genetically.

And then there’s the completely bonkers. Another commenter wondered if there wasn’t something deeper going on here. They smelt a conspiracy, as the revelation that Cheddar Man was Black came after, so this person believed, the collapse of the ‘out of Africa’ theory of human origins, and the proof that the Ancient Egyptians weren’t African. First of all, if the theory that humans first evolved in Africa and then spread outwards across the globe has collapsed, then no-one’s told me. Or any of the anthropologists and archaeologists working in this field. The only people I can think of who reject the theory are, er, marginal thinkers. Or cranks. Waldorf takes apart the claim that the ancient Egyptians weren’t Africans, by pointing out that ancient Egypt actually had a very diverse population, and that in the south they tended to be darker than in the north. Also, Egypt is part of Africa.

This comment seems to echo back to the views of some of the White racial supremacists that the ancient Egyptians, as the citizens of an advanced ancient civilisation, couldn’t possibly be Black, and were instead White and European in appearance. This is, of course, vehemently rejected by AFrocentrist historians, who argue instead that they were Black. If you look at the way the ancient Egyptians depicted themselves in their art – in the tomb paintings, for example, they are lighter than the darker skinned Nubian peoples to their south. Male ancient Egyptians are portrayed as having reddish brown skin, while women are yellow. Nubians are painted with black skin. Even so, they are still darker than the Europeans, which appear in their art, such as the people of Minoan Crete. These are depicted with pink skin. The scientifically accepted view is that the peoples of North Africa, including ancient Egypt, were White.

However, way back in the 1990s or the early part of this century some anthropologists reconstructed the faces of people from Roman Egypt. This found that their features were more strongly African than the portraits of them painted on to their mummy cases, which made them look more European. There were definite cultural and economic reasons why an ancient Egyptian really wouldn’t want to be seen as ‘Black’. Roman Egypt was a horrible, racist, apartheid state, where the indigenous Egyptian population was taxed more than those of Greek or European descent. This would have left many Egyptians with feelings of inferiority about their African features, which they would have tried to cover up.

There was also the suggestion by one archaeologist that the ultimate origins of the ancient Egyptian civilisation lay in a Black tribe from further south, which migrated to the north. This archaeologist came to this conclusion through examining some of the early henge monuments, which predate the ancient Egyptian civilisation proper by thousands of years. I think these were similar to those in the Black African nations further south. One of the stones in these monuments also seemed deliberately shaped to resemble a cow. Hathor was the ancient Egyptians’ cow goddess, and so there’s the suggestion that she was a survival from this ancient, pastoralist Black African culture.

I also came across another story in the paper recently, which said that the ancient Egyptians weren’t African after all. I didn’t get the opportunity to read it – I only glimpsed the headline in passing – and so can’t really comment on it. But it seems unlikely to me. The Egyptologist John Romer criticised the notion that the ancient Egyptians were White way back in the 1990s in his Channel 4 series, Great Excavations. In one episode, he discussed the various diffusionist theories of human evolution and progress, and how they were influenced by 19th century theories of racial supremacy and conquest. Diffusionism is the archaeological theory that advances in civilisation occur through successive societies and races conquering their predecessors. Early archaeologists were busy examining the remains of these past cultures, and especially their skull and head shapes, in order to develop a classification of the various races these different physical types represented. As the ancient Egyptians were an advanced civilisation, they confidently expected them to have their origins in the lighter skinned peoples further east.

Except that they didn’t. The ancient Egyptian people remained the same stock, unchanged, as their culture developed and flourished around them. They created their culture themselves, without any other invading race creating or imposing a superior culture after them. Of course, at times ancient Egypt was conquered by outside nations, such as the Semitic Hyksos kings and the Nubians, who produced a line of Black pharaohs. They were also an important power themselves in the ancient Near East, at one point holding Syria and Palestine. But ancient Egyptian culture was their own creation, and not the result of invasion by some biologically superior race. And as far as I know, the only people, who believe that the ancient Egyptians had blonde hair and blue eyes are neo-Nazis.

Now I think there is a subtle message behind this recent discovery of Cheddar Man’s complexion. I think some of the comments made by the experts about his colouring and Britishness – that it is only relatively recently that White skin has evolved, and that Britishness is not necessarily connected to Whiteness – have been made to make an anti-racist point. It wasn’t just the scientist quoted by the TNT clip. There was another quote in the papers by someone saying that we may have to rethink the relationship between Britishness and Whiteness. It’s a reasonable, scientifically informed comment. But the recreation of Cheddar Man with dark skin clearly touched a nerve amongst the racists reading the Daily Heil.

As for Cheddar Man himself, he still has descendants in the area. Or at least, a descendant. A few years ago scientists sampled his DNA, and then tested the other people in Cheddar to see if they were related. It turns out one of them was – the headmaster of the local school. He was quite happy about it, but his mother was really upset, worrying what people would think. Well, if they’re sensible, they won’t think anything disparaging. As I said, these people were exactly like us modern humans. They had the same physical features and the same intelligence. They weren’t lumbering ape-men by any means. The only difference between modern people and them is that they lived over 10,000 years ago, when much of Britain was a frozen wilderness. I can even imagine some people being slightly envious, that this chap has an ancestry that can be traced back to this incredibly remote period.

Radio Programme on Sylvia Pankhurst’s Support for Ethiopia against the Fascist Invasion

February 1, 2018

There are a number of programmes next week marking the centenary of the passage of the Representation of the People Act, which gave some women the right to vote. One of the most interesting of these looks like a programme on Radio 4 on Monday, 5th February 2018, at 8.00 pm, Sylvia Pankhurst: Honorary Ethiopian. The brief description of it in the Radio Times runs

Suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst got involved in the Ethiopian cause following its invasion by Italy in 1935 , and would later be recognised as an honorary citizen and given a state funeral. Here, Helen Pankhurst explores her grandmother’s role in the fight for Ethiopian independence.

Bristol and Bath have a connection to Ethiopia’s struggle for independence, as those cities were the home of Haile Selassie’s children during the War. They used to go to Victoria Park, though I think this was the one in Bath rather than Bristol.

There were some western intellectuals, who sided with the Italians during their invasion. One of these was Lady Kathleen Simon, who wrote a book on slavery. The Ethiopian emperor, Menelik II, had formally ended slavery in the country, but slaving still went on. British officers like Major Darnley, the author of Slaves and Ivory, complained that Ethiopian slavers were crossing the border to abduct the indigenous peoples of Uganda, then very much part of the British empire. His book was an account of his undercover mission into Ethiopia and a description of the way various provinces had been devastated by slave raiding by the Ethiopian aristocracy. It was partly written as a piece of polemic. Darnley was incensed that the authorities were taking no action against the slavers, and that in fact an area in Uganda around the border with Ethiopia had been declared a ‘no-go zone’ to British personnel. At the end of his book he argued that we should invade and conquer Ethiopia in order to halt their raiding into British territory, as well as the horrors of slavery and the slave trade in Ethiopia itself.

I don’t think Darnley supported the Italians, but Simon certainly did. At the end of her book, entitled simply Slavery, she also discusses Ethiopian slavery and slave raiding, and praises the Italian invasion as she believed that it would put a halt to it. I don’t think Mussolini had much of an interest in slavery, if any. He was far more keen to build a mighty new Roman empire. And issues like personal freedom certainly were very much not the concern of the man, who invented totalitarianism. Still, Simon’s book shows how some members of the British aristocracy supported Italian Fascist imperialism for ostensibly liberal motives.

Jodi Magness on the Archaeology of Early Islamic Settlement in Palestine

December 17, 2017

One of the other books in the winter edition of the Oxbow Bargain Book Catalogue for Winter 2017 is Jodi Magness’ Archaeology of the Early Islamic Settlement in Palestine. The blurb for this says

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

Eisenbrauns, 2003, 9781575060705, Hardback, was £49.99, now £14.95.

Magness is an Israeli archaeologist, who has written some brilliant, very accessible, popular books on the archaeology of the Holy Land. I recognise that my own religious views mean that I have a bias towards Biblical archaeology and the Ancient Near East, as opposed to the later, Muslim periods. However, western concerns with these periods have meant that precious later evidence of Muslim culture and towns have been destroyed as archaeologists have dug through them to get to ancient Egypt, for example. The British archaeologist John Romer was particular critical about this in one edition of his series on the history of archaeology for Channel 4, broadcast in the 1990s, Great Excavations. In one sequence, he sifted through the sand around one excavated ancient Egyptian monument, picking out pieces of Islamic period pottery, and sadly remarked, ‘There was a whole town here once.’ And explained that it had been either destroyed, or at least its remains had, by archaeologists determined to get at what was underneath from antiquity.

Which of course, may partly explain – but does not justify – the Islamist rage against pre-Islamic Egypt and its monuments. Like the pyramids, which they’d love to destroy.

Magness’ conclusions don’t really surprise me. There’s an argument about the demographic and economic conditions of the late Roman Empire at the time of the Muslim conquests. Part of the reasons for the Fall of the Roman Empire was economic stagnation, as I’ve pointed out before to combat the rubbish spouted by right-wing politicos and classicists like Boris Johnson. During the late Byzantine Empire, towns shrank, and many disappeared completely as they were abandoned. Those that survived tended to consist of a castle or fortification and a church around which was a much smaller settlement.

The nascent Islamic Empire put the region in touch with an expanding state that grew to cover the Near East and spread into parts of India. It gave merchants the opportunity to establish trade networks across a vast area. Furthermore, even when the Byzantines and Muslim emperors were still at work, Christians in the early caliphate were not prevented from contact with their spiritual superiors and coreligionists in Byzantium. Also, the official Byzantine ‘Melkite’ church, as it was known in Egypt, had persecuted the various ‘Jacobite’ or ‘Nestorian’ sects, which they considered heretical, often with horrific tortures. The result was that when the Muslims conquered the region, the persecuted masses opened the gates to them and welcomed them as liberators.

At the moment, however, Netanyahu, the Likudniks and the other members of the Israeli religious right in his coalition seem to be determined to erase any history of Palestine, that challenges its exclusive Jewish character. There are any number of books and articles by western historians attacking this and comparing it with militant nationalist movements elsewhere. Such as by Philip Rahtz, a very respected British archaeologist from my part of the West Country in his book, Invitation to Archaeology. This is not anti-Semitic, and Rahtz himself has always been anti- or at least, non-racist. He describes in the above book how shocked he was when an apparently liberal Australian student he was teaching was deeply surprised by his interest in the archaeology of Aboriginal Australians. ‘But they’re just apes!’ she exclaimed.

Netanyahu and his thugs are determined to close mosques and churches, or at least keep them very tightly controlled, just as the illegal settlers they support seize Palestinian land and homes in the Occupied Territories. So I really don’t know how long a genuinely open archaeological investigation of the Islamic period will last.