Posts Tagged ‘Synagogues’

Book on Britain’s Medieval Jewish Heritage

July 10, 2017

Bristol is one of the few cities to have a miqveh, a Jewish ritual bath, surviving from the Middle Ages. It’s a chamber cut into hillside of Jacob’s Wells Road, if I remember correctly. It was identified as a miqveh as it has an inscription in Hebrew, ‘Zaklim’, which means ‘Flowing’. Not all archaeologists and historians are convinced that it is a ritual bath, as it’s some way away from the city’s medieval Jewry, and it’s also closer than was usually permitted to a Christian church, in this case that of St. Michael’s Hill. Nevertheless, they believe that it may still have been an important source of water for Bristol’s medieval Jewish community.

Looking through the Oxbow Book Catalogue for Autumn 2015, I found a book listed, Jewish Heritage in Britain and Ireland, by Sharman Kadish, published by Historic England, paperback price £20.00. The blurb reads

Jewish Heritage in Britain and Ireland celebrates in full colour the undiscovered heritage of Anglo-Jewry. First published in 2006, it remains the only comprehensive guide to historic synagogues and sites in the British Isles, covering more than 300 sites, organised on a region-by-region basis. The new edition has been completely revised and features many new images including, for the first time, of sites in Wales, Scotland, Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

I don’t know how many of this blog’s readers are interested in medieval history, but this book appears to be a useful exploration of this part of Britain and Ireland’s medieval heritage. One that came to an end in England when Edward I expelled them from England, which set off a series of similar ethnic cleansings which saw many other countries forcibly remove their Jewish citizens, expulsions which some medieval historians have compared to the persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany.

Vox Political: Jackie Walker’s Response to Anti-Semitism Smears on ‘Free Speech on Israel’

October 4, 2016

Mike has put up another important piece about the anti-Semitism smears against Jackie Walker. Mrs Walker has written a long piece explaining her attitude and comments on the website Free Speech on Israel, to which Mike’s attention was directed by one of the people he was talking to on Twitter.

In the pieces Mike has reposed, Mrs Walker explains her comments linking the Jews to the transatlantic slave trade. She states that she was trying to make the point that there are no hierarchies of genocide, and that her people were involved in both sides of the slave trade. She is Black and Jewish, and noted that the Jews also played a role in financing the slave trade, hence the number of early synagogues in the Caribbean. She also makes the point that it was the Christian rulers of Spain and Portugal, who massacred and expelled the Jews from their kingdoms, and that it was overwhelmingly Christian kingdoms and empires that profited from the kidnap, enslavement and murder of Africans. She states that she is perfectly happy to correct the different impression her Facebook comments made. She also makes the important statement

“The shame is, at a time when antisemitism has been weaponised and used against certain sections of the Labour Party, nobody asked me before rushing to pin the racist and antisemitic label on me.”

She says that she is perfectly willing to change her views if they are shown to be wrong in future. But she did not state, as the Jewish Chronicle claims she did, that Jews played a disproportionate part in the slave trade. She makes the point instead, quoting the historian Arnold Wiznitzer, that at that time and place the Jews were also involved in financing the sugar and slave trade. She also quotes the historians Kagan and Morgan as describing the Jews as a stateless minority within the European empires, but who also played a key role in expanding them. She also cites Jonathan Israel on the peculiar position of the Jews as both the victims and agents of empire.

Mike’s quotes from her conclude with this paragraph:

“This was the point I was attempting to make on Facebook, in a comic-strip, abbreviated, inadequate, deficient sort of conversational way. This was my point, as the Israel Advocacy Movement could see even as they decided to weaponise my words. No peoples have a monopoly of suffering or virtue. No peoples are special or free of the complexity of history. That is as true in the Middle East now as it ever was anywhere, in all places, with all peoples, across the diversity of our globe and so it will remain until, and unless, we achieve the goal of all internationalists – the liberation of humanity.”

Mike states in his comments that ‘certain…elements’ have tried to claim that Mrs Walker’s comments on the Jews and slave trade came from those of the head of the Nation of Islam, Louis Farrakhan. Farrakhan made speeches in the 1990s claiming that the slave trade was basically the fault of the Jews. Mike has challenged those claiming that Walker’s views are the same as Farrakhan’s to show him how they are linked. Mike notes that they have not done so.

The article’s at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/10/03/jackie-walker-responds-to-accusations-of-antisemitism-free-speech-on-israel/

Please go and read this article. Mrs Walker clearly is very well-informed about the slave trade and Jewish involvement in it, as well as the complex nature of European imperialism, and the historiography of both. It is a fact that the global European empires also frequently used subaltern peoples as part of the mechanism of imperial expansion and exploitation. The slave trade was immensely profitable, and so it not only involved White Europeans, but Muslim Arabs and Black Africans. Recognising this should not be considered anti-African, anti-Arab or islamophobic, any more than noting that some Jews were involved in the transatlantic slave trade, should make one an anti-Semite, provided that this is kept within the bounds of historical fact. And Jackie Walker has done just that. She has not done what Louis Farrakhan, and which some White Nazis and members of the At Right do, and made Jews, or Africans, or Muslims solely responsible for the slave trade, or accused them of playing the major role in it.

She is clearly not an anti-Semite. Rather, she has shown that she possesses a critical intelligence, which is not satisfied with facile simplifications of complex issues. And that makes her a danger. She has been targeted, in my view, because she is like the very many Jews and people of Jewish heritage, who do not accept the simplistic message promoted by the Israel lobby that the immense suffering of the Jewish people in the Holocaust and throughout history justifies their brutalisation and oppression, in turn, of the Palestinians. Authoritarian regimes of all shades, from Fascists and Nazis to the Stalinist Communists, cannot stand people, who dare to think for themselves. This is why free speech, and the ability to say things that others might consider offensive, is so vital for genuinely humane, democratic societies. The Right likes to attack politically correct speech codes, saying ‘No-one has the right not to be offended.’ They will also quote Orwell on the importance of telling truths people don’t want to hear. Both of these statements are correct, if you’re telling the truth. They trivialise both of these aphorisms, because they take them as giving them licence to sneer at women and ethnic minorities, and insist on traditional hierarchies of race and gender. But those two comments go much further than that. Orwell, for all his hatred of totalitarianism and Communism, was an anti-imperialist and Socialist. During the Spanish Civil War he fought for the non-Marxist Socialist faction, POUM, and was strongly impressed by the achievements of the anarchist movement, which he described in Homage to Catalonia. The Young Turks have pointed out time and again that for all their sneering at political correctness and ‘safe spaces’, it is the Right, who are the worst at invoking political correctness to silence speech that is offensive to them.

And this is what the Likudniks of the Jewish Labour Movement and the Israel lobby have tried to do to Mrs Walker. Like the American Right with its shouts of ‘Political correctness’ and denunciations of laws against ‘hate speech’, they are hypocritically using perceived offensiveness to try to silence and stifle genuine historical and political debate, in order to present a simplistic, carefully sanitised and politically useful view of history.

This is to be resisted, and resisted to the utmost. The distorters of history, who use carefully crafted falsifications to justify their own brutality, cannot be allowed to win, regardless of who they are and who they claim to represent. We need to be supporting Jackie Walker, and those like her, who are not satisfied with the easy answers of totalitarian propaganda, and who stand for genuine Socialist internationalism against militaristic nationalism posing as its opposite.

Vox Political on the Skwawkbox Interview with the Man behind the anti-Blairite T-Shirt

July 28, 2016

The Skwawkbox blog, which was partly set up to campaign against the privatisation of the NHS, has managed to track down and interview ‘Ged’, the elderly gentleman wearing the notorious anti-Blairite T-shirt. Ged was photographed wearing the shirt, bearing the slogan ‘Eradicate Blairite Scum’, flanked by two of the very people the shirt condemns: Lewis Parker of Portland, and Anna Philips of Progress. In the past few weeks there have been numerous stories about that shirt. It was said that Ged was tricked into wearing it by the two jokers as part of a smear campaign against the Corbynites. I was taken in by this story, and repeated it on my blog. However, Ged states that the T-shirt is genuine. Ged states that he’s a genuine follower of Corbyn, and, like millions of others, was inspired by his opposition to Thatcherism. He said he had the shirt made after the May Day rally. He also states that most people realised that the shirt was talking about political eradication.

This has changed after he was photographed with Phillips and Parker. Neither of the two told him, who they were. And so the rumour has grown up that he was part of their campaign to smear the Corbynites. This has reached the extreme of a story that he is part of an underground group inspired by the murder of Jo Cox. Ged strenuously denies this, calling it ‘absolute filthy rubbish’. Ged states that he was not part of any such campaign to smear Corbyn, nor did he intend to incite anyone to violence, especially as he is a union health and safety officer.

Ged’s own health is not good. He has been treated for mouth cancer, this added additional worry about his physical safety. Nobody assaulted him, but he did become paranoid because people gave him a wide berth and stared at him.

Mike states that Ged has been so clearly misrepresented by the two Blairites, that he has an excellent case for bringing a libel action. He says

It seems ‘Ged’ may have a very secure case for libel against the other people in the photograph. Clearly it would not have been used in the way it has if they had not taken it, and then spread lies about it.

Would any lawyer care to take on the case? It seems easy money, to This Writer!

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/27/vermin-t-shirt-wearer-tracked-down-its-not-what-weve-been-told-the-skwawkbox-blog/

and following the links to the original interview.

I think losing a libel action brought on behalf of ‘Ged’, and the wider community supporting Jeremy Corbyn, would have a very salutary action on the Blairites. Their whole campaign has been one long stream of abuse and misrepresentation after another. Eagle claimed she was abused at a Labour party meeting because of her sexuality, when no such thing occurred. The mother of another woman, who had married her female partner, testified to that. Eagle also lied about a brick being thrown through her office window. That also never occurred. And then there were the accusations of anti-Semitism brought against Red Ken, Naz Shah, Jackie Walker and others. Leninspart is many things, but he is demonstrably not an anti-Semite. You only have to look at his speeches and writing condemning all forms of racism, including against the Irish and anti-Semitism. Indeed, he devotes pages in his book, Livingstone’s Labour, to attacking the Labour party because it gave sanctuary after the War to Nazis, convicted of the most horrendous crimes against humanity, including active participation in pogroms against the Jews and the Holocaust. These monsters were given safety in Britain, because it was believed they could assist British intelligence in the Cold War against Communism. Jackie Walker is of mixed Black and Jewish heritage. Her Black British mother was thrown out of America for participating in the Civil Rights agitation. Her father is a Russian Jew, and therefore probably knows more than most about anti-Semitism. Walker is also an ardent campaigner against racism and prejudice, including anti-Semitism, and her partner is also Jewish. As for Naz Shah, she was on good terms with her local synagogue. This should say for itself that she isn’t anti-Semitic.

I’d say that these people have an excellent case for libel against the Blairites accusing them of anti-Semitism, particularly Jackie Walker. She said in an interview that her partner’s family had broken off contact with her. Clearly, this should constitute proof that the accusation has cause demonstrable distress and harm to her interests.

I’m not sure whether such libel actions would succeed, however, as in Britain you’re guilty unless proven rich. And New Labour had some very rich donors. Nevertheless, in my eyes and opinion New Labour has committed libel, and any attempt to claim otherwise in a court of law is flagrant perjury.

Norman Finkelstein on the Coming Break-Up of American Zionism: Part 1

May 28, 2016

I’ve put up several videos recently criticising Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, and examining the growing disconnection – ‘distancing’, in the jargon of the sociologists who’ve studied it – of young American Jews with Israel. The speakers in these videos have included the Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, and the American historians and activists Norman Finkelstein and Elizabeth Baltzer, both of whom are descended from Holocaust survivors. As I’ve made clear in previous posts, I’ve been prompted to do this because of the smears against leading members of the Labour party – Ken Livingstone, Naz Shah and Jackie Walker, amongst others, of anti-Semitism. Those accused are not to my knowledge anti-Semites. The above three certainly aren’t. Leninspart in his 1987 book, Livingstone’s Labour, states quite clearly that all forms of racism, whether against Blacks, Jews or the Irish, is the worst form of reaction, and needs to be opposed. Naz Shah has the support of her local synagogue, which would be highly unusual if she were a Nazi. And the accusation is both risible and disgusting in the case of Jackie Walker. Walker’s mother was a Black woman, who was thrown out of America because of her participation in the civil rights movement. Her father was a Russian Jew, and her partner is also Jewish. These people haven’t been accused of anti-Semitism because they are Jew-haters. They’ve been accused of anti-Semitism simply because they’ve criticised Israel for its persecution of the Palestinians. Walker was accused because she compared Black slavery to the Holocaust in a conversation with two friends, one of whom was also Jewish, on Facebook. This comment was lifted and turned against her by a pro-Israel group.

One of the things than comes out very clearly from this talk by Prof Finkelstein is that in America such accusations are wearing very thin. They don’t impress large numbers of American Jews, who can see through all the BS when it’s applied to genuinely liberal, decent politicians. An example of this is Jimmy Carter. Carter was accused of being an anti-Semite because he wrote a book about Israel with ‘Apartheid’ in the title. So the leading members of the Israel lobby, like Alan Dershowitz, began to smear him in the vilest terms imaginable. He was an anti-Semite, a Holocaust denier, and a supporter of terrorism. It was the kind of invective Stalin’s prosecutor, Vyshinsky, used against the victims of the purges during the show trials. Carter, who organised the Camp David peace negotiations between Israel and Egypt in the 1970s, then decided to take the battle to the Neo-Cons. He arranged a debate with Dershowitz at Brandeis University, the largest secular Jewish university in the US. Carter described it as ‘going into the lion’s den’. Even before he opened his mouth to speak, he received 3 or 4 standing ovations from the students. When it came to Dershowitz to talk, 2/3 of the students left the lecture hall before Israel’s most vocal defender in the US had even uttered a word.

And there’s more, much more. American Jews are, by and large, very liberal. American liberalism – the rule of law, the separation between church and state and so on, has allowed American Jews to prosper. As a result, the political affiliation of American Jews is almost the complete mirror image of that of Israelis. The majority of Israelis are now right-wing in the political leanings. American Jews are largely left. They also want a two-state solution to the problem of Palestine. And they are also largely opposed to the Iraq invasion. Finkelstein makes the point that American Jews were largely uninterested or opposed to the foundation of Israel, because they were afraid that it would lead to the accusation that they were more loyal to the new Jewish state than they were to their homeland of America. They seem fear of being seen as somehow treacherous, as less than patriotic, as well as other, liberal feelings and attitudes, has led them to reject both George Bush and the war in Iraq. The Israelis by and large love George Dubya. American Jews generally despise the Smirking Chimp. And 70 per cent of American Jews are opposed to the war in Iraq. This is partly out of a desire not to be seen as its authors, as the war was planned by the Republicans in America, and Israel’s Likud party.

Finkelstein also states that Americans, including American Jews, are becoming increasingly less impressed with evocations of the Holocaust. It’s been overused so much that it’s actually lost its proper emotional impact. Finkelstein discussed how rhetoric about the Holocaust was used by Netanyahu and the Israeli government to drum up support for a war with Iran over the country’s nuclear weapon’s development programme. Netanyahu repeatedly described Ahmedinijad as Hitler, and said that if the Iranians developed these weapons, it would lead to a new Holocaust in the Middle East with the destruction of Israel. Those trying to negotiate a peaceful settlement with the Iranians were denounced as appeasers, and compared to Neville Chamberlain at Munich. And the attitude of American Jews to this was marked indifference. In a survey of Jewish Americans under 35, it was found that fifty per cent said it would not affect them if Israel was destroyed. Finkelstein himself says he is somewhat dismayed by this figure, as the destruction of any country or culture saddens him. And American Jews tend to share the rest of the world’s fears, as expressed in opinion polls, that Israel is the real threat to world peace.

Finkelstein begins his talk by discussing how American Jews were extremely uninterested in Israel in the period from 1948 – it’s foundation – to the 1967 War. He states that this was a period in which the barriers to Jewish advancement in America suddenly came down. Many institutions before 1948 would not employ Jewish scholars. He quotes Noam Chomsky as saying that the reason why MIT became such a centre of scientific excellence over Harvard, was because Harvard would not take Jewish scientists and mathematicians. So they all trooped down the road to take up positions there. As the barrier fells, Jews became far more involved in making successful lives, and living the America dream.

As a result of this, they had extremely little interest in Israel. Finkelstein quotes the great American sociologist, Glazer, whose 1957 study of the attitude of American Jews and Jewish life found that the impact of Israel on American Jewry was remarkable slight. He also discusses a survey of 30 leading American Jewish intellectuals at an academic symposium, who were asked about the situation of American Jews. Only three of them even mentioned Israel, and of those three, two only did so in order to dismiss it as of any importance. He also quotes an interview in Israel with the celebrated author, Elie Wiesel. At the time there was a fear that Jews were becoming too assimilated, and Wiesel was asked how Jews could be made to reconnect with their Jewishness. Wiesel talked about the Holocaust and the situation of the Jews in Russia. But he did not see Israel as having any use in this process.

Naz Shah, the Anti-Semitism Allegations, and ‘Apartheid Israel’

May 3, 2016

Mike’s put up another worthwhile post over at Vox Political, pointing out that the graphic that got Naz Shah into trouble with accusations of anti-Semitism, was not in fact anything of the sort. It came from a global civil rights site, Redress, and reblogged by Norman Finkelstein. Redress posted it up as a joke, satirising Israeli attempts to have the Palestinians displaced to the other Arab states. Mike records his email conversation with the prof, who pointed out that while people in America are crazy when it comes to Israel, they haven’t lost their sense of humour. He also points out that Bernie Sanders, one of the candidates for the Democratic nomination for the presidential election, is Jewish and had enormous support amongst Arab-Muslims in the Land of the Free. He also wondered what had happened to us in Britain and why we were allowing Labour hacks and the Israel lobby to persecute her, a Muslim Labour MP.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/05/03/this-revelation-could-throw-the-whole-anti-semitism-row-into-reverse/

It’s a good point. And I wonder to what extent the ‘British sense of humour’ is a myth, when politics in Britain is becoming increasingly angry, and when so much British history is full of anger and violence. The creation of the British Empire, and the use of extreme force to maintain it, such as against the Mao-Mao in Kenya, is a case in point.

Now I have the impression that Naz Shah posted the graphic as part of a piece on ‘Apartheid Israel’, which included a quotation about the treatment of Blacks in America from that well-known apologist for racial supremacy, Dr Martin Luther King. Now on this, Madam Shah has a point. Life is made very difficult for the Palestinians in Israel through a system of pass laws and physical barriers that simply don’t exist for Jewish Israelis. William Dalrymple describes this system of discrimination in his book, In Xanadu: A Quest (London: Flamingo 1990). This is a travel book about how he attempted to travel from Israel to China and thence Mongolia, following the route used by the great 13th century Venetian explorer, Marco Polo during a summer holiday while at Oxford. In it, he describes a conversation he had drinking tea with an Arab tailor in Acre, who told him about the difficulties he faced as an Arab in Israel.

As we left the Khan al-Afranj we were invited into the shop of an Arab terzi (tailor). There we drank cay and talked about the problems of the Arabs in Acre; then as now, better integrated than most places. Ibn Jubayr remarked on this in the twelfth century while Hamoudi, who exhibited all the vices of the West in one body, is evidence of it today. The terzi was a tall man, unshaven, shambolic and friendly. But when I asked him about his relations with the Jews he was surprisingly eloquent.

‘We live in peace in Acre,’ he said. ‘He the Jew and the Arab are friends. On Saturday nights the Jews come here, play cards, smoke and drink coffee. The people want peace. Only the government does not.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘We live here under an undeclared apartheid. It is just like South Africa. For the Jews there is democracy. They have freedom of speech, they can vote for whichever government they like, can go where they like and talk to whom they like. For us it is different. We are here on sufferance. We are called into police stations, if we are heard talking about politics. We are never sure we will get justice in court: if we have a plea against a Jew, then probably we will not. We are not allowed to join the army in case we turn sides. Because of this we cannot get any good jobs; for these you need security clearance. Most of us end up washing dishes or working as manual labourers; if you are luck you can become a garbage collector.’

He laughed and sent a boy off to go and get some more tea.

‘You see this shop? It belonged to my father before 1948, yet now I have to pay rent to the town council for it. If I was a Jew I would be given it, free. The taxes for us are very high. Many of the young – they are very angry. If this was their government they would not mind. But they do not want to pay the tax which will buy the tank which will kill their brother Arabs. It also means we cannot compete with the Jewish shopkeepers. They do not pay rents for their property so they can sell everything cheaper than us. The Israeli government does nothing for our people.’

‘What do you think will happen?’ asked Laura.

‘How do I know? Some Arabs say: this is Palestine we must kick the Jews out. Also there are many Jews who call us dogs, animals. They say: we must clear the land of the Arabs. Both are wrong. We are both human. We both need to live. We must live together.’

The boy turned and handed round the cups. It was mint tea. When he was ready the terzi continued:

‘Every morning I think that there could be peace. When I open the shop up in the morning Jews will drink coffee with me. Sometimes if I have a problem with my telephone, my Jewish friend will say: use mine. Many of them are such lovely people. If only we could live in peace with them and there were no fighting, no killing.’ (pp. 24-5).

The comparison with apartheid South Africa and the segregated US south is particularly close, as in the 1970s Israel became allied with White South Africa. They also collaborated with the US in sending military aid to the South American Fascist states and their death squads.

I also understand that Madam Shah has the support of her local synagogue. Generally speaking, people, regardless of their racial or religious origins, don’t usually give their support to their bitter enemies. Also, when she retweeted the graphic was therefore making a perfectly reasonable point about Israeli policy towards the Palestinians. She should not be falsely accused of anti-Semitism simply because of her views on this issue.

Lord Simon of Highbury: Why Was He in Government and Not Behind Bars?

April 25, 2016

Okay, I’m writing this because it’s left me furious ever since I read about it when putting up the article on Saturday. This was a piece on the ‘Fat Cats’ Directory’, the list of company directors and senior management, who had entered government under Tony Blair in George Monbiot’s book, Captive State. It was a long list of incompetents, who had run their companies into the ground; the self-interested – scientists on the boards of biotech companies, who got on the boards of the funding bodies to give themselves even more money; the environmentally negligent; and the simply exploitative. These last were various company directors, who had made masses of employees redundant, or cut wages, and had been put in charge of Bliar’s ‘welfare to work’ programme and the minimum wage board. But there was one person on the list, who struck me as particularly odious: Lord Simon of Highbury. Here’s what I wrote about him:

Lord Simon of Highbury

Chairman of BP
Vice-Chairman of European Round Table of Industrialists. Under his direction, BP assisted the Colombian government in forcing peasants off their lands, and imprisoning, killing and torturing trade unionists. Gave money to the 16th Brigade, notorious for murder, kidnapping torture and rape.

Minister for Trade and Competitiveness in Europe
One of the ministers responsible for implementing the ethical foreign policy.

By any standards, this resume makes the man a Fascist collaborator. So why is he in government, and not facing trial at the Hague for crimes against humanity? What does it say about our society, that a creature like this can breeze in and out of the halls of power in chauffeur-driven limousine, wining and dining with the highest in the land, when he has doubtless been responsible for some of the most horrific atrocities? Why has he escaped censure, let along prosecution, when others haven’t?

In the Nuremberg Trials of the Nazi leaders at the end of World War II, many senior executives of the various firms that served the Nazi state were also tried, and convicted for collaboration. The firms they managed, like the horrific IG Farben, which produced the cyanide gas used against Jews in the death camps, were deliberately broken up into their constituent companies.

Unfortunately, too many Nazis escaped justice, and Nazi hunters like Simon Wiesenthal spent their lives trying to hunt them down and bring them to justice. And it was apparently the same rage that spurred the Baader-Meinhof gang to commit some of their terrorist attacks. They were also outraged that members of the Third Reich had escaped justice, and were living very well in the Bundesrepublik. And so they began their campaign of murder and terrorism. I’m not trying to whitewash or glamorise them here. They were responsible for some of the most horrific terrorism offences of the 1970s. For example, they firebombed a Berlin synagogue, supposedly as part of a campaign against Israel, which they perceived as a colonialist state. They were violent criminals, but when it comes to killing the men, who ran the death camps and torture squads of the Third Reich, you can understand their rage.

It’s the same rage that motivates people to protest and physically fight the clowns in the various far-right Nazi parties – the BNP, National Action, EDL, National Front, North West Infidels and so on. Many of the members of these groups are violent thugs, guilty of the most horrific attacks on innocent people, including murder, simply because of their race or political opinions, and have rightly been jailed. But these are very small fry compared with monsters like Lord Simon. He has aided and abetted an organisation that has violently removed people from their land, and murdered and tortured trade unionists and left-wing activists. By the same standards we applied to the Nazis, and to Radovan Milosevic and the rest of the genocides in Serbia, he should be standing in a dock in a court room at the Hague, waiting for sentencing.

But he isn’t. Instead, I’ve no doubt he still pursuing a very lucrative career as the director of an extremely profitable multinational. Or else he’s taken up a very pleasant retirement. Either way, I doubt his troubled by either the consequences of his actions, or lawsuits from his victims. I don’t doubt that wherever he lives, it’s nice and quiet, very haute bourgeois, and exclusive. He’s probably thought a good neighbour by the others around him.

I am certainly not urging anyone to turn to terrorism and try to copy the Baader-Meinhof Gang or the violence of some of the Antifa street fighters. All I am trying to do is express my outrage that this man was given a place in government, and try to work out why someone with a record as odious as his was being given a gracious welcome at the highest seats of power. My guess is that it’s because he was a wealth businessman. He wasn’t directly responsible for the atrocities committed by the Colombian government, and his company is ridiculously wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice. As for the murders and death squads of the various South American Fascist regimes, they’re protected by pretty much the same apathy expressed by Neville Chamberlain in his infamous comments about Czechoslovakia. They’re ‘far-away’ countries ‘of which we know nothing.’ And the only people, who get worked up about what goes on there are the ultra-left types Private Eye’s been satirising for years in the guise of Dave Spart.

US State Department Supporting Fascism and Puppet Government in Ukraine

April 8, 2016

I’ve put up several articles recently discussing and critiquing the rise of various Fascist movements in eastern Europe, such as Poland, the Czech and Slovak Republics, and the Ukraine. None of the peoples in these countries should have anything to do with these squalid movements, and their equally grotty leaders. The Nazis when they invaded these countries and the former USSR in World War II came to enslave and annihilate them, not to free them from Communist tyranny. After they had finished murdering the Jews and Gypsies, the Nazis intended killing 30 million Poles, Ukrainians, Russians and Belorussians, in an area extending across these nations as far as Lviv/ Lvov. This was to be reserved for colonisations by Germans and other Teutonic peoples, including the English. Its indigenous people were either to be deported or exterminated. The remaining population of this part of eastern Europe, including Czechoslovakia, were to become peasant farmers and slave labourers, denied access to any form of higher education, whose purpose was to provide the agricultural produce to support the new German colonists.

The Nazis openly compared the Slavonic peoples of these nations to Black Africans under western European colonialism. The head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, declared: Eastern Europe is our Africa, and the Slavs are our Negroes. And the Nazis carried out this policy with great brutality. Seven million people from eastern Europe were forced to serve the Nazis in their own nations. A further seven million were deported to Germany to work as slave labourers for the factories in the Reich itself. And 3.7 million Russians died of starvation and horrific maltreatment in Nazi prisoner of war camps.

I’m writing about all this, not because I want to stir up old nationalist hatreds or resentment against the Germans, who are now some of the most genuinely anti-racist people in Europe. I’m doing so as I want to make it clear just what Nazism stood for. The people, who goose-step around in Nazi-inspired or blatantly Nazi uniform, shouting ‘Sieg Heil’, and showing off their SS tattoos ain’t patriots. They’re traitors. They’re the people the true patriots of these countries – those who joined resistance cells – fought against.

And what is now even more revolting and disturbing is that the US government has been supporting a coalition, which includes these thugs, in Ukraine.

Michelle, one of the commenters on this blog, sent me this link to a compilation of videos which another blogger, Dragan Stankovic, who also blogs on various left-wing and global issues, had put up on his Facebook page: https://plus.google.com/116332978520282633934/posts/TpEV2cpfcsv
It’s an hour-long collection of pieces from different news sources, including the Beeb, CNN, Faux News, and RT. Several of the pieces, including the first video, have been made by a peace group, St. Pete’s for Peace.

Many may not find this easy viewing. The footage in these documentaries includes scenes of brutal violence by members of the Ukrainian neo-Nazi far Right as they shoot and beat their opponents. It does, however, show them exactly as they are: not pacifists trying to lead a peaceful revolution in their nation, but as violent and brutal thugs.

The first video concentrates on Svoboda and its leader, Oleh Tyahnybok, one of the various far-Right groups and organisations within the Pravy Sektor, or ‘Right Sector’ grouping of such parties. The word Svoboda simply means ‘freedom’, which is innocuous enough. It was, however, previously known as the ‘Social Nationalist Movement’, which was directly modelled on the monicker of the National Socialists. They weren’t the only neo-Fascist movement to describe themselves as ‘social’. The main Italian neo-Fascist organisation, before it split with one section reforming itself as the centre right Alleanza Nazionale, was the Movimiento Sociale Italiano – the Italian Social Movement. These were full-blown Fascists, standing for the Corporate state and authoritarian rule. They were involved in attacks on Socialists, trade unionists, left-wingers generally, and immigrants. Svoboda’s name change was merely cosmetic. At various points in the compilation, leaders of Svoboda and other neo-Nazi outfits now lowering the tone in the country of Gogol, Moussorgsky and Vladimir the Great, try to claim that they aren’t really Nazis, and don’t worship Adolf Hitler. One says that they don’t want Nazism in Ukraine. Not for any good reason. He goes on to say that he doesn’t want it, because it wouldn’t work there, but it did work in Germany. The storm troopers in these groups sport tattoos with numbers ’88’. That’s a notorious design used by the goose-steppers across Europe. The ‘8’ stands for the eighth letter of the alphabet, and the two together stand for ‘Heil Hitler’. Others have the number ’18’ tattooed on them, which stands for ‘Adolf Hitler’. One of the groups shown in the video is ‘C18’, whose name recalls ‘Combat 18’, a notorious neo-Nazi outfit over here, who were set up by the American Nazi and Klansman, Harold Covington. And some of them don’t even bother to hide their Nazi sympathies. There’s a scene in one of the news reports of funeral of one of the extreme Rightists in the far west of the country. The mourners gather in their national dress, and a company of re-enactors in World War II Nazi uniform fire their rifles over the grave in salute.

And then there’s the abuse of various ethnic groups Svoboda, C18 and the like consider their enemies. There are several scenes of them screaming, or raising toasts, to the killing of Russians, Poles, Communists, and, of course, the Jews. A few of them in the interviews are rather cagey about talking about their anti-Semitic beliefs. A few start by saying that they are just against certain ethnic groups. When pressed, they then start to explain that they’re against the above peoples. At one point, one of the storm troopers says that the Jews don’t control Ukraine; they control the banks, which control Ukraine. So we’re back to the ‘international Jewish banking conspiracy’ of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Adolf Hitler, Arnold Leese and the Britons, and bonkers American Nazis. The practical effects of this have been attacks on synagogues. A couple of rabbis are interview, talking about Nazi attacks on their places of worship. One Nazi tried to burn down one with Molotov cocktails. Another suffered some damage, and abusive graffiti, which translated into English, reads ‘Jews Get Out’. Except that it used a particularly ugly term for them instead.

And if the neo-Nazi iconography wasn’t bad enough, the Ukrainian super-patriots have been importing other far-Right symbols from the USSR. One of the documentaries discusses the use by Ukrainian Nazis at a demonstration of the Confederate Flag. RT interviews a Black American activist about this, who is understandable shocked at the flag’s continued appearance and use by Nazi groups. This particular gentleman makes it clear that to him and his people, it represents slavery, and he’s trying to educate the people of Ukraine about what it really means.

What is perhaps most interesting, and deeply sinister, is the fact that the Coalition, of which Svoboda was a part, was bank-rolled and at least partly controlled by the US State Department. The first documentary plays part of a leaked phone call between Victoria Nuland, the Department’s head, and one of her aides, about how she doesn’t want the former boxer-turned-politico, Sergei Klitchko, to serve in the Coalition under Tiahnybok. This documentary states that when the recording was released, most newspapers concentrated on Nuland’s use of the ‘F’ word to express her feelings about Europe. This was a diversion from the real news, which was that Nuland and her colleague, John McCain, were effectively running the Ukraine from behind the scenes, with the Coalition merely a puppet regime.

That part of the report opens with the way the American newspapers failed to mention the true identity of the snipers, who fired on protestors during the mass demonstrations that initially overthrew the government. The papers initially reported that they came Yanukovych’s side. The supporters of the ousted president were not, however, responsible. The shots instead came from Svoboda on the Coalition side. The documentary plays part of a conversation between Urmas Paet, the Estonian Foreign Minister, and Cathy Ashton, the head of the EU foreign ministry, discussing this and how the news has been suppressed.

Several of the documentaries are extremely biased in their turn. There are several from RT – Russia Today, which is the official Russian news agency. This takes the line that Russia is the innocent victim in this, the maligned subject of the machinations of the US and its partners. It doesn’t really need to be said that Putin’s own domestic regime is hardly whiter than white itself, and has perpetrated its share of human rights abuses. But despite their bias, and some of the very extreme claims RT makes, such as that Medecins Sans Frontieres and Amnesty International are now CIA penetrated US front organisations, it does seem that they’re basically accurate. The overthrow of Yanukovych’s regime does seem to have been orchestrated by the US and its western allies as part of geo-political strategy to weaken Russia internationally, and this has involved collaboration with neo-Nazi groups as constituent elements of the puppet regime.

The Young Turks Celebrate Three Heroes of the Shootings in Denmark

February 25, 2015

This is a club from The Young Turks show, an American internet show which critiques the news from a left-wing perspective. In this clip their anchor, Cenk Uyghur, praises three of the most outstanding people during the Islamist attack on the free speech presentation and the synagogue in Denmark the other week. One of them was the synagogue’s security guard. Another was a woman at the free speech meeting, who after the shooting had stopped, got up and resumed her presentation. The third was a young Muslim woman, Hajrad Arshad, who was so shocked at the atrocity that had been committed in the name of Islam, that she got 450 other Muslims to form a ‘peace ring’ around the synagogue in Oslo. She said she did this to combat prejudice against both Jews and Muslims.

These are three truly inspiring people. And so long as there’s people like them, the bigots and murderous fanatics of whatever stripe will never win.

UKIP Candidate: Licence Islamic Clergy and Mosques

February 17, 2015

I found this piece on the Ham & High site through Hope Not Hate’s news column. Entitled, Hampstead and Kilburn Ukip candidate: ‘My great aim is to licence the mosques’ it reports the highly controversial views on Islam by Magnus Nielsen, the UKIP candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn. It describes Nielsen’s background and career, including his reasons for joining UKIP in 1993. He seems to feel that the EU is about to collapse, and that UKIP has the necessary policies for getting the country ‘back on track’ when it does.

However, the article begins with his highly controversial attitude towards Islam. It notes that he got into the news last year for describing Islam as ‘organised crime under religious camouflage,’ and that it’s founder, the Prophet Muhammad, ‘was a gang leader of criminals’.

He now declares that his ‘great aim is to licence the mosques and licence the clergy’.

“So that if the clergy are preaching doctrine that is in contravention of UK law and human rights then they lose their licences.

“If the mosque can’t find a licensed imam, they have to close down until they can.”

When asked if the same should apply to other religions, whose preaching he could find offensive, such as Roman Catholic priests or Jewish rabbis, Nielsen shrugged it off with the reply “I don’t think the other religions would present the same sort of problem”.

The interviews at http://www.hamhigh.co.uk/news/politics/hampstead_and_kilburn_ukip_candidate_my_great_aim_is_to_licence_the_mosques_1_3956520.

Now Nielsen should be entitled to express his view of Islam and its founder, no matter how bigoted and offensive others may find it, without fearing for his life in attacks like those against Charlie Hebdo and the Jewish supermarket in France, and Lars Vilks and a local synagogue in Copenhagen this weekend.

Nielsen’s anti-Islam Comments close to Hate Speech

His attitude to Islam is, however, extreme and some would consider that they border on the illegal. His description of the religion as ‘organised crime’ seems to me to come very close, if not actually into, hate speech. It suggests that all Muslims are criminals, or criminal sympathisers, simply because of their religion. It is illegal in Britain to make comments designed to stir up racial or religious hatred. While anti-Islam bigots like Geert Wilders are generally very careful to argue that they’re aren’t racists, because Islam is not a religion, it certainly comes close to what they act would consider as provoking religious hatred.

Licencing and the Erosion of Freedom of Belief

As for his plans to licence Islam and the mosques, this is a profoundly dangerous and deeply counterproductive policy. Firstly, gives the state the power to regulate and interfere with citizens’ private religious beliefs. While there should be limits to what is legally acceptable, such as the promotion of terrorism, this gives the state too much power to decide what their citizens may or may not believe. It brings the country close to having the same highly authoritarian attitudes towards religion, like China, where only government approved religious groups are officially tolerated. The result of this has been the vicious persecution of Falun Gong, as well as those Christians, who do not wish to submit to official government control. And this is after the vicious persecution of all religions, including Taoism, Buddhism and Christianity, by an aggressively atheist form of Communism during Mao’s bloody ‘Cultural Revolution’. If such laws are applied to one religion, it could quite easily be applied to another, or stretched to include a secular philosophy that, in the view of the authorities, presented a similar danger. It isn’t hard to see how an intolerant, fiercely nationalist regime could move from licencing and banning Islam as potentially terrorist, to prosecuting conscientious objectors and anti-War activists amongst other religions or secular Humanists for being ‘insufficiently patriotic’, or harmful to morale in wartime.

The Libertarian Alliance’s Attack on Charities for Political Liberalism

The threat presented by such legislation isn’t an exaggeration. In the 1980s what became the Libertarian Alliance carried out a long campaign to have various charities and international aid organisations deprived of their charitable status. These charities’ campaigns against hunger and poverty in the Developing World were, they argued, political. And hence they attacked respectable charities like the Roman Catholic organisation, CAFOD. And this is quite apart from the concerns American liberals had about the sweeping provisions of Bush’s Patriot Act, and the powers granted to the authorities to investigate perceived anti-American individuals and groups. Among those placed under suspicion were even Quaker anti-war protest groups.

Official, Reforming Islam vs. the Islamist Counterculture

It’s also useless and counterproductive. The Egyptian-German scholar, Bassam Tibi, in his book Islam and the Cultural Accommodation of Social Change, points out that the mosques in Egypt are already strictly controlled by the state. Furthermore, the country’s westernisation and modernisation movement came from its Islamic leaders in the 19th century. These were members of the ulema – Muslim clergy – who were impressed by the great advances in the natural sciences and engineering that the West had made. They wished to introduce these to the Egypt and the Islamic world so that their people could also enjoy the benefits.

The radical Islamism of the terrorist extremists comes from outside this official milieu. It’s an underground movement that has been formed in opposition to the official, liberal Islam of the 19th century reformers and their 20th and 21st century successors. Despite the close supervision of the mosques in Egypt, and the proscription and persecution of the extremists, these groups still emerged to become a powerful, destructive force. I can’t see that licencing the mosques over here would have any effect in stamping out extremism. Most of the domestic terrorists appear to have been radicalised outside the mosques, often on-line. This form of propaganda by the extremists would continue, and it is probably that an underground Muslim counterculture would emerge, parallel but outside and beyond official, tolerated Islam.

Licensing Islam Would Drive Moderates Away

It may even have a negative effect. Lobster’s columnist, Corinne DeSouza, has written about the failure of the British intelligence agencies, particularly in Iraq. She notes that since Bush and Blair’s invasion of Iraq, far fewer Iraqis have offered their services to British intelligence. It’s not hard to see why. While some would be prepared to pass sensitive information on to a sympathetic foreign power in the hope of overthrowing an oppressive dictatorship, far fewer would want to take the step of becoming an active collaborator with a foreign occupying force. Similarly, if the mosques and their clergy were licenced, it would possibly drive away liberal Muslims and actively discourage them from passing on information about terrorism or extremist preaching to the authorities. Licensing the mosques would be a sign that, as far as the British authorities were concerned, Muslims did not really have a place in British society and were barely tolerated. Few Muslims would wish to co-operate with authorities in a regime that automatically viewed all Muslims, regardless of sect or shade of belief, as potential terrorists and traitors. Any Muslim that did so could easily find themselves reviled as a ‘chocolate Muslim’ – an Islamic ‘Uncle Tom’.

Bigots Also Unpopular in British Islam

There is a problem in this country with preachers of hate. Finsbury Park mosque was closed because it was a centre promoting terrorism. I also recall a number of other scandals with other extremist preachers, like Kalim Saddiqui. He was actually filmed by the Beeb back in the 1990s telling his congregation that ‘British society is a massive killing machine, and killing Muslims comes very easily to them.’ Saddiqui was one of the most notorious of the bigots, and there were demonstrations and protests against him by moderate Muslims. One of the complaints of the moderates is that you don’t hear enough of the counterdemonstrations, only of the protests and ranting of the militant firebrands.

Stress Common Britishness; Treat All Extremists with Same Rights and Contempt

Much more positive is an even-handed approach to tackling extremism, to show that it’s not Islam that is under suspicion or attack, but simply those, who would preach murder, hate and death in its name. And that those prosecuted for such offences will be treated exactly the same as their non-Muslim counterparts, demanding death and horror in the name of whatever they believe in.

Letter from Australia about the Conservatives Down Under: Exactly Like Their Brit Counterparts

March 24, 2014

I received this kind comment from Gathering Swallows on my post ‘Explaining the Coalition’s War on the Poor and Disabled’, remarking on the similarities of the policies pursued by the National Party in Oz and the Conservatives over here:

I had been following UK politics for quite sometime prior to the Aust elections last year. I couldn’t believe what I was reading out of the UK. Then it started being applied here to my absolute horror. The worst thing about the way Abbott has been introducing these similar sorts of policies is that he didn’t announce any of his policy intentions prior or during the election campaign. He counted on people being sick of Labor, many shenanigans he himself incited with the help of his mainstream media buddies. His hit list, as we have come to realise, was buried in a document by the IPA (Institute of Public Affairs, Australia) outlining a 75 point plan to dismantle just about anything progressive in this country. On the matter of the disabled (although this next comment was in relation to racial things but I extrapolate for obvious reasons…), today, our Attorney General stated that it was OK to be a bigot. That’s right – it sends a wonderful message (not) that vilifying the least fortunate will be fair game. Thanks for your blog.

The similarity between Abbott’s approach to politics, and that of David Cameron is obvious. Cameron’s government also disguised its true intentions in order to win power. In the case of the Tories in Britain, they appeared to be more Left-wing than Labour. Philip Blond’s book, Red Tory, even cites Kropotkin, the 19th century anarchist, approvingly.

I’ve remarked on the way Conservatives across the English speaking world, from America, Canada, Britain, and now, it seems, Australia, adopted the same strategies, rhetoric and targets in their campaigns. You can see it in the way the Daily Mail in Britain started attacking public sector workers for supposedly being overpaid a few years ago. This followed a similar campaign of vilification by the Republicans in America. And Amnesiaclinic, one of the other commenters on this blog, has also told me that the same policies are being pursued in Canada after Harper’s regime.

As for Oz’s Attorney-General now telling everyone that it’s okay to be a bigot, there are sections of the British Tory party that would heartily agree with that. The Daily Mail for years has carried a campaign against the ‘race relations’ industry and what it sees as the erosion of free speech by the laws against incitement to racial hatred. They raised a particularly bitter campaign against them when Labour was in power, despite the fact the laws themselves were passed way back in the mid-1960s in order to undermine the rapid growth of the National Front. And the NF back then was truly frightening. It engaged in paramilitary training, and other sections of the racist fringe were openly Nazi, like the National Socialist Movement. One of these groups was involved in attacks on five synagogues, as well as street clashes with Blacks and Jews. I’ve also noticed that the Tories in Canada are also leading a campaign against the same laws there.

Part of the argument against the laws against racist speech is that these laws didn’t work when they were first introduced in Weimar Germany. The argument is that the German government had passed legislation outlawing the vilification of ethnic groups, like Jews, and pursued a vigorous policy of prosecution. This did not, however, prevent the Nazis from entering government and finally seizing power in 1933.

The issues in Weimar Germany, however, isn’t as clear cut as the argument suggests. Firstly, it shows just how difficult combatting an aggressively racist Right was in the political climate of the time. The parliamentary system in Weimar Germany was vulnerable because to many Germans it was the product of their defeat in the First World War. However, despite increasing anti-Semitism, the Nazis’ seizure of power was by no means assured. For much of the 1920s the party received only a trivial number of votes. They made their major electoral breakthrough by exploiting an agricultural crisis in Schleswig-Holstein, and their entry into government was greatly assisted by the Wall Street Crash and consequent global recession. They were also invited into government at the end of the decade in order to provide support for a coalition of Right-wing parties after the party system had more or less broken down with some of the major Weimar parties refusing to work with each other, but having no overall support to govern alone. Hitler also tailored his rhetoric to appeal to certain groups, stressing different elements and playing down others in the particular areas where he was campaigning at the time. And finally, you cannot tell what would have happened if the Weimar government had been more lax about racism and anti-Semitic vilification. Would the Nazis have come to power earlier if such vilification had been far more legally acceptable?

Aside from this particular issue, there is the wider point that the Conservatives across the globe are copying from each other in order to seize power and drive everything back into the worst aspects of the 19th century. The Left also needs to do this – to learn what they’re doing, and challenge them across the globe as well. And together we can defeat them in Britain, Australia, Canada, America or wherever. It’s just a case of ‘thinking globally, and acting locally’.