Posts Tagged ‘Tourism’

Book on the Plight of the Embattled Christians of Palestine

April 13, 2019

Said K. Aburish, The Forgotten Faithful: The Christians of the Holy Land (London: Quartet 1993).

Aburish is a Palestinian, born in Bethany, and the author of several books about the Arabs and specifically the Palestinians and their persecution by the Israelis – A Brutal Friendship, Children of Bethany – The Story of a Palestinian Family and Cry Palestine: Inside the West Bank. In The Forgotten Faithful he tackles the problems of the Christians of Palestine, talking to journalists, church official, charity workers, educationalists, businessmen and finally of the leaders of the PLO, Hanan Ashrawi. Christians used to constitute ten per cent or so of the Palestinian population before the foundation of Israel. Now they’re down to one per cent. Much of this decline has been due to emigration, as educated, skilled Christians leave Israel to seek better opportunities elsewhere, and the indigenous Christian future in the Holy Land, the in which Christianity first arose, is uncertain.

Said states clearly the issues driving this decline early in his book – persecution by the Israelis, and particularly their attempt to wrest the lucrative tourism industry from them on the one hand, and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism on the other. He writes

Twenty-five years of Israeli occupation have been disastrous for Palestinian Christians. In addition to the widely known closures of schools, imprisonment and torture of children, deportation of dissenters and activists, the expropriation of land owned by individuals and church-owned property, the Christians’ primary source of income, tourism and its subsidiary service businesses, have been the targets of special Israeli attempts to control them. In other words, when it comes to the Israeli occupation, the Christians have suffered more than their Muslim countrymen because they have more of what the Israelis want.

Furthermore, the rising tide of Islamic fundamentalism is confronting the Christians with new problems against most of which they cannot protest without endangering the local social balance, indeed their Palestinian identity. Muslim fanatics have raise the Crescent on church towers, Christian cemeteries have been desecrated, the statues of the Virgin Mary destroyed and, for the first time ever, the Palestinian Christians are facing constraints on their way of life. In Gaza a Muslim fundamentalist stronghold, Christian women have to wear headscarves and long sleeves or face stoning, and Christian-owned shops have to close on the Muslim sabbath of Friday instead of on Sunday. 

These combined pressures come at a time of strain between the local Christian communities and both their local church leadership and the mainline churches of the West. The mainline churches in the West are accused of not doing enough to help them financially or drawing attention to their plight, for fear of appearing anti-Semitic and to a lesser degree anti-Muslim. The local church leaders are caught between their parishioners’ cry for help and the attitude of their mother churches and have been undermined by their identification with the latter. In addition to problems with the mainline churches, Christian evangelist groups from the United States, Holland and other countries support the State of Israel at the expense of local Christians. The evangelists accept the recreation of Israel as the prelude to the second coming to the extent of ignoring local Christian rights and feelings, a fact overlooked by Muslim zealots who blame the local Christians for not curbing their insensitive pro-Israeli co-religionists.

Two subsidiary problems contribute towards closing the ring of helplessness which is choking the local Christian communities of the Holy Land. The suffering inflicted on them by others and the direct and indirect results of the neglect of outside Christianity still haven’t induced their local church leaders to cooperate in establishing a common, protective Christian position. The traditional quarrel, alongside other disputes between the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches, continues and its stands in the way of creating a constructive Christian front. Furthermore, the Israelis make the appearance of favouring them against their Muslim nationals, a divide-and-rule policy which contributes towards inflaming the feelings of ignorant Muslims who do not understand the reasons behind the Israeli actions and use them to justify whatever anti-Christian feeling exists. (pp. 2-4).

The Palestinian Christian community has largely been middle class, assimilated and patriotic. They have provided the Palestinian people with a large number of businessmen and professionals, including a significant part of the membership and leadership of Palestinian nationalism and the PLO, as well as the civil rights lawyers working to defend the Palestinian people from persecution by the Israeli state and military. They have also been active establishing charities to provide for the Palestinians’ welfare. Said visits one, which specialises in rehabilitating and providing training for people physically injured and mentally traumatised by the Israeli armed forces. Visiting a Palestinian hospital, he also meets some of the victims of the IDF wounded and crippled by the IDF, including a young man shot by a member of the Special Forces simply for spraying anti-Israeli graffiti on a wall.

This isn’t an anti-Semitic book, as Aburish talks to sympathetic Israeli journalists and academics, but he describes very clearly the violence and bigotry that comes not just from the Israeli state and army, but also from Jewish religious fanatics. In the first chapter he describes a group of Israeli soldiers sneering at Christian Palestinians, and how he deliberated placed himself between a group of Jewish schoolboys and an elderly Ethiopian nun going through one district of Jerusalem. The boys had first started insulting her, and then began throwing stones at her and Aburish before the local, Jewish inhabitants rushed into the street to drive them away. The churches and monasteries in that part of town are close to an area of Jewish religious extremists. They’re not usually physically aggressive, but they make it very clear they don’t like Christians being there.

Nor is it anti-Muslim. The Christians community itself sees itself very firmly as part of the Palestinians. Many Christian men have adopted the name Muhammad in order to show that there is no difference between themselves as their Muslim fellow countrymen. And historically they have been fully accepted by the Muslim community. Aburish talks to the headman of a mixed Christian-Muslim village. The man is a Christian, and historically Christians have formed the headmen for the village. The Christians also point with pride to the fact that one of the generals of Saladin, the Muslim leader who conquered Palestine back from the Crusaders, was a Greek Orthodox Christian. Aburish is shocked by how extremely religious the Muslim community has become, with Friday services packed and one of his aunts traveling to the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem to pray. This, like the less obvious religious revival among the Christians, is ultimately due to Israeli pressure and the failure of secular Palestinian politicians. There is no truth in politics, so they seek it instead in Islam and the pages of Qu’ran. And behind this rise in Islamic intolerance are the Saudis. Aburish recommends better Muslim-Christian dialogue to tackle this growing intolerance.

Aburish hears from the Palestinians how their land is seized by the Israelis for the construction of new, Israeli settlements, how people are shot, beaten, injured and maimed, and the attempts to strangle Palestinians businesses. This includes legislation insisting that all tourist guides have to be Israeli – a blatant piece of racism intended to drive Christians out of the tourist business through denying them access to the many Christian shrines, churches and monuments that are at the heart of the industry. Christian charities and welfare services don’t discriminate between Christian and Muslim, but they are oversubscribed and underfunded. And the churches are more interested in defending their traditional institutional privileges than in helping their local flock. They look west, and are more interested in promoting and defending the churches’ response to the worlds’ problems as a whole, while the Palestinians are also being pulled east through their Arab identity. Senior Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox clergy are often foreigners, who cannot speak Arabic and may be to a greater or lesser extent indifferent to the needs and problems of their congregations. The Palestinian Christians are also hampered by the fact that they don’t want to acknowledge that they have specific problems as a minority within the wider Palestinian nation, partly for fear of further antagonising the Muslim majority.

Nevertheless, some Palestinian Christians choose to remain, stubbornly refusing to emigrate while they could get much better jobs elsewhere. And all over the world, expatriate Palestinian communities are proud of their origins and connection to the land. Aburish even talks to one optimistic Palestinian Christian businessman, who believes that Cyprus provides the model for a successful Palestine. There local people have built a thriving commercial economy without having the universities and educational institutions Palestine possesses. And some Palestinian Christians believe that the solutions to their crisis is for the community to reconnect with its oriental roots, reviving the traditional extensive Arab family structure, which has served Arabs so well in the past.

The book was published a quarter of a century ago, in 1993, and I’ve no doubt that things have changed since then. But not for the better. There have been recent magazine articles by National Geographic, among others, that report that the Palestinians are still suffering the same problem – caught between the hammer of the Israeli state and the anvil of Islamic fundamentalism. Christian Zionism, however, has become stronger and exerts a very powerful influence on American foreign policy through organisations like Ted Hagee’s Christians United for Israel. Netanyahu’s vile Likud is still in power, and Israeli politics has lurched even further to the right with the inclusion of Fascist parties like Otzma Yehudat – Jewish Power – in the wretched coalition. And some British churches maintain a very determined silence on the problems of the Palestinians. According to one anti-Zionist Jewish blog, the Methodist Church has passed regulations at its synod preventing it or its members officially criticising Israel. Because of the church’s leaders was friends with members of the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

I am very well aware of the long, shameful history of Christian anti-Semitism and how real, genuine Nazis have also criticised Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians and claimed that they’re just anti-Zionist, not anti-Semitic. I have absolutely no desire whatsoever to provoke further bigotry against the Jewish people. But Israel is oppressing the Christians of Palestine as well as the Muslims, but we in the West really don’t hear about it. And I’m not sure how many western Christians are really aware that there is a Christian community in Palestine, or how its members largely identify totally as Palestinians. Certainly Ted Cruz, the American politico, didn’t when he tried telling a Middle Eastern Christian group that they should support Israel. He was shocked and disgusted when they very firmly and obviously didn’t agree. He made the mistake of believing they had the same colonialist attitude of western right-wing Christians, while Middle Eastern Christians are very much the colonised and know it. Hence the fact that according to Aburish, many Palestinian Christians look for theological support to South American Liberation Theology and its Marxist critique of colonialism. And they also supported Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, as a secular Arab state that would allow them to maintain their religious identity and culture.

The book’s dated, and since it was written the Christian presence in the Holy Land has dwindled further. Aburish describes in strong terms what a catastrophe a Palestine without indigenous Christians would be. He writes

The growing prospect of a Holy Land Christianity reduced to stones, a museum or tourist faith without people, a Jerusalem without believers in Christ, is more serious than that of a Rome without a Pope or a Canterbury without an archbishop. It is tantamount to a criminal act which transcends a single church and strikes a blow at the foundations and the very idea of Christianity.

I thoroughly recommend this book to every western Christian reader interested in seeing an alternative view of the religious situation in Palestine, one of that contradicts the lies and demands of the right-wing press. Like an article by the Torygraph’s Barbara Amiel back in the 1990s, which quoted a Christian mayor as stating that the Christian community welcomed the Israeli occupation. His might, but as the book shows, most don’t. Or that scumbucket Katie Hopkins telling us that we should support Israel, because it represents Judaeo-Christian values and civilisation, a claim that would outrage many Jews.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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American Politico Calls Netanyahu Racist

April 9, 2019

According to today’s I, for 9th April 2019, the American Democrat politician, Beto O’Rourke, has called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a racist, citing CNN. The article, ‘Israeli PM racist, says top Democrat’, runs

Democratic White House hopeful Beto O’Rourke has branded Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “racist” and an obstacle to peace in the Middle East. He made the remarks while discussing the US-Israel relationship and the Israeli leader’s vow to annex Jewish settlements in West Bank, said CNN (P. 2).

Now I have my doubts about how true this statement is. There have been allegations that CNN has deliberately misquoted Democrat politicos to make them look bad, and I think some of them involve supposed comments about Israel. But there should be absolutely no doubt that Benjamin Netanyahu is racist, and that the Israeli state, contra to the I.H.R.A. definition of anti-Semitism, really is a deeply racist endeavour. It defines itself as the Jewish state so that all Jews, everywhere, are citizens of Israel. This excludes Israel’s indigenous people, the Palestinians, from citizenship. Netanyahu has declared that the Palestinians are treated equally, but this equality really exists only on paper. In practice there is a system of rigid apartheid. Jews live under Israeli law, Palestinians under military law. 95 per cent of Israeli land is held by the Jewish National Fund, which will not lease it to non-Jews. There are separate roads for Jews and Arabs, some municipalities will not allow Arabs to live in their areas. Arabs have suffered their land being confiscated to build new settlements for Jewish settlers, IDF squaddies cut down their olive trees, a vital source of income, and throw pollutants in their wells and cisterns to make the water undrinkable. Palestinian homes and villages are demolished. There are economic restrictions intended to stifle Palestinian farming and business, while Jewish farms, settlers and businesses receive generous support from the state. The tourist trade too is subject to strict regulations privileging Jews. Non-Jews are legally forbidden from working as tour guides, even when they are Christians taking tourists to the country’s great Christian monuments. I assume the same situation applies to Muslims, who also wish to visit their religious sites. Netanyahu’s governing coalition now includes a viciously racist party for Jewish settlers, the remnants of the terrorist movement Kach, which demands the cleansing of all non-Jews from Israel. Naturally, not all Jews support this, and ‘racist’ is one of the kinder epithets I’ve heard applied to Netanyahu. I’ve heard one Jewish professor refer to him as ‘that bastard Netanyahu’.

The American political establishment, and especially the Republicans, firmly supports Israel. There have been a long line of senior American politicos turning up to pledge their support to Israel at AIPAC’s conventions. This year a number of Democrats, including Bernie Sanders, who is Jewish, refused to go. And there is still controversy raging about the comments by Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who said that Congress had been bought by the Israelis. She was right, AIPAC and other Zionist organisations, like Ted Hagee’s Christians United For Israel, are able to purchase American support for Israel by generously funding individual politicians. Just like the various parliamentary Friends of Israel groups within the British parties obtain Israeli funding and trips to Israel from the Israeli government and Zionist donors.

And the Israel lobby also responds to its critics in America exactly the same as it does over here: it smears them as anti-Semites. So we’ve seen Trump, who’s had genuine anti-Semites from the Alt Right, like Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, in his coalition, now declare that the Dems are now the anti-Semitic party. Just as the Republicans and corporate Democrats smeared Omar as a Jew hater for her comments.

If Beto O’Rourke did make that comment about Netanyahu – and that’s a big if, as Congress has previously given the wretched bigot a massive standing ovation – then it means that the Israel lobby in America is losing its grip. People are turning away, including the Jewish community. One of the contributors to Lobster stated in an article published back in the ’90s that the Israeli delegates in Washington are not liked. Privately, many American politicians and staffers loath them. And it looks like that pent up hatred of official Israeli racism may now be coming out, as leading American politicians get sick of them and their intransigence towards the Palestinians.

The result is that as the Israelis’ grip on western politicos loosens, we can expect more accusations and smears of anti-Semitism. Ireland has already passed a law banning Israeli goods from the Occupied Territories. And according to the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, Jeremy Corbyn and Jackie Walker are the #2 threat to Jews around the world(!) This is nonsense, except in the very limited sense that Corbyn and Walker are genuine supporters of the Palestinians and are serious about finding a just solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict. We’ve already seen Gabriel Pogrund, the soulless hack from the Sunset Times, launch an attack on the Labour party as a whole, as well as the Jewish Labour Movement declaring a vote of ‘no confidence’ in Corbyn. We can expect a further storm of angry, lying denunciations as the Israel lobby tries to scare politicians on both sides of the Atlantic into line.

 

‘I’ Columnist Wants MPs to Defend Palestinians After Joining Anti-Semitism Smears against Labour

November 28, 2018

The I’s Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is one of the few Fleet Street columnists, who I respect. She writes about racism, but acknowledges that it is not confined to Whites hating Blacks, but affects people of all races and colours. She’s also a genuinely moderate Muslim, fiercely critical of the bigots and preachers of hate in her religion, and condemns the White, non-Muslim politicians who pander to them in the hope of garnering votes.

Tweezer’s Denial of Asylum to Asia Bibi, Pakistani Persecuted Christian

A few weeks ago, she attacked Tweezer for refusing sanctuary to Asia Bibi, the Christian Pakistani woman acquitted of blasphemy in Pakistan. Other companies have offered to take Bibi in, but not May, who feared that it would upset this country’s Muslims. Alibhai-Brown then described the case, showing how dubious the accusation was, and the prejudice and hatred Pakistani Christians face. She also stated that the country was also unsafe for Shi’a Muslims like herself. Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, had intended it to be a secular state with separation between state and mosque. But this had swiftly been overturned, most notoriously by the military dictator General Zia ul-Haqq, who ruled the place in the 1970s. Everything she said was correct. The Beeb has also screened documentaries about the arrests of people in Pakistan for blasphemy. It’s a crime that carries the death penalty, and Bibi has spent over a decade on death row. Most of those accused, however, are Muslims, and it looks very much like the majority of accusations are false, being used as a weapon in family and clan disputes. In the case of Bibi, she was accused of blasphemy by a group of women with whom she was working. They sent her to fetch water for them to drink. She stopped to take a drink herself, so they accused her of ‘polluting’ it before going to accuse her of blasphemy. Everything about it says to me that this is all about caste. Islam in Pakistan has a caste system like India, though not as severe. Many of Pakistan’s Christians are sheikhs, one of the lowest castes, working as bonded labourers in the brick kilns. It looks like Bibi was one of these low caste workers, and the Muslims for whom she fetched the water were outraged at her taking a drink from it because they believed that the touch of a low caste person polluted it. Just like high caste Indians at one time would throw away their food if even the shadow of one of the Dalits, the Untouchables, fell on it.

There’s more to be said about the case, but Alibhai-Brown was right to attack the vicious, murderous bigotry behind the accusation and Tweezer’s own cowardice in refusing to give Bibi asylum. I’d go further, and say that while there is a danger that the preachers of hate in British Islam would try to capitalize on Bibi being given asylum, that’s no evidence for not admitting her to Britain. And it also shows Tweezer’s low view of British Islam, if she thought the intolerance of bigoted minority was worth capitulating to. Not all Muslims are fanatics and bigots by any means, but Tweezer’s refusal to take in Asia Bibi suggests that she feels that nevertheless, enough of them are. It’s a decision which would delight the Islamophobes, who believe that all Muslims are a threat to traditional British religious freedom, and that liberal governments are too afraid to confront them.

Alibhai-Brown on Israel’s Persecution of the Palestinians

In yesterday’s I for the 27th November 2018, Alibhai-Brown tackled the plight of the Palestinians and their oppression under the Israelis in an article entitled ‘The Holy Land needs some goodwill: Plight of the Palestinians should be remembered by all’, on page 15. She began the article by stating that Christmas is the time when devout Christians turn their minds to the places where Christ lived, preached and died, and that there is a massive tourist industry in the Holy Land. It is a country which contains sites sacred to all three of the Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and that for centuries the religions coexisted in peace.

This is true no longer, as Israel increases its dominance. She states that Bethlehem has been turned into an open air prison, and that last year Palestinian Muslims were denied entrance to the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, the third holiest site in Islam. Netanyahu’s oppression of the Palestinians is supported by Donald Trump and American Christian fanatics, whose decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem shows that Muslim Arabs mean nothing to him and his government.

Shalhoub-Kavorkian and Dimbleby on Oppressed Palestine

She then goes on to quote Professor Nadera Shalhoub-Kavorkian of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, on the routine brutality and second class status of the Palestinians. The prof. wrote

Violence is central to the political logic of the Israeli state and its occupation of Jerusalem. Enacted in the hundreds of daily acts of harassment perpetuated by heavily armed soldiers, police, settlers, and undercover security personnel belonging to the state of Israel, much of the violence occurs routinely and it goes largely unnoticed by the rest of the world.

Palestinians, native to and residing in Jerusalem, are categorized by Israeli law as ‘permanent residents’ or as foreign residents who hate to prove to the Ministry of Interior that their ‘centre of life’ – where they live, go to school, get medical care and pay for utilities are all taking place in Jerusalem.

She then moves on to discuss a ‘poignant’ book on Palestine, published by Jonathan Dimbleby, now the presenter of Question Time in 1980. This was when he was the maker of foreign documentaries, and the book was accompanied with photographs by Sir Donald McCullin. The book apparently shows the great diversity of Palestinian life and culture as well as moving tales of dispossession and pain. Re-reading it now, she realized how much worse their plight had become. She quotes the book as saying

The struggle is still presented in a woefully lopsided fashion: a small embattled, occasionally obstinate but usually admirable democratic state (Israel) under challenge from a despicable, occasionally pathetic, but usually brutal gang of desperadoes (the PLO).

Defending Palestine and Anti-Semitism Smears

She is very aware that simply discussing the plight of the Palestinians is met by accusations of anti-Semitism. She writes

Now the reporting of Israeli injustices brings on instant accusations of anti-Semitism.

Unfortunately, she also swallows the line that Israel was created in response to the horrors of the Holocaust in Nazi Germany. It wasn’t. Jewish colonization began long before, after the Balfour Declaration during the First World War. She states that Israel exists and must exist as a safe homeland, before going to make the point that the horrors of the Nazis’ persecution don’t give Israel the right to break international laws and violate the human rights ‘of those whose land was taken to create their homeland’.

Pro-Palestinian Pilgrimage to Jerusalem

The article then goes on to discuss the book, Walking to Jerusalem, by Justin Butcher, a playwright and activist, whose launch she attended. This is the record of a pilgrimage made by hundreds of ordinary people, who went on foot to Jerusalem, funded by a small charity, the Amos Trust. The pilgrims arrived just before the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, in order to ‘change the record of a hundred years of injustice to the Palestinian people.’ She states that the marchers included Jews, which should surprise no-one, who knows how very many Jews are critical of Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians and the crimes committed in their name by Netanyahu’s thugs.

She also notes that over 200 Gazans were killed by Israeli forces, some of whom were medical workers and journalists. Settlers were stealing more land and homes. Although some Israelis were also wounded and killed, and too many live in fear, this was an unequal clash.

Alibhai-Brown’s Call for the Public to Contact their MPs

She concludes the article

Maybe one thing we can all do this Christmas is to ask our MPs to be more openly critical of Israel and do what the walkers did – support peaceful Palestinian men, women and children who have for so long been denied rights, livelihoods and dignity. Sometimes goodwill is the best present.

Alibhai-Brown and the Anti-Semitism Smears against the Labour Party

It’s a good article, but marred by Alibhai-Brown’s own behaviour towards Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party. When the Israel lobby and Conservative media and Jewish establishment once again attacked Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour for not signing up to the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, Alibhai-Brown was one of the hacks denouncing the Labour party as full of anti-Semites. But this article suggests she know how false at least some of those allegations must have been. But there is no retraction. The Fleet Street Groupthink about the Labour party, and the bias of the I’s editor and proprietor apparently appear to be too strong.

She also must realise that with the Israel lobby holding power in both the Tories and the Labour party through their ‘Friends of Israel’ groups, and the Jewish Labour Movement in the Labour party, any chance of MPs stepping out of line to risk their careers defending the Palestinians is remote. Not while there’s a chance that someone at the Israeli embassy will pick up where Shai Masot left off and start deciding that they’re a person, who shouldn’t be in the next cabinet. And although the media may claim that the affair’s all over, their haste to do so shows that the conspiracy – and the accusations of anti-Semitism against people like Mike who correctly called it that – has had the desired effect. MPs aren’t going to risk being sidelined or thrown out as anti-Semites if they dare confront the lobby.

The Israel Lobby and the Suppression of Pro-Palestinian Reporting

As for Dimbleby and his book, I very much doubt there’s much chance of anyone at the Beeb now being so courageous in criticizing Israel. Ten years ago Peter Oborne made his documentary on the Israel lobby for Channel 4’s Despatches. This showed not just the extent of the lobby in the parliamentary parties, but also how they bullied and intimidated journalists with accusations of anti-Semitism. This included Graoniad editor Alan Rusbridger, and several very well respected Beeb journos, who dared to describe the atrocities committed by Israel and the massacres by its allies, the Lebanese Christian phalange, in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. These accusations were found by the broadcasting regulatory bodies to be without foundation. But that tactic is still being used by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the other thugs and bully-boys in the Israel lobby.

And this tactics will continue to be made, unless more people stand up to it. Corbyn and his supporters aren’t anti-Semites, but they were smeared as such simply because they defended the Palestinians. The Israelis are afraid that there just might be a foreign prime minister, who doesn’t defer to them, and won’t tolerate their persecution of the indigenous Arabs. Alibhai-Brown must surely realise this, but she joined their attacks on Corbyn and Labour anyway.

And those attacks on Corbyn and politicians like him will continue, unless journos like Alibhai-Brown practice what they preach and actively support and defend him and other Israel-critical politicos in their columns against such mendacious and false accusation of anti-Semitism.

Quakers and Airbnb Boycott Israeli Occupation of Palestine

November 22, 2018

I found this video from RT which was posted yesterday, Wednesday 21st November 2018 on YouTube. It reports that the Quakers have banned investing in companies which profit through Israel’s occupation of Palestine. The Quakers stated that

Our long history of working for a just peace in Palestine and Israel has opened our eyes to the many injustices and violations of international law arising from the military occupation of Palestine by the Israeli government.

With the occupation now in its 51st year, and with no end in sight, we believe we have a moral duty to state publicly that we will not invest in any company profiting from the occupation.

This is, apparently, the first time a British church had made such a move, and the Quakers have been criticized by Jewish groups, which claim that it is a reference to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement. the Board of Deputies of British Jews called the Quakers decision ‘appalling’ and said that it must be reversed. Quaker leaders, however, state that the decision recalls protests against apartheid South Africa and the slave trade.

The video then moves into a discussion about the decision with Les Levido from Jews For Boycotting Israeli Goods and Rafi Bloom, co-chair of Northwest Friends of Israel.

The Quakers are, of course, absolutely right. Israel is an apartheid state, and the West Bank is under military occupation. The Quakers are rightly famous for their pacifism. One of our aunts was a member of CND in the 1980s, and I got the impression that among the religious groups supporting the movement were the Quakers and Roman Catholic Franciscan friars. As for the Slave Trade, they were one of the main groups behind the Abolitionist movement when it first appeared in the 17th and 18th centuries. One of the great Quaker campaigners against it in the British Caribbean was Woolmer, a hunchbacked dwarf, who used to carry around with him a hollowed-out Bible filled with blood. When he saw a planter approaching, he used to stab the knife into the Bible, sending the blood spattering as a visual protest of the blood spilt through the infamous trade. Philadelphia, the city founded by another Quaker, William Penn, was also the home of many of the American Quaker campaigners against the slave trade. Later on they were joined by the Methodists and the evangelical wing of the Anglican church in Britain. I’ve also got a feeling that many Quakers may also have been involved in the legalization of homosexuality in Britain. Gerard Hoffnung, the musician and cartoonist, was a Quaker and a supporter of this movement to end the persecution of gays.

It’s to be expected that Jewish groups like the Board of Deputies of British Jews were going to be outraged at the church’s decision, but I note that the reporter does not say that they denounced them as anti-Semites. As the Quaker’s have always promoted peace and tolerance, such an accusation simply wouldn’t be credible.

I haven’t watched the debate, however, because I’ve no respect for the North West Friends of Israel. From reading Bookburnersrus, Martin Odoni’s and Tony Greenstein’s blogs, it’s very clear that they’re another bunch of thuggish bully-boys. Martin describes a meeting at a Quaker meeting house in Manchester, when the Jewish American reporter and activist Max Blumenthal was speaking about his latest book on Israel and its crimes. The Zionist activists there first tried to stop him entering, and then loudly heckled, sneered and guffawed throughout his talk until they were finally turfed out by the rozzers. And of course, they made the ridiculous claim that they were being silenced because they were Jews, when in fact they were thrown out because they were just there to disrupt and prevent other Jews talking and hearing about what was really going on.

Tony Greenstein described some of their members in one of his blogs. At least two were failed businessmen, one of whom was a lawyer, who’d been struck off. Quite apart from the usual contingent of Islamophobes and supporters of the EDL. They’re in no position to lecture the Quakers or the Jewish Israel-critical peeps, who have to suffer their anti-Semitic abuse, about morality.

The day before that report, the 21st, RT posted another piece discussing Airbnb’s decision not to list homes in the occupied West Bank, which also enraged the Israeli state. The company’s press room stated

We concluded that we should remove listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank that are at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians.

About 200 homes were to be removed from the list. The Palestinian authority welcomed the move, as they had previously requested the company to remove such listings. The Israelis, however, condemned it, and used the time-worn tactic of screaming racism.

Yariv Levin, the Israeli tourism minister, declared

This decision is completely unacceptable. This is pure discrimination, something that is taken only against Jews that are living in Judaea and Samaria. This is actually a racist decision – and more than that, I do believe that it is a double standard that is taken only against Israel, against Jews that are living here in Israel.

The anchorwoman then goes on to talk to Mustafa Barghouti, the General Secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative, about the issue, as well as a former commander in the Israeli air force. Barghouti states that the UN resolutions say that the settlements in the West Bank are completely illegal, they are discriminatory, as they are built on land stolen from the Palestinians, and any relationship with these illegal settlements are a violation of international law. He says that Airbnb has taken the right decision, as they stood to lose a lot due to the boycott against them. And what is really racist and discriminatory is the apartheid system the Israelis have created, which favours Israelis over Palestinians.

The Israeli spokesman, Reuven Berko, cited simply as ‘Middle East expert’, rants about Airbnb being ‘cowards to Islamic terrorists, I don’t know what’, accuses them of anti-Semitism and ignoring the right of the Jews to their homeland in Judea and Samaria and asks how many Christians are angry about this. He states that this is an awful step against history, against fate.

It’s the usual specious rubbish. The Biblical state of Israel certainly existed, and was the homeland of the Jewish people in antiquity. But it has not existed for centuries. For many Jews, their real homeland was the country in which they and their forebears had lived in the Diaspora. And the Bund, the Jewish Socialist movement, made that very clear in their slogan ‘Wherever we live, that’s our homeland’. And many Orthodox Jews feel that Israel cannot be restored except by the hand of the Almighty and the Messiah. Until that happens, modern Israel is to them nothing but a blasphemy.

As for appealing to Christian anger about this, the lead Christian Zionist movements, like Ted Hagee’s Christians United for Israel, are millennialists, who believe that the restoration of Israel will usher in the End Times and Christ’s Second Coming, along with the destruction of those Jews, who won’t convert to Christianity. In fact, the indigenous Christians of Palestine have almost been completely cleansed from Israel. The Christian population before 1948 was 25 per cent. Now it’s only one per cent. American Zionist Christians put this down wholly to persecution from Muslims. Now Muslim Palestinians have persecuted their Christian fellow countrymen, whom they see as collaborators. But Palestinian Christians have also and are being persecuted by the Israeli state and the settlers. The Israelis have closed churches as well as mosques, and both churches and mosques have been attacked and desecrated by mobs of Israeli settlers.

In my somewhat limited experience, Muslim Brits are better informed about this than British Christians. I studied Islam when I was at College as part of my Religious Studies minor degree. I can remember reading the equivalent of the parish magazine from one of the British mosques. It contained an article attacking the closure of one of the mosques in Palestine and its conversion into a disco. The article also noted that a nearby Christian church had also been closed by the Israelis.

A few years ago Channel 4 also screened a programme about the relationship between Christianity and other faiths, in which the presenter travelled to Israel. There he encountered an Israeli ‘shock jock’ radio host, who ranted about Christians. The programme also covered a march of militant Israelis on a church used by Messianic Jews. These are Jews, who have accepted Christ as the messiah, but still observe the Mosaic Law. This is my opinion, but I think they’re very similar to the Christian community of which the Gospel writer St. Matthew was a part, as this is traditionally regarded as the Jewish Gospel, and St. Matthew is concerned to assimilate Christ’s teaching to that of the Jewish sages. The settlers were stopped at the church entrance by the Muslim doorman. And apparently, it was actually quite common to have Muslims at the door of Christian churches protecting the worshippers from religious violence from outside.

And if we are going to talk about racism and discrimination, a friend of mine, who studied Judaism at College also told me that in the 1960s the Israelis threw out tens of thousands of indigenous Jewish Palestinians, because they were culturally Arab. There have been articles in Counterpunch by the magazine’s Jewish contributors, which have pointed out that Israel is a European/American Jewish colony, whose founders had a despicable racist contempt for the Mizrahim, Jewish Arabs, or Arabicized Jews.

The Quakers and Airbnb are right to boycott Israel’s occupation of Palestine. And the real racism and apartheid is by Israel against the indigenous Arabs, who have been Jewish, Christian and Muslim, and have suffered discrimination, persecution and ethnic cleansing by the Israeli state.

Counterpunch on America’s Long Racist Hatred of Haiti

January 17, 2018

I blogged earlier this week about how Haiti was the first Black republic, where its enslaved people threw off their chains under the Black revolutionary, Toussaint Louverture, and threw out their French colonial overlords at the time of the French Revolution. The country became an inspiration to slaves struggling for their freedom in America and the Caribbean, and created panic among the European masters. They feared that their slaves were in contact with the Haitian revolutionaries, and that the next Black revolt would succeed where the others had been suppressed. And from the late 18th through the early 19th century, there were a series of revolts in the Caribbean by slaves, impatient for their freedom.

Mark Schuller, the Associate Professor of Anthropology and NGO Leadership and Development at Northern Illinois University, and affiliate at the Faculte d’Anthroplogie, l’Universitat d’Etat d’Haiti, wrote a piece discussing Haiti and America’s obsessive hatred of the country. Put simply, it’s because the American plantation masters were terrified of the example the Black republic gave to their slaves, and so they did everything they could to limit discussion of it and ultimately to conquer and dominate it. And not just America, but also France, and the exploitation and class rule imposed by the Americans under neoliberalism after the overthrow of the last Haitian president. He writes

What is behind Trump – and white America’s – obsession with Haiti?

Haiti has been targeted for its decisive role in challenging what Southern planters – including eight U.S. Presidents – called a “peculiar institution.” The Haitian Revolution was the first time slaves were able to permanently end slavery and forge an independent nation. It also was a tipping point in U.S. history, leading to the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, paving the way for U.S. “Manifest Destiny” stretching from sea to shining sea and eventual dominance. Chicago, the country’s third largest city, was founded by a Haitian, Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, who Haitian historian Marc Rosier called an “agent” of the Haitian government to pursue a pro-freedom international policy.

Haiti’s contribution to U.S. “greatness” has long been unacknowledged. The pivotal Haitian Revolution was literally “unthinkable,” as Haitian anthropologist Michel-Rolph Trouillot argued. The demonization of Haiti was so strong, its inspiration to slaves so dangerous, that Congress imposed a gag order in 1824, preventing the word Haiti from being uttered in Congress, a year after the imperialist Monroe Doctrine.

White supremacy was not defeated in the Appatomox Court House in 1865, nor the 13th Amendment that allowed for a back-door legalization of slavery, nor in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling, nor in the 1965 Voting Rights Act following “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, nor in the 2008 election of the first African American President.

Through it all, as Haitian anthropologist Gina Athena Ulysse analyzed, Haiti has served as the “bête noir” in a deliberate smear campaign against the descendants of the people who said no to white supremacy.

These narratives of Haiti continued throughout the initial response to the 2010 earthquake, from the likes of televangelist Pat Robertson and the New York Times’ David Brooks. As New Yorker contributing writer Doreen St. Felix pointed out, this obsession with Haiti has to do with white society’s rejection of black self-determination.

These discourses have definite and powerful material consequences.

France, which in 2001 declared slavery a “crime against humanity,” extorted 150 million francs from Haiti as a condition of recognition of Haitian independence, plunging Haiti into a 120-year debt that consumed up to 80% of Haiti’s tax base. Socialist president Jacques Chirac scoffed at Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s demand for reparations before being the first to call for his resignation in 2004.

Calling Haiti “ungovernable” provided justification for U.S. intervention: The United States invaded Haiti twenty-six times from 1849 to 1915, when U.S. Marines landed and occupied the country for nineteen years. During the U.S. Occupation, the Marines set up the modern army, opened up land for foreign ownership, solidified class and racial inequality, laying the groundwork for the 1957-1971 Duvalier dictatorship.

Incorrectly blaming Haiti for its role in the AIDS epidemic killed the tourist industry, which, along with the deliberate destruction of Haiti’s pig population, sent the economy in a nosedive. Neoliberal capitalist interests seized the opportunity to take advantage of the massive rural exodus to build sweatshops, exploiting people’s misery by offering the lowest wages in the world. With poverty wages, and a crippling foreign debt that according to the IMF’s own recordkeeping went to the paramilitary tonton makout, Port-au-Prince’s shantytowns had no services and no government oversight. These foreign interventions were the main killer in the 2010 earthquake.

He also makes the point that the accusation that indigenous Haitians were ‘looters’, along with other racist claims, meant that the efforts of the Haitian people themselves in combating the disasters that beset their country were ignored. The Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission was chaired by Bill Clinton, and the humanitarian aid coordinated by the UN. Native Haitians were excluded from these meetings either by foreign soldiers, or by the simple fact that they were in English, while Haiti itself is a bilingual country, speaking French and a French-based creole. The NGOs themselves had a top down, hierarchical structure, excluding people in the refugee camps from their decisions. The result was the break-up of Haitian families, and increasing violence against women.

His article ends:

Calling the world’s beacon of freedom a “shithole” sullies not only Haiti’s ten million residents on the island and three million in the U.S., but is an affront to human freedom and equality.

As award-winning Haitian author Edwidge Danticat argued, “today we mourn. Tomorrow we fight.”

See: https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/01/16/what-is-a-shithole-country-and-why-is-trump-so-obsessed-with-haiti/

Norwegian Cruise Line Cancels ‘Alt-Lite’ Far Right Cruise After Complaints from Hope Not Hate

August 17, 2017

Here’s a piece of good news. Hope Not Hate today reported that Norwegian Cruise Line were cancelling a Caribbean cruise organized by Rebel Media, which would take Far Right sympathisers and activists to Honduras, Belize and Mexico. Rebel Media’s a Canadian far right organization, founded by Ezra Levant and Brian Lilley. Among their stars is the former head of the EDL, Tommy Robinson. The headline speaker for the cruise was going to be Gavin McInnes, the founder of the ‘Western Chauvinist’ Proud Boys. Proud Boys is a White supremacist, anti-feminist group. To be initiated into its ‘fourth degree’, a member has ‘to beat the crap’ out of an Antifa. They also have a militantly violent wing, the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights, or FOAK.

As for McInnes, he has claimed not to be racist and to want to have nothing to do with the Alt-Right. But this rings more than a bit hollow after he’s made a video entitled, 10 Things I Hate about the Jews, and written pieces about White genocide and defending ‘transphobia’.

Hope Not Hate reported that they received the following message from Norwegian Cruise Line:

“We recently became aware that one of several affinity groups that booked space on an upcoming sailing was associated with and espoused views that are inconsistent with Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings core values.

The company has therefore exercised its right to cancel this group’s reservation and provide a full refund. As a matter of policy, the company neither discusses nor discloses the identities of our individual guests or groups.”

The anti-racism, anti-religious extremism group states

Norwegian Cruise Line’s decision is most welcome and they are to be congratulated for taking this stand against racism, sexism, homophobia and hatred of all kind.

In the current climate, this is a valuable example that companies have the choice to act responsibly and to refuse to allow their platforms to be vehicles for the normalization and mainstreaming of bigotry.

HOPE not hate will continue its fight against Rebel Media and anyone who shares their politics of prejudice.

See: http://hopenothate.org.uk/2017/08/17/update-norwegian-cruise-line-cancel-rebel-cruise/

Rebel Media’s association with real, violent neo-Nazis and anti-Semites also discredits some of the claims made by its founder, Ezra Levant. As have the recent events in Charlottesville. Levant is Jewish, and one of the main figures in the ‘Counter-Jihad’ movement. He has promoted his brand of islamophobia by demanding that the public attention be moved away from White supremacist groups in Canada to Islamism, which he has argued presents a bigger threat to Jews.

In his writings and broadcasts, Levant has stated that after the War, life was good for Jews in tolerant Canada. Most severely normal Canadians weren’t anti-Semites, and the membership of the Canadian Nazi party was minute. It was about thirty people. They were led by a sad individual skulking in a basement, who used to write grandiose, violent screeds against the Jews and other races he didn’t like with the assistance of his landlord. At demonstrations, the goose-steppers were massively outnumbered by Jews, left-wing counterdemonstrators, and the police who were there to keep order.

He is, along with his fellow bigot, Kathy Shaidle, who authors the blog Five Feet of Fury, bitterly critical of the ‘official’ Jews of the mainstream Canadian Jewish organization and its leader, Bernie Farber. This is because Farber and his organization link the Jewish experience of persecution and genocide, with those of other, persecuted peoples around the world. Way back in the early part of this century, when the Janjaweed Militia were wreaking havoc in Darfur, Farber and his organization held a ‘Shabat’, or Sabbath, for the African town’s people. The ‘Shabat’ here meant a day of fasting and religious contemplation. Christian Americans have also held formal fasts against wars. In the early 19th century, when America was in yet another war with its former colonial overlord, Britain, the Christian ministers of one of the statesBill organized a fast to end this strife between themselves and their British cousins.

As for Levant’s own programmes, they are glaringly, overtly biased, even when he invites a guest on from the other side of the debate. He introduces his guest with a tirade about how they’re wrong. From the clips I’ve seen, he does seem to be personally polite, which hasn’t been the case with Bill O’Reilly, the former main anchor at Fox News, before they sacked him sexual harassment.

I’ve no doubt that the membership of the Canadian Nazi party was a low as Levant says. So is the formal membership of all the various Nazi organisations in Britain and America. Way back in the 1990s one of the contributors to Lobster estimated that the BNP’s core membership was only about 200 or so people. If you read Hope Not Hate, that membership has declined even further, and the British Fascist right is divided between a number of small grouplets, all of which hate each other as much as the hate ethnic minorities, trade unionists and ‘Reds’.

I also read a few years ago that in America, the total membership of the Klan was 100,000, split amongst 100 different groups. I don’t know about the membership of the various Militias and Nazi groups, but I would imagine that they were similarly small compared to America’s vast population.

This does not mean that these organization don’t pose a violent threat. They clearly do. In the 1960s the NF was caught organizing paramilitary training weekends, which supposedly included lessons on bomb-making. One of the pieces of evidence for this was a can of weed killer found in a shed, which had the ‘weed’ scratched out and replaced with ‘Jew’. Yup, ‘Jew-Killer’. The NF and BNP deliberately recruited violent football hooligans, who embarked on a campaign of violence. Matthew Collins, one of the founders of Hope Not Hate, has described just how violent they are in his book about his time inside them, Hate.

As for Canada, the America Nazi party weren’t the only far right party in the country. One of the parties in the western province of Vancouver was the Social Credit party, which was anti-immigration, and pro-big business.

Despite his own Jewish heritage, Levant is clearly associating himself with anti-Semites by hiring McInnes as his main speaker for the cruise. And the Nazi violence in Charlottesville, which included surrounded the local synagogue and shouting ‘Sieg Heil!’, as well as the stats from a report from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, show only too clearly that, in stark contrast to Levant’s claims, the White racists are far more of a threat than Islamism in America, at least in America.

This isn’t to downplay the threat posed by Islamist terrorism, merely to keep it in perspective, and stop the persistent denials of Trump, Levant and their ilk that White racist terrorism either doesn’t exist, or isn’t a comparable threat.

It is. And Trump has done everything he could to aid and abet it, short of actually giving them guns and money. But organisations like Hope Not Hate, Life After Hate, Tell Mama, which encourages Muslims to come forward to report racist attacks, are doing an excellent job of combating White supremacist terrorism.

A Real ‘Steampunk’ Toy: Pre-World War I Clockwork Monorail Train

August 13, 2017

A little while ago I put up a series of posts about real, 19th century inventions, which now seem like the weird machines of Steampunk Science Fiction. This is a subgenre, which imagines what the world would have been like, if the Victorians had invented spacecraft, time travel, interdimensional travel and other elements of Science Fiction, or had completed and fully developed real inventions like Babbage’s mechanical computer, the Difference Engine, steam carriages and dirigible aircraft, like that flown by the French aviator Giffard in 1854.

One of these real Steampunk inventions was the monorail. A steam-driven monorail system was designed by an American inventor and entrepreneur. This astonished me, as I always associated the monorail train with the technological optimism of the 1960s and ’70s. It was an invention for a technological age that never happened. After writing the article, a reader posted a comment on the piece kindly pointing out that a steam monorail system had been built in Eire. the track and its train have been restored, and are now a tourist attraction. The commenter included a link, and if you go to that website, you’ll see the train in question. It is very definitely an Irish train, as its been decorated very patriotically in green.

This hasn’t been the only example of such trains I’ve found. They even existed as miniature toys. Looking through the book Mechanical Toys: How Old Toys Work by Athelstan and Kathleen Silhaus, with photos by Nelson McClary (New York: Crown Publishers 1989) I came across the illustration below of a toy monorail train, stabilized with a gyroscope and powered by a single wheel. It was produced by the Ely Cycle Co., of Britain, in 1912. It was first patented in Britain in 1908, and then in Germany in 1911, where it was also manufactured by Suskind. The text notes that it was stabilized by a gyroscope long before Sperry used it in aircraft and ocean liners.

The use of a single wheel is also like the various Science Fictional vehicles that similarly have only one of these, like the monocycles in Harry Harrison’s The Stainless Steel Rat. This toy, and others like it, show a whole world of Victorian and Edwardian invention that seemed to anticipate a technological future that never quite happened, as well as the immense inventiveness of the manufacturers.

May’s Grubby Deal with the DUP Has Undone Decades of Work in Ulster

July 5, 2017

Yesterday, Mike also put up a piece reporting that talks between Sinn Fein and the DUP about a new power-sharing agreement for Northern Ireland have broken down, resulting in acrimonious recriminations being hurled between the two parties. To illustrate it, there’s a photo of Michelle O’Neill, the leader of Sinn Fein, and Arlene Foster, the DUP’s leader together. The two are pointedly looking away from each other and it looks like they can’t stand even being in the same room.

The immediate cause of the breakdown in talks is failure to reach an agreement regarding protection for Gaelic-speaker in Northern Ireland, as well as the DUP’s intransigent opposition to gay marriage.

But Mike also points out that the ultimate cause is that May has unfairly favoured one side – the DUP – over the other in order to shore up her crumbling position in Westminster. And in so doing, she has undone the decades of work that has produced peace in the Six Counties.

In upsetting this delicate balance of power, Mike states that she has shown herself to be pathetic amateur rather than the serious professional she posed as. And he asks how long it will take to put her mistake right again.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/07/04/theresa-may-has-set-back-decades-of-work-for-peace-in-northern-ireland/

Some idea of the sheer irrational hatred the Unionists have for the Gaelic language can be gauged by a bizarre story that appeared in Private Eye a decade or more ago. One of their politicos had made a complaint to one of the local bus companies after a tour bus went past with what he thought was a message in Erse on the side.

Except it wasn’t. It was French.

As for homosexuality, Paisley himself led a campaign against its legalisation in Ulster under the slogan ‘SUS’ – ‘Save Ulster from Sodomy’, as if he feared that as soon as the legalisation of same-sex attraction between consenting adults would result in Ulster being flooded by gays from across the world.

Some of the practical benefits peace has brought to the province were also on display on television last night. Bus Wars followed a group of tour guides in Northern Ireland as they fought with their rivals to get the tourists on to their tour buses. These guys spoke glowingly about their love of telling foreign visitors about their country. Among the passengers on one of the buses, which included Americans, were a pair of Scots girls, who raved about Ulster and its people. The tour guides commented on artistic points of interest on paramilitary murals painted on the sides of houses, and the notorious peace wall in the Shankill Road, set up to proven the Nationalists and Loyalists from attacking each other.

While those signs of the Troubles are obvious, they also pointed out with pride the hidden signs of peace. The exterior of Queen’s University in Belfast is covered with a multi-coloured glass façade. The guide asked his passengers what that meant. They replied that it was because Ulster was enjoying peace. ‘That’s right,’ he said, ‘No more bombs.’

And The One Show the other day also interviewed Colm Meaney about his latest flick, in which he plays Martin McGuinness in a play about a fictitious car journey he made with Ian Paisley, played by Ralph Spall, in which the two were forced to work out their differences to bring about peace in Ulster. Meaney is a veteran actor, who’s been in any number of TV shows and movies, from Dixon of Dock Green onwards. But to Science Fiction he’s probably best known as Chief O’Brien from Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space 9. Meaney said that what attracted him to the film was that it was also very funny, and that McGuinness and Paisley became so close they were known as ‘the Chuckle Brothers’. Some of the comedy in the movie was shown by a clip from the film, where the chauffeur asks the two politicos who they are. McGuinness introduces Paisley as the leader of the Free Presbyterian Church. Paisley in his introduction states that McGuinness is an officer in the IRA. To which McGuinness leans over and says, ‘Allegedly’.

The fact that this movie has been made shows how important the peace agreement has been in ending much of the paramilitary violence in Ulster, while the episode of Bus Wars also showed the reverse of the political situation there. That due to the peace agreement, this is a place which welcomes visitors from abroad, and is a place where workers in the tour industry can speak with pride about their country from a broad, inclusive perspective free of sectarianism.

Ulster still is a very divided community, and the political situation is very tense. These two shows together show how much is at stake, how much will be lost if May’s partisan deal with the DUP shatters the strained peace agreement. It’s a deal May should never have made. But she could correct it easily – by stepping down and leaving the way open for a Labour government.

Ian Hislop Attacks Tories and BBC Pro-Tory Bias on HIGNFY

April 30, 2017

I found this clip from Friday’s Have I Got News For You on Scot TV’s YouTube Channel. In it, Ian Hislop pointed asks why there haven’t been any questions about the Tories yet on the programme. When told by Kirsty Young that they’re coming, he replies that he hopes not, as there are too many of them already. He then goes to skewer Tory hypocrisy in stealing Ed Miliband’s policy of capping energy prices. When Labour did it, he points out, the Tories yelled that it was ‘very, very bad’. It was interfering in the operation of the market. But when the Tories do it, it’s still interfering, ‘but in a good way’. He also mocked her for her constant refrain about being ‘strong’ and ‘stable’.

There’s also a very nice clip in the programme of May announcing that she intends cutting down on immigration in order to prevent ‘tourism’.

I think this has already happened. It’s a Freudian slip. Despite all their claims, the Tories and their allies in UKIP haven’t been able to cut down on immigration, just as Mike and other left-wing bloggers said they couldn’t. But according to the I newspaper, they have managed to dissuade more tourists from taking their hols in our fair country.

May clearly knew this, and unconsciously let it slip.

As for preventing terrorism by cutting down on immigration, that simply won’t wash. Many of those responsible for Islamist terror attacks were actually born here. And then there is the terrorist atrocities carried out by indigenous White Fascist terrorists, such as the Nazi who bombed a gay pub and Asian restaurant more than a decade ago. I think he killed and maimed thirty people, including a bride. Clamping down on immigration won’t stop Nazis like him doing their best to kill and mutilate decent people of all races. The Tories’ rhetoric on immigration is simply a cynical attempt to exploit racial fears about a situation that they cannot and won’t change, as they hope to be able to play on it again.

Mikhail Gorbachev on Worker’s Control in Perestroika

May 31, 2016

One of the most interesting aspects of Gorbachev’s plan to restructure the Communist system in Perestroika was the re-introduction of workers’ control. Lenin briefly introduced this after the Bolshevik coup of 1917, but it was reversed when it was found that, contrary to Bolshevik expectations and dogma, the workers couldn’t manage industry on their own. Lenin himself was fiercely autocratic and intolerant, and the Bolshevik monopolization of power offended not only liberal democrats, but also other committed Marists, like Karl Kautsky and Rosa Luxemburg, who wrote articles denouncing it. Much of the intolerance and oppressive nature of the Soviet system came directly from Lenin and his doctrine of ‘democratic centralism’. This was the dogma that once the leaders of the Communist party had made a decision, no further discussion was permissible, and their commands should be carried out with any further debate or protest. Nevertheless, Gorbachev harkened back to Lenin and his supposed espousal of democracy in order to invigorate the moribund and sclerotic Soviet system. The reintroduction of workers’ control was part Gorby’s wider programme of democratizing Soviet society.

In his 1987 book, Perestroika: New Thinking for our Country and the World (London: Collins) Gorby writes

We are taking a new view of the correlation between one-man management and the participation of work collectives in handling production tasks. this is a topical issue. There will be no progress without workers’ involvement in management through the corresponding mechanisms – at the work team, factory shop, plant and integrated works level. Furthermore, a work collective must have the right to elect its manager. And the latter receives the right to one-man rule on behalf of the collective, uniting everybody by his willpower.

Elections of economic managers are direct democracy in action. Initially people were frightened by this, claiming that we had gone too far, that things could come to a bad end. But those who reason that way forget the main point, that common sense always prevails. Group interests, a practice of covering up for one another, will somewhere make themselves felt. But basically everyone wants his work team, factory shop, enterprise, collective or state farm to be headed by dependable, intelligent managers capable of leadership, of opening up vistas for improving production and life. Our people understand this, and they certainly do not need weak management. They need people who are talented, considerate, yet demanding in a fair way.

People want to see changed attitudes on the part of the plant manager, shop superintendent and foreman. People expect a moral example and they expect it particularly from their superiors. There are several such examples. Where there is a good manager, there is success. He takes care of people. Everyone wants to talk with him. He need not raise his voice in giving out orders. He may look quite ordinary, but he sees and can explain everything. It is now extremely important to be able to explain the situation. People will agree to wait if they see why some of their demands cannot be satisfied fully right away. (Pp. 103-4).

The former General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party also wanted to restore greater powers to the trade unions. These did not have the same roles and responsibilities as western trade unions. As the Soviet Union was a workers’ state, the Communists reasoned that trade unions should have no power to block or interfere with the authorities, who were the workers’ representatives. Nevertheless, the Soviet system granted them vast powers. The were to be consulted on economic planning, and the sacking of employees was only legal if the union had been consulted. The trade unions were also given the responsibility for running the health, medical and leisure programmes in Soviet plants, factories and industry. Gorbachev was concerned that the trade unions were acquiescing too much to the demands of management. He wished to alter this situation by giving them the power to represent the workers’ interests against management as well as improving healthcare and leisure at Soviet workplaces. He wrote

What our country is undertaking and the issues it is tackling implies a re-evaluation of the role of trade unions in social affairs.

It should be said first and foremost that our unions are a formidable force. No labour law can be drafted unless endorsed by the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions. On all questions concerning labour laws, their enforcement and the safeguarding of the working people’s right the trade unions have the final say. If a manager fires a worker without asking the union for approval, a court of law automatically makes the decision invalid without any deliberation, inasmuch as the trade union has not been consulted for its opinion. No economic development plan, for one year or five years, is submitted to the Supreme Soviet unless approved by the trade unions. When the plans are in the making, the trade unions participate as well at all levels.

Social insurance, the running of sanatoriums and recreation resorts, tourism, physical training and sports, and the rest and recreation of children are all the responsibility of the trade unions. Consequently, they wield real power. But, all, over the past few years there has been less trade union activity. On some issues, they have yielded their prerogatives to economic managers, while not enjoying some rights effectively enough.

So, having set about restructuring, we saw that the work of the trade unions could not be termed satisfactory. During my trip to the Kuban region, I reproached trade union leaders for pandering to managers, sometimes going so far as dancing to their tune. I asked them whether it was not high time they took a position of principle, and stood up for working people?

The new role of the trade unions in conditions of perestroika should consist primarily of giving a stronger social orientation to economic decisions, offsetting technocratic encroachments which have become widespread in the economy in the last few years. this means that the trade unions should be more active in elaborating the social sections of economic plans, and, if need be, setting forth and upholding their own alternative proposals.

Trade union committees should have teeth, and not be convenient partners for management. Bad working conditions at some enterprises, a poor health service, substandard locker rooms- trade union organisations have got used to all this. but Soviet trade unions have the right to monitor managerial compliance with labour contracts, the right to criticise management, and even the right to demand that director who fails to comply with the legitimate interests of the working people be removed from office.

It would be wrong to think that under socialism the working people do not need any protection. They should be protected even more, for socialism is a system for the working people. Hence the tremendous responsibility of the trade unions. All Soviet society is vitally interested in more vigorous work being undertaken by the trade unions. (Pp. 113-4).

All this was discarded during Yeltsin’s administration, when the economy was privatised and the voucher system introduced, which transformed the co-operatives Gorby had been setting up into bog standard capitalist enterprises. If Gorbachev had been successful, he would have created a democratic Socialist state, very close to the vision of the ownership of the means of production by the workers themselves that motivated Socialists as far back as the Owenite John Francis Bray in the 19th century. While not demanding the abolition of capitalism, Ha-Joon Chang states in his book, 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, that in countries where there is state interest in industry, or workers’ representatives on the boardroom, firms actually do better than when left simply to managers and shareholders. But unfortunately, that it what we are left with after thirty years of Thatcherism. And its continuing and accelerating under Cameron.

We need a change. British trade unionism needs to be revitalised, and we do need workers’ representatives in our boardrooms. As for Thatcher, her ideas were always bankrupt. They should have been thrown out before she ever took office.