Sep 20 2017

ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL and DON’T ABANDON THE PALESTINIAN CAUSE

In the first posted article article Pink Floyd performer, Roger Waters, highlights the attempts being made to close down the increasingly successful Boycott, Divestment and sanctions Campaign in the USA.

In the second  article, Tony Greenstein provides an analysis of what is going on the Labour Party over Palestine. Despite the change of leadership under Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party’s desperate record when it comes to internationalism, appears to be holding up. This is becoming ever clearer, as Corbyn backtracks on support for Palestinian self-determination, in the face of Israeli state and right wing pressure. This does not augur well for any future Corbyn government. In the first article, Tony Greenstein provides an analysis of what is going on.

1. ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL – CONGRESS SHOULDN’T SILENCE HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCATES 

 

Roger Waters at Israel’s apartheid wall

Members of Congress are currently considering a bill that threatens to silence the growing support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement for Palestinian freedom and human rights, known as BDS. This draconian bill, the Israeli Anti-Boycott Act threatens individuals and businesses who actively participate in boycott campaigns in support of Palestinian rights conducted by international governmental organizations with up to 20 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine. Continue reading “ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL and DON’T ABANDON THE PALESTINIAN CAUSE”

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Aug 11 2017

HOW TERRORISM CREATED MODERN ISRAEL

At a time when the Israeli state, backed by the US and UK,  likes to project itself as being part of the War on Terror, a book, State of terror – how terrorism created modern Israel, has recently been published. This book, written by Thomas Suarez, is reviewed by here Tony Greenstein. This review first appeared at:- http://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1166/what-zionists-want-suppressed/

HOW TERRORISM CREATED MODERN ISRAEL

Ben Gurion declares the state of Israel beneath a portrait of Zionist found er, Theodor Herzl

The state of Israel prides itself on being at the forefront of the ‘war against terror’ and the war on Islam and it is this which makes Israel the darling of Europe’s far right. But this book documents how the Israeli state was born in a wave of terror that makes Palestinian guerrilla groups seem like children at play. Continue reading “HOW TERRORISM CREATED MODERN ISRAEL”

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Oct 29 2016

2 RESPONSES TO THE HOME AFFAIRS COMMITTEE REPORT ON ANTI-SEMITISM

We are posting 2 responses to the Westminster’s Home Affairs Committee Reporton Anti-Semitism. The first is by Richard Kuper, founder member of Jews for Justice for Palestinians. This was first posted on Open Democracy. The second is by Tony Greenstein and was first published by Weekly Worker.

 

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Palestinian land taken by the state of Israel

 

1. CRYING WOLF

A cavalier use of evidence in the UK’s latest Home Affairs Committee report is feeding a moral panic about antisemitism, rather than dealing with an increasingly racist, intolerant society.
Continue reading “2 RESPONSES TO THE HOME AFFAIRS COMMITTEE REPORT ON ANTI-SEMITISM”

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Jul 27 2016

2 RESPONSES TO CHAKRABHATI REPORT

 

Julia Bard and Tony Greenstein have written their own responses  to the official Chakrabhati Report into Anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. Julia Bard is a freelance journalist, a member of the NC of the Jewish Socialists’ Group and the Editorial Committee of Jewish Socialist magazine. Tony Greenstein is a log standing Jewish anti-Zionist and currently suspended member of the Labour Party. Julia Bard’s article was first posted at http://www.chartist.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Chartist-281-spread.pdf and Tony Greenstein’s at http://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1114/a-marred-report.

Shami Chakrabati and Jeremy Corbyn at the launch of the report

Shami Chakrabati and Jeremy Corbyn at the launch of the report

 

1. CYNICISM BEHIND ANTI-SEMITISM ROW

Julia Bard dissects the issues in the recent anti-semitism furore in the Labour Party and finds the issue is being instrumentalised for other political purposes.
Continue reading “2 RESPONSES TO CHAKRABHATI REPORT”

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May 05 2016

WHAT’S BEHIND THE RIGHT’S ACCUSATIONS OF ‘ANTI-SEMITISM’

 

The British ruling class has been upset by a number of events beyond its control. The huge surge in those demanding Scottish independence and those who voted for Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party have opened up politics beyond of the safe Conservative/Lib-Dem/New Labour pro-imperial, pro-Israel and pro-neoliberal consensus. This is the context in which  the ‘antisemitism’ smears directed against a number of people either on the Left or from a Muslim background are being pushed by the Conservatives, Labour Right and various Zionist organisations. These are being used in an attempt to close down political opposition to austerity, privatisation, war in the Middle East and the continued repression of Palestinians. This is an issue of much wider concern than Labour Party members. We are posting four articles, one a letter to The National, written by Sarah Glynn of RISE, two from Tony Greenstein. and one from Moshe Machover,  both socialists, anti-Zionists and antiracists. Tony has a blog dedicated to these ideas (http://azvsas.blogspot.co.uk) (also see http://freespeechonisrael.org.uk/). Moshe has recently spoken at the London Communist Forum and the Republican Socialist Alliance meeting in London.

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1. A LETTER FROM SARAH GLYNN TO THE NATIONAL

CONTRARY to the impression given in much of the media, many British Jews are extremely concerned at the on-going political manipulation of charges of anti-Semitism. This is a blatant and cynical attempt to tarnish Jeremy Corbyn and bring Labour back into the neo-liberal fold, and is part of an alarming growth in political exploitation of the “race card” more generally.
Continue reading “WHAT’S BEHIND THE RIGHT’S ACCUSATIONS OF ‘ANTI-SEMITISM’”

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Apr 14 2014

SCOTLAND: WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM VENEZUELA

 Ewan Robertson, an RCN member and a Scots born journalist living in Venezuela, is touring Scotland.  He will be addressing the following meetings:-

  • Monday April 14, STUC: Joint Scottish Venezuela Solidarity Campaign & others lunchtime Latin America fringe meeting for delegates with speakers including Ewan Robertson, 12.30-1.45pm, Caird Hall, Dundee.
  • Tuesday April 15, Aberdeen: Public Meeting with Ewan Robertson, 6.00pm, Unite Offices, 44 King Street, Aberdeen, AB24 5TJ
  • Thursday April 17, Glasgow: Ewan Roberston to speak at 7pm showing of the film Revolutionary Doctors, organised by the Scottish Cuba Solidarity Campaign  & supported by SVSC at the STUC, 333 Woodlands Road Glasgow G3 6NG.
  • Thursday April 24, Edinburgh: Open eyewitness meeting with Ewan Roberston, 7.30pm, Augustine Church, 42 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, Midlothian, EH1 1EL.

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In the article below Ewan contrasts the experience of the Bolivarian revolution with the aspirations of the people of Scotland in relation to the question of Self Determination.

 

Continue reading “SCOTLAND: WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM VENEZUELA”

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Jan 26 2014

SCOTTISH PALESTINE SOLIDARITY CAMPAIGN AGM – Dundee, 11.1.14

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The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign in action outside Sainsbury’s

The Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) held its annual general meeting earlier this month in Dundee.

Continue reading “SCOTTISH PALESTINE SOLIDARITY CAMPAIGN AGM – Dundee, 11.1.14”

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Nov 14 2009

Solidarity with Scottish PSC action

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 18RCN @ 8:32 pm

Five members of the SPSC are on trial, charged with “racially aggravated conduct” for protesting against the Israeli government backed Jerusalem Quartet in Edinburgh. We publish this statement of solidarity from anti-Zionist Jews.

International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN) Statement, 11 August 2009

We are writing to express our unwavering support for the action taken by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) activists to protest the Israeli state sponsored Jerusalem Quartet performance at the 2008 Edinburgh International Festival.

This protest was undertaken in support of the call from Palestinian civil society for full boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel for their vast violation of Palestinian rights and ethnic cleansing. The consistent actions taken by the SPSC in support of this call and to challenge Israeli apartheid demonstrates the depth of their commitment to anti-racist politics and organizing.

As a Jewish network committed to justice and a full recognition of the rights of the Palestinian people, we reject the false premise that a challenge to the injustice of Israeli apartheid is a “racially motivated” act targeting Jewish people. It is in fact the premise that Israel represents all Jewish people that is a racist equation. This equation has justified the establishment and maintenance of a brutal Israeli regime in Palestine guilty of ethnic cleansing and apartheid, and, with the latest attack on and blockade of Gaza, genocide. This equation is the only one that has led to anti-Israel attacks on Jewish institutions. Demonstrating against Israel is not the same as demonstrating against Jews. To claim otherwise is to fuel the misperception and violent consequences of this dangerous equation.

Not all Zionists are Jewish and not all Jews are Zionist. A growing number of Jews are speaking out on the violence being done in our name and on the attempt to justify it by exploiting the persecution of our ancestors. The Jewish British MP Gerald Kaufman spoke in anguish while the massacres in Gaza were taking place: “My grandmother did not die to provide cover for Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza.” We share and echo his denunciation. The history of British and European anti-Jewish persecution cannot be an excuse for British and European collusion with the persecution of the Palestinian people.

As Jews for whom the State of Israel does not speak, we commend the actions of the Scottish PSC. In these actions we see a consistent commitment to anti-racist politics and practice. We trust such consistency; it is only through the consistent and unrelenting commitment to anti-racism, and through recognition of the humanity of all people, can the safety and rights of any people be maintained.

We denounce the perpetuation of hatred and violence by governments of the UK and other parts of Europe that participated in and permitted centuries of prejudice and persecution of the Jews of Europe and that now colludes with the racism of the Israeli State. We further denounce the targeting of those whose stand against all forms of racism, including those perpetrated against the Palestinian people. We see a familiar silence from these governments as crimes against the people of Palestine escalate, and we are reminded that while many stood against it, others stood for and many stood aside during the life and death struggle against European fascism and genocide of the last century.

True solidarity with the Jewish history of persecution in Europe means solidarity with the people of Palestine. This solidarity honors histories of persecution and is the only one that can lead to justice in Palestine. Justice is the only prospect for peace and equity, and the only prospect of an end to the threat that Israel poses to all living there. It is the responsibility of any government committed to equality, justice and democracy to challenge ethnically-motivated State repression and apartheid and to not only allow but applaud those who have the courage to confront it.

Yours,

The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (UK, United States, Canada, France, Switzerland, Spain, Argentina, Morocco, Israel)

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Mar 20 2009

Half truths, mistruths and anything but the truth— a brief history of a century of wartime propaganda

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 17RCN @ 4:31 pm

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.

—Voltaire

The government of the United States had a major problem. It was April 1917, and on the sixth day of that month, eager to get into the First World War, they declared war on Germany.

Their big problem was this.

Although the American government was up for a fight, the American public was steadfastly pacifist. They saw the war in Europe as just that, a European war, nothing for them to get themselves involved in. Something clearly had to be done to get the population of the United States into a more warlike frame of mind.

On April 13, 1917, president Woodrow Wilson set up the Committee for Public Information, or the Creel Commission as it came to be known. The commission was headed by George Creel, a well-known muckraking journalist, the other formal members being the secretaries of war, state and the navy.

With the Creel Commission’s arrival, modern wartime propaganda in the media age was born. Its aim was to turn pacifist America into a society thirsty for war, to make patriotism and hatred of all things German the noblest aim of every American citizen.

In this the Creel Commission was spectacularly successful. Within months of its formation the American public’s mind was filled with hatred for Germany, German immigrants, anything at all German.

How did the Creel Commission manage to engineer such a remarkable turnaround in public opinion in such a short timeframe?

Quite simply, the Creel Commission understood how to use the media that was available to them (radio, telegraph, films, newspapers, &c.), and harnessed it to change public opinion, with appeals to patriotism and a huge disinformation campaign.

Blatant lies about German soldiers murdering babies and hoisting them up on their bayonets were spread, lies supplied by the British intelligence services, whose stated aim was to control the thoughts of the world (or more specifically at that time the thoughts of the influential intellectual and political classes of the United States). These lies were so powerful that they still persist to this day.

The Creel Commission distributed pamphlets, urging the public to keep an eye open for German spies and recruited the then fledgling Hollywood film industry to produce luridly titled films, such as To Hell with the Kaiser, The Claws of the Hun and The Kaiser, the Beast of Berlin.

The Four Minute Men

Telegraphs, cables, radio, all were employed to turn the American population against Germany and all things German, but Creel’s real master stroke was the creation of a group of orators who came to be known as The Four Minute Men.

June 5, 1917, was the date set when all males would have to register for the draft. Many feared a repeat of the draft riots of the Civil War (one of the causes of those riots being a provision whereby those able to afford three hundred dollars could pay a substitute to go and fight for them).

One month before draft registration George Creel unleashed the Four Minute Men on the American public. Their first subject was Universal Service by Selective Draft. In movie theatres the length and breadth of the United States a slide was shown announcing the appearance of the local Four Minute Man.

He would deliver a speech which was never longer than four minutes, a speech designed to stir patriotism and anti-German feeling in the audience.

Four Minute Men were usually local professional men possessed of good public speaking skills, and from May 12 to May 21, cinema audiences were harangued by 75,000 orators, promoting the idea hat in honour of future draftees, registration day should be treated as a festival of honour.

The Four Minute Men were spectacularly successful. On draft registration day, ten million men signed up, where only two months previously no one had wanted anything to do with a European war.

The Four Minute Men went on from this triumph to address their audiences on such topics as Why We Are Fighting and What Our Enemy Really Is. They spoke at lodge and labour union meetings, lumber camps and on Indian reservations.

They operated in 153 universities, there were even junior Four Minute Men who spoke in high schools. By the time the war was over they had given 755,190 speeches to a total of over 314 million Americans. They reached more than 11 million people a month and were the First World War’s most effective form of propaganda.

With the United States finally in the war, and with ever-growing rumblings of discontent and fears of revolution on the home front, the writing was on the wall for the German war effort.

When Germany finally surrendered in 1918, many people on both sides came to realise the huge part that propaganda and the Creel Commission had played in the German’s ultimate defeat, not least among them an Austrian corporal with a funny toothbrush moustache who was to learn the lessons of the Creel Commission well, indeed he was to learn them to devastating, truly devastating, effect.

Right up to the present day the lessons of the Creel Commission are evident whenever states have to convince their populations of the correctness of their decision to go to war, or their support for one side over another in some conflict in which they are not directly militarily involved.

Ruthless

In the very recent past we have seen the Israeli propaganda machine at its ruthless best, defending the Zionist state’s armed wing, the IDF, as it behaved in a manner which would have drawn admiring looks from any playground school bully.

Whenever Israel was challenged or in any way criticised on the enormity of its actions in Gaza, the stock answer on our television screens from a string of literate, media trained Israeli spokespersons was that Israel had the right to protect itself from rockets fired from Gaza.

The lack of questioning of the Israeli government’s party line by a supposedly free media in so-called Western democracies shames those newspapers, radio and TV stations which failed to do so. No reporters were allowed into Gaza and in the hugely compliant mainstream western media, few even bothered to ask the questions, What have you got to hide? or even, But why are Hamas firing rockets into Israel?

Barely anyone connected to the mainstream media explored or attempted to explain the history of the Palestinian conflict, and there was very little mention of the fact that since the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 they have mounted what in mediaeval times would have been called a siege of that city.

And while many may disagree with Hamas they are the democratically elected ruling party in Gaza.

Shamefully biased

While there was no chance of Israel losing militarily, there was even less chance of them losing the propaganda war in the west, thanks to the shamefully biased coverage that the savage attack on Gaza received from the compliant BBC and western news channels and newspapers. (I consciously use the word attack and not war, because war hints at some level of comparable military ability.)

No one, however, should really be surprised by the BBC’s compliance. Its attitude toward the Palestinians during the attack was augmented soon after by its shocking and disgusting refusal to broadcast the aid appeal for Gaza, which brought it condemnation from all sides. The BBC pleaded protection of its independence and impartiality, but the corporation is not now, and never has been, a neutral organisation.

Even in its early days, in 1926, during the general strike, it would not allow Ramsay MacDonald the right of reply to Conservative prime minister Stanley Baldwin. Lord Reith, the BBC’s first director, outwardly gave the impression that he was keen to defend the corporation’s independence and impartiality from the intrusion of the state, but in reality he was prepared to block any views being aired which did not chime with those of Baldwin’s Tory government.

Bearing this in mind, the shockingly biased reporting we viewed on our screens should not leave anyone open-mouthed with astonishment. If a crude rocket fired from Gaza fell on an empty school in Israel, this would receive equal or better coverage than the fact that weapons using the latest technology were falling on occupied buildings filled with real people in Gaza.

Propaganda, it would appear, is not just about stirring up patriotic feelings and creating hatred for the enemy, it can also work at a very effective level for the state by promoting one side’s view in a conflict while largely ignoring the other’s. It can also be a powerful manipulator of perception by what it chooses to omit to tell us.

Not that Gaza is the only example of state propaganda at work in recent times. In the build-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 we were assured that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction; there were sexed up dossiers designed to scare us; the Iraqi people deserved democracy and not some tyrant ruling over them; and that we were just the people to deliver that democracy to them.

Of course Saddam Hussein was an evil tyrant, but he did not officially become so in the eyes of the West until he invaded Kuwait and threatened the flow of oil to the west. Up to that point he had been a puppet of the west, had even been armed by them, basically allowed to do what he wanted in his own little fiefdom.

When he gassed the Kurds at Halabja in 1988 it didn’t cause too much of a stir in the western media, but once he stepped out of his little box and into Kuwait he became the devil incarnate. Following the first Gulf War there followed a long period leading up to the second, in which sanctions and propaganda were the weapons of choice.

Fever pitch

In the year leading up to the invasion in 2003, the propaganda reached fever pitch. The gassing of the Kurds at Halabja went from an event which had been largely ignored and became a crime against humanity, and the alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction was high on the agenda as a reason for invasion as Saddam was demonised by his former friends.

Sexed up dossiers flew in the face of the evidence of the weapons inspectors who had quietly but effectively been disarming Iraq since the end of Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait. The propaganda machine went into overdrive, and yet, it didn’t quite succeed, as millions took to the streets around the world to demonstrate against and oppose the planned invasion.

But they went and did it anyway (which is fair comment on the kind of democracy that we live in, and by extension also the one which was planned for Iraq). Of course, no weapons of mass destruction were found, but Saddam was overthrown and Iraq got its democratic government. Oh, yes, and western companies did rather well out of the reconstruction of Iraq.

However, the fact that so many people opposed the war in Iraq demonstrates that even the most vehement state propaganda cannot fool all of the people all of the time. And despite the age of the embedded war reporter being upon us, where reporters are given guided tours of the battlefield rather than roaming free to report what they see, still the truth of the horrors of war, and the things done in our name, occasionally seeps through.

Remember the pictures from Abu Graibh of the torture taking place there? Or the iconic picture of the little Vietnamese girl horribly burned by napalm fleeing her village? Or Seymour Hersh’s uncovering of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam?

Hersh was not actually in Vietnam, but uncovered the story by following a trail of rumour and stories around the United States. Which can only leave you wondering what the huge press corp actually in Vietnam were doing to fill in their time.

Even now, we are living through a time of war time propaganda, as our liberties are curtailed and the state places us all under increasing surveillance, all necessary, we are told, if we are to win the War on Terror.

As socialists, we understand that to win the current war on terror is actually quite easy, it’s just a matter of stopping invading other countries to plunder their resources. By making others feel more secure we thus increase our own security, it’s that simple. Resources thus saved could be used to fight the real wars on terror, such as the terror of the elderly, living on pittance pensions, having to choose between eating or heating their homes in winter.

However, I digress.

From the Creel Commission to the War on Terror, state wartime propaganda has tried, through various mechanisms and with varying degrees of success, to unite populations behind the state’s view.

Ironically, however, a side effect of the creation of the Creel Commission was to have devastating consequences for the left in the United States.

During the First World War, in the States, nearly nine million people worked in war industries and a further four million were in the armed forces. When the war ended, economic difficulties and labour unrest rose to the surface as war industries were left without contracts, leading to many being made redundant.

There were two main union/socialist groups in the United States at that time—The Industrial Workers of the World (the IWW or Wobblies), led by Bill Haywood, and the Socialist Party, led by Eugene Debs.

The Russian Revolution was still fresh in many minds and there was a widespread paranoia regarding anarchists, communists, socialists and dissidents. Following a string of bombings by anarchists, America was beset by fear, in what was to become known as the Red Scare.

Because the IWW and the Socialist Party had both been outspoken objectors to the war, this made them unpatriotic in the minds of much of the American population, and to be even loosely associated with them would arouse suspicion.

A shipyard strike followed by a general strike in Seattle in 1919 was wrongly attributed to the IWW. Charges that they were inciting revolution were levelled against them. Newspaper headlines across the country urged that the strike be put down. The mayor of Seattle guaranteed the city’s safety by announcing that 1500 police and the same number of troops were available to him to break the strike. The strikers, fearing they couldn’t succeed, and might damage the labour movement, called off the strike.

Demonised

All strikes in the next six months were demonised in the press as plots to establish communism, conspiracies against the government and crimes against society.

May Day rallies in 1919 in Boston, New York and Cleveland ended in riots and on June 2 another multi-state bomb plot was uncovered, all leading to an increase in tension, in which workers who went on strike were seen as enemies and fair game for persecution.

The Boston Police went on strike in September, as did the steel workers in a nationwide strike a few weeks later. The Boston police were sacked and replaced, and the steel strike ended without the workers getting any of their demands.

Strikers were branded red and unpatriotic as a general state of hysteria swept the nation. Colleges were seen as hotbeds of revolution and current or prior membership of a leftist organisation led to many secondary school teachers being dismissed.

The Justice Department formed the General Intelligence (or anti-radical) Division of the Bureau of Investigation. It compiled 200,000 cards in a filing system detailing radical organisations, individuals and case histories nationwide.

Thousands of alleged radicals were deported or imprisoned. Counsel was often denied, they were not allowed contact with the outside world and they were often beaten and held in inhumane conditions. (So, Guantanamo was nothing new in America’s history!)

On January 2, 1920, in 33 cities across the United States, more than 4000 supposed radicals were arrested. The New York legislature expelled five socialist assemblymen and 32 states passed laws making it illegal to fly the red flag.

Eventually, saner heads prevailed. Twelve eminent lawyers published a report detailing and condemning the Justice Department’s abuse of civil liberties. The decision to bar the socialist assemblymen was treated with disgust by newspapers and many prominent politicians of the day.

Newspapers came out against proposed anti-sedition bills, in which they saw the seeds of censorship, and business leaders realised that deporting immigrants (many of whom were wrongly branded communist) was leading to the loss of cheap labour. Finally, the Red Scare fizzled out.

Before it did so, however, the propaganda techniques created by the Creel Commission in wartime had extended its tentacles into peace time and dealt a major blow to the left in the United States.

It also gave birth to the modern day public relations business which, with its agenda of controlling the public mind, has never looked kindly on the left, neither in peace time nor in time of war. But it has never been able to quite kill the left off, either.

It should not be forgotten that around the time the Creel Commission was inciting a pacifist population to war that, on the other side of the Atlantic, John McLean stood in the dock of the High Court in Edinburgh on May 9, 1918, charged with incitement to mutiny and sedition, and uttered the unforgettable words, I stand here, then, not as the accused, but as the accuser of capitalism, dripping with blood from head to foot.

State propaganda may commit vast resources to induce their populations to approve of their military ventures, but by putting a socialist perspective on the facts we can always see through the lies and deceptions and shine a light on their darkness.

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Mar 20 2009

Isolate ‘Apartheid’ Israel

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 17RCN @ 3:23 pm

Nick Clarke analyses the latest stages of Israel’s war on the Palestinians and the role of the solidarity movement

As the media spotlight on Israel’s latest re-invasion and brutal bombardment of Gaza begins to dim, the Israeli state’s punishment of the Palestinian people continues. The explicit aims of the new year invasion were to stop the sporadic missile launches against the southern Israeli towns of Sderot and Ashkelon and to close the tunnels from Egypt that bring much needed supplies into Gaza. The primitive weaponry available to Palestinian forces in Gaza is no match for the high-tech, state-of-the-art hardware deployed by the Israeli state, supplied by their own weapons manufacturers or provided on generous terms by the US and Britain.

However, there was another agenda underlying these overt aims. Firstly, in October 2008, the ruling coalition government led by Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert’s Kadima Party had unravelled, hastened by the corruption charges facing the Prime Minister. A general election had been called and Tzipi Livni, replacing Olmert as leader of Kadima, found her party trailing Netanyahu’s Likud Party in the opinion polls, by some distance.

To give themselves a chance of beating Likud, Kadima turned to the Israeli state’s favoured scapegoats, the Palestinians. By launching the attack on Gaza, Kadima and its Labour Party partners pandered to the right by adopting Likud’s open hostility to the Palestinians and making it their own.

The fronting of this cynical offensive by Livni almost brought success as by polling day Kadima had eliminated Likud’s lead. However, it was not enough. While they won the most seats, Kadima’s electoral tactics backfired on them spectacularly. The IDF’s onslaught also increased the votes for the ultra right, in particular, Avigdor Lieberman’s party – Yisraeli Beiteinu. Lieberman’s party favours Israel abandoning territory on the West Bank inhabited by Arab families and annexing blocs of Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories. He is also proposing a new loyalty test for Arab citizens of Israel. In other words, he is an open supporter of ethnic cleansing.

Whatever the differences between these Zionist parties as to tactics and policy, they are all committed to their fundamental support for Israel as a ‘Jewish state for a Jewish people’. Again the Palestinians are used and abused at the whim of Israeli electoral politics.

The second, unspoken agenda item was to clear the decks before the Obama presidency began in the US. Using the hiatus following his election but before his inauguration on 20th January, Israel knew that the final days of the Bush presidency would cause them little trouble over the Gaza bombardment and they were not disappointed. Bush’s response, or lack of it, was predictable. Israel wanted the crushing of Hamas and the pacification of Gaza to be complete before Bush left office. This would enable them to negotiate with the US from a position of strength just in case Obama had different ideas about how to handle the Israel/Palestine situation from his presidential predecessors.

Predictable response

They need not have worried. Obama’s response was as predictable as all the others. During June 2008 he made some very friendly noises to the Zionist American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), describing himself as a true friend of Israel and stating

Let me be clear. Israel’s security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable. The Palestinians need a state that is contiguous and cohesive, and that allows them to prosper — but any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognized and defensible borders. Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.

So the Palestinians should not expect any equitable treatment from the Obama presidency.

And what of the Middle East envoy of the EU, US, UN and Russia – a certain Tony Blair? He was appointed to this role 2 years ago due to his ‘success’ in ‘resolving’ the Irish War, no doubt accompanied by a healthy remuneration. How could he ever be seen as a credible negotiator in the Middle East following his illegal and enthusiastic part in bloodbath of Arabs that was the Iraqi invasion? This was further compounded by his refusal to condemn Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 2006, while he was still Prime Minister.

In recent weeks Blair has been awarded the Dan David Prize, through Tel Aviv University for his leadership on the world stage and having shown exceptional intelligence and foresight, and demonstrated moral courage and leadership. Did it not occur to him how acceptance of this award might compromise his nominal role as ‘honest broker’? Presumably his vanity and the $1m prize outweighed this consideration.

Despite having his role as envoy for 2 years, it took Blair until 1st March 2009 to actually visit Gaza. On inspecting the devastation caused by the Israelis, his response was that it was shocking and enormous. That was obvious from the limited footage that came out of Gaza, despite Israeli censorship, during the bombardment in early January. As envoy for the EU, should he not be condemning the destruction by the IDF of projects funded by EU donations? It has taken him almost two months to call for the end of the blockade of Gaza. As with Obama, his silence in early January spoke volumes as to where his allegiance lies.

No imperialist solutions

So while the IDF’s military assault on Gaza has ceased for the time being, the siege being waged by the Israeli state against the Palestinian people has not. Gaza is a concentration camp. Israel still controls what goes in and out by land, sea and air (apart from that smuggled through the tunnels). They allow a drip of humanitarian aid to pass into Gaza. Convoys of food, medical supplies and other essentials such as fuel, including that being supplied by NGOs and the UN, are prevented from reaching the Palestinians who desperately need it.

The blockade, the Wall, the intimidation, the terror and deprivations imposed on the Palestinians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza amount to an attempt to crush all resistance, eradicate all historical memory of Palestinian settlement and prevent a Palestinian nation from emerging. The continued second class status, the denial of equal political rights and the continued removal of Palestinians and Bedouin people living within Israel itself, highlights the apartheid nature of the Israeli state. This is reinforced by the banning, in the run up to the general election, of political parties traditionally supported by Arabs in Israel.

Political solutions to the conflict must not be based
on the interests of British/US imperialism or Israeli
expansionism. All bids at imperialist ‘peace’ settlements (Camp David, Oslo and the Road Map) have all failed because they have not addressed the aspirations of the Palestinian people for genuine self-determination, and accept the continuation of Israel as an apartheid-type state, with Jewish people remaining as the economically and socially privileged, dominant political force.

Likewise any attempts made to broker agreements made by the corrupt rulers of the undemocratic Arab police states have been designed to buttress their own positions and privileges. The only meaningful wider support in the Middle East will come from the oppressed peoples in these lands.

All Palestinian refugees who have been displaced since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 must have the right of return to their homeland. All forms of ethnic cleansing must be opposed and the only truly democratic solution is for a singular, secular, democratic state for all the people of historic Palestine. Such a state needs to guarantee the democratic rights of all minority groups, irrespective of religious beliefs, including the right to practice their religion of choice.

A few on the Left have opposed any effective support for the Palestinians in Gaza. They argue that Palestinians have given their electoral support to Hamas, an Islamicist party. Ironically, it was Netanyahu, who originally gave Israeli state backing to Hamas in Palestine, to undermine the then politically dominant, secular nationalist PLO. However, since the PLO has fallen in behind an imperially imposed two-state ‘solution’, it has become more and more mired in corruption, accepting political backing and money from Israel, the US and the EU. Many now see the PLO-controlled Palestinian Authority as acting in much the same manner as those Judenrat officials who ran the Jewish ghettoes on behalf of the Nazis. It was the failure of the formerly politically dominant socialists in the Bund and communists in East European countries, to successfully defend Jews in the face of the Nazi onslaught, that led to the political victory of the Zionist Jewish supremacists amongst the surviving European Jews.

Hamas can, in some ways, be considered as Moslem ‘Zionists’, who want to create a state in which Moslems dominate. They can provide no just and democratic solution for the peoples of Palestine. However, just as the most committed socialists tried to defend all Jews persecuted by the Nazis, so today, we should provide active solidarity with the people of Palestine. As socialists we have to establish our political credentials amongst the Palestinians and other people in the Middle East. This means showing that the international solidarity we offer can be, not only more effective than any pan-Islamicist support, but also offer all the peoples living in historic Palestine an escape from the many forms of exploitation and oppression they face. Socialists also give their support to those Israeli Jews who defend Palestinian rights, especially those who refuse to perform military service.

Practical action, including occupations, has already been taken by students in some of Scotland’s universities, including Glasgow, Edinburgh, St Andrews and Dundee. Students have demanded that the universities boycott Israeli goods, as well as get rid of any investment in weapons manufacturers, such as BAE Systems.

The political atmosphere must be created in which workers also have the confidence to directly implement solidarity actions. The Viva Palestina convoy, which left London in February, with more than 100 vehicles driven by volunteers, is one action which shows the potential to raise wider support, including trade unions. This convoy eventually crossed into Gaza at Rafah on 9th March with £1.5m worth of aid including medical supplies, clothes, food and toys as well as 20 ambulances, two buses, a fire engine and a fishing boat.

The campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against the Israeli state must be supported. The instruments and methods of oppression used against the Palestinians, by Israel today, have echoes of those used against the black population in apartheid-era South Africa. This comparison was picked up by South African dock workers in Durban who in February refused to off-load an Israeli ship in solidarity with the Palestinians as part of a week of action against apartheid Israel.

We have a special duty, living as we do in the UK, given successive British governments’ support for the Israeli state. The role of socialists in Scotland must be to provide practical solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and to support an international campaign to isolate Israel – economically, politically, socially and culturally.

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