With regard to Ed Miliband’s repeated declarations that he’d rather let the Tories back in than reach any kind of pro-worker accommodation with the SNP, there are essentially two possibilities: Either he’s serious about it, in which case it’s unconscionable, or he’s bluffing, in which case it’s not only unconscionably dishonest, but breathtakingly pathetic strategy.

Let’s think about this for a moment. What everyone who’s been paying attention knows is that the next parliament is going to be so well hung it will probably be used in those revolting knit cocksock adverts that keep showing up in my Facebook feed, and Labour and the Tories are going to be remarkably close (which isn’t surprising, since politically they’re remarkably close).

In other words, Labour are going to need to reach some kind of accommodation with other anti-Tory parties, principally the SNP, if they want to form a government and have it survive more than five minutes. Obviously, assuming that he’s bluffing, Miliband would like to go into those negotiations with the strongest hand possible, which means maximising the number of seats Labour hold on to in Scotland (stop laughing) and trying to gain some ground in England and Wales.

To this end, Miliband announces that he’d rather see David Cameron back in Downing Street than reach an accommodation with parties that happen to be somewhat to the left of his own. Now, what’s the likely outcome of this gambit? For one thing, he’s basically told Scottish voters to get knotted and confirmed all the worst things that people have come to believe about Labour in Scotland after all these years of malign neglect and active attacks on working-class living standards. That’s hardly going to endear people to a party they already have every reason to feel abandoned by, and, indeed, every time he starts speaking in this vein, yet another safe Labour seat turns out to be built on a sinkhole.

Meanwhile, in England and Wales, the only real reason most people vote Labour anymore is tactical, to keep the Tories out. However, that only works if the Labour leadership are in fact committed to keeping the Tories out. The minute Miliband announces that he’d rather see another Tory government than make a deal to keep the Tories out, the whole rationale for that tactical voting collapses, meaning that anyone who is considering voting Green or TUSC, but is afraid of letting the Tories back in, now has no reason not to simply vote for what they want rather than voting for a party who are openly announcing that they’re willing to let the Tories back in.

In other words, the only possible effect that these pronouncements can have is to weaken Labour’s hand in the eventual negotiations, both in terms of the number of seats Labour will need to make up through a deal with one of the parties to their left, and in terms of the level of humiliation that will be involved in admitting it was all a bluff. Neither of which outcomes I have any complaints about, personally, but I still have to wonder what the fuck Miliband & Co. were thinking.

(Melody: Joe Hill)

Dreamed I saw Maggie Thatcher here,
Alive as you and me,
Says I, ‘Oh, bugger off, you’re dead’
Says she, ‘That’s news to me.’ (bis)

‘Your death brought joy around the world,
Your grave’s a public loo…’
‘And yet in this election, there’s
Not one of me, but two (bis)

‘When Ed and Dave make welfare cuts,
It’s called “austerity”,
‘cos none of them wants you to know
They’re plagiarising me. (bis)

When even Labour want to make
Scab jobs compulsory,
It’s clear to me that something’s died,
And I know it’s not me.’ (bis)

There’s no alternative, I said,
Indeed, how could there be,
When no matter how you vote,
You’re re-electing me? (bis)

Till City spivs have fled the land,
And the aristocracy
Have all been laid down at my side,
You’ll ne’er be rid of me.’ (bis)

(Melody: Redgum, I Was Only 19)

Mum and Dad and Danny saw the Reclaim Oz parade at Fed Square Melbourne
The locals were quite unimpressed.
It was the Nazis’ all-Australia tour and it was Victoria’s turn to host
There was much rejoicing on the Yarra when they left.
(more…)

The Labour flag is brightest white,

it’s raised without the slightest fight.
It says ‘We’ll beat the Tories yet
at scrapping all your benefits.’

(CHORUS): So wave the white flag without shame,
for we’re Tories in all but name.
See traitors sneer and cowards wince,
at this year’s Labour conference.

In their graves, Merthyr martyrs turn
so fast that half the Rhondda burns.
Tho’ plebs may rise and make a fuss,
that lot are nowt to do with us.

(Chorus)

In Tottenham we’ll ne’er be seen
till gentrifiers wipe it clean.
The Scottish worker we’ll ignore
(those jocks are such a ruddy bore)

(chorus)

It waved above the PFI
when the NHS was left to die.
It draped the coffin of BR
and welcomes fracking near and far.

(chorus)

It well recalls betrayals past
and brings the hope of profits fast.
The flag of fright, a symbol plain
of endless, unremitting pain.

(chorus)

It suits today the sycophant
who only stands for parliament
to fill with drink the rich man’s cup
and raise our party banner up

(chorus)

We’ll fully claim ev’ry expense
whilst others work for zero pence.
They’ve only got themselves to blame,
for morals are a muppet’s game.

So wave the white flag without shame,
and soon they’ll call you Sir and Dame.
And should a whistleblower talk,
you needn’t ever fear the dock.

DON’T THEY KNOW IT’S BOLLOCKS

(To the tune of ‘Don’t They Know It’s Christmas’)

It’s Christmas time – just don’t turn on your TV.
At Christmas time, the shite they show’s no good for you or me.

If you just avoid the telly you can spread a smile of joy,
That’s how you keep your supper down at Christmas time.

But say a prayer, pray for the other ones
Stuck home watching Geldof and just yearning for a gun.

There are rich folks on the telly
wanting you to know they care,

come to beg you for your money,
so they can hold on to theirs.

And the Christmas songs they sing there are pure bourgeois wankery

So tonight thank god you’ve got a DVD.

And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas time
(because most places there it’s summer, you gobshite)

Where nothing ever grows,
(‘cept the cash crops we all know).

Did you lot even research this at all?

Here’s to you
By now you must want a drink.

Every yuletide they’re here to pimp the poor,
in Africa – the poverty here they ignore.

Here’s to them,
With their exiled bank accounts.

Every year it’s the same old act –
Why don’t these bastards just pay their tax?

Don’t they know it’s bollocks, after all?

A sombre mood descended over Manchester today in the shadow of this year’s Labour Party conference. Faded reddish hoardings, apparently pre-distressed, adorned the area around the conference site of Manchester Central bearing the Labour Party emblem and the laconic message: SORRY. (more…)

In recent years, the Palestinian solidarity movement has made great progress towards ridding itself of the assorted antisemites and racists who had sought to exploit the Palestinian struggle for their own bigoted ends. Alas, whilst the Palestinian solidarity movement has been making these strides, it is hard not to notice that Israel’s apologists are scarcely willing to acknowledge that they have an antisemitism problem, let alone do anything about it. Because I know how daunting it can be to confront an issue like this, I would like to offer Israel’s supporters the following helpful hints on how to support Israel without being antisemitic.

Here are just a few examples of the terms Israel’s apologists should avoid if they do not want to subject themselves to the accusation of antisemitism.

AVOID: ‘A true and lasting peace will only be possible if the Palestinians recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people’ 

You should avoid declaring Israel to be ‘the Jewish state’ or ‘the homeland of the Jewish people’ at all costs if you wish to avoid alienating Jews in your audience, many of whom resent the implication that they are any less at home in their respective countries than their non-Jewish neighbours. Terms like these pour salt on the poorly healed wounds left by centuries of accusations of Jewish ‘dual loyalty’.

Not only do statements like these promote antisemitic tropes that call the loyalty of Jews into question, they aren’t even true. The majority of the Jewish population in the world does not live in Israel, and has no intention of doing so in the future.

The same applies, incidentally, to how you name your organisation. Some pro-Israel advocacy groups, such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Zionist Organization of America, and Americans for a Safe Israel, have wisely decided to give themselves names that make it clear that their real concern is Israel, rather than the interests of Jews. Others, such as the American Jewish Congress, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the American Jewish Committee, and the Board of Deputies of British Jews, however, have succumbed to the temptation to use Jews as a human shield for their Zionist advocacy. By using names such as the latter, you are contributing to antisemitic tropes about Jews as a political monolith, and we all know where that leads. In naming your organisation, ask yourself whether its purpose is to represent the views and interests of the Jewish community, or to advocate on behalf of a regime that sees a Palestinian hospital and says ‘Yay, Bonfire Night’s come early this year’. If the latter is your objective, acknowledge and respect that not all Jews will agree with you and name your group accordingly.

PREFER: The Homeland of the Zionist Movement, American Zionist Committee

AVOID:  ‘the Tricycle theatre have shown themselves unwilling to work with what is clearly an apolitical cultural festival is tremendously disappointing. They have chosen a boycott over meaningful engagement – to the great detriment of this celebration of Jewish culture, which is of course intrinsically connected to the state of Israel‘. 

This is an even more egregious example of the antisemitic ‘dual loyalty’ trope, which goes so far as to claim that Jewish culture, which is centuries old, is somehow ‘intrinsically connected’ to a state that is barely older than a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue Label. Although these aspects alone would be enough to justify avoiding claims like these if one wishes to avoid appearing antisemitic, it is also not hard to take sentiments like these as attempts to portray Jewish culture as stultifyingly homogenous and totalitarian, invisibilising the tradition of pluralism and open debate that many Jews are justly proud of.

If that were not enough, claims that Jewish culture is somehow intrinsically connected to the regime in Israel/Palestine practically invite those outraged by the behaviour of the Israeli state to blame Jews as a whole for it. Obviously, this creates a hostile environment for Jews, and opens you up to the accusation that you are using Jews as ‘human shields’ to protect Israeli policies from criticism.

PREFER: Avoiding the subject altogether. Stay on message: This isn’t about Jews, it’s about defending the behaviour of the State of Israel.

AVOID: The New Antisemitism (e.g., http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/we-ignore-the-new-antisemitism-taking-hold-at-our-peril-9634919.html)

Given the state of pro-Israel advocacy, all you’ll get out of accusing other people of antisemitism is a raft of invitations to tidy up your front step before you go complaining to the council about your neighbour’s. Before you risk being jeered out of the room for your chutzpah, ask yourself: ‘Have I done everything in my power to disavow associations with antisemitic propaganda and organisations?’

At all costs, avoid yielding to the temptation to use facile, Jew-baiting arguments that refer to opposition to Zionism, the Israeli government, and/or its policies as ‘antisemitic’. Because such accusations are based on the underlying tropes of Jews as political monolith, Jewish dual loyalty, and stop just short of outright blood libel, such accusations are themselves an egregious example of antisemitism. If you feel the temptation to make such accusations, first stop and ask yourself whether you really think racism/killing defenceless people/territorial expansionism are inherent aspects of Jewish culture. If you do, then you’ve got a lot of work to do on yourself before you should even think of joining in this debate.

If you feel you must address the issue of antisemitism, keep it short, avoid throwing stones from glass houses, and win over your audience with your humility.

PREFER: ‘I know that antisemitic rhetoric has, unfortunately, been a mainstay of pro-Israel and Zionist advocacy from its inception. I am sure that I am hardly blameless in this regard, and all I can do is offer my heartfelt apologies to those in the Jewish community I have hurt and promise that I will do better in the future.’

AVOID: The Nazi Holocaust

It should go without saying that the Nazi holocaust is a big no-go area when you’re advocating on behalf of a state founded by the only segment of the European Jewish community that viewed Hitler as a potential ally, has maintained a track record of establishing strategic partnerships with murderous antisemites, (whether Neo-Nazis or fundamentalist Christians), and allows the holocaust survivors within its borders to eke out a meagre existence on inadequate pensions.

Unfortunately, many pro-Israel advocates can’t resist the temptation of using one of the most hideously traumatic moments in Jewish history as a political dog whistle to create a climate of fear amongst Jews. Even more alarming is the tendency amongst pro-Israel advocates to deny or trivialise the Nazi genocide by inappropriate comparisons and revisionist history.

For me, [Mahmoud Ahmadinedjad] is a second Hitler,

‘When it comes to Jewish genocide, capability is all that distinguishes Hamas and Nazi Germany. Not will, not desire, certainly not intent; only ability.’

What do these statements have in common? They are both based on the idea that Holocaust revisionism is acceptable as long as it paints Israel’s enemies in an unfavourable light. To accept that either claim is an accurate analogy, we must assume that Hitler was the leader of a poorly armed, besieged nation, subject to economic strangulation and threats of war from enemies much more powerful than himself, and that he did everything in his power to seek a peaceful resolution of conflicts, but was violently rebuffed at every turn.

In other words, the only way that these analogies can be accepted is if we agree with Ernst Zündel’s creative rewriting of the history of Nazi Germany.

It should go without saying (though clearly it does not) that denial and trivialisation of the Nazi holocaust are unacceptable in all circumstances. Those who trivialise Nazi atrocities in order to score political points for Israel open themselves up to the charge that – like their Zionist predecessors of the wartime years – they only care about of European Jews if they can somehow be of use to the Zionist project.

Similarly problematic are claims that Israel is a ‘sanctuary’ for Jews. Given the sordid history here, these will merely open you up to shouts from the gallery of ‘You lot weren’t much use last time we needed you, so why should we expect you to be any better now?’ from people who remember that the World Zionist Organisation wasted thousands of immigration certificates that could have been used to rescue European Jews bringing in Zionist cadres from North America, Australia, Turkey, and other places where Jews were under no such danger. Every time you bring this subject up, you’re picking at Jewish people’s scabs. Don’t do it.

As Dave Rich of the Zionist-orientated Community Security Trust recently reminded us, ‘[a]nother word’ for ‘false comparison[s]’ with the Nazi holocaust ‘that [play] on Jewish sensibilities in order to provoke a reaction’ is ‘Jew-baiting’.

Rich is quite right, and I only hope that this acknowledgement heralds a new day in which his and allied organisations carry out their activities without resorting to cheap Jew-baiting.

AVOID: Strategic alliances with Neo-Nazis and other antisemites

One of the lessons we in the Palestinian solidarity movement have learnt in the past few years – at the urging of our Palestinian comrades – has been to be very careful whom we take as our allies. This has meant taking a good look at the views espoused by would-be allies to see whether they are genuinely supporting freedom for the Palestinian people, or – like Gilad Atzmon, Alison Weir, Paul Findley, Jeff Blankfort, Greta Berlin, Paul Craig Roberts, and others – just using the Palestinians as human shields for their struggle against ‘world Jewish domination’. I hope that pro-Israel advocates will take heed of this elementary lesson, because I see them falling into the same trap that we in Palestinian solidarity have been at great pains to extricate ourselves from.

Pro-Israel advocates should ask themselves whether it helps or harms their credibility to be associated, say, with religious fundamentalists who view Israel as a holding pen in anticipation of the day when they can massacre the Jews of the world so that Jesus can return and give one of his trademark sermons on loving thy neighbour (which, one imagines, will be a bit overdue by that point), neo-fascists who have merely decided that, for the moment, they hate Arabs and Muslims more than they hate Jews, and sycophantic holocaust deniers. They should remember that they represent an ideology that – after the Plevhe scandal, the Kasztner affair, the Ha’avara Agreement, and so many other betrayals – only has one wicket in hand, if that. As such, even if basic human decency alone isn’t enough to reconsider alliances with genocidal antisemites, just remember how much it will open you to attack.

RECOMMENDED TALKING POINT: ‘This is not the Zionist movement of the 1900s, or the 1910s, or the 1930s and 1940s, or of the past couple of decades of sucking up to antisemitic Christian fundamentalists. We have turned over a new leaf, and will not associate ourselves with such unsavoury characters merely because they support racism against Palestinians, and promise from now on only to partner with people and groups whose racism is exclusively directed against Palestinians. And, of course, we sincerely apologise to the Jewish people for allying ourselves with their worst enemies in the world.’

To sum up, it is putting it mildly to say that pro-Israel advocates have their work cut out for them if they want to rid themselves of antisemitism. It will be a long, hard slog that requires breaking old habits and abandoning comfortable euphemisms. Believe it or not, I can almost sympathise with the great difficulties inherent in advocating a regime that not only brags about the cowardly murder of defenceless people, but claims it as a victory for all Jews everywhere. But I am confident that, with a little introspection and a lot of self-discipline, pro-Israel advocates will be able to rid themselves of the stain of antisemitism just as the Palestinian solidarity movement has done. Just remember: When you portray Jews as reflexively supporting everything Israel does to the Palestinian population, you are portraying us as a lot of complete arseholes. It’s one thing for you to portray yourself that way – you chose this path – but leave Jews out of it.

Casualties, Accusations on Both Sides as Warsaw Burns

The spiral of violence in the Warsaw Jewish quarter – called a ‘ghetto’ by critics – saw its deadliest day yet, with fierce fighting and heavy casualties on both sides. Amidst increasing concerns about disproportionate force in what the German authorities’ insist is merely a routine resettlement operation, supporters of the hardline Zydowska Organizacja Bojowa – considered a terrorist organisation by many – continue to allege atrocities against Jewish civilians, including women and children. The authorities, however, insist that ZOB militants routinely use women and children to carry out their military operations, and store weapons in civilian areas, against the laws of war.

Gruppenführer Stroop, the local police official in charge of the operations, reiterated that the German authorities have no desire to inflict unnecessary death and destruction, and will cease their military operations in the Jewish quarter if the ZOB hardliners lay down their arms and allow the residents of the area to join their friends, family, and neighbours, who have already been resettled. Although some claim that the resettlement is merely an elaborate plot to exterminate the Jews of Warsaw, the authorities reject this ‘atrocity propaganda’, and do not waver from their claim that they are merely offering the residents of the Jewish quarter the opportunity to find jobs rebuilding the east.

The German administration is no stranger to controversy, and this is not the first time that they have been confronted with tales of alleged atrocities against women and children. Reached for comment, a spokesman for the authorities explained: ‘The Jews gradually are having to depend more and more on themselves, and have recently found a new trick. They knew the good-natured German Michael in us, always ready to forget the injustice he has suffered at the sight of sentimental tears. One suddenly has the impression that the Jewish population consists only of little babies whose childish helplessness might move us, or else fragile old ladies. The Jews send out the Sympathy Brigade. They may confuse some harmless souls for a while, but not us. We know exactly who we’re dealing with.’

(To the tune of Elton John’s Candle in the Wind)

Good bye, Ariel,
Didn’t need to keep us waiting, though.
You had the front to say ‘Well done!’
When the blood began to flow.
They sought refuge in the darkness,
So you said: ‘Turn on the lights!’
And your signature was a cut throat
With two eyes that died of fright.

And it seems to me you met your end
Like a crap Arriva train,
When some light rain outside Pontypridd,
Makes it two hours late again.
And I cannot help but notice,
Now that you’ve pissed off at last,
That a quiet death in hospital,
Doesn’t suit your blood-soaked past.

Ariel, you’re in luck,
The media don’t care at all,
They’ve pre-ordered enough whitewash,
To put ten coats on Whitehall.
They’ll say ‘He was controversial,
But, in the end, a man of peace.’
That’s to say ‘He was a scumbag,
But he was our scumbag, at least.’

I wish I could say, now you’ve shot through,
Everything will surely change,
But we both know that you’re no one-off,
You’re part of the standard range.
Your death doesn’t end an era,
no new time does it begin,
but, on balance, it’s still nice to know
that you’ve gone off oxygen.

I just finished reading Glenn Greenwald’s With Liberty and Justice for Some.

On the positive side, Greenwald provides a highly detailed account of the degree to which political and media élites have, particularly in the past decade, openly embraced the idea that the powerful are above the law, discussing not only the crimes against humanity committed under Bush and Obama, but the crimes of the financial sector, and much more.

However, there are two weaknesses to Greenwald’s account, which are interrelated.

For one thing, he repeatedly claims that the élite embrace of lawlessness dates back to Watergate. Although it is certainly not unusual for liberals to list Watergate as the date of Washington’s fall from grace, it is patently false. Although he mentions the criminality of COINTELPRO, which was revealed at roughly the same time was Watergate (and led to markedly less élite outrage), he only does so in order to provide historical context to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

A true account of élite lawlessness in the US would go back much farther, and include the US slaughter in Vietnam, the refusal to prosecute various economic powerhouses for trading with the Nazis during World War II, the refusal to prosecute Texaco for violating the Neutrality Act during the Spanish Civil War, the US dirty war against Latin America, the fairly regular massacres of striking workers and other political dissidents throughout US history both by and with the approval of top US officials. Nor does he mention that the US has never taken seriously the treaties it has concluded with those less powerful, such as the indigenous population. Indeed, a true account of Greenwald’s thesis – that the powerful in the US are above the law – would require him to go back to the very foundation of the state.

And this is the second problem. In his quest to create an ‘innocence lost’ narrative, he gives the Founding Aristocrats an egalitarian makeover that most of them would have found deeply offensive. Whilst acknowledging, in a cursory nod to historical accuracy, that the system the founders created was based on profound inequalities, he insists that the founders’ ritualistic invocation of the concept of equality was ‘aspirational’ rather than ‘hypocritical’. How a ruling class that regularly opposed popular demands for equality with murderous violence could be said to be ‘aspiring’ to that which they were desperate to combat is a question Greenwald does not address. He mentions Abigail Adams’ statement in her letter to John Adams that ‘every man would be a tyrant if he could’, but only as a set-up for a more general point: he does not inform readers that this was a letter in which Abigail Adams was imploring her husband not to disenfranchise fully half of the population, nor does he mention her husband’s reply, which deserves pride of place in the annals of mansplaining.

Greenwald acknowledges slavery and the disenfranchisement of anyone who was not white and male, but does not mention the property requirements that served to disenfranchise the working class. He quotes James Madison at length, but never mentions Madison’s statement that the purpose of government was ‘to protect the minority of the opulent from the majority’, nor Madison’s distress at the ‘levelling’ tendency in the population, Madison’s term for the fact that the rabble who weren’t allowed a seat at the grand constitutional bargaining table mistakenly believed that all this talk of equality included them.

Indeed, there is not a single aspect of the élite lawlessness that Greenwald eloquently condemns that does not have a parallel in the founding period. Even the foreclosure scandal has its analogue in the founding period: many veterans of the War of Independence came home only to discover that the landlords who had urged them to go off and fight had evicted them and their families for not paying the rent whilst they were away. Popular rebellions demanded debt relief; the founders responded by enacting a constitution that prohibited it.

It is comforting to think that there was some period in which the values we are told this country was founded on were actually taken seriously by those in power. However, it is also bollocks, and as long as we are willing to buy into it, we will always be easy prey for hucksters who promise a return to former glory.

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