Monthly Archives: March 2009

Anarchists vs. Maoists at SF Book Fair

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Ah, it’s that time of year again. Time for the San Francisco Anarchist Book Fair! A place to learn of the glories of social revolution, listen to tales of human autonomy, consensus and self-management and bask in the pungent smell of patchouli oil and sweat.

It is generally an uneventful event. Book sales do not tend to attract an aggressive crowd. But this year’s fair was marked by confrontation, a struggle between anarchists and Maoists. No incendiary devices were exchanged, no bottles thrown, no brawls occurred.

The fair takes place at the fairground building in Golden Gate Park. Every time I went to the event there was some Stalinist, Maoist or other communist group with a literature table outside of the building.  Most attendees ignored them.

This year members of the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) attempted to enter the building to sell their literature. This created quite a scene. The RCP was told they had five minutes to leave the building or they would be removed. After five minutes had passed they were shown the door.

The RCP proceeded to set up their table outside the facility. Soon thereafter members of the Modesto Anarchist Crew (MAC) dumped a five gallon bucket of water on the table, drenching the RCP’s books and other propaganda.

This has created (or more properly, exasperated) a rift in the SF activist scene with some supporting the action and others decrying it as “sectarian” and “counterrevolutionary.”

Statement from RCP/Revolution Books:

Revolution Books, a communist bookstore in Berkeley, was forced to leave the anarchist book fair and told they could set up outside by the organizers. After setting up their table, someone poured a bucket of water on their books, fliers, and newspapers, destroying hundreds of dollars of literature. We denounce this act and call on the organizers of the anarchist book fair to do the same. This sort of attack is repressive and reactionary and is the complete opposite of the culture of discussion, debate, and dissent that we need in order to create a vibrant, liberated society

Here are some comments from two posts at Indybay:

Never Trust a Bolshevik:

I can’t believe this is even an issue at this point. Anyone with any knowledge of history knows the disaster which comes from making common cause with Bolsheviks. Against the wishes of Makhno, the officers of the Makhnovshchina chose to trust the Bolshies and it got them machinegunned en masse at the Crimean “peace talks.” The CNT made common cause with the Bolsheviks and Durruti ended up face-down with a bullet in the back of his head.

“A” writes:

I know some of the Maoists personally. They’ve never pushed any political agenda or ideals onto me. In fact, one of the organizers is at nearly every protest/rally there is in the Bay Area, spreading a consciousness of change and revolution, but NEVER promoting any particular agenda. It shouldn’t matter what agenda you want AFTER the revolution; the point is that we have the same enemy. I’ve never seen any anarchist show such determination in organizing or participating in Bay Area events, especially Oscar Grant rallies.

Miles replies:

Read some fucking history, specifically about the followers of Lenin, Stalin and Mao and their relationships to anarchists and other anti-state revolutionaries, and then come cry to us about our common enemy and explain how “revolutionary” those butchers are. Fuck you crybabies. If you’re ashamed to call yourself an anarchist after a minor skirmish like that where nobody got hurt or maimed or killed, who needs you on our side? What’s going to happen to your thin skin when the shooting starts? Get lost and take your wishy washy hippy liberal shit with you on the way out. The fact is that the followers of Lenin (and company) denounce us no matter what we do or don’t do, and when they’re not busy denouncing us they frame us, jail us, torture us, maim us and when that stops amusing them, they murder us. It’s factual history, not some bullshit neo-McCarthyist paranoia. No tolerance for our enemies, whether they wrap themselves in a red white and blue flag or a plain old red flag.

Sometimes I miss the Bay Area.

On A Roll: Zionist Conspiracy Forces Charles Freeman Out

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The International Zionist Conspiracy is on a roll. Charles Freeman will not chair the US National Intelligence Council. The Jerusalem Post reports:

Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair accepted Freeman’s decision “with regret,” according to a terse statement put out by his office.

Freeman has become the subject of a investigation by the DNI inspector-general.

Freeman, a former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia, had come under fire from several members of Congress for statements criticizing Israel and appearing to side with China against democracy advocates. The legislators, who included members of the House and Senate intelligence committees, also questioned his business associations with the Chinese government and a think tank, the Middle East Policy Council, funded in part by Saudi money.

Freeman released a statement that included this gem:

I do not believe the National Intelligence Council could function effectively while its chair was under constant attack by unscrupulous people with a passionate attachment to the views of a political faction in a foreign country.

Of course he is referring to “neocons,” “Likudniks,” “Zionists” or some combination thereof. It seems like the three terms are synonymous these days, especially in some circles.

The usual anti-Zionist suspects have leaped into action in defense of Freeman, proudly expressing their opposition to the power and influence of the evil lobby. This is from a post at Muzzlewatch:

In the immediate aftermath of Chas Freeman’s decision to step down from consideration as top intelligence analyst, there is a lot of finger-pointing about who is to blame.

There is no doubt that there was a campaign led by former AIPAC operative Steve Rosen to discredit Freeman because of reasonable statements he has made about Israel and US foreign policy.

Read More:

Contentions: J Street Defends Chas Freeman. Pope Still Catholic.

Contentious Centrist: Chas Freeman Affair and more here.

Loads of posts at TNR’s The Spine

The Weekly Standard: Freeman’s Analytical Incompetence

ZioNation: Freeman versus “hardline” Jews

We Have Lost an Important Voice

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A.L. introduced me to Steve Cohen’s “That’s Funny, You Don’t Look Anti-Semitic” a few years ago (2003?).  I enjoyed the wit and humor of “That’s Funny…”, a rare commodity in political tracts. More importantly, Cohen, a man of the left, identified a uniquely left-wing version of anti-Semitism and sought to combat it. That he wrote “That’s Funny…” two and a half decades ago (1984) and the pamphlet still stands the test of time makes it all the more impressive. At least it does for me. I did not recognize the prevalence of anti-Semitism on the left until 2001.

Looking for an excerpt, I found this and thought it neatly encapsulated many of the issues we are still dealing with today:

Left anti-semitism has gone through two distinct, if related and overlapping, stages. The first coincided with the establishment of the modern socialist movement itself, at the end of the 19th century. Here, the particular mythology of Jew as finance capitalist took root within important sectors of the emergent socialist and industrial labour movement. This was crucial, as it meant that socialist practice had a tradition of anti-semitism almost from its birth. The second stage developed around the question of zionism—particularly after the war which created Israel in 1948. A significant feature of contemporary socialist practice is, on the one hand, the expansion of zionism to equate it with world imperialist domination and, on the other hand, the reduction of the entire Jewish experience to equate that with zionism. It is a combination of the conspiracy theory with that of collective guilt.

Quite clearly, anti-zionism is not in itself anti-semitic. However, much of what the Left poses as anti-zionism is transcendental: it relates neither to the struggle of the Palestinians nor to what the Israeli state is actually doing. Rather it is concerned with ascribing world power to zionism and holding all Jews in the world responsible for this. Left practice presents as anti-zionism something which is neither about zionism nor about Palestinian liberation, but is about some alleged responsibility of Jews on a global scale. This is anti-semitism.

I did not know Steve and, like Ben at Zword, I suspect I would have disagreed with him and he with me on quite a few things (for example, the connection between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism).  Regardless, whether you consider yourself on the left, right, or center, we have lost an important voice.

My prayers are with him and his family at this difficult time.

Read more:

Bob from Brockley

Engage

ZWord

Wednesday Miscellany: Mom in Town, Lou Donaldson, Spring on the Way?

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On Monday it seemed like winter was going to last for another month. Snow was piled on the stairs, on the sidewalk and on the streets. It was over sixty degrees on Saturday, the snow has melted and it feels like spring is on the way.

My mom is flying out to visit. We are both really looking forward to going to the Met for this:

Beyond Babylon: Art, Trade, and Diplomacy in the Second Millennium B.C.

This exhibition focuses on the extraordinary art created as a result of a sophisticated network of interaction that developed among kings, diplomats, merchants, and others in the Near East during the second millennium B.C. Approximately 350 objects of the highest artistry from royal palaces, temples, and tombs—as well as from a unique shipwreck—provide the visitor with an overview of artistic exchange and international connections throughout the period.

From Syria, Mesopotamia, and Egypt in the south to Thrace, Anatolia, and the Caucasus in the north, and from regions as far west as mainland Greece all the way east to Iran, the great royal houses forged intense international relationships through the exchange of traded raw materials and goods as well as letters and diplomatic gifts. This unprecedented movement of precious materials, luxury goods, and people resulted in a total transformation of the visual arts throughout a vast territory that spanned the ancient Near East and the eastern Mediterranean.

She also wants to visit the Neue Galerie to see Brücke: The Birth of Expressionism in Dresden and Berlin, 1905-1913. From the website:

This exhibition features more than 100 paintings, sculptures, and works on paper by the pioneering artists’ group known as Brücke. With their emphasis on vivid color and emotional directness, the Brücke artists gave birth to German Expressionism. The exhibition is organized by Reinhold Heller, an internationally recognized scholar in the field. It is on view at the Neue Galerie from February 26 through June 29, 2009. It is the first major museum exhibition devoted to these artists ever held in the United States.

The group was founded in 1905 by four architecture students in Dresden: Fritz Bleyl, Erich Heckel, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff. Living and working communally, they shared a fervent faith in a utopian future. The name Brücke, which means “bridge” in German, was chosen to represent their intention of linking the art of the past with that of the future.

Besides that, my wife and I have a night on the town planned for the three of us. Tapas at Tia Pol and Lou Donaldson at the Village Vanguard. We heard him play there a few years ago with Lonnie Smith and it was excellent. Mom has never been to the Vanguard but she probably heard Lou play on the west coast back in late 50s or early 60s. It seems like she has seen all the greats (Coltrane, Miles, etc.) at least once.

Since I will be away for most of the next few days, have a look at these posts from some of my regular reads:

Kellie (Airforce Amazons) asks are we nearing “an end to signals and noise on withdrawal from Iraq?

Bob from Brockley: Red Rosa Versus Red-Pink Nadine

Elder of Ziyon: Iran Unmasks the Elders

Flesh is Grass: Jewish Establishment, Diversity and Rebellion

Martin in the Margins: Lessons in terror

Sultan Knish: Who is the Real Threat to Israel?

ZioNation: Battle for hearts and minds–why it is important

Democratiya 16 (Spring-Summer 2009)

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[Selections from the newest Democratiya. Looking forward to see what changes they make to the format and website this fall.]

Michael Walzer: Symposium: For the Two-State Solution

John Strawson: Symposium: Time to Compel the Parties?

Ghada Karmi: Symposium: For the One-State Solution

Donna Robinson Divine: Symposium: Beyond the Clash of Narratives

Martin Shaw: Symposium: Revisit ’48 as well as ’67

Alex Stein: Symposium: We Need More Imagination

Menachem Kellner: Symposium: Two States – Ultimately

Fred Siegel & Sol Stern: Symposium: There are no ‘solutions’ for now

Hazel Blears: Preventing Violent Extremism

Gina Khan: Reading Ayaan Hirsi Ali in Birmingham

Rashad Ali: Islam, Sharia, and the Far-Right

Eric Lee: Global Labour Notes / Jews, Gaza and the Unions

Susan Green: Archive: Debating World War Three

Rachel Shabi and “Israel’s humiliating discrimination against Arab Jews”

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[H/t to Point of No ReturnZWord and TNR]

This is a guest post by Point of No Return at ZWord:

The Daily Telegraph, Britain’s centre-right mass-circulation newspaper, today carries a review of Rachel Shabi’s new book – unpromisingly titled ‘Israel’s humiliating discrimination against Arab Jews’ – about the discrimination faced in Israel by Jews from Arab countries, Not the Enemy.

The reviewer calls the book ‘eye-opening’, ’sobering’ and ‘disturbing and important’. He seems to nod in horrified agreement at Shabi’s catalogue of humilations inflicted on Mizrahi Jews by Ashkenazim (European) Jews. They were made to feel ‘excluded’ and ‘inferior.’

What’s more, Ms Shabi must know what she is writing about: she is after all the descendant of Iraqi Jews herself.

But this is no ordinary reviewer. This is Gerald Jacobs, literary editor of the Jewish Chronicle.

He hardly attempts to challenge Shabi’s narrative that the Mizrahi migration to Israel was ‘imposed by Zionist pressure and even acts of sabotage’ (Ah yes, those Zionist bombs).

One would have expected of a man in Jacobs’ shoes to know that, as I have already pointed out, Israeli popular culture is today dominated by Mizrahi influences. The stories of discrimination belong in the 1950s. Intermarriage is rife, and Mizrahim have reached the highest echelons of power. Jacobs does not even sniff a whiff of tendentiousness in Shabi’s anti-Zionism and her downplaying of Arab antisemitism – curiously it largely seems to begin in 1948 – nor does he question her spurious assumption that Jews from the Middle East are really Arabs.

If this is what we can expect from an editor of the leading organ of British Jewry, Lord help us.

Shabi is part of small group of post-Zionist Mizrahi intellectuals who want to reclaim the non-European aspect their identity. I think this is a positive thing. But some of these post-Zionists have a tendency to borrow analytical frameworks from Marxists and others who view Ashkenazim and Zionists in general as imperialists and colonialists. In this narrative, the Mizrahim are indigenous people who have been victimized by Zionism, just like the Palestinians. In other words, Mizrahi Jews and Palestinians are people of color and Ashkenazis are whitey. Shabi and her political allies, in turn, are part pf the global resistance against the forces of global empire. It is a very tired and played out perspective which is why I won’t be spending time reading the book.

However, to claim there is no discrimination against Mizrahim in Israel is not accurate. Most of my Israeli friends are Mizrahi and they see elite positions in universities, the armed forces and politics continue to be dominated by Ashkenazim and that Mizrahi families are generally less well off than Ashkenazi families. They see institutional inequality in Israel that is not as pronounced as that experienced by African Americans in the United States but still similar. Yes, they see their faces reflected in popular culture and entertainment but to a much lesser extent in the sciences, engineering, law, medicine, finance and politics.

Take a look at the Katamonim neighborhood in Jerusalem or Yeroham and other development towns in the Negev. What is the ratio of Jews from Iraq, Iran, Morocco, Ethiopia, etc. compared to those from Europe? From my experience (I realize this is totally anecdotal) most Ashkenazim avoid those places.

This is not meant to diss Ashkenazi Jews–I love my peeps–but one of the perennial downfalls of the Jewish people is our lack of unity. Acknowledging that these tensions exist is only the first step. The next step is addressing the inequality, perhaps above all in education. To provide one example, the Kedma School is doing some great work to assist Mizrahi students in achieving their bagrut:

Before Kedma was founded, only 10% of high school-age children from the Katamonim area completed high school with a bagrut certificate, and many students dropped out of school altogether. Ten years later, in 2003-2004, the percent of 12th-grade Kedma students who completed a full bagrut certificate was higher than the national average: 57% finished with a full bagrut certificate, and 30% were missing only one or two exams to complete the bagrut (click here to view a comparative chart). The first senior class graduated in 2000, and today there are 150 students in grades 7 through 12 who study at Kedma.

I agree with Noga (The Contentious Centrist) when she writes:

Imagine, that Jews can actually be like any other people, have their prejudices and cultural biases and seek to feel that they are better than their neigbours! Wow!

Yet when I look at what is going down in the world today I see a real need for Jewish unity. Not only between Mizrahi and Ashkenazi but between secular and religious and across all the other boundaries that keep the Jewish people divided.

OK, rant over.

Books for Soldiers

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Check this out:

During the first Gulf War, several of my friends from school were in the reserves and were activated to fight the Iraqis. CNN reported that once the soldiers were deployed, they were faced with massive downtime and were restricted to their base due to the travel limitations set by the Saudi government.

I am a voracious reader and at the beginning of the Gulf War, I had a closet full of paperback books. Books that were not being used. So instead of selling them at the used book store, I packed them up in small care packages and sent them out to all the soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen I had addresses for.

Within a few weeks, I ran out of books before I ran out of addresses. Friends and family members began donating their paperback books and in the end, over 1000 books were sent to the Gulf.

After the war, we received many thank-you notes from soldiers who got one of our books. Unless it was time for them to fly back home, mail-call days were one of the most anticipated events of deployment. Regardless of why the military is deployed, the men and women of our armed services are there for us. They deserve our support and if we can make their deployment easier, then all the better.

Currently, BFS is a non-profit corporation, operated as a ministry of the non-denominational, interfaith Order of the Red Grail church in North Carolina. Click here for our entry on the Secretary of State of North Caroina’s website.

Winter Music

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None of the tunes below has anything specifically to due with the season other than placing me in a winter state of mind. I have been visiting a lot of music blogs in my never ending search for albums lost, sold, and stolen. Some of my favorite for jazz include Orgy in Rhythm, My Jazz World, and Never Enough Rhodes. For the heavier stuff I like True Punk and MetalGood Bad Music and Cosmic Hearse.

Cymande, “Dove”, Caribbean funk by way of the UK (1972).

Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson “Song for Bobby Smith” from the album Winter in America (1973). Follow the link and click “play” on song number six. I would post a video but I cannot locate one for this song. Strange.

winter-in-america

JFA’s “The Day Walt Disney Died” from their Untitled LP (1984) should be here.

jfa

“Cirith Ungol” from Cirith Ungol’s King of the Dead album (1984). Very heavy metal from from Ventura, California.

Mr. Bungle “Desert Search for Techno Allah” Live in SF, 1995. I’ve seen a lot of Bungle shows but I am still kicking myself in the rear for not making it to this one. Hang on for the ride.

Ulrich Schnauss “Monday Paracetamol” from A Strangely Isolated Place (2003).

ADDED

Why winter music this late in the season? Isn’t it almost spring? As of Monday it seemed like winter was here to stay. We had a pretty big snow storm. First NYC snow day in years.

I flew back from Los Angeles on Monday morning and by the time we arrived at JFK they only had one runway letting planes take off and one runway allowing planes to land. We circled the airport for about a half an hour at which point the pilot got on the intercom and said “we should be landing in about fifteen to twenty minutes if they get things cleaned up. If not, we will be diverted to Tarrytown, PA because we are running low on fuel.”

We landed at JFK without incident but it was a little hectic for a minute there.

Campus Protest Roundup

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[To the barricades!]

A roundup regarding the protests and occupations taking place at colleges and universities in the UK, US and Canada. Many of the protests focused on Israel and developing scholarships for Palestinian students. Some added demands specific to their institution. For example, students at NYU demanded the Bobst library opened to the public:

Bob from Brockley on Goldsmiths and the politics of Anti-Zionism.

Insider Higher Ed has a bit regarding Gaza Protests in the UK and US.

Roland Dodds (But I am a Liberal!) on the End of the Take Back NYU! (TBNYU!) occupation:

Throughout the whole video, the “activists” keep reminding the university security that they are on camera, and that it will reflect poorly on them in the future. I figure most folks will view the footage as a wonderful illustration of just how brainless these self proclaimed “student leaders” are, and not an indictment on any security personnel.

Ned Resnikoff (Campus Progress, “How Not to Protest”) opines:

The TBNYU! protest was one of the strangest farces in NYU’s 178-year history. By the end of the 40-hour occupation, only 10 protesters remained, which NYU security* unceremoniously removed from the building. Each one was suspended and kicked out of campus housing, and NYU did not meet a single one of the group’s demands. Nevertheless, the official TBNYU! blog, with characteristic detachment from reality, insisted that the occupation had “made a difference.”

Which relates to one of my comments at Roland’s:

You can already read on rad left sites like the IMCs that the protests– even if they did not achieve their demands–were a “success.” As I’ve stated many times here and elsewhere, a large measure of what drives radical activism in the U.S. is not the achievement of demands/goals (political or other) but the validation of an individual’s identity and radical ideology. In other words, it is more about how protesting makes them feel then actually achieving anything concrete. You know, “demand the impossible,” and all that.

Noga (Contentious Centrist): Two Posts on Anti-Semitism at York University.

More on the situation at York here and on anti-Israel activities at Carleton University here.

ADDED:

Bob provided some more links in the comments.

Elder of Zion on Israel Apartheid Week

ZWord on Israel Apartheid Week

You Gotta’ Be Kidding Me

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What a crazy, upside down world we live in. The Iranian government wants an apology from Hollywood for “insults and accusations against the Iranian nation.”

The L.A. Times reports:

A delegation of Hollywood actors and producers that arrived in Tehran over the weekend to meet with their counterparts has also been met by sharp government criticism.

A top Iranian cultural official Sunday demanded that the group from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, including academy President Sid Ganis and film stars Annette Bening and Alfre Woodard, apologize for Hollywood’s “insults and libel” against the Islamic Republic.

I haven’t seen The Wrestler but apparently Mickey Rourke’s character tears an Iranian flag and fights against a villain named “The Ayatollah.” They are also upset about the movie 300 for depicting Persians as “bloodthirsty and cretinous.” Haven’t seen that one either.

Need I remind readers this is the same regime that has been burning, stomping and mutilating American flags while denigrating us as the “Great Satan” for three decades. It is all more than a bit ironic.

This should be just the sort of catalyst that connects conservative talk-radio hosts and Hollywood liberals together. I know it won’t happen. But it should.

Films that upset the regime (the Guardian):

The Wrestler Caused offence when its main character, Mickey Rourke, smashed a pole carrying Iran’s national flag across his knee. It also featured a wrestler called the Ayatollah – apparently after Iran’s religious rulers – who wore a skimpy leotard in the country’s colours.

The Stoning of Soraya M A woman is stoned to death under Iran’s sharia law after being convicted of adultery.

Alexander The 2004 biopic about Alexander the Great, directed by Oliver Stone, was criticised for its sympathetic portrayal of the ancient Macedonian king, whom Iranians blame for the destruction of Persepolis in 330BC.

Body of Lies A 2008 Ridley Scott film in which Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani’s hair is shown.

300 Upset Iran by portraying ancient Persians as bloodthirsty and violent.

Not Without My Daughter A 1991 film depicting the escape of a real-life American, Betty Mahmoody, from Iran. The government condemned it as projecting a negative image and banned the book on which it is based.

Added:

Simply Jews: Mahmoud the Mad vs. 300

Contentious Centrist: Thucydides and Herodotus were Zionist stooges