Saturday, February 04, 2012

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Alan Johnson and Michael Walzer

The always great Alan Johnson has an excellent interview with Dissent's Michael Walzer on the future of democratic Israel. Here is a bit:
WALZER:  I was in Israel this past summer during the social justice protests – a totally unexpected uprising with a very large social base. It has had difficulty – as have the protests in Spain and other places, in the US too – finding a political expression. The party system at this moment is not congenial. But the protests signalled that there is a base for a left-liberal or social democratic politics. And I also think that the settler militants, the so-called ‘hill-top youth,’ and the ultra-Orthodox militants, have overreached.  I think, well, I hope, that there will be an anti-clerical reaction and a return to the old Zionist idea of the ‘negation of the Galut,’ which entails a rejection of the rule of the rabbis. I think or hope that there will be a return of secular politics. I am sure this would happen if there were peace. But it might manifest itself quite strongly even in current conditions. So that is my hope – some combination of the politics of social justice and a Jewish equivalent of the anti-clericalism we saw in Catholic Europe in the late  nineteenth century.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

"Israel Firster" and Around the Web This Week

Antisemitism and "Israel Firsters" Ben Cohen's piece in Commentary on the way anti-Semetism has been framed in the current debate is required reading. Cohen writes:
"Anti-Semitism’s newfound respectability is not unprecedented. Indeed, the fact that anti-Semites have been given power over the definition of anti-Semitism reflects the very origins of the term. Coined in late 19-century Germany, anti-Semitism was not intended as a descriptor for a troubling social trend—like racism, or the more recent Islamophobia—but as the positive organizing principle of an emancipatory political movement."
Spencer Ackerman responds to the likes of Glenn Greenwald and Max Blumenthal who have been using the phrase "Israel Firster" to describe Jews who they believe put Israel's interests (or at least the settlers and Likud) above Americas. You have folks like Freddie doubling down on their own nonsense, rejecting all claims that the term is anti-Semitic, a laughably ridiculous postulation. Ackerman counters:
"This is tiresome to point out. Many of the writers who are fond of the Israel Firster smear are—appropriately—very good at hearing and analyzing dog-whistles when they’re used to dehumanize Arabs and Muslims. I can’t read anyone’s mind or judge anyone’s intention, but by the sound of it these writers are sending out comparable dog-whistles about Jews."
Ron Paul: I have enjoyed Ron Paul in the debates as of late. Don't get me wrong: legitimizing this old crank is not good for the debate or for the country, but challenging the basic premise the Republican Party approaches most of its efforts is somewhat refreshing. I think a Ron Paul like candidate should be in every party's primary, questioning party orthodoxy and forcing the organization's mainstream to face some incoherence in their own policies. Having said that, Adam Holland has dug up another inconvenient truth regarding Paul's comrades, this time regarding the way they have been pushing the Protocols of Zion. LGF covers more of the racist newsletter ordeal.

"Realism" is not Reality: A.Jay Adler has another fine take-down of one of the most boring and ideologically inconsistent pundits, Robert Wright. Regarding Wright's foray into the "Israel Firster" debate, Adler argues:
Wright is developing a habit of these less than straightforward appeals, in closing, to authority. In a recent post on the “Israel-Firster” slanders, in which he took what is by this point a predictable position attacking those who rightfully object to the term, Wright in all pretense of ingenuousness offered this:
Is it anti-Semitic, or even anti-Israel, to call the Israeli occupation a moral abomination? I’m not Jewish, so I always feel awkward weighing in on the question of what constitutes anti-Semitism. Instead I turned to someone who is not only Jewish, but is also an Israeli who served in the occupied territory as a lieutenant and is still in the Israeli army reserve.
Now, of course, the issue is not whether one is anti-Semitic because of how one feels about the Israeli presence on the West Bank; it is whether the expression “Israel-Firster” is anti-Semitic in pedigree and aspersion. So Wright has distorted the issue. He also offered not the testimony of, at least, some wise man of Israeli or Jewish culture, but of the co-director of Breaking the Silence, a group guaranteed, in the honest gentile’s search – he only wants to know – to return to him the opinion he already holds. And so it does.
 Union Rights:  Shiraz Socialist brings to my attention the Labour Start campaign to free Mahdi 'Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb, President of the Bahraini Teachers Association (BTA) who is currently under arrest. The Alliance for Workers' Liberty has an excellent piece criticizing members of the left that mourned the death of Kim Jong Ill in one form or another. Rossie Huzzard echos my sentiments: "This nonsensical affection for tyrannical “anti-imperialist” states taints the entire left. We are on the side of the international working class against all enemies. Solidarity with the working class of North Korea against their state oppressors!"

Anarchism, Socialism, Unionism: AWL also has a pamphlet debating the role of anarchism in the labour struggle.

And forget the OWS movement, with Newt Gingrich making inroads with Republican voters by criticizing the capitalist culture Romney comes from and perpetuates, Peter Dreier asks if Capitalism is on trial in America.

The Social Democrats USA, the small but influential organization led by Penn Kemble before his death in 2005, has been revived to some degree. Follow their activities at Social Currents.