Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Morning Star “Clarification” over Shamir article.

with 14 comments

“Clarification” over Shamir.

Today’s Morning Star carries this in a small box piece under the headline:

Clarification over Shamir article in Saturday’s Star.

(I reproduce the one already posted here, which does not appear to differ from that printed on  Page 4 of the Morning Star, Monday September the 24th)

A NUMBER of you have raised concerns over the decision to reprint an article by Israel Shamir on the Russian band Pussy Riot that appeared in the weekend’s Morning Star.
The paper would like to reassure readers that the piece was syndicated from Counterpunch in good faith without knowledge of the author’s background.
We would like to reiterate the paper’s commitment to publishing writers who reflect and remain steadfastly committed to the values of anti-racism, anti-fascism, international solidarity and social justice that the paper has campaigned for ever since its establishment.
It remains guided by those goals and will seek in future, wherever possible, to establish the full biography of writers before publishing their work.
In the meantime the Morning Star would like to distance itself from the opinions of the author of the piece, which do not reflect our position or those of the wider movement.
We apologise wholeheartedly for any distress caused.

There remain a number of unanswered issues and points:

  • What exactly were the “concerns” and what was the “distress” about Shamir and his article? The Morning Star is silent. The very vivid anger  expressed here and elsewhere  at his anti-Semitism and far-right opinions is apparently best left unsaid.
  • In the same vein: how far does the Morning Star wish to “distance itself from the opinions” of Shamir and what opinions do they wish to remain far from?
  • If the Morning Star is committed to the “values of anti-racism” and “anti-fascism” why were they unaware of the fascist and racist views of one of the most notorious international propagandists for the far-right, Israel Shamir?
  • As numerous posters on this Blog have said, it is hardly necessary to establish the full biography” of Shamir before realising this: a simple Google enquiry would have done, that is, assuming the staff of the Morning Star has, unlike most well-informed people,  not heard of Shamir.

Rosie Bell has said that the phrase “We apologise wholeheartedly for any distress caused” is clumsy and reeking of management-speak.

The ‘clarification’  does not condemn Shamir.

It does not condemn his fascist views.

It fails to ‘clarify’ anything that has come out in this controversy, except that the “decision” to “reprint” ultimately comes from an arrangement to “syndicate” material from the (as we have shown, dodgy) US publication Counterpunch.

This ‘clarification’ is not just evasive: it  is wholeheartedly inadequate.

 

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Written by Andrew Coates

September 24, 2012 at 4:28 pm

14 Responses

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  1. If the paper is actually committed to the sentiments expressed above, why did it run the piece in the first place? Leaving aside the matter of the very dubious bit that it excised about Holocaust deniers, why should the paper wish to run a piece that effectively supported a stiff jail sentence being placed on people who at worst could be described as juvenile exhibition-seekers? Does the paper feel that Uncle Joe is still in the Kremlin?

    Dr Paul

    September 24, 2012 at 4:40 pm

  2. what i do not get is why you even buy the morning star… a shitbollox rag. just use the fuckking internet.

    Monsuer Jelly More Bounce to the Ounce

    September 24, 2012 at 4:48 pm

  3. We would like to reiterate the paper’s commitment to publishing writers who reflect and remain steadfastly committed to the values of anti-racism, anti-fascism, international solidarity and social justice that the paper has campaigned for ever since its establishment.

    I was listening to You and Yours today and some estate agents or bank or other business made a similar statement about their commitment to giving a good service to their customers, and investigating complaints seriously. Sheer management-speak.

    rosie

    September 24, 2012 at 4:51 pm

  4. Agree Rosie: it’s a disgraceful response to a really serious political problem.

    Andrew Coates

    September 24, 2012 at 4:53 pm

  5. Paul, as someone has just pointed out on Facebook, the religious basis, some kind of ‘red’ Russian Orthodoxy, seems to pass muster with the Morning Star.

    No doubt the Morning Star is looking for the next Hewlett Johnson, the Red Dean of Canturbury. Perhaps they’ve found one in the Patriarch of Moscow and all the Rus’ (Святе́йший Патриарх Московский и всея Руси).

    Who knows.

    Andrew Coates

    September 24, 2012 at 5:32 pm

  6. As someone originally from the same political tradition as the Morning Star, and who would like to see it succeed in its ambition to be the “daily paper of the left”, I wasn’t “distressed” by the publication of the article by Shamir. I was appalled by it. But I am rather “distressed” at the apology, which completely misses the point. The problem is not Shamir, the problem is the views he expressed. That article would still have been misogynistic, paranoiac, conspiratorial, authoritarian, Iron-Heel-worshipping, vicious, anti-secular, sneering drivel with more than a hint of antisemitism whoever had written it. To print something signed by Shamir is inept. But to imagine that the sentiments he expressed could have any place in a socialist paper anyway shows that when it comes to Russia at least, they don’t have a clue.

    Francis

    September 24, 2012 at 5:45 pm

  7. If the Morning Star is committed to the “values of anti-racism” and “anti-fascism” why were they unaware of the fascist and racist views of one of the most notorious international propagandists for the far-right, Israel Shamir?

    Ideological blinkers set at a jaunty angle courtesy of his association with cult leaders and their fanboy thugs. The cults of Assange (aside from any actual value of Wikileaks) and of Galloway are protofascist.

    In this instance Shamir gets to play in Julian’s treehouse. That other stuff? Don’t you worry about that.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/nov/08/israel-shamir-julian-assange-cult-machismo

    It really is time for comrades who consider themselves to be ‘Bolsheviks’ or ‘Jacobins’ to disassociate from right wing libertarians such as Assange, his racist and neo nazi chums and the Stalinists who are trying to climb into bed with them.

    Faster Pussycat Miaow! Miaow! Miaow!

    September 24, 2012 at 10:27 pm

  8. The Morning Star is funded by the British trade union movement, and in particular Unite. That’s why some of us regard this matter as particularly important. I sent the United Left’s email list a posting (based on Tendace Coatsey’s first article)…and it has not been circulated.

    Trade unionists who belong to the unions that fund the Star (and that’s most of the large ones) must raise this matter within their branches and committees, demanding a proper apology, explanation and clear-cut disavowal of all form of anti-semitism, including the “absolute anti-Zionism” (ie denial of Israel’s right to exist, anti-”Zionist” conspiracy theories, etc) that the Star regularly carries in its pages.

    This incident is, sadly, symptomatic of of the Star’s politics over many years. But it maks a new low and a crossing of the line in the sense that it’s so blatant.

    The totally inadeqaute and evasive ‘apology’ that’s been offered cannot be the end of the matter.

    I intend to write the editor an open letter, which will be posted on Shiraz shortly.

    Jim Denham

    September 25, 2012 at 8:33 am

  9. Francis and Jim,

    I am a UNITE activist. In recent months I have argued in favour of giving a donation to the Morning Star in response to a union circular. My reason was that I find its coverage of trade unions valuable. I do not agree with its wider politics.

    I would concentrate on the disgrace of publishing Shamir, not anti-Zionism.

    In an absolute sense I am strongly opposed to a state based on the kind of national rules, policies, and oppression that Israel is.

    As you pointed out earlier Francis the Star removed a transparently anti-Semitic reference from the Shamir article.

    More Shamir stuff:

    ” Saying that, I see in the fight against Jewish privilege an important direction in the fight against the Power. For historic reasons, the Jews have become a dominant group in the Neo-Liberal World Order, as it is witnessed today in Jerusalem by the mass pilgrimage of world leaders, including Kofi Annan, to the Holocaust Museum. Since every Jew may cease being (= behaving like) a Jew, we are at war with those who do not use this opportunity. The fight for ‘liberating Jews by liberating the world from Jews’, in Marx’ words, was an important part of the Left’s ideology; it should be renewed and not be left in the hands of NS.”

    http://www.israelshamir.net/English/Ignatiev.htm

    Andrew Coates

    September 25, 2012 at 10:55 am

  10. A very good response, Andrew. With your permission, I intend to adapt it as part of the Open letter to the Editor that I’m presently drafting for Shiraz (why re-invent the wheel?).
    BTW: in the penultimate paragraph it should of course, be “Counterpunch” not “Counterpoint”…

    Jim Denham

    September 25, 2012 at 1:05 pm

  11. Thanks for the correction on Counterpunch Jim.

    We have not the slighest idea of how that slipped in but we apologise wholeheartedly for any distress caused.

    On the letter, I think the points Francis raised about the editing out of the Shamir sentences about the prosecution for Holocaust denial are important and I’m glad you go into this in some detail.

    I notice there is nothing further in the Morning Star today.

    Andrew Coates

    September 25, 2012 at 1:37 pm

  12. “We have not the slighest idea of how that slipped in but we apologise wholeheartedly for any distress caused”:

    Distress might, perhaps, be caused to Mr Paul Gambaccini and listeners to his venerable Radio 4 music quiz.

    In the meanwhile, Roger has pointed out (over at the comments at Shiraz) that there is a Morning Star rally at Labour Party conference, where someone should raise the issue. I won’t be there and neither, apparently, will Roger. Anyone going to the Conference who can attend should get in touch.

    My open letter is now up at ‘Shiraz Socialist’: I’d be quite happy to adapt/amend it so that others can sign and so that it can be used as a leaflet.

    Jim Denham

    September 25, 2012 at 5:04 pm

  13. Here”s my Open Letter to Bagley:

    If anyone else wantsto sign it they’re welcome, and I’ll adjust the wording (ie changing “I” to “we” accordingly:

    Dear Mr Bagley,

    You are editor of the Morning Star, a paper that claims to stand for “peace and socialism.” It is the successor to the old Daily Worker and has close links with the British Communist Party. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and its eastern european satellites, the Star has been largely dependent upon the British trade union movement for its funding and survival.

    On Saturday September 22 this year the Morning Star published an article attacking the Russian punk-anarchist band Pussy Riot, supporting their imprisonment at the hands of the Putin regime. The content of the article was pretty vile and, frankly, had no place in any self-respecting socialist (or even liberal) publication. Your initial explanation (posted to the blog Tendance Coatsey) was unconvincing:

    ” The article was presented by the arts team as an alternative viewpoint on the Pussy Riot furore and appeared on our culture pages. The article did not appear particularly controversial in its own right. Its main focus was Pussy Riot and purported US State Department backing.”

    The article states, with obvious approval, that the jailing of Pussy Riot “proves [that Russia] … cares for Christ as much as the French care about Auschwitz and this shocked the Europeans who apparently thought ‘hate laws’ could only be applied to protect Jews and gays.” It repeatedly and gratuituosly brings Jews into the argument, defends Putin against media criticism, describes Pussy Riot as “viragos” and supports the Orthodox Church’s role in Russian society, even accusing Pussy Riot of “blasphemy.” Now, I’d hardly call that “not … particularly controversial,” Mr Bagley. But maybe your criteria for what is “controversial” in left wing circles is different to mine.

    But if that was all there was to it, I’d be (just about) willing to let the matter go, putting it down to a serious error of judgement from a paper whose instincts are evidently less democratic and secular than those of the milieu I move in.

    But the content of the article is, in many ways, the least important aspect of this whole business. Even more important is the matter of the author of the piece – one Israel Shamir, a notorious holocaust denier, anti-semite and associate of numerous European neo-Nazi organisations. Surely it should be a-b-c that even in the highly unlikely event that Mr Shamir were to write something entirely unobjectionable, no self-respecting socialist publication should touch it with a bargepole.

    Now, a crucial question arises: did the Star know who Mr Shamir is before deciding to publish his piece? You have stated that you and your colleagues did not – which given Shamir’s notoriety (easily revealed by a two-minute Google search) is in itself a damning admission from a publication that claims to be “steadfastly committed to the values of anti-racism, anti-fascism, international solidarity and social justice.”

    Surely the content of the article alone should have set alarm bells ringing?

    But it gets worse. It turns out that the article had first appeared in the US magazine Counterpunch and, in that publication, had included a passage that does not appear in the version printed in the Star: “Western governments call for more freedom for the anti-Christian Russians, while denying it for holocaust revisionists in their midst.” The absence of that sentence in the version the Star printed, raises an obvious question:

    EITHER that passage had already been deleted by the time the article reached the Star’s editorial team;

    OR it was edited out by the Star itself.

    If it was the former, then your explanation / excuse of being unaware of who Shamir is and the nature of his views, is just (but only just) believable. If it is the latter, then clearly you must have had a pretty good idea of just how dodgy Shamir’s views are, yet went ahead and published the piece (albeit in a very mildly expurgated form) anyway. To be frank, neither explanation does you or the Star any credit, but the second (much more likely, in my opinion) scenario is very nearly unforgivable.

    I say “very nearly” unforgivable, because a proper, fulsome retraction, apology and explanation, printed prominently in the Star might just about have retrieved the situation. Well, an “apology” of sorts did appear, not particularly prominently, on page 4 of the September 24 edition. It is wholly inadequate :

    Clarification over Shamir article in Saturday’s Star.

    A NUMBER of you have raised concerns over the decision to reprint an article by Israel Shamir on the Russian band Pussy Riot that appeared in the weekend’s Morning Star.
    The paper would like to reassure readers that the piece was syndicated from Counterpunch in good faith without knowledge of the author’s background.
    We would like to reiterate the paper’s commitment to publishing writers who reflect and remain steadfastly committed to the values of anti-racism, anti-fascism, international solidarity and social justice that the paper has campaigned for ever since its establishment.
    It remains guided by those goals and will seek in future, wherever possible, to establish the full biography of writers before publishing their work.
    In the meantime the Morning Star would like to distance itself from the opinions of the author of the piece, which do not reflect our position or those of the wider movement.
    We apologise wholeheartedly for any distress caused.

    This so-called “clarification” is entirely unsatisfactory, fails to address any of the central issues, and actually manages to compound the offence:

    What exactly were the “concerns” and what was the “distress” about Shamir and his article? The Morning Star is silent. The very vivid anger that has been expressed on left-wing blogs and in (unpublished) letters to the Star at his anti-Semitism and far-right opinions is not even mentioned.
    In the same vein: how far does the Morning Star wish to “distance itself from the opinions” of Shamir and precisely what opinions are you referring to?
    If the Morning Star is committed to the “values of anti-racism” and “anti-fascism” why were they unaware of the fascist and racist views of one of the most notorious international propagandists for the far-right, Israel Shamir?
    As numerous people have pointed out, it is hardly necessary to establish “the full biography”of Shamir before realising this: a simple Google enquiry would have done – assuming the staff of the Morning Star have, unlike most well-informed people involved in anti-fascist activity, not heard of Shamir.
    “We apologise wholeheartedly for any distress caused” is the sort of thing that the bourgeoise press prints when they’ve lost a libel case involving a politician’s personal life. It is a wholly inappropriate phrase to use in this context. What I and many others feel is not “distress” but anger.

    The ‘clarification’ does not condemn Shamir.

    It does not condemn his fascist views or even mention anti-semitism.

    It fails to ‘clarify’ anything that has come out in this controversy, except that the “decision” to “reprint” ultimately comes from an arrangement to “syndicate” material from the (dodgy) US publication Counterpunch.

    This ‘clarification’ is not just evasive, it is a disgrace – almost as much of a disgrace as the publication of Shamir’s article. Until proper, honest accounting for this shameful episode appears in the Star, I and many other activists will continue to raise the matter and denounce the Star as unfit to represent the British socialist and trade union movement.

    Yours

    Jim Denham

    (Unite member)

    Jim Denham

    September 25, 2012 at 6:42 pm

  14. [...] Jews. The Morning Star removed the item a few hours after publication, and issued a statement explaining that the article had been “syndicated from Counterpunch in good faith without knowledge of [...]


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