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Criticising the burqa means lining up with racists – says SWP.

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Defiant woman rips off her black burqa after ISIS were driven away. (Raqqa October. 2017)

The fall out from Boris Johnson’s comments on the Burka continues.

Nobody doubts that they have given the wink to the far-right and legitimised prejudiced diatribes against ‘Muslims’.

But there is also a pro-body veil reaction from some quarters.

Liberal people who (as a Facebook friend in the US remarks) are up in arms about the world imagined in The Handmaid’s Tale. But often the same individuals give weight to the idea that the religious obligations inflicted on women by this interpretation of Islam, are a choice to be celebrated.

There is talk – I thought it remained safely relegated to distant memories of courses on ‘theory’ – about the way it may free the female shape from the ‘male gaze’.

As if Islamic Law is about anything other than the behaviour of the believers in the sight of god enforced through violence if need be.

Not surprisingly the British SWP, with its long history of complicity with Islamism, has bent to this wind.

They are not trying to shout down criticisms of the burqa by linking them to the far-right.

Why criticising the burqa means lining up with racists

Boris Johnson’s attack on the burqa has left some liberals with a problem.

The article begins with this bold assertion:

“when supposed progressives criticise the burqa, it gives more credibility to the more overt Islamophobes.”

It then jumps to this statement,

Some liberals see the burqa as a reflection of sexist ideas.

They assume that women are pushed to cover themselves because female flesh has been deemed dirty or too exciting to men.

Of course there will be some Muslims who think this. But the idea is hardly Islamic—it’s deeply rooted in Western capitalist societies.

So that’s all right then.

Or not.

Think of rape trials where women are told they were “asking for it” because of what they wore. Or the Canadian cop who said that women should “avoid dressing like sluts” to escape sexual assault.

The SWP claims that

Many liberals, and right wingers, claim they want to “liberate” oppressed Muslim women who they assume have been forced to cover up.

Are they alone.

Apparently not:

We should oppose women being forced to wear coverings. And we should stand with the women in Iran who have defied the state and removed their hijabs in public, imprisoned as a result.

This is what the SWP said about these protests (4th of June):

Women are resisting the compulsory wearing of the headscarf—which is another very good thing happening at the same time.

Even women who want to wear it are saying it should be the right of women to choose.

As the left we have to support the women fighting back, and not leave the issue to the pro-imperialist right.

The problem is that the issue grabs attention in the West because it resonates with the Islamophobic representations of Iran.

The issue is being hijacked by Islamophobia by some in the media in the West.

End of story for the SWP until this week.

But its not Islam that’s at fault

But it isn’t true that Islam forces women to cover themselves. Like other religions, Islam suggests that men and women dress “modestly”. What this means is open to interpretation, which is why different Muslim women choose to wear different coverings, or none at all.

Women often say they choose to wear coverings to feel closer to Allah. It’s patronising to assume that every women who wears a hijab, niqab or burka has been told to do so by a man.

So they do it for Allah.

If religion is not a problem what is?

This also treats the main source of oppression facing Muslim women as Muslim men. In fact, the main oppressor of Muslim women is the state.

The state is of course the principal form of oppression for ‘women’: no doubt the ‘state’ has a special function in oppressing women……

Apart from wishing away decades of feminist debate about patriarchy, the family, and the old saying that the “personal is political’,

The confusion reaches its apex in confusing state legislation about the full body veil, ‘forcing’ women to give up the ” veils, headscarves or burqas  with the idea that criticising the burka is to “line up with racists”.

Socialists should defend a woman’s right to choose what she wears. That includes the right to wear a burqa—and the right not to wear one.

Forcing Muslim women to give up wearing veils, headscarves or burqas isn’t liberating, just as encouraging women to wear skimpy clothes isn’t. Instead it’s just another form of judging women on their appearance and dress, and taking control and choice away from them.

Is siding with the legislation, in say France, when it was backed by all the political parties at the time, the same as being on the same side as the ‘far right’?

Is ‘forcing’ people to not wear the oppressive full-body veil the same as “criticism”?

This argument gets nowhere.

Rather than point out that the SEP feels no compunction about lining up with the far-right over Brexit the issue at hand should be taken seriously.

This is a ‘liberal’ view  of a Muslim woman the SWP and others are trying to  shut up.

Boris Has Made it Almost Impossible for Muslims to Critique Veiling.

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

In my view, scarves, cloaks and masks symbolise the negation of the female form, female inferiority and menace, and most troublingly, a wilful distancing from other humans in the public space.

One of Britain’s foremost scholars Ziauddin Sardar, has this to say on the controversial subject: “In a total perversion of Qur’anic advice, dressing modestly has been interpreted as dressing like a nun, covered from head to foot, showing only a woman’s face (in some circles only the eyes), wrists and feet.”

Females thus accept the burden of modesty while men do not, though both have this obligation. Millions of Muslim women do not submit to these pressures. One of them, a senior TV producer unloaded her frustrations in an email: “We came here to get away from these oppressive expectations. Britain offered hope, a place where you were protected by the law, could be educated, go out, be free. “You could make your own decisions, strive to be equal to men.

Now this freedom is crumbling away because of a few shouty, veiled women. Our voice remains unheard.”

She is right. Vast numbers of white Britons give us their support when most we need it. They did this week. We Muslims need to give a little too – abandon regressive customs and integrate for the greater good and our survival. With the hard right marching again across Europe, Muslims face an existential threat. This is no time for cultural and religious obstinacy.

These are her views (2015) in more depth:  As a Muslim woman, I see the veil as a rejection of progressive values.

They are much more materialist and historically rooted than airy abstractions about the ‘state’.

Muslim feminists of the past critiqued and repudiated the veil. One of them was a man, Qasim Amin, an Egyptian judge and philosopher, who in 1899 wrote The Liberation of Women.He was the John Stuart Mill of the Arab world. Huda Shaarawi set up the Egyptian women’s union in the early 1920s. One day in 1923, as she disembarked from a train in Cairo, she threw off her veil and claimed her right to be visible. Educated Iranian women started feminist magazines and campaigned against the veil around the same time. These pioneers have been written out of history or are dismissed as western stooges by some contemporary Muslim intellectuals.

After the transformative 60s, Muslim feminists resumed the fight for equality. European rule was over. It was time. The Moroccan academic Fatema Mernissi, Egypt’s Nawal El Saadawi and the Pakistani scholar Riffat Hassan all argued for female emancipation. They rightly saw the veil as a a tool and symbol of oppression and subservience. Mernissi’s Beyond the Veil ( 1975) is a classic text. So too El Saadawi’s The Hidden Face of Eve (1975). But more conservative Islamic tenets have taken over lands, communities, families, heads and hearts.

The promise of this version is a return to certainties and “purity” of belief, a mission backed by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. Deobandi revivalists, funded by Arab money, now run more mosques in Britain than any other Muslim subgroup. Women are told not to travel without male relatives, not to work, to be subservient, to veil. This movement began as a reaction against the Indian raj and mutated into a fundamentalist creed. Today their pushback against “cultural imperialism” appeals to many alienated young Muslims. And, in part, it explains the growing popularity of the hijab, jilbab and full veil .

But in the Qur’an, the veil is mostly used metaphorically to describe barriers between good and bad, believers and nonbelievers. In two verses, women are told to lower their gaze, and to cover their private parts and bosoms. Men are also instructed to lower their gaze, and to dress modestly. One verse commands the women in the prophet’s family to fully veil, partly to protect them from enemies and supplicants.

Sahar Amer, associate professor at the University of North Carolina, has studied these sacred injunctions: “[Nowhere] is the hijab used to describe, let alone prescribe, the necessity for Muslim women to wear a headscarf or any other pieces of clothing often seen covering women in Islamic countries today. Even after reading those passages dealing with the female dress code, one continues to wonder what exactly the hijab is: is it a simple scarf? A purdah? A chador? Or something else? Which parts of the body exactly is it supposed to cover? Just the hair? The hair and neck? The arms? Hands? Feet? Face? Eyes?”

 

All religions cast women as sinners and temptresses. Conservative Islam has revived the slander for our times

 

Veils, in truth, predate Islam. Zoroastrian and Byzantine upper-class ladies wore them to keep aloof from the hoi polloi. When Islam’s armies first reached Persia, they were shocked at this snobbery; then they adopted the custom they loathed; the control of women was hard-wired into their psyches.

All religions cast women as sinners and temptresses. Conservative Islam has revived the slander for our times. Women have to be sequestered or contained lest they raise male lust and cause public disorder. Some young Muslim women argue that veils liberate them from a modern culture that objectifies and sexualises females. That argument is appealing; but if credible, why would so many hijabis dress in tight jeans and clinging tops, and why would so many Muslim women flock to have liposuction or breast enhancements?

It is complicated: veils for me represent both religious arrogance and subjugation; they both desexualise and fervidly sexualise. Women are primarily seen as sexual creatures whose hair and bodies incite desire and disorder in the public space. The claim that veils protect women from lasciviousness and disrespect carries an element of self-deception. I have been at graduation ceremonies where shrouded female students have refused to shake the hand of the chancellor. Veiled women have provoked confrontations over their right to wear veils, in courts, at schools and in colleges and workplaces. But I regard their victories as a rejection of social compromise.

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Written by Andrew Coates

August 21, 2018 at 12:15 pm

Internationalist solidarity with the Syrian people! (Fourth International).

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Syria’s Devastation Continues. 

For this blog the civil war in Syria overshadows every other single international tragedy.

Around  400,000  people have died (Casualties of the Syrian Civil War).

Figures in 2016 state that 13.5 million Syrians require humanitarian assistance, of which more than 6 million are internally displaced within Syria, and around 5 million are refugees outside of Syria

The news in the last weeks that millions of refugees will have their property in Syria seized is another blow.

Analysts say law leaves citizens who have opposed Assad regime facing permanent exile.

Repression continues by the Assad regime.

 

The refugees still streaming outwards, including to Europe, have not gone away.

That supporters of the Jihadist genociders have just been gaoled in the UK illustrates that the war is not in some remote ‘out there’.

The Fourth International has the decency to get its priorities right on this burning issue.

Internationalist solidarity with the Syrian people is more necessary than ever!

The Fourth International reaffirms its solidarity with all the bombed, massacred, tortured, starving and displaced civilians in Syria; its solidarity with the democratic and progressive forces that continue to defend the aspirations of a heroic insurrection. Seven years after the beginning of the Syrian popular uprising, it has been gradually transformed into a deadly war with an international character, the situation in the country is catastrophic at all levels.

Probably more than half a million are dead and missing, over 80% of whom were killed by the regime’s armed forces and allies. More than 6 million people have fled across borders and 7.6 million are internally displaced, out of a population of 22.5 million in 2011. Over 80% of the population lives below the poverty line. The World Bank estimated in June 2017 that about one third of all buildings and nearly half of all school and hospital buildings in Syria had been damaged or destroyed.

Against the Assad regime and its allies, first component of the counter-revolution!

The Fourth International condemns once again the barbarity of the despotic regime of the Assad family and its allies, symbolised at the beginning of 2018 by their offensive on Eastern Ghouta near Damascus. Military offensives and bombardments against civilians, including the use of chemical weapons, continue in various areas outside the control of Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Since 2015, the latter, which was in desperate straits at the time, seems to have continued to strengthen itself and to increase the territory recovered by relying on its Russian and Iranian allies, as well as on Lebanese Hezbollah. Today, Damascus controls almost 60% of the territory and over 80% of the population.

It is in this context that state actors with very diverse and even contradictory political and economic agendas but which all bombed and participated to the destruction of Syria, are now raising the question of reconstruction, whose costs are currently estimated at more than 350 billion dollars. For Assad, his relatives and the businessmen linked to his regime, reconstruction is seen as a means of consolidating the powers already acquired and re-establishing their political, military, security and economic domination, also with the forced resettlement of populations. This process would also reinforce the neoliberal policies of a heavily indebted regime that does not have the capacity to finance reconstruction on its own.

At the same time, the countries allied to the Syrian regime, in particular Russia and Iran – after their direct participation in the worst crimes against the population – but also China, are in the front line to benefit economically and strategically from the reconstruction.

Jihadists and Islamic fundamentalist forces lose ground but retain the ability to harm

The jihadists of the Islamic State (EI or “Daesh”) have lost the vast majority of Syrian and Iraqi cities and urban centres they occupied. Only isolated border regions between Iraq and Syria currently remain under EI control, in addition to a few pockets on Syrian territory. Other Jihadist and Salafist organizations – sometimes opposing Assad regime while fighting democratic forces – have also lost ground.

However, the loss of vast territories by these organizations does not mean the end of their existence and their ability to strike by terrorist attacks.

The Fourth International reaffirms its opposition to these ultra-reactionary organizations, which constitute another side of the counter-revolution. We must never forget that their rise to power against the democratic forces of the insurgency is as much due to the manoeuvres of the Syrian regime seeking to justify its unlimited repression in the eyes of the world as to the intervention of financiers and advisers from other states in the region. We must stress the need to tackle the sources of their development: the authoritarian regimes in the region that repress all forms of democratic and social resistance, regional and international foreign interventions, neoliberal policies that impoverish the popular classes.

PYD attacked, Kurds threatened

In January 2018, the Turkish army, assisted by Islamic and reactionary militias of the Syrian armed opposition, launched a massive air and ground offensive against the north-western Syrian province of Afrin, with the majority Kurdish population controlled by the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its People’s Protection Units (YPG). This region is now occupied by forces of the Turkish army and Syrian militias in its pay, who are continuing human rights violations and forced displacement of the population.

The Turkish military operation against Afrin in Syria and the rejection by the Iraqi government of the result of the referendum on independence organised by the Barzani leadership. in Iraqi Kurdistan in October 2017, show once again that the international and regional powers are not prepared to see Kurdish national or autonomist aspirations come true. It is clear that Moscow and Washington’s support to YPG at different times, such as YPG’s support to the Russian military and air campaign alongside Assad’s regime launched in late September 2015 around Aleppo, did not prevent Ankara’s military aggression against Afrin. In his rush to dictatorship, Turkish President Erdogan wants to crush the Kurdish people like any democratic aspiration in his country.

The Fourth International reaffirms the right to self-determination of the Kurdish people, a right which can take various forms in the different countries of the region (such as independence, federalism or recognition of the Kurdish people as an entity with equal rights within a State). We welcome the heroic commitment of the forces that are leading this struggle against the obscurantist forces, even if we can express more or less strong criticism of their leadership, particularly in Iraq concerning the Barzani leadership, but also in Syria concerning the tactics of the PYD – while welcoming the emancipatory experiences it has attempted in Rojava. In any case, the widest solidarity with the Kurdish people is necessary against the fierce repression they suffer in Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran, which is also reflected in the practices of European countries.

Internationalist solidarity with the Syrian people in all its components!

All the counter-revolutionary forces, despite their rivalry, acted simultaneously to defeat the Syrian revolution.

- Whether they are those who support the Bashar al-Assad regime (Russia, Iran and their militias) and who are involved in serious war crimes;
- the American and European imperialists who made declarations of principle about democracy but refused to allow the democratic components of the uprising to defend themselves, and also bombed civilian populations in the name of the fight against terrorism;
- the Turkish regime which used the Syrian revolution to appear as the leader of the “peoples of Islam” and transformed itself into an occupier of part of northern Syria, and bombed cities to fight Kurdish organisations;
- or the Gulf States which financially support all ultra-reactionary movements and militias as long as they serve their objectives;
- and finally Israel which, by carrying out targeted bombardments in Syria in order to weaken Assad and prevent the military expansion of Iran and Hezbollah, in fact strengthens them politically.

In this context the Fourth International calls:

– for the cessation of all military offensives. This means that all means of pressure must be used to sanctuarise the last regions that have escaped the regime and where hundreds of thousands of displaced civilians have taken refuge.

– to continue to denounce all foreign military interventions, that oppose aspirations for democratic change in Syria, whether in support of the regime (Russia, Iran, Hezbollah) or by proclaiming themselves “friends of the Syrian people” (Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, United States, etc.). The Syrian popular classes struggling for freedom and dignity have no friendly state in their struggle… even if they may seek to take advantage of inter-imperialist rivalries to advance their own interests while maintaining political independence and autonomy.

– to reaffirm the opposition to the Assad regime, to refuse its relegitimisation internationally, not to forget the war crimes, the tens of thousands of political prisoners still tortured in the regime’s jails , the disappeared, the refugees, the internally displaced, etc. A blank cheque given today to Assad and his crimes would be a further abandonment of the Syrian people and their heroic revolt, and would inevitably increase the sense of impunity of all authoritarian states, allowing them in turn to crush their populations if they were to revolt. Similarly, all actors who have committed human rights violations against civilians must be punished for their crimes.

Internationalist solidarity with the Syrian popular classes is more necessary than ever!

Then there is this:

Syria’s President Assad ‘to visit North Korea’

Written by Andrew Coates

June 5, 2018 at 4:40 pm

Syria: *The* Issue for the International Left.

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Syria: The World’s War.

At the end of last week BBC 2 showed a thorough, moving, pair of documentaries on Syria.

Syria: The World’s War

Lyse Doucet tells the story of one of the biggest humanitarian crisis of our age, the Syrian civil war – seven years of brutal conflict, surpassing the length of World War II. In this two-part series, Lyse Doucet, who has reported on the conflict from the start, explores how peaceful protest for change spiralled into unspeakable savagery – half a million people killed, millions of lives shattered and so much of Syria in utter ruins.

The series tells the inside story of the war from multiple perspectives. It hears accounts of the experiences of Syrian people from different sides – civilians and fighters who stayed loyal to the government of President Assad as well as those who rebelled.

This second film in the series picks up the action as Raqqa falls to a mixture of Islamist and moderate forces. The story of the extraordinary events of the following months is told by two characters. One is a protester who aims to build a new civil society based on democracy, the other is a torture victim who joins the Islamists as a hired assassin. Within a few weeks of the fall of Raqqa, a new, even more extreme Islamist group arrive – ISIS. The civil society activists ends up being tortured in an ISIS jail, the other ends up joining ISIS and working his way through a kill list they have given him. Each tell their story with extraordinary candour.

As Raqqa descends into chaos, arguably the most important battle of the war is entering its second year – Aleppo. Lyse meets the militia leader who was a key player in the government fightback against the rebels who had occupied a large part of the city. On the other side we meet the bomb-maker who takes us inside the Islamist forces as they dig tunnels underground to blow up government buildings on the other side of the frontline. To gain greater understanding of how this catastrophe unfolded, Lyse also speaks to politicians and soldiers from within Syria and also from western and regional powers. She asks difficult questions of the foreign minister of Syria itself, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, concerning their involvement in the decisions that shaped the conflict. She also gains candid interviews with the key Western leaders from the time, such as the then foreign secretary William Hague and US Secretary of State John Kerry. They tell the story of how the US and then the UK finally enter the war – not against Assad, but against ISIS.

By 2015, four years since the start of the war, the Assad government is under real pressure. The crucial battle is Aleppo. We talk to the fighters on both sides who felt that the city could have been lost to rebels – something that might have proven a mortal blow to the regime. Through interviews with politicians close to the action, Lyse tells the story of how Russian intervention turned the war in President Assad’s favour. In the final terrible months of the siege of Aleppo, we see the suffering of civilians under the massive bombardment through the eyes of a doctor whose hospital is repeatedly hit. Lyse interviews a local politician who claims the hospital is an Al Qaeda base – something denied by those who worked there.

The recapture of Aleppo by Government forces in late 2016 arguably marked the point at which President Assad could no longer be removed by force. The film tracks the most recent year of the war ending with the recent events in Eastern Ghouta and Douma – incidents which mark Assad’s gradual re-assertion of control of the areas around Damascus.

This two-hour series provides the most comprehensive account to date of how the tragedy of Syria unfolded. Importantly, it gets as close to a 360-degree account of some of the key moments in a war that by now has drawn in 75 countries and counting.

I realise that we in the UK have other pressing issues on our minds than the deaths of hundreds of thousands and the millions of refugees.

But perhaps this indicates the gravity of what is happening,

The worst humanitarian crisis of the century. A conflict that has gone on longer than the second world war, drawing in 75 countries and counting. Half a million killed. Millions displaced. A country in utter ruins. And still, seven years on, no military solution, no prospect of a diplomatic answer and no end in sight. This tremendous – and necessarily distressing – documentary (part two is on Friday), fronted by the veteran correspondent Lyse Doucet, begins with the now stock phrases and statistics that trick us into thinking we know this war. Then it tells the story of what actually happened. The facts, as they used to be known.

And we need to be reminded. The appalling truth of a war so long and entangled in world politics is that you become confused, disengaged and desensitised. Despair blots out the need to know and keep knowing. This is how we begin to forget why wars started in the first place.

But those on the left in other lands have been writing on the issue.

This, from the excellent site Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières, (there is much more in the French language section).

How Assad chases, tortures and kills the best of Syria’s young pacifist leftists – For Syria’s disappeared. For Syria’s future  by WESSELS Joshka

Last week Rami Hennawi’s family received the news from Syrian authorities that their son and partner died in prison and they can collect his body. Rami was a pacifist leftist young activist who was detained in 2012. Five years he spent in the most inhumane conditions in one of Assad’s torture houses. Rami came from Sweida, a majority Druze city under regime control and considered in general pro-Assad. But in fact, the underground resistance against Assad in Sweida is strong. If anything, local people in Sweida remembered the anti-colonial hero Sultan Basha al-Atrash, leader of the 1925 Great Syrian Revolt, and took the opportunity several time to congregate in front of his statue to voice their opposition against Assad. This is why the Syrian regime is very wary of the underground opposition from Sweida.

According to one of my sources from the area, at the moment, Sweida inhabitants are under repression by many different factions of pro-Assad shabiha, who kill to steal motorbikes, teenagers get killed because of fights at the schoolground and Assadist shabiha rape at random, terrorizing the local girls and women. There is a sense of lawlessness, and those who are supportive of the regime benefit from this situation. Those who now legally carry weapons in Sweida, have a history of violence and can do all illegal activities they aspire because no one is stopping them.

“The war in Syria only benefits the counter-revolutionary forces” – A comprehensive outlook  DAHER JosephFARAS AntonisTHEODOROU Lina

The issue of Syria is a burning one for the international left.

The founder of the Marxism List, which links to many valuable articles in the same vein, Louis Proyect has engaged in a furious war for the truth against ‘red brown’ (a ‘left’ admirer of Marine Le Pen) conspis like Diana Johnstone on the issue of Syria.

Johnstone now puts Assad in the ‘axis of resistance’

This is his latest bulletin.

Diana Johnstone’s attack on Tony McKenna.

Like a lot of people who were radicalized in the 60s, Johnstone developed a reverence for Stalinist strong men as a way of overcompensating for LBJ, Nixon, et al. Totally alienated by American society, she became infatuated with men like Assad, Putin, Gaddafi and anybody else who was pilloried in the bourgeois press. Like the fraternity boys who kept posters of Ronald Reagan chopping wood on dorm room walls, her heart flutters for Vladimir Putin and anybody else who embodies her romantic idealization of men and women on horseback.

This would include Marine Le Pen, the ultraright Islamophobe that she described once as “basically on the left”. When people came out to protest Donald Trump’s viciously racist immigration crackdown, Johnstone described them with as much malice as Ann Coulter: “Whatever they think or feel, the largely youthful anti-Trump protesters in the streets create an image of hedonistic consumer society’s spoiled brats who throw tantrums when they don’t get what they want.”

Most people with their head screwed on right understand that Le Pen is a nativist just like all the other scum that are rising to the surface in Europe, from Viktor Orban in Hungary to Nigel Farage in England. In 2017, Johnstone decided that the real issue in the French election was national sovereignty and who better to defend it than Marine Le Pen? After all, Johnstone states that “Le Pen insists that all French citizens deserve equal treatment regardless of their origins, race or religion.” Oh, how nice. This politician said that if she was elected, she’d stop all immigration to France.

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

May 9, 2018 at 5:36 pm

After the Westminster Demonstration Against Anti-Semitism.

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Ian Paisley MP, “Supporting our Jewish People.”

 

The below is a deeply offensive and wrong-headed statement made into a headline,

Jeremy Corbyn is ‘figurehead’ for antisemitism, says Jewish group ahead of Westminster protest

Independent.

‘The reality is there are no safe spaces online, or in meetings, for Jewish people within the Labour party’.

This, by contrast, probably sums up the feelings of many people., and not just those with a Jewish background.

This is also good.

Jeremy Corbyn told to act on ‘stain’ of anti-Semitism in party.

Labour has taken too long to stamp out antisemitism in the party, a key ally of Jeremy Corbyn has said.

The shadow business secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey, said it was imperative for the party to urgently address the problem to ensure that the Jewish community felt welcome.

In an interview for BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, she said: “Jeremy has always been a militant opponent of antisemitism, but too often the issue has been dismissed as a few bad apples when we need to take very serious root and branch action, to root out the cause of the problem.”

….

Long-Bailey insisted Labour did take a zero-tolerance approach to antisemitism but this had not been “enforced as effectively as it should have been”.

She also called for faster implementation of recommendations made by Shami Chakrabarti in a report for Labour on allegations of antisemitism.

She said: “There will be clear efforts now to roll out a political education programme specifically to make sure that every single person in the Labour party is aware of all forms of antisemitism … to make sure nobody suffers in the way that they have done.”

Long-Bailey said she hoped Jewish leaders would help Labour to tackle the issue. “I would really welcome a meeting as urgently as possible between Jeremy and the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council because we have to work collaboratively on this,” she said.

On Corbyn’s comments about the mural, she said: “It was clearly an antisemitic mural, and Jeremy has apologised for not looking at it. We are all human unfortunately and it’s a lesson to us all to look clearly at the things we are supporting or commenting on on Facebook.”

See picture above…

Our reaction to the following is more mixed.

Corbyn’s words on Labour antisemitism are welcome – now we need action

Mike Katz is vice-chair of Jewish Labour Movement and was Labour’s candidate in Hendon in 2017.

For me, this is not about undermining the fact that Jeremy Corbyn is Labour’s leader. His mandate is clear. But with great power comes great responsibility.

No, this is a challenge to him to lead the Labour party – and the wider movement – out of this toxic situation and make all parts of Labour safe for Jews.

This is vastly over-exaggerated and wrong headed.

There is a  problem with a certain strain of ‘anti-imperialism’ which too easily makes excuses for racialist reactions to ‘Jews’ on the grounds that the Palestinians are oppressed by Israel. This  stand, in various forms has seeped through to a host of paranoid views about ‘Zionism’,and various conspi themes. It is reactionary, deeply so.

It is the ‘anti-imperialism of fools’, which, in its efforts to back anybody opposing the ‘West’ the ‘Global order’ and to understand Jihadists and various forms of violent Islamism in this light, is not reducible to antisemitism.

It is very very notifiable that at the moment there are mass murders taking place in the Middle East, not just committed by the genociders of  Daesh, but by Assad’s forces, and…the Turkish assault on Afrin.

The organisations which owe a debt to the anti-imperialism of fools are at present standing by in the conflicts, always anxious to find the US at work with little concern for the people’s suffering.

In this context, are we are seriously to take some comments about a Mural and the existence of a number of anti-Semitic nutters in the Labour Party? That is, as we mourn the death of beloved comrade Anna Campbell who gave her life for the cause of the Kurdish people and internationalism?

From the calmer backwaters of New York Ross Wolfe makes a long, reasoned, and important commentary on the controversy in Britain,

Antisemitism as a “blindspot” for the Left

Let me lay my cards on the table: I don’t think that Corbyn is a hardened antisemite or anything like that. Efforts to portray him as such are in my opinion transparently opportunistic. One can make casually antisemitic, racist, or sexist comments without necessarily being an ideologically committed antisemite, racist, or sexist. This is the crucial takeaway from theories of structuralantisemitism, racism, or sexism — that is, they don’t rely on self-consciously antisemitic, racist, or sexist agents or individuals in order to be reproduced societally at an unconscious level.

“Hillel Ticktin, the South African Trotskyist, followed a similar line of reasoning in his synopsis of an issue of the journal Critique. “No Marxist can support nationalism,” writes Ticktin, “whether that of the Zionists or of Hezbollah. That does not remove the real oppression of Palestinians, but it does imply that no religious or nationalist solution is possible… At the same time, there can also be no question that antisemitism is rising, particularly in areas where it has been endemic for the past half-century: Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Bebel’s dictum that antisemitism is the socialism of fools is partly correct in that the role of antisemitism is different from that of racism; it provides an alternative populist ideology to the appeal of socialism.

Rejecting both widespread calls for Boycotts, Divestments, and Sanctions (or BDS, a strategy he also opposed as misguided vis-à-vis the apartheid regime during the 1980s) as well as opportunistic alliances with groups like Hezbollah, which ostensibly leftist organizations like the SWP-UK and ISO-US condone, Ticktin nevertheless affirmed that antisemitism is an irreducibly right-wing phenomenon:

The representative of the Israeli Embassy on the BBC1 10 AM program on Religion 1 May 2016 argued that, although the left had fought antisemitism, there were examples of left-wing antisemites like Proudhon, Bakunin, and Stalin. This is stretching the concept of the Left. If one includes anyone who is critical of the status quo in capitalism to be left-wing then the Israeli representative is correct. There is no doubt that Stalin and Stalinism were not just antisemitic but among the worst perpetrators of acts of antisemitism that the world has seen. This journal has made that clear. Can one call Stalinism left-wing? It was a reaction to the Russian Revolution of 1917 from the right. It introduced and maintained high levels of inequality in all respects. It was brutal in form and totally opposed to the forms of civil liberties accepted by the left. Bakunin attacked Marx in antisemitic terms and Proudhon was no better. They were both anarchists of a kind that would fall outside the left as we understand it today. The people accused of antisemitism do not fall into a Stalinist or anarchist category. There are of course left-wing anarchists but that is another matter. However, it can of course happen that the left sees antisemitism as a form of discrimination employed to divide the population in order to maintain capitalism at the present time, whatever the age of the practice. The left stands for the abolition of all forms of social inequality. Hence it is automatically and inherently opposed to antisemitism, unlike Conservatives and the Labour Right, who accept the market and its forms of subjection and inequality, since they accept the market.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 27, 2018 at 12:13 pm

After the Fall of Afrin and the Heroic Fight of Anna Campbell.

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Anna Campbell: Died Fighting with her Comrades against Turkish and Jihadist Attack. 

The mood amongst Kurds turned grim when Turkish-backed Islamist rebels took Afrin on Sunday and looted the town. Many Kurds were especially upset after fighters destroyed the statue of Kawa, the Kurdish blacksmith who is a symbol for the Kurdish New Year celebrations known as Newroz that will take place on March 21.

“I’m devastated, heartbroken, that’s the least I can say about this, I actually still can’t comprehend this,” said Berfin, a woman from Afrin who had fled to Aleppo. “We have an emotional bond with our land and the people there, the old men and women, our olive trees, Maidanky lake … it’s unbearable,” she said.

A day before the city was captured, the Syrian Kurdish militia, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), took the decision to evacuate most people and move the local administration to the Shahba region, north of Aleppo. Rather then having Afrin surrounded, the town destroyed and hundreds of civilians killed, Kurdish fighters decided it was better to evacuate and withdraw.

Al Jazeera,  Erdogan vows to extend Turkey’s operation to Syria’s northeast

Turkey has vowed to expand its operation in Syria’s Afrin region to other Kurdish-held areas further east, prompting fears for a possible confrontation with US troops stationed in the area.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Turkey’s plans to extend the operation a day after Turkish-led forces entered the city of Afrin in northwestern Syria virtually unopposed.

“We will continue this process until we entirely eliminate this corridor, including in Manbij, Ayn al-Arab, Tal Abyad, Ras al-Ayn and Qamishli,” the Turkish leader said.

Turkey, together with the opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels, launched a military operation into Afrin region in January to vanquish the US-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighters, which it deems “terrorists” near its border.

Expanding Turkey’s military campaign into the much larger Kurdish-held territory further east would risk confronting troops of a NATO ally, the United States, that are deployed alongside a YPG-dominated force in northern Syria.

Turkish authorities have described the stretch of northern Syria under Kurdish control as a “terror corridor” on the long southern border.

The YPG has been Washington’s main ally against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) in Syria, in a partnership that has infuriated Turkey.

US criticism

Pentagon spokesman US Army Colonel Rob Manning reiterated Washington’s criticism on Turkey’s operation in Afrin in a press briefing on Monday.

“We are very concerned about the effect that fighting there [in Afrin] has had” on efforts to defeat ISIL, he said.

Meanwhile, Turkish presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin told Al Jazeera that Ankara and Washington had reached a general agreement on Manbij and that the Turkish side is now waiting for its NATO ally to implement the deal.

Ankara considers the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria and its armed-wing YPG to be “terrorist groups” with ties to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The PKK has waged a decades-long armed fight against the Turkish state that has killed tens of thousands of people.

The YPG had come to control large swaths of northern Syria, including Afrin, in the course of the seven-year Syrian war.

It gained the territory after defeating the ISIL group while fighting in a US-backed rebel alliance called the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Erdogan also said in his speech on Monday that Turkey would carry out an offensive against Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq if Baghdad does not clear the region of them, referring to the PKK presence there.

Drawn to a Cause, British Woman Dies Fighting Alongside Kurds in Syria. New York Times,

Anna Campbell, a young woman from southern England, did all of that. Last week, as the Turkish military and its Syrian rebel allies hammered their way into Afrin, in northwestern Syria, Ms. Campbell died for her commitment — the eighth Briton and the first British woman to be killed fighting alongside Kurdish forces.

In Britain, Ms. Campbell, 26, was active in causes like animal rights and environmental protection, but until recently, she had no personal connection to the Kurds. Yet she was deeply moved, family and friends said, by the fight to defend an autonomous, mostly Kurdish region in northern Syria, known as Rojava, whose leaders advocate a secular, democratic and egalitarian politics, with equal rights for women.

“She was somebody who saw the injustices of the world and the plight of the weak and vulnerable and disempowered, and she also saw the idealism, the amazing utopian vision of Rojava, and she found those two elements irresistible,” her father, Dirk Campbell, said in an interview. “She wanted to prevent that from being stamped out, which Turkey and Syria are trying to do.”

The Free Syrian Army, a rebel group, and Turkey declared on Sunday that they had taken control of Afrin, a mostly Kurdish city near the Turkish border that had been held by the People’s Protection Units, the Kurdish-led militia known by the initials of its Kurdish name, Y.P.G. The Kurds appeared to have withdrawn, but the Y.P.G. claimed in a statement that the fight was not over, and that it had only shifted “from direct confrontation war to hit-and-run tactics.”

Continue reading the main story.

The Kurdistan Solidarity Campaign is devastated to hear of the martyrdom of Anna Campbell aka Helîn Qerecox. A prominent activist in Brighton and Bristol anti-fascist, anarchist and feminist circles, Anna went to Rojava in May to join the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) fighting the patriarchal, women-enslavers and rapists of ISIS. As a member of a workers’ co-operative and tenants’ right activist, Anna would have found common cause not just with the military fight against the ISIS fascists but also with the creation of a new society in Rojava built on common ownership and self-determination and the ethos of a co-operative society.

Anna’s sheer heroism was demonstrated by her insistence on taking part in the Afrin resistance despite the great danger of fighting against NATO’s second-biggest army and their array of jihadist proxies. Anna is not just the first woman from these shores to die fighting for the Rojava revolution, but the first British citizen to be killed by our NATO “allies” Turkey. It cannot be forgotten that NATO’s invasion of Afrin is illegal and has no basis in international law. Their attack on the convoy which killed Anna constitutes a war crime and we call on all progressive forces in this country to pressure the UK government to take firm action against Turkey. Enough is enough, we cannot stand by whilst our government colludes in Turkey’s war crimes, killing Kurds and British citizens alike, and reviving ISIS in northern Syria.

Anna’s act of bravery and martyrdom will never be forgotten by the Kurdish community, by her friends and comrades here and around the world, and by all those who fight for a better world. Through her acts she has become immortal and will live forever. Sehid namirin – the martyrs are immortal.” http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1sqflk

This how the ‘Free Syrian Army’ and the ‘National Coalition Of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces presented their murderous assault.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 20, 2018 at 12:25 pm

Afrin Falls to Jihadists and Turkish Army but Fight and Solidarity Continue!

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Turkish Backed Jihadists Demolish, “blacksmith Kawa, a legendary figure for the Kurdish movement.”

Just breaking….

Syria war: Turkey-backed forces oust Kurds from heart of Afrin

BBC.

Turkish-backed forces have taken full control of the centre of the Syrian-Kurdish city of Afrin.

Fighters waved flags and tore down the statue of a legendary Kurdish figure after claiming the city centre on Sunday.

The two-month Turkish-led operation aimed to rid the border region of a Kurdish militia that Turkey considers a terrorist group.

Activists say 280 civilians have died, although this is denied by Ankara.

Pictures and video footage emerged of forces tearing down a Kurdish statue with a bulldozer.

The monument depicted the blacksmith Kawa, a legendary figure for the Kurdish movement.

A statement on a Whatsapp group for the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces called it the “first blatant violation of Kurdish people’s culture and history since the takeover of Afrin”.

A Turkish armed forces Twitter page posted a video of troops displaying the nation’s flag in Afrin’s centre.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 18, 2018 at 12:04 pm

New Arms Race? Putin announces new strategic, nuclear-capable weapons

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Putin, “new high-speed cruise missile” “unlimited range” “can penetrate any missile defence”

The Guardian reports.

Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Russia had developed and was testing a new line of strategic, nuclear-capable weapons that would be able to outmanoeuvre US antiballistic missile defences, suggesting a new arms race between Moscow and the west.

Speaking in a nationally televised address to Russia’s political elite, the president showed both video and animation of Russian ICBMs, cruise missiles, and other weapons that he said Russia had developed as a result of the US pulling out of the 1972 antiballistic missile treaty signed with the Soviet Union.

“You didn’t listen to our country then,” Putin said during the speech, where he said that some of the weapons were already being tested. “Listen to us now.”

The remarks came during a state of the union speech heavy on economic promises for the Russian people and sabre-rattling against the US in a presentation widely viewed as Putin’s first stump speech for Russian elections, set for 18 March. He is expected to win a fourth term as president.

More details soon …

The Russian state funded French language Sputnik adds that ‘supersonic’ weapons are planned,

La Russie possède des armes hypersoniques, a déclaré jeudi le Président Poutine dans son message annuel au Parlement.

«La Russie possède des armes de ce type [hypersoniques]», a déclaré Vladimir Poutine jeudi en prononçant son discours annuel devant l’Assemblée fédérale (parlement) russe.

Sky News has just confirmed this,

Russia developing nuclear arsenal ‘immune to interception’, Vladimir Putin claims

The Russian President claims a new high-speed cruise missile has an unlimited range and can penetrate any missile defence.

Comment.

There will doubtless be  renewed concern about nuclear weapons.

It would be unfortunate if left-wing opinion were now  to focus on this issue.

It would be extremely unhelpful if, for example, the Stop the War Coalition were to mount a campaign on a potential new nuclear arms race.

The horrors of Syria, in which Russian intervention and the actions of Assad’s regime, Turkey’s armed incursion against the Kurds and their allies, not to mention the killings by the genociders of Daesh, have have taken place without nuclear arms playing any part.

One may not agree with everything Patrick Cockburn says but his latest article puts these issues where they rightly are, centre stage.

Syria: Attack on Afrin will bring devastation and suffering like that seen in Eastern Ghouta, Kurds warn

The Wars in Syria: In the first of a new series, a senior Kurdish official tells Patrick Cockburn that conflict in Syria will last at least another four years, with no end in sight for civilian suffering

 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 1, 2018 at 12:49 pm