Tendance Coatesy

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Posts Tagged ‘Zionism

Free Speech and the Left.

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Peter Thatchell: “I defend free speech but also warn against UK govt bid to punish universities that don’t stop free speech violations”

 

Readers of Socialist Worker this week will see two articles on Free Speech.

The first begins, ”

The battle to defend the right to speak out for Palestine has returned to universities.

Some students in Oxford tried to stop left wing ­filmmaker Ken Loach from speaking at a university event last week.

Tory education secretary Gavin Williamson ­demands that all universities adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition and its examples to shut down legitimate criticism of Israel.

Universities fight to protect solidarity with Palestine

The second,

In the middle of a pandemic the Tories have decided to launch further attacks on the left and anti-racists, while also claiming they want to protect free speech.

Tory education secretary Gavin Williamson is demanding that universities adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism. Effectively this will prevent criticism of Israel.

He is also pushing for legislation that would compensate speakers who are denied a platform at universities if they feel their free speech has been infringed.

This could include fascists.

But the Tories are not interested in giving people a voice, and you can guarantee they won’t be standing up for Palestine campaigners.

Instead they are trying to use arguments around free speech to push their agenda and to limit criticism of themselves.

…..

They are seeking to deflect anger in society away from class struggle.

That means we need anti-racist unity against Patel and the rest. The Stand Up To Racism demonstrations on 20 March are an important chance to build the movement.

We should oppose Williamson’s “free speech” charade.

‘Free speech’ campaign is designed to aid the right

The SWP wish to defend their right to speak out on ‘Zionism’, and could not care less about defending the right to express other controversial opinons. They do not look into the government’s claim that “There are some in our society who prioritise ‘emotional safety’ over free speech, or who equate speech with violence.” Nor do they discuss claims that whether there is a “free speech crisis” or not, allegations of Transphobia have also been at the forefront of  de-platforming, well beyond the confines of academia. One can only wonder at the reasons for the omission.

There is equally the issue of freedom of expression in the Labour Party, as this campaign indicates.

It is fair to say that for universities, and political parties and voluntary associations,  it up them to decide. As Ian Dunt argues (referring to academic bodies)  “It is not for government to make these decisions. It is for institutions and the people within them. That is where the fight for free speech operates. Not in the corridors of Whitehall.” But if we apply to this to the Labour Party there is no reason why the party’s rules on anti-Semitism and other forms of racism should not be applied to what is a voluntary body

In an effort to reconcile the contradictions in this approach Jewish Voice for Labour has just published an article from the left populist US journal Jacobin.

A socialist approach to Free Speech

Few writers in the USA would ever attack free speech as such. He talks of the liberal writer Timothy Garton Ash, Instead Faber offers a rambling discussion of how “social and economic inequality largely ignored by Garton Ash also play critical roles in limiting free speech. ”

But that is not exactly the point, since the view advanced is that certain speech is not acceptable.

One limit that crops up immediately is the right to offend, defended by Charlie Hebdo. To poke fun at Islam,  as they do, is not acceptable, the author judges, because he asserts that Islamophobia was rampant in France,

 

Garton Ash’s disregard for racism and discrimination is nowhere clearer than in his discussion of the vicious killings at the Parisian magazine Charlie Hebdo. In Free Speech, Garton Ash fails to mention France’s rampant Islamophobia as a factor in the attack. Indeed, at the time, he had no qualms about appealing for a “week of solidarity” in which newspapers would have simultaneously published a “carefully presented selection of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, with an explanation of why they were doing so.”

…..

What Garton Ash fails to recognize is that antisemitism or anti-Catholicism were marginal phenomena at the time of those publications, whereas Islamophobia was at its height during and following the Hebdo attacks. Supporting the right to offend as an element of free speech can still take into account whether the offended represent marginalized communities.

In a measured tone (which contrasts with most of the anti-Charlie speakers, from Tariq Ali to the above SWP)  he concludes,

This is not meant to suggest that censorship should be enacted to end Islamophobia. Rather, the government and civil society should work together to develop a political climate that strongly repudiates Islamophobia and supports the vigorous legal punishment of anti-Muslim discrimination.

In other words governments and ‘civil society’ should   create an atmosphere that repudiates Charlie Hebdo. There is no word on defending their right to satire, to caricature, religion.

Peter Thatchell expresses a contrary positon,

For the Jacobin writer, free speech should neverthless be defended with few qualification for critics of Zionism and for their activities in universities.

A Socialist Approach deplores the ,

broader campaign against critics and opponents of Zionism. PEN America’s 2016 study found that many Zionist individuals and institutions have attempted to bar the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign from campuses throughout the United States. For example, journalist Glenn Greenwald and others denounced a campaign by the Board of Regents of the University of California to ban anti-Israel criticism and activism in the name of combating antisemitism. Meanwhile, campuses nationwide have been pressured to fire pro-Palestinian professors and adopt reprisals against pro-Palestinian groups.

Farber concludes, after some reference to Rosa Luxemburg and the democratic advances of the labour movement, in these hard-to-make-sense-of sentences.

Consistent with this approach, we must defend free speech on its own terms, not merely because it helps to organize and fight for a new society. In this, free speech does not differ from the economic advances the working class and its allies have won. They are valuable both in their own right and because they strengthen the working class and its allies in their struggle for their emancipation.

By contrast most discussion of free speech focuses on why it is valuable in its “own right”. 

It is not Voltaire but the liberal, feminist and supporter of greater economic democracy.  John Stuart Mill (1806 – 1873) who advanced some of the strongest arguments for free speech in the celebrated On Liberty 1859.. He was concerned with the claims of authority, the ability of governments and institutions, to repudiate and prevent differing opinons. Truth he believed would emerge in the open expression of views and debate. Socialists may wish to eliminate the inequalities of power and money that give make some voices louder than others. But is not because we consider that out definition of an emancipatory end is right that we would wish to advance the free exchange of different standpoints. We have to accept the possibility not only that truth will emerge from debate but that between different claims the “nonconforming” opinion corrects a one-sided assertion.

These are not arguments about the ‘market place of ideas’ abstracted from history. A thread owes something to Milton’s call for unlicensed printing, which sees truth emerging from darkness by expose to the light Areopagitica; (1644). But it is largely about politics in the broadest sense. From the density of controversy we can see the uncertainty of democratic political life, from the challenge to centres of authority, we can see the indeterminacy of power, the absence of a permanent office holder, of the democratic ‘absent place’, the refusal to fix society in one shape run from the centre (ideas outlined in the writings of Claude Lefort on the ‘democratic revolution’).  In short, for pluralism and a belief in the power of persuasion.

Standing for this possibility may run against claims that the ruling ideas of society, and the bodies that support them hold sway. But if the left does not have the ability to convince others of our beliefs how can we ‘make socialists’ who can counter them? ,

Like the great French defender of tolerance the British political philosopher was concerned primarily with clashes between different religious beliefs, the “rags and remnants” of past persecutions. Mill equally was out to defend amongst the  “diversity of opinion” the right to scepticism about religion. Liberty of thought, of speaking and writing should be part of the political morality of free institutions, and the rule in countries which practice religious toleration. He was, in this context and using more modern language, concerned with asserting the right to speak out against those in power (‘authority’), whether in the state or in the Church.

Here are some of his central arguments in favour of freedom of expression.

First, if any opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may, for aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to assume our own infallibility. Secondly, though the silenced opinion be an error, it may, and very commonly does, contain a portion of truth; and since the general or prevailing opinion on any subject is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied. Thirdly, even if the received opinion be not only true, but the whole truth; unless it is suffered to be, and actually is, vigorously and earnestly contested, it will, by most of those who receive it, be held in the manner of a prejudice, with little comprehension or feeling of its rational grounds. And not only this, but, fourthly, the meaning of the doctrine itself will be in danger of being lost, or enfeebled, and deprived of its vital effect on the character and conduct: the dogma becoming a mere formal profession, inefficacious for good, but cumbering the ground, and preventing the growth of any real and heartfelt conviction, from reason or personal experience.

There was, for Mill, one limit (known retrospectively as the ‘harm principle’).

An opinion that corn-dealers are starvers of the poor, or that private property is robbery, ought to be unmolested when simply circulated through the press, but may justly incur punishment when delivered orally to an excited mob assembled before the house of a corn-dealer, or when handed about among the same mob in the form of a placard. Acts of whatever kind, which, without justifiable cause, do harm to others, may be, and in the more important cases absolutely require to be, controlled by the unfavourable sentiments, and, when needful, by the active interference of mankind. The liberty of the individual must be thus far limited; he must not make himself a nuisance to other people.

It does not take a leap to see how this can be extended to a distinction between what Farber calls “racist persuaders and violent racist intimidators.” Property is not the issue here. The original tactic of “no platforming” which was a street demonstration strategy of combatting violent far-right groups, like the National Front and the British Movement in 1970s Britain who set our faces against a “mob” of King and Country racists parading through towns and cities.

This, to say the least, was not about being hurt by the expression of views during talks they they are not obliged to listen to, books they do not have to read, or media which they do not have to look at.

It is hard to deny that right of groups of students or workers at universities to invite/host who they want to come and speak (with the above limitations in mind) is an important foundation for  a lively campus civil society and to students’ and university workers’  ability to organise and campaign on political and social issues.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 19, 2021 at 11:21 am

Skwawkbox and the Canary under fire in Report, “Antisemitism and the alternative media”.

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Police investigating calls for CAA personnel to be shot and beheaded after Canary editor says Jews like CAA “gonna get their asses dragged all over town” by BLM as far-left phalanx launches

Canary Chief  Kerry-Anne Mendoza.

Report: Corbynite sites feature far-right tropes

Lee Harpin Jewish Chronicle

EXCLUSIVE: Study for the government analyses The Canary and Skwawkbox next to other extremist outlets

The Canary and Skwawkbox, two of the websites most closely linked to Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, have been found to promote “heavily negative coverage of Jewish issues” to audiences that are “associated with antisemitism”, a damning new government report has found.

An analysis of content published online by the websites revealed alarming parallels between editorial lines taken by the two sites and that of the extreme far-right online outlet Radio Albion, when it came to the reporting of stories involving Jews.

The above article is not going to be friendly to the Canary nor to Skwawkbox.

The author of the study, carried out by King’s College London for the Government’s Independent Adviser on Antisemitism is Lord John Mann, He is, amongst other things, a man who ditched Labour for the hard right and a fanatical supporter of Brexit. He is not somebody we hold in any esteem whatsoever.* Many in the labour movement consider him a turncoat.
Nevertheless there are some worrying indications from the JC article. They show serious reasons to be concerned about these two alt-left alt-news sites and their  content.

The present Blog post here is just, as Wikipedia would put it, a stub for future analysis.

The 77-page document, Antisemitism and the alternative media, which will be sent to government ministers next week, set out to explore four online websites – two that have been associated with the Labour left and two with far-right associations — in unprecedented depth in order to better understand the ideologies they promote and the audiences they were reaching.

This stands out,

The report gives further detail on the way it believes Skwawkbox, which is edited by hard-left activist Steven Walker, has promoted the viewpoint that British Jews who support the state of Israel — along with members of organisations such the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM)  and Labour Friends of Israel  (LFI) — are a corrupting influence on politics in this country.

We await an Exclusive from Skwawky in asp on the issues.

No doubt with this template (yesterday)

Exclusive: BoD and JLM given veto to exclude expert nominees from Labour’s ‘independent’ antisemitism ‘advisory board’

 

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“Mann was one of only three Labour MPs, along with Ian Austin and Kevin Barron, to defy a three-line whip and to vote for Theresa May’s Brexit deal in the 15 January 2019 Meaningful vote. On 29 January 2019, Mann was one of seven Labour MPs to vote with the Conservative Government supporting Graham Brady‘s amendment mandating Theresa May to renegotiate the Irish backstop in the Withdrawal Agreement. The other six MPs were Austin, Barron, Jim FitzpatrickRoger GodsiffKate Hoey and Graham Stringer.[47] On 3 April 2019, Mann was one of twelve Labour and ex-Labour MPs to vote alongside the Conservatives against the Cooper Bill, which had been supported by the Labour Party. Nonetheless, the bill passed the House of Commons with a difference of one vote. On 3 September 2019, Mann and Hoey were the only Labour MPs to vote with the Government in an attempt to prevent MPs from taking control of the house to block a potential no-deal Brexit, saying “I didn’t vote with the government. I voted against an amendment that is deliberately calculated to block Brexit”

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 28, 2021 at 4:58 pm

Labour Against the Witch-hunt Hosts Debate on ‘Free Speech’.

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Chaired by Tina Werkmann of Labour Against the Witchhunt and the Communist Party of Great Britain (Provisional Central Committee, CPGB-PCC), Labour Party Marxists,  who “works at Labour Left Alliance”.

This important event will discuss how we can fight back against McCarthyite attempts to stifle debate on the issue of Israel/Palestine – and label those unjustly expelled and suspended as ‘unpersons’ who we are not allowed to share platforms with.

No to (self-) censorship! Discuss how we can fight back and mobilise for free speech in the Labour movement and beyond.

Speakers include Norman Finkelstein, Chris Williamson, Jackie Walker, Marc Wadsworth, David Miller, Tariq Ali and Tony Greenstein.

Many of the speakers are too well known to need further introduction.

But note this: 

David Miller, (2020)

a report in The Times detailed how Prof Miller is a director of a group known as the Organisation for Propaganda Studies (OPS), which has promoted theories about the September 11 terrorist attacks, the shooting down of an airliner over Ukraine in 2014, the White Helmets humanitarian rescue group in Syria, the anti-vax movement and the origins of coronavirus.

Ahead of a probe into his conduct, Bristol professor resigns from Labour blaming ‘the Zionist movement’

Norman Finkelstein, Verso Blog 2018:

The chimera of British anti-Semitism (and how not to fight it if it were real)

In hard to read, adjective strewn prose,  Finkelstein continues,
 
 Is it anti-Semitism to believe that “Jews have too much power in Britain”—or is it just plain common sense? (It is, to be sure, a question apart and not one amenable to simple solution how to rectify this power inequity while not impinging on anyone’s democratic rights.) Still, isn’t it anti-Semitic to generalize that “Jews” have abused their power? But even granting that a portion have been manipulated or duped, it certainly appears as if British Jews in general support the anti-Corbyn juggernaut. If this indeed is a misapprehension, whose fault is it? The tacit message of the unprecedented joint editorial on the front page of the major Jewish periodicals was: British Jews are united—Corbyn must goIs it anti-Semitic to take these Jewish organizations at their word?
Then there is Tony Greenstein…
 
Marlon Solomon on Twitter: ""The NEC's case is that Greenstein's ...
 
At least a couple of these people (including Tariq Ali)  are members of the Labour Party.
 
Image may contain: text that says "Reports Tina Werkmann, LAW's vice-chair, presented the steering committee's report of work. This noted the assistance LAW has provided to numerous members of the Labour Party who have been suspended or expelled. It was clear from the 'evidence packs' that criticisms of Israel and Zionism were used as proof of'anti- Semitism. LAW's help rebutting these the members were still shown the door, because this witch-hunt is not about eradicating anti-Semitism, but getting rid of the left, she said."
 
Reports that the Editor of the Canary Kerry-Anne Mendoza may be watching this event and could intervene have not been confirmed.