Refuting Anti-Semitism Smears with the Reasonableness Test: Part 3

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 25/05/2018 - 7:29pm in

It is also possible to find parallels in the careers of individuals, which, when carefully selected, may refer to a completely different person. As an extreme example, consider the eulogy made by some of the French at the Berlin Olympics in Nazi Germany. They began praising a great national leader, responsible for aggressively including those parts of his nation, that had been separated from the main, parent homeland for centuries. Sounds like Hitler after the annexation of the Sudetenland, doesn’t it? This same national figure was also responsible for persecuting and expelling a religious minority, working against his country and its faith. Which also sounds like Hitler and the Jews.

It wasn’t.

The figure they were talking about was Louis XIV. The Sun King had begun a series of wars to annex French-speaking communities in other nations, like the Kingdom of Burgundy, which had previously been part of the Holy Roman Empire. He was also responsible for the revocation of the Edict of Nantes and the renewal of persecution and final expulsion of the Huguenots, French Protestants. Many of these fled to England, where they brought new skills in weaving and clock-making, for example, and contributed to Britain’s industrial revolution taking off earlier than its counterpart in France. People hearing the speech were intended to believe it was about Hitler until the real identity of this national leader was revealed.

Through carefully selecting parallels and facts, you can make almost anyone appear as something they are not. Which is something the Israel lobby and the people making those smears know very well, as they twist and deny facts, and take words and comments out of context, or simply make them up.

But to return to the subject of racial insults and the subjective evidence of how they may appear to other people, this reminds me of two notorious cases in America where people were falsely accused of racially insulting Blacks.

One of these concerned a Black staffer working in the US Treasury department during Clinton’s presidency. He was responsible for setting or estimating the funding levels. A Black colleague tackled him on his figures, criticising them for being too low. The staffer rejected this, and said, ‘No, I’m not being niggardly’. His interlocutor then sued him for his use of racist language. Presumably this was because ‘niggardly’ sounds like ‘n888er’. In fact, the two words are etymologically distinct. The modern English term ‘niggard’, comes from the Middle English word ‘nig’, meaning a miser or worthless person. It has absolutely nothing to do with later racist terms for people of colour. But it’s similarity to that term was enough to anger his opponent, who doubtless sincerely felt that it was a derogatory term, and that he had been insulted.

The case was much discussed in the press, because of its similarity to a novel that had recently come out by one of America’s great literary giants, The Human Stain. This is about a man in a well-paid, responsible job, who is also brought low and sued for racism, when he uses an ambiguous term, which his accusers believe is racist, but which really isn’t.

And then there’s the case of the Jewish student at one of the American colleges, who was sued by a group of Black sorority girls. The poor fellow had been revising for an exam he had the next day. Unfortunately, right outside his window and below him there were a group of young Black women very loudly celebrating some sorority even. At last, driven to exasperation by his inability to concentrate due to the noise they were making, he threw open his window and shouted out, ‘Shut up, you water buffalo!’ The girls decided they’d been insulted, and so took him to the college authorities. And the court proceeding there seem almost farcical. One member of staff turned up to give evidence that water buffalo were African animals. They aren’t. They’re East Asian. The accused student himself defended himself by saying that he was using ‘water buffalo’ to translate the Hebrew word ‘behema’, which has no racial connotations. In fact, as I understand it, the word ‘behema’ simply means ‘beast’, of any kind.

Both of these are stupid, wrongful accusations, that should never have come to court, although I’ve no doubt the people making the accusations sincerely believed they’d been terribly insulted because of their race.

And they clearly show the terrible dangers and miscarriages of justice which occur when subjective impressions are taken as the yardstick for assessing whether a comment or statement is racist or not.

And subjective impressions, and the rule that something may be racist, if another person thinks it is, regardless of whether it really is, or was intended to be, must not be allowed to become the standard for upholding the anti-Semitism smears against Labour party members. Or anyone else for that matter.

As this article has shown, it privileges emotion, ignorance and pernicious urban myths against truth and fact. It is also of a piece with the ‘paranoid style’ animating the Fascist right, and which has resulted in the creation of real, terribly evil conspiracy theories, which are a danger to Blacks, Jews, left-wingers and members of new religious movements, like practising occultists, who were accused of Satanic ritual abuse in real witch hunts back in the 1990s. Quite apart from ordinary people, who also found themselves accused of Satanism because of false memories and the coaching of those utterly convinced that a Satanic conspiracy exists.

Subjective impressions don’t lead to truth. They lead to witch hunts, false convictions and massive injustice. Which is why the Israel lobby and is collaborators in the Labour party are determined to use it. It has to be stopped, and the real yardsticks – impartial fact – used instead.

Occupations and strikes hit France as students and workers resist Macron

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 18/05/2018 - 2:58pm in

Around 200,000 people took part in demonstrations across France on 1 May as the battle continues against President Emmanuel Macron’s neo-liberal assault.

Rail workers are striking two days in every five, fighting privatisation, line closures and the abolition of their contract which prevents mass redundancies.

Pierre Brun, a rail worker, said, “We had a good demonstration in Lyon, 8000 or so. It felt strong and united. Lots of different workers were on the streets with us.

“The number of train drivers on strike doesn’t go down. Some people miss a strike or two, others come out.

“But the issue is how we’re going to win. There has to be something that paralyses the country—a general strike, and for more than one day. Macron is very determined. Gestures won’t win.”

On 14 May rail unions called for “a day without rail workers”. It was highly successful, with few services running. It also saw an escalation of militancy. Around 200 strikers from Paris Nord station invaded the SNCF rail management headquarters.

From Marseille, CGT union member Bernard said, “We struck and we blocked the road near the Saint-Charles station. Some people, strikers and supporters, occupied the tracks.

“The bosses brought in the police. But they couldn’t stop the occupation. All the trains were halted.”

The strikes need urgently to accelerate. Eight trade union groups have called a day of public sector strikes and demonstrations on 22 May.

Strikes are planned by rail, air and maritime transport workers, and in every level of education from nurseries to universities. Postal workers, firefighters, health workers, electricity and gas workers, refuse workers and many more will also strike.

Macron wants to eliminate 120,000 public sector jobs and introduce individualised “payment by results” for workers.


Meanwhile the student movement continues to resist Macron’s plan to increase selection and make it harder to go to university—despite police attacks on occupations.

In April police attacked and evicted occupying students at the Sorbonne university in Paris. This was the campus where 50 years ago students in revolt helped to spark the famous general strike in May 1968.

Protests in response meant the university was closed for two days. It’s one sign of the boiling political atmosphere in France.

Police have cleared out occupying students in Nantes, Bordeaux, Paris, Lille, Caen, Dijon, Grenoble, and Strasbourg. There were dozens of arrests.

Sylvine, a student from Paris, explained, “The movement is not intimidated, we’re angry. There are thousands of young people involved—against selection, with the strikers, against the new laws that crackdown on asylum.

“There were lots of students on the demos last week. In 1968 when the students were attacked the unions called strikes. We want that now—for themselves and for us.”

By Charlie Kimber
Socialist Worker UK

The post Occupations and strikes hit France as students and workers resist Macron appeared first on Solidarity Online.

France: The Gironde region’s path to a basic income experiment

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 18/05/2018 - 3:53am in


News, france

Since the beginning of 2017 that basic income has been on the political agenda in Gironde, a southwestern region in France. At that time, several Administration task groups worked together, from December 2016 up to February 2017 to reflect on the possibility of implementing a basic income policy in Gironde. Those groups included social network representatives, entrepreneurs, social workers and

The post France: The Gironde region’s path to a basic income experiment appeared first on BIEN.

France: The Gironde region’s path to a basic income experiment

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 18/05/2018 - 3:53am in


News, france

Since the beginning of 2017 that basic income has been on the political agenda in Gironde, a southwestern region in France. At that time, several Administration task groups worked together, from December 2016 up to February 2017 to reflect on the possibility of implementing a basic income policy in Gironde. Those groups included social network representatives, entrepreneurs, social workers and

The post France: The Gironde region’s path to a basic income experiment appeared first on BIEN.

The Racists and Reactionaries Who Are the ‘Honorary Patrons’ of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism

On Wednesday, Tony Greenstein also put up a very revealing post discussing some of the honorary patrons of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism. This is the organisation responsible for many of the anti-Semitism smears and libels, including that of Mike. Greenstein notes that it’s suspected of being funded by the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs as part of their campaign of dirty tricks against the Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement. And the CAA’s patrons are a grim lot of reactionaries, racists and islamophobes. They include the former archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, Eric Pickles, Bob Blackman, Matthew Offord, Mike Freer, and Richard Kemp.

Carey got himself into trouble with Britain’s Muslim community in 2004 with a tactless comment about Islam, which included the words ‘During the past 500 years, critical scholarship has declined, leading to strong resistance to modernity’. It’s a very simplified version of Islamic history, which leaves out Modernists like Mohammed Abduh, the Egyptian ulema, who began the process of modernisation in their country before its conquest by the British and French, and secularist radicals like Turkey’s Kemal Ataturk.

Eric Pickles, whom Buddy Hell at Guy Debord’s Cat has nicknamed ‘the Sontaran’ because of his striking resemblance to those aliens from Dr. Who, used to be progressive and anti-racist. That is before he and Maggie’s Tory cabinet decided to back Ray Honeyford, the headmaster of a Middle School in Bradford. Honeyford had written a piece in the right-wing Salisbury Review, claiming that there was a link between race and intelligence. The local authority wanted to sack him, but he was supported by the Daily Heil and Thatcher. And so Pickles also decided to throw in his lot behind Honeyford. And he’s been a populist ever since.

Blackman, Offord and Freer all put their weight behind the campaign ‘Operation Dharmic Vote’ by the National Council of Hindu Temples back in 2017. This looks like an attempt to copy David Lammy’s Operation Black Vote earlier this century, which was a campaign to get more Black people to vote so that more would be done for them by a more diverse parliament. ‘Operation Dharmic Vote’ sounds similar, but was definitely not as benign. The National Council of Hindu Temples were annoyed that British parties, like Labour, were trying to outlaw caste discrimination, especially against the Dalits. This is the term now used for the Untouchables, the people of the lowest caste, who are given the dirtiest, lowest paid and most demeaning jobs. Indian Dalit activists and writers have described their conditions as ‘slavery’. There are reports in this country of Dalits being refused medical treatment by their doctors. It’s disgraceful, but Blackman, Offord and Freer decided to back the campaign to get the votes of the most reactionary elements of British Hinduism.

Blackman also went further, also hosted a meeting in parliament, at which one of the speakers was Tapan Ghosh, an Indian islamophobe and christophobe. Claiming to be defending human rights, Ghosh talked about ‘800 years of Arab Islamic’ aggression, and ‘200 years of European Christian aggression’. He also described the Rohingyas, now being butchered in Myanmar, as ‘violent’.

Both Islam and Christianity largely entered India through military conquest, though India also has a community of indigenous Syriac Christians in Kerala, who entered the country as refugees from persecution in the Persian Empire. The Hindu Nationalist right bitterly hate Christianity and Islam, as neither religion has a formal caste system like Hinduism. There is a kind of caste system in Indian Islam, but it’s less severe than Hinduism. As a result, many Dalits have converted to Christianity, Islam and Buddhism. The Hindu nationalists have reacted by organising pogroms against Christians and Muslims, as well as Sikhs and extreme right-wing Hindus have carried out forced conversions of Christians. This seems to be the type of Hinduism Ghosh seems to represent, and it’s as racist and intolerant as the militantly extremist forms of the two religions Ghosh denounces.

Then there’s Colonel Richard Kemp, who was successfully sued by Baroness Warsi after he wrote a column in the Jewish News claiming that she was trying to excuse the horror committed by Daesh.

For further details, see Tony Greenstein’s article at

The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism is the group that’s claiming that since Jeremy Corbyn became head of the Labour party, it’s been infested with anti-Semites. Perhaps there should be an outcry instead on the way it’s supported by very real racists and islamophobes.

Out of the Closet, Into the Streets

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 09/05/2018 - 2:02am in

The revolutionary fervor of May ’68 didn’t end with a general strike. It fueled radical demands for years to come, and brought new causes into the mainstream—not least of them LGBT rights.

Franco-Russian SF Series about Manned Mission to Mars on BBC4 Next Thursday

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 09/05/2018 - 12:43am in

Next week’s Radio Times also says that a new SF series also begins on BBC4 next Thursday, 17th May. It’s a French-Russian co-production about a manned mission to the Red Planet, and the first two episodes are being shown at 9.00.. It’s called Missions, and the blurb for it in the magazine runs thus

1/10 Ulysses
Sci-Fi drama about the first manned mission to Mars, which faces a ciris just as they’re about to land, threatening to fracture an already mercurial crew.
2/10 Mars
A sub-team seeks salvage to save the stricken craft, but the trio’s discovery of a body means a surprisingly harsh reception on their return. French and Russian with subtitles.

The other piece about it on page 94 by David Crawford also gives the following information on it:

Two tech billionaires are locked in a race to send humans on a mission to Mars. Sound familiar? This French space series may be topical, but its low-budget, character driven treatment harks back to 1970s sci-fi.

The crew of the Ulysses, funded by Swiss billionaire William Meyer, are approaching the Red Planet after ten months in space. They’re a bit of a ragtag bunch for such a long and high-stakes mission, with an accompanying psychologist.

It’s a bit contrived, but when things start to go wrong and there’s an intriguing discovery, the claustrophobic setting and dysfunctional crew ratchet up the tension.

Both France and Russia are space-faring nations with a very long history of brilliant SF, so this could be very good, despite the low budget. Let’s hope so, at any rate.

The Merry Month of May

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 08/05/2018 - 1:37am in



Where Are the Riots of Yesteryear?

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Macron Fires Speech Writer Bruce McAveney Over Delicious Gate

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 03/05/2018 - 8:24am in


World, france

The French President has sensationally fired his Australian speech writer famed sports commentator Bruce McAveney and apologised to the Australian Prime Minister, his Wife and the Australian people after he referred to Mrs Turnbull as delicious. In a speech delivered yesterday in Sydney.

“I would like to humbly apologise for my comments, I meant no disrespect and was relying on my speech writer Monsieur Bruce McAveney for my words,” said a contrite French President. “I am thankful that the Daily Telegraph pointed out my errors with a humourous cartoon depicting me as Pepe Le Pew.”

“I did not know who this Pepe character was but thankfully my Wife remembered who he was as she saw the cartoon as a child.”

When reached for comment speech writer Bruce McAveney was also apologetic, saying: “I can’t believe I got it so wrong. It’s just that when I think of things I love and admire like Cyril Rioli I think of them as delicious. I realise now that this is not an ordinary or acceptable thing to do.”

“I will make sure that going forward that I save my delicious’ for Cyril….and Buddy and I can’t forget Winx or Black Caviar. Oh who am I kidding everything and everyone is delicious.”

“I can’t wait to start commentating on cricket this summer, that will definitely be delicious.”

Mark Williamson

You can check out our new show Decennium Horribilius at this year’s Sydney Comedy Festival. Hosted by The (un)Australian, the quiz show features teams of some of Sydney’s best comics trying to answer questions about the decade of the 1990s — with prizes for the audience.

Saturday May 5, 5.30pm. The Factory Theatre. Book tickets here.

Book Review: Republic of Islamophobia: The Rise of Respectable Racism in France by Jim Wolfreys

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 02/05/2018 - 9:01pm in

In Republic of Islamophobia: The Rise of Respectable Racism in FranceJim Wolfreys describes the emergence of a ‘respectable racism’ against Muslims in France since the 1980s, fuelled by the ‘War on Terror’ and rooted in the nation’s colonial history. Praising the book’s candid and incisive writing, Elsa Stéphan welcomes this as a commendably comprehensive and accessible account on Islamophobia in contemporary France. 

Republic of Islamophobia: The Rise of Respectable Racism in France. Jim Wolfreys. Hurst. 2018.

Find this book: amazon-logo

I can understand the exasperation of some of our compatriots when there are some neighbourhoods where a mother or father will come home from work in the evening to learn their son has had his pain au chocolat snatched out of his hand by thugs, telling him it is forbidden to eat during Ramadan (Jean Francois Copé reported in France 24, 2012).

A few decades ago, such a lurid invention targeting Muslims might have emerged from nationalist parties, but this very sentence was pronounced in 2012 by a centre-right French member of parliament, Jean-François Copé, revealing the normalisation and embrace of a racist discourse by mainstream parties in France. A few weeks later, Copé was elected president of the main French conservative party. This anecdote illustrates what Jim Wolfreys, in his new book Republic of Islamophobia, describes as the rise of a ‘respectable racism’ against Muslims in France since the 1980s: a poisonous narrative engrained in ‘a war on Terror’ with paternalistic and colonial overtones.

Far from confining his analysis solely to contemporary France, Wolfreys goes back into history to denounce what he views as a form of neo-colonialism deeply entrenched in a French past, affecting many communities as a result. As a further example, a few months after his 2007 election, former president Nicolas Sarkozy gave a speech in Dakar, Senegal, in front of scholars and journalists in which he described at length what he perceived to be Africa’s problems: ‘The tragedy of Africa is that the African has not fully entered into history.’ His advice that was ‘the African’ should start growing their own food to avoid starvation. With his speech, Sarkozy brought his audience back to the mindset of nineteenth-century colonialism.

In France, Islam in particular has been portrayed as breeding riots and terrorism and as subjugating women. Yet, as the author reminds us, the majority of third-generation French citizens of North African descent do not have any religion. It is generally assumed that France’s ‘Muslim population’ equates precisely to the number of people of North African background living in France, no matter what their relationship to religion might actually be. Islam has thus become an imagined threat in France over the last thirty years. There is a disturbing discrepancy between the way French Muslims are perceived and the reality of their religious practices.

Image Credit: (RG72 CC BY SA 3.0)

This misrepresentation of Islam, coupled with mainstream racism, certainly goes far beyond French borders. As Wolfreys observes, a few months after US President Donald Trump’s Muslim ban and the Austrian far-right’s electoral triumph, we can unfortunately consider Islamophobia to be a global phenomenon. Nowhere, however, have efforts to unite Islamophobes behind the state’s authority been as successful as in France. Wolfreys brilliantly unpacks the political, cultural and economic mechanisms that have rendered French Muslims the ideal scapegoats of an entire nation.

Wolfreys’s position as a British political scientist perhaps gives him a perspective that few French scholars and journalists have been able to offer, as most French citizens are firm believers in secularism – or laïcité – as an unquestionable value: a national myth that one could ironically compare to a state religion, used to justify a state racism. Although scholars including Thomas Deltombe have studied a particular aspect of Islamophobia, such as its representation in the media, they have not provided the take on laïcité and French culture that Wolfreys presents in this book.

When the French government decided to ban the headscarf from public schools in 2005 and the burqa in 2010 and when a temporary ‘burkini ban’ was introduced on beaches in 2016, the authorities referred to the French tradition of laïcité. Originally, the 1905 law enforcing the separation of state and church was intended to break the hold of the Catholic Church, which had privileges, along with the aristocracy, before the French Revolution. Yet, as Wolfreys argues, secularism and feminism have since become alibis used by a large part of contemporary French society to discriminate against its Muslim population. As he points out, the so-called ‘feminist law’ of 2005 enforcing the ban on the wearing of the veil was not accompanied by any measures against female circumcision, rapes or forced marriage in a country where a woman dies of domestic violence every three days. Indeed, a report estimated that the burqa is worn in France by approximately 367 women. As a counterbalance to the ‘respectable racism’ of political and media actors and their use of the term laïcité to mask their own Islamophobia, Wolfreys’s own writing is candid and incisive:

Put bluntly, France’s problem is not laïcité but racism. Laïcité has simply become the most respectable and therefore effective means for it to be expressed today.

Wolfreys also analyses the role played by political actors, supported by ‘neo-reactionary’ intellectuals and the quasi-permanent platform they have been given by the increasingly sensationalist media. Despite the serious analysis Wolfreys makes of an alarming global wave of racism, his humour and derision when describing the actors who have contributed to its rise in France renders his essay viciously delightful at times. By making a mockery of Sarkozy’s ‘vulgar chauvinism’, ‘veteran media darling Alain Finkielkraut’ and ‘well-to-do billionaire feminist Elisabeth Badinter’, Wolfreys denounces all the protagonists responsible for recasting racist attitudes into a republican framework, from public intellectuals to journalists and politicians of all parties, while only devoting a few pages to Marine Le Pen, too often considered as the sole incarnation of French racism.

Indeed, for Wolfreys, the rise of racism in contemporary France has little to do with her party, the Front National. Instead, he argues that one of the reasons France has been particularly affected by Islamophobia is due to its economic situation and growing inequalities. In Chapter Four, Wolfreys refers to Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century (2013) to compare inequalities in contemporary France to novelist and playwright Honoré de Balzac’s vision of nineteenth-century France. Inequalities are indeed greater now than they were in this era. Not only is unemployment high, but jobless individuals in France go through one of the longest periods of unemployment in any developed nation. In 2006, 48 per cent of the population thought that they could one day become homeless. In 2008, that percentage had reached 60 per cent. To Wolfreys, Islamophobia and the popularity of the Front National is furthermore fuelled by a deep crisis of political representation, as centre-right and centre-left parties try to support a faltering neoliberal project, while blaming Muslims for the lack of jobs resulting, in part, from their own political decisions.

Wolfreys’s book has the merit of providing not only a retrospective and external perspective on a particular situation in France today, but it also forces us to look at a range of global phenomena: the consequences of neoliberalism, the role of growing inequalities since the financial crash of 2008, the crisis of political representation in mainstream parties and the rise of Islamophobia. These are worldwide threats that need to be not only analysed but also linked in order to face the crisis encountered by many Western democracies. While other books have tackled these issues, the present book is by far the most comprehensive work on Islamophobia in contemporary France. Wolfreys’s direct style and caustic humour make his work accessible to a wide variety of audiences, including students and scholars in French studies, political science and religion.

Elsa Stéphan is a lecturer in the Department of French and Romance Philology at Columbia University, New York. She studied journalism at the Sorbonne before completing a dissertation in the United States on technological utopias in nineteenth- and twentieth-century French literature. Her current research focuses on media studies.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics.