May 31, 2012

US Medal of Freedom for neighbourhood bullies

See, it's right there in the USA Today headline:

Bob Dylan, John Glenn Among Medal of Freedom Winners
Hmm, that can't be right. I've never heard anything about John Glenn singing or being a neighbourhood bully.  But my headline says "bullies".  Now Bob Dylan wrote a nasty hasbara song called Neighbourhood Bully so he must be one of them.  

But what's this Medal of Freedom all about?
From civil rights to government service, from the author of Beloved to the composer of The Times They Are A-Changin', President Obama honored 13 individuals on Tuesday who have made singular contributions to national life.
And who else is on the list?
Some of recipients are well-known cultural icons. Nobel Prize-winning writer Toni Morrison, author of Beloved, Jazz, and Song of Solomon, has a new book on the best seller lists: Home, the story of a Korean War veteran who returns to his racially segregated town in Georgia.
So that's three so far and only one under the heading neighbourhood bully. So any more?
Other pioneers honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom included Madeleine Albright, the first female Secretary of State.....

Other recipients: John Paul Stevens, the third longest-serving justice on the Supreme Court, who wore his trademark bow tie of the ceremony; William Foege, a physician who led the charge to eradicate smallpox during the 1970s......

Attorney John Doar represented the government in some of the toughest civil rights cases of the 1960s, from murders in Mississippi to the Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march in Alabama.....

Dolores Huerta helped organize migrant farm workers along with Cesar Chavez..... 

Three of this year's Medal of Freedom honorees are deceased.

Two of them defined heroism during World War II: Gordon Hirabayashi, who defied the U.S. internment of Japanese citizens, and took the government to court; and Jan Karski of Poland, who delivered one of the first eyewitness accounts of the Nazi Holocaust against Jews.

Obama also honored Juliette Gordon Low, who founded the Girl Scouts a century ago this year.
Ok, we're populating our list of 13. We even have some who could qualify as neighbourhood bully. How many have we now?  I make it eleven. So who else:
The sports world was also honored: Pat Summitt, the Tennessee women's basketball coach who retired this year after a diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease.
Well Madeleine Albright did a good bit of bullying in her time but not usually in her own neighbourhood and we still only have twelve recipients of this presidential award for "individuals .... who have made singular contributions to national life." So who is this neighbourhood bully, number 13 on the list? Who is this person who has made a "singular contribution to national life" worthy of a US Presidential Medal of Freedom?
Israeli President Shimon Peres, lauded for his efforts to find Middle East peace, is another recipient of the Medal of Freedom. Peres did not attend the ceremony because of obligations back home.
Or maybe the USA is flirting with universal jurisdiction. USA Today had more to say about the racist war criminal, Peres:
Israel President Shimon Peres -- An ardent advocate for Israel's security and for peace, Shimon Peres was elected the ninth President of Israel in 2007. First elected to the Knesset in 1959, he has served in a variety of positions throughout the Israeli government ... Peres served as Prime Minister from 1984-1986 and 1995-1996. Along with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and then-PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, Peres won the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize for his work as Foreign Minister during the Middle East peace talks that led to the Oslo Accords."
Ok, all very interesting but how does any of that count as a "singular contribution to national life" in the USA?

Almog worried again

Former Israeli general Doron Almog is having another worry about being arrested in the UK in spite of the UK government jumping through hoops to protect Israeli war crimes suspects. The case of Doron Almog has a long and murky history so who better to report on this than the Jewish Chronicle?

Seven years after almost being arrested at Heathrow, former Israeli general Doron Almog has cancelled his participation in a London fundraiser, following concerns regarding Britain’s universal jurisdiction law.
Major General (res.) Doron Almog was commander of the IDF’s Southern Command from 2000 to 2003. In September 2005, he travelled to London for a fundraising event for Aleh, an Israeli charity that supports homes for severely disabled children and young people.
When he landed, he was warned by the Israeli embassy that an arrest warrant had been issued for him by a magistrates’ court, over the suspicion of alleged war crimes committed under his command in the Gaza Strip. He remained on the plane and returned to Israel.
Mr Almog was the first of a number of senior Israeli officers and officials, including former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, prevented from visiting Britain, due to the fears that pro-Palestinian activists would obtain arrest warrants against them.
Last September, after repeated promises by successive British governments, the universal jurisdiction law was changed, so that an arrest warrant could only be issued via the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
While Israel praised the change, subsequent analysis by its legal experts raised concerns that the DPP, a civil servant, could still issue an arrest warrant at the request of pro-Palestinian activists.
Aleh UK was due to hold a fundraising dinner on June 28, in London. Mr Almog, who has been one of Aleh’s most active spokespeople over many years and one of the founders of a rehabilitative village for severely disabled young adults in the south of Israel, was to be the guest of the honour at the event. The village was named Nahalat Eran, after Mr Almog’s son Eran, who died in 2007 at the age of 23.
Last month, following advice he received from the Israeli government, he decided to pull out and the event has been postponed.
This is good news for opponents of the State of Israel and the occupation but there is still an issue around the fact that the UK has been so willing to change its law, indeed to duck out of commitments to international law, for the sake of war criminals.

An antisemitic caricature?

Don't ask, just join the flipping dots.....

Facebook censors cartoons of an Israeli artist against racism capitalism

The full article is by Noam Sheizaf at +972, including a few images that I encourage you to share on facebook. And I share them here too. But first, a fantastic animation video that deserves wider audience:

And now the banned images:

May 27, 2012


Erm, what I'm trying to say is that the Israeli foreign office is tweeting for support for Israel's "foremost Hebrew speaking theatre company", Habima's, appearance at the Globe Theatre in London. Here's Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods:
In emails circulated to some sections of the Jewish community, the embassy is launching a Twitter campaign using “the hashtag #LoveCulture as it is short enough to fit on a substantial tweet and won’t be taken at first glance as a political statement” (our emphasis).
Suggested hasbara tweets from Tuesday morning onwards include:
Great to see @HabimaTheatre celebrating the Cultural Olympiad @the_globe…all the world’s a stage #LoveCulture
 Fantastic seeing the foremost Hebrew speaking theatre company perform the Merchant of Venice @the_globe #LoveCulture
Maybe panic is setting in because the performances are tomorrow and the night after. Of course protests have been organised:
For those who, on the other hand, respect the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions and recognise cultural boycott as a legitimate weapon in the non-violent struggle for freedom, justice and equality, we recommend joining a mass protest outside the Globe at 6pm on Monday May 28 and again on Tuesday 29th.
No doubt zionists and EDLrs will be out in force too.

May 26, 2012

Monreal mon amour

Jeremie Battaglia Plus (if that is the name) made an amazing film of the popular uprising in Monreal, on thr 24 Mai 2012.

Casseroles - Montréal, 24 Mai 2012 from Jeremie Battaglia on Vimeo.

Manifestation à Montréal contre la hausse des frais de scolarité et la loi 78.
Les gens se retrouvent à des coins de rues pour faire le plus de bruit possible à l'aide de casseroles.
Un grand merci à Avec pas d'casque et Grosse Boîte pour la musique!

Protest in Montreal again the rise of tuition fees in Quebec and the new law 78.
Every evening at 8pm people meet in the street with their pots and pans and make all the noise they can.
A huge thanks to the band Avec pas d'casque and their record label Grosse Boîte.

INTUITION #1 - Avec pas d'casque
© Grosse Boîte

NB: la date dans la vidéo n'est pas la bonne! Il s'agit bien du 24 mai au soir et non pas le 26!

May 24, 2012

Kristallnacht 2.0 courtesy of start up nation

Yesterday, South Tel-Aviv was the scene of a Kristallnacht. A series of marches and protests against Sudanese refugees culminated in a mob storming shops associated with Africans and attacking a car with Africans in the street. Although the perpetrators are from the slums of South Tel-Aviv, as is always the case, the racism came from up high.
Miri Regev, a Likud representative known for her fake "social agenda" kindled the flames of hatred with calling the refugees "a cancer in society." Danny Danon, Deputy Knesset Speaker, introduced legislation forcing the Interior Ministry to deport 80% of Sudanese refugees within two years. This was bluster, as the Interiro Minister, Yishai, is also famous for focusing his office on attacks on undocumented workers. Michael Ben Ari, another right winger in the Knesset, announced plans for a citizen initiative to be called "Expulsion Now" (the name is a backhanded tribute to Peace Now).

Netanyahu also has a hand in this pogrom.
The phenomenon of "illegal work infiltrators" is "very grave and threatens the social fabric of society, our national security and our national identity," he told ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting.
If Israel did not prevent illegal African migrants from entering, the current "60,000 illegal infiltrators could easily grow to 600,000 illegal infiltrators.
"This would inundate the state and, to a considerable degree, cancel out its image as a Jewish and democratic state," Netanyahu said in remarks relayed by his office. (Yahoo News)

Above, a pogromist wears a t-shirt that reads "death to the Sudanese".

May 22, 2012

Habima and The Globe bring occupation to the UK

The Globe Theatre in London is mounting its very own checkpoint in honour of its Israeli guests, the Habima theatre group.  Many theatrical professionals have protested Habima's inclusion in what are Olympic related events and The Globe management has ignored their calls.  Now, fearing disruption, the management has written the following letter to ticket holders:

Dear Globe to Globe Festival-goer,

In advance of your visit to Shakespeare’s Globe to see Merchant of Venice on Monday 28 or Tuesday 29 May we are writing to advise you of conditions of entry we have in place for these performances.

We will have enhanced security processes in place on the date of your visit including extensive checks of bags and audience members. The site will be open at 6pm and we strongly advise you arrive at this time to avoid a delayed start of the performance.  If the majority of the audience arrive after 7pm the show will be significantly delayed.

Please note that no food or drink will be allowed on site. Food and drink will be available in the Swan bar, restaurant and catering kiosks on the Piazza prior to the performance and during the interval; all catering facilities will be exclusively available to our Theatre customers during these times. Food and drink will not be allowed inside the auditorium. The restaurant may be pre-booked on 020 7928 9444 (option 1) and we will be open to customers from 5.30pm, entry to which will also be via our main New Globe Walk entrance.  Details of the menus available in our restaurant and bar are enclosed.

All entry to the theatre will be via the New Globe Walk entrance, including standing tickets. The groundling queue will be formed on the theatre piazza instead of the groundling gates entrance.

We advise you not to bring bags with you and to only bring items essential to your theatre visit. No professional filming or photography equipment will be permitted onsite.

We will be operating a free left luggage service which all bags/luggage exceeding 20cm x 15cm x 10cm will need to be checked into.

Please be aware that the Globe reserves the right to refuse admission to anyone we have reason to believe may cause a disruption to the performance. Any objects or material which could be used in disrupting the performance will be deemed prohibited items.

Any individuals who attempt to disrupt the performance will be asked to leave the theatre.

Both of the performances are sold out and therefore the Box Office will be closed on the evenings of the performance. Please ensure you have collected your tickets in advance of 4pm on the day of the performance.

For further details of the conditions of entry for these performances please refer to our website or contact

Yours faithfully,

Shakespeare’s Globe Box Office
So much for normalisation.

Lieberman and the JNF - a racist among racists

Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's foreign minister, is paying a visit to the racist Jewish National Fund in London tonight.  That the racist JNF and the racist Lieberman support each other shouldn't surprise anyone.  I am however surprised that the JNF is so open about it.

There is a bright side to this.  The meeting should help those of us who have been trying to expose the inappropriateness of the JNF's charitable status since hosting a foreign politician can hardly be deemed non-political.  Also there is a protest planned and here are the details:

Appeal from Stop the JNF Campaign – UK

Tuesday 22 May 2012

From 6.15pm, The Pillar Hotel, 19 Brent Street, London, NW4 2EU (nearest tube Hendon Central, Northern Line)

Protest at the appearance of the Israeli Foreign Minister at a Jewish National Fund event in NW London tomorrow night and at the decision of the UK government to allow him entry to the UK

Apparently it's not just anti-zionists who are opposed to this visit.  Some zionists are worried about the effect Lieberman might have on hasbara efforts.

May 19, 2012

Boycott bites - official!

Here's veteran Irish civil rights activist, Eamonn McCann in yesterday's Belfast Telegraph, commenting on the state of panic that BDS is inspiring among Israeli officialdom:
Is it kosher to boycott Israeli goods? More and more people say yes. And it is becoming more and more difficult to dismiss all of them as anti-semitic. The boycott campaign has gone mainstream and it is beginning to bite.
Thus, President Shimon Peres marked Israel's 64th Independence Day last month by telling the newspaper Maariv: "Israel has been blessed with a lot of talent that manufactures many excellent products.
"In order to export, you need good products, but you also need good relations.
"So why make peace? Because, if Israel's image gets worse, it will begin to suffer boycotts. There is already an artistic boycott against us - they won't let Habimah Theatre enter London - and signs of an undeclared financial boycott are beginning to emerge."
Shimon Peres somewhat overestimates the success of the boycott campaign in relation to the Israeli National Theatre. But he is right to recognise its significance.
I've got a bit of a quibble over this snippet:
Supporters of Israel might reasonably make a distinction between calling for a boycott of Israel full stop and calling for a boycott of Israel targeted on activities associated with the illegal settlements.

A distinction might reasonably be made between arguing against a welcome for Habimah to London and appealing to the traditional Irish music group Dervish not to play in Israel proper.
However, this is not a distinction which the pro-Israel lobby believes it can afford to make. Zionism - the official ideology of the Israeli state - holds that the Jewish people have an unfettered and literally God-given right to all of the 'Holy Land' - including those small areas recognised in international law as belonging to the indigenous Palestinian people.
Actually, possibly more than one quibble.  I'm not sure how many zionists see their settlement project as a "God-given right" and I'm not sure how relevant it is. But I do have an issue with this "international law" business.  I don't accept that Israel exists by virtue of international law.  The partition of Palestine was illegal, the ethnic cleansing was and is illegal and the settlement rights for Jews are illegal. That doesn't leave much in the way of legality.

But the main point of the article is a correct one about the impact of BDS and I certainly can't quibble of McCann's conclusion that "President Peres is right to be worried".

May 13, 2012

Shindler's dissed

David Osler has what looks to me like a good but quirky review of Colin Shindler's book, Israel and the European Left, subtitled, Between Solidarity and Delegitimisation. I haven't read the book myself but going from various Shindler articles I have read, I think the review is fair though Osler makes some off piste remarks I cannot agree with.  I do like his focus on the hasbara buzz word, delegitimisation.

Here are a few chunks from the post itself:
THE allegation of ‘delegitimization’ is a particular shapeless charge to find oneself having to plead against. Yet as the subtitle to this book indicates, such is the broad brush accusation facing all sections of the European socialist movement over the last century, with Colin Shindler making the case that leftists have been in the business of delegitimizing the state of Israel even before the state of Israel came into existence.
Now personally I don't think there's anything wrong with delegitimising Israel given the manner of its founding and of its continued existence and its self definition as a state for Jews but Osler seems to feel that the charge of delegitimisation isn't always fair:

It is of course true that some of those in the dock do have form. Even so, I must direct any fair minded jury to acquit the bulk of the defendants.
This volume is largely written backwards from the final chapter, which documents the peculiarly British – and not, to my knowledge anyway, Europe-wide – alliance between some socialist traditions and offshoots of the Muslim Brotherhood in the UK, which has often been accompanied by anti-semitic rhetorical flourishes.
Aha! So Osler seems to be trying to say that the question of delegitimisation carries with it the charge of antisemitism.
But his definition of ‘delegitimization’ is never spelt out. 
And I think we know why but Osler doesn't spell out that Shindler's task appears to be the conflation of anti-zionism, condemnation of the State of Israel and antisemitism.

We then have some specifics of what it is Israel does that rankles with many of its critics:

There are the illegal settlements on the West Bank, the blockade of the Gaza Strip, the war crimes witnessed during Operation Cast Lead and the ‘separation fence’, to name just a few of the ignominies perpetrated by successive administrations. Professor Shindler seemingly doesn’t like to mention these things: for the left to leave them out of the equation would be an unforgiveable dereliction of duty.
Nor does it ‘delegitimize’ Israel to insist that the specific circumstances of its birth necessitate its reconstitution as a binational secular state. Israel exists and has the right to exist: what it does not have is the right comprehensively to dispossess Palestine.
Can anyone imagine a State of Israel without the comprehensive disspossession of Palestine?  Well, as Osler notes, apparently Hannah Arendt and Martin Buber could but they were very marginal in the zionist scheme of things.

The Stalinist tradition, of course, could save the court’s time by at once entering a guilty plea. The evidence against it, from the Slansky Trial and the Doctors’ Plot on to the purges that swept Poland in the late 1960s, will be all too familiar to anyone who has read, say, Paul Lendvai’s instructive ‘Anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe’.
Another aha! Delegitimisation does mean antisemitism.  The Stalinists supported the establishment of the State of Israel but they undeniably resorted to antisemitism when it suited them.  Delegitimisation of Israel and antisemitism are not so easy to conflate.  Stalinist regimes took to condemning Israel and supporting its victims and enemies but they did not question the legitimacy of the state.  Indeed the antisemitism of various Polish Stalinist governments had them harrassing Polish Jews into relocating to Israel.  In the 1950s the transfer of Jews to Israel was carried out in cohoots with Israel.  Far from being a campaign of delegitimisation of Israel, official antisemitism in eastern Europe dovetailed with zionism.

Osler goes on to raise more objections to what he sees as Schindler's surplus of polemic over scholarship including various swipes at the SWP, of whom Osler himself is no fan (no longer anyway):

But most of all I object to the obviously silly claim that Britain’s revolutionary socialists would have collaborated with Nazism had Britain been conquered by Germany in 1940. This nonsense is advanced in the very opening sentences of the foreword, presumably to set out the idea that these people were irredeemably tainted by anti-semitism.
The track record of Communists and Trotskyists in this regards compares favourably with that of the Stern Gang, which actually did propose alliance with the Nazis, and Rudolf Kastner, who came to terms with Hitler’s representatives, albeit under duress.
Let us not forget that the left led the resistance to fascism in occupied Europe, and many comrades bravely laid down their lives to that end. Frankly, they do not deserve to have the likes of Shindler spit on their graves for the sake of catchpenny advantage in British Zionism’s contemporary bust up with the SWP.
All in all I liked the review though there appears to be a circle that Dave Osler wants to square but can't and that is the idea that there can be a legitimate State of Israel.  Also, simply knowing the form of many hasbaraniks, the expression "delegitimisation" has to be vague because it does become clear that what is being hinted at is antisemitism.

May 12, 2012

A letter from Tha’ir Halahleh to his daughter

Tha’ir Halahleh, 75 days on hunger strike, is near death. Halaleh has been kidnapped by Israel's security forced ("administrative detention") and jailed, not only without trial, but also without that theatrical farce Israel calls "trial."

In bygone days, Emperor Obama went to Egypt and made a famous sppech urging Palestinians to use non-violence (he never gave that advice to Benjamin Netanyahu). But it appears that Halaleh's hunger strike is not no-violent enough for the White House. The sight of Halahleh's deteriorating body causes so much pain to the delicate conscience of Israel's supreme court that they denied his petition, fearful that others might take his example, causing them even more pain, or at least discomfort. (But that is happening anyway, as as many as 2,000 kidnapped Palestinians are hunger striking in Israel's prisons). Obviously, causing discomfort is not compatible with the principles of "non-violence," which is probably the only reason, other than a deep dislike for everything uppity, why nobody in the American imperial establishment has anything to say about the hunger strike.

Below is a letter from Halahleh to his daughter.
My Beloved Lamar, forgive me because the occupation took me away from you, and took away from me the pleasure of witnessing my first born child t
hat I have always prayed to God to see, to kiss, to be happy with. It is not your fault, this is our destiny as Palestinian people to have our lives and the lives of our children taken away from us, to be apart from each other and to have a miserable life, nothing is complete in our lives because of this unjust occupation that is lurking on every corner of our lives turning it into eeriness, a continuous pursuit and torture. Despite that I was deprived from holding you and hearing your voice, from watching you grow up and move around in the house and in your be, and that I was deprived of my rule as a human and a father with my daughter your existence has given me all the power and hope, and when I saw your picture with your mother in the sit-in tent, you were so calm staring in wonder at people, as if you were looking for your father, looking at my pictures that are hung inside the tent asking in silence why is my father not coming back, I felt that you are with me, in my sentiment and inside my mind, as if you are a part of my heartbeats, steadfast and the blood that flows in my veins, opening all doors for me spreading clear skies around me, and unleashing your free childish voice after this long silence.

Lamar my love: I know that you are not to be blamed and that you don’t yet understand why your father is going through this battle of the hunger strike for the 75th day, but when you grow up you will understand that the battle of freedom is the battle of going back to you, so that I can never be taken away from you again or to be deprived of your smile or seeing you, so that the occupier will never kidnap me again from you.

When you grow up you will understand how injustice was brought upon your father and upon thousands of Palestinians whom the occupation has put in prisons and jail cells, shattering their lives and future for no guilt but their pursuit of freedom, dignity and independence, you will know that your father did not tolerate injustice and submission, that he will never accept insult and compromise, and that he is going through a hunger strike to protest against the Jewish state that wants to turn us into humiliated slaves without any rights or patriotic dignity.

My beloved Lamar keep your head up always and be proud of your father, and thank everyone who supported me, who supported the prisoners in their struggle, and don’t be afraid god is with us always, and god never lets people who have faith and patience, we are righteous, and right will always prevail against injustice and wrong doers.

Lamar my love: that day will come, and I will make it up to you for everything, and tell you the whole story, and your days that will follow will be more beautiful, so let your days pass now and wear your prettiest clothes, run and then run again in the gardens of your long life, go forward and forward nothing is behind you but the past, and this is your voice I hear all the time as a melody of freedom.


May 08, 2012

Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign ‘cyberbullied’ by Irish Minister for Justice

The Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) has been subjected to unprecedented attacks after the traditional music band Dervish refused to break the boycott and play in Israel. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter, who is an ardent Zionist has, in a frankly unbelievable press release, slammed the ‘IPSG’ [sic] for  ‘cyber-bullying’ Dervish, has linked us with Al Qaeda, and has claimed we are taking away the constitutional rights of Irish citizens by asking them to boycott Israel.
What is worrying – showing the deference to power among the Irish media - is that these statements have been taken at face value, rather than treated as an ideologically motivated assault on peaceful Palestinian rights campaigners. With our minds on the hunger strikers facing death in Israeli prisons, this minor media mugging seems trivial – talking about it sounds narcissistic. But this bullying of Irish people who support Palestinian rights is part and parcel of a so-far successful campaign to ensure that Palestinian voices are drowned out in the media.
There has been no coverage at all of the hunger strikes in the Irish press. In comparison, there has been a flurry of articles on Dervish and the cultural boycott. You can find indignant voices talking of the value of cultural exchange as Palestinian prisoners are starving to death - here and here in the Sunday Independent; here and here in the Irish Times - and also in the Sunday Times (behind a paywall, but really, you’re not missing much).
The worst of these articles come from the Sunday Independent, the Irish version of the Daily Mail. Over the past few weeks, the Sindo has been launching ongoing attacks on the IPSC – their articles and various responses are here something which demonstrates the success of the Israeli media machine in targeting Ireland, as they had previously promised.
In response to the statement of Alan Shatter, the IPSC are issuing an open letter to the Minister and having questions asked in the Dáil (Irish parliament) about the abuse of Ministerial power – see also this blog
Things come out in a crisis. On one hand, it shows that it was a real victory to persuade former Eurovision entrants, Dervish not to play Israel – although credit for that lies perhaps more with their friends in the traditional music field, long a bastion of support for Palestinian rights.  
We must be doing something right to have this much hatred focused on our actions.  In his defamatory and dishonest attack on the IPSC, Alan Shatter has, in the long term, done himself no good. In the short term though, we are facing a uniformly hostile media and a barrage of hate mail, my favourite being: "Dervish bulling. Undeliveble that you could do that. Pack of Muslim lovers"
We expect the Minister for Justice to make a public statement about this ‘cyberbullying’ any day soon.

May 06, 2012

Le Pen and "the left"

As French people go to vote, hopefully to vote out the disgusting racist scumbag Sarkozy, and put in office the affable and dour, polite, but de facto representing only somewhat less racist policies Hollande, who will continue the austerity program required by the speculators while pretending to be a socialist, the following op-ed in Le Monde by communist (and former Maoist) philosopher Alain Badiou is useful in clarifying some of the mysteries of lepenism to the non-French reading public. 

The racism of intellectuals, Alain Badiou, 5 May 2012

The size of the Le Pen vote was painful and surprising. We are looking for explanations. The political class comes up with its portable sociology: the France of people from below, of lost folks of the countryside, of workers, the under-educated, those frightened by globalization, by the decline in purchasing power, the de-structuring of the territories, the presence at their doors of foreign foreigners, seek to retreat into nationalism and xenophobia.

It is this "backward" France that was blamed for the 'No' vote in the referendum on the proposed European Constitution. On the opposite side were allegedly the modern, urban, educated middle classes, who alone constitute the salt of our well-tempered social democracy.

Let's say that this lower class France is still, in the circumstances, the donkey in the fable, the flayed and scabby "populist" scapegoat that is the source of all the evil of Lepenism. This resentment of the media and the political class towards "populism" is strange. Is it possible that the democratic power, of which we are so proud, is allergic to listening to the people? This is in any case what the said people thinks. When asked "Are political office holders concerned about what people like you think?" The share of the full negative answer "not at all" increased from 15% of the total in 1978 to 42% in 2010! The share of positive answers  ("a lot" or "to a fair extent") fell from 35% to 17% .... The least we can say is that the relationship between the people and the state is not one of trust.

Must we conclude that our state does not have the people it deserves, and that the dark Le Pen vote testifies to that popular inadequacy? This would require that we change the people in order to strengthen democracy, as Brecht recommended in irony.

My thesis is rather that two other culprits should be brought forward: the successive holders of state power, of both left and right, and a non negligible group of intellectuals.

Ultimately, it wasn't the poor of our countryside who decided to limit as much as possible the basic right of a worker in this country, of whichever original nationality, to live here with his wife [sic] and children. It was a socialist minister, and all those on the right then followed into the breach. It was not an undereducated rustic who proclaimed in 1983 that the strikers at the Renault car factory--most of them Algerians and  Moroccans--were "immigrant workers (...) agitated by religious and political groups on grounds that have little to do with French social realities."

It was a socialist prime minister, of course, to the obvious delight of his "enemies" on the Right. Who had the good sense declaring that Le Pen raised real issues? An activist of the National Front from Alsace? No, it was [socialist] prime minister Francois Mitterrand. It wasn't  the underdeveloped folks of the back-country who built detention centers in which to imprison, outside of any real law, those who were also deprived of any mean of acquiring the legal papers of their presence.

It wasn't overwhelmed suburbanites who ordered French embassies around the world to reduce the issuing of visas to France to a trickle, while setting hard expulsion quotas for the police here. The succession of restrictive laws that, under the pretext of foreignness, assaulted the liberty and equality of millions of people who live and work here was not the work of on the loose "populists."

Behind these legal wrongs we find, quite simply, the state. We find there all the successive governments, beginning with the government of Francois Mitterrand, and relentlessly thereafter. Just two examples: the Socialist Lionel Jospin let it be known as soon as he came to power that he would not abolish the xenophobic laws of Charles Pasqua; the socialist Francois Hollande indicated that his government would treat the question of regularization of undocumented immigrants no differently than Nicolas Sarkozy. Continuity in this matter is completely clear. It is this persistent encouragement of the state in this villainy that shapes reactive and racialist public opinion, and not the other way around.

>I cannot be suspected of not knowing that Nicolas Sarkozy and his clique were always busy advancing cultural racism, raising high the banner of the "superiority" of our dear Western civilization and putting to vote an endless succession of discriminatory laws of appalling vileness.

And yet, we did not see the left rising to the occasion in opposing that with the force appropriate to such a fierce reactionary assault. The left even stated often that it "understood" this demand for "security", and voted with no qualms in favor of flagrantly persecutorial decisions, as those aimed at expelling from the public space this or that woman under the pretext that she covered her hair or wrapped her body.

Left candidates everywhere announce that they will lead a merciless struggle, not so much against the graft of the capitalists and the dictatorship of austerity budgets as against undocumented workers and minor repeat offenders, especially if they are blacks or Arabs. In this area, Right and Left together have trampled every principle. For those deprived of papers, it was and is the state of exception, not the state of law; the state of lawlessness. They are the ones who suffer insecurity, and not well-to-do nationals. If we have to resign to expel people, God forbid, it would be better that we choose our rulers rather than the very respectable Moroccan or Mali workers.

And whom do we find behind all this, and for over twenty years? Who are the glorious inventors of the "Islamic danger", busy, according to them, disintegrating our beautiful western and french society? None but intellectuals. Who devoted to this wretched task fiery editorials, convoluted books, "sociological" investigations? Was it a group of countryside retirees and small town workers who put together patiently all this business of the "clash of civilizations", the defense of the "republican pact", the threats to our beautiful "secularism", the "feminism" outraged by the daily lives of Arab women?

Is it not infuriating that we look for culprits only on the extreme right - which effectively pulls the chestnuts from the fire - without ever exposing the overwhelming responsibility of those, very often calling themselves "of the left", and more often "philosophy" professors than supermarket cashiers, who passionately argued that the Arabs and blacks, especially their youth, corrupted our educational system, perverted our suburbs, offended against our freedoms and outraged our women? Or they were "too many of them" in our football teams? Exactly as it was formerly said of Jews and "wogs" that eternal France was mortally threatened through them.

Of course, some tiny fascist groups that claimed their inspiration from Islam did emerge. But there have been just as well fascist movements claiming inspiration from the West and from Christ the King. That never prevented a single Islamophobic intellectual from bragging endlessly about our superior "western" identity, nor from sticking our admirable "Christian roots" inside the worship of secularism. Marine Le Pen, who  became one of the most committed practitioners of this cult, finally exposes the political wood that warms the altar of this secularism.

In truth, the anti-popular violence that  targets primarily the urban youth, and which is the real secret of Islamophobia, was the invention of intellectuals. And it was governments, unable to build a society of civic peace and justice, who delivered the foreigners, beginning with Arab workers and their families, as fodder for disoriented and fearful constituencies. As always, the idea, even a criminal one, comes before power, which in turn shapes the opinion that it needs. The intellectual, even a sorry one, comes before the minister, who constructs his followers.

The book, even one worthy of being trashed, comes before the propaganda image, that leads astray instead of instructing. Thirty years of patient efforts in writing, invective and electoral competition bereft of an idea find their dark reward in tired consciences and the vote of the herd.

Shame on successive governments that competed all on the joint themes of security and the "immigrant problem", so that it wouldn't become too visible that they served primarily the interests of the economic oligarchy! Shame on the intellectuals of neo-racialism and thick nationalism, who patiently covered the void left in the people by the temporary eclipse of the communist hypothesis with a coat of nonsense about the Islamic danger and the destruction of our "values"

It is they who must now account for the rise of rampant fascism whose mental development they tirelessly promoted.

I'd take issue with Badiou's mystifying claim that the idea precedes the political. It is true in a very narrow sense. Obviously the intellectuals who prepared the ground for Le Pen were already inscribed in a political system whose rewards and punishments they understood, and their work was a response to what they intuited as useful to their own careers.But that is of interest , at least in some sense, only to revolutionary nerds (bless them all). The main point is the key point. The problem of European racism, in France and elsewhere, is not the problem of "the extreme right". It is a problem left, right and center.

The most depressing example of that was perhaps the devastating fall out of the electoral campaign of Ilham Mossaid. A radical left Muslim woman who wears the veil, Mossaid stood in a regional election in a largly Muslim district as candidate of the revolutionary left party, The New Anticapitalist Party (NPA) in march 2010. Her candidature worked the whole French establishment into a lather of racism and islamophobia. There was hardly a notable French public figure who did not condemn this grievous sartorial attack on secularism and French identity. The communists and other parties of the left joined the attack as well. And worst of all, although Moussaid received the defense of the  party leadership, the defense was tepid and conciliatory towards the racists, and a significant part of the membership was at best lukewarm. Seven month later, the whole group of local Muslim revolutionaries left the party.

The NPA is without a doubt the most committed and coherent revolutionary party in France, and undoubtedly the one I would have voted for if I had a vote in France. It's failure to stand up against racism on that occasion reflects how deeply racism is rooted in French political culture as a whole. The struggle against racism cannot be reduced to the struggle against the extreme right.

May 04, 2012

Max Ajl talks with Matan Kaminer

I reproduce below a thought provoking  interview of Matan Kaminer by Max Ajl in its entirety. It is a modest antidote to the shallow liberal anti-Zionism that dominates the "radical" blogosphere.


Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?  How did you get involved in political activity?

I was born to an activist family.  My grandparents were among the founders of the New Left in Israel in the seventies.  After they left the Communist Party of Israel (CPI) they were among the founders of SIAH (New Israeli Left) and then of SHASI (Israeli Socialist Left), which, together with the CPI and the Black Panthers, founded the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality -- as al-Jabha/Hadash.  My parents also took the path from SIAH to SHASI, and my father was involved in Yesh Gvul, a movement of conscientious objectors to the occupation.  He was imprisoned twice when he refused to fight in the First Lebanon War.

I became active in the Hadash youth group in Tel Aviv when I was fifteen.  This was mostly a reading and discussion group -- we didn't actually do very much but it was formative for me intellectually and politically.  Then I was involved in the "Shministim" movement of conscientious objectors and spent 21 months in prison for refusing to serve in the IDF.  After that I travelled in South America and subsequently became active in solidarity work with migrants and refugees, particularly from Latin America but also in general.  Last year I finished four years at Tel Aviv University, where I was also active in the Hadash branch, and I'm also a member of Ir LeKulanu, a municipal political front that also includes Hadash.

Talk a little bit about the origins of the current social inequality in Israel.  Who put in place these programs?  And how are they linked to the occupation?

These are difficult questions, and I'm not sure I know the answers to all of them.  The regime in Israel-Palestine is capitalist and colonial.  It is impossible to understand conditions in Israel proper -- that is, territorially speaking, within the "Green Line," or in terms of population categories, among citizens of Israel -- without taking the Palestinians into account.  Very broadly speaking, the past two or three decades have seen the regime move from a closed, protectionist and developmentalist model of growth to integration into global neo-liberal structures, relying more and more on the export of security and related technologies.  To this you can add the financialization that we have seen in the rest of the world, making for a very prosperous financial-military-high-tech bloc and for well-paid workers in these industries.

On the other hand you have the rest of the population, including the "old" service elites, which have seen a decline in living standards and life chances over recent years.  PM Netanyahu recently said that if you "deduct" the Arab and ultra-Orthodox citizens -- the Palestinians in the territories were never part of this equation, of course -- the economic situation in Israel is quite good.  This is not true, but it's telling, because I think the regime is worried about the impoverished middle classes making common cause with the "minority" poor.

Another thing the government is very good at pointing out is that the world financial crisis has left Israel alone so far, which has all sorts of strange effects.  On the one hand we have low unemployment, but a very high (around 50%) level of precarious minimum-wage and/or part-time employment.  In addition many of the poor (especially the ultra-Orthodox and Arabs) are just not counted as part of the workforce.  On the other hand, we have a very high and rising cost of living, first and foremost in housing.  I think this is partly an effect of capital fleeing from other parts of the world building up a bubble in the housing sector in Israel.

What is your take on the escalating racism among the Israeli population?

I may be in denial, but I tend not to take "vernacular" racism as seriously as the organized violence of the establishment.  True, we have frightening incidents like the almost-lynching at the Malha shopping mall a few weeks ago; but Israeli society has always been structurally racist.  It seems that lately a lot of the political correctness which used to envelop this racism has been dropping away.  This is not a good thing.  But it's dangerous to gauge the level of oppression only on the basis of what people say, because the most dangerous racists are always the clever ones who know how to keep their mouths shut and talk nice.

What is the current political scene in Israel?  It seems that the summer tent protests largely disappeared.  What has been going on beneath surface presented to us by the media?

Well, the tents did disappear over the winter.  Now that the weather is nice again there's a lot of talk about the protests coming back, but so far it's mainly just talk.  I mentioned the housing crisis.  That was the main catalyst of the protests last year, and the problem hasn't gone away, but I think the movement will have to become more focused and more political this year.  There will be a lot of fallout because many people will conclude from last year's experience that protests can't achieve anything.  But those who remain will become more sophisticated.

Like I said above, because the financial crisis hasn't hit Israel yet, the economic situation here is quite different from other places that are undergoing political upheavals.  This makes it possible for the establishment to pretend that there is no problem, but it also has another effect that is positive from their point of view: so long as unemployment is low, protests can't become really massive.  If you look at Egypt, Spain, and Greece, as well as other places that have had revolutionary crises, it's always had to do with mass unemployment.  The reason is very prosaic: so long as people have to go to work in the morning, there's only so much they can contribute to "occupying" public space, which is essential.

But if and when the Israeli bubble does explode, I think we will have a rapid change and escalation of the social situation.  The problem will no longer be "just" the cost of living but the tenability of the entire structure.  And this will bring people to question the colonial situation as well.  I see the current stage -- maybe the next few years -- as a period for the formation of a revolutionary cadre which will be much bigger than the radical left has classically been here.  Not the 400,000 people who came to the biggest demo last summer, probably, but a few thousand dedicated and experienced people.

What we should be most wary of is any electoral illusions.  Unfortunately some of the leaders of last year's wave seem to be going that way, into the establishment political parties and particularly Labor.  This is going to prove to be a dead end very quickly.  Of course fringe parties like Hadash have a role to play, but there are not going to be radical changes at the state level for a long time.  Municipal politics is a different matter; I think positions can be won there and used as a base for further struggles.

Can you talk about the difficulties involved in braiding together anti-occupation work and social justice work in Israel?

The difficulties are immense.  A lot of anti-occupation and Palestinian solidarity activists are very suspicious of the social protest in Israel and decline to support it until it takes on the occupation.  I think this position is wrong both in principle and in practice.  In principle, because you do not condition your support of an oppressed group on its support for other oppressed groups, even ones that it is involved in oppressing.  We do not condition our support of the Palestinian liberation movement, which is led by non-feminist men, on the liberation of Palestinian women.  And the majority of the population in Israel is oppressed and exploited by the capitalist-colonial system; the fact that it is also participating in the oppression of the Palestinians is irrelevant in principle.

Strategically speaking it is no less important for Palestinian liberation.  The lesson I take from what is happening in Syria, for example, is that so long as an oppressive regime can count on part -- even a minority -- of the population to support it out of fear of the alternative, it can survive.  For Palestinians to win their freedom, they must offer oppressed Israelis their solidarity in the fight against the Israeli establishment.  It is only on the basis of such solidarity -- which of course has to be reciprocal -- that a revolution here is imaginable.

What is easy to miss from abroad, I think, is the genuine terror that many Israelis feel when faced with the prospect of a Palestinian victory in the conflict.  They know perfectly well how much suffering Israel has caused the Palestinians and they have every reason to expect retribution.  From a radical point of view this is not a defensible reason to support the occupation, but it does have a kind of rationality, especially amongst those parts of the population without the resources to leave.  Their fears are manipulated by elites, but they are quite real.  Now again, look at Syria: you have a part of the population which may or may not "profit" from the regime as it is but is mortally afraid of what will happen when it falls -- so it will fight to the end.  The Syrian revolutionaries will have to reach out to this population, to give it guarantees of safety and equality, if they want to win and not just to get bogged down in an endless civil war.  The same is true for the Palestinians, and I think many Palestinian activists on the ground, both in Israel and in the OPT, understand this.  Of course you can be irredentist and say everyone whose grandparents weren't in Palestine before 1927 or something like that has to go -- but then you are giving most Israeli Jews, who have absolutely nowhere to go, no option but to fight you to the end.  And they are armed to the teeth, in case you didn't notice.

So we have to imagine a joint revolution.  In which case the question of what grievances the Israeli majority has against the establishment and how these can be articulated with those of the Palestinians becomes cardinal.  My beef with most "one-staters" is that they think in very liberal terms.  One -- Itamar Mann -- even proposes the creation of a binational political party that will have absolutely no program apart from the demand for one democratic state.  But this way you have no constituency in Israel other than a tiny minority of already radicalized leftists.  A truly revolutionary Palestinian movement would agitate within Israel.  This has been done in the past, most importantly by the CPI in the 1950s and through its union with the Black Panthers in the 1970s, and it can be done again.  I have no doubt that it is the one eventuality most feared by the Israeli establishment.

And then of course you have the complementary problem: how to raise the Palestinian issue within the protest movement.  I think we have to be very patient about it.  It is only after you struggle alongside people that you can really share ideas with them.  Most of the "leaders" of the movement of last summer have tried to avoid "politics," i.e. the Palestinian issue, but this makes them inconsistent and it makes the movement vulnerable to subordination to the "security agenda" -- whenever the establishment feels like it they can start a little war (or a big one) to shut it down.  So again I'm being optimistic but I think we're going to see a new leadership rise organically out of this movement which will necessarily be in solidarity with the Palestinians.

Although I agree that it is only through opening spaces for consciousness-raising and the re-orientation of political horizons that the occupation can be raised, there are two serious criticisms that external observers have made, and which make it hard for those on the outside to offer unalloyed solidarity.  One is that in the countries of the global North, unless issues of foreign policy are raised alongside internal redistribution, you create the social base for right-wing populism.  I don't think that's outside of the realm of possibility for Israel.

So one: I'm not sure I understand what you mean by "right-wing populism," but I'm guessing you mean dispossessing poor people outside the polity and paying poor people inside the polity off that way.  The funny thing is that the Israeli state has been doing precisely this for the past 30 years at least.  There is a functioning and even rather luxurious welfare state available for anyone willing to go live in the Occupied Territories.  The problem is that most people aren't.  Perhaps their reasons aren't ideological, but that's the way things stand.  Right-wing populism is the reality in Israel; to attempt to pre-empt it by denying the legitimacy of the protests is definitely a case of closing the barn doors too late.

But I want to answer this question on a more philosophical level as well: there is always danger inherent in any social change.  If nothing else, it is the danger of the movement being crushed, people's lives destroyed, hopes dashed, etc.  Of course Palestinian solidarity activists won't be losing any sleep over this, but it definitely worries people here, as it worries anybody who has ever been involved in social struggle.  But of course this is a recipe for quiescence, for letting the worst come.  There is nothing to do but oppose it with the principle of hope: that things can change for the better through the collective action of committed human beings.  As you recently wrote, "the historical condition of the left is of failure."  We have always failed.  The only thing to do, and here I quote Beckett, is to fail again and fail better.  Or of course, to succeed.

Two, there's a concern that solidarity or support for social mobilization in Israel could revive people's fantasies about Israeli "socialism" and undercut support for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions.  What are your thoughts?

I don't see how the protest wave suggests the existence of socialism in Israel; rather the opposite.  As for BDS, I'm rather ambivalent about it; I don't know if we want to get into that particular discussion here, but I'm rather impatient with the idea that presenting Israel as anything but a Death Star of the Empire "undercuts" support for the Palestinian struggle.  Perhaps Israelis who speak out against the occupation are also "undercutting"?  Maybe we should shut up and go to the army?

Do you think the J14 protests changed any consciousness within the Israeli population?

Definitely, I think a change has begun that will take a long time to realize itself.  Hegel said (more or less) that, for something historic to really happen, it has to happen twice, because the first time people are not really aware of what they are doing.  This was what we saw last summer, this incoherent but massive rising, people walking around at these protests in shock of what they had become a part of.  It was a very trippy experience, and when it ended there was a lot of disillusionment.  But again what this necessitates is a realization: if we make it happen again, it won't be as formless as it was.  It will be a much tougher, more relentless organism, and of course it will be treated much more ruthlessly.

Why was the occupation so difficult to raise at the protests?

I think precisely because what you had there was people rising up for themselves.  This is very easy to sneeze at, particularly because the "activist" point of view always equates between the oppressed and the (racialized) "other."  But last summer people who had always seen themselves as the "salt of the earth," that is, the ones who own the system and whom it was built for, began seeing themselves as oppressed.  This is a very important moment.  For me too: for many years I have theoretically understood the importance of seeing my problems as social and not individual.  But I never actually did it until last summer: I never conceptualized myself as oppressed.  Even telling you this I feel a resistance -- what, upper-middle-class, educated me, on my way to a doctorate and (God willing) a living in academia -- oppressed?  Exploited?  But indeed I am, as all 99% of us are, and last summer was the moment when we realized this.

Of course this is not the whole story.  People are racist, and most people definitely do not identify with the Palestinians or understand the necessity of making common cause with them.  So raising the occupation at protests was something that would marginalize you, and most people don't enjoy that.  Nevertheless there were some attempts, the most important of which was "Tent #1948" at the Rothschild encampment, where Palestinian activists raised consciousness about the issue.  There was a telling incident there: they had a Palestinian flag flying, and someone came and took it down.  One of the activists talked to him, and when he realized she was Palestinian he apologized and put it back.  It wasn't legitimate for a "leftist" to put it up, but it was for her, because it was her own oppression she was protesting, not somebody else's.  I think you see where I'm going with this.

How is the left planning on articulating itself with these protests?

This may be a bit of a tangent, but first thing I have to criticize the question, which is also a self-criticism because I also tend to think and write this way.  There is no planning, articulating subject called "the left," at least not in Israel.  What there is, is a very active leftist Hebrew blogosphere -- especially around Haokets.  There is a lot of discussion in this sphere, much of it fascinating, but not much planning is going on.  And there are two political groups which are relevant to the question: the Communist Party of Israel and Hithabrut-Tarabut, which are both members of the Hadash front -- which, absurdly enough, I am also a member of, although I am not currently part of either of these groups.

Within the CPI there is a small but extremely effective core group of activists around MK Dov Khenin, who ran for mayor of Tel Aviv-Jaffa and got 35% of the vote, which was completely unprecedented.  The CPI is mostly Arab, but the group around Dov is mostly Jewish.  The CPI's doctrine is that Israel is colonialist only in the occupied territories, where the Palestinians are a self-determining nation.  Within Israel the Palestinians are a national minority which deserves individual and collective rights but not self-determination.  In addition, because in class terms it is mostly proletarian, it has an interest in fighting alongside the Jewish proletariat for socialism, etc.  This group in the CPI has a very "99%"-ish conception of class, i.e. almost everyone is working-class, our common enemy is the big bourgeoisie (what is today called "the tycoons" here), and there is no particular need to work on class contradictions within the movement.

This theory is obviously quite limited qua theory, but it enabled this group, and particularly a very gifted activist, Alon-Lee Green, to take a very important role in the leadership of last summer's wave of protest.  The main achievement of this group was to bring a strong Palestinian Israeli contingent into the movement, putting up tents in Palestinian Israeli and mixed cities, bringing Palestinian Israeli speakers to the main rallies.  It also offered a counterweight to the tendency of the movement to define itself as "middle-class," although the Communists by themselves were not instrumental in bringing lower-class Israelis into the movement.

Tarabut takes a different tack, and they are openly critical of the CPI despite being in the same front with them.  They aimed from the beginning to work with underprivileged groups -- Jewish and Arab.  They threw all of their energies into supporting the tent camps in what is known as "the social periphery" -- in Tel Aviv-Jaffa, the three encampments in Jaffa, Levinsky Park, and the HaTikva neighborhood.  The central demand that they are fighting for is public housing, as opposed to the vague idea of "affordable housing" which is perceived as relevant only for the middle class.

So to be honest I think both of these tacks are invaluable, and the connection between them is even more so.  The quarrels are quite counter-productive.  There will be no revolutionary bloc in Israel without Arabs and Jews, impoverished middle-class people, and poor people who work together on common demands.

Were you at those encampments?  Can you talk about what kinds of conversations you had there?

I was active at the encampment at Levinsky Park.  This park, in South Tel Aviv, is the epicenter of the refugee crisis in Israel, mostly because the state and city authorities do everything to concentrate the tens of thousands of refugees from Eritrea and Sudan pouring into Israel in the neighborhood around it.  It is also close to the centers of the drug and prostitution trades in Tel Aviv, as well as a social hub for migrant workers from around the world.

The encampment was created by a well-known Mizrahi feminist activist, Shula Keshet of the NGO Ahoti.  It was perhaps the second one in Tel Aviv, and I had the honor of being one of the first people to sleep there, though I dropped out after things became very intense.  In this area the salient conflict is mainly between the veteran residents of these neighborhoods, who are working-class Mizrahi, and "foreigners."  The encampment was most vibrant and most political when it drew people from both of these groups together.  Rage was vented mostly by the Mizrahis, but it turned very quickly away from the refugees and migrants who were sitting there listening and towards the establishment, which is quite obviously the main villain in this story if you care to think about it.

Another very important phenomenon was the encampment in Jaffa, which was created by Palestinian and Jewish activists, but also by Palestinians with genuine and acute housing problems -- homeless families, basically.  So it was one of what were known as the "no choice" encampments and they quickly built up ties of solidarity with their sisters (and some brothers) in the HaTikva encampment, Mizrahi Jews in the same predicament.  The ties continue through the "Periphery Forum," which works to coordinate activity, mainly on public housing.

Is there work being done to address the fact that the protests mostly did not draw their constituency from the poorest demographics in Israel, the Israeli Palestinians and Mizrahi?

I have partially answered this question, so here I can nitpick at its assumptions.  If you look at support levels for the protests in polls, your assertion is just not true.  Even at its ebb around September, you had massive support from Israeli Palestinians, Mizrahis, and religious people for the protest.  Within all these groups support was positively correlated with perceived economic uncertainty.  Of course at the rallies you mostly had middle-class young Ashkenazis.  Many academics, both "radical" and mainstream, see this as the bottom line: it was a reactionary movement of the younger generation of a privileged stratum that had lost its privileges.  But this totally denies the importance of the protests among underprivileged groups -- for example, the Ethiopian Jewish minority who have always been horribly oppressed but are just now getting organized in rising up.  They conceive their demands entirely within the discourse opened up by the summer protests.  The greatest danger in the dismissive view is that it denies the open nature of the movement at this moment in time.  These young middle-class people are instinctively moving towards a cross-class coalition with poorer people, but they need leadership and theory.  People on the left who deny this are evading their own responsibility at this juncture.

I agree with you that there was widespread polling support for the protests from all social groups, and that we should not discount it, but many have commented on the disproportionate representation at the protests themselves of the Ashkenazi middle or upper-middle class.  Of course a protest led by the middle class is unlikely to be transformative.  While too many "radical" observers refused to see the Israeli Palestinian participation, their participation did not seem proportional to either their demographic weight or their percentage of the country's poor.  Can you talk a little about organizing and mobilizing within those communities so as to foreground their concerns, or to create cross-religious solidarity?  For example, weren't some of them at the Kiryat Malakhi protest in January?

Well -- who goes to protests in general?  Who has it in their "habitus," to be academic about it, to go to rallies, or to organize rallies, or to even think in terms of political action?  Middle-class people, of course.  This is as true for the left as for the right.  I spent last spring working in an industrial warehouse (for my Master's thesis).  One of my best friends there was a young worker of Russian origin -- he was extremely apolitical, but he was the one who told me about the cottage cheese protest, which began the avalanche of the summer.  I was dismissive; he was enthused about it.  Later on I asked him if he had been to any protests.  He told me that he wished he could, but (obviously) he had to work.

So of course playing the statistics game this way will, as usual, bring you to the conclusion that there is nothing new under the sun.  I don't agree that "a protest led by the middle class is unlikely to be transformative."  What is the middle class anyway?  I don't think there is a good economic definition (unless you want to say something arbitrary like "the 6th to 8th deciles of the population in terms of income").  I would define the middle class politically, as the keystone of hegemony, the critical mass of people that believe the system is working in their favor.  From this perspective, there can never be transformation without the middle class, or at least a big chunk of it.  Of course the middle class is not enough, but it is idiotic to dismiss it as necessarily reactionary.  And of course, the people who make the mistake of sidelining the middle class are always middle-class themselves.

Unfortunately I can't talk too much about organizing within oppressed groups, as I am not really involved in it at the moment (I could refer you to others who are if you like), except with migrant workers who are a bit of an exception.  I can't really generalize about it; I used to believe that as soon as people realize their own oppression they will be open to solidarity with other oppressed people, but I'm not that naïve anymore.  Nowadays I think it is mostly a matter of getting involved with a community, getting people's trust, being open with them about the reasons why you are there and what you expect, and then hoping that circumstances beyond your control will create the objective possibility of a revolutionary bloc emerging.  The people who lead it will come both from the middle class and from the more oppressed groups.  The better the organizing, the more heterogeneous the leadership will be.  But there is no room for anti-middle-class bias of this kind.

What do you foresee will occur this summer?

So to recap: if I had to guess, I would say this summer we will see a smaller but much more focused movement, which will encounter a lot more repression.  There will be a lot of reflection and people will search for new modalities of action.  And then, if and when the financial crisis finally hits, there will be an explosion and a leadership ready for it.  Then we will have a long and protracted struggle.  If there is a parallel awakening among the Palestinians and a reciprocal solidarity, then we can properly speak of being on the road to a revolution.  This is all very far away, but this is where we should aim to be heading.

From Monthly Review