An Orwell, The Middle East And Boycotts Round Up

There is never enough time to read, reflect and blog, so whilst I think over other posts here is a quick round up of stories that caught my eye.

I was surprised to find that George Orwell had a piece on antisemitism. In many respects, it is as if it were written yesterday:

“I could fill pages with similar remarks, but these will do to go on with. Two facts emerge from them. One — which is very important and which I must return to in a moment — is that above a certain intellectual level people are ashamed of being anti-Semitic and are careful to draw a distinction between “anti-Semitism” and “disliking Jews”. The other is that anti-Semitism is an irrational thing. The Jews are accused of specific offences (for instance, bad behaviour in food queues) which the person speaking feels strongly about, but it is obvious that these accusations merely rationalise some deep-rooted prejudice. To attempt to counter them with facts and statistics is useless, and may sometimes be worse than useless. As the last of the above-quoted remarks shows, people can remain anti-Semitic, or at least anti-Jewish, while being fully aware that their outlook is indefensible. If you dislike somebody, you dislike him and there is an end of it: your feelings are not made any better by a recital of his virtues. “

At Liberal Conspiracy, Sunny Hundel is direct in his criticism, Publicity-hungry extremists to protest at US Embassy London.

Leaving aside the obvious provocation in the film, the reaction has angered Syrians:

“ANTAKYA, Turkey — Some Syrian anti-government activists expressed frustration Wednesday that a controversial video belittling the prophet Muhammad is generating more outrage among Arabs than the rising death toll within Syria.

Comments on social media sites by some opposition activists said the protests over the video in Cairo and Benghazi, Libya, where four Americans were killed, epitomize a focus on symbolic and religious issues versus a relative indifference over the desperate plight of Syrian civilians.

“The only thing that seems to mobilize the Arab street is a movie, a cartoon or an insult, but not the pool of blood in Syria,” wrote one Syrian activist on Twitter.

Since anti-government protests broke out in March 2011, at least 17,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed by the security forces of President Bashar Assad and rebel forces, according to United Nations figures.

“One thing is clear,” tweeted Shakeeb Jabri, a Syrian activist. “Syrians are quite pissed off at those who protested the Mohammad movie and not Assad’s shelling of mosques.” “

And we might rightly asked why a tatty film meant to deliberately ferment violence and animosity towards Muslims and Jews gains more publicity than the daily slaughter of Syrian civilians?

Two words, local politics.

This phenomenon has been evident when British activists consciously chose to demonstrate against the Israelis at their embassy in London. Yet in the past 18 months those selfsame activists have never troubled to demonstrate or even remonstrate outside the Syrian embassy. True enough, ex-pat Syrians do make their feelings known against Assad, but British activists, such as the Stop the War Coalition UK and related groupings, have been comparative silent at the slaughter of civilians in Syria.

Instead StWC has a rather perplexing approach, protest outside the US embassy, as Jonathan Freedland pointed out:

“I saw the words “rally”, “Syria” and “embassy” and assumed they were organising a demo outside the Syrian embassy to protest at the truly shocking slaughter now conducted by the Assad regime against its own people. After all, Stop the War do not confine themselves to opposing military action involving British troops (they recently co-organised a demo outside the Israeli embassy to mark the anniversary of the offensive against Gaza). All credit to them for taking a stand against the Syrian tyrant, I thought.

But I had read too fast. Stop the War were, in fact, calling for a rally outside the American embassy, urging the US to stay out of Syria and its neighbour Iran. Its slogans were directed not at the butchers of Damascus, but against the planners in Washington. “

Meanwhile, the neo-Nazis in Greece’s Golden Dawn still remain depressingly popular:

“Backing for the two junior coalition partners–Pasok and Democratic Left–also dropped. Socialists Pasok are supported by 8% of respondents, down from 12.3%, among the lowest levels seen by the party since being established in 1974. Greece’s small Democratic Left party saw its popularity drop to 4.5%, versus 6.3% at the latest national polls.

The survey, conducted Aug. 31 to Sept. 4, found that the majority of Greeks are displeased with the choices made by the government which is struggling to finalize 13.5 billion euros ($17 billion) of cuts demanded by international creditors. With the savings plan expected to be announced in coming weeks, protests to proposed cuts to pensions and public servant’s salaries are picking up.

Among the seven parties represented in parliament, Golden Dawn is the big winner with 10.5% of those questioned in the survey saying they would vote for the far right party. It was backed by 6.9% of the electorate in June.

Radical left party Syriza remains the country’s second most popular party, despite seeing its popularity also drop. The survey showed that 24% of voters support the party, down from 26.9% in June. “

That’s some 10% of the adult Greek population, which I would guess at about 850,000. Frightening. Truly frightening that open neo-Nazis could gain anywhere near that level of support.

In related news, this is disheartening. Hate crime in England and Wales: where is it worst?

Steve Caplan makes an intelligent case against petulant boycotts of Israelis, but I feel that Jennifer Lipman makes a stronger point:

“Who wins? A standing ovation hardly changes Israel’s reputation internationally, nor brings two states any closer. Perhaps under the surface, the boycotts are about the activists who have found a cause and want to shout it to the world, no matter how undignified the method, and not about bettering the lives of the Palestinians, for whom surely the ultimate dream is a world where all Israelis and all Palestinians can perform anywhere from Edinburgh to Tehran.

The cultural boycott is a statement, not a strategy to forge peace. It’s having a tantrum, but never saying what can be done to make it better. And nobody wins, not really. How many passers-by are converted by a crowd of screaming protesters, how many bother to read the leaflet stuffed into their hand? For the majority, a rally outside a theatre is just an inconvenience to walk past. And if the protesters succeed, and Israeli artists decide it’s not worth the bother? How many British theatre-goers will even notice? What kind of victory is a standing ovation if it has to be achieved despite disruption? “

Not forgetting that in such a climate there is an increase in racial attacks against Jews, even in central London:

“The Bloomsbury Chabad director and a friend had been moving items from his office when the incident happened.

Rabbi Lew said: “The men were across the road and started shouting. One of them was very aggressive. They were shouting about ‘Free Palestine’ and also ‘you ****ing Jews’.

“My friend remonstrated with them and I tried to calm the situation down, but they hit us. We hit back and there was a chap across the road making deliveries who came and got involved [on our side]. The men then ran away very fast.”

He reported the incident to the Community Security Trust and police who are now studying CCTV footage in an attempt to identify the group. “

A theatre producer has been arrested, for staging a play about the condition of Uganda’s gays.

Tony Blair is raking the money in, supporting some dodgy dictators.

Elsewhere, Anya Palmers looks at the Tories’ Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill. Not good.

Talking of Tories, Channel 4’s Hillsborough: inside the library of a cover-up deserves a wider audience.

The Social Welfare Union pointed me towards a good article on the WCA and how it affects real people in their real lives:

“The WCA is an integral part of the new system as is the more demanding medical assessment. But when up to 40%of appeals by unhappy claimants to overturn initial assessments were successful then something is clearly wrong, adding weight to concerns the process is more than simply flawed.

Indeed, rarely has implementation of any new policy caused so much outrage. Media is awash with reports of claimants dying after being declared fit to work, MPs on about the sheer injustice of it, olympic protests against ATOS, suicides and terminal cancer or even psychotic patients being told they are fit for work.”

Also, NHS privatisation: Compilation of financial and vested interests.

Finally, with the up and coming Tory changes to the NHS this is a relevant extract from Orwell’s How the Poor Die:

“During my first hour in the Hôpital X I had had a whole series of different and contradictory treatments, but this was misleading, for in general you got very little treatment at all, either good or bad, unless you were ill in some interesting and instructive way. At five in the morning the nurses came round, woke the patients and took their temperatures, but did not wash them. If you were well enough you washed yourself, otherwise you depended on the kindness of some walking patient. It was generally patients, too, who carried the bedbottles and die grim bedpan, nicknamed la casserole. At eight breakfast arrived, called army-fashion la soupe. It was soup, too, a thin vegetable soup with slimy hunks of bread floating about in it. Later in the day the tall, solemn, black-bearded doctor made his rounds, with an interne and a troop of students following at his heels, but there were about sixty of us in the ward and it was evident that he had other wards to attend to as well. “


4 thoughts on “An Orwell, The Middle East And Boycotts Round Up

  1. soupyone 15/09/2012 / 14:27

    I remember when it first happened, but haven’t followed it.

    Unions (and everyone else) need to understand that you don’t have to be anti-Israeli to be pro-Palestinian.

  2. joemayes 19/09/2012 / 16:32

    Why do you think the Orwell extract is relevant to the NHS changes? He was writing about his experiences in France in the 1920s.

  3. soupyone 19/09/2012 / 17:22

    Orwell was highlighting how poorly treated patients were.

    They were an add-on, an inconvenience, etc and that how’s the NHS and up-and-coming changes treat NHS patients.

    Despite, strongly held views by the public on the NHS, HMG is riding roughshod over them to implement the changes that *they* want, for ideological purposes, irrespective of the patients.

    So Orwell’s point transcends geography and time, that’s why I felt it was relevant.

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