Sunday 16 July 2023

From Dreyfus to Assange

l’affaire Dreyfus

In 1894 French artillery officer, Captain Afred Deryfus, was convicted of treason. He was sentenced to life imprisonment for communicating French military secrets to the German Embassy in Paris and imprisoned on Devil’s Island where he spent five years incarcerated under harsh conditions. He was, of course, innocent. He was finally exonerated in 1906. Émile Zola wrote an open letter, 'J’Accuse' which started a movement in support of Dreyfus. Its supporters included Sarah Bernhardt, Anatole France, Charles Peguy, Henri PoincarĂ© and Georges Clemenceau. As a Jew, Dreyfus was hated by an anti-semitic French establishment The role played by writers, media and public opinion proved influential in the long struggle for his freedom.

L’affaire Assange

In 2019 Julian Assange was incarcerated in isolation at Belmarsh, a UK maximum security prison. He is being held there waiting for the US to agree his extradition to the US to face charges under the Espionage Act of 1917 and for acts of ‘computer intrusion’. One of these intrusions is a 10 minute video of the 12 July 2007 US helicopter airstrike in Iraq which killed 18 civilians, including two Reuters journalists. The role played by the Media has been a disgrace and where is our Zola? ‘Public opinion’ is defined by the very media who remain silent on the matter.

Friday 14 July 2023


Blood, Gold and Oil

'A profound and serious play where politics and psychology, authenticity and fable, artefacts and abstractions combine to expose a bitter truth.' The Morning Star
'Douglas Clarke-Wood as TE Lawrence effortlessly commands the stage as TE Lawrence' London Pub Theatres

    I went to the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith (London) to see the final night of Jan Woolf’s, play, Blood, Gold and Oil written and produced to mark the 20th anniversary of the Iraq occupation. Unsurprisingly it played to a full house for its entire run.
    The play scrapes away at the topsoil of TE Lawrence's celebrity and excavates all that lies beneath. Was he a brilliant military commander? Certainly. A freedom fighter? He thought so. An agent of British colonialism and the burgeoning oil corporations? Could be. An admirer of Lenin. Yes. Killed or assassinated in a road accident? Maybe. Did Peter O’Toole in ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ mythologise the man. Very likely.
    During the course of the play, an exhibition is pieced together with an array of World War One artefacts on loan from the National Civil War Centre in Newark and The Imperial War Museum. The finds were from a 2013 archaeological dig in Jordan which Jan visited to dig her play out of the desert.
    The play is a timely reminder of those responsible for the long, bloody history imposed on the peoples of the Middle East in pursuit of liquid gold.

photos: Play poster and Jan Woolf with Douglas Clarke-Wood (TE Lawrence)

The play is dedicated to the memory of Neil Faulkner, archaeologist, historian and political activist.


Saturday 1 July 2023

The Jimmy Saville of Nation States


It reminded me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa. I have seen the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like us when young white police officers prevented us from moving about. Many South Africans are beginning to recognise the parallels to what we went through  . Desmond Tutu

We now have a law that confirms the Arab population as second-class citizens. It therefore is a very clear form of apartheid. I don’t think the Jewish people survived for 20 centuries, mostly through persecution and enduring endless cruelties, in order to now become the oppressors, inflicting cruelty on others. This new law does exactly that. That is why I am ashamed of being an Israeli today.   Daniel Barenboim

The founder of Zionism at the end of the 19th century, Theodor Herzl, was an admirer of the British Empire and wrote to Cecil Rhodes, founder of the white settler colony named after him, He said, “You are being invited to help make history. It does not involve Africa but a piece of Asia Minor, not Englishmen but Jews … I turn to you … because it is something colonial ..”

Chaim Weizmann, who suceeded Herzl added that “Should Palestine fall within the British sphere of influence and should they encourage Jewish settlement … we could develop the country, bring back civilisation and form a very effective guard for the Suez Canal.”

You don’t have to be a Jew to be a Zionist. Prayers at the US Embassy, on the day Trump moved it to Jerusalem, were delivered by Robert Jeffries, a Dallas megachurch pastor who said Hitler was sent by God to drive the Jews to their ancestral land.

The Jewish opponents of Zionism could be found at the same time as Herzl in the Jewish Bund, founded in 1897 in Poland and Russia. They stressed the principles of, socialism, secularism and doyikayt or “localness.”

Doyikayt was encapsulated in the Bund slogan: “There, where we live, that is our country.” One of their early leaders, Viktor Adler, declared “Bundists wish to shatter the existing economic frameworks and show the Jewish masses how a new society can be built not by escape, but by struggle. We link the essence of the Jewish masses’ life to that of humankind.

Here are past and present advocates who have linked their lives to humankind. Perhaps we will now be able to hear their voices more clearly.

Albert Einstein; “The (Israeli) state idea is not according to my heart. I cannot understand why it is needed … I believe it is bad ... 
There could be no greater calamity than a permanent discord between us and the Arab people … We must strive for a just and lasting compromise with the Arab people … Let us recall that in former times, no people lived in greater friendship with us than the ancestors of these Arabs."

Sigmund Freud: “I concede with sorrow that the baseless fanaticism of our people is in part to be blamed for the awakening of Arab distrust. I can raise no sympathy at all for the misdirected piety which transforms a piece of a Herodian wall into a national relic, thereby offending the feelings of the natives.”

Erich Fromm, social psychologist: “The claim of the Jews to the Land of Israel cannot be a realistic political claim. If all nations would suddenly claim territories in which their forefathers lived two thousand years ago, this world would be a madhouse.”

Primo Levi, a survivor of Auschwitz: “Everyone has their Jews and for the Israelis they are the Palestinians”.

Marek Edelman, one of the leaders of the1943 Warsaw Ghetto uprising compared the Palestine resistance to ZOB, the Jewish fighters in Warsaw.


Hannah Arendt, political scientist: “The trouble is that Zionism has often thought and said that the evil of antisemitism was necessary for the good of the Jewish people.”

Martin Buber, Israeli philosopher: “How great was our responsibility to those miserable Arab refugees in whose towns we have settled Jews who were brought here from afar; whose homes we have inherited, whose fields we now sow and harvest; the fruits of whose gardens, orchards and vineyards we gather; and in whose cities that we put up houses of education, charity and prayer. . ”

Isaac Asimov, novelist: “I find myself in the odd position of not being a Zionist ... I think it is wrong for anyone to feel that there is anything special about any one heritage of whatever kind.”

Harold Pinter. On Israel’s 60th anniversary said, “We cannot celebrate the birthday of a state founded on terrorism, massacres and the dispossession of another people from their land."

Uri Avnery, ex-Israeli army officer: “What will be seared into the consciousness of the world will be the image of Israel as a blood-stained monster, ready at any moment to commit war crimes and not prepared to abide by any moral restraints.”

Daniel Barenboim, Israeli pianist and conductor: “I don’t think the Jewish people survived for 20 centuries, mostly through persecution and enduring endless cruelties, in order to now become the oppressors, inflicting cruelty on others.”

Lenni Brenner, writer and civil rights activist: “The Zionist leaders were uninterested in Fascism itself. As Jewish separatists they only asked one question, the cynical classic: 'So? Is it good for the Jews?'”

Richard Cohen, US columnist: “The greatest mistake Israel could make at the moment is to forget that Israel itself is a mistake … the idea of creating a nation of European Jews in an area of Arab Muslims (and some Christians) has produced a century of warfare.”

Henry Siegman, Rabbi and director of the U.S./Middle East Project: “Israel has crossed the threshold from ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’ to the only apartheid regime in the Western world.”

Prof Norman Finkelstein: “Every single member of my family on both sides was exterminated. Both of my parents were in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. And it is precisely and exactly because of the lessons my parents taught me and my two siblings that I will not be silent when Israel commits its crimes.’

Richard Falk, former UN special rapporteur on human rights, called Israeli policies in the Occupied Territories “a crime against humanity.” Falk also has compared Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians to the Nazi treatment of the Jews.

Alexei Sayle: “Israel is the Jimmy Saville of nation states.”

Miriam Margolyes: “My support for the Palestinian cause is fiercer because I am Jewish.’

Noam Chomsky, “The last paradox is that the tale of Palestine from the beginning until today is a simple story of colonialism and dispossession, yet the world treats it as a multifaceted and complex story—hard to understand and even harder to solve.”


Michael Rosen on the children of Gaza

Don't mention the children.
Don't name the dead children.
The people must not know the names
of the dead children.
The names of the children must be hidden.
The children must be nameless.
The children must leave this world...
having no names.
No one must know the names of
the dead children.
No one must say the names of the
dead children.
No one must even think that the children
have names.
People must understand that it would be dangerous
to know the names of the children.
The people must be protected from
knowing the names of the children.
The names of the children could spread
like wildfire.
The people would not be safe if they knew
the names of the children.
Don’t name the dead children.
Don’t remember the dead children.
Don’t think of the dead children.
Don’t say: ‘dead children’.