Sunday 26 November 2023

Shoulder to Shoulder with Boris Johnson

This photo  was taken at the London march on 26 November 2023 ostensibly taking place against anti-semitism, but in fact against the Palestinians. 

What does Boris Johnson have to do with fighting racism, as opposed to promoting it, which is at the cente of Tommy Robinson’s ‘politics’ whose presence was too embarrassing to be welcomed?

The march was organised by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism under the slogan of “Standing shoulder to shoulder with British Jews”

The day before many hundreds of thousands took to the streets for Palestine, including many jews, giving the lie to the argument that there is a unity of British jews in support of Israel

One of my jewish friends has been attending these marches and she is the great grandniece of Albert Einstein. She has written about it here

If alive today her great uncle would have joined her.

Historically Zionism was never central to jewish thought and actions. I have written about this here

Final word to jewish professor,  Raz Segal in conversation with Owen Jones.

Wednesday 15 November 2023

The Living Presence of the Past


The living presence of the past by Merilyn Moos

The destruction of Gaza and the genocide of the Palestinians living there is unbearable. I want however to be clear about this. I am not weeping for dead babies, although their deaths tears at my soul. I am not weeping about the genocide of the Palestinians or their forced relocation, though I cannot sleep for thinking of them.

Mass graves, the killing of thousands of civilians, operations without anesthetic, overcrowded camps without water, energy or food: what does this remind you of? What the Israeli armed forces are doing is not the same as the Nazis’ barbarous acts, but the similarities burn me up.

The Netanyahu government is the child of the Nazis. Do not read this and slap your laptops shut. If the Nazis had been defeated before they took power in 1933, there would not have been concentration and death camps or the chance the UN would have agreed to the establishment of Israel – on somebody else’s land. It was not inevitable that the Nazis, who had only been around for just over 10 years, would gained power. They were a bunch of murderous anti-Left thugs who were not generally popular in Germany. My parents, my Communist father in particular, took to the streets to stop those terrifying gangs. This is not the place for a history lesson, but the Left lost and most paid for it with their lives.

Luckily my parents escaped, but had to leave behind many family members that were too old or infirm to start again elsewhere. And anyway, what country would take them? According to the Nazis, my family was Jewish. Some, like those living in Gaza, were moved from place to place before being murdered.

I was born here in England, did well, became a lecturer, had a child, made many left-wing friends and am living a reasonably comfortable old age. I support the Palestinian struggle. The war on Palestine oppresses me to a degree which friends find difficult to comprehend. A close Leftish academic friend, John, born into a Jewish family, tells me that Hamas is a terrorist organization and that he cannot support the Palestinians. We no longer see each other.

Another Jewish literary friend, Eleanor, emails me that there is a growing wave of anti-Semitism in Britain and Jews are facing daily persecution. If we meet, she writes, knowing my position on Palestine, she won’t talk politics, but only about normal life! I cannot imagine meeting with her.

Yvonne, a long-standing and kind friend, is uncomprehending when I tell her that the wound from the murder of my family in Germany has been reopened by the murder of the Palestinian people.

I’m not very well and have only managed to go on two of the Palestinian demonstrations. I cannot stop the government of this country actively colluding with Netanyahu’s murderous crusade. I cannot stop the latest imperialist drive for land and resources. But the demonstrations give me hope. We must mobilise on the streets, in our work-places and trade-unions and in the Labour Party. But where are the Labour Party banners? Instead Starmer whines about pauses, not a ceasefire. And says we must support Israel. Does he not realise, do others not, that the equation between criticizing Israel with anti-Semitism is fueling the very anti-Semitism they – rightly- abhor?

I favour a one-state secular solution. There is no other way, which does not involve millions of Palestinians being displaced, injured or killed. I am not optimistic.

Wednesday 8 November 2023

Gaza's Piano


Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen, to shame it. To mock it. With our art, our literature, our music our stubborness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness – and our ability to tell our own stories. Arundhati Roy

What has happened to Gaza’s grand piano? It is 2012 and Anas Alnajar is playing an instrument with a remarkable history. “I’m so lucky to have the chance to play it. Playing the piano makes me feel comfortable and relaxed,” Alnajar tells this speaking from the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music in Gaza. The music teacher sits before rows of plastic chairs. Sunshine seeps into the room through cracks between heavy red and grey curtains.“We are so proud to have the piano here” says Alnajar. 

Not for much longer. It was rendered unplayable by a missile strike during an Israeli bombardment until a restorer arrived from France. “When my eyes got used to the gloom” said Claire Bertrand, “I gasped at the scale of the destruction. A tangle of cables, twisted metal and broken lamps hung down like spilled entrails from the shattered ceiling. A rocket had landed a few metres away during the 2018 Israeli bombardment. ‘Then, in the middle of the wreckage, I got my first glimpse of a greater treasure that, almost miraculously, had survived unscathed. On the cracked marble of the stage, dusty but intact, stood a concert grand piano.” She tapped - or, rather, crunched - a few keys and listened to the grating notes. "This is not a piano!" she muttered. "Everything is dead.".

Today the music school, music itself, that grand piano, are all dead, all lie under rubble along with the people. As I write this the total killed under Israeli bombardment is in excess of 10,000. 

This might not seem the appropriate time to talk about music, and especially since the Hamas government tried to  ban public music even before the current genocide. But taking my cue from Arundhati Roy, I have the ability to tell my own story in our struggle against the current barbarism. At the same time as that grand piano was delivered to Gaza, we took possession of four donated grand pianos at the Pavarotti Music Centre in Mostar, Bosnia Herzegovina. Those pianos were just one part of the music we helped bring back to that country. It followed the music workshops I helped organise in the cellars of besieged Sarajevo and then in Mostar. The people needed food and, as War Child, we brought a mobile bakery into town, but the young people in particular needed both food for the stomach and food for their souls – music.

I am reaching out to all those who, twenty years ago, helped with our music projects in Bosnia and all those who are as appalled as I am by the present genocide and have the ability to help. I am old, but my anger a t what is happening to the Palestinians means I have no choice than to retrieve my contacts and skills to fight with the only weapon I have – music. Will you help?

I have a possible music contact in Gaza who I am hoping will advice on what we can do – if anything. As a first step, and if you are a musician, writer or artist, would you be willing to add your name to the following:

We are appalled by the genocide presently taking place in Gaza and other parts of occupied Palestine. Israel’s bombardment has killed thousands of Palestinians and displaced over 1 million. We agree with Daniel Barenboim, co-founder of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra that “there can only be one solution to this conflict: one based on humanism, justice and equality, and without armed force and occupation. We believe in our shared humanity. Music is one way to bring us closer together.’ 

I wish to add my name in agreement to the above and in solidarity with all victims of this barbarity.”

send your name to:

When calamity strikes we play music to soothe the soul” Ahmed Mukhtar, musician and oud player

Wednesday 1 November 2023

My World Café review


My World Cafe by David Wilson review: a political recipe book with a difference

Did you know apple strudel is Iraqi?

By Sheila McGregor

Socialist Worker

Monday 30 October 2023

Heritage tomatoes were first thought to have been cultivated by the Aztecs in the Andes mountains. The name comes from the Aztec word “tomatl”, and it took years of breeding to give us the red tomato.

What’s more, the West acquiring the tomato was not innocent, as author David Wilson points out in his recipe for Tomato curry with chana. “The Spaniards came with a sword in one hand and a plate in the other,” he writes.

“Along with gold and silver, Europe got potatoes, tobacco, peppers and tomatoes. Indigenous Americans got colonisation, disease, slavery and war.”

Furthermore, the tomato took its place in medieval times amongst the poor who ate off wooden boards. Tomatoes were shunned by the rich, who were apt to be poisoned when the acid from the food leached out the lead from their pewter plates.

This recipe book is about memories of people and places, tastes and smells, where foods where come from and how they are adopted and transformed across the world.

Take quiche Lorraine. The word quiche is a corruption of the German word “kuchen” and the food originated from the Kingdom of Lothringen, renamed Lorraine when taken over by the French. Wilson’s point is about poverty, hunger and inequality.  Quiche Lorraine is cheap and nutritious. A recipe for it was broadcast as part of the 1926 radio show Aunt Sally’s Radio Recipe in the US to help counter poverty.

Apple strudel—in German, “apfelstrudel”—is associated with the Germanic world. But it was an Assyrian dessert in 8th century BCE, now modern-day Iraq. “Many centuries later, in 1683, Ottoman armies besieged Vienna, but failed to conquer the city,” Wilson writes.

“Their pastry made it over the wall and laid the foundation for apfelstrudel. Cinnamon is dried bark from the cinammon zylanicum tree originally from Sri Lanka.”

Bread is important the world over. Wilson, among many other things, was co-founder of the charity War Child that set up a war-time mobile bakery to feed starving people in Mostar during the Yugoslav wars in the 1990s.

Pizza is, of course, based on flatbread, a common form of unleavened bread found all over the world since antiquity. “In the 6th century BC, Persian soldiers cooked flatbreads on their shields and topped them with dates and cheese,” writes Wilson.

“In Ancient Greece, they made a flatbread called plakous, flavoured with onions, cheese and garlic. The Romans ate ‘panis focacius’.” Most of us know about naans, roti and parathas, these days. The Chinese have bing and the Italians have pizza.

There are far too many experiences and recipes to mention them all—so get the book.