In Defence of Ken Loach

Sidecar – https://newleftreview.org/sidecar/search?query%5Btag%5D=1

Yanis Varoufakis18 February 2021

So, it’s come to that: Ken Loach is now the target of a character assassination campaign waged by those who will stop at nothing to shield the apartheid policies of Israel. Their message to people of good conscience is simple: Unless you too want to be tainted as an antisemite, keep quiet about the crimes against humanity and the assault on human rights in the land of Palestine. They are putting the rest of us on notice: If we can do this to Ken Loach, a man who has spent his life championing the victims of oppression, racism and discrimination, imagine what we shall do to you. If you dare support the Palestinians’ human rights, we will claim that you hate the Jews.

The art of assassinating the character of a leftist has become better honed in recent times. When the Financial Times called me a Marxist biker, I confessed to the charge gladly. Calling me a Stalinist, as some unsophisticated rightists do, also fails to ignite an existentialist crisis in my soul because I know full well that I would be a prime candidate for the gulag under any Stalinist regime. But call me a misogynist or an antisemite and the pain is immediate. Why? Because, cognisant of how imbued we all are in Western societies with patriarchy, antisemitism and other forms of racism, these accusations hit a nerve.

It is, thus, a delicious irony that those of us who have tried the hardest to rid our souls of misogyny, antisemitism and other forms of racism are hurt the most when accused of these prejudices. We are fully aware of how easily antisemitism can infect people who are not racist in other respects. We understand well its cunning and potency, for instance the fact that the Jews are the only people to have been despised both for being capitalists and for being leftie revolutionaries. This is why the strategic charge of antisemitism, whose purpose is to silence and ostracise dissidents, causes us internal turmoil. This is what lies behind the runaway success of such vilification campaigns against my friends Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders, Brian Eno, Roger Waters and now Ken Loach. 

‘Is your exclusive criticism of Israel not symptomatic of antisemitism?’, we are often asked. Setting aside the farcicality of the claim that we have been criticising Israel exclusively, criticism of Israel is not and can never be criticism of the Jews, exactly as criticism of the Greek state or of American imperialism is not criticism of the Greeks or of the Americans. The same applies to interrogating the wisdom of having created an ethnically specific state. When remarkable people like my heroes Hannah Arendt and Albert Einstein questioned the Zionist project of a Jewish state in Palestine, it is offensive to claim that to debate Israel’s existence is to be antisemitic. The question is not whether Arendt and Einstein were right or wrong. The question is whether their questioning of the wisdom of a Jewish state in the land of Palestine is antisemitic or not. Clearly, while antisemites opposed the foundation of the state of Israel, it does not follow that only antisemites opposed the foundation of a Jewish state in Palestine.

On a personal note, back in 2015, while serving as Greece’s finance minister, a Greek pro-troika newspaper thought they could diminish me with a cartoon depicting me as a Shylock-like figure. What these idiots did not realise was that they made me very proud! Trying to tarnish my image by likening me to a Jew was, and remains, a badge of honour. Speaking also on behalf of aforementioned friends vilified as antisemites, we feel deeply flattered whenever an antisemite bundles us together with a people who have bravely endured racism for so long. As long as a single Jew feels threatened by antisemitism, we shall pin the Star of David on our chest, eager and ready to be counted as Jews in solidarity – even though we may not be Jewish. At the very same time, we wear the Palestinian flag as a symbol of solidarity with a people living in an apartheid state built by reactionary Israelis, damaging my Jewish and Arab brothers and sisters and stoking the fires of racism which, ironically, always forge a steelier variety of antisemitism.

Returning to Ken Loach, thankfully no smear campaign against him can succeed. Not only because Ken’s work and life are proof of the accusation’s absurdity, but also because of the courageous Israelis who take awful risks by defending the right of Jews and non-Jews alike to criticise Israel. For instance, the group of academics who have methodically deconstructed the IHRA’s indefensible definition of antisemitism, which conflates it with legitimate criticisms of Israel that many progressive Israelis share. Or the wonderful people working with the Israeli human rights organisation B’TSELEM to resist the apartheid policies of successive Israeli governments. I am just as grateful to them as I am to my friend and mentor Ken Loach.

In Defence of Ken Loach

Inside Man: what Thatcher once said of Blair could still be said about Obama – He was Reaganism’s biggest achievement

The path forward is difficult to envision amid the fog of culture war, political war and the threat of actual, real-life civil war. But it is clear that Biden is at a crossroads, and still unsure which way to go. He can follow his boss, Barack Obama, who pursued bipartisanship, comity and compromise–accommodating corporate power. Or he can break toward the path of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who did battle with oligarchy, stood down fascism and welcomed the hatred of the rich.

One thing he cannot do is try to go in both directions. The lesson of the Obama administration is that you can have appeasement or transformative progress, but you almost certainly cannot have both.

[and, as quoted in the article]:

“We would not have Trump as president if the Democrats had remained the party of the working class,” University of California-Irvine professor Bernard Grofman recently told the New York Times. “[Obama] responded to the housing crisis with bailouts of the lenders and interlinked financial institutions, not of the folks losing their homes. And the stagnation of wages and income for the middle and bottom of the income distribution continued under Obama.”

david sirota

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/jan/22/to-achieve-a-real-legacy-biden-will-have-to-be-more-radical-and-ready-to-fight

let us hope biden rises above obama’s self-imposed sycophancy. he might, because he’s both old and badly complicit in bad shit, experienced and still decent. the morphic symbolism of old white male and youngish, questionable black female prosecutor just might strike the demented US political unconscious imaginary along an effective lay line… and work out for no doubt a very short time, at least until the polar ice caps melt. so, we can all go down together, as laurie anderson has prophesized.

Inside Man: what Thatcher once said of Blair could still be said about Obama – He was Reaganism’s biggest achievement

Deference, re: sycophancy, to Israel: the Guardian’s horror Editorial in response to B’Telem’s report defining Israel as an Apartheid state, which in most circles, has long been a foregone conclusion. Some accuse Israel of being far worse – responsible for genocide. Which is far more accurate.

The Guardian view on Israel and apartheid: prophecy or description?

Editorial

With no roadmap for peace, Israel risks being compared to the old South Africa

‘There is a serious argument about injustices to be had’. An Israeli border guard gestures at a Palestinian protester in July 2020.

‘There is a serious argument about injustices to be had.’ An Israeli border guard gestures at a Palestinian protester in July 2020. Photograph: Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP/Getty ImagesSun 17 Jan 2021 13.42 EST

It was a deliberate provocation by B’Tselem, Israel’s largest human rights group, to describe the Palestinians in the Holy Land as living under an apartheid regime. Many Israelis detest the idea that their country, one they see as a democracy that rose from a genocidal pyre, could be compared to the old racist Afrikaner regime. Yet figures such as Desmond Tutu and Jimmy Carter have done so.

There is a serious argument about injustices to be had. Palestinians – unlike Israeli Jews – live under a fragmented mosaic of laws, often discriminatory, and public authorities which seem indifferent to their plight. Apartheid is a crime against humanity. It is a charge that should not be lightly made, for else it can be shrugged off. Some might agree with the use of such incendiary language, but many will recoil. The crime of apartheid has been defined as “inhumane acts committed in the context of a regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups with the intention of maintaining that regime”.

There are nearly 5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, all without Israeli citizenship. In the West Bank, Palestinians are bereft of civil rights, while Israelis in the occupied territory enjoy the full support of the state. Hamas won Gaza’s election in 2006, but the blockade that Israel imposes means it is in charge. Egypt has sealed its border, but nothing and nobody can get in or out without Israeli permission. Meeting the needs of Gaza’s growing population, say relief agencies, is at the whim of Israel. About 300,000 Palestinians in the areas formally annexed in 1967 – East Jerusalem and surrounding villages – do not have full citizenship and equal rights. Last year, the Israeli NGO Yesh Din found that Israeli officials were culpable of the crime of apartheid in the West Bank. Such a finding can only be a tragedy for all, including this newspaper, who wish the state of Israel well.

B’Tselem argues that Palestinians are afforded various levels of rights depending on where they live, but always below Jewish people. The group says it is becoming impossible to insulate Israel from its prolonged occupation project, leading it to run an apartheid regime not just outside its sovereign territory but inside it. There are about 2 million Palestinian citizens of Israel, a minority under pressure not to antagonise the Jewish majority. Within Israel, discriminatory policies are not difficult to find. National security is invoked to justify often racist citizenship laws. Jewish-only communities have admission committees that can legally reject Palestinians on the grounds of “cultural incompatibility”. A web of land and planning laws squeeze Palestinians into a shrinking space. There are Israeli Arabs whose prominence in society belies the poverty of the majority.

Israel has a problem of historic discrimination. But under Benjamin Netanyahu’s government there has been the enactment of the nation state law that constitutionally enshrines Jewish supremacy and a plan to formally annex parts of the West Bank. Some prominent Jewish intellectuals, such as the writer Peter Beinart, have given up on the idea of a Jewish state. No government formed after the forthcoming election will support genuine Palestinian statehood or have a viable peace plan.

This begs B’Tselem’s heretical question: what if there is only, in reality, one regime between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, rather than one political power that controls the territory in which there are distinct regimes? A system of separate and unequal law and systemic discrimination against Palestinians has been justified because it was meant to be temporary. But decades have passed and the situation worsens. If this is a twilight for democracy and equality in the Holy Land, one can only hope that the night will be short.

Deference, re: sycophancy, to Israel: the Guardian’s horror Editorial in response to B’Telem’s report defining Israel as an Apartheid state, which in most circles, has long been a foregone conclusion. Some accuse Israel of being far worse – responsible for genocide. Which is far more accurate.

Zappa For and Against the Presidency

the best and only premonitional responses to the systemic enablement to trump’s treason and seditious fomenting of the mob attack on capital hill…

Keep it Greasey

Frank zappa (lead guitar, vocals)
Warren cucurullo (rhythm guitar, vocals)
Denny walley (slide guitar, vocals)
Ike willis (lead vocals)
Peter wolf (keyboards)
Arthur barrow (bass, vocals)
Ed mann (percussion)
Vinnie colaiuta (drums)

Eventually father riley b. jones gets around to joe with his little case of pre-blessed unguents…

Central scrutinizer:
This is the central scrutinizer… poor joe. he’s getting tired from bending over… but we tried to warn him… didn’t we? okay, joe… you asked for it… here comes the big one…

Joe: (anointing himself as he sings)
Keep it greasey
So it’ll go down easy
Keep it greasey
So it’ll go down easy
Keep it greasey
So it’ll go down easy

Manx:
Roll it over ‘n
Grease it down
I’ll drive you through
The heart of town

Joe:
Keep it greasey
So it’ll go down easy
Keep it greasey
So it’ll go down easy
Keep it greasey
So it’ll go down easy

Manx:
Roll it over ‘n
Grease it down
I’ll drive you through
The heart of town

Joe (who is still wearing his housewife costume from when he first picked up sy borg in the closet) adjusts his little apron to a more advantageous position and sings…

Joe:
Hey, the good women,
They sure has it tough
The good men, well
There ain’t enough
All the good girls are
Lookin’ all the time
Good men is
Something that
They can’t find
’cause if they
Find one miraculously
They try to be lovin’
As they can be
If they find
One and let him go
Chances are they
Might not never find
One no mo’

Keep it greasey
So it’ll go down easy
Keep it greasey
So it’ll go down easy
Keep it greasey
So it’ll go down easy

Manx:
Roll it over ‘n
Grease it down
I’ll drive you through
The heart of town

Joe:
A good lovin’ man
Is hardest to find
A good woman needs
To ease her mind
And I know a few that
Need to ease it behind
All y’gotta do is
Grease it down
‘n everything is fine

Keep it greasey
So it’ll go down easy
Keep it greasey
So it’ll go down easy
Keep it greasey
So it’ll go down easy

Manx:
Roll it over ‘n grease
It down
I’ll drive you through
The heart of town

Joe:
A girl don’t need
No fancy grease
To get herself
Some rump release
Any kind
Of lube’ll do
Maybe from another
Part of you
Lube from the north
Lube from the south
Take a little slobber
From the side of
Your mouth
From your mouth
From your mouth
From your mouth
From your mouth
Roll it over
Grease it down
Here come that crazy
Screamin’ sound…

Keep it greasey
So it’ll go down easy
Keep it greasey
So it’ll go down easy
Keep it greasey
So it’ll go down easy
Roll it over ‘n grease it
Down, down, down
Grease it down…
Oh no! here comes
That screamin’ sound
Again…

And sure enough the walls of the prison did rever- berate with all sorts of screamin’ sounds as lawyers and execs and promo per- sonages all decide to jump on joe for a spectacular high speed ga
Ng leading to…

Zappa For and Against the Presidency

Zappa for President: on the death of subject, part 4, Zappa as the far left antecedent of today’s far right where the left is right and the right is left? Ensemble Modern from Frankfurt: the yellow shark origin. Supplement to Alex Winter’s documentary, which was a minimal, decent beginning, but nowhere up to the brilliance of his subject – the second inclusion below is VERY, historically rich, and actually, beautiful – bay area FM 98.9. 3rd inclusion below on the origin of media studies more robustly articulated than Barthes or Williams. 4th, welcome to the US [hear, Brecht and Weill combined]

posted 1,146 views, Nov 3, 2020
Zappa for President: on the death of subject, part 4, Zappa as the far left antecedent of today’s far right where the left is right and the right is left? Ensemble Modern from Frankfurt: the yellow shark origin. Supplement to Alex Winter’s documentary, which was a minimal, decent beginning, but nowhere up to the brilliance of his subject – the second inclusion below is VERY, historically rich, and actually, beautiful – bay area FM 98.9. 3rd inclusion below on the origin of media studies more robustly articulated than Barthes or Williams. 4th, welcome to the US [hear, Brecht and Weill combined]

only the death of the subject can defeat the form of liberalism that leads inevitably to, in this era’s form, trumpian fascism, which will not dissipate like fog beneath a ‘democratic’ sun [set in motion by some Biden] anytime soon = the need for a revival of anti-pragmatic virtue = non-pragmatic ethics = a common sense, yes, that simple = a common sense of kindness [note that i might have said, goodness, but chose not to]… because kindness is far more flexible and universal than… [goodness]

Worse, his lies eroded trust in democracy and the rule of law, at home and abroad. Yet even as, properly and electorally vanquished, he slowly departs, he continues to antagonise and divide – and to be lionised by the right.

Maybe it’s not that hard to see why. Trump’s personal brand of viciousness appealed to every worst human instinct, justified every vile prejudice, excused every mean and unkind thought. His is a blind ignorance that resonates with those who will not or cannot see. Falsehood is always easier than truth. For these reasons, Trump’s global legacy is Trumpism. It will live on – toxic, immoral, ubiquitous and ever-threatening.

Simon Tisdall, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/dec/27/trump-fed-our-worst-instincts-his-global-legacy-is-toxic-and-immoral

Tisdall has long been a reliable foreign affairs journalist. For those who follow world affairs, his summary and pinpointing of the features of Trump’s legacy offer no surprises; but they do offer effective reflection in their eloquence and, in their turn toward moral philosophy in his article’s final paragraphs. Morality Tisdall implies, or as I prefer, ethics, is inherent to politics, though in a negative capacity. Politics is the willful abandonment of ethics in the guise of a pragmatism that assumes truth, beauty, and virtue are merely the idealistic fantasies of the ‘politically’ naive. Politics is the superior art because it requires tactics and strategy to navigate power in the ‘real world’, in a social Darwinist, economic ecology. Morality and ethics, are politically useful only for the absolution of the wrongs committed in the pragmatic business of ‘doing political good,’ an always already compromised attempt at compromise between good and bad. They are the pragmatist’s Catholic confessional or Protestant sin-countering good deeds, mostly on Sunday and Saturday, to, despite daily failures in virtue, gain guiltless or pre-exonerated entrance to Heaven.

In this analysis, kindness, is the province of the fool. Yet, kindness is one of the most complicated of all human acts. Kindness is by definition, a social act; it’s someone’s affection toward another. It’s altruistic, unlike other modes of behavior like greed, which is only egoistic. Acts of great kindness, we must acknowledge, are not necessarily pure acts of goodness; they are often accompanied, simultaneously, by acts of great violence. Kindness can be, therefore, highly and even necessarily, partisan. I offer to help you find your lost daughter, say, with great effort and great risk and with no obvious benefit to myself. I offer my kindness to you out of no obligation to you, or benefit to myself; but, simply because I have affection for you, and i have abilities you don’t. To save your daughter necessitates, let us imagine, physical violence, perhaps even killing, to get her back; and you are not capable of such violence, but because I am, you accept my kindness, reluctantly perhaps, but still willingly. Kindness by definition is then, a dual and reciprocal act of freedom – I ‘choose’ an action with no obvious benefit to myself, but, to be social, must benefit someone else. But, you, that someone else, must freely accept my kindness, and be complicit in it, in whatever it takes to fulfill the act of being kind, in this example, to get your daughter back from those who design to harm her, even though it might require violence.

Of course, a sociobiologist, or a cognitive behaviorist or psychologist, or even and especially a traditional Freudian or Lacanian psychoanalyst, would insist that every act of kindness, as a species of altruism, is a latent form of egoism and self-interest or self-preservation. But each of these ‘soft sciences’ is particularly susceptible to the pre-cultural-conditions of morality/ethics/religion. IF, we assume, and I think we must, that morality/ethics inevitably and always underpin these soft sciences, then we are under no obligation to agree that all moral/ethical acts are inherently selfish, like a Dawkins gene; because the arguments of psychoanalysis are circular, yielding up only the answers they were pre-conditioned or pre-situated or pre-oriented – in other words, designed – to yield. Such forms of analysis are self-fulfilling prophesies – all resistances to them are forms of self-denial so there is no escape from their contrived, ethically preconceived, structures. Such methods inevitably fail because they assume an impossible subject – a unitary, isolated, a-social being.

Kindness, then, just might, has the potential, to be a practice of freedom. And perhaps the type of freedom it best represents, is a freedom from ones own self, that as a purely social act, allows another person or persons, to achieve a form of freedom.

Kindness is a form of gift. But a gift can only be a gift if it’s accepted.

AND…

It’s a form of gift because it’s uncaused, AND, unexpected. And it’s the fact that it’s uncaused, and unexpected, that makes it a free act. There is no free act independent of a social context that involves at least 2 subjects, or agents. Freedom cannot be individualized. No ‘I’, can attain freedom without the collaboration of another ‘I’.

only the death of the subject can defeat the form of liberalism that leads inevitably to, in this era’s form, trumpian fascism, which will not dissipate like fog beneath a ‘democratic’ sun [set in motion by some Biden] anytime soon = the need for a revival of anti-pragmatic virtue = non-pragmatic ethics = a common sense, yes, that simple = a common sense of kindness [note that i might have said, goodness, but chose not to]… because kindness is far more flexible and universal than… [goodness]