Still Looking for Eric

‘Krazy’ Ken Loach has an Israeli problem, and so does the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF).

Israeli funding angers filmmaker
Philippa Hawker
The Age
July 18, 2009

ENGLISH filmmaker Ken Loach has withdrawn his film Looking for Eric from the Melbourne International Film Festival because the festival receives funding from the Israeli Government.

Loach told the festival if it did not reconsider the sponsorship, he would not allow the festival to screen his film…

The MIFF has published a statement on its site responding to Krazy Ken here:

Mr Loach’s decision is part of an orchestrated campaign to target events that are in receipt of financial support from the State of Israel. Loach requested that we join the boycott and as an independent arts organisation MIFF has refused. MIFF is extremely disappointed that Mr Loach has taken this stance. MIFF has played every one of his movies at the festival over the years including It’s A Free World (sic) in 2008…

More infos on the cultural boycott of Israel is not available here (a site established by Mooselems in 2002 but seemingly killed off some time in late 2007) but the electronic intifada can haz heaps more infos here.

Another VIP, Krazy (Naomi) Klein, declared that the time for a boycott is now (in January, 2009) — and still:

Klein recently toured Israel/Palestine (June 26 — Jerusalem / June 27 — Ramallah / July 1 — Haifa) promoting the Hebrew translation of her latest book The Shock Doctrine. Naughty Naomi took the opportunity to join troublemakers in the Palestinian village of Bil’in (Nilin) in the Occupied West Bank.

In September 2007, ‘Israel accepts order to change West Bank barrier’ read a report in The Age (Los Angeles Times) — ‘accepts’ in this case being a technical term meaning ‘ignores’. In July 2008, The Age (Joseph Krauss/AFP) reported that various Untermenschen (both local and foreign, including Kiwi anarchists and English, German and Swedish football hooligans who travel the world looking for violence) had the temerity to call for adherence to international and Israeli law (‘Clash marks anniversary of Israel wall ruling’):

The demonstrations marked four years since the International Court of Justice issued a non-binding resolution calling for parts of the barrier inside the occupied West Bank to be torn down and a halt to construction there.

Israel has ignored the ruling, as well as a similar order by its own High Court that nullified three sections of the wall, including one that runs near Bilin, a town near Nilin where the weekly protests have gone on for more than two years.

Twelve months later, the protest and resistance continues, ‘As US talks tough, Jewish settlements keep booming’ (Howard Schneider, The Age (Washington Post), July 4, 2009); a familiar pattern which will continue into the forseeable future. Note that one uppity Palestinian, “A villager, Bassem Abu Rahmeh, died in April when a tear gas canister hit him in the chest”; apparently, he was the eighteenth insect to be crushed over the course of five years of protest.

See also : Anti-Fascism, Anti-German, Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism… (June 29, 2009) | Dirka Dirka! Durban! Hate-fest! Racism! (April 24, 2009) | Israeli Anarchists Against the Wall : Monday, April 20 (April 14, 2009) | Socialist Alternative: socialist jihadists of the far Left subsisting on a diet of anti-Semitism, lentils and tofu (March 17, 2009) | Blasphemy! Bolt! Hate-fest! Dirka Dirka! (March 14, 2009) | Overcoming Joel Kovel (February 21, 2009) | “Keep away from Durban” Mr KRudd (February 16, 2009) | Victory for Israeli Right : Bringing the Zionist Dream to Life (February 15, 2009) | “The simple answer is that you the Jews are real motherf—– bastards” (February 1, 2009) | Chomsky on Gaza (January 19, 2009) | Moar later… (January 9, 2009) | Whoops (January 7, 2009) | Lead Casted (January 5, 2009) | Peace process surges further ahead (January 3, 2009) | Kill for peace : “Operation Cast Lead” (December 28, 2008)…

    LOOKING FOR ERIC
    UK/ Italy/ France/ Belgium, 2009 (International Panorama)

    “Ken Loach in feelgood mode.” – Independent

    Former soccer star Eric Cantona stars as himself in this uncharacteristically optimistic film from Ken Loach (It’s a Free World, MIFF 08; The Wind That Shakes the Barley, My Name Is Joe).

    Soccer fanatic and depressive postal worker Eric finds his life hitting rock-bottom. In a moment of despair he confides in the life-size poster of Cantona hanging on his wall – and the French soccer star responds with advice. Coached by the imaginary Cantona’s cryptic counsel, Eric begins to change his life for the better.

    With just a dash of grim reality thrown in for Loach measure, Looking for Eric is a clever comedy, an (imaginary) buddy movie and an unconventional romance, with plenty of inside jokes for ardent soccer fans.

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2014 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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22 Responses to Still Looking for Eric

  1. whitelawtowers says:

    Oh @ndy you are so full of it. Who the fuck is left to fool?

  2. @ndy says:

    Certainly not you Jim: you have a monopoly on foolishness.

  3. death rattle says:

    the left gave the jews their own homeland, now the bastards want to take it back?

  4. @ndy says:

    Anti-German Translation,

    The Ken Loach piece is short, and faults him for supporting the French ‘Nouveau parti anticapitaliste’ (NPA), having overly-simplistic politics, and making crap films. I like his films — those I’ve seen — but no, they’re hardly flawless. As for his politics: dunno. As an anarchist, I prefer to concentrate on ‘supporting’ social movements, not political parties. Without looking in closer detail — and I’m not sure I have the inclination — he appears to be some kinda leftist/progressive. As for the NPA: again, dunno.

    Your post on Naomi Klein accuses her of being disingenuous and/or hypocritical: Klein supports a boycott, but publishes in Israel. You also raise, in the context of a boycott, the issue of it being problematic to draw a political distinction between the Israeli state and its citizens (people). As for her attendance at and support for the Durban II conference: 1) I’ve blogged about this previously; 2) I will read some of the lengthier writings you link to later; 3) I suppose one thing that should be borne in mind is that there are two issues: one is Klein’s own ideas and actions, the other the more general issues surrounding the notion of a boycott and secondly the status of Durban II.

    On Durban II:

    Moar l8r…

  5. Thanks @ndy. On Loach, the pertinent part of the Principia Dialectica post for me was the series of oppositions at the end: the black and white vision of the world that afflicts leftist “anti-imperialism” today. The kind of [...?] And by the way I write as a big fan of Loach’s films.

    On Klein, again someone I admire, I want to make it clear that I was not at all in favour of a boycott of Durban II. I never had much hope for it – government’s chatting with each other is not the strategy for anti-racism I’d ever pursue. Letting Ahmadinejad, a vicious dictator and antisemite, give the keynote speech was a completely appalling idea. Some of the Zionist NGOs at Durban II were poorly behaved, but that this should have been more distasteful to Ms Klein than the presence of a dictator is disappointing to me. Or that she should have found these kids’ actions more distasteful than a member of Ahmadinejad’s entourage shouting “Zionazi” at an elderly Holocaust survivor, at the man who coined the term “No one is illegal”. Durban II produced nothing particularly objectionable, but it also achieved nothing particularly useful. Especially considering all the things the vast amounts of public money involved could have been used for, like, say, providing resources to Palestinian villages.

    On the more general issue of boycotting Israel. There is clearly a case for boycotting Israel. There is also clearly a case for boycotting many other nation-states, such as Iran, Sri Lanka, Burma and China. Why is it that there is such a powerful movement for an Israel boycott, yet so few voices call for boycotting other equally or more brutal regimes.

    It is also important to think how a boycott would be effective. Is the boycott about boosting the moral purity of the boycotters, or about achieving a positive aim. Assuming it is the latter, then we should be talking about arms embargoes, divestment from companies involved in building the separation wall, refusal to buy products made in the settlements. We should NOT be talking about refusing to show independent documentaries because they were made in Israel. We should NOT be talking about punishing Israeli academics and artists. We should NOT be talking about withdrawing films from film festivals because the Israeli government is giving them some money.

    Just saw this: http://normblog.typepad.com/normblog/2009/07/more-pressure-on-the-festival-.html

  6. @ndy says:

    West Bank tense as evacuation fears prompt settlers to attack olive trees
    Jason Koutsoukis, Jerusalem
    The Age
    July 25, 2009

    MONDAY started out with Israel Defence Forces troops demolishing a solitary caravan on a hilltop in the north of the occupied West Bank.

    Not officially a settlement, not large enough to be termed an illegal outpost, the site known by settlers as Adei Ad looked like home to a handful of dishevelled campers.

    But although their campsite had been established on land owned by Palestinians, and was considered illegal under Israeli law, the demolition had violent consequences.

    Settlers from the nearby outpost of Kedumim quickly thronged to the site, throwing stones and injuring one soldier.

    News that the IDF had also removed a few shacks from another outpost named Nofei Yarden, and several containers from a third named Mitzpe Danny, only added to the tension. A group of 15 masked settlers appeared on the highway to the Palestinian city of Nablus, hurling rocks at passing traffic.

    An army spokesman said later that five suspects had been arrested.

    It’s no wonder that news of the IDF’s movements in the West Bank spread quickly. Walk through any Jewish settlement and it’s hard to miss the green posters covering almost every public space.

    “Do you know about an upcoming evacuation?” read the signs in Hebrew. “Call the outpost operations centre on 052 630 2222.”

    Were the IDF’s actions finally a sign that it was moving to deliver on five years of Israeli promises to the US to evacuate 23 larger West Bank outposts?

    Some activists at Kiryat Arba, a Jewish settlement near the ancient city of Hebron, did not wait to find out.

    Masked settlers on horseback went on the rampage, setting fire to hundreds of Palestinian olive trees, using machetes to cut down hundreds more. Israeli police counted 10 Palestinian cars that were set on fire and vandalised.

    On Tuesday, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz published a front-page story saying that the IDF was ready to evacuate all 23 key outposts in a single day.

    After seeing that report, eight settlers from Yitzhar, in the northern West Bank, donned masks and attacked the Palestinian village of Burin. About 30 ancient olive trees were uprooted and hundreds more damaged.

    “This is the where the real hatred is,” said one IDF soldier who spoke on condition of anonymity. “We cannot enter the outposts safely to talk to anyone about calming things down, or about not using violence. Things are out of our control.”

    A leading settler activist, Itamar Ben-Gvir, who works as assistant to Michael Ben-Ari, an MP for the far-right National Union Party, said that all settlers on the West Bank were on alert and warned that blood would be spilled.

  7. @ndy says:

    Further:

    On Loach, the pertinent part of the Principia Dialectica post for me was the series of oppositions at the end: the black and white vision of the world that afflicts leftist “anti-imperialism” today. The kind of [...?] And by the way I write as a big fan of Loach’s films.

    K. Well… Without having looked closely at Loach’s political writings or speeches, I think it’s probably an unfair criticism, in which Ken is made of straw, not blood and bone. That is, such a framework is so simplistic it’s difficult to truly believe that a) it’s Ken Loach’s or b) that of many others. Further, it seems to me that his films at least aren’t such straightforward exercises in propaganda (and bad propaganda at that). Finally, if Loach is to be criticised for his decision to withdraw his film, I think his actual reasoning — whether seamless or faulty — should be examined, not his alleged simple-mindedness.

    Secondly, I understand that there is a simple-minded form of ‘anti-imperialism’, in which the ‘oppressed nation’ is ‘supported’ (in some fashion) over-and-against the ‘imperialist overlord’/colonial power (and so on), but I don’t know to what extent this is a ‘real’ reflection of contemporary leftist concerns with ‘anti-imperialism’. Further, I’m not sure if such a simplistic, Manichean (cf. Principia Dialectica) worldview is especially ‘new’, or especially unique (George II: ‘You’re either with us or against us’). What such a worldview does bring to mind (among other things) is an essay by Chomsky on ‘The Soviet Union Versus Socialism’, Our Generation, Spring/Summer, 1986:

    When the world’s two great propaganda systems agree on some doctrine, it requires some intellectual effort to escape its shackles. One such doctrine is that the society created by Lenin and Trotsky and molded further by Stalin and his successors has some relation to socialism in some meaningful or historically accurate sense of this concept. In fact, if there is a relation, it is the relation of contradiction.

    It is clear enough why both major propaganda systems insist upon this fantasy. Since its origins, the Soviet State has attempted to harness the energies of its own population and oppressed people elsewhere in the service of the men who took advantage of the popular ferment in Russia in 1917 to seize State power. One major ideological weapon employed to this end has been the claim that the State managers are leading their own society and the world towards the socialist ideal; an impossibility, as any socialist — surely any serious Marxist — should have understood at once (many did), and a lie of mammoth proportions as history has revealed since the earliest days of the Bolshevik regime. The taskmasters have attempted to gain legitimacy and support by exploiting the aura of socialist ideals and the respect that is rightly accorded them, to conceal their own ritual practice as they destroyed every vestige of socialism.

    As for the world’s second major propaganda system, association of socialism with the Soviet Union and its clients serves as a powerful ideological weapon to enforce conformity and obedience to the State capitalist institutions, to ensure that the necessity to rent oneself to the owners and managers of these institutions will be regarded as virtually a natural law, the only alternative to the ‘socialist’ dungeon.

    The Soviet leadership thus portrays itself as socialist to protect its right to wield the club, and Western ideologists adopt the same pretense in order to forestall the threat of a more free and just society. This joint attack on socialism has been highly effective in undermining it in the modern period…

    For what it’s worth, I think this can be understood as a more general political dynamic, employed if and when as necessary, and generally by those whose power derives from one or other camp.

    “When faced with two alternatives, always choose the third way”: A saying of Jewish concentration camp inmates according to H. Patrick Glenn, [Legal traditions of the world:] Sustainable Diversity in Law, Second Edition (Oxford University Press, 2004), p.112, n.90; citing Jonathan Boyarin, Storm from Paradise: The Politics of Jewish Memory (University of Minnesota Press, 1992), p.xix.

    …government’s chatting with each other is not the strategy for anti-racism I’d ever pursue.

    Agreed. However, it is worth noting that a variety of NGOs (constituting around 4,000 or so individuals) also participated in Durban II.

    Letting Ahmadinejad, a vicious dictator and antisemite, give the keynote speech was a completely appalling idea.

    Yes… and no. That is, the UN provides a forum for all sortsa ratbags — it is, after all, a forum of states, and state leaders, not ‘anti-racist activists’. Further, I dunno that it’s accurate to state that the Iranian President was selected to give the keynote speech. Rather, Ahmadinejad gave a statement on the afternoon of April 20; that particular session also heard statements from ‘dignitaries’ from Norway, South Africa, Cameroon, Tanzania, Botswana, Brazil, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Mozambique, Senegal, Tunisia, Morocco, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and Mexico.

    On Klein’s reaction and reportage, whether or not the $ spent on Durban II might have been better spent elsewhere, the boycott and so on:

    Moar l8r…

  8. Anti-G says:

    On the first lot of stuff, maybe I’ve been too harsh on Loach. I still think he is wrong about this boycott issue though, and is acting llike a bully. The film he wanted withdrawn $9.99 (see http://www.9dollars99movie.com/ ) from the MIFF is incidentally very “post-Zionist”, based on work by Etgar Keret (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Etgar_Keret ).

    On Durban II, yes lots of NGOs participated, but it was still basically dominated by states, not surprisingly given the UN auspices, and still completely irrelevant to anti-racism in the real world.

    Ahmadinejad, OK, not a keynote, but while the other countries had “dignitaries” he is a head of state, so he was very much the headliner.

  9. @ndy says:

    Anti-G,

    Briefly, on Uncle Ken: I didn’t know that Loach demanded the withdrawal of $9.99; my understanding was that Loach’s position was that he would not give permission for Eric to screen while the festival received funding from the Israeli government. His letter to MIFF (July 13, 2009) makes no ref to $9.99. (The letter — signed by Loach / director, Paul Laverty / writer and Rebecca O’Brien / producer — is re-published here.)

    I’m not sure it’s reasonable to describe this behaviour as ‘bullying’ as such, rather that Loach (and Laverty and O’Brien) are placing conditions on the use of their product, and in response to a wider campaign calling for “a boycott of events supported by Israel” (that is, the Israeli state). Whether or not such a campaign is legitimate or worthy of support is another question…

    On Durban II, again, I think that there are at least two, somewhat separate issues.

    First, the call to boycott the event was launched well before it actually took place, and based on concerns that its principal function was to allow for the articulation of anti-Semitism. Based on my reading, those governments which supported the boycott — the Israeli, Australian, Canadian, Dutch, German, Italian, New Zealand, Polish, Swedish and United States governments — did so less from a genuine commitment to combating anti-Semitism but rather as an expression of support for Israeli state policy. As Rupert Colville remarked on December 12, 2008:

    A Google search on 10 December, using “fest” in conjunction with ‘Durban’ and ‘hate’ or ‘anti-Semitic,’ produced 49,900 web-page hits.* “Hate-fest” is not a common phrase, but it has been used in connection with the Durban process by people ranging from the Canadian Prime Minister to other politicians, academics, journalists, anti-Durban NGOs and a huge number of bloggers and other commentators.

    The 2001 World Conference was indeed marred by the grotesque behaviour of some anti-Israel NGOs at the parallel NGO forum. Their inexcusable anti-Semitic actions, coupled with some difficult debates at the state level, have unfortunately cast the entire 2001 Conference and next year’s review in a negative light that is, by and large, unmerited.

    Next year’s conference will focus on the 2001 outcome document, known as the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action (DDPA), which was adopted by consensus at the end of the 2001 World Conference. The DDPA consists of 341 paragraphs, of which six refer to the Middle East, anti-Semitism and directly related issues.

    The first of those says: “We recall that the Holocaust must never be forgotten.” The second says “We recognize with deep concern the increase in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in various parts of the world, as well as the emergence of racial and violent movements based on racism and discriminatory ideas against Jewish, Muslim and Arab communities.”

    The remaining four paragraphs include references to “the plight of the Palestinian people” and “the right to security for all States in the region, including Israel,” as well as calling upon “Israel and the Palestinians to resume the peace process, and to develop and prosper in security and freedom.”

    The contents of the DDPA were agreed by all the states present at the end of the 2001 conference. It is a fundamental, thorough and very wide-ranging framework document on racism and related issues. It takes a vivid imagination to turn it into the manifesto of a “hate-fest.”

    I agree that Durban II was dominated by states, as is everything else on our dying planet.

    I didn’t attend Durban II, have never attended any such event, and the likelihood of my doing so in the future is approximately zero. However, I think it quite possible that of the thousands of members of hundreds of NGOs what went to it, some at least found the event useful in terms of political and social networking, and to the extent that at least some of these individuals might be reasonably considered to be sincere and dedicated ‘anti-racists’, ‘Durban II’ was of some greater utility. In this context, it’s worth bearing in mind that the focus of the conference was not Israeli state policy, but a ‘Review of progress and assessment of implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action by all stakeholders at the national, regional and international levels, including the assessment of contemporary manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance’ [PDF].

    Regarding the role of the war hero with the wonky leg: a) his blah blah blah was only to be expected; b) the UN is routinely used by political leaders to grandstand; c) that this is the case does not, necessarily, mean that all the activities which take place under the auspices of the UN are therefore worthless. Further, the man is a clown, a figurehead for a segment of the Iranian ruling class. As subsequent events have demonstrated, this opinion is not only shared by a large number of his fellow Iranians, but his tenure is less secure than might have been previously supposed.

    Moar l8r h8r, but in the meantime:

    Israel: Boycott, Divest, Sanction
    Naomi Klein
    January 8, 2009

    Transcript of Naomi Klein’s speech at the BNC-organized event in Ramallah on 27 June 2009. The speech was transcribed and edited by Toufic Haddad for The Faster Times…

    Naomi Klein and the Boycott Movement
    Jewish Peace News
    July 12, 2009

    Naomi Klein and the Boycott Movement: Addendum
    Jewish Peace News
    July 14, 2009

    I’m re-publishing Feldman’s article here as it’s not available on Klein’s site or that of Haaretz…

    Naomi Klein: Oppose the state, not the people
    Yotam Feldman
    Haaretz
    July 2, 2009

    Ramallah’s intellectual elite, foreigners and curious spectators gathered last Saturday at the Friends School in Ramallah to hear writer and political activist Naomi Klein lecture to a packed auditorium.

    Following a musical interlude by a string quintet, one of whose members is blind, Klein took the stage. She chose to speak in Ramallah about her Jewish roots.

    “There is a debate among Jews – I’m a Jew by the way,” she said. The debate boils down to the question: “Never again to everyone, or never again to us?… [Some Jews] even think we get one get-away-with-genocide-free card… There is another strain in the Jewish tradition that say, ‘Never again to anyone”.

      …I wanted to start by letting you in on a little secret. There is a debate among Jews. I used to say “the Jewish community” but then I got excommunicated. So there is a debate among Jews – I’m a Jew by the way – about whether the lesson of the Holocaust should be “never again to anyone”, or “never again to us.” That’s what it pretty much boils down to. And there are a lot of people who believe that the lessons of the Holocaust was “never again to us, never again to the Jews.” Because we suffered this tremendous crime against humanity, we have the right to do whatever it takes to keep ourselves safe. In fact we even think we get a kind of get one genocide free card out of this. [...]

      There is another strain in the Jewish tradition that says that the lessons of the Holocaust is “never again to anyone”, and that it is precisely because of what we experienced as Jews that we must denounce racism, denounce systems of segregation wherever they crop up, even and especially when they crop up amongst our own. I am proud to put myself – and I thank my parents for this – in that second tradition. That’s why I’m proud to join in here tonight…

    It seems that during her brief visit, which began last Thursday night, Klein has not rested for a moment. Straight from the airport, she set out for a tour of Highway 443 that runs through the West Bank between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, connecting them to Modi’in and the adjacent Jewish settlements.

    She went on to the demonstration against the separation barrier at Bil’in, where there was a press conference on the civil suit in Quebec against Green Mount and Green Park, two Canadian companies that are providing construction services to the Jewish settlement of Upper Modi’in.

    In the evening she attended an event at the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem.

    At the beginning of this week, Klein went to the Gaza Strip, where she interviewed residents. Wednesday she appeared at the Almidan Theatre in Haifa.

    Since her 1999 book “No Logo” become an undisputed textbook of the anti-globalization movement, Klein, 38, has lectured at hundreds of meetings around the world. A celebrity journalist, political activist and commentator, she came to Israel to launch the Hebrew translation of her latest book, “The Shock Doctrine” (Andalus Publishing).

    Klein, who supports an economic and cultural boycott of Israel as pressure to end the occupation in the territories, thought long and hard about publishing her book in Hebrew, as well as visiting Israel. She finally decided to issue the book with Andalus Publishing, which specializes in Arabic literature, and to contribute her royalties to the press. Klein and Andalus publisher Yael Lerer carefully planned Klein’s itinerary in Israel to avoid the impression that she supports institutions connected to the State of Israel and the Israeli economy.

    “It certainly would have been a lot easier not to have come to Israel, and I wouldn’t have come had the Palestinian Boycott National Committee asked me not to,” said Klein in an interview before her arrival, at her Toronto home. “But I went to them with a proposal for the way I wanted to visit Israel and they were very open to it. It is important to me not to boycott Israelis but rather to boycott the normalization of Israel and the conflict”.

    So why did you decide to come nevertheless?

    “First of all, I deal in communications. It’s my profession and my passion and I naturally rebel against any kind of cutting off of channels of dialogue. I think that one of the most powerful tools of those who oppose the boycott is the argument that it is a boycott of Israelis. It’s true that some academics won’t agree to accept an article by an Israeli for publication in a journal. There aren’t many of them, and they make stupid decisions. This is not what the boycott committee has called for. The decision isn’t to boycott Israel but rather to oppose official relationships with Israeli institutions”.

    “I try to be consistent in the way I act in conflict areas I don’t want to act in a normal way in a place that seems very abnormal to me. When I was in Sri Lanka after the tsunami, I didn’t go to cocktail parties and also in Iraq no cocktail parties. The State of Israel is trying to show that everything is fine in its territory, that it’s possible to spend a nice vacation here or to be part of Western culture, very Western culture. I don’t want to be a part of that. I am waiting impatiently for the time when I will be able to come for a vacation or a normal book launch in Tel Aviv. But this is a privilege that should be reserved for all the inhabitants”.

    Last April Klein attended on assignment for a magazine the Durban 2 conference in Geneva, which Israel and a number of Western countries boycotted because of the invitation to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. She is still upset by her experiences there.

    “The most disturbing feeling,” she explains, “was the Jewish students’ lack of respect for the representatives from Africa and Asia who came to speak about issues like compensation for slavery and the rise of racism around the world. In their midst, Jewish students from France ran around in clown costumes and plastic noses to say ‘Durban is a joke.’ This was pure sabotage, which contributes to the tensions between Jews and blacks”.

    “Durban wasn’t just about Israel: The Durban Declaration acknowledged for the first time that the trans-Atlantic trade is a crime against humanity and that opened the way to compensation. The boycott of the conference created a vacuum that was filled, on the one hand, by Jewish students who wanted to sabotage the conference, and on the other, by Ahmadinejad both of them were truly awful”.

    Do you think it was necessary to allow Ahmadinejad to speak out so prominently at a conference against racism when he is calling for Israel’s destruction and denying the Holocaust?

    “I think that silencing the Palestinians was a big part of the reason he got so much attention. He is the only one who acknowledged what happened this year – more Palestinians were killed in 2008 than in any year since 1948. The boycott seems to me to have been an irresponsible decision the Jewish community unifies in an attempt to shut down a discussion of racism when there is a shocking rise in racism on the right in places like Austria, Italy, Switzerland, in the midst of an economic crisis, in conditions close to those in which fascism spread in all of Europe”.

    Extreme neo-liberalism

    In her new book, Klein analyzes how politicians and corporations have fomented neo-liberal change in various countries’ economic systems. She describes how countries have been thoroughly privatized, have almost entirely lifted government market intervention and have given a foothold to multinational companies, while stealing money from citizens and denying them basic services they had previously received from the government.

    The economic crisis in the United States, which erupted less than a year after “The Shock Doctrine” was published, could have provided a dramatic final chapter for the book. In Klein’s opinion, it embodies one of the most extreme and absurd manifestations of neo-liberal reform.

    We are living in the most corrupt stage of neo-liberalism,” she says. “At least in the 1990s the idea was to take the state’s assets and privatize them so that the state would get money while private interests would run the services. What is happening in the United States is that they are using the crisis to transfer unprecedented amounts of public money into private hands”.

    The banks aren’t providing any service to the public and they are still getting its money. In the economic crisis the debts were nationalized, the risks were nationalized and the profits were privatized. They are keeping the profitable part of the market ideology, but the moment it isn’t profitable they are throwing the laws out the window to save the banks that have failed.

    “We see this when [United States President Barack] Obama says, ‘We don’t want to run the banks.’ What they should be doing is using their power to influence the banks to keep the jobs and the social services, but he isn’t doing this.

    Nevertheless, there also have been unexpected developments a new president has been elected who has promised social responsibility.

    “Yes, there’s a new president, and he was elected because he promised to regulate the financial sector. There is no doubt that the public wants the change Obama promised that he would rescue not only Wall Street but also Main Street and that this would be a success from below, not from above. I think that things have improved in some areas, and of course it’s better than [Republican presidential candidate Senator John] McCain or [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu”.

    However, Klein is also critical of Obama, and has reservations about the adoration for him that has swept up many people on the radical left in the United States and Canada.

    “It’s strange,” she says. “I’m very glad that he’s the president and he is clearly an intelligent man, but the idea of falling in love with the most powerful man in the world, with the most powerful arsenal in the world, is incomprehensible to me. I can’t understand that people are still wearing the shirts with his image printed on them stop it, the elections are over. It’s embarrassing”.

    Are you concerned that identification with Obama will blunt criticism and popular protest against the rule of the corporations on the American left?

    “That’s a pretty theoretical danger, almost an intellectual exercise. First you have to imagine that there is opposition and then you have to imagine that it is swallowed up. There is no such thing, and the nature of the political culture in the United States is that the elections swallow up everything. That wasn’t so before the Bush era. What was special about the World Trade Organization summit in Seattle, and hasn’t recurred since, is that political movements demonstrated an independent position. The same people who demonstrated outside the Democratic convention also demonstrated outside the Republican convention”.

    Israel’s politics and economy are woven though various chapters of Klein’s book. Stanley Fischer, the current governor of the Bank of Israel, was involved in his capacity at the International Monetary Fund in negotiations with various countries on the introduction of liberal reforms, and a number of the oligarchs who led the privatization of the Russian economy in the 1990s have found refuge in Israel.

    In a chapter entitled “Losing the Peace Incentive,” Klein describes the Israeli economy during the past decade as a model of a liberal market that is not affected by a state of conflict, and even gains from it thanks to its military exports.

    “The first collaboration of the economics department at the University of Chicago wasn’t with the Catholic University of Chile,” she says, “but rather with Hebrew University in Jerusalem. I look at Israel as an economic model that various countries in the world are heading toward. Because of its history, Israel needed extensive government involvement in issues like planning and land ownership during its first years. It is interesting to see that today, governments all over the world are realizing the disastrous results of neo-liberalism in creating the economic crisis”.

    “Meanwhile, here in Israel, this same ideology Milton Friedman’s ideas about how the government isn’t the solution but rather always the problem are flourishing”.

    “Klein believes that corruption is an integral part of neo-liberalism. “The idea that corruption is a surprise when you deregulate is crazy,” she says. “The free market ideology that various countries have adopted believes that greed is the main growth engine for human development and social justice.

    “Milton Friedman advised [Chilean leader Augusto] Pinochet: ‘The basic error is to try to do good with public money.’ In other words, Don’t try to be kind, don’t try to deal with poverty just pursue your interest and that way you will be more successful than if you attempt to take care of other people. Therefore, maybe it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that even if you are a little corrupt and look out for yourself, by doing so you’re just propelling the growth engine of capitalism that everyone should look out for his own interests”.

    Do the new rich believe in the market ideology, or are they just plain greedy?

    “I’m not sure it matters, because the ideology they choose is one that celebrates greed. In the United States there is an exaggerated need to believe in people’s goodwill, but I think it’s better to judge people by their deeds than to busy yourself speculating about their good intentions”.

    Oh yeah.

    Two more things.

    I’ve searched but cannot find any of Klein’s reportage on Durban II online (“Last April Klein attended on assignment for a magazine the Durban 2 conference in Geneva”);

    David Rovics is touring Australia:

  10. A lot of issues here, so sorry for my slow replies!

    On Uncle Ken, it is of course true that he did not say to MIFF “don’t show $9.99“. He said that he wouldn’t let his film be shown unless they declined Israeli sponsorship. Declining Israeli sponsorship would effectively have meant they could not show $9.99 (unless I suppose they raised the equivalent amount of dosh elsewhere sharpish). The Israeli sponsorship (if sponsorship is actually the right word) was one of many, many pots of money the festival put together to enable all the films to be shown. See Richard Moore’s reply to Loach which I don’t think Australians for Palestine make available but which is easily googlable. I found it here [Email exchanges between Ken Loach, Paul Laverty, Rebecca O’Brien and the Melbourne Film Festival organizers, P U L S E, July 20, 2009] (not endorsement of the site in general).

    The example shows how a cultural boycott of the Israeli state cannot only be of the state but always also of its citizens – in this case of the Israeli film-makers of $9.99. With a cultural boycott, in fact, the specific citizens likely to be victims are more often than not dissidents in a broad sense. Refusing such funding would have, for example, cut off the global audience of films like Waltz With Bashir or The Lemon Tree.

    Klein’s position, calling for a boycott while visiting Israel, further demonstrates this. Which is more practical in changing Israeli policies, her going there and selling her books there etc, or her cutting off ties in some gestural cultural boycott?

    Is Ken bullying? I think that he is using his social standing as a major star of the film world to stop the world from seeing the work of young indie film makers without such standing, such as the makers of $9.99 or such as Tali Shalom Ezer. She, by the way, is the woman who made the documentary Surrogate, that Loach stopped the Edinburgh film festival from showing in the previous step of his campaign.

    OK, Durban II. I never supported a boycott of Durban II so I won’t respond in relation to that. Durban I was, however, a hideous event, and I don’t think hate-fest was too strong a word for it. There was every reason to expect that the focus would be Israeli state policy, as it was at Durban I, although in the end this did not happen. (And, to be fair, the Israel focus at Durban I did not in the end lead to a document condemning Israel.) There was relatively little hideousness at Durban II, although there was enough for me to be surprised that the thing Klein was most “disturbed” by “was the Jewish students’ lack of respect for the representatives from Africa and Asia who came to speak about issues like compensation for slavery and the rise of racism around the world”. There were examples of this, but from the reportage I’ve seen there was a lot worse from the “anti-imperialist” camp, at least equally disturbing.

    I am intrigued by the “[some Jews]” in the Klein interview. I wonder what she actually said to be replaced by the square bracket version. I find the quoted paragraph from her speech appalling. Letting people into a little secret, that there is a debate among Jews? As if this happens behind closed doors, amongst, perhaps, the Elders of Zion. And what does it mean that she got “excommunicated” from “the Jewish community”? There is no such thing as “the” Jewish community – there are, as the joke goes, many more opinions than there are Jews in that “community”, let alone the authority to “ex-communicate” someone. Who does she think she is, Spinoza? A debate over “never again to anyone” or “never again to us”? What nonsense! There may be a tiny number of Jewish fascists who think only of “us”, but there is no real debate – they are utterly marginal, at least in the Jewish diaspora. I know lots of Jews, but not one single one who thinks “never again to us” only. And, finally, the “get one genocide free card”! For a start, [...] Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians constitute nothing like a genocide. And even if they did, anyone but a racist should be able to see that these are the crimes of Israel, not of “the Jews”. In short, everything she says plays into an anti-Jewish racist discourse that someone as smart as her should not be purveying.

  11. @ndy says:

    G’day Anti-German,

    A lot of issues here, so sorry for my slow replies!

    That’s cool. I appreciate the effort you make in composing them.

    On Uncle Ken:

    I’m unsure about this. That is, I don’t know — and you may well be correct — that if MIFF had acquiesced to Loach & Co.’s demand/request that the Festival refuse Israeli state sponsorship, this would necessarily mean that $9.99 would not be shown — certainly, the Festival would suffer a reduction in income.

    So:

    ‘The State of Israel’ is described as being a ‘Cultural Partner’ of the Festival. Presumably, this means it provides some funding and/or otherwise facilitates the screening of Israeli (?) films (I can find no other deets). Fwiw, the other ‘Cultural Partners’ are the Danish Film Institute, the Australian Goethe-Institut, the Hong Kong Economic & Trade Office, the Japan Foundation, the Modern Language Teachers’ Association of Victoria, the New Zealand Film Commission, the Tapei Economic & Cultural Office and the (South) Korean Ministry of Culture & Tourism. If the scale of Israeli state sponsorship is equivalent to that of the MLTAV, I imagine it is fairly minimal; on the other hand, it may be quite large. According to one news report (Film festival ‘right to reject Israel boycott’, Nic MacBean, ABC, July 20, 2009): “The Israeli funding he [Loach & Co.] referred to was the Israeli Embassy’s sponsorship of Tatia Rosenthal to visit the festival to answer questions about her animation feature $9.99.” Assuming this to be the case, I can’t imagine that the amount would be more than so many thousands of dollars (the price of an airfare, accommodation, and incidentals). If MIFF was sympathetic, then, it seems to me quite conceivable that a Festival of its size could find the funds necessary to ensure Rosenthal’s appearance.

    Of course, I don’t think that this is the main point: the absence of Israeli sponsorship does not threaten the existence of the Festival, and in fact would — on the basis of the above, and in light of the fact that Israeli state sponsorship of the 2009 Edinburgh Film Festival reportedly amounted to £300 (Edinburgh film festival bows to pressure from Ken Loach over Israeli boycott, The Times, May 20, 2009) — have, I believe (and I admit I could be wrong) a very minimal economic impact. Rather, Loach (& Co.) are attempting to make a political point, to support a ‘cultural’ boycott, and to delegitimise the Israeli state’s role in global cultural events.

    In summary:

    it’s not my understanding that the withdrawal of Israeli state sponsorship would endanger the screening of $9.99 (an Australian/Israeli co-production);
    the institution of a boycott would mean that another source of funds would need to be found in order to ensure Tatia Rosenthal’s appearance at the Festival;
    I’m unaware of what role, if any, the Israeli state plays in sponsoring the screening of the four films (Ajambi, Amos Oz: The Nature of Dreams, Defamation and Lost Paradise) identified by MIFF as being Israeli in origin;
    moar l8r…

  12. @ndy says:

    Moar and l8r…

    Australians For Palestine have published the correspondence here: ‘British film director Ken Loach letter exchange with MIFF Director Richard Moore’, July 28, 2009. They have also published an account of a protest @ MIFF: ‘PROTEST: against MIFF partnership with Israel’, July 27, 2009.

    Also:

    IX. The position on boycotts, divestment and sanctions

    Australians for Palestine adopts the position that pressure must be put on Israel to end its occupation and apartheid policies against the Palestinians through boycotts, divestment and sanctions. The failure of diplomacy and dialogue, and an international community led by the United States unable and/or unwilling to confront Israel and demand that it respect international law and United Nations resolutions condemning its policies, leaves this as the only non-violent option to bring about change. Therefore, Australians for Palestine will appeal to our government to uphold international law and apply sanctions on Israel; appeal to institutions such as churches and universities to divest from corporations that do business with Israel; and, appeal to the general public to use their own power to boycott products and services that benefit Israel.

    The example shows how a cultural boycott of the Israeli state cannot only be of the state but always also of its citizens – in this case of the Israeli film-makers of $9.99. With a cultural boycott, in fact, the specific citizens likely to be victims are more often than not dissidents in a broad sense. Refusing such funding would have, for example, cut off the global audience of films like Waltz With Bashir or The Lemon Tree.

    I think a distinction can be made between, on the one hand, an action having an effect upon diverse subjects, and, on the other, having its main effect upon one or several. That is, as in the case of a cultural boycott of South Africa, a cultural boycott of Israel can/does/will effect many; as such, I don’t believe that an argument in favour of somesuch boycott depends on it having no effect upon Israeli citizens. A boycott, by its very nature, does not require or demand the consent of the boycotted.

    A few months ago in Melbourne, a person from ‘Anarchists Against the Wall’ — someone who I assume could be referred to accurately as some kinda ratbag dissident — spoke @ my local anarchist infoshop; the kind of boycott Loach is engaged in vis-a-vis the MIFF would not have required a boycott of this form of ‘cultural exchange’. Had Rosenthal’s visit to Melbourne not been sponsored by the Israeli state, the same rule would, presumably, have applied. That is, given that Rosenthal’s visit was not sponsored by the Israeli state, a boycott would have zero effect.

    Of course, the question of a boycott of the Israeli state naturally demands that the Israeli state be defined: if someone is unable to identify what the Israeli state is, they are hardly in a position to boycott it. The ‘problem’ here is that the Israeli state is not made of bricks, but people: the Israeli state, like all states, describes a social relation. It’s on this level, I think, that — for example — Naomi Klein’s travel itinerary and publication become an issue; Klein obviously believes that such a distinction can be drawn. Further to this, both Cousin Naomi and Uncle Ken assert that the call for a boycott comes from ‘the Palestinians’ themselves — which is also held to be of political significance. Thus:

      In their letter to Richard Moore (Director) and the MIFF, Loach, Laverty and O’Brien write: “As you are no doubt aware, many Palestinians, including artists and academics, have called for a boycott of events supported by Israel.”

      Klein, in response to Feldman, says: “It certainly would have been a lot easier not to have come to Israel, and I wouldn’t have come had the Palestinian Boycott National Committee asked me not to,” said Klein in an interview before her arrival, at her Toronto home. “But I went to them with a proposal for the way I wanted to visit Israel and they were very open to it. It is important to me not to boycott Israelis but rather to boycott the normalization of Israel and the conflict”.

    In this sense, there is an obvious conflict between the forms of engagement and participation with ‘Israel’ being requested; a conflict which also hinges upon some notion of political legitimacy. That is, on the one hand, groups like the ‘Palestinian Boycott National Committee’ request one such form; the Israeli state, on the other hand, and via such agencies as The Israel Ministry of Tourism, another. Klein has chosen to act in accordance (and in negotiation) with the former. That the Committee is presumably composed of (at least some) Israeli citizens does not render this distinction less valid. (Or rather, not that I can determine.)

    In summary, the same kinds of considerations which were applied in the case of South Africa may also be applied in the case of Israel.

    Inre your statement that “Refusing such funding would have, for example, cut off the global audience of films like Waltz With Bashir or The Lemon Tree“, I’m not sure I understand. Perhaps you could elaborate on this point? Are you suggesting that, absent Israeli state funding, these films would not be screened elsewhere? If so, I’m not sure. That is, I don’t know what role the Israeli state played in ensuring the distribution and screening of these films. I’m not familiar with Lemon, but iirc, Waltz was given a limited release in Australia, and screened not only at festivals, but also toured the ‘art house’ circuit. If correct, I’m not sure your case holds.

    More later, but on a point of clarification, you write:

    I am intrigued by the “[some Jews]” in the Klein interview. I wonder what she actually said to be replaced by the square bracket version. I find the quoted paragraph from her speech appalling.

    The text of Feldman’s article (third paragraph) reads:

    “There is a debate among Jews – I’m a Jew by the way,” she said. The debate boils down to the question: “Never again to everyone, or never again to us?… [Some Jews] even think we get one get-away-with-genocide-free card… There is another strain in the Jewish tradition that say, ‘Never again to anyone”.

    The transcript of the interview from which Feldman is quoting (and which I inserted into the article) reads:

    …I wanted to start by letting you in on a little secret. There is a debate among Jews. I used to say “the Jewish community” but then I got excommunicated. So there is a debate among Jews – I’m a Jew by the way – about whether the lesson of the Holocaust should be “never again to anyone”, or “never again to us.” That’s what it pretty much boils down to. And there are a lot of people who believe that the lessons of the Holocaust was “never again to us, never again to the Jews.” Because we suffered this tremendous crime against humanity, we have the right to do whatever it takes to keep ourselves safe. In fact we even think we get a kind of get one genocide free card out of this. [...]

    In other words, ‘Some Jews’ is Feldman’s condensation of Klein’s statement:

    Feldman: “[Some Jews] even think we get one get-away-with-genocide-free card…”
    Klein (in a speech transcribed and edited by Toufic Haddad): “In fact we even think we get a kind of get one genocide free card out of this…”

  13. @ndy says:

    Is Ken bullying? I think that he is using his social standing as a major star of the film world to stop the world from seeing the work of young indie film makers without such standing, such as the makers of $9.99 or such as Tali Shalom Ezer. She, by the way, is the woman who made the documentary Surrogate, that Loach stopped the Edinburgh film festival from showing in the previous step of his campaign.

    I agree that Uncle Ken probably holds higher standing than Ezer; I’m not convinced his action has stopped, or was intended to stop, the screening of her work. The same applies in the case of the Edinburgh Festival.

    OK, Durban II…

    Durban I a hideous event? Maybe: I dunno. The expression of gross anti-Semitism is certainly objectionable, and was expressed at it. The question is, to what extent did such expressions characterise the event as a whole? According to Colville:

    The 2001 World Conference was indeed marred by the grotesque behaviour of some anti-Israel NGOs at the parallel NGO forum. Their inexcusable anti-Semitic actions, coupled with some difficult debates at the state level, have unfortunately cast the entire 2001 Conference and next year’s review in a negative light that is, by and large, unmerited.

    According to Klein:

    We heard a lot of [...] claims that were made about this conference that in actuality were not true. The official declaration that came out of the Conference in 2001 actually didn’t say Israel is a racist state…

    Now I want to say first of all that there were anti-Semitic incidents that took place in Durban in 2001 – absolutely. There were cartoons that were circulated by some [Non Governmental Organizations] that had [a] Der Stürmer-style, of hook nose Jews and all of this. It was bad. But it was a very marginal part of the conference. You don’t derail an entire U.N. process because some idiots passed out anti-Semitic cartoons. That would be like derailing the Kyoto Protocol because something extreme happened on the margins of one of the conference[s]. So what was really at the root of this successful campaign to totally delegitimize a global discussion?

    Keep in mind that the first Durban conference was a big deal. There were 16 heads of state that traveled to Durban. There were 48 foreign ministers who traveled to Durban. Fidel Castro went. Arafat went. Now one of the reasons why people don’t really remember what happened and what was significant about that first Durban conference and why it is so easy to spread misinformation about it and claim that things happened that didn’t happen, is because that conference ended on September 9, 2001. There were two days when the truth could have seeped into the culture after which point the discussion was decisively changed to the endless war on terror. So anything could be claimed about this conference.

    As I looked into this, what I found was that the reason why there is such a zealous opposition to the Durban process is because the birth of the BDS movement – the campaign of equating the practices of the Israeli state with the practices of Apartheid South Africa – was really first fully articulated in Durban in 2001 at the NGO forum. If you look at the NGO declaration [from that conference] it says that Israel is practicing a form of apartheid and it calls for the use of precisely these tactics in order to isolate Israel and to force it to comply with international law.

    As all of you know who are part of the boycott committee, the attempt to stop this campaign is very strong. [...]A lot of writing about, or against this movement that we are a part of here tonight, traces the origin [of the BDS movement] back to Durban 2001. What we see is a tremendous fear of the Palestinian cause becoming the next South Africa, becoming the next big global civil society movement.

    There is a history to this too because there were two anti-racism conferences before the U.N. anti-racism conferences [at Durban and Geneva][...]. The most recent one was in 1983. Both of those conferences focused on South African apartheid, and they were very important gathering places. So in some of the writing that I’ve been seeing by people like Irwin Cotler who is our former justice minister from Canada, they talk about the South Africa strategy [...] as it relates to Israel, having been born in South Africa, in Durban [in 2001]. Because there is such a particular resonance as many of you know, among South Africans, precisely because they know apartheid when they see it. And they have seen it here, and they have named it here and were naming it back in 2001, seven years after their own first free elections.

    Now one of the things that we have heard a lot – and this relates to this whole discussion about apartheid in Israel – is this claim that, “Yes, O.K., there are separate roads [for Israeli Jewish settlers and Palestinians]. There are special passes [for Palestinians to travel]. There is this whole system. But that doesn’t have to do with racism. That has to do with a dispute over geography and land and it has no place within a discussion about racism. And while we can accept that the way Afrikaners were in South Africa, as racist, Jews can’t be racist and this is not about racism.”

    This is where what I think should probably be called “the Durban Consensus” really comes into play and why this idea of an international, civil society, broad-based movement, on the South African model, is such a threat. Because during that [first Durban] conference a lot of very significant things happened. Arguably the most significant one was that all over the global South, but particularly in Africa, people refused this idea that they [the U.N.] would have this nice easy conference about racism where everybody can agree that it[']s bad and it[']s wrong, and they would sign a well-meaning declaration [against racism], but most of all, they would just pat each other on the back for all the good things they’ve done, like defeat Apartheid in South Africa. That was what was supposed to happen in Durban. But what actually happened – and we would know this I think if it weren’t for September 11th – was that racism was put in a historical context. And the consensus – what I am calling the Durban consensus – was that there is no way to understand the particular form of racism that we have -[...] white supremacy, which says that people with white skin are somehow better than people with darker skin, and the darker the skin, the worse it gets – this system can only properly be understood in the context of the history of colonialism and in particular the economic history of the need of two very profitable things: one, free labor; two, free land…

  14. @ndy says:

    Finally, on Cousin Naomi and Durban II:

    To begin with, in questioning aspects of Klein’s response, the main difficulty is that she is absent. That is, it is really for her to explain, elaborate upon, and defend her stated position. I cannot. So:

    …there was enough [expressions of anti-Semitism at Durban II] for me to be surprised that the thing Klein was most “disturbed” by “was the Jewish students’ lack of respect for the representatives from Africa and Asia who came to speak about issues like compensation for slavery and the rise of racism around the world”. There were examples of this, but from the reportage I’ve seen there was a lot worse from the “anti-imperialist” camp, at least equally disturbing.

    What Klein was disturbed by is what Klein was disturbed by. Should she, in fact, have been more disturbed by something else? Maybe: I dunno. Not having attended the conference, I am reliant upon other accounts: accounts which are, obviously, partial. If I had attended, it’s possible I may have been most appalled by something someone said or did at some workshop or other. As for Ahmadinejad, yeah: dickhead. But I tend to view the ideological pronouncements of all heads of state with a kinda resigned bemusement.

    I find the quoted paragraph from her speech appalling. Letting people into a little secret, that there is a debate among Jews? As if this happens behind closed doors, amongst, perhaps, the Elders of Zion. And what does it mean that she got “excommunicated” from “the Jewish community”? There is no such thing as “the” Jewish community – there are, as the joke goes, many more opinions than there are Jews in that “community”, let alone the authority to “ex-communicate” someone. Who does she think she is, Spinoza? A debate over “never again to anyone” or “never again to us”? What nonsense! There may be a tiny number of Jewish fascists who think only of “us”, but there is no real debate – they are utterly marginal, at least in the Jewish diaspora. I know lots of Jews, but not one single one who thinks “never again to us” only. And, finally, the “get one genocide free card”! For a start, [...] Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians constitute nothing like a genocide. And even if they did, anyone but a racist should be able to see that these are the crimes of Israel, not of “the Jews”. In short, everything she says plays into an anti-Jewish racist discourse that someone as smart as her should not be purveying.

    As previously suggested, it’s obviously not possible for me to speak for Klein. So, exactly what she meant by “the Jewish community”, I dunno. I would suggest, however, that the following observations may be relevant:

    1) In general, in situations where a person’s meaning is not clear, or subject to (mis-)interpretation, it is worthwhile seeking clarification. That is, just as it’s possible to note that Klein made reference to “the Jewish community”, it’s also possible to seek clarification: ‘Hey Naomi, you referred to the Jewish community. What exactly were you referring to? Did you mean some notion of a global Jewish community? The Jewish community in which you grew up? The Jewish community of Canada? Or…?’

    2) To whom were these remarks addressed? I obviously dunno who attended her talk in Ramallah, but it’s possible that, rather than seek to imply that there was some kinda ‘global Jewish community’ in which debate “happens behind closed doors, amongst, perhaps, the Elders of Zion”, Klein wanted to inform her audience that, contrary to others’ assertions, there was in fact genuine and significant debate among the Jewish diaspora — perhaps especially the Canadian Jewish diaspora — regarding Israeli state policy.

    3) Klein’s ref to “excommunication” brings to mind two things. One, the writings of my Kiwi comrade Asher. In particular, ‘Self Hating Jew?’ (anarchia, May 2, 2006, quoted in full):

    The following is a piece that I wrote on February 5th of this year. I never finished it, and never sent it to the place I wrote it for, an email list used by a large number of NZ Jews.

      Since I became more public with my beliefs as [an] anti-Zionist member of the New Zealand Jewish community, a large number of people, many of whom have known me most of my life, have seen fit to label me with that cruel epithet “self-hating Jew”. This has reached the stage where I now very rarely involve myself in the Jewish community or it’s activities. I no longer feel welcome at the Jewish community centre in Wellington, a place where I went to kindergarten and primary school, a place where I have spent so much of my life.

      Now, I could write here about the role my Jewish identity plays in my life. I could write about how I express my Judaism, or the role Judaism plays in influencing the political activism I do (such as anti-fascist activism). But I’m not going to do that, because that would be allowing those who have smeared me to dictate the frame of the argument. I’m not going to defend myself or my beliefs, because I shouldn’t have to. In a truly respectful community, we would agree on some things, disagree on others and respect each others['] differences. We would discuss, and we would argue, but at the end of the day, regardless of the outcome, we would continue on our [separate] paths with both of us having grown from the experience, because that’s what a community is about.

      If you feel uncomfortable associating with me because my beliefs differ from yours, perhaps you should seek out a cult, rather than our community, because there you won’t have to question yourself – everything you say will be echoed by everyone else.

      If you haven’t run away after that last paragraph, I’m going to assume you want to be a part of the Jewish community still. That’s fantastic. Now, how about we engage in some dialogue, rather than spreading (frequently false) rumours about me behind my back.

      I don’t want to hear your patronising comments about how me not believing in G-d (you see, I write it that way out of respect for you, even if I may not agree) or not linking my fate to that of Israel’s is a “failure of the community to properly educate”. As I said in a previous email to this list a few months ago:

      “Education is giving knowledge in such a way that empowers the educated to form their own opinions…

      In education, as long as the educated are sufficiently able to form their own opinions, you cannot fail. The only way to fail in education is if you fail to educate.

      On the other hand, indoctrination is regarded as exactly what the dictionary says: “To imbue with a partisan or ideological point of view”. This means teaching certain things with the explicit goal of producing a specific point of view. In indoctrination, one is considered to have failed if the recipient does not come out with the required point of view.”

      I hope sincerely that our community aims to educate, not indoctrinate, although sadly sometimes I’m not sure that it does.

    So, why did I never finish this? Sadly, the reason was not because the community suddenly became welcoming and ceased to be bigoted against me. Rather, I never spent the time finishing this piece because I lost hope that things would ever change.

    Of course, there are some Jews in the Wellington community who I love dearly with all my heart. Some agree with my politics on Israel/Palestine, others disagree but are able to keep our differences respectful. To these people, I say thank you.

    To those who would seek to informally excommunicate me from the community however, I wish to issue a resounding fuck off. I won’t let you dictate my identity to me, and I sure as hell won’t bow to your pressure. If you want your little exclusive cult, you’re going to have to fight for it.

    Secondly, the situation of Sydney writer Antony Loewenstein, and the accusations of ‘anti-Semitism’ which have been directed against him — including by fellow Jews such as Michael Danby — on account of their very public anti-Zionism. (See: ‘If You Don’t Agree With Us You’re Antisemitic’, Antony Loewenstein, July 7, 2009: “My latest New Matilda column, co-written with Independent Australian Jewish Voices blogger Michael Brull, responds to predictable charges of political bias by the Zionist lobby…”)

    On my reading, to accuse a Jewish person of being a ‘self-hating Jew’ or of ‘anti-Semitism’ — and irrespective of the validity of such accusations — has the effect of what amounts to a form of ‘excommunication’: ‘you, the self-hating, anti-Semitic Jew, are not and do not deserve to be, part of the Jewish community. I do not and will not associate with you, and I think you should either change your views, or go away’.

    3) I agree that there is no such thing as “the” Jewish community — there are many Jewish communities. The question of ‘authority’ in this context raises a host of other questions, which are not peculiar to Jewish community, but to any form of communal living. On the subject of Jewish community, it is worth noting that quite recently:

    The Sensible Jew, a blog launched by two Melbourne women, doesn’t hold back. It attacks established Melbourne Jewish leaders like Danny Lamm and Colin Rubenstein as “unrepresentative swill”. Their heavy-handed response to perceived anti-Semitism and criticism of Israel wins the Jewish community no friends and instead reinforces anti-Jewish prejudice, they say…

    ~ Blog takes on the ‘swill’ who speak for Jews, Tom Hyland, The Age, June 7, 2009.

    On the notion of ‘never again’, genocide, and more: l8r h8r.

    To end on a musical note:

  15. @ndy says:

    Of related interest…

    The Zionist Identity Crisis
    Tali Shapiro
    ZNet
    July 28, 2009

    Boycott from Within – Building a Movement
    Tali Shapiro
    ZNet
    July 7, 2009

    ‘Boycott from Within’:
    “Palestinians, Jews, citizens of Israel, join the Palestinian call for a BDS campaign against Israel…”

    Palestinian Civil Society Calls for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel Until it Complies with International Law and Universal Principles of Human Rights, July 9, 2005:

    One year after the historic Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) which found Israel’s Wall built on occupied Palestinian territory to be illegal; Israel continues its construction of the colonial Wall with total disregard to the Court’s decision. Thirty eight years into Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian West Bank (including East Jerusalem), Gaza Strip and the Syrian Golan Heights, Israel continues to expand Jewish colonies. It has unilaterally annexed occupied East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights and is now de facto annexing large parts of the West Bank by means of the Wall. Israel is also preparing – in the shadow of its [p]lanned redeployment from the Gaza Strip – to build and expand colonies in the West Bank. Fifty seven years [a]fter the state of Israel was built mainly on land ethnically cleansed of its Palestinian owners, a majority of Palestinians are refugees, most of whom are stateless. Moreover, Israel’s entrenched system of racial discrimination against its own Arab-Palestinian citizens remains intact.

    In light of Israel’s persistent violations of international law; and

    Given that, since 1948, hundreds of UN resolutions have condemned Israel’s colonial and discriminatory policies as illegal and called for immediate, adequate and effective remedies; and

    Given that all forms of international intervention and peace-making have until now failed to convince or force Israel to comply with humanitarian law, to respect fundamental human rights and to end its occupation and oppression of the people of Palestine; and

    In view of the fact that people of conscience in the international community have historically shouldered the moral responsibility to fight injustice, as exemplified in the struggle to abolish apartheid in South Africa through diverse forms of boycott, divestment and sanctions; and

    Inspired by the struggle of South Africans against apartheid and in the spirit of international solidarity, moral consistency and resistance to injustice and oppression;

    We, representatives of Palestinian civil society, call upon international civil society organizations and people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era. We appeal to you to pressure your respective states to impose embargoes and sanctions against Israel. We also invite conscientious Israelis to support this Call, for the sake of justice and genuine peace.

    These non-violent punitive measures should be maintained until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law by:

    1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;

    2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and

    3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194…

  16. I’m afraid this debate has come at a bad time for me, as I have almost no blogging time at the moment, so I can’t respond to even a fraction of your well thought through and well researched points, although I appreciate them.

    Instead, I’ll confine myself to a couple of points.

    1. Film festival funding for Israeli indie film-makers. In the case of Edinburgh, which I know more about, £300 seems like a small amount, but it isn’t in the case of a pretty low-budget cultural organisation cobbling together funds from several sources, mostly equally tiny grants. When they gave in to Loach, they asked the film-maker to pay herself. She wouldn’t, and they couldn’t find the cash to cover it. Read more here. This may or may not be the case with Melbourne: I don’t know.

    Melbourne, and other such festivals, were among the first to screen Waltz With Bashir and The Lemon Tree. For that sort of arthouse, indie film, good reception at those sorts of film festivals is crucial to getting commercial distribution, and decent reviews that lead to audiences. It is pretty much impossible for those sorts of films to be screened at festivals without some kind of sponsorship, often provided by states. If MIFF or EIFF never accept Israeli state money, then those sorts of films never get shown at film festivals, and they are unlikely to be seen on the arthouse circuit. The messages of those films, as with Surrogate and possibly $9.99, are messages that people who want peace and justice would want out there.

    This is what Shalom-Ezer wrote to Loach:

    “I oppose, with all my heart, the Israeli occupation and settelments; I oppose an automatic resort to military solutions in times of conflict. I appreciate the wish to change the world by shunning what is perceived as an act of injustice, but I feel that what may seem right in theory, may be extremely wrong in practice.

    In my opinion, every time a nation is subjected to a cultural boycott – be it a film or a lecture by an Israeli professor abroad – there is a tendency amongst its subjects to draw closer to more nationalistic elements; every time this happens, peace is farther away. Every time this happens, the concept of “A People that Dwells Alone” gathers more believers, and the conviction that the only way to survive is by strengthening the state’s military power, is reinforced. Every time this happens, moderate voices are hushed, art is weakened.

    I do not know if you are aware of this fact, but Surrogate was filmed by Radek Ladczuk, a talented Polish cinematographer. For 21 years, Israel and Poland had no diplomatic relations; all I knew about the country came from the media and history lessons about WWII.

    I approached Radek from purely artistic considerations. Our work, despite difficulties in verbal communication, has proven to me once more the power of art and the many points of similarity which join people together, everywhere. I have no doubt that collaborations of this kind promote dialogue and lessen prejudice.“

    2. More generally, the legalistic sophistry required to think through and meaningfully implement these sorts of cultural boycotts, and the unintended consequences of them, such as hardening nationalism in Israel or denying Australians access to dissident voices, to me completely undermine the cultural boycott position. Klein’s contortions (OK to be published by this publisher but not that one, can buy felafels in a shop but not go to a cocktail party, etc) demonstrate this even more.

    3. I personally think that Israel is not an apartheid state, although I have no problems with people arguing for that analogy. I took part in boycotting apartheid South Africa. I don’t know whether the boycott contributed to the fall of apartheid or not. But I do know that if it did it was not buying South African wine and apples that made a difference, rather than not buying records by black South African artists. I think cultural boycott is the last option. Seriously campaigning for divestment and arms trade sanctions is the most important thing, along with concrete solidarity with the oppressed in Palestine. To me, Loach’s strategy is a lazy, empty, gestural one. (It wouldn’t be much less lazy if he refused to have his films distributed in Israel, but the fact he doesn’t do that makes it even more lazy.)

    4. Loach the bully. His e-mails, letters and (refusal of) public appearance seem rather bullying to me. There are worse bullies in the Zionist camp, but that doesn’t excuse it.

    5. Durban: yes, all our info is partial. I’ve watched YouTubes of very large numbers of people engaging in very offensive racist behaviour against Jews at Durban I (and particularly at the NGO event), more than a few fringe nutters. I haven’t seen the equivalent at Durban II, but I have seen things that disturbed me more than the glibness of a few North American Zionist students, which were what disturbed Naomi.

    6. Ex-communication: I know there are people in Jewish communities who are really, really offensive to anti-Zionists, and the allegations of self-hatred etc are obscene. I sympathise with Naomi for being on the receiving end of that shit. But the general reality is that anti-Zionists actually continue to function perfectly well in Jewish communities around the world. Here in London, the case I know the best, we’ve got someone like Rabbi David Goldberg, an anti-Zionist, with a large congregation. We have Jewish Book Week and Limmud and Jewish Quarterly magazine, mainstream communal platforms, where anti-Zionists get lots of air time. So, I think Naomi is over-dramatizing with her Spinoza act. And that over-dramatizing is dangerous, coz it feeds racist “Israel lobby” narratives.

    That’s all for me. I’m away from machines for a while, so I may or may not get a chance to come back for another round.

  17. @ndy says:

    On the war hero with a wonky leg…

    Ahmadinejad warned that he could be ousted
    Borzou Daragahi, Beirut
    The Age [Los Angeles Times]
    July 30, 2009

    POLITICAL hardliners have warned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that he could be deposed, as previous Iranian leaders have been, if he continues defying the country’s Supreme Leader…

    Accounts of prison deaths spark fury
    Robert Worth, Dubai
    The Age [New York Times]
    July 30, 2009

    SOME prisoners say they watched fellow detainees being beaten to death by guards in overcrowded, stinking holding pens. Others said they had their fingernails ripped off, or were forced to lick filthy toilet bowls…

  18. @ndy says:

    Anti-German,

    K: not so much time.

    Anyway…

    In response to your points.

    1. I understand that £300 is nothing to sneeze at, especially for an indie filmmaker. I’m not sure I’m convinced that the Edinburgh International Film Festival may be described as “a pretty low-budget cultural organisation cobbling together funds from several sources, mostly equally tiny grants”, especially when it was established in 1947, and currently entertains “audiences of over 55,000 over a twelve day” period. In any case:

    The Edinburgh International Film Festival is well known for bringing together people from all over the world, regardless of race or religion, to screen and appreciate films for their own sake and we look forward to continuing this important mission. The programmed film screenings of SURROGATE remain as advertised, and the filmmaker will also attend the Festival as planned.

    Statement from Iain Smith, EIFF Chair:

    On behalf of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, I apologise sincerely for the distress many people have felt at changes in the arrangements for bringing the producer and director of the film ‘Surrogate’ to the Festival. Clearly we didn’t appreciate enough that our Festival cannot keep itself entirely detached from very serious geopolitical issues and I am instituting a review of our procedures to ensure that there can be no repeat incident. Nevertheless, this experience has strengthened our belief in the need for film to bring people together and I hope very much that many will want to attend this year’s Festival where filmmakers from 33 countries and diverse backgrounds and beliefs will be screening their films.”

    In other words, it appears that the EIFF did somehow manage to cobble together the necessary funds — £300 — to arrange for Tali Shalom Ezer to appear, and the film was screened — minus the financial contribution of the Israeli state?

    More generally, I do understand the importance of a film’s being included in a Festival program as a means to securing distribution: many films, if received positively, do get picked up, distroed, and exposed to a wider audience. However:

    a) Given the minimal support of the Israeli state for ‘culture’ as expressed at Film Festivals, the (forced) withdrawal of such funding would not, I think, result in significant damage to the ability of Festivals to screen and promote films, including those made in Israel, or produced by Israeli filmmakers. The boycott is aimed at the Israeli state as a source of funding, not the films themselves.

    b) I think that a real issue would emerge — that is, the question of Israeli state funding would be much more consequential — if the boycott were extended to include films that received direct or indirect Israeli state subsidies or other financial assistance during the course of their production. Generally speaking, funding issues arise when a filmmaker is (relatively) unknown, the film’s subject matter is obscure or deemed to be of very limited popular appeal, or it deals with ‘sensitive’ — especially politically-sensitive — material. That said, in this context, I think it reasonable to assume that the Israeli state would, in general, not provide funding to such films in the first place… perhaps there are counter-examples? I dunno.

    2. This is an especially important point. That is, might a boycott of this sort be, in fact, counter-productive, and serve only to reinforce the most reactionary, ultra-nationalist elements in the Israeli political establishment? To my mind, this raises questions which go the very heart of a boycott, not only in the case of Israel, but South Africa as well. In this context, one might ask: how effective was the boycott of South Africa? As for those advocating/participating in the boycott (of Israel), the fact that it raises complexities does not, in and of itself, render it illegitimate.

    3. Without engaging in a more substantial analysis of apartheid South Africa and contemporary (Israeli) ‘apartheid’, I’m not sure if the analogy holds, but it does appear that there is, at least, systematic discrimination against Palestinians, and a comparison of some sort not entirely misplaced. I’m also unsure of the distinction between ‘cultural’ and ‘economic’ in terms of the circulation of ‘Israeli’ commodities, whether films or otherwise. A film may be regarded as being a ‘cultural’ commodity; pharmaceuticals ‘economic’: but both are commodities, obviously. Insofar as the campaign to boycott Israel does not draw this distinction — or its practical application is hopelessly complicated — then yeah: a ‘boycott’ does raise serious questions regarding ‘cultural exchange’ and communication between parties inside and outside of Israel.

    Finally, I dunno if Loach’s approach is simply evidence of ‘laziness’ on his part: an argument could be made that, as a filmmaker, his action has been appropriate insofar as it concerns an industry within which he has some stature — artistic, moral, political. In which case, his action has broader resonance; certainly, given the controversy which has surrounded it, his action has placed the question of a boycott on centre stage within (and it seems well beyond) the film world.

    4. I don’t agree. On my reading, his communications on the issue — and it’s worth bearing in mind that the letter to MIFF was authorised by three people, not one — have been polite but firm (even if, arguably, mistaken). With regards his person: dunno… he could be a right prick, or a swell guy. Either way, it’s a secondary issue, I think.

    5. Yeah… but in addition to the fact that there was batshit behaviour on the part of some who attended Durban I, it’s also important to consider what response it received. On my reading, it was condemned by UN authorities, and decried by many others in attendance. I suppose what it brings to mind — or to my mind at any rate — is the dangers of engaging in ‘most any form of political activity. One of these is the placement of one’s own efforts within a context of that of many others, with sometimes widely variant goals and methods: opposition to Zionism being, perhaps, a case in point. As I see it, one’s chief responsibility, as a moral agent, is primarily one’s own actions, not that of someone else’s. Of course, this does not mean that there is not also a moral obligation to respond to others’ actions. In this case, to denounce the anti-Semitic behaviour at Durban I, or to interrogate Ahmadinejad’s pontifications at Durban II (“Was attacking Iraq not orchestrated by the Zionists and their allies in the previous ruling government of America which was on the one hand in power and on the other the owner of arms manufacturing companies?”) — and of course Iranian state sponsorship of Holocaust revisionism.

    6. “…the general reality is that anti-Zionists actually continue to function perfectly well in Jewish communities around the world” — maybe so, I dunno. There are obviously exceptions. Thus there are several hundred thousand Jews in the UK, but only a few thousand in New Zealand/Aotearoa. Generally speaking, the larger a ‘community’ (or population) is, the more likely someone is to find a place within it.

    L8r h8r…

    And, speaking of London, couldn’t resist my neurosis:

    I was living in a new town
    I had problems with my parents
    So I moved on up to London town
    Where they said that things were happening, going down

    Chorus:
    Living in a bedsit
    Bunking the tube trains
    Sleeping all day long
    And you know no one, ‘cos you don’t go out
    ‘cos you’ve got no work
    You just watch television
    Living with unemployment

    I, I ain’t got a job
    And, there’s no work in the city
    They, they always try to blame it on the blacks
    But it’s really those in power that stab you in the back

    Chorus

    ‘Round our way, we ain’t got a lot
    And after two years on the dole, I felt I’d been left to rot
    But now I’ve joined the Army and, believe it or not
    I’m going to Northern Ireland and, I’m going to get shot

    Chorus

    Living with unemployment, oh you get so lonely
    Living with unemployment
    It gets so frustrating
    Living with unemployment
    And the Neurotics wanna tell you, what it’s like to be
    Unemployed, out of work, unemployed, out of work (repeat)

    “Try to stay, out of trouble dear…”

    It’s lonely for you
    And it’s lonely for me
    It’s lonely for all of us – can’t you see?

    Chorus

    Living with unemployment
    Oh you get so lonely
    Living with unemployment
    It gets so frustrating
    Living with unemployment – living without

    When you’re out of work
    They treat you like dirt
    When you’re out of work
    They treat you like dirt

  19. @ndy says:

    …Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians constitute nothing like a genocide. And even if they did, anyone but a racist should be able to see that these are the crimes of Israel, not of “the Jews”…

    Of relevance:

    Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide

    Adopted by Resolution 260 (III) A of the United Nations General Assembly on 9 December 1948.

    Article 1

    The Contracting Parties confirm that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and to punish.

    Article 2

    In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

    * (a) Killing members of the group;
    * (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
    * (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
    * (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
    * (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

  20. @ndy says:

    On apartheid:

    Why it is Apartheid in Israel Palestine
    Eileen Fleming
    The Palestine Telegraph
    August 23, 2009

    US, August 23, 2009 (Pal Telegraph) -”The most accurate way to describe Israel today is as an apartheid state,” Neve Gordon, an American-born Jew who has lived in Israel for nearly 30 years and teaches political science at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba, recently wrote in a Los Angeles Times op-ed.

    Gordon also came to the conclusion that boycotting Israel may be the only way to save the country from itself.

    As an American-born Christian I am in solidarity with that opinion…

    Boycott Israel
    Neve Gordon
    Los Angeles Times
    August 20, 2009

    …The most accurate way to describe Israel today is as an apartheid state. For more than 42 years, Israel has controlled the land between the Jordan Valley and the Mediterranean Sea. Within this region about 6 million Jews and close to 5 million Palestinians reside. Out of this population, 3.5 million Palestinians and almost half a million Jews live in the areas Israel occupied in 1967, and yet while these two groups live in the same area, they are subjected to totally different legal systems. The Palestinians are stateless and lack many of the most basic human rights. By sharp contrast, all Jews — whether they live in the occupied territories or in Israel — are citizens of the state of Israel.

    The question that keeps me up at night, both as a parent and as a citizen, is how to ensure that my two children as well as the children of my Palestinian neighbors do not grow up in an apartheid regime…

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