Category Archives: USA

Film Review: There Will Be Blood; Hollywood Comes to Blows with Upton Sinclair.



The 2008 Oscar for best actor went to Daniel Day Lewis for his role in the movie ‘There Will Be Blood’, after watching the film, which I half enjoyed, I was bemused by the accolades poured upon it. Yes Lewis is a fine actor and he gives a professional performance and his presence on the screen captures the viewer, but in many ways this is due to a gaping hole in the script and the lack of a soul within the movie. The film is based on an Upton Sinclair novel, a book that has it all, yet none of the panoramic views Sinclair gives of the US class struggle at the beginning of the last century appear in the movie. Instead the main character played by Lewis is portrayed in the manner of an average patent medicine flim flam man of the type who at the time used to tour mid and western US towns selling their phony remedies. Basically he cons his way to riches whereas in the book he brutally ceases the nations and working classes wealth.

I could not understand why almost all critics applauded the film, and I became desperate for an alternative and progressive view of both the film and the period it is set in. I finally found one in David Bacons take on ‘There will be Blood, which first appeared on the excellent Z Magazine. Read it it and judge for your selves. (http://www.zcommunications.org/zmag%5D

MH

Hollywood Comes to Blows with Upton Sinclair By David Bacon

I was disappointed that Daniel Day- Lewis won an Oscar for There Will Be Blood, not because he’s not a great actor (he is), but because the movie was such a betrayal of the book on which it was based. Movies don’t have to follow books. Many don’t. But in this case, what we missed were the things that made Upton Sinclair’s Oil! a politically courageous book for its time. For our time, it unearths a crucial part of the hidden history of our own working class movement.

Oil! could have been made like Gangs of New York that explored the racial and ethnic conflicts at New York City’s birth, which so frightened its moneyed class that the rich shelled their own city to prevent the upending of their social order. Actually, a good movie made from Oil! would have been more like Reds, exploring not just social conflicts, but the way they gave birth to unions and left movements in much the same period. Reds was painted on a large canvas, moving from Oregon to the East Coast, and finally the Smolny Institute and the storming of the Winter Palace. Oil! covers the same period and many of the same political arguments, but they play out in a concentrated look at just one city, Los Angeles.

Upton Sinclair was not just an author who lived in Southern California and wrote about it, he was a political activist who tried to change it. He founded the Los Angeles chapter of the ACLU. He went to jail with longshore workers in Long Beach for speaking in defense of their strike. He ran for governor seven years after the novel was published. Incredibly, as a socialist he not only won the Democratic Party nomination in the depth of the Depression, but hundreds of thousands voted for his platform to “end poverty in California.” He gave the state’s corporate elite the biggest political scare they’ve had in any election before or since.

Oil! gives us a history of the city’s economic rise, even as LA was becoming the economic epicenter. But it does more than tell the story of the birth of the industry that has come to dominate this country’s politics, as Sinclair’s The Jungle did for meatpacking. Oil! is more politically sophisticated and recounts the growth of the social movements that challenged the harsh domination of the oil titans. That’s what is missing from There Will Be Blood. The movie history is false where Sinclair’s was true.

Oil! unfolds as the story of the political education of Bunny Ross and of his love for his father J. Arnold Ross, an oil wildcatter turned tycoon. Bunny’s nickname signals his character as a Southern California innocent motivated by the best of intentions. His father, Sinclair tells us, is kind and good. He loves Bunny and spends his life trying to make him happy and keep him from harm.

The two characters are the keys to Sinclair’s political analysis. Personal kindness, he says, cannot change poverty, exploitation, war, or corruption. J. Arnold Ross helps poor families as he takes their land for wells. He admires and respects his workers, but must stick with the other oil operators when they bring in strikebreakers to bust their union and evict the strikers from their homes. In a not-very-fictionalized account of the “Teapot Dome Scandal,” Ross tells Bunny that bribing politicians, even a president of the United States, is what is required in order to do business.

It doesn’t matter whether a capitalist is a good person or a bad one, Sinclair says. It’s the system that grinds one class into poverty and allows another to reap the benefit. J. Arnold Ross, a loving father and paternalistic employer, commits criminal acts because his social class not only makes it possible, but necessary. His pained justification to Bunny for hiring thugs is that if he doesn’t, the other oil operators will combine against him and drive him out of business.

There Will Be Blood turns Oil! on its head. Bunny basically disappears as a character, making only a few appearances to dramatize his father’s cruelty and corruption. J. Arnold, now a villain and renamed Daniel Plainview, expropriates Bunny as a child from his dead father and then banishes him when he goes deaf after a well explosion. Plainview’s personal degeneration culminates in beating an evangelist preacher to death in the bowling lane of his palatial home. His violence is treated as a defect in his character, a symbol of his evil nature. His crime is personal, not social.

As a result, the movie is devoid of the social conflict that is the book’s main narrative. There are no unions and no strikes. Class conflict is out. The corruption of politicians becomes the product of a corrupt personality, not a corrupt system. Since there is no class conflict, there is no room for the novel’s main achievement. Oil! takes Bunny through a process in which he learns not only about how the world works, but about how people organize to change it. Both the movie and book show the Ross expropriation of the farm of the poor Watkins family. But Oil! follows the political radicalization of Paul Watkins—drafted as a doughboy in World War I and then sent with the interventionist armies to put down the Russian revolution. He returns and becomes an oil union leader and then a member of the left wing of the Socialist Party. When that party splits in 1919, Watkins becomes an organizer in the new Communist Party.

Sinclair, whose sympathies were much more with the right wing of the Socialist Party than the left, still draws an admiring portrait of the worldly Paul, showing his courage in facing imprisonment and his eventual fatal beating by right-wing assassins. Sinclair draws out the political differences of the day in his debates with Bunny, whose eyes he opens. Bunny eventually has to choose whose side he’s on. The more he learns about the world, the more he rejects his father’s class, while still loving him as a person. And that class turns against him in the end.

In There Will Be Blood Paul disappears. In his place his evangelist brother Eli becomes the main antagonist to Plainview, a religious hypocrite pitted against a violent and powerful oilman. It is a conflict without social relevance, one the movie hardly bothers to explain. At its lowest point, a grown Bunny gratuitously returns to announce to his father that he’s going to become an investor in Mexican oil wells. Sinclair would have torn his hair out over that one.

Oil! recounts just a small piece of what is now a hidden history of the labor movement before and after World War I. In 1903 the city’s socialist labor council helped Mexican and Japanese farm workers win one of the state’s first agricultural strikes in Oxnard. The LA unions were then shocked when Samuel Gompers, president of the American Federation of Labor, refused to give the workers a union charter unless they rid themselves of their Asian members. Oil! shows the fear the oil operators had for the Wobblies (the Industrial Workers of the World) and their (mostly rhetorical) commitment to sabotage in the workplace. In the city’s real history, two prewar labor leaders, the McNamara brothers, spent their lives in prison after a bomb they planted blew up at the LA Times building.

This was the most turbulent era for the labor and radical movements of Los Angeles. Sinclair describes how the oilmen defeated the workers and socialists and created the “citadel of the open shop.” Bunny resists and makes his father put up money to bail out strikers. But he can’t stop the class war.

Sinclair recreates the era’s radical spirit, weaving political debate, action, and romance into a complex tapestry. He describes Bunny’s sexual awakening as frankly as he could get away with, in an era when books were banned for open descriptions of sex. His women are mostly foils for men and they seem a little wooden in comparison with the intimacy and realism achieved by writers since. Yet Sinclair gets real drama from Bunny’s conflict between his youthful lust for his studio star lover and his growing desire to make a full commitment to political organizing. In the end, he falls for a Jewish socialist who clearly is his equal in debate and greater in her commitment.

Hollywood today has less of the radical spirit that made Reds. It’s not hard for a studio now to reinvent the war in Afghanistan as a crusade (Charlie Wilson’s War), confident that no one will ask why Ronald Reagan bankrolled Osama bin Laden and other extremists, calling them freedom fighters so long as they were willing to fight the Soviets. I can’t wait to see what they do with Central America.

But Los Angeles? Hollywood’s own city? Working class social and political movements get written out of the textbooks all the time. Writing us out of a movie made from Oil! expropriated one of the most important works of our history. I hope the producers don’t have exclusive rights to the book. Perhaps a more courageous group will make the movie as Upton Sinclair wrote it.

Z

David Bacon is a California writer and photographer. His new book Illegal People: How Globalization Causes Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants will be published by Beacon Press this fall.

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Filed under Capital, movie-review, Socialism/Politics/UK/EU/Democratic accountability/Left, trade-unions, USA

Tibet, China and the West; So many questions?




My Granddaughter sent me the ‘Hitler Olympics’ photo above, which she came across at Photo-bucket, it was taken during a pro Tibet demo and it got me to thinking about the gross hypocrisy of certain Western politician’s when it comes to Tibet. For Bush and Brown to condemn China over Tibet, when they have waded through Iraqi blood makes ones flesh crawl, but even Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel is pushing it. For the German army has played a part in the NATO occupation of Afghanistan; and in the process propped up the City State of President Hamid Karsi. Perhaps the European Union’s leading politician’s should begin by putting their own houses in order before lecturing others.

I also feel we on the left should be somewhat reluctant to throw in our lot with the Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, who claims he is the head of state and spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, yet to my knowledge he has never gained a democratic mandate. As far as I’m aware, the Dalai Lama believes god has appointed him to these positions, do we really what to align ourselves to a religious crackpot? I mean no offense to any believers who might read this, but just because we know little about this part of the world it does not mean we should turn a blind eye to religious sectarianism, no matter from where it is coming.

It is not as if the Tibetan Buddhist establishment, prior to the Chinese invasion of 1950-51, had a good track record as far as human rights and societal progress was concerned. Serfdom was still practiced within Tibet until the CCP takeover, and the main beneficiaries were undoubtedly the Buddhist monasteries and the senior monks within them. The fact that there was no Tibetan civil society to speak of when the Chinese invaded highlights the backwardness of Tibetan society. Sadly the Chinese government have done very little to rectify this problem, and for obvious reasons. Perhaps in the short term some sort of federal solution might benefit both the Tibetans and Hang Chinese who live in Tibet. However that should be for them to decide, not the government in Beijing or the exiled Dalai Lama in Dharamsala.

Which brings me to my main point, why are we so woefully ignorant of what goes on in China, I will give you an example, we know that the Chinese economy has been experiencing a boom, but we have little real understanding of what lays behind it? What is the Chinese Communist Party up to, are they engaged in a larger version of Lenin’s New Economic Policy or do they simply intend going the whole way and make China a fully fledged capitalist society where greed is good and to hell with the needs of the masses?

All the signs point to the latter, with health care gradually being privatized and Chinese government agencies using all of their powers, including terror, to smooth the way for big business, with sections of the State and Party bureaucracy turning themselves into international tycoons. Once Mao lost control of the cultural revolution, due to his own brutality and limited horizons, the bureaucracy hit back with a vengeance; and we have seen the reemergence of capitalist economic relationships, at first slowly, but gradually it has picked up a pace until today it seem more like a stampede.

If, as seems likely the Chinese stalinist bureaucracy has given up on socialism, then there are real dangers, not only for the Chinese masses but also for us workers in the west. For what you will have is a powerful state machine, civil and military, which is cushioned from the tiresome problems of daily life and which is in the pockets of an emerging capitalist ruling class that will have no hesitation about using the most brutal means to maintain itself in power and to defend its property. As history has shown the Chinese masses will put up with a great deal, but periodically they explode into revolutionary violence. Having come to power on the back of such an explosion the CCP understands this only to well, fearing democracy above all else they will create a high tech, twenty-first century police state, that uses the language of freedom and progress when the reality is the direct opposite. Welcome to 1984.

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Filed under china, democracy, EU, freedom, Organized Rage, self-determination, Tibet, UK, USA

Martin Luther King: Chimes of freedom.


Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated 40 years ago; There is no better way to remember and pay tribute to the man than use his own words, below is the text of the speech Dr King delivered on the 28 August 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C. It still rings out with the chimes of freedom and no matter what our racial or political differences may be, millions of people will continue to be inspired by these words and rightly so.

Mick

I HAVE A DREAM.

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. *We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by a sign stating: “For Whites Only.”* We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”¹

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest — quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”²

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!³

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Filed under economically-poor., equality, freedom-fighters, Martin-Luther -King-jr, USA

The Iraq catastrophe has become the greatest humanitarian crisis facing mankind



I have posted two quotes to the left of this piece which are very revealing, one from Ali, a long time resident of the Karrada suburb of Baghdad and G. W. Bush the President of the USA and a man who on his occasional visits to Iraq, has never ventured beyond the heavily fortified Green Zone for fear of his own safety. To use the word ‘noble’ as Bush has when one is commenting on the invasion and occupation of Iraq, is so far from reality that if the man were not President of the USA he would have been sectioned under the mental health act.

From day one the war and occupation of Iraq has been based on lies, deceit and criminality; and about the only type of person beyond the neo-liberal clique around GW Bush who would view this conflict as noble would be the likes of the late Mafioso John Gotti and his ilk. The scale of human suffering in that poor begotten nation is appalling and recognized by all rational people as the greatest human catastrophe now facing Humankind. As Seumas Milne wrote in todays Guardian far from the Iraq war having been a noble venture,

“The unprovoked aggression launched by the US and Britain against Iraq five years ago today has already gone down across the world as, to borrow the words of President Roosevelt, ‘a day which will live in infamy.’ Iraqis were promised freedom, democracy and prosperity. Instead, as Jon Snow’s compelling TV documentary Hidden Iraq underlined this week, they have seen the physical and social destruction of their country, mass killing, tens of thousands thrown into jail without trial, rampant torture, an epidemic of sectarian terror attacks, pauperization, and the complete breakdown of basic services and supplies.*

It is difficult to read about Iraq or watch Documentaries about that country without tears and rage erupting within one. In the five years since the invasion, the number of Iraqis killed vary between 150,000 (the figure accepted by the Iraqi government) and a million-plus, the medical magazine the Lancet’s estimate of 600,000 violent deaths in the first three years alone has held up to the most rigorous scrutiny. Iraq is ranked as the most violent and dangerous place in the world by an Economist Intelligence Unit index. Two million refugees have fled the country, whilst a further 2 million have been driven from their homes and communities inside Iraq. In Bagdad alone almost 50,000 people have had their lives stolen over the last five years of US occupation. Look back to the impact the 52 deaths caused by the July 7 terrorist outrage had on London, then try to imagine what it must be like living in a city where 50,000 of your family, friends, neighbors or fellow citizens have met their deaths in the most violent and gruesome manner.

The Iraq catastrophe isn’t down to mistakes or lack of planning as many of those who supported the invasion and occupation of Iraq are now claiming, but a refusal to recognize that people will resist foreign occupation with what ever means are at their disposal. When will this simple fact seep into the brains of those who rule us. That it does not is down to their racist arrogance, they understand perfectly that when the USA was attacked on 9/11 they had the right to defend itself by attacking Al Qaeda. Yet when the Iraqis, Palestinians or Irish hit back at their tormentors, all the likes of Bush, Brown and Sarkosy can do is cry terrorist murderers. Of course it was not an accident of history that Adolf Hitler during WW2 called the French Resistance and the Polish Home Army terrorists, as he like GW Bush today had lost touch with reality and his own humanity.

Whilst the Iraqi people continue to suffer what of those who brought this conflagration down upon them.

G. W. Bush is still US President although mercifully his period in office ends at the end of the year, he will then draw a hansom pension which will be toped up by handouts from the multi national corporations whose coffers he helped fill and whose hands are as blood-stained as GW Bush’s, the worst US President in living memory if not ever.

Dick Cheney 
is still in the vice-president’s office, but much diminished by events in Iraq and by battles with other branches of government. At the end of his term in office he will in all probability return to work in a multi national corporation.

Donald Rumsfeld 
forced out of office as Defense Secretary in November 2006 after a Republican drubbing in mid-term elections; now a fellow at conservative think tank, the Hoover Institution, at Stanford University.

Paul Wolfowitz 
Rumsfeld’s number two was made president of World Bank only to be ousted after scandal involving promotion of his partner. Now at neo-conservative hub, the American Enterprise Institute.

Tony Blair 
Left Downing Street and became Middle East envoy to Quartet group; will lead international team to tackle climate change and is to teach religion and politics at Yale. Paid up to £5m for memoirs.

Jose Maria Aznar 
Stood down as Spanish PM in 2004. Has been teaching at thinktanks and universities in Spain and US, and is on board of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.

John Howard 
Australian PM ejected in spectacular style last November. Now on international speaker circuit.

Ahmed Chalabi 
Blamed as conduit of false intelligence about WMD. Failed to win seat in Iraqi parliament. Now adviser to Iraqi government.

Osama bin Laden 
Despite rumours of death, still likely to be in tribal regions of northern Pakistan. Most recent recorded tape produced in December. **

We can but hope the day will come when all of these men will be in the dock of the International Criminal Court.***

* http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/mar/20/iraq

** http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/mar/20/iraq.usa

A series of films made by an Iraqi journalist about the current desperate plight of the Iraqi people,

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/series/baghdad

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Filed under Iraq, resisting-occupation, UK, USA, War-against-humanity, war-criminals

Oslo Accords: A deceitful process designed to make Israeli occupation permanent




Whilst Israel’s war of extermination against Hamas and its leading militants in the Gaza strip continues unabated, the IDF now also seem to have turned their attention to Palestinian Left-wing organizations who oppose the so called peace process that grew out of the Oslo Accords. After a memorial for the death of the founder of the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, George Habash, in Bethlehem’s Church of Nativity on Sunday morning, Israeli forces stormed the city in the early hours of Monday last, and arrested eight members of the PFLP. 

In a large incursion,* Israeli forces stormed the West Bank City from all directions. Twenty military machines hit Deheisha Refugee Camp, raiding a number of homes, tearing them apart in invasive searches.

 Six citizens were blindfolded, bound and taken away, including 53 year old journalist Hassan Abdel Jawad who is a member of the board of the Palestinian Journalists Trade Union.



Also arrested in Deheisha were 40 year old Naim Abu Akr, 33 year old Shabab Mezher, and 34 year old Mohammed Fawzi Al Sadjadi.

 In the town of Beit Sahour, to the southeast of Bethlehem, Israeli forces arrested 44 year old Yousef Hiat, and then in Al Doha Village closer to Deheisha Camp the Israeli’s conducted a raid and took a 36 year old government school teacher.



Eyewitnesses reported that Israeli soldiers began the incursion and arrests on Monday morning at approximately 2:00 am and left at 5:00 am. Some 40 of the soldiers were dressed in civilian clothes and all entrances and exits to Bethlehem were closed, with flying checkpoints imposed throughout the governorate.

 Sources report that all the detainees are members of the PFLP and worked voluntarily in leading positions in the cultural community. This was seen as a political sweep of influential leftists who oppose the Oslo accords, etc.

None of those arrested come from the Gaza strip or were members of Hamas, all are residents of the part of the West Bank the western media have been proclaiming that the Israeli’s withdrew from long ago. Almost all of them are at the heart of the emergent Palestine civil society, in which the Palestinian left have become such a prominent part.

The aforementioned and similar IDF incursions into Nablus, which also took place this week, makes a farce of US and Israeli claims that if only Hamas would stop firing rockets into Israel, peace and an Israeli withdraw from the occupied territories would follow swiftly. It is increasingly clear that Israel has no intention of withdrawing from the West Bank and Gaza, as only last Sunday Israel announced plans to build hundreds of new homes in the Jewish settlement of Givat Ze’evin which is situated in the occupied West Bank. Housing Ministry officials said 200 partially constructed units would now be completed. In addition according to his spokesman Mark Regev, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert himself authorized building another 330 new homes in the area.

It has been clear since the Oslo Accords were first introduced into the equation that the only thing which could force Israel to withdraw to its 1967 borders as demanded by the UN would be if the White House threatened to withdraw all US economic and military support. As this will not happened on this US Presidents watch, it is impossible not to conclude that the recent incursions by the IDF into Gaza and the West Bank are designed to remove all Palestinians who oppose politically the compliant regime of Mahmoud Abbas, thus we can expect more of these criminal IDF raids in the future.**

* As reported by PA security sources and eyewitnesses.
Additional information from Tony Greenstein.

** The Photo’s above are
1. IDF soldiers arresting a Palestinian.
2. Members of the journalist trade union protesting the arrest of Hassan Abdel Jawad
3. The illegal settlement of Givat Ze’evin

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Filed under IDF, Israel, occupation, Oslo-accords, Palestine, PFLP, UN-resolutions, USA

Obituary: Sa’adia Marciano, founder of Israel’s Black Panther Party.



The establishment of Israel’s Black Panthers in the early 1970s had a radicalizing effect on Israeli society, its founders were inspired by the US Civil Rights movement and especially the Black Panther Party led by Bobby Seal, Huey Newton and Eldridge
Clever. It was originally formed by young unemployed workers like Sa’adia Marciano and Charlie Biton, when the latter was asked what motivated him he said, “We felt and were being oppression and resented it. We didn’t even know who the oppressors were and how they oppressed us. Only through struggle were we to understood who steps over us and why they do so.” Biton’s words will be recognizable today by millions of young people who live in the worlds economically deprived communities.

Up until that time Israeli politicians claimed it was impossible to fight social oppression as the security of the State had to come before all else. This left a large part of the economically poorest section of the population living in appalling conditions. As Marciano was to later say, “We raised the social struggle flag in spite of the difficult security conditions. Moshe Dayan argued that you can’t wave both flags of security and social affairs simultaneously. But we strongly believed that a weak society could never be strong in it’s security.”

Of course like its US counterpart there were many weaknesses in the Israeli Panthers ideology or what passed for it; and some of them went on to become mainstream politicians, but there is no doubt that like the explosion of US and European left politics that took place in the 1960s early 70s the world is a better place for having had the Israeli Black Panthers.

Sa’adia Marciano

Israeli pioneer of direct action protest movement

By Lawrence Joffe

The Moroccan-born social campaigner Sa’adia Marciano, who has died in a Jerusalem hospital, aged 57, was the founder and public face of Israel’s Black Panthers protest movement, and one of the most charismatic, if tragic, figures in Israeli society. He battled ceaselessly for Israel’s poorer Sephardim and Mizrahim (Jews of Spanish and oriental origin) and at his death was still campaigning to provide food and heating for Jerusalem’s needy.

Sa’adia was a lanky, long-haired 20-year-old when he first galvanized unemployed youths in the rundown Jerusalem neighbourhood of Musrara in 1971. The Panther moniker was an echo of the African-American group: “Golda Meir was aware of [their] reputation, and we wanted to scare her.”

The rebels took to the streets, accusing Israel’s European-origin Ashkenazi establishment of betraying their community. The Sephardim were a small minority when the state of Israel came into being in 1948, but by 1971, after immigration from the Middle East and north Africa, they represented almost 60% of all Israeli Jews. However, only 3% of top official posts and a fifth of parliamentary members were Sephardi.
The Panthers attacked the ruling Labour party for housing Sephardi immigrants in substandard ma’abarot (transit camps) and “development towns”, and denigrating Arabic-Jewish culture. A spontaneous uprising soon turned into protests outside Jerusalem town hall. They bore coffins to symbolise the death of social equality, and stole milk bottles from outside middle-class homes to redistribute in disadvantaged areas.

The Panthers won attention after Marciano’s face, bruised by police batons, appeared on television. In 1971 Golda Meir called them “not nice boys”, and a month later 20 were wounded and 74 arrested when they clashed with police. But they forced her to call an inquiry and increase social budgets.

Marciano’s group challenged two sacrosanct ideas of Israeli society: that Jews constituted one, indivisible bloc, and that social concerns had to wait until peace arrived. They also claimed common cause with Israeli Arabs and Palestinians in the occupied territories, and were among the first Israelis to meet Yasser Arafat in 1972.

In September 1973, the Panthers won several seats in the Histadrut labour federation, but in the wake of the Yom Kippur war that October most Sephardim disagreed when the Panthers blamed Zionism for engendering social rifts.

In 1977 Marciano entered the Knesset (parliament) for the leftwing Sheli party. Three years later he formed the one-man Equality in Israel-Panthers party, but failed to pass the 1% election threshold in 1981. He then founded a drug rehabilitation centre, organised concerts and dabbled in film production. He later joined the Labour party, though he never stood for election again.

Despite their failures, the Panthers set a model for direct action in Israel, which has been followed by the leftwing Peace Now, Yesh Gvul and Four Mothers, and pro-settler rightist groups such as Gush Emunim and Zo Artzeinu. They also put social issues on the national table. The ruling Likud party launched projects to revive development towns; culturally, Mizrahi music has entered mainstream pop; and restaurants sell more bourekas, shwarma and hummus than bagels, schnitzels and gefilte fish. Since 1971 Israel has had two Mizrahi presidents and many government ministers. Sa’adia’s cousin became chief aide to the Moroccan-born Amir Peretz, who was elected Labour’s second Mizrahi leader in late 2005.

Marciano was born the sixth of 11 children in Oujda, a town on the Moroccan-Algerian border. He emigrated to Israel in 1950 after violence between local Arabs and Jews. He is survived by his wife Vicky; they had a son.

· Sa’adia Marciano, campaigner, born May 1 1950; died December 21 2007

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Is it surprising British politicians are becoming increasingly corrupt, when Thatcher and Blair set such an appalling example.



Historically British Prime Ministers have not been know for being economically corrupt, indeed former Labour Prime Ministers Clement Attlee, Harold Wilson and James Callaghan on leaving office lived comparatively modest life styles which would have been recognizable to most middle class English people of the day. If they had no private wealth of their own, Conservative PMs were usually looked after on leaving office by a number of rich businessmen donating a sum of money and setting up some sort of trust fund. Winston Churchill who enjoyed living high on the hog was the beneficiary of such charity on more than one occasion.

This all changed with Margaret Thatcher, who learnt early on in her Prime Ministership that it pays handsomely to become anointed the US President’s most favored foreigner. Once a British Prime Minister was comfortably perched in this position brown envelopes where for lesser mortals, for they could look forward to being looked after on leaving office by Corporate America, in much the same way as US Presidents have been since the beginning of the 20th Century if not before.

Thus on leaving office the retirement pension plan that has been available since the 1970s to all former British PMs was regarded by Thatcher and her successors in 10 Downing St as small change, and in return for acting whilst in office as the US Presidents gofer in Europe, on leaving office the British PM would be placed on to a US Conglomerates executive jet to tour the USA giving the CEO’s of multi national corporations the benefit of their wisdom. Although most CEOs of these multi national corporations have better things to do than spend their time listening to an ex-politico whose power is spent. So these speaking engagements are filled with junior executives sent along to pad the audience to help keep the speakers ego intact. However all concerned are only to well aware the real purpose of these ‘speaking engagements’ is to present the former servant of corporate America with a not inconsiderable supply of executive embossed envelopes stuffed to the gills with greenback bills.

Since he stepped down as Prime Minister and resigned from Parliament, Tony Blair like Margaret Thatcher and John Major before him, has spent his first year on leaving office touring the USA and other far flung countries turning the markers he accumulated whilst in office into hard currency.

Of course unlike a Mafia don Blair cannot simply send a couple of his henchmen down to Wall Street to collect a suitcase stuffed with dollar bills, there are niceties to be observed. First he signed a million dollar plus book contract with Random House, a subsidiary of the multi-national corporation Bertelsmann AG, the outcome of which will be a book that few people will actually read.

Next came an offer from a major US Corporation, best if it is a Bank as there is money to be laundered. In Blair’s case J.P. Morgan stepped into the breach and signed him up for a non existent job; It is entirely a coincidence that this bunch of financial sharks have recently signed a massive and very lucrative contract to run the Trade Bank of Iraq.

This ‘appointment’ was followed by what is called ‘the speaking tour’ which is a peach in itself. According to the Sunday Times Blair has just returned from a trip to North America from which he is likely to have made as much as £500,000 in the US and Canada for making three speeches in four days. One can get an idea of the standard of his scintillating oratory that we in the UK came to hate and despise from the following quote taken from a speech he made in Canada.

“Europe is not a question of Left or Right, but a question of the future or the past, of strength or weakness”

To conclude his first year in office Blair has signed yet another sweetheart contract with a multi national, having become an an expert on creating global warming when he polluted Iraq with weapons tipped uranium, the Zurich Insurance Companies have just made him their expert on Global warming. [I know you could not make this up]

Thus before his first year on leaving office is out, Blair will have received approximately £7 million pounds for doing nowt; and that is without the serialization rights to his memoirs, for it has become a post Thatcher tradition for the British newspaper industry to give former prime ministers a lucrative send off by publishing their appalling ghost written memoirs, despite there not being a single word in them that is not already in the public domain.

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