Once more, Irish media silence and elision as Minister’s Gaza visit deemed barely newsworthy

Posted February 17, 2015 by citizenpartridge
Categories: apartheid, apartheid israel, gaza, hasbara, Ireland, Irish Government, israel, media analayis, media criticism, palestine, zionism

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Charlie Flanagan in Gaza (Photo: UNRWA)

Of the three Irish media outlets that deemed it newsworthy to mention the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan’s, visit to Gaza yesterday, none of them deemed it necessary to go beyond reporting what was in the government press release on the matter.

Well that’s not entirely true, while the Irish Examiner managed to omit entirely that he was in Gaza, and just reported the €4.7m blood money thrown at UNRWA, the Irish Times gave a little bit of background, noting that:

“[Last summer] Seven weeks of Israeli bombardment from air and sea, and rocket attacks on Israel, left more than 2,200 people dead – the great majority of them Palestinians in Gaza. More than 10,000 Gazans and some 700 Israelis were wounded while some 20,000 homes in the strip were estimated to have been left uninhabitable by shelling and air strikes.”

Let’s deconstruct these two sentences which say so much (about the Irish Times‘ method) while saying very little (about what happened in Gaza last summer).

1) “Seven weeks of Israeli bombardment from air and sea, and rocket attacks on Israel, left more than 2,200 people dead”

No mention of the Israeli ground invasion, which was brutal and saw many Palestinian civilians being killed by Israeli troops on the ground, not merely by means of bombardment.

2) “left more than 2,200 people dead – the great majority of them Palestinians in Gaza.”

Why not give the figures, for what does “the great majority” mean in real terms? The UN (via UNOCHA) gives the figure of 2,205 killed (1,483, or 67%, civilians). The Palestinian Center for Human Rights gives the figure of 2,191 killed (1,660, or 75%, civilians). So two reputable human rights monitoring NGOs give the figures for Palestinians killed as being in the low 2000s.

The official figures from the Israeli government meanwhile give the figures for killed Israelis as 72 (6, or 8%, civilians).

Taking the average between the UN and PCHR numbers, we thus have 2,198 dead Palestinians stacking up against 72 dead Israelis. In percentage terms that is 97% and 3%. And when we take civilians (again using the average) we have 1,572 Palestinian civilians and 6 Israeli civilians – in percentage terms 99.6% to 0.4%.

These are the grim realities the Irish Times hides with it’s bland statement that the “the great majority of the [dead were] Palestinians in Gaza”.

It is also important in understanding that when the Irish Times says “rocket attacks on Israel, left more than 2,200 people dead – the great majority of them Palestinians in Gaza”, even after we take the time deconstruct the actual figures, this phrase could potentially be understood to mean that “many” or “the majority” of the dead on the Israeli side were caused by Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel. Yet the breakdown provided by the Israeli government shows that 92% of the Israelis killed were military personnel – this tells us that in fact the “great majority” of these casualties were caused either inside Gaza or along the border where the military was besieging the enclave.

A similar massaging of facts is noticeable when the Irish Times cites the figure of “some 700 Israelis” being wounded, with the same qualifier of being caused “by rocket attacks on Israel”. The Israeli government gives the official Israeli wounded figure as 556 (“some 550”, not “some 600”, but let’s ignore that). Of those, 496 (82%) were military operatives, while 87 (18%) were civilians, which tells us, once again, that the “great majority” of these casualties were caused either inside Gaza or along the border where the Israeli military was besieging the enclave, not merely by “rocket attacks on Israel”.

The piece also helpfully tells us that:

“[UNRWA] runs schools, clinics and social services for displaced Palestinians across the region while building infrastructure and maintaining camps. During the war in Gaza last summer, its schools gave shelter to hundreds of thousands of families forced to flee their homes. Some of those schools are still being used as temporary housing for more than 10,000 displaced people whose homes were destroyed.”

So let’s briefly deconstruct that too.

1) “[UNRWA] runs schools, clinics and social services for displaced Palestinians across the region”

These Palestinians are merely “displaced… across the region”. How they became displaced, what forces compelled them to become displaced, what their rights as displaced people are and who keeps them displaced is all a mystery, and seemingly irrelevant. As is the fact that the “great majority” (some 80%) of people living in Gaza are in fact refugees and their descendants from the 1948 Zionist ethic cleansing and colonisation of Palestine that gave birth to the State of Israel.

2) “Some of those schools are still being used as temporary housing for more than 10,000 displaced people whose homes were destroyed”

This is essentially accurate, but also leaves out a giant important fact about homelessness in Gaza. Yes, UNRWA buildings are currently sheltering some 12,000 people – but this is only about 10% of the total population that is still homeless almost six months after the end of the Israeli assault. Why are over 100,000 Gazans homeless, thousands of them living in UNRWA shelters? This question is neither asked nor answered, but the reason is of course the illegal Israeli imposed, Egyptian-enforced, and UN-facilitated siege of Gaza.

That only three mainstream media outlets in Ireland felt that the Minister for Foreign Affairs’ visit to an area of the world that was headline news half a year ago was newsworthy, and that all played up the “Ireland gives almost €5 million to Palestinian refugees” angle that framed the government press release, rather than some other angle –  for example, the continued devastation of the region, the ongoing illegal siege, the routine Israeli ceasefire violations and so on – tells us that the mainstream Irish media continues to be part of the problem. The silence and the elisions represent, quite simply, complicity with the ongoing Israeli policies of occupation, colonisation, war crimes and apartheid.

If you’re interested, here are the three pieces, and the official Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and UNRWA press releases on the matter. Note that RTE, the Irish regime broadcaster, did not deem this visit newsworthy, which places it in the unenviable position of being worse at news than the Chinese regime news service Xinhuanet, which did pick it up:

Irish Times: http://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/government-pledges-4-7m-to-help-palestinian-refugees-1.2106185

Irish Examiner: http://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/ireland/government-announces-nearly-euro5m-in-funding-for-palestinian-people-662459.html

Newstalk: http://www.newstalk.com/Foreign-Affairs-Minister-announces-47m-of-funding-for-Palestinian-people

DFA Press Release: https://www.dfa.ie/news-and-media/press-releases/press-release-archive/2015/february/funding-for-the-palestinians-announced/

UNRWA: http://www.unrwa.org/newsroom/press-releases/irish-foreign-minister-announces-new-%E2%82%AC500000-contribution-during-gaza-visit

Xinhuanet: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/europe/europe/2015-02/17/c_134001457.htm

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The Derry Civil Rights Song – 7″ Single from 1968

Posted January 11, 2015 by citizenpartridge
Categories: 7", 7" single, civil rights, history, ira, Ireland, mp3, music, republicanism, ripping records, vinyl

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Once upon a time this blog was about vinyl records. That was a long time ago, but occasionally I still post the odd… oddity. I came across this the other day while digging in the crates. A topical song by a group called The Moonlighters (presumably a reference to Captain Moonlight, rather than working two jobs) concerning an incident in the north of Ireland on 5th October 1968 which saw a violent attack by British state police on a civil rights march in Derry. If you’re interested in the historical background to the song, check out the CAIN (Conflict Archive on the INternet) page here.

Regarding the song itself, I can’t find much – ‘The Moonlighters’ throws up only one reference on Discogs.com, and that’s to this same release. Billboard magaizne from 7th December 1968 says the following “Gerry Devin’s Monaghan-based Shamrock label released “The Derry Civil Rights Song,” promoted [sic] by the incidents of Oct. 5 when marchers and police clashed on the streets of Derry. It is by a folk group, the Moonlighters. . .”

monnlite1It would appear they were an ad hoc folk group formed for the specific purpose of releasing this single, which was released at some stage in November 1968, within in two months of the attack on the marchers. According to Discogs.com, Shamrock Records only released four other singles in its lifespan, though the IrishRock.org says of it that it was “active from the 60s onwards. Many colour vinyl releases. Similar to Glenside Records in content.” Of Glenside Records, IrishRock.org says it produced “a high incidence of very old fashioned renditions of folk ballads, with a high kitsch and sentimentality factor, and is probably of little interest to most collectors.”

The B-Side is a jaunty selection of Irish reels (instrumental songs for folk dancing to); The Sally Gardens, The Bag O’ Spuds and The Copperplate.

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I couldn’t find an upload (either video or audio) anywhere, so I’ve stuck it up on YouTube and TinyUpload (in MP3 format).  So here’s the song and its B-side. The lyrics (as best as I can make out) are posted below.


Download MP3


Download MP3

The Derry Civil Rights Song
(1968, Written by J. Doherty – Performed by The Moonlighters)

It was the fifth day of October and the sun was beaming down
And the people had assembled to march in Derry town
The police were there in hundreds and on mercy they did frown
As they freely used their batons that day in Derry town.

They’d assembled at the station as all free people might
And they peacefully marched up Duke Street as was their civil right
The police had formed a barricade and they told them turn around
Then they batoned men and women on the streets of Derry town

Oh come on ye Ulster policemen for its you that are to blame
Oh come on ye Ulster policemen you should hang your heads in shame
The shame that will go with you though you told the wide world round
How you freely used your batons on teh streets of Derry town.

Take heart you Derry people all the world knows of your plight
And that government in Stormont that denies you civil rights
The day is fast approaching when these men they must stand down
On that day we’ll march triumphant through the streets of Derry town

No Ronaldo didn’t refuse to swap shirts with an Israeli footballer (but he did pose for photos with Shimon Peres)

Posted July 26, 2014 by citizenpartridge
Categories: apartheid, apartheid israel, gaza, hasbara, israel, palestine, zionism

A story is doing the rounds (for probably the fourth time this year) saying that Christiano Ronaldo refused to swap jerseys with an Israeli player in a 2013 friendly match (See an example of the story here [1]).

Unfortunately, this simply isn’t true. Here’s the video in full:

You can clearly see that the player he “refuses” to exchange his jersey with is a Portuguese player, who has already swapped shirt with an Israeli player (look at the colour of his shorts, then look at the colour of the Israeli players’ shorts).

The story also goes that Ronaldo remarked that he wouldn’t swap his shirt with (depending on where you read it) a “killer” or an “assassin”, accoridng to a ‘locker room interview’ follwing the game. As there was no refusal to exchange shirts in the first place, clearly the whole ‘interview’ in the dressing room is also made up. Furthermore, there is no source for the alleged comment – even if, going via the Veterans News Now piece above, you click through to the ‘source’ story in French, there is no actual source cited, just “a reporter said”… who were they? what was their name? Where did they say it? Why is one French blog the only place where this incredible news was reported?

Incidentally Ronaldo certainly had no qualms about going to Israel and shaking the hand of war criminal Shimon Peres as part of a Real Madrid PR/hasbara trip:

Shaking Hands

real1

All the lads

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There is also a picture being frequently shared that purports to show Ronaldo holding a sign saying “Todos Con Palestine”, which roughly tranlsated mean “I’m always with/love Palestine”.

rontod1

This is a crude photoshop from a photo-session following the Lorca earthquake when the Real Madrid squad held up a placard saying “Todos Con Lorca”. Some internet dickhead thought it would be great to lie to the world and Photoshop in an entirely different message.

rontod2UPDATE (31st March 2015): A brand new image of Ronaldo has started doing the rounds on social media recently. This too, unsurprisingly, is a crude Photoshop fake. In the original image, below, instead of ‘Save Palestine’, his undershirt says simply ‘Madeira’, the name of Ronaldo’s home city in Portugal. I have included it from another angle as well, just so people are 100% sure.

more ronaldo fakeryFinally there is another story about Ronaldo that goes something like “Ronaldo donated 1.5m / the proceeds from the sale of his Golden Boot, to the children/people of Gaza”. There’s 145,000 hits if you google ‘Ronaldo Donates Gaza‘.

Now while this may be true, it probably isn’t. Hands up, I cannot find conclusive proof that it is not – but I definitely cannot find proof that it is true either. This site does a decent job of explaining why it’s probably an internet fabrication:

However, the story reeks of a hoax, with neither Real Madrid’s official site validating the news, nor any major Spanish daily covering it, as reported in many of the articles reporting the story. Also, the likelihood of Indonesian site Tribunnews being one of the first to report the news of Ronaldo’s ‘generous donation’ makes the whole story more make-believe than genuine news.

What is true about Ronaldo, apart from his willingness to appear alongside a disgusting war criminal like Shimon Peres, is that he did appear in a photograph once, wearing a Paletsinian neck scarf. However, I’ve yet to see the context to that picture. I’ve heard it was at a Medical Aid For Palestinians event, but that the logo on the scarf is the Palestinian Football Association’s and that the Palestinian Football Association chief Jibril Rajoub is on the far right of the picture, it seems to me like he was nabbed for a photo-op at a gala FIFA dinner or similar event, and that there’s no simply no ‘pro-Palestinian’ ideology involved.

UPDATE 2016: Ronaldo, along with other Real Madrid players, did entertain Ahmad Dawabsheh, the 5-year-old Palestinian kid who was badly burned on 80% of his body in an arson attack by illegal Israeli settlers in 2014. The same attack killed both of Ahmed’s parents, Riham and Sa’ed, nd his 1-year-old little brother Ali.

cristiano-ronaldo-palestine-scarf

So why am I saying all this? It’s quite simple, I don’t like to see people get credit where it’s not deserved. Ronaldo was willing to pose for pics with war criminal Shimon Peres, which is his prerogative, but he should not be lionised on social media as some heroic tribune for Palestine. He is not. And everyone should stop sharing this bullshit immediately.

EXTRA BONUS DEBUNK

This picture of Lionel Messi is a fake too. Obviously.

messi

And here is the greatest footballer in the world today, along with the butcher of Gaza, one Benjamin Netanyahu.

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Notes

* This is an incredibly shitty website, and I am posting the link only for illustration.

Audio: Vijay Prashad on People’s Struggles in the Global South

Posted June 1, 2014 by citizenpartridge
Categories: audio recording, capitalism, communism, corporations, debt, history, imf, imperialism, marxism, mp3, non-fiction, socialism, venezuela

Vijay Prashad gave a a talk on ‘People’s Struggles in the Global South’ in the Nasawiya Café in Beirut, Lebanon, on Wednesday 14th May 2014.

Download the MP3 here (audio courtesy of Angela G, and hosted by Archive.org)

Vijayprashad

The struggles of the peoples of the Global South did not end with independence and emancipation from colonialism and occupation. The post-colonial era has witnessed a continuous and growing refusal from the decolonized world to the imposed global economic and political systems. The movements in the Global South attempted to create an alternative economic project reflecting people’s aspiration. The recent global financial crisis that exploded in 2008, rejuvenated the peoples’ movements in the different parts in the Global South, and culminated into the Arab uprisings and other social movements challenging the neo-liberal order and forging the basis of what could be alternative peoples’ projects based on participatory democracies and economies. This has manifesting itself in increased trade labour action as well as actions on the consumption level refusing price hikes of basic needs.

This talk will further examine these growing movements, their context, significance and development. It will also have a special focus on the Lebanese context, seeing it through the lens of the Global South, and trying to answer how the ongoing movements in Lebanon can be placed and interlinked with peoples’ actions and struggles in the Global South

————————————–

Dr. Vijay Prashad, is an Indian historian, journalist commentator, and Marxist. In his most recent book The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South, Prashad writes an alternative history of the contemporary world from the standpoint of the Global South. Prashad is currently a visiting faculty member at American University of Beirut’s CASAR and is the Edward Said Chair Professor of International Studies at Trinity College (Hartford, CT., USA). He is the author of 16 books, writes for Jadaliyya, Frontline, CounterPunch online magazine, and The Hindu. He is also an advisory board member of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.

Baseball Cats And Dead Palestinians

Posted May 22, 2014 by citizenpartridge
Categories: apartheid israel, israel, media analysis, media criticism, palestine

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I have post up over on Rabble looking at Irish mainstream media’s deliberate ignorance and downplaying of Israeli state violence perpetrated against Palestinians, here’s an excerpt:

The Israeli human rights monitoring group B’Tselem said that there was “grave suspicion that the killing was wilful”, while Amnesty called the shootings part of a “pattern of unlawful killings by the Israeli forces in the West Bank”.

The fact that the killings were recorded has forced even the UN and US to call, separately, for investigations of the incident.

Not that one would be aware of any of this from a casual look at the Irish media – print, broadcast or online. Only two stories have appeared, both wire reports; one on the RTE website and one in the print edition of the Irish Times.

This is the sum total coverage of an incident where Israeli forces are caught, on camera, snuffing out the lives of two Palestinian children who posed no threat.

Still, those reports that did appear are worth taking a few minutes to deconstruct, for they reveal much about the (mis)reportage of the Palestine-Israel issue in the mainstream Irish media.

You can read the full post by clicking here.

Huge explosion and fire in illegal Israeli chemical factory in Tulkarm on Thursday night

Posted September 6, 2013 by citizenpartridge
Categories: apartheid israel, bds, israel, palestine, west bank, zionism

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According to a Palestinian news report from the Al Fajer TV website (Arabic, with lots of images) and eyewitnesses on the ground, late Thursday night there was a massive explosion followed by a huge fire in an illegal Israeli industrial area located beside the Palestinian city of Tulkarm in the occupied West Bank.

At the time of writing (10pm, a day later), for some reason there has been no English language reporting about this event. I am hearing via a friend visiting Palestine that residents have been advised by local television reports to stay indoors and turn off their air conditioning.

I do not speak Arabic, so the following report is compiled by using Google Translate – apologies in advance for any errors.

Explosion, fire and aftermath

The Al Fajer report says that a large cloud of smoke covered the sky of the city and the villages of Tulkarem last night, after a huge fire broke out in a nylon factory in the illegal Israeli industrial area Nizanei Shalom, west of Tulkarm. Nizanei Shalom (which means ‘Buds of Peace’ in Hebrew) is a controversial – even by illegal settlement standards – area, which houses a number of Israeli industrial and chemical plants.

A big explosion echoed from inside the industrial zone at 11pm on Thursday night, resulting in a dramatic fire and a two hour power outage for residents on the outskirts of the city.

Palestinian civil defence crews and medical staff were scrambled to the west of the the city to check on the health of citizens and provide them with protection, under the direction of Tulkarm’s Director General of Health, Saed Hanoun.

Incredibly, witnesses in the vicinity of the industrial zone reported that there was a large presence of Israeli occupation forces in the area, and military patrols fired tear gas canisters at local people who went to see what was occurring.

Firefighters worked throughout the night and the fire was largely extinguished in the early hours of the morning. However, Fulla Jallad, a local Palestinian woman told me that “the structure is still on fire and the smoke is obviously [still] poisoning the air”.

Health and environmental hazards

Palestinian Officials have warned of health and the environment hazards in Tulkarem citizens in the city. The have called on those living near factories to get out of their homes because of the serious consequences resulting from the thick smoke and the rain of falling ash in the aftermath, which constitute a potential danger to public health and the environment.

One local Palestinian official, Jamal Said, told the official PA news service Wafa that they had long warned of the danger of these plants to the health of citizens, due to emissions of serious toxins, adding that the seriousness of this fire lies not only in the phenomenal amount of smoke, but in the explosions of which there were several inside from inside the plant because of the huge fire.

Mr. Said added that the fire was out of control, and pointed out that the Israelis occupation forces had requested help from the Palestinian civil defence crews, who had put their priorities in the protection of Palestinian citizens and property in the western and southern region near the industrial zone

Mr. Said stressed the need for immediate intervention of the international community to ensure that these dangerous plants are fully removed from the Tulkarm area.

The Legal Counsel of the Environmental Quality Authority in Tulkarem, Mr. Murad, said that he had warned of the warning of the danger of these plants during a workshop held in Tulkarem only two days ago, and he called on all international bodies to assume their responsibilities towards what is happening as a result of the dangerous environmental contamination in the Tulkarem area. He said that this fire is clear evidence that Tulkarm is exposed to environmental dangers due to the burning of toxic substances, calling on citizens to beware of the smoke.

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Nizanei Shalom – One of Israel’s toxic little West Bank secrets

Initially based in Israel, several of the Nizanei Shalom, aka Geshuri, industrial park’s current inhabitants were closed down by Israeli court order for pollution violations during the 1980s. In 1987 Geshuri Industries, a manufacturer of pesticides and fertilizers originally located in Kfar Saba, was the first to relocate, moving their Keshet Prima factory there after closure by Israeli authorities earlier that decade. The Dixon industrial gas plants, formerly of Netanya industrial zone in Israel, followed and now there are almost a dozen such factories in this industrial zone, including Atzei Shitim, The Solor Group and Yamit E.L.I. Filtration and Water Treatment. According to a report by RT, the factories produce fibres, chemicals, glass, paint and materials for construction, and they operate 24 hours a day.

Many of the factories have come under severe criticism for both their environmental records and the treatment of their mainly Palestinian workforces.

Tulkarm’s General Director of Health, Saed Hanoun says that industrial by-products of these factories are dangerous to the health of citizens and the environment because of the damage caused by the vapours, which may be responsible for some serious diseases developing amongst the population, and he added that these “plants should be removed immediately as they internationally prohibited”. Nor is this the first such explosion and fire; in an interview with RT in 2009, Mr. Hanoun said that for three days that May, thick clouds hung over Tulkaram after a previous explosion in one of the factories.

According to Irish activist-journalist Tommy Donnellan, who visited the area in 2010, and documented local people’s stories on video, “[the lands] in the immediate vicinity of the factory have been polluted to the point where they are no longer agriculturally viable. Trees in the area are decaying; those that remain alive exhibit stunted growth. Pollution from the factory also widely affects other agricultural land in Tulkarm and has seeped into underground water sources in the area. Noxious carcinogenic fumes from the Geshuri [Keshet Prima] factory have also adversely affected the health of the population. Respiratory problems and eye infections, which are most likely to afflict the very young and elderly, are the most commonly reported problems. It is also believed by medical experts that the pollution caused by the plant has led to cancer cases, although to confirm this no studies have been carried out to date”.

Mr Donnella also said that the “chemical complex is beyond the control and power of the [Palestinian Authority] as the Israeli occupying [so-called] ‘Civil Administration’ watch over and protect it – where for 11 months of the year the prevailing west to east winds blow the emissions into Tulkakem and in the one month when the winds shift direction and blow from east to west into Israel the factories cease their carcinogenic activities”.

One worker in the zone, Ahmed, interviewed by Corporate Watch, also in 2010, has stated that the “factories are dangerous in that they pollute the environment … they are also unsafe for the workers, they do not adhere to any health and safety regulations as they are based in occupied territory and there is nothing to protect workers. Accidents are common”.

Workers’ and locals’ rights abused and safety compromised

Another worker, Rashid, went on to say that the “Solor factory is very unsafe. Three workers have died – in 2000, 2002 and 2008 – from burns sustained from gas related fires at the factory” and that “Solor workers receive 90 shekels a day, well under the Israeli minimum wage. Before we started to organise in the factory we were paid 65 shekels a day”.

Indeed, the area can also be more immediately dangerous to those not even working vicinity. According to the General Union of Petrochemical Workers in Palestine, a young man, 18-year-old Hamza Walid Haloub, was seriously wounded by live army fire in March this year while walking near the industrial park. Dr. Khaled Saleh of Thabet Thabet Hospital said a bullet punctured his lung and the injury was so serious that Mr. Haloub had to be transferred to Nablus hospital for emergency treatment.

A microcosm of the iniquity of the occupation

Nizanei Shalom is a microcosm of the iniquity of Israel’s occupation; local Palestinians were forced from their lands in the 1980s so that illegal building could begin; the zone exploits the far cheaper Palestinian labour force, so economically crippled by decades of occupation that they have little choice but to work under awful conditions; in practice, a separate legal/safety system exists than inside Israel, with these highly polluting factories are given the all clear by Israeli authorities; the result is that it is the Palestinians of Tulkarm who suffer the environmental, economic and health problems and dangers arising from the operations of the plants. And Nizanei Shalom is not the only such zone, there are several in the occupied West Bank, pointing to the importance and inextricable nature of these parks for the Israeli economy.

The existence of these illegal colonial settlement-factories are war crimes under the Fourth Geneva Convention, and should be shut down on that basis alone. That they are highly dangerous and possibly in contravention of international pollution standards should add an urgency for the international community to take immediate meaningful action to ensure that they are.

Al Haq video about the Nizanei Shalom industrial zone

Some reflections on a demonstration (and by extension, the Irish left)

Posted July 4, 2013 by citizenpartridge
Categories: anarchism, anglo, autonomism, banks, boycott, communism, communist party, corporations, debt, dublin, ecudaor, EU, European Union, fine gael, Household Tax, imperialism, Ireland, Irish Government, labour party, marxism, republicanism, repudiate the debt, sinn fein, socialism

James O'Toole of the Socialist Workers Party address a 'Jail the Anglo Bankers' rally. Photo Credit: Paul Reynolds/Rabble

James O’Toole of the Socialist Workers Party address a ‘Jail the Anglo Bankers’ rally in Dublin. Photo Credit: Paul Reynolds/Rabble

Note: This is a post I published on Facebook earlier this evening. A few people suggested that I also publish it on this blog, as my Facebook is set to Private. So here it is for your perusal, along with some of the discussion from the comments thread. Enjoy. Or not.

Here are some thoughts on yesterday evening’s ‘Jail the Anglo Bankers‘ protest, organised by the SWP/People Before Profit (or perhaps by one of the front groups like Enough, I don’t really know to be honest – EDIT: It seems the group is in fact called ‘Jail the Anglo Bankers’, and would appear indeed to be a SWP front group). Note this is not an attack on any one group, or individuals, just some musings how I felt after the demo. If you think I’m unfairly attacking an organisation, then be assured I’m an equal opportunities complainer!

The first thing to say is that I was disappointed by the numbers. Despite over 2,000 people ‘joining’ on Facebook, less than 500 people turned up (and I think I’m being generous there). Of course, Facebook ‘attendees’ are not a particularly reliable gauge, but can show a certain mood – and I thought given the high number of ‘attends’ in such a relatively short period of time, spurred by the Anglo recordings, that there would be a big turnout. Of course, I was wrong, but one can’t blame the organisers for that. Or can they?

One thing that struck me was the absence of other groups at the action. The only organised groupings in attendance were SWP/PBPA (obviously), flag waving delegations from the 32 County Sovereignty Movement and Republican Sinn Fein, and the Dublin Says No/Occupy Dame Street remnants (more on the latter later). I spotted a couple of Socialist Party members seemingly selling their paper The Socialist, two members of Sinn Féin (one taking photos for An Phoblacht) and one member of the anarchist Workers Solidarity Movement. Sinn Fein, it should be noted, have a similar protest this Saturday, themed ‘Jail the Bankers’.

This appears to have been a solo run by the SWP/PBPA, based on the relative success of a demo they held last week were “400” people marched through Dublin (I wasn’t at the demo, so can’t say whether that’s an accurate figure) – and was reflected in the make up of the speakers – James O’Toole, Richard Boyd Barrett, Memet Uludag, Madeleine Johansson, Kieran Allen (I think the latter two spoke anyway) and a few random punters and/or people I didn’t know. That I could see, there were no representatives from any of the other Left groups given a platform – perhaps they would have been had they shown up, I don’t know.

Anyway, the bigger point about this is, was any outreach done with other groups to try and build for this protest? Or was it merely a case of one left group (in this case the SWP) running with the idea? I wasn’t involved in the building, so I can’t say. But surely, it would have made more sense to try and bring as many groups (political, community and NGO-types) and left independents together as possible, to maximise the message and attendance? I know it was a short space of time to organise things, but I think a genuine effort could have been made.

This brings me to the actual message of the protest, namely the demand for jailing the Anglo bankers. This is a very timid demand, barely reformist and far from revolutionary. ‘Punish people for breaking the law’ was the gist of the demo, something I think even a moderately sensible Blueshirt could support. Personally, for what it’s worth, I don’t think it was a very good demand. Notably absent from the speeches of these revolutionaries (or at least the ones I heard) were any concrete demands about the actual economy. For example, no one said anything about nationalising the banks, thereby taking the control of major finance away from these criminals once and for all. Jailing a few bankers and crooked politicians won’t change anything fundamental, in fact it probably won’t even change behaviour; it’s never worked for the mafia, for example. Personally, while sending the likes of Drumm and Bowe to prison for a few years might have a certain schadenfreudian appeal to it, I would rather see these people walk free in a world where the method they chose to perform their criminality no longer exists. Of course, the two outcomes aren’t mutually exclusive!

Another demand that could, and should, have been made in my opinion, was for the repudiation of the socialised private debt foisted upon the people of Ireland by this criminal and craven congealment of bankers and politicians. “It’s not the people’s debt” to use the Communist Party slogan. As with Ecuador, who successfully repudiated their odious debt, there is a strong (now even stronger, in light of the Anglo recordings) case to be made for the southern Irish state to attempt such a move – if the political will were there of course.

But this leads on to the question of the effectiveness of this type of ‘let’s march from A to B and listen to some speeches’ protest in general. Or in this case, let’s listen to some speeches, then march from A to B with greatly diminished numbers cos lots of people have fucked off during the seven or eight speeches. Of course, protests are important and have a significant role to play in the struggle. I think however, that ‘protest politics’ is pretty much a dead end. And before you point to Egypt or wherever, there people are mobilised with fairly coherent aims, and are mobilised in large numbers. I really don’t think the anger – or at least the anger-translated-to-action – exists in Ireland for such a protest movement at present, and as such these constant calls to take to the streets to voice our outrage are kind of useless – even the biggest mobilisations (eg the CAHWT march on the Fine Gael conference, or the ITCU demo) have achieved little to nothing. The one exception I can think of is the X Case stuff, where relatively large mobilisations are undoubtedly responsible for the government legislation, as crappy as that legislation is in reality. The government’s back down on the sell off of Coillte was mentioned by Richard Boyd Barrett yesterday as a victory for people power. I have to admit to not knowing a lot about that campaign, so I can’t say if that’s true one way or the other. Regardless, presuming it’s true, these (limited) victories had clear, basically reformist, demands and don’t really challenge anything fundamental about the capitalist state.

However, when it comes to economics and ‘big picture’ politics, I think the left falls down badly in its coherency. What exactly should be the demands of a mass movement (for if there is to be a mass movement that has a chance of success even in a limited reformist manner, there must be surely be demands to organise around, no)? I have suggested two above – which I think should be the staple of any left economic protest movement/organisation. There are plenty of others I can think of – I’m not saying I have the answers by the way, just that for the left to be credible in people’s eyes, it should have some concrete and coherent positive answers, rather than just being against cuts, austerity, or whatever. To be fair, Sinn Féin have done this relatively successfully – though I would disagree with many of their economic policies. In addition, the implosion of the ULA and the seeming disarray that the CAHWT/CAPTA campaign is in and the ultimate failure of the boycott strategy, doesn’t lend the far left any credibility, to say the least.

Anyway, back to protests. It seems that in this case the SWP’s answer to the question ‘what is to be done?’ is as predictable as being asked to buy a copy of Socialist Worker at a SWP-organised action: ‘Let’s have another demo! More people on the streets!’ And so we’re asked to come out again in two weeks, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel, to stand around outside the Dail and listen to speeches. If we’re lucky there might be a bit of argy-bargy with the cops to keep us mildly entertained for ninety seconds. The ultimate aim of this protest is actually to build for the next protest in September, which one speaker last night suggested could be our Tahrir Square moment, where we would “surround the Dail”. Another speaker (or perhaps the same speaker) asked the crowds to raise their hands if they wanted to achieve and Irish version of Tahrir Square. Of course, almost everyone present raised their hands. Who wouldn’t want a progressive mobilisation on that scale here? However, I was compelled to shout out “but hands up who thinks that’s going to happen?” Alas, I didn’t have a microphone, so probably only about ten people actually heard me. Of course, we’re not going to achieve a Tahrir Square moment in Ireland in the near future.

Let’s just break down the figures for a moment. Cairo has a population of 9 million or so. Let’s say at a minimum the renewed Tahrir movement has mobilised around 1 million unique people on a sustained basis (though I have seen estimates of up to 3 million). That is 1/9th of the population of the capital city – not counting other mobilisations around the country. Applied to Dublin, 1/9th of the 1.1m-odd people in Dublin is 123,400 people. The last couple of these protests have seen around 400 of these people turn up. Where are the other 123,000 going to come from? Ok, I’m being a bit mechanical here, but it’s a serious point. If you are telling people that an Irish Tahrir is possible in the near term, I just don’t think you’re being honest. Yes it would be great if such a thing happened (the closest we’ve ever come was probably the outpouring of relatively spontaneous anger against the war on Iraq on 15th February 2003, ten years ago – but let’s not open that can of worms right now), but realistically will it? I think the answer is no, unfortunately, and I think we should be honest with people about that.

But even if it were possible, then we must ask ourselves – around what political program, around what demands, would such a protest be built, and could 120,000 people on the street actually change anything? It didn’t stop the war on Iraq of course (anyone who thought it could was deluding themselves I think), but it didn’t even achieve the limited aim of ending US imperialism’s use of Irish airports and airspace to carry out their vicious wars, and transport their torture victims. Of course there’s the argument about direct action vs mass mobilisation vs both, but I’m not going to go into that here. The upshot was that 100,000 or so people marching for a day changed nothing then, why would we think it would change anything now? At least not on its own and in and of itself. Now maybe I’ve created a strawman here, and am accusing the SWP and/or others of a perspective they don’t actually hold. Maybe, maybe not. However, what I think is clear is that any such mobilisation – were it even possible in the first place – must be coupled with a strong, relatively disciplined and coherent genuinely non-sectarian leftwing organisation (be it a party – unlikely, given the history of groups on the left – or a coalition/federation type thing) united around a series of progressive demands that are both achievable and desirable. They don’t even have to be revolutionary demands as such (and here is where I’ll probably get called a reformist, sellout, social democrat, or worse, petite bourgeois), eg the demand for nationalisation of the banks is not in and of itself revolutionary. However, such a demand can – and should – be made and organised for by revolutionaries. And should it happen, the nationalisation of the banks, and/or our national resources for example, could have revolutionary consequences, allowing people to believe that yes, ‘another world is possible’, and indeed, ‘necessary’, to use the slogans of a decade ago. In essence, what I’m trying to say, I think is that a protest shouldn’t be a goal, it should be an outcome and auxiliary action of successful organisation towards a goal. Or something.

Anyway, alas, for now, it seems the strategy will remain (at least for the SWP), as one Anarchist wit once put it to me, “organise a relatively successful demonstration, repeat until demoralisation”.

In fact, what I found most disheartening about last night’s demo was the disempowering nature of it. I’ve already talked about the barely-reformist demand it was organised around, ie, ‘jail the Anglo bankers’, but the demo actually did propose a concrete action that people could take. They were asking people to fill out Garda complaint forms – to me, this is asking people to ask the armed wing of the state, the enforcers of capitalism, to take action against the people who they basically serve (in a broad sense I mean) – the rich and powerful of society. I think there may also have been a petition floating around as well, but forgive my scepiticsm regarding that – you can probably count the amount of lefty petitions ever handed in to their prospective recipients on one hand. And so, after being told to turn up in two weeks, and again in September and to build(!), build(!!), build(!!!) the protests(!!!!), a somewhat frenetic and fairly small march made it’s way to Pearse Street Garda Station (I presume) to hand in loads of these forms for consideration by the 100%-totally-free-of-political-interference police. I and the people I was with didn’t follow it down, we’d all had enough by then.

No, instead I stayed to have a look at what the Dublin Says No/Freemen/Anonymous/Occupy remnants-type people who sat down on the road afterwards were doing. This gathering of maybe 40 or so people, complete with jazz hands, brought back some piercingly painful memories of Occupy Dame Street at its worst. I’m tempted to make a comment about tragedy and farce here actually. Anyway, they held a consensus based ‘general assembly’ type discussion, with Liam Mac An Bhaird seemingly facilitating it. At one point some be-suited people left Leinster House and were chased and heckled by some of those present – whether they were politicians, civil servants or just people in suits I have no idea, I didn’t have a great vantage point. Then Liam called them back to the circle. The discussion seemed to consist of a slagging of the Socialist Workers Party/leftwing political parties (“all parties are the same, they just want money and power”), a lot of shouting about how awful things were, a constant heckling by one man who may or may not have been drunk, and an exhortation to join the “real protest” (I think that was the phrase used, forgive me if I misremember) that the recently formed ‘Dublin Says No’ group hold every Sunday afternoon. Dublin Says No, it seems, tries to model itself on Ballyhea Says No – I can’t say I know enough about them to speak with any authority, but I would guess they are of the “we’re not rightwing or leftwing” anti-politics type of protester. Anyway, that was even more depressing than the demo in some ways.

So basically, that’s some of my rambling thoughts about yesterday’s action. They may not be coherent, they may be contradictory, they may be full of logical errors and unrelated thought processes; you may agree enthusiastically or fumingly disagree; but they’re what I think at this point in time. Thankfully, things are fluid, and I hope to be proven wrong by the process of events.

TL:DR? Went to protest, came away even more downhearted, but maybe I’m wrong.

So, I’ll end on a joke – yesterday I found myself wondering what the collective noun for Trotskyists should be, and after the sixth or seventh time I was offered a copy of Socialist Worker, it became clear, it’s obviously ‘a paper sale of Trots’.

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Some of the comments and exchanges (slightly abridged):

Garrett M: Excellent critique and it certainly gives a downbeat picture of Ireland protest movements but the problem is there is no positive alternative emerging and you do not suggest one.

Citizen Partridge: Yes you’re probably right, it’s a bit stream of consciousness-y. I think I’m arguing for what I said about a coalition united around a series of progressive demands that are both achievable and desirable, maybe. I am dispirited I have to admit, not just with yesterdays’ demo, with the Irish left in general. This is me basically thinking out loud.

Garrett M: You are entitled of course to feel dispirited. It is a dispiriting picture. My spirits are not raised with the Left Forum or anything else really.Maybe what we need to do is get the left on a big long bus trip to the next G8 summit in Russia and use the trip to discuss ‘where we are now’ – politically speaking of course. The prize for a coherent answer is flights home and for not coming up with something that amounts to a left vision which will be respect is the bus journey home.

Christopher L: I would go for a ‘programme of Trotskists’ myself! But that debate is for another day! Suffice to say I agree with 90% of what you said there Kevin. Very good post. I just do not see any strategy for the future development of the left, at least not from any of the organised far left. All of them are hidebound by past practice, sad but true.

Raymond D: All very well, but what’s the point of going on at length about such matters on Facebook? Are there not other fora, or even forums, at which to voice such a critique? Speaking as someone who didn’t turn up for the demo, for various reasons. And I don’t actually believe in “jailing the bankers” ‘cos I don’t really believe in jail – except for homicidal maniacs. Put them to work on the roads instead.

Citizen Partridge: I would agree with your final comment there Chris. Raymond, Facebook is as good a place as any to post this I think. I’m not sure any lefty blog would be interested in posting it, and I steer clear of political forums in general for the good of my health!

Christopher L: I just feel like a complete fetish of organisational form has been adopted by the far left, with very little evidence or supporting reasons for why such a form has been adopted. The left, as a whole, has always been most successful when it has been at the forefront of the fight for democracy and democratic rights. That is the great legacy 200 years of socialist struggle has left us. Really though, the significance of what you are saying is ‘we do not have a f****** clue’. We need to be adult and human enough to admit that. Once you know where you are, you can begin to navigate away.

Christopher L: I think it is worthwhile to draw a balance sheet up of where the left actually is and in fairness I would not dedcribe the ‘left’ as anything other than the fairly small number of individuals named above. There is a potential resevoir of millions of progressives to mobilise in Ireland, how we get there is the other question. Personally, I think some form of far-right victory may be the only thing which may conceivably shake a number of people into action. The ‘whip of counter-revolution’ and all that.

Garrett M: No Christopher- many people thought that an economic crisis ‘which confirms our perspectives’ would galvanise the left but it didn’t and nor would a right wing government. In the UK, Labour moved to the right after Thatcher’s second election victory. I think [the piece] nails it in his first or second paragraph when he asks ‘was there any outreach done’. The collapse of the ULA has left a vacuum but arguably the ULA was not a very honest venture. The ‘partners’ did not respect each other, nevermind like each other. As for Raymond asking why post on FB, well if we don’t then we all think that we are the only one’s thinking like that.

Raymond D: I seem to remember that view was current in 1933.

Christopher L: I am not talking about a right-wing government though Garrett. I think something much more dangerous, frightening, and conceivably galvanising may reignite the left.

Garrett M: Like Nazis???

Christopher L: I wouldn’t say Nazis. But the crises occuring in Europe right now mean there are parallels. Fascism will never re-emerge in its open C.20th form. However, as we all know there are right-wing, neo-fascist and populist organisations mobilising across Europe.

Citizen Partridge: Unfortunately it seems many on the far left think that the organisational form of a revolutionary party in 2013 should mirror the Bolshevik party of almost a hundred years ago – or rather, their sometimes imagined view of what that party was like. (I’ll admit I’m far from an expect on the internal workings of the Bolsheviks). And indeed, Menshevik, a term denoting a section of the Russian Social Democratic and Labour Party which was outlawed and basically ceased to exist by 1921, is still seemingly considered to be a valid term of abuse to be thrown at ‘rival’ leftwing organisations. It’s kind of a little bit strange.

What does ‘the left’ – however one describes it’s constituent parts, and however much of the ‘left spectrum’ one wants to include – want a fairer more equal society to look like? That is indeed a good question.

For years I used to believe “[insert some generalities about workers control, economic and political democracy, right of recall] and ah sure everything will sort itself out after the revolution, be grand sure”. But I’ve come to think that that simply isn’t enough of an explanation for people when you are trying to convince them a socialist/communist society would be materially better for them. Some kind of speculative empiricism is needed (if that’s not too much of a contradiction in terms) in terms of future models. At a very basic level, what would an election look like in a socialist society? What would the decision making process entail in a workplace? How would we concretely plan the economy so there isn’t underproduction or that everyone isn’t wearing the same fucking clothes? Again, I’m just thinking out loud here – I’m not saying I have the answers to such questions, cos I don’t. But expecting Russian Revolution Mk II, or a Cuban or Chinese style guerilla war, in an industrial country in 2013, is expecting the improbable/impossible.

I wouldn’t be that optimistic about people organising in the face of a far right threat to be fair Chris. People have already mentioned the Nazis, but then again, in France and Italy after the fall of fascism in those countries (brought about by years of total war it must be said) , there did emerge strong and respected communist parties. Of course, that didn’t end up too well either. Maybe we need years of brutal repression and fightback by lefty partisans to earn the trust of the masses… oh fuck I don’t know!

Fearghal O: I’m surprised I actually agree with so much of this. Our model of organising is fundamentally broken, and continuing to flog this very, very dead horse is only going to demoralise and burn-out the ever shrinking core of activists even further. The fact that those who perhaps have realised this failing are actually the anti-politics ODS\Independent\Sovereign types does make me feel even more uncomfortable.

A – B marches with abstract or unachievable demands are completely pointless. Our aim should be to empower people and give them confidence in their own ability to take action, direct their own lives, and protests ending with the same big talk, meaningless boring speeches does nothing to empower people.