Tag Archives: Israel

Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika

Matthew Willman 008

One of my all time favourite songs and amongst the best written national anthems in the world, Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika, written in Xhosa, Zulu, Sesotho, Afrikaans and English, was the great emblem of defiance against the Apartheid regime and eventually united all peoples of South Africa within the ambit of her melody. No better time to post this than now, when Nelson Mandela, a giant of our times and a great advocate of the struggle of the Palestinian people has died.

“God bless Africa
Let its (Africa’s) horn be raised,
Listen also to our prayers,
Lord bless us, we are the family of it (Africa).
Lord bless our nation,
Stop wars and sufferings,
Save it, save our nation,
The nation of South Africa — South Africa.
From the blue of our heavens,
From the depths of our seas,
Over our everlasting mountains,
Where the cliffs give answer,
Sounds the call to come together,
And united we shall stand,
Let us live and strive for freedom
In South Africa our land.” (video)

Image from here.

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Ed Miliband the Zionist?

Ed Miliband at LFP

Much speculation has been made of Ed Miliband, the man who many (myself included) feel will be the first Jewish Prime Minister of Britain.  Guido Falks tweeted an article from The Jewish Chronicle which says that Ed Miliband claims to be a Zionist. Let’s go through the exact words –

“I take anti-semitism very seriously. Any kind of de-legitimisation of Israel is something we should call out for what it is and not tolerate it. “I think the boycotts of Israel are totally wrong. We should have no tolerance for boycotts. I would say that to any trade union leaders.”

The Haaretz in it’s reports quite explicitly points out that when someone asked him if he was a Zionist, Ed replied – “Yes, I consider myself a supporter of Israel.” , however Ed was very careful not to say “Yes, I am a Zionist”.

Let’s be honest here, there is absolutely no way that Ed Miliband can become the next British Prime Minister if he antagonises the right wing pro-Israeli British media, let’s be honest about it, no if’s and but’s. If he takes an openly anti Israeli line the media is going to make sure that he will not be the next British PM and they will not rest until they do. If the British media was to somehow (as if by divine intervention) change their tune and become tacitly pro-Palestinian, then the Zionist lobby in the US will strain every sinew of its special relationship with London to ensure that Miliband does not become PM.

It was quite sad that the Stop The War Coalition with whom I side most of the time tweeted saying ‘Labour leader Ed Miliband establishes his pro-Israel credentials like never before & declares he’s a Zionist’. This I think is rather misleading, and at least the STWC should have been more considerate of whom they want to be friendly with.

About Ed Miliband, let’s establish a few home truths.

  • Ed Miliband was raised an atheist by his parents, his father was the radical Marxist intellectual Ralph Miliband and his mother Marion Kozac is a signatory for the founding statements of ‘Jews for Justice for Palestinians’.
  • Ed Miliband was elected leader largely due to the trade unions. Britains largest trade unions, UNITE and UNISON have both passed a motion to boycott goods from Israeli settlements.
  • In his very first speech as Labour leader, Miliband said this.
  • When Mossad used forged British Passports to carry out a failed assassination bid against a Hamas official in Dubai when his brother David Miliband was the foreign Secretary, there was very significant diplomatic friction between Israel and the UK.
  • Ed Miliband has been very openly attending events and supporting Labour Friends of Palestine, something neither of his New Labour predecessors did.

Compare and contrast Ed Miliband with Tony Blair and to a lesser extent Gordon Brown vis a vis the Israeli question and you’ll see that Miliband actually comes out uncontaminated by any Israeli links. Also, let’s not forget, contrary to what anyone might say, it was Miliband who took on the highly influential Israeli poodle that is Rupert Murdoch.

I don’t see how anything Miliband said yesterday can be spelled out as doom saying for the pro Palestinian activists. I think it is wise and indeed incumbent upon him to woo the Israeli lobby if there is any chance of him becoming PM.

It is only fair to him that he is judged on his record as PM, until then he deserves the respite.

Image from here.

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Of Activism, Armchair Activism and Cynicism

First Published for The Platform

The recent violence in the Gaza Strip excited three distinct groups in a battle far beyond the Middle Eastern frontline

It is ironic that even the best of intentions, when circumstances change, they can have unintended consequences. The man who invented the wheel, for instance, would never have expected Top Gear, where viewers are bombarded with a bit too much of Jeremy Clarkson. Likewise, social media has transcended its initial intentions.

The above reflects well in a friend’s acerbic Facebook status: “What is happening to Facebook! I don’t want to see pictures of dead dogs/abused kids/war victims on my five minute break – it’s a given that I’m against paedophiles/war/poverty without having to like some shocking photo! What happened to mindless fb stalking and comedy updates?! Jesus wept.”

Whether one agrees or disagrees, one would be inclined to consider this to be remarkably genuine.

The extra judicial killing of Ahmad Jabari, the head of the Al Qassam Brigades, led to the recent escalation of violence in the Gaza strip, with Israel using disproportionate force in ‘retaliation’ to Hamas rocket attacks. Israeli attacks resulted in over 100 Palestinian deaths and less than ten Israeli deaths. Palestinian casualties would have been much higher, if Israel had initiated a full scale ground invasion as in 2008, and if not for the truce between Hamas and Israel. Israel has said that it will never negotiate with “terrorists”, although Hamas very much fits the Israeli description.

Misfortune gives rise to the excitement of three very similar but different sets of groups: The Activists, Armchair Activists, and The Cynical Sedentary Scoffer’s.

Activists are staunchly dedicated to a cause. Much like career politicians, but perhaps not as allured by fame, fortune or material possessions, they are driven by an unblemished ideological underpinning. In this particular conflict, activists were usually pro-Palestinian, pro-Israeli/Zionist, or human rights activists. Pro-Palestinian activists largely comprise of Muslims, LeftiesLiberalsand/or Humanists. Solid activists live for a cause and find great satisfaction in the work they do and are, therefore, willing to sacrifice much of their personal comforts to get that one extra inch closer to their goal.

Then we have activists of the armchair variety – a tricky lot, and much like a Dulux colour palette, come in various hues and varying saturation. I trust an armchair activist is a person commonly understood to propel a cause sitting on an armchair (or toilet seat). Due to advances in social media, the vagaries of an armchair activist has become somewhat limited to being active online and disseminating information. Armchair activists usually take a lot of stick from various people for being neither here nor there”. The reality, however, is very different – at least for most of them.

To be an armchair activist, one usually needs to have a sense of ideological bearing, diluted as it may sometimes be compared to activists out in the field. The content of their Twitter feeds or Facebook status may be determined by their personal interests, type of friends, followers, want for attention and recognition, and all of the above, or even none of the above.

If one is an activist, at some point in their lives they may have been an armchair activist or may even have had armchair stints. This may be at a time when being in the forefront of activism isn’t particularly feasible, like when one is a student and therefore can’t fully engage in activism due to time constraints. Therefore to consider the term ‘armchair activist’ to be heavily concentrated with negativism is preposterous, if not plain wrong.

The role of an armchair activist shouldn’t be underestimated – they provide a vital service by disseminating information that they rightly or wrongly think would aid their cause. Of course it is up to the receiver to verify information before they act upon it. As a full-time student inundated with assignments and exams, the most effective form of activism I can be involved in, is armchair activism, with my blackberry to hand.

Of course, a common mistake armchair activists make is to be too idealistic or rhetorical in their actions. This occurs when the gulf between theory and ground realities diverge and expand. Therefore armchair activists should be conscious of this inevitability and be measured in their tones.

I believe (or like to think) that by making my voice heard, I do make a difference and help to formulate opinion that would be useful. This might enable the average apolitical or political person to understand the world better and galvanise like-minded souls to work towards a noble cause.

Like activists, armchair activists come under intense pressure from various elements in society. From those who hold opposing views to those who have found too much immoral comfort in the status quo to want to change it, to the plain idiot who would much rather question the means of activism than come up with something original. Therefore defeatism is intrinsic to the psyche of some activists or armchair activists, and they fight such sentiments not to their peril.

The feeling that one’s tweets with the hashtag #Gaza would result in nothing is an understandable feeling. If armchair activism ceases, activists on the field will have to shoulder the added burden of disseminating information, thereby delaying progress in the cause, in this case exposing Israeli war crimes and fighting the powerful Zionist propaganda machinery.

If you have activist-y (for lack of another word) intentions, and yet, can’t really engage for one reason or another on the “frontline”, take heart in the fact that your services as an armchair activist are much needed. Purify your intentions and find the nearest armchair (or toilet seat), wherever your thoughts flow unhindered. Remember, however, that with your intentions and actions comes the responsibility to act within a discourse of morality and nobility that does not cause more problems.

This conveniently brings me to the third and final group, The Sedentary Cynical Scoffer. These are those who would much rather scoff at those who try, and pointedly do nothing productive themselves. This mostly being because they seem to think that activists or armchair activists act on matters that have no bearing on their own lives, or of others. One may not be a US citizen, but it does matter if Romney or Obama won the last US presidential election – though for most people Obama and Romney are as close to each other as bum cheeks, politically speaking. Given the position of the US in the world and the globalisation they perpetuate as a super power, it is a given and isn’t even worth mentioning that the president of the US is going to have a bearing in life wherever in the world you live.

So, the next time you see a Facebook status or tweet that is political and different from your tweet that possibly says “I just burped aloud, but no one heard #facepalm #aerobicdigestion”, please note that some others are driven, motivated and affected by what happens in their homes, in their own backyards or the backyard of a friend who lives next to a bully that is supported by the biggest bully in the neighbourhood, and a few other smaller bullies. People are driven by various facets of life, and as long as these facets do not impose tangible and direct harm, scoffing at another’s efforts only seeks to undermine your own standing.

Now, back to my armchair.

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