“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln

Archive for May 2009

Stick It Where the Sun Don’t Shine.

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Ok, a bit rude and I know that’s not what was said, but you get the impression that’s what the film director, Gary Sinyor, actually meant to say.

The Indie explains:

“A Jewish film-maker has handed back a prestigious award from the Edinburgh International Film Festival in an ugly spat with the British director Ken Loach.

Gary Sinyor, who won a Charles Chaplin Award at the EIFF for his Jewish comedy Leon the Pig Farmer, said he wanted nothing more to do with the festival after accusing it of caving in to Mr Loach’s anti-Israeli views.

The row began after the festival accepted a £300 donation from the Israeli embassy to pay for a film studies graduate of Tel Aviv University to attend the premiere of her short movie Surrogate at the festival in Scotland next month. But the sponsorship raised the hackles of Loach, who backed a boycott unless the money was returned forcing the EIFF to find alternative ways to fund Tali Shalom-Ezer’s trip.”

Sinyor explains it himself:

“Ken Loach took it upon himself publicly to endorse the boycott of the entire Edinburgh Film Festival. And hey presto! The EIFF suddenly decided to give the money back to the Israeli embassy. According to The Scotsman, the EIFF said: “Although the festival is considered wholly cultural and apolitical, we consider the opinions of the film industry as a whole and, as such, accept that one film-maker’s recent statement speaks on behalf of the film community, therefore we will be returning the funding issued by the Israeli embassy.”

I’ve tried making sense of that but I can’t. It’s possible that Ken was speaking on behalf of all film directors/writers and producers worldwide, but my phone never rang so at best it would be the entire global film community minus one. If someone at the EIFF made an absolute howler of a comment to The Scotsman, it should admit the mistake publicly. It hasn’t.

We can only assume, therefore, that Ken Loach exerted sufficient pressure on the festival that one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world actually caved in.

It’s a shame that Ken feels particularly strongly about not having anything to do with Israel or Israeli money.

It’s shame because clearly Israelis obviously like Ken. The Wind That Shakes the Barley (dir Ken Loach) was distributed in Israel in 2006. Ae Fond Kiss (dir Ken Loach) in 2004. Perhaps he insists his films only get shown in Gaza. Even then, though, he is supporting the Israeli economy and, therefore, the government. Is he happy to take the money or does the thought that it may have paid for a tank, or a bullet, keep him awake? When a two-state solution comes, will Ken rejoice, or will he stamp his feet in frustration along with the President of Iran, because Israel is allowed to exist?

There is a much more serious point here than one film-maker’s hypocrisy. To argue that Israeli money, or Israeli government money, is tainted, and shouldn’t be accepted as legitimate currency by a third party, is to equate Israel with a solely terrorist entity, rather than a country. It’s a little thing, I know, to get worked up about, £300. But the principle is beyond huge. Type in the words “Israel”, “rescue” and “earthquake” into Google. Peru, China, Turkey. Should they all should have said no to the Israeli government’s offer of help? Is there nothing redeemable, no help worth accepting, from the entire country? Support for film-makers, schools, hospitals, Israel does all this as well as buying weapons. It’s what countries do. If Jordan and Egypt can work with the Israeli government, why can’t the Edinburgh Film Festival? “

For background see Engage and We Are All Tali Shalom Ezer.

I’ll bet that Ken Loach would hate this film.

Update 2:
Apparently that antisemite, John Wight, has written a piece defending Loach on SU blog, how typical.

Written by modernityblog

30/05/2009 at 20:07

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Roxana Saberi.

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Roxana Saberi is interviewed on NPR, it is rather good.

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29/05/2009 at 03:07

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Support Stalin.

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Not that one, this one.

I received this message:

“SOAS UNISON members are taking strike action in support of Stalin tomorrow (Thursday, 28th May).

UNISON is demanding that the SOAS Governing Body review and reverse the appalling decision to sack Stalin.

Picket lines will be operating outside SOAS entrances all day.

Stalin has been an outstanding branch chair and his work with the successful SOAS Living Wage Campaign was central to ensuring that SOAS cleaning staff are now paid a living wage. It is now time to return that solidarity and support Stalin.

UNISON is urging SOAS staff, students and others to show whatever support they can.”

Joseph Stalin Bermudez, UNISON branch chair at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London was dismissed by the School following a disciplinary hearing held on 24 February 2009. Stalin was a key activist in the successful SOAS Justice for Cleaners Campaign.

Written by modernityblog

28/05/2009 at 02:45

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Echoing The Far Right.

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HP has picked up the story about a leading UCU trade unionist articulating racist nonsense about Lehman Brothers [nudge, nudge, wink, wink]. You’ve probably heard such lies from neo-Nazi or Holocaust denier web sites, but it is really jumping the shark to have a British trade unionist push this filth.

Jon Pike on Engage covers the start of the UCU conference.

How depressing? A modern trade union almost paralysed with institutionalised anti-Jewish racism.

Update: Adam Holland covers it.

Update 2:
Flesh is Grass argues:

“David Hirsh has live-blogged discussion and voting on the international business of UCU Congress 2009.

Aung San Suu Kyi? You must be joking. Israel and the Socialist Worker Party’s cherished boycott. There were 4 late motions, which breezed through undiscussed and unopposed in a derisory 10 minutes.

The Israel business took well over an hour.

Consider for a moment everything that is going on in the world, and then think about how shocking and dysfunctional that is.”

Written by modernityblog

27/05/2009 at 16:28

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Dismantling On The Cheap.

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The recent North Korea nuclear test should focus our minds on how dangerous, useless and destructive nuclear weaponry truly is.

So you might think that the dismantling of an old nuclear installation would be welcomed?

Yes, if it was done properly, but as the BBC pictures show Marigold gloves and bits of sticky tape are being used instead of quality protective clothing.

How pathetic. Not a thought given to protection from actual radiation, just some cheap Marigold gloves will do?

I’ll bet that in 10-20 years from now claims will be lodged on the poor protective equipment provided during this project, and the resultant deaths. Bearing in mind that nuclear “industry” has a very poor record in this area.

Talk about cheap and nasty.

Written by modernityblog

27/05/2009 at 02:12

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Too Much Modesty?

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Bob has kindly linked to me on a whole host of topics, but with uncharacteristic modesty I can’t claim anything special. Rather reading the debate on his blog opened me up to Jean Améry and a point he raises:

“Améry’s principal contribution to understanding the Holocaust is his concept of losing trust in the world. Perhaps better than any other Holocaust writer, Améry shows that the liberal pillars upon which Western civilization rests are not dug very deep; they are merely taken for granted. Political freedom and human dignity are measured by what is “possible and humanly acceptable”; they are temporary and hastily constructed social arrangements which disappear at the first blow aimed at a prisoner. “[W]e can live,” Améry says, “only if we grant our fellow man life, ease his suffering, bridle the desire of our ego to expand.” In the material security of our daily lives, we are unaware just how much we trust others to grant us life, and if not to ease our suffering at least not to cause it. But the victim of torture, the survivor of Auschwitz, has lost that trust forever. “Whoever was tortured, stays tortured,” Améry concludes. He is indelibly burned with the knowledge that trust in the world—the trust that no one will lay hands on you—is astonishingly fragile, and can be lost at any moment. He knows something that they do not teach you in schools: that the Other can be absolute, and can exercise this absolute power by inflicting suffering”

Written by modernityblog

26/05/2009 at 23:11

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Wiki Elections and Sock Puppets.

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Wiki has many problems, which I suppose go with the distributed nature of its existence. But that does not excuse or preclude the need for checks and balances to avoid deliberate manipulation and misuse, as shown by The Register:

“The eighth most popular site on the web, Wikipedia bills itself as the “free encyclopedia anyone can edit.” Editing from multiple accounts is officially verboten on the grounds that it would allow editors to promote self-serving content on what is ostensibly a “neutral” source of information. But so often, such sockpuppeting is facilitated by the site’s steadfast devotion to anonymous editing and a belief that administrators should “assume good faith.”

When standing for election to the Arbitration Committee – known in Orwellian fashion as the ArbCom – Boothroyd’s platform included the notion that “editors should be encouraged to register accounts, and then ideally to stick to one account.”

On a private email list used by the Arbitration Committee, Boothroyd acknowledged his real identity and admitted to using a second Wikipedia account under the names Fys and Dbiv. He has also used a third account under his own name.”

Unrelated Update:

Whilst on the theme of technology, I thought some readers might find this helpful, how to get an ATI card to play audio via HDMI. It works, testing via aplay -D plughw:1,3 /usr/share/sounds/alsa/Front_Center.wav shows as much, but if Kaffeine support is required then edit the Xine settings within Kaffeine and change audio to Alsa, not default.

Written by modernityblog

26/05/2009 at 18:35

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Florence Hartmann

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Just in from the Comité de Soutien “Préserver la Justice Internationale:

” We, Mothers for Peace, in link with the Association Sarajevo and the Forum grenoblois for Democracy in Balkans, were strongly mobilized during the conflict in ex-Yugoslavia, as were many of you.
The massacres which fired ex-Yugoslavia, then Rwanda, compeled the creation of International Penal Courts. The TPIY and the TPIR have for mission to establish the truth about the chains of responsibilities in the committed exactions and to judge the alleged culprits. The creation of these courts is an indisputable advance and an indispensable condition for the reconstruction of a durable peace.

The fulfillment of this double mission is threatened by the indictment of Florence Hartmann today.

Journalist and essayist, well known by the defenders of Human rights, Florence Hartmann was also from 2000 to 2006 the counselor for the Balkans and the spokeswoman of the prosecutor of the TPIY, Carla del Ponte. In 2007, she published Peace and punishment, the secret wars of international policy and international justice in which she brings to light the difficulties met by an international justice ceaselessly confronted with the political pressures in the fulfillment of its mission. In pages 120 – 122 of her book, which caused her indictment, she dismantles the mechanism which led the judges to shield from justice crucial documents: the archives of the Supreme council of Defence of the Federal republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia-Montenegro). By doing so, magistrates deliberately sacrificed their duty of truth and notably prevented the International Court of Justice ( ICJ) from establishing the responsibility of Serbia in the genocide committed in Bosnia-Herzegovina, by keeping silent about these proofs.”

Read more.

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25/05/2009 at 00:48

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Bill and Ben

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24/05/2009 at 02:41

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Libertas, Allies and Anti-Jewish Racism.

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News from the Daily (Maybe), Ben Tallis has resigned and highlighted some of Libertas unsavoury allies, particularly the League of Polish Families.

The fact that reactionary right wing parties are drawn towards anti-EU sentiment should not surprise anyone. But that this convergence of attitudes was not to be anticipated is perplexing, as surely one goes along with the other?

The League of Polish Families and one of its leaders, Roman Giertych are a nasty bunch as Richard Bartholomew documented in 2005.

In 2007, Reuters reported:

“The 30-second television spot by the League of Polish Families mixes images of Polish troops in Iraq and violence in the Middle East with pictures of President Lech Kaczynski wearing a skull cap on a visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

“This is an attempt to attract people with anti-Semitic views,” said Piotr Kadlcik, the leader of the Jewish Religious Communities in Poland, which released a statement condemning the advert.”

Not forgeting the LPR’s one time youth wing, All-Polish Youth with their praise of Mussolini and Italian fascism, also as Wiki inform us:

“They also favoured economically boycotting the Jews, limiting their access to higher education (numerus clausus)[4] and actively campaigned for ghetto benches, segregated seating for Jewish students [5]”

The Stephen Roth Institute 2007 report on Poland has background information.

The 2006 issue of Jewish Currents points out:

“They have skillfully played upon homophobia, which they have helped push to the forefront of the public agenda in recent years. In 2004, while serving as mayor of Warsaw, Lech Kaczynski established his bona fides with the radical right by illegally banning the “Parade of Equality,” a gay-rights demonstration. Commenting on this event, Bishop Stanislaw Stefanek of Lomza warned the faithful that “the wealthiest people in the world, who want a small number of specialized geniuses to conquer the globe, drive the rest of humanity towards moral ruin and the complete destruction of the family. That is why they organize parades, cynical theaters of lies for a mob that has been intoxicated by propaganda” (Gazeta Wyborcza, June 25th, 2006).

The parallel between anti-Semitism and homophobia became even more disturbing (and more obvious) when thugs at anti-gay demonstrations took to chanting “Fags to the gas chambers” and “We will do to you what Hitler did to the Jews.” Homosexuality thus became a proxy issue for the Polish far right, a means of alluding to old hatreds. In a country with very few Jews, at a time when explicit anti-Semitism is increasingly seen as vulgar in polite society, this approach has proven to be an effective means of rallying support.”

All very telling.

Written by modernityblog

23/05/2009 at 00:53

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We Are All Tali Shalom Ezer.

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Petty and small minded are two words that describe Ken Loach’s attitude towards Israelis. The First post has more:

“Imagine this. You are a young British filmmaker excited that your film about a romance in a sex therapy clinic has been selected for screening at an international film festival.

It would be great if you could attend the screening but funds are short. Luckily for you the British embassy in the film festival’s host country steps in and funds your travel. Bingo – a result.

But then something happens. A campaign group against British military intervention in Iraq is demanding a boycott of any cultural involvement with the British government or British artists. This group is outraged that the festival has accepted the Brits’ filthy lucre to fund your attendance.

If this had happened to a British artist the liberal left literati would be up in arms

It gets worse. One of the biggest filmmakers in the world, a Palme D’Or winner and Goliath to your David, comes out and says he is ‘horrified’ that the festival has accepted this money and urges people to stay away. Under pressure the film festival reluctantly hands the money back to the British embassy.

Unjust? Punitive censure of an artist because of the British government’s actions? Unacceptable political grandstanding in the cultural arena? Unfair condemnation of an artist who refuses to make the right political noises, who just wants to get on with their art?”

I fully expect Loach to say “I am not a racist, some of my best friends are Jew, but…..”


The Daily Kos has picked up the story:

“Trying to punish someone, as Loach was trying to do, because of their race or ethnicity is clearly bigotry, and bigotry against Jews is antisemitism.”

Update 2:

The film director, herself comments:

“Shalom-Ezer, 31, whose first publicly released film, Surrogate, debuts in Israeli cinemas next week, said: “Generalising all citizens of Israel as warmongers and racists is racism and outrageous, and as members of the peace camp we are personally hurt by it.

Update 3:
Engage has typically intelligent coverage.

Update 4:

Another response from Israel:

“The EIFF reacted to Ken Loach’s polemics with an amazing bit of prose indicative of moral bankruptcy:

“Although the festival is considered wholly cultural and apolitical, we consider the opinions of the film industry as a whole and, as such, accept that one film-maker’s recent statement speaks on behalf of the film community, therefore we will be returning the funding issued by the Israeli embassy.”

They accept that one film-maker’s statement speaks on behalf of the film community! What if the film maker is Leni Riefenstahl? What if it is Mel Gibson, cussing out out the Jews when arrested for drunk driving? Why does Ken Loach represent the “film community?”

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22/05/2009 at 17:44

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Not Really Me.

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A profile at Norm.

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22/05/2009 at 16:22

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Openly Racist Attack in Buenos Aires.

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Z blog reports:

“A street event jointly organized by the government of the city of Buenos Aires and the Israeli embassy to celebrate the 61st anniversary of Israel’s foundation was yesterday disrupted by a gang of 15 or 20 people who emerged from a nearby subway station and laid into members of the public with clubs, chains and nunchakus.

Between blows they shouted slogans like “Death to the Zionist Jews!” and scattered leaflets bearing the name of the Revolutionary Action Front. Three people were taken to hospital for treatment, two of them are said to be in a serious condition. One police officer was also injured seriously enough to be kept overnight in hospital. Five arrests were made, the rest of the gang escaped. One of those detained is Leonardo Del Grosso, a prominent member of the far left Quebracho group; another was found to be carrying a sevillana, a kind of knife that’s quite unsuitable for peeling apples or slicing bread.”

Internet Judia has the videos in Spanish.

Google English version of the pages here.


EJP has more:

“Police were still interrogating those arrested, who said they belonged to a previously unknown group called the Revolutionary Action Front (FAR).

The FAR claims to be “leftist, anti-Zionist and pro-Palestinian,” said Justice Minister Anibal Fernandez, who cast doubts on the group’s true purpose and source of financing. Interior Minister Florenco Randazzo on Tuesday blamed the attack on “groups of misfits that fortunately are very few.” “


” “They came equipped for that,” said Daniel Gazit, Israel’s ambassador to Argentina, who witnessed the incident in which three Jews and a policeman were injured — none seriously.

“They came with their clubs, with their arms, one had a knife, one had a pistol — they came ready for this,” Gazit said. “It was not a political demonstration … this was violence for the sake of violence.”

Witnesses said the attackers were between the ages of 15 and 20. The five who were detained were to make their first court appearance on Tuesday.

Some people complained about the lack of security measures in place at the time of the pro-Israel demonstration and denounced the secretary general of Amia, a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, for having allowed a type of “liberated zone” from which the group attacked.”

The JTA:

“Unlike Jewish leadership, the national government has said the incident is not a sign of a new wave of anti-Semitism in Argentina.

The government’s attitude has not been well received by the local Jewish community.

Donzis said that after anti-Semitic incidents increased at the beginning of the year due to Israel’s military operation in Gaza, new incidents erupted that were “not even linked to Gaza but merely anti Jewish.”

Even then, Donzis told JTA, the government denied that it was a new wave of anti-Semitism, fearing “it brings imbalance and insecurity to society.”

“The result we are facing is an anti-Semitic campaign,” he said. “What happened last Sunday was an anti-Semitic act and cannot be called differently.” “

Written by modernityblog

20/05/2009 at 01:09

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Something More Than Austria’s Image.

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Contested Terrain has disturbing news from Austria:

“Five Austrian teenagers were arrested in connection with a neo-Nazi attack on Holocaust survivors. The survivors and others were attacked while commemorating the 64th anniversary of the liberation of a concentration camp near Salzburg on May 9. Two people were wounded in the attack, in which teens allegedly fired plastic bullets from air guns and harassed visitors verbally, according to reports.

According to an Austrian news service, one of the arrested youth is a member of the Socialist Party of Austria’s youth group, the Red Hawks.”

Read more.

Written by modernityblog

19/05/2009 at 22:14

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Not A Film Critic.

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The Lemon Tree is a film about people, the arch protagonist an Israeli Defence Minister, a bit smarmy, rather clever and a little bit two-faced for his own good. He moves with his wife to a new house on the West Bank. His neighbour, Salma, is a widow who has a large orchard of lemon trees opposite the house. Within a short period of time the rather brutish security services want it cut down just in case of a terrorist attack on the Defence Minister’s home. The arbitrary decision is given to Salma by a soldier , but she decides to reject compensation and somehow fight for those lemon trees.

That’s my review, it is a rather good film, not as caricatured as it could seem from the basic storyline. The Israelis do not come out of this all too well, but then again it is more the bureaucratic logic of enforced security which bludgeons the senses and sensibilities.

The characters are rather well formed, in particular the Defence Minister’s wife. But I have given enough of the plot away, and it is very moving, as the final scene of the Defence Minister looking at the concrete wall cuts away to find Salma looking across from the other side, after tending her cut down trees.

Humans divided by concrete. Recommended.

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19/05/2009 at 05:21

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