Witchhunt: How the UK Labour Party Suspended a Black Jew for Antisemitism

Witchhunt

by Jon Pullman (2019)

Film Review

This documentary is about the corporate media vendetta against Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters. Corbyn was  first elected to head the British Labour Party in 2015. Espousing many of the same socialist and anti-corporate views as Bernie Sanders, Corbyn vastly increased membership in the Labour Party, especially among young people. He has also survived repeated attempts by Blairite Labour members to remove him from the party leadership.

According to his supporters, Britain’s corporate elite are terrified of Corbyn becoming prime minister. They know he will repeal Britain’s anti-union laws and re-nationalize many of the public services that were privatized by the Conservatives and Tony Blair.

The film mainly focuses on the current media effort to portray Corbyn and his supporters as “antisemitic,” based on their longstanding support for Palestinian rights. It takes up the case of longtime Corbyn supporter Jackie Walker, a Black Jewish woman of Jamaican ancestry. Despite her own Jewish heritage, Walker has been suspended twice from the Labour Party for supposedly antisemitic comments she made on Facebook and in a public meeting. In both cases, the corporate media repeatedly misportrayed what she actually said.

The filmmakers play segments from an Al Jazeera investigation into an undercover Israeli intelligence operation to target British pro-Palestinian activists. There is strong evidence these Israeli agents are collaborating with various pro-Zionist groups and a compliant media to perpetuate this witchhunt against Corbyn and his supporters. Their primary goal is to counter growing British support for the BDS movement.*

The film features members of the Jewish Voice for Labour and other Jewish intellectuals who oppose the pro-Zionist’s lobby’s effort to label all criticism of Israeli human rights violations (described as “slow Palestinian genocide”) as antisemitism.

Witchhunt also includes scenes from Walker’s one-woman play called “The Lynching.” The daughter of a Jamaican mother of Jewish decent and an Ashkenazy Jew from Russia, Walker was born in the US, where her mother participated in civil rights struggles in the South. The family was deported owing to her mother’s refusal to testify in front of the House UnAmerican Activities Committee (HUAC).


*The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement works to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law.

Hidden History: The Prehistoric American Civilizations Destroyed by European Settlers

America Before Columbus

Directed by Cristina Trebbi (2009)

Film Review

Although this documentary acknowledges the arrival of Europeans diminished the Native American population by 90%, it omits any mention of the massacres, enslavement or land expropriation that were the primary cause of their demise. For some odd reason, it makes it appear as if they died out due to accidental exposure to small pox, measles and influenza and European pigs that destroyed their crops.

That being said, the film gives a reasonable depiction of the great civilizations along the Mississippi River and in Central and South America that were destroyed by Europeans. It also accurately portrays how the introduction of corn and potatoes to Europe was far more important than New World gold and silver in the rise of capitalism and the flowering of European civilization.

A Voice of Sanity in the Gun Control Debate

In the following film, historian and Native activist Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz discusses her book Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment. The major premise of her most recent book is that the Second Amendment relates mainly to the right and obligation of white settlers to keep guns, which they used in voluntary militias to massacre Native Americans and (in many cases) compulsory slave patrols to hunt down runaway slaves.

She begins by reminding us of the real issue (not the one we we’re taught in school) that triggered the Revolutionary War – namely the British ban on white settlement on unceded Indian lands west of the Appalachians. The hated Stamp Act, which triggered the familiar cry of “taxation without representation,” was enacted to finance British troops to roust settlers who were illegally squatting on Native lands.

She also points out that George Washington and most of the other founding fathers acquired their substantial wealth by illegally surveying and speculating in unceded Native land.

She disagrees with gun control advocates that the Second Amendment right to “keep and bear arms” only relates to their use in “well-regulated militias.” She insists that it refers to an individual right, like all the other amendments in the Bill of Rights. She argues the right to participate in voluntary militias is already covered in Article 1 of the Constitution. Moreover the Second Amendment was specially modeled on an individual right to gun ownership in various state constitutions.

I found the Q&A’s at the end the most interesting part of her talk. Dunbar-Ortiz doesn’t believe gun control laws would end mass shootings in the US – mainly because American gun violence is directly rooted in the historically racist and genocidal nature of US gun culture. She contrasts the US with Switzerland and Canada. Despite the absence of any gun control laws (the Swiss are required to keep weapons in their homes), there is no gun violence in Switzerland. Likewise Canada has much less gun violence despite fewer gun control laws.

In both cases, she attributes the absence of gun violence to the historical absence of slavery or rampant militarism.

Dunbar-Ortiz also disputes Democratic claims that opposition to gun control stems from NRA lobbying. Noting that the US gun culture precedes the NRA by more than a century, she adds that the NRA spends far less on lobbying than Big Oil and Big Pharma. The NRA mainly derives its strength by mobilizing thousands of volunteers at the state level, where most gun control laws originate. These volunteers track the voting records of every state and local politician to ensure that anti-gun legislators don’t get re-elected.

Robbing From Nature and People to Produce Profit

 

Eco Social Justice on the Global Frontlines

Vendana Shiva (2017)

The following is a compelling Earth Day presentation by Indian activist Vendana Shiva linking ecocide and genocide to the brutal “free market” drive to rob from nature and people to produce profit.  This wide ranging talk combines a unique perspective on the violent British colonization of both India and North America, the more recent role of major chemical and food companies (eg Dow, Dupont and Monsanto) in imposing free trade treaties such as GATT and the TPP, and the growing anti-corporate resistance movement in India and elsewhere.

Vendana begins by describing an agricultural conference she attended in 1987, at which the major chemical manufacturers laid out plans to increase their profits by introducing GMO seeds and lobbying for laws and treaties that would prohibit seed saving by farmers. She goes on to talk about Navdanya, the nonprofit organization she founded in 1984 to resist the so-called “Green Revolution” that imposed industrial farming on Indian farmers. In promoting seed saving and other traditional organic farming methods, Navdanya was influenced by Gandhi’s use of sustainable self-reliance as a weapon against colonialism.

At the 1987 conference, the chemical companies bragged the entire world would be growing GMO crops by 2000. Thanks to strong global citizens movements, this never happened. Ninety percent of the world’s food is GMO-free, thanks to wholesale rejection of this technology in Europe, Africa and Asia. Likewise only 30% of the world’s food production is industrialized.

Vendana maintains the primary purpose of industrial farming isn’t to produce food but to increase profit. Due to the massive energy input it requires, factory farming is an extremely inefficient method of food production. Traditional farms producing a diversity of crops will always provide more nutritional output than an industrial farm producing a single monoculture crop.

She blames the forced introduction of industrial farming for India’s high level of malnutrition – 1/4 of the general population and 1/2 of Indian children lack adequate nutrients in their diet.


*GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) was the international treaty that created the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995 (under President Bill Clinto)n.

Latin America: Five Centuries of Pillage

open veins of latin america

Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent

Eduardo Galeano (translated by Cedric Belfrade)

Monthly Review Press (1973, 1999)

Download free PDF: Open Veins of Latin America

Open Veins of Latin America is about the brutal rape of Latin America and its people that commenced from the first point of contact with Columbus in 1453. The 1999 edition includes an addendum Galeano wrote in 1977. It discusses the rise of the pseudo-populist Peron in Argentina, the CIA coupe in Chile in 1973 and the barbarous Pinochet regime.

For me, the main benefit of reading this book was appreciating my overall ignorance of Latin American history. For example, I had no idea that Latin America was an economic colony of England even before they gained political independence from Spain. According to Galeano, this came about due to Spain’s failure to develop a manufacturing base. He blames this in part on the Hapsburgs’ (the Austrian Hapsburgs ruled Spain from 1516-1700) destruction of the Spanish economy by flooding it with cheap textiles, leathers and metal goods and in part on Spain’s misguided decision to expel all their Jews, Arabs and Flemish protestants. The latter would cause Spain to lose most of their artisans, capital and manufacturing entrepreneurs, many of whom ended up in England.

Mass Genocide in Latin America

I was already aware of the genocide the Spanish committed against indigenous Latin Americans, but I had no idea how massive it was. Most were killed through forced labor in the gold and silver mines (through starvation and mercury poisoning), though large numbers died from exposure to new European diseases. Many native women killed their children and committed suicide to keep them out of the mines.

When Columbus first landed at Hispaniola, there were an estimated 70 million indigenous people in Latin America. One-hundred-fifty years later, this number had dropped to 3.5 million. The slaughter continues to the present day (through severe malnutrition and associated medical conditions) at an annual rate comparable to three Hiroshimas. The main cause, according to Galeano, is foreign-controlled expropriation of agricultural land for mining and cash crop exports. In 1973 when this book was published, Latin America produced less food per capita than they did prior to World War II.

Brazil Relied on African Slaves

In Brazil, which was colonized by the Portuguese, gold wasn’t discovered until the 18th century – it wasn’t on display, as in the Aztec, Mayan and Incan civilizations Spain destroyed. Because there was no pre-existing civilization (ie ready source of slaves) in Brazil, the Portuguese had to buy black slaves from the English to exploit the gold mines.

The Switch to Minerals and Cash Crops

Country by country, Galeano traces how English, Spanish and Portuguese bankers and traders began by depleting all the gold and silver. They then subsidized local aristocracies to transfer their slave labor (and later starvation wage labor) to the production of sugar, rubber, cotton, coffee, cacao, steel, tin, sodium nitrate fertilizer, meat, fruit, iron, tin and copper for export.

Why Countries with the Richest Resources End Up the Poorest

The most interesting section of the book explores why European settlement led to a very different outcome in Latin America than in North America. In Galeano’s view, the reasons are threefold 1) Latin America started off with a much richer resource base (ie gold and silver) for Europe to exploit 2) unlike North America, Latin America provided a dense civilized population, ripe for exploitation as slaves and 3) except for cotton, North America produced no exotic products Europe couldn’t produce for themselves.

Galeano makes the case that economic “development” in Latin America was very similar to the southern US prior to the Civil War. He points out various ways in which the North essentially colonized the South, reinforcing the view Paul Craig Roberts expresses in a recent essay that the Civil War wasn’t about freeing slaves – but about “tariffs and northern economic imperialism.”

Plows, Plagues and Petroleum

plows plagues and petroleum

Plows, Plagues and Petroleum: How Humans Took Control of Climate

By W F Ruddiman

Princeton University Press (2010)

Book Review

In Plows, Plagues and Petroleum, paleoclimatologist W F Ruddiman makes the argument that the human species began interfering with climate – by increasing CO2 emissions – long before they began burning fossil fuels during the industrial revolution. After studying millions of years of ice core records, Ruddiman concludes that agricultural activities that began roughly 10,000 years ago increased atmospheric CO2 sufficiently to reduce planetary cooling and reduce a long overdue ice age.

Ruddiman’s book carefully traces the domestication of local plants and animals that occurred simultaneously in Mesopotamia, China, Africa and the Americas between 8,500 and 4,000 BC. Plant and animal domestication was accompanied by large scale clearing of forest land for fields and pasture. This massive loss of trees was accompanied by a big increase in atmospheric CO2.

Ruddiman has always been curious about periodic drops in CO2 concentrations that began around 540 AD. Theorizing that these dips correlated with temporary declines in global population, he examined historical records for evidence of wars, famines and pandemics that might have wiped out large numbers of people. What he discovered was a close link between infectious epidemics and declines in CO2 concentrations, as forests reclaimed large swaths of agricultural land.

The first epidemic in the recorded history was an outbreak of bubonic plague in the Roman Empire in 540 AD. By 590 AD, it had wiped out 40% of Mediterranean Europe. European plague outbreaks continued to occur every ten to fifteen years until 749, when a long plague-free period was accompanied by a rebound in population growth, deforestation and atmospheric CO2. By 1089, virtually all of Europe was deforested.

An even more severe plague pandemic occurred in the mid-1300s, wiping out a third of Europe (25 million people). In some cities, mortality rates were as high as 70%. The resulting labor shortage gave serfs who survived immense bargaining power. As they moved from estate to estate seeking good working conditions, they began to be treated as tenant farmers rather than slaves.

There were new plague outbreaks, accompanied by reduced atmospheric CO2, in the mid-1500s and mid-1600s.

The large pre-industrial drop in CO2 emissions occurred with what Ruddiman refers to as the North American pandemic (1500-1750. This was caused by the arrival of Europeans – who Ruddiman describes as flea infested, lice ridden peoples who shunned bathing – with a host of illnesses (smallpox, influenza, hepatitis, diphtheria, measles, mumps, whopping cough, scarlet fever, cholera and plague) to which native populations had no immunity. This was in addition to untold numbers of natives slaughtered by Europeans.

Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the population of North America was estimated between 50-60 million. Ninety percent (50 million) would die over the next 250 years. This amounted to 10% of the global population. Nearly all their agricultural settlements were reclaimed by forest, resulting in the third and largest pre-industrial drop in atmospheric CO2.

Download a free PDF of this book at Plows, Plagues and Petroleum

Shoot Everything that Moves: Native American Genocide and the US Tradition of Civilian Atrocities

an indigenous peoples history

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz (Beacon Press 2014)

Book Review

I loved this book. It helped me make sense, finally, of the barbaric viciousness of US military policy. The drone wars, torture, sexual assault, civilian massacres and deliberate targeting of women and children all clearly have their origin in the genocidal wars against Native Americans. There is an unbroken continuity, embedded in the mindset of US military officers, between the so-called Indian Wars and the US invasion and occupation of Mexico, the Philippines, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq.

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States is a book about total war, also known as “irregular warfare” and “counterinsurgency,” a uniquely American scorched earth form of warfare that was first perfected during the British colonization of Northern Ireland. Ulster Scots-Irish settlers brought it to the New World, migrating in the hundreds of thousands in the early eighteenth century. From the beginning, it was primarily Scots-Irish settlers who illegally squatted on unceded Indigenous lands. These were typically soldier-settlers who killed Indigenous farmers and destroyed their towns. They would become the mainstay of the colonies’ early militia movement, as well as forming the bulk of Washington’s revolutionary army.

Native historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz organizes this book around three broad themes: the US role as a Covenant Nation, the Doctrine of Discovery and the uniquely North American concept of genocidal extermination as a legitimate form of warfare.

Correcting the Historical Record

The author begins by correcting centuries of lies and distortions about life in North America prior to European colonization – starting with the number of inhabitants. Archeological evidence indicates the Indigenous population of North American was closer to 40 million than the 1-2 million claimed in most official textbooks. This Over a period of 200 years, this number was reduced to a current Indigenous population of approximately 3 million.

Far from being naked savages, these 40 million lived in advanced sovereign nations comparable to the Mayan, Aztec and Incan civilization in Central and South America. These nations and city-states had extensive road networks and trade relationships and benefited from advanced agricultural techniques (which included irrigation), arts and sciences, and sophisticated systems of government, theologies and philosophies. Unlike other early civilizations, they didn’t domesticate animals. Rather they managed wild herds by deliberately creating food-rich forest parks to attract them. For this reason, they were also free of zoogenic diseases, such as small pox, influenza, measles, etc. that animal domestication introduced into other civilizations. .

By the 12th century, the Mississippi Valley was dominated by a number of large city states, including one (Cahokia) which had a population (40,000) larger than London (14,000) at the same period.

Covenant Nations and the Doctrine of Discovery

All these civilizations were destroyed by European settlers and armies who believed their Christian God had promised North America to them. Sound familiar? According to Dunbar-Ortiz, the US, like Israel and apartheid South Africa, is a Covenant Nation. In all three, the political elite justified the total subjugation, displacement and extermination of the original inhabitants based on a so-called Covenant with their God.

Although it was primarily Protestant English and Scots-Irish settlers who instigated and led the genocidal wars against Indigenous North Americans, legally they used a series of 15th century papal bulls, collectively referred to as the Doctrine of Discovery, as legal justification for their actions. These declare that European nations acquire title to any land they “discover” in Africa, Asia or the Americas – that Indigenous inhabitants lose their natural right to their land once Europeans arrive and claim it. The US Supreme Court upheld the Doctrine of Discovery in 1823.

A State of Perpetual War

Dunbar-Ortiz also carefully documents that the US has been continuously at war ever since their 200-year war against the Indigenous nations. Washington’s revolutionary army directed as much force against Native American resistors as against British troops. Until the 1800s, Indigenous populations exceeded that of the settlers. When the colonial leadership failed in defeating Indigenous warriors by force of arms, they resorted to killing their women and children.

In addition to providing a detailed description of all the battles, unprovoked massacres and forced dislocations of Indigenous Americans, Dunbar-Ortiz provides detailed background on numerous other US wars commonly omitted from textbooks. For example the two Barbary Wars (1801-05 and 1815-16). In 1801 President Thomas Jefferson dispatched the Marines to invade Tripoli* (Libya) because their ruler was exacting fees from US merchant ships that entered their territorial waters.

Between 1798-1827, the US engaged in 21 other foreign military interventions, including Cuba, Latin America and Greece. Between 1831-1896, they engaged in 71 overseas interventions on all continents except Antarctica. Between 1898 and 1919, they engaged in forty overseas military interventions.

I particularly enjoyed the section about the US war on Mexico (which abolished slavery on gaining independence in 1821) and the US desire to extend the slave-plantation system westward. Following the US-Mexico War (1846-1848), the US annexed half of Mexico, which would become the states of Texas, California, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and Colorado. Violent conflict over whether these new states would be free or slave states would ultimately trigger the Civil War.


*This is the origin of the first line of the Marine hymn: “From the halls of Montezuma (referring to the US invasion of Mexico) to the shores of Tripoli.”