Moshé Machover’s condescending comments that I do not understand the points he makes are without foundation and patronising (Letters, June 27). Difficult as Moshé may find it to accept, we have political differences over such questions as a Hebrew or Israeli nation, Israeli nationality and indeed what constitutes a nation.
I am well aware of what the common understanding of nationality is. It is the legal relationship of a citizen to a state or a nation, because in many cases these are coterminous. The Oxford Dictionary defines nationality as “the legal right of belonging to a particular nation”. There are other definitions, but none of them clear up what in essence are political questions.
The problem with what Moshé says is that he ignores the unique nature of the Israeli state and thus its definition of nationality and indeed nationhood. In France someone is a French national merely by living in the state and thus acquiring French nationality. Nationality and nationhood are territorial concepts. The same is true in Britain. Up to 1981 mere birth in Britain meant one was a British national. Thus one became British by nationality. Today that is still the case in the United States, although Trump is doing his best to change that right.
This is not the case in Israel, because there is no Israeli nation. Although there is a single Israeli citizenship, it does not define the nature of the relationship of the individual to the state or even one’s right and status in Israel. Citizenship for Jews and Arabs is not, except in a formal legal sense, the same. For example, except in the case of Russian Jewish citizens, whose Jewishness is challenged (and thus their right to remain), it is almost wholly Arab citizens of Israel who have lost their citizenship or whose citizenship is circumscribed.
For example, the Israeli news outlet Ynet in February 2017 published an article headlined “Thousands of Arab-Israelis to have citizenship revoked”. Why? Because “citizenship was granted by mistake or to those that registered ‘erroneously’ between 1948 and 1951”. Similarly in 2003 in a law that was supposed to be temporary, but has been continually renewed ever since, Israel’s Arab citizens cannot marry a Palestinian and continue to live in Israel. Theoretically this applies to Jews as well, but in practice it discriminates solely against Arabs. In 2008 this was extended to marriage to a citizen of an “enemy” state: ie, an Arab state. This impinges almost exclusively on Israel’s Arab citizens. By virtue of their belonging to different ‘nations’ - because nationhood in Israel is defined in terms of ethnicity - the nature of their citizenship is also different.
Thus all sorts of rights and entitlements, from education and land to the right to be free from harassment when entering and leaving the state, depend on whether or not one is a member of the Jewish ‘nation’. Thus Israeli citizenship is multi-layered and dependent on ethnicity.
Moshé asserts that there is an Israeli nationality. Fine. Perhaps he can tell me the name of the nationality law then? I cannot find it. There are the British Nationality Acts 1948 and 1981. There is an Israeli 1952 Citizenship Law and, of course, the 2018 Jewish Nation-State Law. Wikipedia states under ‘Is Israeli a nationality?’ that “Domestic Israeli law does not recognise an Israeli nationality. Citizens are registered along mostly ethnic affiliations, the main ones being Jewish, Arab, Druze and Circassian.” And that is the problem. There is no uniform Israeli nationality, because there is no uniform citizenship. That is what an apartheid state means.
Moshé’s assertion that the American nation had been formed by the end of the 18th century is interesting. Did it include the black slaves or was it just the white settlers? The native Americans? Clearly and obviously being an active settler-colonial state impinges on nationhood in terms of the indigenous population. However, with the elapse of time then, of course, these things have changed.
Moshé asks if there are any non-artificial states? Yes, I would say much of Europe, Britain included, are natural, organic states, which have formed with the accretion of time and national revolutions. I put the question of Ireland to one side.
Moshé may shout ‘nonsense’. However, it is a fact that what binds Israeli Jews together is precisely their antagonism to the Arabs. Despite being unable to agree whether they are Israeli or Jewish first - ie, whether they are defined by territory or ethnicity - they are able to agree that there is an Israeli Jewish national collective. If that is not artificial, then words have lost their meaning. Ethnic ‘nations’ are by definition artificial political and racist constructs.
Moshé ascribes the belief that Israeli Jews are part of a wider Jewish people as being on account of “the Israeli people hav[ing] been indoctrinated after the establishment of Israel”. I disagree. It is completely unMarxist. The belief that Israeli Jews have more in common with Jews outside Israel than with Arab citizens of Israel is not a product of indoctrination, but of very clear material advantage and privilege. Racism is not simply in people’s head. Zionist ideology rationalises the racial supremacy that is an inherent part of how the Israeli state was formed and operated.
According to Ariel Picard’s Op Ed for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, written in respect of the Jewish Nation-State Law, “The effect of this measure is to humiliate non-Jewish citizens of Israel, especially its Arab citizens. If it passes and remains on the books, Israeli Arabs will be told that they may be citizens, but will be reminded every day that they are not part of the nation.”
This is clearly referring to Israeli nationality, since obviously Arabs are not members of the Jewish nation. In other words, there is no overarching Israeli nationality. Yes, like many people Ariel confuses nationality and nation and that is because for most people there is a common thread linking the two, which Moshé, relying on an arid international definition of what goes into a passport, refuses to recognise.
Thus Ariel writes: “Jews in America will never be able to understand what that [the Jewish Nation-State Law] means, because, for them, being American is being a citizen and a part of the nation.” This is precisely the point that Moshé refuses to recognise. In most states there is a common nationhood - British, American, etc. In Israel there is no such nationhood and that is why there is no Israeli nationality.
Moshé’s problem is that he refuses to recognise any connection between nationality and nation. This is, however, contrary to all normal understanding. If we accept the legal definition of nationality as the relationship between a person and the state, then we have to say that as a result of Zionism that relationship differs, depending on whether one is an Arab or a Jew, regardless of a theoretically common citizenship.
I would caution Jim Cook that, although I do many things, impressions aren’t one of them, so it’s ill advised to take any guidance from them - ha ha! (Letters, June 27). He is right though - I do not think ‘climate change’ is caused by humanity.
If the age of the Earth was 12 hours, then we got here at one minute to 12. In the hours before we came the Earth went through changes in climate and composition so dramatic and fundamental they were almost beyond our comprehension. From a ball of poisonous gas and molten minerals and metals, to a frozen ball miles deep in ice sealed for millions of years. The oceans have come and gone, vast seas have become deserts, ice-covered seas and land become ice caps - then they melt and temperatures rise, and the whole process begins again. Change stimulates further action and reaction: seas rise and fall, land mass move, regroup and reposition.
Jack Conrad’s excellent series on romantic deep green theories illustrates the way in which the allegedly benign primitive hunter-gatherer societies also brought extinction to species - in all probability the mammoth and sabre-tooth lion included. But the point to be made is that 90% of all species of life forms which have ever existed on the planet were already extinct before we got here - almost always due to climate change of one sort of another. Evolution is inseparably bound to climate change: it is hard-wired into the planet, just as ‘galactical’ climate change is into the universe.
I’m sorry, Jim, but god didn’t make the Earth perfect for us, so changes which occur on it, which threaten us and make life difficult or damn near impossible, are not simply due to us spoiling his perfect creation - the Earth and climate change will happen with or without us. Biased and sponsored though many ‘climate change’ scientists are, none of them think climate change per se is down to us - the 50% attribution of ‘blame’ is a figure I took from them.
There is no question that climate change is impacting upon humanity: nobody denies that. The melting caps and glaciers, of course, will have an impact, but it’s not personal - the ice age is over and that is why they are melting. I’ve never understood this absurd apparent revelation that they are melting faster now than they ever have. If the total volume of ice is melting, as the area of ice remaining reduces, so the overall area of non-ice increases and the overall non-frozen volume increases, thus speeding up the process. Do a little experiment with ice from your fridge: see how long it takes for the ice to start to melt, then the period when it is melting , you will see, as it gets smaller, the speed of melt increases, as the cold area decreases. Simple!
The forests will continue to be decimated and unfettered coal-power CO2 pumped into the atmosphere until third-world developing countries are given a leg-up by the rich ‘first world’. Brazil has recently abandoned all pretence of preserving the forests upon which so much depends worldwide - areas the size of three football pitches are being destroyed every second. The Brazilian government demands the right to develop and bring the country up to the living standards and expectations of the west, and why not?
The only way to do that short of a revolution across the world (before it is too late to save, because like the ice, as the volume of destruction increases, the chance of survival for the forest sharply declines) is for the west to buy the atmospheric production of the forests, its carbon capture and oxygen production, in the way it would buy the felled wood or minerals. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) systems to trap CO2 from coal power stations can within a short period virtually eliminate the anti-social aspect of coal power and allow India, or China and other coal-dependent nations to continue to develop without costing the earth. But they need to be pushed in that direction. This is far more practical and applicable than the ‘Stop the earth - I want to get off’ chorus of the ‘Leave it in the ground’ greens.
Needless to say, humanity greatly contributes to climate change - we dominate the planet in an unprecedented way, with billions of us in every corner of the globe. Just by being here we will contribute to climate change. Some things we do are more destructive than others, and we can adapt and adjust drastically what we do, without returning to the caves and staying at home. Indeed it will be our science and our technology and, dare I say, our industry which will allow us to do that.
I do not think radical change like global CCS, stopping deforestation, going vegan or more vegan, ending plastic and substance pollution, etc, necessitates a global communist revolution first. Capitalism is quite capable of doing these things without moving its prime objective of making profits and dictating its aims and ‘values’ on humanity. After all, Greggs, KFC, Burger King, Subway, Pizza Hut, etc did not suddenly cave into vegan options because the red army was at their door - only customers with money in their hot little vegan hands.
I do not think Jim and I really disagree about the direction we want humankind to take or who is the obstacle to that path. I do disagree, however, that the Earth only has a few years before we all kick our clogs because of ‘climate extinction’.
Not a denier
I have read with interest the opinions of David Douglass (Letters, June 20) and the response from Jim Cook (June 27).
I am not a climate denier - clearly animal extinction is a present reality and temperatures are increasing, etc. But I do wonder if politically speaking we should act like we are climate deniers. Why do I say this? Science is apparently telling us that the world faces imminent disaster if humanity does not seriously change its ways - we are daily bombarded with the message from all quarters. Here is my first issue - humanity, in the face of this existential crisis, is not changing its ways! In fact let me go further. Governments around the world are in fact making the problem worse and lying with statistics.
Let me give a few examples. The UK government want to expand Heathrow - yes, at a time when we face impending doom they want to increase air travel! The number of bus routes in the UK is being slashed - yes, at the moment in history when buses are most needed, the government decides this is a good time to slash them! And at the same time it introduces incentives for people to buy cars! Incidentally, no-one will persuade me that under capitalism it is impossible to increase bus routes.
And they lie with statistics: they claim the UK will be the first carbon-neutral nation on Earth - who are they trying to fool? - pretending all the production in the underdeveloped world for western consumers is their carbon footprint and not ours! Seriously who plays with statistics like this when there is a so-called emergency?
If there is an impending catastrophe, governments are not acting like there is one - and, when they do act, it is in a suspicious way: ie, it ends up with us losing our freedoms or we get hit in the pocket. At the moment the climate crisis just looks like an excuse to control and dispossess us.
This lastly brings me onto the scientists. When are they going to stop forecasting and actually do something? If they believe in their own science, why have they not got more radical? Where is the group of scientists carrying out terrorist actions, or the scientists threatening to jump off buildings if governments don’t act now, or the scientists hijacking planes in the name of the environment?
And please spare me all the guff about how capitalism compels these people to behave in this way.
I am petitioning Edinburgh council to twin with Gaza City. This is a formal process and, as soon as 200 Edinburgh residents have signed, the council must discuss the proposal. Dundee is twinned with Nablus and Glasgow with Bethlehem. It is only appropriate that Edinburgh twins with a city of Palestine. Since Arthur Balfour was key to creating modern Israel, and he hailed from nearby East Lothian, Edinburgh is an appropriate choice for beginning to address historical wrongs to the Palestinians. The Council petition details are at www.tinyurl.com/gazatwinregister.
Moyle district council in Ulster twinned with Gaza in 2012 and helped with tourism, sport, football, healthcare, women’s issues, library management, parks improvement, sewage processing and education. Due to reorganisation, Moyle Council no longer exists. But if this is what Moyle can do with a population of 17,000, what could Edinburgh offer, with a population of half a million?
So, what we need to make this happen is a lot of press and publicity. To help spread awareness of the petition we are holding a charity event in Princes Street Gardens - a ‘Gig for Gaza’. Citizens who seek to support the twinning idea can either sign online or on paper, so we hope to collect many signatures at the event, which takes place on July 12. More details at www.tinyurl.com/gigforgaza.
The Gig for Gaza is brought to you through volunteers from Edinburgh and Glasgow in both the Scottish National Party and Labour and is backed by Labour Against Zionist Islamophobic Racism. (You can join LAZIR at www.tinyurl.com/laziwork - we are now allowing those who are not in Labour to become associate members.)
If you want to show support, please come to Edinburgh that weekend and join us. It is a free event, but we’ll be collecting for Medical Aid for Palestine and the Hear for Gaza charity for deaf children.
The line-up will include Syrian guitarist Ayman Jarjour and we will be showing the award-winning film Three-minute warning about “roof-knocking” - what Israeli bombs mean to a Gaza family. The compere will be Fran Whitton (aka Frankie Gallacher of Stand Comedy Club fame). We will also be featuring new work for auction by established Scottish painters, such as Alasdair Gray, Carole Gibbons and Douglas G McKechnie.
It would be helpful for the people of Palestine if Weekly Worker readers could also seek to get their cities twinned with Palestinian ones. It gives Palestinians great succour to know that they have support in the UK and there are many practical advantages in terms of civic support. I also believe this is an effective way to help protect them from incursions and attacks from Israeli settlers, you can start the process either by using your own council petitioning process or by getting your local Constituency Labour Party to pass a motion in support and calling upon your council Labour Group to act.
Left for Corbyn
Following the tweet from Jon Lansman, owner of Momentum, on June 27 hundreds of Momentum members have resigned, unable to allow themselves to be further misrepresented by a man who now spends most of his time attacking campaigning socialists like Chris Williamson and calling for his and other socialists’ expulsion from the Labour Party.
Some comrades have suggested the Corbyn project is now faltering, but this is the exact opposite of what is occurring. In fact, as the prospect of a general election becomes closer, the determined efforts of the Tories, the neoliberal media establishment and the Parliamentary Labour Party to attack Jeremy intensify. It is probably better to know now what Jon Lansman really thinks than to entrust him with further money and influence.
I have been heartened by the huge level of response from across Britain to the call for local Corbyn groups (many of whom have never called themselves Momentum groups, while others have remained independent of Momentum HQ) to work together to support Jeremy. Groups calling themselves Grassroots Left, Red Labour, X for Corbyn, as well as a couple of Labour Representation Committee branches, have seen the need to network and help build Corbyn support in all areas.
We will win
As Karl Marx famously wrote, “Sometimes the revolution needs the whip of counterrevolution first.”
This applies to the reaction of my Facebook friends to the re-suspension of Chris Williamson. They are up in arms about it. So, where appropriate, I’ve been posting links to the Weekly Worker article, ‘Let’s get trigger-happy’ (June 27). The response so far has been overwhelmingly positive.
The outcome of the civil war in the Labour Party is too early to predict. But, whatever it is, I think that communists should take the fight against the witch-hunt as far as it will go. If Tom Watson leads a breakaway Blairite parliamentary grouping and captures the so-called ‘Short money’ (worth, I gather, at least £5 million a year), so be it. Who gets to use the name ‘Labour Party’ on ballot papers will most likely be fought out in the courts.
Whatever happens, either the left will take control of the Labour Party or a new leftwing party with tens of thousands of members will be born. Either way, communists will win.
Although I feel some dialogue maybe necessary with the minions of nationalist groups - ie, pointing out they are wrong - I do not feel it appropriate to have discussions with the likes of Charles Hoare of the English Democrats, just because he is one of the few Nazis able to write (Letters, June 27).
This particular group is led by one Richard Tillbrook, who idiotically wrote back in 2017 a particularly vile racist and childish piece in his blog about the horrendous fire at Grenfell, in which he blames the residents because they weren’t English!
This article alone proves we must no-platform the English Demotwats.
Kent Socialist Alliance