By Andy Hilton
Boycotters are back
It looks as if the “boycott Israel" crowd have recovered sufficiently from their defeat in the Association of University Teachers (AUT) to come back for another stab. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine are bringing Dr Nabeel Kassis, president of Birzeit University in the West Bank, to speak in Britain on the case for a boycott of Israeli universities. The tour comprises three meetings, at Sussex, LSE and Birmingham, between the 23 and 25 of October.
None of these meetings is sponsored by a branch of the other further and higher education union, NATFHE. But it’s NATFHE where a renewed boycott campaign will probably focus its energies. Time for principled socialists, who support Palestinian liberation and academic freedom but oppose demonising Israel, to get mobilised…
Bob Pitt watch
Former Workers Revolutionary Party member and now editor of What Next, Bob Pitt, is a very industrious bloke. He single-handedly runs a website called “Islamophobia Watch” in which he pours vituperative criticism, mainly on people of a Muslim background who dare to criticise their religion of birth or its cultural practises.
The spectacle of a white, middle-aged, middle-class male denouncing Muslims and ex-Muslims (many of them women) who speak out against homophobia and misogyny inside the Muslim community as “racists” is very bizarre.
Pitt reached a new low recently when he began linking to articles from the Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC). On the MPAC web-forums, senior moderators (and therefore presumably people who are relatively prominent within MPAC itself) did nothing to stop — and in fact joined in with — a discussion about the appropriate method for killing gay rights activist Peter Tatchell. And these are the forces Pitt backs against socialists from the Muslim world.
Bob’s recent achievements also include backing the Iranian ruling-class in its homophobic execution of two gay youths, supporting right-wing clerics in Canada in their attempts to get religious law officially incorporated into the legal system in Muslim communities and defending as “progressive” the ultra-rich and ultra-right wing cleric Yusuf Al-Qaradawi.
Bob thinks he is defending the Muslim community against racism. In reality, all he is doing is defending the bourgeoisie and its ideas within the Muslim community against working-class militants. There’s a name for people who do that…
Viva Maryam Namazie
One of Pitt’s favourite targets is Maryam Namazie of the Worker-communist Party of Iran, who was recently awarded the National Secular Society’s “Secularist of the Year” award. The NSS are not socialists but they’re definitely on the right side against the type of people who tried to have Jerry Springer The Opera axed or those who successfully shut down the play Bezhti in Birmingham.
They also understand that opposing anti-Muslim racism doesn’t mean defending religious ideas or lining up with the most reactionary elements within the Muslim community and Muslim world. Which is presumably why they’ve given Maryam their award. Naturally, Bob was outraged. But (or rather therefore‚) Looking Left is pretty pleased. Congratulations, comrade!
Charity, not solidarity!
Our pals over at Weekly Worker have helpfully brought to our attention another step on the SWP’s journey to becoming irredeemable middle-class liberals. In the wake of the Pakistani earthquake, those on the left with a clue about class called for donations to working-class activists and socialists in Pakistan.
We know that aid given through big NGOs can often find its way into the hands of bureaucrats and government functionaries, but aid given directly to grassroots campaigners will be distributed and used democratically and under workers‚ control. The SWP, sadly, doesn’t share this perspective, and has been out collecting for Islamic Relief, which is essentially the Muslim equivalent of Christian Aid (i.e. a big, bourgeois charity with lots of religious strings attached).
According to WW, SWP member and Respect councillor Michael Lavalette has called an emergency meeting with local mosques and “leaders from the Pakistani community” to discuss what Respect can do to aid the relief effort in Pakistan, Kashmir, India and Afghanistan.
The SWP’s perspective is clear: not solidarity with Pakistan’s workers‚ movement and revolutionary socialists, but philanthropy channelled through the (right-wing, bourgeois) “community leadership.”
In the latest issue of Socialist Worker, there’s an article by Loretta Napoleoni, author of a new book on the life of Musab al-Zarqawi. Napoleoni has written extensively in the past, in not very approving terms, about jihadi terror organisaitons. But this is not a a good article.
Maybe someone in the SWP subbing department got to squeeze out any subtlety in Napoleoni’s article, but this amounts to a largely uncritical account of the life of Musab Al-Zarqawi, the top dog in al Queda in Iraq. “Al-Zarqawi is the ultimate product of al Qaedism, the new anti-imperialist ideology which has risen from the ashes of al Qaeda.”
It goes on: “Al-Zarqawi’s journey to becoming an international leader of terror took place in prison. Torture and solitary confinement boosted his determination to challenge authority.”
It may be true that Al Zarqawi was tortured in prison, but what conclusion does Napoleoni draw from this? That Al Zarqawi is not responsible for his actions?
At the end the article is more honest: “Right from the beginning he was determined to drive a wedge between Sunnis and Shias to prevent them from uniting in a national front. At the same time he became fully committed to the fight against the US. Thus his struggle was conducted from the beginning on two fronts — one against the Shia and one against coalition forces.”
For Socialist Worker at least (we don’t know about Napoleoni) the tough question that flows from this is neither asked nor answered: how can someone whose explicit aim is sectarian warfare against a majority community possibly build a movement of national liberation that unites Iraqis across sectarian lines?
The real myth is the idea that “anti-imperialists” who only oppose imperialism in the name of theocracy, clerical-fascism and racist religious sectarianism can bring anything but further misery and chaos to the people of Iraq.