Monthly Archives: March 2009

Israel’s Apartheid Anxiety

Israel fears being targeted by a grassroots boycott movement of the type that was so effective in pressuring South Africa to end apartheid

In a remarkable interview last November, the Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert cautioned that unless it could achieve a two-state solution quickly, Israel would “face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights, and as soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished”. The reason, he said, was that Israel would be internationally isolated. “The Jewish organisations, which are our power base in America, will be the first to come out against us because they will say they cannot support a state that does not support democracy and equal voting rights for all its residents.”

Jewish communities in western countries have long been Israel’s trump card against international pressure, because they mobilise support for Israel and restrain critics by painting opposition to Israel’s policies as motivated by hostility to Jews – a toxic accusation in a world still sensitive to the horrors of the Holocaust. But what was palpable during the Gaza conflict was the diminished enthusiasm of young Jewish people abroad for Israeli militarism, and the increasing willingness of many to openly challenge Israel.

This change is personified by Jon Stewart, the Jewish-American comic whose Daily Show is the premier vehicle of contemporary American political satire. Stewart mercilessly mocked American politicians for their slavish echoing of the Israeli narrative during the Gaza conflict. “It’s the Möbius strip of issues,” he sarcastically enthused. “There’s only one side!” Clearly, the younger, hipper Jewish liberal mainstream exemplified by Stewart intends to judge Israel on the basis of its actions, rather than express morally blind ethnic solidarity. Continue reading

Posted in Situation Report, Unholy War | 75 Comments

Bet on a Pakistan Coup

When the head of the military warns the government to behave, you know what’s coming next. Particularly when the general appears to have Washington’s blessing Continue reading

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Evans: Confessions of a Teenage Marxist

Guest Column: Gavin Evans As the world lurches into an economic and social crisis that threatens the political stability of the the current global order, I can’t help thinking how I might have relished this moment in my misguided youth, when I imagined that capitalism, with its inherent injustices, was riddled with structural contradictions that would cause its collapse in the face of the triumphant march of the organized working class, the midwife of a new world order of rationality, equality and human progress and dignity. Like most of my peers, I outgrew the Marxist shibboleths of my youth in the last few years of my activist career in South Africa — the end of apartheid, which allowed for a revolutionary remaking of South African society, coincided with the end of the Cold War and the triumph of capitalist globalization. It would have taken epic leaps of fanatical faith to imagine that a centrally-planned command economy represented a viable alternative model; it’s failures were palpable and inescapable. So many of us quietly (sometimes noisily) renounced the illusions of our youth, embracing the sort of reformist social democratic outlook we had once despised with post-adolescent venom.

Still, even then, I never doubted for a moment that while we had been wrong about socialism, we had not been entirely wrong about capitalism: it could raise many people out of poverty and develop spectacular productive capacity where none had existed before, its creativity and ability to innovate were breathtaking, and, of course, it was the only game in town. And yet it also reinforced and deepened social inequality, and its free market was never going to take care of the basic needs of majority in society. The market was not going to feed and house the poor or provide the education and health systems that made for a stable society. Unregulated, capitalism was also prone to lurch from boom to bust, not least because of its fundamental inequalities. Capitalism was, to borrow from Churchill, the worst form of economic system except for all the others that had been tried.

With capitalism having once again revealed its flaws in the spectacular global financial meltdown of the past six months, and the Depression into which it appears to have plunged, I asked my good friend Gavin Evans, who recently lost his own web site to a technological glitch, to reflect on his own political and intellectual journey through Marxism, in light of the, uh, current crisis. (I haven’t used that phrase in about two decades…)

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Posted in Guest Columns, Situation Report | Tagged , , | 46 Comments