Wilpert; Australia Day and Movie World; Laor, Haiti, AJDS, Jewish News, Galus Australis

Wilpert on Chavez

Firstly, I wish to endorse Gregory Wilpert’s book on Chavez, Changing Venezuela by Taking Power. It very carefully and seriously looks at Chavez’s policies until 2006, with illuminating discussion of historical background. It is obviously a much better book, and a better left wing guide to Venezuela, than Tariq Ali’s hollow Pirates of the Carribean. For my part, I think Wilpert’s study essentially shows much that I had already suspected. Chavez’s policies have been rather moderate, and in my view have not come near to matching his extravagant rhetoric. For me, I personally have been unable to speak in even fake enthusiastic terms about Chavez since looking into the issue of illiteracy in Venezuela – or should I say, his alleged eradication of it, which has proven to be unsubstantiated. Whether or not his literacy programs are desirable, I consider it inexcusable for a government to lie about such a thing. Pretending to help out the workers is not the same as actually doing so. There are various positive measures in Venezuela. Among these should be included the food programs, elimination of poverty (even if it tracked economic growth from oil, which has actually been disputed elsewhere, this obviously isn’t a common feature of economic growth in comparable countries), and the attempts to create a participatory democracy. The problem is Chavez has also created very strong presidential powers, and has closely tied himself to every reform measure. Rather than creating or empowering a movement, he is leading people. This is not the way to 21st century socialism. There are lots of other issues in Venezuela worth discussing. But I think a lot of people on the left in Australia are under illusions about the Chavez government. Wilpert’s book is possibly the best eye opener on what is really happening there. And considering his website Venezuelanalysis is very popular among the Trotskyists here who worship Chavez, I think he should be considered carefully.

Australia Day and Movie World

okay, if that works, you should see two of the Australian chauvinism t shirts that were on sale not so far from where I was staying in the Gold Coast. They were worn by at least half a dozen people I saw around in SP, and I’ve seen someone wearing one of those t-shirts today in Bondi Junction. It’s revolting – and it’s completely fake. There’s nothing that makes these people with Aryan features more Australian than anyone else living here. I’ve been complaining to practically everyone I know for the last week about nationalism and patriotism, so I won’t dwell on it too much here. Thankfully, on Australia Day, I saw Avatar, which I should write about here too when I have more time, and avoided crowds of idiots.

However, because I’m white, I’ve felt less personally threatened by these racist idiots. But I think I was a bit shaken by the ease of transfer of prejudices. I went to Movie World. They had a stunt show which seemed to me based around vulgar anti-Semitic stereotyping. The hammy bad guy who makes life difficult for the directors of the stunt show is … Goldstein. Goldstein is the boss obsessed with money. Oh, and then there’s the bumbling Marty, who on his first day almost ruins everything. Then at the end, we learn he’s related to Goldstein – presumably why he got the job. I was amazed that such a thing could be publicly performed, that Movie World of all places could get away with such stereotyping, that however many people who saw it before me had regarded it as unobjectionable. Just now I wrote a message of complaint to Movie World – we’ll see how they reply. To me, it was just a message that anti-Semitism too is not so far from the big stage.

Israel and Palestine stuff

Firstly, I waited a long time for Yitzhak Laor’s book, and got it as soon as I could. It was a very disappointing book. It was badly written, contained nothing new on the Israelis he loves to pick on, and had a surprising amount of waffle for such a tiny book. I do not recommend it. Read his essay, Did you two squabble? That’s Laor at his best.

Meanwhile, there’s been all sorts of fuss about Israel’s propaganda mission to Haiti. Why is this a big deal? Because it’s obviously propaganda, we keep hearing about how wonderful Israel is, and why don’t people say how great Israel is? The whole thing is a farce. Firstly, if Israel wanted to help the starving and desperate, it could start by letting food and repairs to the water supply into Gaza. Secondly, no one would talk about it at all if the Israeli government and its fawning servants internationally didn’t constantly raise it. Even Bradley Burston, who can think independently sometimes, fell over himself to attack those who responded with the appropriate cynicism to Israel’s aid efforts. So put aside the article in Electronic Intifada. Take what happened. Israel sent armed officers to Haiti. This is not the most urgent and pressing need in Haiti – those who have been following the cynicism of US foreign aid and its actual effects on Haitians should not be surprised this was Israel’s agenda. Yet to single this Israeli effort out as flowing from some halo-like nobility verges on the childish.

Larry Stillman at the AJDS, however, went to the effort to complain that Saudi Arabia’s help was less than Israel. Yes: perhaps he hasn’t noticed that the only people who seem to think highly of Saudi Arabia are on the AIJAC payroll. Of course, Israel has already left Haiti. Presumably, this is because the crisis there is now over. It’s not because they’ve had their photo op. Netanyahu couldn’t even make it to Copenhagen. But I’ll put that aside too. Note in the YNet article Israel is thanked… by Colombians. Presumably, the propaganda was for US sake – choosing one of the last American puppets in Latin America (who have a terrible human rights record) to thank them is almost funny. Why couldn’t they find a Haitian to thank them? I’m not saying Israel shouldn’t have sent aid (but it shouldn’t have sent soldiers). I’m saying people should not believe its from any more noble reason than pretty much any other aid given, except Israel’s aid is particularly cynical, and credit given to it is particularly remarkable given the plight of Gazans.

I would also like to add that credit should be given to AJDS for strongly opposing the siege on Gaza. They oppose the “collective punishment” of Gaza. Good. The only thing I have reservations about is talking about Australia’s experience as a peace maker, citing East Timor. After decades of supporting the occupation there, we really don’t warrant such a title. In the midst of occupying Afghanistan (and perhaps quietly Iraq too), it’s ridiculous.

Funnily enough, Stillman links to a very good article on Israel’s aid to Haiti, based largely around an article translated from Yediot Ahronot by… Sol Salbe. If he’s reading this  – he sent me an email ages ago about whether I’d like to join his emailing list. I said yes and never heard from him again – what’s that about?

Also, I enjoyed reading this silly article about Jewish leftists. It claims that the Left insists that Jews are European. He then declares: no, we should be able to define ourselves. Okay, firstly this is ridiculous. Secondly, I do define myself as a Jew of European background. My parents are white, so am I. The author claims that Leftists say Jews “falsely pretend to be descended from the ancient Judeans, Israelites and Hebrews, whose connection to the land of Israel is merely a post-Holocaust and Western colonial phenomenon.” Isn’t it funny when people throw tantrums at imaginary enemies? But then, remember all those eminent signatories to a letter against the boycott which made basic factual errors. Of course, Mr Forbes is very impressed by Mahmoud Abbas. No surprises there. In an article which rails against Ahmadinejad’s human rights violations and Holocaust Denial, this isn’t felt to be inconsistent. But then, he also rails against Iran’s imaginary threats against Israel, oblivious to the routine threats issued by Israel to Iran (and for that matter, to Palestinians and Lebanon too). And in that case, Israel actually might bomb Iran (in that it has the capacity to do so), and it pressures the US to do so too.

Interestingly, this week’s Jewish News (29/01/10) has a poll. 55% of Jews say Yom Haatzmaut means more to them than Australia Day. I don’t celebrate either day, but this at least explains why I was spared Australian patriotism growing up, for which I’m thankful. In the vox pop, everyone said YH.

In the op eds, Mendes shows how left wing he is by opposing Tony Abbot, and offering a pious hope that Australian Jews will too. The quotes below his article are more interesting. Under the headlines as follows, it says

Indigenous Australia

“The gap between Aborigines’ and other Australians’ life expectancy is more the result of different lifestyles than different access to health services.”

Iraq

“Iraq will need substantial western help for some years to come, but, thanks to the surge, there’s now every chance that it will come to resemble Jordan or Egypt rather than Iran or Somalia.”

They’re both pretty disgraceful statements, and it is good AJN provides them (though one suspects the editors didn’t find them appalling). Yet the interesting thing is – Iraq will in some respects combine the theocracy of Iran with the instability of Somalia for a whiel. Yet Abbot’s support for repressive dictatorships really says enough about his foreign policy views.

Next is James Kennard, who was very proud at his son having a gun in the Israeli army. He says he reads the Economist (which is surprising, because often its coverage of Israel/Palestine is pretty good). He is strongly opposed to US drone attacks in Pakistan. “The intended victims are not even terrorists, but “suspects” who have never been tried in court. And the number of civilians slaughtered in these attacks is “unknown” because a journalist has not bothered to find out.” Kennard claims the “world stands by. Not a whimper of protest”. Apparently he hasn’t noticed the opposition to this (eg Scahill, Chomsky, Tariq Ali etc)  comes from the left – not to mention the Pakistani public. Not to brag, but I’m also on the record opposing these attacks. Yet Kennard cites double standards, forgetting that these crimes are exactly what Israel has done for years in targeted assassinations – if he were consistent, he would oppose these crimes, whether carried out by the US or Israel.

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Comments
5 Responses to “Wilpert; Australia Day and Movie World; Laor, Haiti, AJDS, Jewish News, Galus Australis”
  1. Thanks for linking to my article about Israel’s Haiti relief effort & for saying such kind things about it. I admire yr voice & am glad to find your blog.

    So few people in the world even know who Yitzhak Laor is!

  2. michaelbrull says:

    Thanks for the kind words.

  3. Henry Herzog says:

    Mr. Brull, or is it professor, how far have you got your head buried in the sand, or else where, to possibly think that Israel does not need an army to make that remark about Rabbi Kennard’s son (and it’s rabbi to you, although I am sure if he was an imam, you would address him by same). Unless, of course, you think, that Israel should be wiped off the map.

  4. Absolutely awsome post! great post to bookmark, thank you!

  5. J Kennard says:

    Sorry if my article was unclear. I was not opposing Obama’s attacks on terrorists; I was trying to say that if the mainstream (i.e. anyone to the right of Chomsky and Ali) governments and opinion formers seem unperturbed then they should apply the same standard to Israel’s actions against terrorism.

    And why is it surprising that I read the Economist (every week, “religiously” actually). I presume it’s some sort of cheap insult, but I don’t quite get it.

    Best wishes

    (Rabbi) James Kennard

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