Taking my seat to see ‘The Riots’ at the Tricycle Theatre on Saturday night, I was a bit trepidatious; it’s only been a few months since the riots after all. But having seen some wonderful political theatre at the Tricycle before, including their series on Afghanistan (‘The Great Game’), ‘Deep Cut’ about the mysterious and unanswered deaths of four young soldiers, and their ‘Women, Power and Politics’ season, I put my trust in their hands.
‘The Riots’ is a verbatim play. This is where the writer interviews people involved with the subject matter and uses their words verbatim in creating a script. The actors try to mimic the person they are representing. Verbatim plays can vary quite a lot, however. Some have a proper narrative crafted out of the material; others like ‘The Riots’ are more like a documentary.
In the first half of the play, we hear about what actually happened in Tottenham that night, with reports from a youth worker, a member of the Broadwater Farm Defence Campaign, members of the police, and a few rioters. It’s a great insight into how the riots kicked off, especially the news that the police basically did nothing to intervene at the very beginning of the disturbances, when they could have prevented it escalating. There are some hilarious testimonies about the looters too, including how they went into MacDonalds and started cooking!
The second half of the play is analysis. We hear from MPs, residents and the left’s best friend Owen Jones. If you followed the riots coverage assiduously you’re probably not going to hear anything new. What I found really interesting, however, was the way the material was cut together. On the one hand, you had Diane Abbott arguing that youth service provision needs to be ring-fenced; on the other, Michael Gove thinks that what inner-city kids need are the scouts and cadets. He couldn’t possibly look more out-of-touch - a stroke of genius! There was fascinating input from a Hackney resident, describing the clean-up operation as an invasion by white people with new brooms. And the court cases are interspersed throughout, displaying the harrowing human reality of draconian sentencing. The first half of the play came across very balanced, in the second half, however, the play’s politics truly reveal themselves; it would be interesting to know if this was due to the writer’s predilections or something that occurred through the interviewing and writing process.
I doubt this play will live on in theatre history. It has its flaws: I would have liked to have heard more from the rioters themselves and to have had more women’s views (especially in Act One). But as a document of a particular moment in time it is definitely worth seeing. I would highly recommend it.
All of the interviewees were asked for three words to describe the rioters. Surprisingly, across the political and cultural divide there was a lot of overlap. Frustrated, angry, lost and opportunist came up time and again. The last word, however, went to a man who lost his home above Carpet Right in Tottenham. His take on the rioters? ‘Just angry people.’
Passionate about music and politics? NLP are looking for contributions to a piece on political music - we are asking readers to write 5 - 600 words on a favourite band/singer or album. If you would like to see your comments posted on NLP please send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with "Rebel Music" in the subject field. If we like your piece we will post it alongside others that currently include Norman Finkelstein on Paul Robeson and Alex Billet on The Clash's 'Sandanista' album. We'll leave it up to you to as to what you define as political - if you want to tease out the Gramscian subtext of Sade's oeuvre you're more than welcome, ruminations on more usual suspects will also be gratefully received. Thanks
Following Hackgate and with the constant cuts being imposed on local media by huge corporate groups, we need to build new economic models for the media and build new forms of media - in print, broadcasting and online - that properly reflect the communities in which they're based.
This list, run by the National Union of Journalists, will discuss ideas such as co-operative ownership, community investment and other alternatives to major corporations or Russian multimillionaires owning and controlling the media.
The list will bring together journalists, interested activists and experts in alternative business models to help reclaim the media.
In 2008, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made the Palestinians an offer so reasonable and enlightened it made Ehud Barak's "generous offer" at Camp David look like the Treaty of Versailles. Bending over backwards to reach a peace settlement, Olmert offered the Palestinians a state on virtually all of the occupied territories. Alas, stubborn as always, Palestinian negotiators turned him down.
Much like Barak's mythical "generous offer", this account of Olmert's proposal has been widely repeated, conforming as it does to convenient narratives that place the burden for the continuing conflict on the Palestinians, and demonstrating for all to see that, as Abba Eban famously put it, when it comes to peace, the Arabs "never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity".
What did Olmert really offer? Thanks to the Palestine Papers – leaked internal Palestinian documents related to the 'peace process' – we don't need to speculate. Palestinian officials kept detailed minutes of meetings with Israeli and American officials to serve as an internal record of where negotiations had got to. In 2008 Olmert made two offers to the Palestinians. In April he proposed that Israel annex 9.2% of the West Bank in exchange for Israeli territory equivalent of 5% of the West Bank. Then on 31 August he offered the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas a landswap in which Israel would annex 8.7% of the West Bank in exchange for Israeli territory equivalent of 5.5%. This second 'offer' was not a formal one: Olmert would not allow it to be presented to the broader negotiation teams. The maps he presented were reportedly "similar to the Wall".
Already it is difficult to see what the fuss is about. Annexing nearly ten percent of the West Bank along roughly the route of the Wall violates basic Palestinian legal rights and renders a viable and contiguous Palestinian state impossible. But it's worse than the mere percentages suggest. The fundamental problem is that Olmert continued to insist on annexing "all the major [settlement] 'blocs'", keeping 90% of Israeli settlers in place. This is an important point to understand. The settlements themselves – the actual built-up areas – take up almost no space. The problem is that Israel wants to annex, not settlements, but settlement blocs: large chunks of Palestinian territory that link settlements to each other and to Israel proper, dissecting the West Bank into de facto non-contiguous cantons, appropriating key water and agricultural resources, and cutting Palestinians off from East Jerusalem in the process (without East Jerusalem, the West Bank's economic hub, there can be no Palestinian state). Note that this was still Israel's negotiating position in November 2008, after the "secret offer" made by Olmert and recently "revealed" by Condoleeza Rice (a mere two years after it appeared in Ha'aretz) to sell her memoirs.
If Olmert's deal was a non-starter, did the Palestinians offer an alternative? Yes. The Palestinians came up with an official offer that both upheld their legal rights and made reasonable compromises to accommodate Israeli interests. Here's what it looked like:
(Black areas to be annexed to Israel; orange areas to the future Palestinian state)
Note that under this proposal over 60% of Israeli settlers would remain in situ, on just 1.9% of Palestinian territory, which would be exchanged for land of equal size and value inside Israel. As the International Court of Justice unanimously determined, the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza constitute occupied Palestinian territory, and all of Israel's settlements are illegal. And yet, this notwithstanding, Palestinian negotiators offered to allow over 60% of them to stay where they are. That's a breathtaking compromise, but one that nonetheless leaves a contiguous West Bank intact to serve as the basis for a viable Palestinian state.
Unlike Olmert's slight modification of Israel's standard rejectionist position, this Palestinian proposal received no media plaudits, and garnered no international praise. Indeed it hasn't even been reported. Also unlike Olmert's 'offer', it represents the basis for a genuine peace settlement. It embodies the overwhelming international political and legal consensus for resolving the conflict, making extraordinary compromises to accommodate Israel's interests while still providing for a contiguous, viable state on the whole of Palestinian territory.
What does a peaceful settlement to the Israel-Palestine conflict look like? It looks like this Palestinian map. It remains for us pressure Israel to accept it.
Note: A big hat-tip to Norman Finkelstein for digging up the Palestinian offer and map discussed here, and elaborating its significance. See his forthcoming pamphlet on how to solve to Israel-Palestine conflict, co-written with Mouin Rabbani, for further discussion. I interviewed Norman about these and other issues on Friday - keep an eye out for it on NLP over the coming week.
"The individuals who linked arms and actively resisted, that in itself is an act of violence... I understand that many students may not think that, but linking arms in a human chain when ordered to step aside is not a nonviolent protest."
Got that? Linking arms is "violence", forcing riot-clad police to respond with batons in self-defence. But before you rush to condemn the students' brutality, consider the culture. Is it, after all, any wonder students aggressively hold hands when they've been raised on ultraviolent images like this:
Rebel leader Barney the Dinosaur with elite cadres
Comrades Tinky Winky, Laa-Laa, Dipsy and Po, perpetrating an adventurist terror attack against the tyranny of the Sun-baby.
Notorious violent preacher Martin Luther King, caught in the act
If we as a culture saturate our kids with these gory spectacles, can we really be surprised when they link arms to protect a space for protest and democratic deliberation, instead of joining a police force and learning how to swing batons at people's groins and kidneys?
There was a revealing discussion on the Today Programme this morning about the effective takeover of Greece and Italy by unelected bankers and bureaucrats. John Humphreys noted that:
The world of business… seems to have decided that the best thing that can happen is for politicians to get out of the way. It’s striking that we’ve had two businessmen on the programme this morning commenting on the Eurozone crisis and both of them have praised the technocratic takeover that has already happened in Greece and is likely to happen in Italy.
This observation was followed by a discussion between two right-wing figures (naturally), the Conservative backbencher Bill Cash and the PR executive Roland Rudd. Rudd, who is friends with Peter Mandelson and Robert Peston, is one of the most powerful figures in the PR and lobbying world. Indeed his firm Finsbury, is said to act for more than a quarter of the FTSE 100 companies (and incidentally currently represents Deutsche Bank). Rudd’s talents for corporate spin however were severely put to the test by the short discussion, which ended with him making the ludicrous claim that: ‘The will of the people is being implemented now in Greece and Italy, with new democratic governments.’ More evidence that elites are losing their grip on reality.
Benefits claimants in Edinburgh have won a potentially crucial victory in the battle for our shared human right to be accompanied to official meetings by a friend, companion or advocate. Controversial ‘welfare-to-work’ scheme administrator, A4E, has been denying benefits claimants this right, and have been alleged to use intimidating methods to achieve their back-to-work targets. A4E, a private multinational, has been contracted by the government to find unemployed claimants work, regardless of its suitability, tenure, pay or conditions, threatening claimants with a cut to their allowance if they refuse. A4E has a turnover of hundreds of millions of pounds a year and operates in 11 countries, helping to remodel welfare systems along neoliberal lines.
Emma Harrison, the company’s breezy founder, lives in a manor house Thornbridge Hall, in Derbyshire. When once asked what families living in poverty needed most, she replied ‘what these families need is an Emma’. A4E has already been investigated by the Department of Work and Pensions and The Guardian newspaper (2009) after the company falsified employers’ signatures to boost its success statistics. In 2010 it was revealed that the company was not bothering to keep claimants’ personal details secret and that a lost laptop contained the private details of tens of thousands of people, unencrypted and unprotected. Even the Conservative newspaper The Times wrote in a moment of rare candidness in 2010: ‘A4E is a business consultancy that offers to make millions from the unemployed by treating them as a commodity’. It is interesting to note that David Blunkett, a keen Blairite neoliberal, secured a lucrative post as a consultant to the multinational around the same time that New Labour began to use the private sector to force people into work. One of key instruments in this has been A4E refusing claimants any right to a representative or companion during intimidating and even bullying meetings. The penalty for insisting on a friend or companion in the meeting is - of course - having benefits and entitlements stopped. In other words, complete destitution.
This policy has been overturned by the courageous stand taken by an ex-miner living in Edinburgh, Peter. An Independent Tribunal has ruled that claimants cannot have their benefits stopped just because, like Peter, they ‘felt the need to have the representative of his choice’. The process leading to the watershed legal decision has been a long one. Peter has stood up to A4E for over two years, despite the multinational’s various attempts to have his benefits stopped, on over a dozen occasions. Now the tribunal's decision, taken on the 31 August 2011, has overturned the last remaining sanction against him.
Since 2009 Peter has attended over a dozen appointments at A4E's Edinburgh office along with his representative from Edinburgh Claimants, a welfare rights group affiliated to the Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty (ECAP). Peter decided on this course of action after A4E falsely accused him of photocopying material unrelated to his job search and threatened him with benefits cuts. When Peter appeared for scheduled meetings with a representative, A4E would suddenly cancel the appointment, and later his benefits, as punishment for bringing a companion. To the horror and surprise of Peter and his companion, A4E even called the Police to evict the dangerous duo from the premises, on three separate occasions. One wonders if anyone really ‘needs an Emma’.
The Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty are delighted by the tribunal’s decision but A4E will resist it still:
‘On the 9th of September we wrote to Alison Nimmo, A4E area manager for Scotland, to point out that A4E need to comply with this legal ruling by the Independent Tribunal. We are still waiting for a response. And in the meantime, incredibly, A4E are still refusing the right to representation. But the Tribunal result is an important victory, and we are now stepping up our struggle for this basic human right’.
Meanwhile, Jobcentreplus District Manager Jim McGonigle has so far refused all calls that the DWP instruct A4e to recognise claimants' right to their own representative. This is despite the fact that the right to companionship or representation is recognised at Jobcentres Plus, Local Authorities, by the equally odious ATOS healthcare, and even by the other welfare-to-work multinationals, Ingeus and JHP. But now, in the language of benefits law, the Tribunal Judge has ruled that Peter had ‘good cause’ to insist on having his own representative present.
The Edinburgh office of A4E, headed by manager Dorothy Hewatt, is notorious for its bullying and disrespectful treatment of claimants. Edinburgh Claimants have made several official complaints that employees, including Hewatt herself, have made untruthful statements to the DWP to try and get claimants' benefits cut.
But now, hopefully, the tide is turning, with more claimants demanding the right to representation at A4E. ECAP have urged:
We encourage all unemployed people sent to A4E or any other workfare provider to join together and collectively stand up for our rights. We need to oppose the Work Programme and all work-for-your-benefits schemes. They're nothing but slave labour - and they attack all workers' wages and conditions.’
New Left Project is looking for someone with technical expertise to work with our webmaster in developing the site in a variety of ways. As well as sharing the aims and priorities of NLP, you will need:
• good knowledge of HTML and CSS
• familiarity with content management systems
• some experience with PHP and Java script
Design skills would be helpful but are not necessary.
If you are interested, email: james[at]newleftproject.org
Please note that this is not a paid position - all members of the NLP collective are volunteers.
The degeneration of Judge Richard Goldstone continues. In April, you'll recall, he penned an op-ed for the Washington Post that said essentially nothing, but gave the strong impression of retracting the central conclusions of the Goldstone Report on the 2008-9 Gaza massacre. The key point, documented in Norman Finkelstein's comprehensive dissection of the recantation, is that, whatever the reasons for Goldstone's reversal, it wasn't based on new evidence.
After months of silence, Goldstone has now resurfaced with more of the same. He has written an op-ed for the New York Times - the paper that turned down his April recantation, forcing him to offer a more sensationalised version to the Post - devoted to refuting those who analogise Israel's treatment of Palestinians to South African apartheid. It has predictably induced much gloating among those who not long ago were smearing him as an antisemite and a traitor. The thrust of the op-ed argues against the use of the apartheid analogy to describe Israel's treatment of Palestinians, either within Israel itself or within the West Bank. Goldstone slams the analogy as a "malicious" "slander". If this is what Goldstone truly believes – something about which there is much cause for doubt – one wonders why he has taken so long to raise his voice. After all, the apartheid analogy is hardly a recent one, nor is it especially controversial. A partial list of Goldstone's malicious slanderers includes such authorities as the Association for Civil Rights Israel; South African Nobel Leaureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu; former US President Jimmy Carter; former Israeli government ministers Yossi Sarid and Shulamit Aloni; and the "father" of South African human rights law John Dugard [note: some of these references are via Finkelstein, forthcoming]. Here's the editorial board of Ha'aretz, Israel's most important newspaper:
"the apartheid regime in the territories remains intact; millions of Palestinians are living without rights, freedom of movement or a livelihood, under the yoke of ongoing Israeli occupation, and in the future they will turn the Jews into a minority between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River."
Here's the verdict of B'Tselem, Israel's premier human rights organisation:
"Israel has created in the Occupied Territories a regime of separation based on discrimination, applying two separate systems of law in the same area and basing the rights of individuals on their nationality. This regime is the only one of its kind in the world, and is reminiscent of distasteful regimes from the past, such as the Apartheid regime in South Africa."
Goldstone devotes two paragraphs of the op-ed to attacking the argument that Israel is practicing apartheid within the Green Line, as distinct from its occupation of Palestinian territories. But this is a straw man. Proponents of the apartheid analogy typically either restrict its application to the occupied territories, or they apply it to the system of control encompassing the entire territory between the river and the sea, on the grounds that Israel possesses de facto control over both its own and occupied Palestinian territory (that is, they reject the distinction between Israeli rule within the Green Line and Israeli rule in the oPt that Goldstone proposes as his starting point).
Goldstone then attempts to prove Israel's innocence of apartheid in the West Bank by – there is no other way to put it – systematically lying about its conduct there. It is child's play to show that virtually every substantive statement he makes is not only false, but was pre-emptively refuted by Goldstone Report itself:
Goldstone op-ed: "Israel will see roadblocks and similar measures as necessary for its self-defense."
Israel's restrictions on movement in the West Bank "are disproportionate to any military objective served". They are intended to "consolidate its permanent hold on the West Bank" and amount to "a deliberate policy of closely controlling a population in order to make use of areas of its land".  Despite "the claim by Israel that restrictions of movement within the West Bank are imposed on Palestinian residents for security purposes, most of these internal restrictions appear to have been designed to guarantee unobstructed travel to the Israeli inhabitants of the settlements."  They therefore constitute "violations of fundamental rights", including the Palestinians' "right to self-determination". 
The cumulative effect of the restrictions on movement has been to "effectively split" Palestinians in the West Bank from their families in Israel, from Gaza, and from East Jerusalem. 
Goldstone op-ed: "The security barrier was built to stop unrelenting terrorist attacks".
The route of the wall is "to a great degree determined by the objective of incorporating settlements into the Israeli side" and has "contributed to the fragmentation of the West Bank into a series of enclaves".  Where located on Palestinian territory (as "some 85 per cent" of it is [329fn873]) it is contrary to international law; is part of a policy aimed at (quoting an EU report) "the illegal annexation" of East Jerusalem ; and amounts to "the de facto annexation" of 9.5% of the West Bank. It therefore constitutes "acquisition of territory by force", a violation of the UN Charter. 
Goldstone op-ed: Israel has "no intent to maintain 'an institutonalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group'". In Israel, "equal rights are the law".
Israel's "systematic discrimination, both in law and in practice, against Palestinians" violates international law, and possibly amounts to a crime against humanity . In the West Bank, "a two-tiered road system has been established" with the main roads are reserved for Israelis.  Israel's legal practice in the occupied territories has resulted in "institutionalized discrimination against Palestinians... to the benefit of Jewish settlers". Domestically Israel's legal regime is "two-tiered", granting Jews "superior rights and privileges"; meanwhile Palestinian inhabitants of occupied territories are categorised as "alien persons".  The Report notes the conclusions of a study by the respected Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) that Israel's "discrimination in planning and building" and other policies in Jerusalem "are concrete expressions of an Israeli policy designed to secure a Jewish majority in Jerusalem and push Palestinian residents outside". 
Needless to say, where the Goldstone Report cites pages of evidence, from the most authoritative human rights organisations and international bodies, to support its conclusions, Goldstone's op-ed cites nothing. If Goldstone could have cited authoritative sources to support the conclusions of his op-ed, he no doubt would have; he didn't, because as exhaustively documented in the Goldstone Report, those sources comprehensively refute him.