Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Prison officers on strike

It looks like the prison officers are on strike again. Once again it's unofficial action because regulations forbid them taking legal strike action.

Liverpool prison officers walked out against bullying and harassment by superior officers and according to the BBC staff at three other jails have threatened to take solidarity action.

The union's deputy leader complained that the employers had simply refused to discuss workers concerns saying; "The Prison Service's intransigence on this issue is ridiculous.They would not agree to a meeting to discuss this issue. The POA are holding out the olive branch."

"We have said to the Prison Service you can end this dispute now by agreeing to a dedicated meeting to discuss the bullying and harassment by senior management at Liverpool.They are refusing to do that. Some prisons had meetings this morning to discuss this issue. I would expect other prisons to follow suit."

As I said during their last dispute "If we're to have prison officers let them be well looked after, motivated individuals who don't feel like taking their frustrations out on the prisoners. Which I suppose means I support the action. Victory to the POA!"

28 comments:

ModernityBlog said...

Jim,

Why is Rupert Read, a leading Green, pushing Gilad Atzmon, well known anti-Jewish racist?

It is a bit worrying that a Green parliamentary candidate can't spot Atzmon's racism.

I do hope that Greens don't make the same mistake as the SWP.

http://greensengage.wordpress.com/2009/11/19/rupert-read-gilad-atzmo/

Jim Jay said...

Although I follow Rupert on twitter I can't say I'd noticed this one yesterday.

It's the first time I've seen Rupert push Atzmon and it makes me wonder whether he knows who he is, so I wouldn't rule out an honest mistake.

I'm not going to read the piece (partly due to time constraints and partly because I don't need convincing that Atzmon is vile, I've been there some time) but I do worry about the title "Britain must de-Zionise Itself Immediately" which surely should set someone's alarm bells ringing.

I do know he blocked someone on twitter yesterday for asking questions about something to do with anti-semitism, so it was probably to do with this.

It is just a tweet. It is also a bit worrying though.

I certainly would not worry about the Greens getting lovey with Atzmon as a group, it wont happen, but it may be worth pointing out to Rupert who Atzmon is in case it's an error of judgement.

Strategist said...

Well, yes but, Jim.

I’ve read the piece by Mira Vogel and Raphael Levy that Modernity links to, and in all its furious denunciation of this anti-semite the rather important fact that Gilad Atzmon is himself a Jewish Israeli who served in the IDF in Lebanon in 1982 is not once mentioned.

Far be it from me to defend Atzmon, I knew nothing about the guy until provoked by this post into checking him out, but it appears to me that he is a musician who is absolutely furious with his own state and his “own people”, and knowing this is presents a very different picture to that Modernity would have us see in ignorance of the facts.

Are people allowed more licence to attack their own countrymen or “race” in intemperate language that would rightly be forbidden as racist if made by outsiders? Are artists allowed more licence to speak in dramatic & emotional language than professional politicians and campaigners? I don’t claim to have the answer to these questions, but I think they are valid ones.

What I do accuse is that Vogel, Levy and Modernity are spinning. You can either view spin as a dreadful poison that is killing our democracy, or as simply a tedious bore that so characterises the grey politics that switches us off in droves. Either way, it’s something that the Green Party is better off without.

You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to guess that there is & will be a concerted campaign to shut down any discussion of the activities of the pro-Israel lobby in this country, as there was in the States. It should be resisted.

I don’t know whether Modernity, Vogel and Levy are or intend to be active footsoldiers in that wider campaign, and whether this go at Rupert Read is one part of that wider campaign. Let’s be charitable and say it isn’t. In which case they should cut down on the spin if they want support.

Meanwhile, the people who are actually suffering are the poor sods in the West Bank and Gaza as the land grabs, siege, and daily horrors go on etc etc.

Strategist said...

My sixth paragraph should have read:

"You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to guess that there is & will be a concerted campaign to shut down any discussion of the activities of the pro-Israel lobby in this country, following the screening of the Channel 4 documentary on that issue earlier this week. It should be resisted."

Jim Jay said...

Ignore the messenger for a mo and let's focus on whether Atzmon is someone we should be promoting.

Those of us who are critical of Israel's policies have to make sure that we're able to distinguish between legitimate criticism and anti-semitism that would a) damage the movement against Israeli policy and b) is a bad thing in itself.

There clearly is anti-semitism in the anti-israel movement, I don't think it helps anyone to pretend it does not exist and to my mind that's a far different thing to saying that being opposed to Israel is the same thing as being opposed to Jews - which it isn't.

You don't have to dig very deep to find Atzmon's views on Jews, not Israel - Jews. They are not good.

Previously I wrote this here.

Strategist said...

Totally agree with that, Jim, and yes I agree that Atzmon is almost certainly not somebody Rupert Read should be promoting.

However, I stand by my point that any intemperate or indeed out-and-out loony racist comments Atzmon makes about Jews have to be viewed in a different light when the key fact that Atzmon is himself a Jewish Israeli is known.

In the days of South African apartheid few people attacked the Afrikaners more viscerally than Afrikaners themselves who had suddenly seen the injustice. Atzmon seems to me in that category. The resemblances between apartheid South Africa and today's Israel are remarkable.

Strategist said...

Now, let's turn to my main charge: that Modernity is a boring spinner.

(Or let's not.)

ModernityBlog said...

Strategist,

If you wish to ignore Atzmon's racism, for your own reasons, well there's nothing I can do.

All I would say to other people, is READ his stuff, forget his ethnic origin and *think*, look at the content, not the form.

Please contact Andy Newman, I rarely see eye to eye with him, but even he will acknowledge Atzmon's racism.

Or ignore it and wait for it to blow up in your face, it is your choice really, the other points are frankly childish.

Jim Jay said...

Atzmon's origin can inform an analysis of his position, and why he has it, but it doesn't negate the fact it's anti-semitism.

A related example would be Palestinian anti-semitism where a hatred of Jews can come from a state that calls itself the Jewish state oppresses that person in a hundred different ways. It's important to recognise the specific root and we might want to handle it differently than NF anti-semitism, but we'd be shooting ourselves in the foot to excuse it.

PS I can now confirm that Rupert did not know who Atzmon was and has apologised for any offence caused.

ModernityBlog said...

Thanks Jim,

But it makes you wonder why he found it so interesting in the first place, the article that Rupert Read pointed to, was dripping with anti-Jewish racism.

Strategist said...

I'm not going to push this too much further, particularly since this is a thread on the prisons strike, and Rupert Read has drawn a line under the matter to everyone's satisfaction, and more than all that, I hate to be part of the making of a mess on Jim's tidy site.

But I will say this.

It is absurd to ask people to react to Atzmon's writings and not to factor something in to take account of the fact that he was in the IDF in Lebanon in '82.

All I have read of Atzmon's stuff is from flicking through his site this morning. I am therefore not defending everything or indeed anything he has ever said. But it seems to me that he is in effect the victim of trauma - the trauma of suddenly seeing in the raw what his own "side" were doing. And this has certainly made him turn viscerally, furiously, against his own people.

We know war crimes went on in that campaign (and the IDF's top general at that time, Sharon, who was indicted of war crime over the Sabra and Shatila massacre went on to become Israeli PM). Who knows what it was that triggered this scale of revulsion in Atzmon? (Maybe he has written of it himself?)

Even given the additional licence he is arguably entitled to as an artist, as a Jewish Israeli himself, as a real war veteran, (and very possibly, someone who may have in some ways gone mad), he certainly seems to push the boundary of what is acceptable and no doubt he has crossed it many times too. But it is bonkers to demand the screening out of his biographical context.

My complaint is that the post listing the charges against Atzmon was itself a piece of spin. I am not defending Atzmon, I am attacking that kind of spin. Is Modernity representative of the kind of student union politics spinner that we should all be wary of? Yes he is.

ModernityBlog said...

If people like Strategist and Dr. Read have such a low level of political consciousness that they can't spot conspicuous anti-Jewish racism when it is staring them in the face then you'd expect them to learn a little bit of humility in the process.

Or better still educate themselves on the topic of anti-Jewish racism, I would be more than happy to provide a reading list if they email me.

But in the interim might I suggest reading Steve Cohen's That's Funny You Don't Look Anti-Semitic

http://www.engageonline.org.uk/ressources/funny/

weggis said...

Come off it Strategist. We ALL Spin. It’s called rationalising the evidence to fit in with our own preconceived ideas. Sometimes it’s rather more noticeable than others, most usually when you disagree with it. Spin is rather more difficult to spot when you agree with the argument.

We also ALL have blindspots. On this issue Rupert [who I generally quite like] and the Green Party as a whole, of which I am a member, has a BIG one.

thehoatzin said...

More fuel for those who think Read needs to be a bit more careful in how he approaches the 'jewish' question.

Strategist said...

Weggis: first paragraph, good point.

Second paragraph, ?

"We also ALL have blindspots. On this issue Rupert [who I generally quite like] and the Green Party as a whole, of which I am a member, has a BIG one."

What is "this issue" for you? Gilad Atzmon, or Israel's war crimes/apartheid state etc?

The Hoatzin: I honestly think you should be banned from this site for that comment. An absolute classic and depressingly familiar attempt to smear a critic of Israel with anti-semitic. Shameless, absolutely disgusting, disgraceful.

ModernityBlog said...

Strategist,

Do you know what is so bloody annoying with your attitude, you don't even make the slightest effort to address the issue of anti-Jewish racism.

Strategist said...

I said nothing on that because I thought it went without saying. For the record, I am totally & unequivocally against it, obviously.

Now, why don't you go on the record and accept that Rupert Read has withdrawn his tweet, is obviously not an anti-Jewish racist, and obviously not in favour of anti-Jewish racist writers.

ModernityBlog said...

"I said nothing on that because I thought it went without saying. For the record, I am totally & unequivocally against it, obviously."

Forgive me, Strategist, but boilerplate statements don't cut ice.

You seem to be singly ill-informed on this topic, as evidenced by your comments concerning Atzmon, his ethnicity, etc.

Why don't you take the trouble to educate yourself on this topic, and avoid making the same mistake next time? Steve Cohen's booklet is a good start.

As I said I would be happy to provide a reading list or material, if you e-mail me.

Alternatively, you can assume to yourself that you know absolutely everything on this topic that needs to be known, never make a mistake, and wouldn't dream of ever.... etc etc

Personally, I think a bit of self-education wouldn't go amiss in your case.

As for Dr. Read, you can, of course, read my blog on the topic I shall be following his utterances with great interest and I hope he makes a serious effort to address some of the issues raised on the Engage thread concerning his latest comment "I think that the influence of ‘the Israel lobby’ in this country as in many others is nefarious."

I doubt that you, Strategist, will see the problem with that particular statement, go on surprise me, apply some of your critical thinking skills to it, as an anti-racist, and tell us what's wrong with his latest statement.

Strategist said...

“boilerplate statements don't cut ice.”

That’s a very rude response with an extremely offensive implication in there, Modernity. Not appreciated at all.

Nobody wants opposition to what the State of Israel is doing, and what the Israel lobby in this country does, to spill over into a wider anti-Jewish racism. Cautioning Read in a friendly way not to tweet Atzmon would have been an entirely laudable action within that framework.

There’s also a militant campaign out there to make Britain more like the USA and make the provision of information about, and criticism of, what the State of Israel is doing, and what the Israel lobby does, something that is not allowed in the mainstream of politics and the media. That should be resisted, and presumably this is an important week in that fight, because there was a documentary on the Israel lobby on the telly earlier this week (didn’t see it myself). The signature method of that campaign is to unfairly and maliciously conflate criticism of Israel’s current policy with anti-semitism or general anti-Jewish racism.

I’ve already accepted that your intervention on the former does not necessarily mean that you are part of the latter.

You ask for comment on Rupert Read’s use of the word “nefarious” to describe the influence of the Israel lobby. I looked it up and was surprised at how strong a word that is – certainly stronger than the definition I would have given you off the top of my head. Rupert Read may want to clarify whether that is the word he really wanted to select.

However, if you are suggesting that use of this word can convey some particularly racist or anti-semitic connotation, and that Rupert Read has deliberately plucked this word out of the lexicon for that reason – I’m not 100% clear that you are - then you have clearly entered the world of the fairies. You need to go outside, get some fresh air and just take stock of the real-life likelihood that Rupert Read is a real & present danger to the cause of preventing opposition to the current policies of the Israeli state spilling over into general anti-Jewish feeling. Then come back into the real world and calm down.

It sounds like Rupert Read is speaking for himself on this elsewhere in the blogosphere, so I’ll step aside from this debate for the time being and go & find that. But I’ve actually deliberately defended Read here before reading a word he has said for himself, so confident am I that any sinister undertone imputed to him is pure tosh.

ModernityBlog said...

Strategist you wrote:

That’s a very rude response with an extremely offensive implication in there, Modernity. Not appreciated at all.”

Given your previous statements, my response was fairly polite.

And that’s the problem you can’t read your own previous statements in anything but the most charitable light and you wonder why people might take slight offence at your inability to address the nub of this issue: anti-Jewish racism.

I appreciate that you might want to discuss the Middle East, the long history of it, the various conflicts, etc., but those are not germane, at the moment.

The issue is one of anti-Jewish racism, and until you address it, directly, without bad faith and seriously, then I am afraid you won’t find me or others very responsive.

You might want to contrast your responses to that of Jim’s or Gordon Hodgson’s (over at Engage, http://engageonline.wordpress.com/2009/11/19/green-councillor-and-candidate-rupert-read-pushes-gilad-atzmon/#comments), whilst theirs is mature and relevant to the issue, you on the other hand go all around the houses and try to indulge in some cod-psychology to explain away Atzmon’s racism.

So why don’t you go away, rethink your whole approach, re-read Dr. Read’s comment about

"I think that the influence of ‘the Israel lobby’ in this country as in many others is nefarious."

And try again for the second time, to explain why that is an inappropriate comment at the best of times, and certainly not after you’ve been reading Atzmon’s work. I would really like you to address this issue.

Again, I’m not suggesting anything, rather directly saying that you and Rupert Read can’t seemingly see anti-Jewish racism when it is staring you in the face.

And I’m stating that, having been told that I wonder whether or not you or him can step back, as anti-racists, and do a bit of self examination?

Also I am going to state that I think you conflate these issues too much, that it would be far better if you concentrated on the issue of anti-Jewish racism and just that.

I would be more than happy to address the other issues, but I don’t want to be side-tracked, so please, for your own sake, address the issue of anti-Jewish racism, Atzmon’s guff and why Dr. Read’s statement of

"I think that the influence of ‘the Israel lobby’ in this country as in many others is nefarious."

Please, again let me make it very clear, I don’t want to shut down any discussion quite the opposite, I want an open discussion on this topic, and want you to make your points, I’d like people to think about them and see where the discussion goes, the topic of anti-Jewish racism so rarely gets an airing and I think it could be helpful.

Again, please, Strategist, discuss these issues, leave your preconceived notions at the door, it is an important topic that needs airing.

thehoatzin said...

Strategist

I fully stand by my post upthread. I don't like the language he uses, nor the tone of his posts. It's not the first time people have raised questions about it. I accept he isn't racist, of course, but his excitement when engaged in discussion of all things Israel, tends to lead to him saying things that can be taken the wrong way.

That's the polite version. And thanks for asking for me to be banned.

weggis said...

Sorry to interrupt the flow here but Strategist asked me a question:

What is "this issue" for you? Gilad Atzmon, or Israel's war crimes/apartheid state etc?

Neither. It is anti-semitism, how to spot it and deal with it.

If we wish to mediate in a conflict situation it is essential to remain neutral. As soon as we take sides, or judge one side’s actions as “war crimes” or “apartheid” we become part of the problem and not the solution.

Strategist said...

Morning everyone! Sorry this is going to be a long one. In two bits.

I've now had a look at the discussion on Green Engage. I was impressed by the standard of the discussion and can see the points being made by Mira Vogel amongst others, which are well made. Rupert Read clearly didn't initially withdraw his tweeting of the Atzmon post unreservedly, which was unwise and added fuel to the fire. I didn't realise this. Rupert Read has ended up making a statement at 8pm on Saturday night, which one might characterise as a 99% apology with a bit of bluster remaining (here: engageonline.wordpress.com/2009/11/19/green-councillor-and-candidate...). It remains to be seen if this now closes the tweet matter to everyone’s satisfaction. He hasn’t yet responded to Modernity’s probing of his statement "I think that the influence of ‘the Israel lobby’ in this country as in many others is nefarious."

I’ll now pick up some of the points addressed at me personally. You might characterise it as a 99% apology with a bit of bluster remaining, I couldn’t possibly comment…

Mod says:

“I appreciate that you might want to discuss the Middle East, the long history of it, the various conflicts, etc., but those are not germane, at the moment. The issue is one of anti-Jewish racism, and until you address it, directly, without bad faith and seriously, then I am afraid you won’t find me or others very responsive.”

The first sentence is clearly not true. My original post was to complain that Modernity and Mira Vogel were spinning:

“Are people allowed more licence to attack their own countrymen or “race” in intemperate language that would rightly be forbidden as racist if made by outsiders? Are artists allowed more licence to speak in dramatic & emotional language than professional politicians and campaigners? I don’t claim to have the answer to these questions, but I think they are valid ones. What I do accuse is that Vogel, Levy and Modernity are spinning… You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to guess that there is & will be a concerted campaign to shut down any discussion of the activities of the pro-Israel lobby in this country, as there was in the States. It should be resisted. I don’t know whether Modernity, Vogel and Levy are or intend to be active footsoldiers in that wider campaign, and whether this go at Rupert Read is one part of that wider campaign. Let’s be charitable and say it isn’t. In which case they should cut down on the spin if they want support.”

Strategist said...

On Gilad Atzmon, Jim later on said: “Atzmon's origin can inform an analysis of his position, and why he has it, but it doesn't negate the fact it's anti-semitism.” I totally accept that, but didn’t say so. I’ll say so now. I didn’t start this to defend Gilad Atzmon, and I’m not defending him.

On spinning, I am very happy to say that on the evidence of what I have read so far on Green Engage, I completely withdraw any complaint that Mira Vogel or Modernity are or intend to be part of any crude campaign to shut down debate on this issue.

On anti-Jewish racism, I said “I am totally & unequivocally against it”. Modernity decided that this was “boilerplate” and asked me to read Steve Cohen’s “Funny, you don’t look antisemitic”. I have now skim-read it, it seems all very reasonable stuff, and so I’m happy to say that Cohen makes a number of necessary points well, and my position on anti-Jewish racism is: “I am totally & unequivocally against it”.

Meanwhile, The Hoatzin has clarified his earlier post and I am very happy to withdraw my request for him to be banned. I thought you were just an aggressive troll, and clearly you are not. When you talk of Rupert Read’s “excitement when engaged in discussion of all things Israel, [which] tends to lead to him saying things that can be taken the wrong way”, this sounds like fair criticism. If your earlier comment had referred to “the Israel question” rather than “the Jewish question” I would have never have got cross.

Next, following his clarification, Weggis is now in effect saying (to paraphrase): “the Green Party as a whole has a BIG blindspot on anti-semitism”. Can you say more, Weggis? I don’t know the Green Party well, but that is surprising to me.

Finally, Weggis says: “As soon as we take sides, or judge one side’s actions as “war crimes” or “apartheid” we become part of the problem and not the solution.”

I reject this statement utterly. Goldstone has judged a number of Israel’s recent actions in Gaza as war crimes. He also called some of Hamas’s actions war crimes too. War crimes are really horrible. We should take sides on them: we should condemn them. Jimmy Carter has called the way the West Bank is run as “apartheid”. This description is entirely justified, even mild. The situation is sickening, absolutely dreadful, and as bad or worse than the South African situation as was. It is of course different in the detail but it is also very similar to South Africa-as-was in many ways. There’s a time for mediation and there’s a time for sanctions. At the present time, with the Netanyahu regime’s programme of continuing the illegal occupations, ethnic cleansing of East Jerusalem etc, the time now is for sanctions. But all this is not what my original post was about.

ModernityBlog said...

"The first sentence is clearly not true. My original post was to complain that Modernity and Mira Vogel were spinning:"

Indeed, Strategist,

Your first comments were, when anti-Jewish racism raises its ugly head, was to accuse others of bad faith.

That says it all.

weggis said...

Strategist:
Please review the opening words to my para: “If we wish to mediate…”
If we don’t wish to mediate then your suggestion is an alternative. Not one I would recommend but hey [shrugs shoulders] neither of us have any say in the matter.

On the other issue [puts on diplomacy hat] the Green Party are not alone. There is an underlying acceptance of anti-semitic discourse within the “left” and an inability to see the paradoxes of their own position and actions. This is why the Greens Engage site was set up, take a look you might even find a post from me under my real name.

Strategist said...

"Your first comments were, when anti-Jewish racism raises its ugly head, was to accuse others of bad faith. That says it all."

Actually, Modernity, it's when you popped up that a little alarm bell went off with me, and the suspicion of bad faith arose.

I think I had that alarm bell installed when we had an exchange on Honduras, of all issues. Subsequently, I had wondered whether you were a standard issue Harry's Place kinda guy - not a very nice kinda guy, in my book. Having now had a look at your blog, you're clearly a better man than the bog standard Harry's Place racist or Israel lobby internet browbeater I feared you might be.

Indeed, you may be completely sound, but it's impossible to be sure - there are great lacunae in your record that leaves it entirely unclear what your position is on a number of important questions. That's not a complaint, it's your blog. But it still leaves questions in my mind. However, there is no doubt that you are a highly sophisticated blogger and debater - a master spinner, one might say. Someone to respect, if not to like, and to lock horns with at one's own peril.

Weggis - no, I really don't think this is a time for mediation - because Netanyahu is totally unwilling to negotiate. Sanctions are needed now if a fair deal is ever to be reached.

Finally. I finally viewed the Peter Oborne Channel 4 documentary on the Israel lobby which is the basic root cause of this discussion. I thought it was good and necessary. We need to know how our country runs.

ModernityBlog said...

Strategist,

Absolutely right, I am a terrible bloke, I may even have halitosis and squint, but all that is irrelevant to the issue at hand.

I am sure that you as a highly educated individual would know better than to prejudge an issue, and not look at the facts.

You must have done that at University, or in your schooling? It's all a bit basic, examine the evidence, think about it, consider other points of view, etc

It is a pity that you can't do that when the topic is anti-Jewish racism.

Again, my particular characteristics do not invalidate the facts of the matter in this case, and you would do well to realise that.