Saturday, March 21, 2009

Political Anti-Semitism in New Zealand

I had vaguely heard of Uncensored; I knew they were not my sort of people. But I didn't realise just how much not my people until Scott Hamilton wrote about them. Here's his summary:

The January-March issue of Uncensored offers examples of the magazine's anti-semitism. The cover of the issue shows Barack Obama with a star of David on his sleeve, suggesting he is a tool of Jews. An article inside called 'The Unspeakable Truth of 9/11' insists that the Israeli spy agency Mossad orchestrated the attacks on the World Trade Centre, and another article called 'The Real Agenda behind the Monetary Crisis' calls the world's media 'Jewish-occupied' and claims that Jews control the American Federal Reserve. Yet another article claims that Monica Lewinsky was a Mossad agent, and calls her 'President Clinton's chunky Jewish girlfriend'. The new, April-June issue of Uncensored takes the anti-semitic theme even further - it includes an article alleging that the diary of famous Holocaust victim Anne Frank was a hoax.
I had no idea people like this existed in New Zealand. I knew there were neo-nazis, and I knew there were conspiracy theoriests. But I thought conspiracy theorists were just stupid, not holocaust-denying-evil.

Uncensored have booked the Mt Albert War Memorial Hall for a conference at the end of April, and Scott Hamilton wrote a letter to Cathy Casey (a left-wing Auckland city councillor) asking her to stop Uncensored from using the hall.*

Scott Hamilton also posted this on indymedia (can anyone guess where this is going? I actually advise against following that link). The comment thread on indymedia is full of holocaust denial, and even more horrific forms of anti-semitism. I'm not quoting any of it, it's too disgusting. There are a few people attempting to stand against the waves of awfulness. But they're outnumbered (and once you're arguing 'yes the holocaust actually happened' you're already disrespecting the dead and the survivors).

It blows my mind that there are people who think and write such vile, hateful, nonsense, but the internet has a lot of everything, so it's no surprise that includes vile hateful nonsense. That's not the point of this post.

The point of this post, is that each of those comments are still on indymedia. This is the indymedia mission statement:
The Independent Media centre is a grassroots organization committed to using media production and distribution as a tool for promoting social and economic justice. It is our goal to further the self-determination of people under-represented in media production and content, and to illuminate and analyze local and global issues that impact ecosystems, communities and individuals. We seek to generate alternatives to the biases inherent in the corporate media controlled by profit, and to identify and create positive models for a sustainable and equitable society
. I don't think providing space for a discussion about whether or not the holocaust happened is creating a positive model for a sustainable and equitable society. Many of the statements on that thread are direct impediments to social and economic justice. One of the moderators of indymedia has posted on that thread, and nothing has been hidden, despite two requests to do so.

The problems with indymedia as an open space is something I've written about before. Open spaces replicate all the power imbalances that already exist in society (and also allow space for some that have been festering for some time). I shouldn't even have to write this, but what happened to Jewish people under the Nazis is not some abstract point of academic argument, it's an open wound that causes actual people, actual pain. To fail to hide this stuff is to have a huge sign saying "Jews not welcome". Indymedia is part of the problem, unless it understands that there are many ideas that are directly in opposition to anyone's liberation, and to host them is to be part of that opposition.

* What I originally wanted to write about, which is now relegated to a footnote, is my feeling that the way Scott Hamilton wrote about World War 2 in the post is problematic:
The hall is a public asset that is supposed to commemorate the loss of New Zealand life in war, and to serve the needs of the community around it. I don't believe that our community needs Jew-baiting and Maori-bashing. I think it is particularly inappropriate that Uncensored plans to use the hall on an Anzac weekend, when New Zealanders will be remembering the thousands of their countrymen and women who died opposing the same Nazi ideology that so many of the contributors to Uncensored promote.


I don't know if Scott Hamilton actually believes that or if he's being disingenuous. From what I know of his politics I suspect the latter. I can see why it's very tempting in circumstances such as these, to play on the popular image of world war two as a great war against fascism, and 'our brave boys'. However, for anyone with a serious criticism of imperialism it's important that we acknowledge that that while there may have been many soldiers who saw their participation in the war as part of the fight against fascism in defence of liberty, that's not what was being prioritised by those who were commanding the armies. I don't think it's acceptable to play dumb about these issues, even for a good cause.

20 comments:

  1. I appreciate your support against the anti-semites at Uncensored Maia, and I can understand your criticism of my letter, but I think I am taking a more nuanced view of the role of the Hall than you perhaps imagine.

    I thin k I used the word commemorate to describe the function of the hall, and commemoration can be very different to celebration. I think it ought to
    be possible to argue that the hall should commemorate the undeniable losses that Kiwis have suffered in so many wars, without suggesting that it be used to justify all of these wars.

    I've met a lot of soldiers who served in WW2 and later conflicts like Malaya and Nam, and it's interesting how many of the ones who fought in Nam, especially, believe that their service and suffering should be recognised, but also think that the war was a bad idea.

    I believe that most of the wars that New Zealanders went overseas to fight were bad ideas - I'm thinking about the Boer War, World War One, Korea, Nam, Malaya, and more recently Afghanistan - but I believe that the European part of World War Two was a conflict which needed to be fought, because Hitler had to be defeated.

    Not everything done by the Allies in Europe was good - the bombing of Dresden, for example, was a war crime - but the need to defeat Nazism made the Second World War in Europe very different from the First, which was just a conflict amongst thieves.
    I think we can be justly proud about the role that Kiwis like John Mulgan, who fought as a liaison officer with Greek anti-fascist partisans, played in World War Two.

    I think the war in the Pacific was a much more problematic affair. In too many places it was a case of rival empires fighting over colonies. Certainly, though, New Zealand had every right to defend itself against Japanese

    aggression, and the ordinary Kiwis who put their lives on hold to train for a guerrilla war against an expected invasion deserve to be considered heroes, in my book at least.

    Perhaps, though, you still think some of the distinctions I'm making are too delicate, and that I'm actually just wrapping myself in the flag to get at the neo-Nazis! I can see that point of view. The Aucklander, a local paper distributed with the Herald, is covering this issue next Thursday - it'll be interesting to see how the arguments of those of us opposed to Uncensored's symposium come across.

    Cheers
    Scott

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  2. Thanks for your comment Scott.

    I thought you probably had much more nuanced view than appeared. I can certainly see making distinctions between world war two and other wars, certainly from the point of view of those who were fighting in it (both my pacifist grandmother and my communist grandfather ended up involved in the war effort in the UK). But I think the view that the war was an important epic battle to fight facism is the view that is already understood and articulated. Radicals must have an understanding of the war beyond that, and I think to only explicitly mention the parts off our view coincides with the view presented by Steve Spielberg (for example), is to do a disservice to our politics. It's where we depart from currently held views, not where we hold currently held views that most needs spelling out.

    I think you're right that it's possible to want to commemorate the experience and still be against the war. But I think with the Vietnam parade in Wellington last year, we saw how the state can turn this sentiment into uncritical support for the military.

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  3. You can argue about the covert politics and geopolotical aims of the allies until the cows have all turned into patties, but if world war II wasn't a war against fascism (or rather, fascist expansionism - Spain didn't join and Franco got to die in his bed), then what was it? I think it would be hard to conceive of an alliance between the Soviet Union and the UK and America if it had been any other kind of war. And I think it was appropriate of Maps to make that connection, although first and foremost - you're entirely correct - it's unacceptable that those views be promoted in any public space. But that it's a memorial hall reinforces the symbolism and more people might be able to appreciate that if the connection is made (especially in the way that Scott made it, which was accessory to his main argument against the meeting rather than the thrust of it).

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  4. Penny if you've got a problem with Scott take it up on his blog.

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  5. Penny Bright9:14 am

    24 March 2009

    Oh - true committment to hearing both sides and freedom of expression Maia - whoever the hell YOU are. I note that the first comment on this topic comes from 'Maps' - Scott Hamilton?

    So Scott can put more of his 'comments' on your site - but I can't?

    I thought I was doing people a favour - giving them the update from Councillor Cathy Casey that Scott PROMISED to do - but didn't.

    (Presumably because it wasn't the result that he wanted. GOOD JOB.)
    Also - my post contained our LAWFUL
    human rights about which both of you seem to be PROFOUNDLY ignorant.

    Can't handle the FACTS Maia and Scott?
    Don't want the FACTS to interfere with a good bit of defamatory diatribe?

    You both DISGUST me.

    I have taken this matter up with Scott - I put the same posting on his website. Wonder if it's still there?????????
    (Not holding my breath....)

    Penny Bright

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  6. Maia and Maps, you've gone and disgusted the Water Pressure group. That was a very bad move. Prepare for your showers to turn to a trickle.

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  7. Anonymous2:08 pm

    Correction


    In 2007 (not 1997) the uptick rule was removed from the US sharemarket by the SEC.

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  8. Correction

    In 2007 (not 1997) the uptick rule was removed from the US sharemarket by the SEC.


    Ah, thanks. It all makes sense now.

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  9. Giovanni - I don't think I've significantly lessened the sense involved by deleting the previous comment :)

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  10. Ah well Maia. Its time to get my own blog and I will be commenting on your blog where you cannot delete my posts.
    I am also a feminist but we women also have opposing views.
    I'm glad you are so pleased with yourself for deleting my post. Aren't you cleaver :)

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  11. I provided evidence that the Fed are indeed privately owned but that I don't know who by. It just might be Jewish interests.

    I suspect it's phrases like "Jewish interests" that get your comments deleted. Just throwing it out there.

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  12. Anonymous9:24 pm

    So if I said Islamist terrorist interests that might be OK. I am not trying to provoke anti-sematism by my comments but I reserve the right to challenge any goup on their actions.
    There are some nutters out their on the net who are indeed living in Lala land I will admit and Bollan doesnt provide a lot of evidence for his strong alegations but there is also evidence that Mossad "might" have been involved in 911 which I will talk about later if thats OK. Should we just rubish the idea without seeking facts becasue some folk on the net have stepped way over the line in drawing conclusions without conclusive evidence.

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  13. Anonymous9:42 pm

    My language is a bit clumsy sometimes i.e."Jewish interests"
    but I would say Maia that your comments
    "But I thought conspiracy theorists were just stupid" was nastier and more generalising.

    What if a male had said "But I thought women were just stupid."

    Your comments seemed intended to marginalise people of an opposing view to your own without taking the time to examine facts or quote evidence. This is a common tactic of sexist,racist behaviour.
    Isn't this what all racism sexpredudice is about. Putting people in boxes and making broad generalisations.

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  14. You're not wrong Giovanni

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  15. So if I said Islamist terrorist interests that might be OK

    No, it would be just as stupid. But by making that particular equation ("Jewish" same as "Islamist terrorist") you may be revealing more than you actually meant to about your thought processes and why the particular brand of conspiracy theory (ops - I mean "truth seeking") you practice is not okay.

    Maia I won't be offended at all if these comments of mine get the chop along with our friend's.

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  16. marcus11:20 pm

    "But I thought conspiracy theorists were just stupid, not holocaust-denying-evil. "
    Conspiracy theories are inherently anti-semitic because the ultimate conspiracy is of course that the Jews secretly rule the world. It is therefore no wonder that sooner or later the holocaust-denying gets going when conspiracies are mentioned.

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  17. Anonymous11:33 pm

    Marcus

    Yes I know how easily hatred is stirred up but should we allow Israel to drive the Palestinians out of their own country keeping silent about the atrocities they have commited to prevent this. Keeping silent about current atrocities is not the solution.
    How can we talk openly without stirring up hatred. All ideas must be on the table. All forms of capitalist and religios extremism must be looked at.
    All threats to peace and freedom
    must be addressed.

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  18. Anonymous - please stop posting on my blog. No-one has suggested silence over Israel's actions in Palestine. This blog hasn't been silent on Israel's actions in Palestine.

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  19. Anonymous10:16 am

    Maia what exactly is a Neo Nazi ?

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  20. Anonymous4:36 pm

    Penny Bright is a Frankfurt-School stooge who hates real feminists. She also supports Hamas and believes 911 was perpetrated by the Jews.

    Maia...if she is disgusted with you be proud girl. She is currently running as an 'independant' in the Botany by-election...perhaps the sisterhood should attend and hold her racism to account. She is an insult to our gender!

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