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When I feel you have my back. From an antizionist Jew to the left on challenging antisemitism

March 30, 2017 2 comments

17436035_1218953451550743_7199866630498237987_oOn challenging antisemitism by the left. What it means to me as a Jew with progressive values when Jackie Walker and Gilad Atzmon are being hosted in Glasgow this week.

Couple of things have happened in past few days in Glasgow to prompt this post. I actually found out about these in reverse order, but I’m starting with the easiest one to write about, Gilad Atzmon. My discussion and feelings about Jackie Walker being hosted by SPSC are down below.

Last night Gilad Atzmon played a gig at Tchai Ovna : a hippy/lefty tea shop in Glasgow. A friend casually mentioned it, after the gig had started. I was pretty wtf?! But by this time there was nothing to be done. So I’ve informed the venue of Gilad’s antisemitism and am, until told otherwise, assuming that they didn’t know of this beforehand. However they know now and if they book him again I will be more active against it.

I have only met Atzmon once – I went with a friend to a gig as he’s a really good saxophonist. My friend introduced me to him afterwards, and I was initially very happy about this, not just because the gig had been great. I like to meet other antizionist Jews as it can be a lonely path. At most Jewish cultural/religious events I avoid talk of Israel as I won’t lie, but also I hate confrontation and turning a spiritual occasion into a heated political argument. Jewish practise nurtures and calms me. Like doing yoga or whatever works for you. I feel at peace and nourished at this deep down level. I don’t know why it has this effect, but I don’t need to understand it to value it in my life, as it harms no-one else. I tend to have a separation between my different hobbies, interests, and choices. Those who also straddle intersections I often feel a connection and bond with as its exciting and useful for me to be able to discuss issues that relate to our shared intersections and I find helps me understand whats going on for me.

However the initial joy at being invited by Atzmon to sit and chat with him turned to confusion and then revulsion as he began denouncing what he sees as typical Jewish tribalism, as a superiority complex of being Jewish, and how Jews have brought centuries of persecution onto ourselves. After arguing for a short while (I have confrontation and find heated/aggressive verbal dialogue deeply unpleasant) I left. Subsequently I’ve discovered how antisemitic he is. To find examples I had a quick look at his blog and here are some recent examples:

an  arrogant yeshiva boy is subject to a historical continuum of harassment. Seemingly, Alliel didn’t bother to ask himself why is he chased and abused time after time by so many people in so many places.

Source: http://www.gilad.co.uk/writings/2017/3/16/alliel-a-window-into-tribal-arrogance

“If I were a Jew,” [David Irving] said, “I would ask myself why it always happens to us?” At the time, I was a still Jew but I took up Irving’s challenge. I looked in the mirror and didn’t like what I saw so I decided to leave the tribe and I stopped being a Jew.

Source : http://www.gilad.co.uk/writings/2017/2/16/exactly-who-is-it-that-is-in-denial

Although discovering that this alternative/lefty venue is hosting him shocked me, I don’t feel utterly powerless to challenge it. And that’s because over the years I have felt that many within the left will have my back when it comes to challenging antisemitism. It’s really moving to me to feel this. That especially within the Palestine solidarity movement but in the wider left I am not alone facing those prejudiced against me. It gives me a safety, and a courage. It gives me strength to fight alongside others against their oppressions knowing that they also have my back when it comes to antisemitism. It feels like we really can stand all together and be strong and united and beautiful and really bring about meaningful change to a world where all are liberated and free and safe.

So I feel deeply inside that if Atzmon again is booked to play this venue, that if I ask of it, others, not just Jews, will join me in publicly condemning them for giving this racist a stage. I feel secure in that and its incredibly moving to have that surety. Its just so beautiful and affirming and powerful and empowering.

Jackie Walker

[EDITED TO ADD : I have been told that she actually said she hadn’t heard a definition of anti-semitism she agreed with in the context of a particular workshop which was stating that criticism of israel was anti-semitic. Will update the text within this post when I know more but wanted to clarify that this is in contention as early as possible]

Sometimes antizionism is labelled antisemitism. Jewdas have a really cool primer on how to criticise Israel without being antisemitic and a longer piece discussing what antisemitism is and isn’t.

Last year Jackie Walker was in the media for being expelled and then reaccepted into the Labour Party on the basis of several comments she has made, in different formats, that many (including me) find problematic about Jewish people (which she identifies as also)

I consider “no platforming” an extreme tactic that should be kept for extreme cases where it is likely that a speech by someone will cause harm to another. In the case of Jackie Walker I disagree with her on very many things, and I do feel a bit threatened by her assertion (originally from known antisemites Louis Farrakan’s Nation of Islam) that “many Jews (my ancestors too) were the chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade” (source: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/anti-semitism-row-momentum-organiser-jackie-walker-readmitted-to-labour-party-following-racism-a7053966.html ) as this is the kind of language that supports and promotes anti-semitism. However I am not calling for her to be no platformed.

For a wider discussion of things she’s said try hope not hate. In brief she has joined predominantly antisemitic calls for Holocaust memorial day to focus on other genocides, however it already does. Antisemites seek to minimise the Nazi holocaust and so she stands in particularly bad company, as well as being ill-informed in making this call. She has also said she can’t find a definition of antisemitism she can work with, which again is kinda weird – jewdas have a couple of good ones (linked above) and its really just a basic antiracist stance with basic knowledge of the historical and current slurs, smears and falsehoods used against Jews.

Again, to be super clear, despite this I am not calling for her to be no platformed.

I do find it hard to swallow though that the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) are hosting her in Glasgow tonight. They claim she is “Accused of anti-Semitism for her anti-Zionist position” (source : https://www.facebook.com/events/376828286014487/ ) Which is just the inverse of zionist claims that all criticisms of israel are antisemitic. I am not in any way against her anti-zionism. Dismissing objections to her as coming purely from a Zionist standpoint is ridiculous and hurtful.

There are hundreds of excellent speakers about Palestine in the UK who are not tarred with her associations with antisemitism. It was not necessary of the SPSC to host her. It is provocative and divisive.

I have had over a decade within the anti-occupation, Palestine solidarity movement and I know that antisemitism and dismissal of such is a minority view. As I stated above I have felt that people have had my back. But what about someone new to challenging the Israeli occupation of Palestine? What if this is what they see – that being anti-occupation means supporting someone who has said what Jackie Walker has said only last year? She has not meaningfully retracted any of it, as far as I can tell, and I did go to look.

If this was more than an occasional one-off event I don’t know how welcome or comfortable I would feel within progressive movements. This kind of behaviour reinforces zionists’ narrative that we need a strong nation state because nobody else will be there for us. It chases Jews back into the hands of Jewish nationalism. Plenty of Palestinians are ready to condemn antisemitism and the movement purporting to support them should do the same.

ct-muslim-and-jewish-fathers-protest-with-their-children-video-20170131.jpg

Homecoming – Last day in SF bay area (JVP netanyahu demo, and /official/ new friend). Bus ticket drama. Glasgow returning – spontaneous outing to The Lost Boys at amusement park.

February 18, 2017 Leave a comment

JVP Netanyahu demo and Official New Friend

Wednesday. Chilled day with Y. He was working from home. I was lazing about and got snuggles during his breaks. Then I headed into SF for Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) demo protesting Trump’s meeting that day with Netanyahu and their shared values of racism, wall-building and hate-mongering. Was cool to be with other Jewish progressives, though a little disappointed there was only about 40-50 there. It was a 2 hour demo and I was only there for last bit so there might have been more attending in total as folks were coming and going. I liked the connection between zionism and to USA rhetoric and policies on migration and borders, which was expressed in chants and handmade placards.

After the demo a couple of Bay Area friends I had originally connected with from Gaza (from my trip in 2003) met me and I really enjoyed how easy and grounded in affection these relationships are. Partly I think it might be that usa (partic west coast?) culture is more emotionally demonstrative anyway, so i might just be experiencing that and feeling it as “ooo these people like me, its safe for me to open up to them too”. But regardless I’m starting to really value these other reasons for being in bay area besides Y, and this works well as both Y and I like spending time with other people too when we’re together.

I had this waffle/diner food craving, and as this was my last opportunity for it for a while, we headed to Mel’s. Mel’s is both fun, and cliched/OTT, but I’m a tourist and I kinda enjoy the OTT so I love sitting in a Happy Days set! We even used the booth side jukebox! Excitingly someone joined us who I’ve only before met with when I’ve been also meeting her partner who is an old friend of mine. We both agreed that meeting without him made us now Official Friends. She was also excited to be in SF itself, as she does the common Easy Bay resident thing of hardly ever coming over into the city.

Y joined us, and then a bit later New Official Friend, Y and I decided to go for Mexican food in the Mission – hey its my last night! I’m totes allowed 2 suppers! Then we went for a wander and ended up at the top of Dolores Park enjoying the view over the city before grabbing Indian deserts on our way to the last BART back to the East Bay. For I still needed to pack and then get up at 6am for my flight home!

Bus ticket drama

At SFO I was probably over excited by the TSA dog – so cute, though it looked pretty skinny. Luckily the excitement was not reciprocated so I got through security uneventfully, though the same was not true about getting from Edinburgh airport back to Glasgow…

So I’d managed to lose my purse containing my return bus ticket and debit card at Reykjavik airport on the way out. Pop quiz: a) I did the responsible thing and phoned lost property about it as soon as i realised, or b) I procrastinated making the scary phone call and then decided I’d just see them when I transited on my way back home only to find out that the lost property office was only open at 8:30am, was after my 4am-7am transit time? Ooops! Of course I had a chain of backup plans in case my purse wasn’t even in the airport:

1) pick up return bus ticket with bank card in iceland.
2) use debit card stored in chrome to buy bus ticket online and choose sms ticket option
3) use Y’s credit card to buy bus ticket online
4) convert $20 at edin airport (and take on chin the double commission whammy of both converting a small amount and an airport booth – I just need £11:60 for the bus ticket…)
5) once am in uk and time is more respectable (i landed 9am) start calling round friends to either buy me a bus ticket online / rescue me from airport
6) hitchhike – lots of Glasgow folks use Edinburgh airport and I was due to land at peak time (9am)

Ok, fine, so I couldn’t get my bus ticket or debit card… i just drop to option 2. After all I’ve used my card online so often I never even have to look at the CVC anymore. It turns out that my memory of that 3 digits is perfect unless its 5am and I’m on dodgy airport wifi with no way to just look at the back of the goddamned card! Fine, I’ll use Y’s credit card – he’d given me one that was about to expire anyway in case options 1 or 2 fell through. Except it turns out the citylink website doesn’t accept non uk billing addresses. Argh! More time passes and I’m like, bugger this, I need coffee[0] and then realised i could get citylink tickets on megabus website too. So off I go but now I’m struggling with the verified by visa password and Y is busy.

However the coffee was def working – some more googling and it turns out you can buy bus tickets at edinburgh airport’s tourist information booth! They’re bound to accept card payments, and Y’s given me his pin so i’m sorted! There are buses at 9:30 and 10:00 and I’m desperate to just get to my own bed by this time.

[09:00] Luckily our flight lands a bit early and I race through immigration and to the booth (in post coffee alertness at Reykjavik I’d pre-memorised the route from the online airport map)

[09:15] Possibly over sharing I tell the v friendly “welcome to scotland” person that i’ve just arrived back from travel abroad and so don’t have cash yet and so want to buy the bus ticket using my credit card and am hoping to make the 09:30 bus. She says she’s going to make sure she can give me the ticket before taking my money and then has to boot the computer an go through the complex online system. “I don’t think we have to waste time filling in your phone number and email address. I’ll just tick that you refused to give them to me”

[09:18] The printer is jammed and after several minutes she gives up trying to fix the feed and goes to another machine which thank the universe spits out the ticket.

[09:23] I put Y’s credit card into their card reader, but instead of asking for the pin, it says “payment accepted. signature required” and directs me to remove the card. So she prints the receipt and asks me to sign it. I squiggle “Praveen Kumar”[1] and hand it back.

[09:24] She flicks over the card (d’oh! of course she was going to do that! i’d forgotten that was even a thing. when was last time you signed for a card payment???) and the signature panel is blank… “Do you have any other ID with you?” Me, feigning calmness but running lateness “Oh no, I don’t have an other ID with me!”

Lets recap : 1) I’ve told her I’ve just landed off an international flight. 2) As far as she’s concerned she’s addressing a white female with an English accent. 3) The card is for an American bank with an Indian male name.

“Well I think you’ve been kept waiting long enough trying to get it printed. Turn right and then right again to get to the bus stop”

I LOVE BEING BACK IN SCOTLAND!!!! And I am very appreciative that I have bucketloads of white privilege which I am benefitting from – doubt this would have been so easy had Praveen Kumar been trying to use a card with a white chick’s name on :(

Friday – Spontaneous outing to The Lost Boys at amusement park

I arrived home at about 11am. Obviously first thing I did was put the kettle on. Ah tea, now things seem more reasonable. Ok, so I’ve had maybe 6 hours sleep since Wednesday, and I should probably change my clothes, but all I need to do today is stay awake til 8ish, go to the bank to get cash out across the counter, and get a few groceries in for the weekend. Then I’ll sleep like a baby and wake up some time tomorrow, go to the LGBTQ boxing club, and my timezone should be all fixed ready for 12 hour shift on Sunday. By 4:30pm I’ve done bank and shop chores and have cash and am planning a quiet evening and then sleeeeeeeep.

img_20170217_194454517.jpgAnd then, this being Glasgow, a friend invites me to a Glasgow Film Festival screening of The Lost Boys in a secret location, buses leaving from the GFT in 90 mins. So much for the early night plan! Accompanied by motorbikes revelling as they rev their engines to full blast we are transported to M&Ds amusement park. We bump into another friend and play on the rides opened up specially for the occasion, the park packed with excited adults in vampire/hunter dress-up squirting holy-water-pistols at each other on the big wheel and maximal audience participation through a favourite teenage movie. Much glee!

Walking home from the bus, much sleep deprived but very content with how lucky I am to come back to Glasgow, where being “cool” means showing your exuberance, participating to the max. Not sneering, but rather thrilling at and cheering on others’ dorkiness and throwing themselves into the spirit of whatever hijinks is going on.

 

 

[0] food and drink seems to feature a lot in today’s blog… To add more, as wow air doesn’t give any food on the flight I’d packed another really good picnic; hard boiled eggs, oranges, humus and veg wrap (didn’t taste good on the flight though – i know taste buds are supposed to be different on flights), smoked tofu and jerky. This time didn’t have the conveniently under 100mls water-tight containers i had last time, and the liquor store seemed confused about why i’d want a *small* bottle of alcohol (merkans and their super-sizing!) so decided to buy booze in duty-free as obvs you can carry that onto the plane. Except then I realised once aboard that i wasn’t sure if i’d be allowed to carry it onto my second flight if i took it out of the heat sealed duty free bag and opened it. so i relied on snoozing and copious pre downloaded star trek to get me through instead. I’d turned down a pal’s offer of a “medicated” jelly bean which given the TSA doggie (such cute eyes!) was lucky!

[1] Name changed to another Indian male name for privacy reasons.

Housework as self care; don’t create a second patient was never just about immediate danger

Tired of being tired? Chilling out and stepping off the hedonic treadmill contributes to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue

Buying a product because the emptiness of the hedonic treadmill of consumer capitalism has in all probability exhausted you is like taking a cold drink because you’re chilly.

Ok, so this is obv just written from my perspective.

Today I had a scheduled “day off”. They don’t happen often – I’ve pretty much always got something on, between paid work (of which I’ve been doing a ton for past month or so in order to pay off London/India trip debts), activism, meetings/workshops/discussions, hobbies, supporting people in various ways, socialising, spending time with those who are important to me and more political activism. Past couple of months have been even more intense with Rachel’s anniversary, Pesach (for which I helped a friend with first night seder, and then hosted one for 8-10 people on 2nd night) and 3 house guests who each stayed 3-5 days. Looking back at my diary, there was just one day in April where I wasn’t busy for at least 8 hours, and on that day I was still up early and helping a houseguest get ready and go for his train. I ended up very frazzled by the end. I was even more unreliable than normal and was almost in tears from it all. I had so little time to myself, with almost constant human interaction, and I really do find that draining, even though I enjoy time with people.

Anyway, May has started much better. Had a fun Mayday, though after a few hours on Buchanan St, which inevitably included lots of people I was very happy to see and catch up with, I left the others for a precious few hours alone at home, before heading to Cristicuff’s election workshop, and then a fun evening in a local pub including my only adult karaoke performance; 3 of us dedicated “Tell Me Lies” to all those participating in the election, though we needed to clarify before we started that yes, that includes the SNP candidates, and no we were Anarchists not hairdressers! Saturday was busy with helping flatmate move out, and then big important conversations with a longterm lover. Sunday and Monday were 12 hour shifts in an unpleasant ward. So last night I really needed some fun so went to a couple of pubs with couple different groups of friends.

A lot of what I do can feel like “obligation” – even though I choose how I fill my life and have more control over it than most. Its partly because my long/medium term plans involve commitments to people/groups/activities. And partly because I wanna do all the things, dammit! And have lots of interests and people/communities I care about and want to nurture the connection with. But I do end up rundown on an overly regular basis. Am trying to do better with it. Get into healthier habits. Which neatly segues on to the point of this post :)

Along with all of you who don’t have an unproblematic relationship with yourself, I have problems prioritising things that only benefit me. And since I now don’t have a flatmate, that now includes housework. Not that I was great at it before, but I did feel an obligation to do all of our washing up every few days. However, what with recent busyness and whatnot, I’d got to the point yesterday where I didn’t have any clean crockery left, and my laundrymite was reaching for the ceiling. I just was doing everything else. So today, with the video chat companionship/dj’ing of a friend in a different city who was doing similar, I began tackling the housework. And as I did it, I realised that by actively choosing to nurture my nest, when it is only me who will be affected by it, I was telling myself something important: looking after myself is worth my time. I deserve a nice living space. I care about myself enough for that to be on my schedule.

Doc, still very missed and massive influence on my life, said, but tragically didn’t practice, “Don’t create a second patient”. As someone caring for the health of others, whether first aider or nurse – but equally valid to probably everyone be you a parent, friend, social worker, community organiser etc – your first duty to those you would help, is to keep yourself able to provide that help by not incapacitating yourself. In the street medic workshops where he first drummed this into us, the examples were those familiar to all those who know DR ABCDE, such as check for oncoming traffic or exposed live electricity wires before rushing to help. In this setting the dangers are all immediate ones that would acutely stop you from giving first aid, and add to the patient load of other firstaiders and emergency services. Early on I started thinking about gloves and other PPE in a similar way – if I’m ill because I did not protect myself than how can I help anyone else? And after Doc died, as the waves of grief induced anger coursed through me, I realised that he’d never actually applied that principle to himself properly either – as he rushed from disaster zone to international workshop, his life characterised by trauma, heroism and international travel, he might have been a PITA about his goddamned fresh grapefruit juice and organic meat (I really hope at least someone reading this got a chuckle of reminiscence from that!) he ran himself into the ground. And we lost a dear uncle, friend, trainer, carer and precious elder. By not taking care of himself properly, he (imho) contributed to his own death.

I don’t have some pithy ending to this post. It was just a lot of different stuff that ties together for me and I wanted to write down. Maybe others will have similar reflections. And maybe I’ll read this back over in 10 years when I’ve forgotten all this again. At the very least, I’m giving personal language to all of you who are in my life to get through my thick skull next time I’m being an idiot ;)

Reflections on how we ran the negotiations with uni management during Free Hetherington occupation

March 30, 2015 Leave a comment

I just wrote this as a response to someone asking for advice on running negotiations during university occupations. Posting it here for other’s information, and as a personal thing for re-reflecting on later. I possibly will expand on it later.

***

So I’m just one of the people that was involved in the occupation. There were some internal divisions about how to handle the negotiations and I was deeply on one side of the debate. Just to let you know that this is not a neutral response!

For most of the negotiations we insisted, and won, full representation by all the occupiers when meeting with the uni managements. this felt powerful and i feel was when we were at our most successful in gaining concessions. For example it was directly after a mass meeting with them, during which you could visibly see them realising how strong and united we were, that they agreed to let us have the Hetherington back, after forcibly evicting us that day. We had responded to the eviction by occupying their management suite and so we were in a position of some strength. However this was not an isolated incident of us gaining concessions and being empowered by our insistence on mass meetings. Gaining that as an initial demand gave us strength for our actual negotiations. It also gave us directly moral courage during the meetings, versus smaller meetings (I was involved with a couple before we began insisting that they meet with all of us, or none) where they could use personal manipulation and wear us down.

Towards the end, we (democratically decided by a vote, but i opposed at the time and still think was a mistake) agreed to the management’s demands that we choose a small team (4-6 – I refused to be a part of it) who would meet directly with management and negotiate.

Those negotiations ended up with very wooly sounding agreements. These were, again democratically by vote, agreed upon, but most of those agreeing were burnt out by the long occupation and “would have agreed to a cup of tea if it meant we could move on”

These agreements are posted on our wordpress somewhere. They were not kept to by management, but obviously after the occupation had ended we were in no position to force them to keep their word :(

Reproductive rights globally – crackdowns on bodily autonomy -> inspiring, brave & creative feminist responses #AFem

October 21, 2014 Leave a comment

This is from my notes at the excellent reproductive rights workshop at AFem 2014. The session was scheduled in for 3 hours, and I thought I’d attend for a bit, and then leave to go to one of the other workshops and discussions starting an hour later. As it turned out, I was getting so much out of it that I stayed to the end, and couldn’t believe how fast it went! This is a write up of notes I started taking as I listened to one after another of incredible speakers talking about the situation in their country, and what they were doing to challenge that. I didn’t manage to write most of it, as it was so in depth, and mostly I was just listening and absorbing and thinking. But here are my notes anyway :) They’re from a variety of speakers / contributors from the floor. In all I counted 9 countries represented; Poland, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, France and UK. Notes are not necessarily in that order, and I didn’t write down the countries contributions were from most of the time. Errors are my own. If you see any, please comment so that I can make amendments.

Abortion contravenes ideas of women as natural mothers. It has been common for centuries but became problematised/criminalised in 19th century Europe. Due to colonialism, Victorian era attitudes on it then infected the rest of the world – there are still many countries using the 1861 “offences against a person” anti choice law.

There are about 40 million abortions globally a year. One in three women in UK will have an abortion at some point in their life. Half of all abortions around the world are unsafe, leading to 50 000 deaths per year. Richer women can often escape the worst of this, as they can pay or travel to places with better laws and resources.

There have been a number of international conventions that state that countries should make abortions legal and available, but these aren’t legally binding, purely symbolic.

No contraception method is 100%, and not everybody has the power to negotiate contraception.

In Spain right wing Christian organisations such as “Legions of Christ” and “Opus Dei” have a lot of power as also includes politicians and business people. (An Italian said this is true in her country too.) The church has a lot of say, for example in education where religion is a compulsory subject. The far right movement has made it acceptable to now say publicly sexist things about women’s place as mother, such as on businesswoman who urged that “fertile age women shouldn’t be hired”. That this is now part of public discourse further reinforces and gives confidence and credence to traditional, conservative views.

Even ostensibly public, non-religious schools are often controlled by Opus Dei behind the scenes. Also in private healthcare, the church is behind it. There were attempts this year to make abortion even more restrictive, but this was defeated. There is now a new movement of feminists mobilised “us and our grandmothers are feminists, but there was a whole generation missed”. They did lots of actions against the new law and are continuing to organise now.

There were other speakers now, including from the floor, but I didn’t make notes from them all :(

In Italy, 80% of gynaecologists and lots of nurses and anaesthetists are refusing to perform abortions, so that even though it is legal, it is very difficult to access. DIY, or otherwise unsafe, abortions are therefore common, with the woman often then presenting at A&E with profuse bleeding, and being recorded as a “spontaneous miscarriage”. 20 000 legal abortions are carried out per year, but about 40 000 are refused due to “conscientious objection”. There are 75000 recorded “miscarriages” – 1/3 of which are probably unsafe abortions. Miscarriage rates have dramatically increased since the 1980s, particularly in minors. Conscientious objectors are becoming more common, especially in the south, and they say that if they do carry out abortions they face discrimination at work.

missed out a load more of the interventions here as was just listening.

In Chile abortion has been illegal since 1989 (was one of Pinochet’s final acts as dictator) – prior to this it was legal to save the women’s life. In 2008 there were moves to criminalise the morning after pill (MAP). This led to a wave of activism and upswing in feminism – older feminists from the time of the dictatorship together with new/younger ones. They took direct action, distributing leaflets and posters with info on how to make the MAP from a certain combination of contraceptive pills, which were available. Those who had been baptised as children made a public “aposte” where they renounced religion. A hotline and solidarity network were set up to provide support and advise to those seeking abortions, and put them in touch with doctors who would perform abortions. Despite it being illegal, “just” 300 people – those both performing and receiving abortions – have been imprisoned and most people get away with it. There were also legal challenges against the new law. There was public outcry after and 11 year old who was raped by her step father was forced to have the baby.

Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A. (Ireland Making England the Legal Destination for Abortion) do awesome performance activism, as abortion is illegal in Ireland. Their current campaign, “Knickers for Choice“, asks folks to post pictures of knickers in iconic places with pro choice messages. Taking something private, such as our smalls, and making them public echoes what the government has done to women’s bodies. Someone else suggested that if you’re holidaying in Ireland, its worth just casually asking in a shocked voice “is it true that abortion is still illegal here?” to denormalise it in shops etc.

USA style clinic harrassment is now happening in UK, financed by groups in the states. “Abort 67” are active in Brighton and abortion clinic pickets are happening in London and Manchester and probably other places too. The clinics themselves have requested that there should not be counter pickets to these as it just makes more of an unpleasant scene for those trying to access the services.

In Brazil abortion is also illegal. Also in Argentina. In France there are difficulties with access.

Need to act now in UK, to prepare for the attacks that will come. The right is already on the move.

Abortion Support Network is set up to assist Irish women travel to mainland Britain for abortions. They are the sticking plaster responding to the urgent need, but it is vital to address the cause of this, and get the law changed in ROI and provision in NI.

A video was made about Irish women and for many it was their first time speaking to *anyone* about the fact they’d had an abortion. Common to feel shame, fear and even personal opposition to abortion, even though they’ve had one. Its difficult for women in UK to admit they’ve had an abortion; in Ireland its even just to say they know someone who’s had one.

Resources :

https://www.womenonweb.org/

http://womenhelp.org/

None of the above – why I spoiled my #indyref ballot paper

September 18, 2014 2 comments

ballot paperSo although I have been planning this blog post, and indeed what I would write on my ballot paper, for a couple of years, in the end I’m just hurriedly writing it late at night, and I scribbled on my ballot paper on the bus home on Tuesday night just in time to post it for it to be counted.

I could have written this any time, but as many of you know I’ve been partly avoiding those conversations, and the long drawn out attempts at conversion that follow. At least now its too late for you all to make me your target! Also, I’ve been hella busy the last couple of years.

One person, on finding out that I wasn’t going to be voting yes, half jokingly called me a sofa activist and explained that this was because I wasn’t part of the yes movement and therefore clearly was just one of those activists who sit on their sofa all the time rather than trying to bring about change. Happily for my ego, a couple of friends were there who told him that I was more politically active than anyone else there. Not sure if that’s true, but who am I to argue? ;) I’ve more frequently been accused of being a Brit Nationalist. Because everyone’s got to have a nationalism, and if I’m not Team Saltire I must be Butcher’s Apron instead? Kind of like when Glaswegian’s ask you which football team you support, and anything other than Rangers or Celtic results in a “No, but which one do you really support”. Or “What religion are you?” and responding Jewish has them ask whether I’m Catholic or Protestant.

Apparently #indyref has brought a new hope and optimism and wave of activism to Scotland. Apparently if I’m not voting yes its because I’m lacking confidence in Scotland’s ability to “do it ourselves”, “go alone” and “rule ourselves”. I need to be shown the economic facts and figures. What’s more I’m pro foodbanks and austerity. Because voting yes is the only way to get rid of these. In fact that’s why so many on the left deserted or diverted anti bedroom tax organising into yes campaigning :( However, as those clever folks at kittens explain, austerity is an inevitable and necessary strategy by governments within our current capitalist system. “Independence” as offered by indyref does not really free the people of Scotland from the logic of capitalism and that logic leads to austerity, no matter the claimed ideology of those in power. To me, jumping up and down about whether the government is in London or Edinburgh is about as important as whether it’s Labour, Tory or SNP; that is, it affects only details. It describes what sort of scraps we might get. Labour will still cut the NHS and bring in the bedroom tax, and take us into wars. And so too if the government is based in Scotland – its not the tories that are the problem but capitalism and representative democracy.

Another repeated argument I’ve had has been that a government in Edinburgh is easier for us to march on than one in London. That we will feel more empowered by being geographically closer. I lived in south london in one of the poorest areas in the UK for years, a mile or two from Whitehall; I promise that did not make me feel empowered! Organising in my communities, in my workplace, and taking action to directly solve our own problems is what makes me feel empowered, not hearing Big Ben toll.

The romantic in me would love a Scottish passport. And a yes vote would also piss off some people I really dislike, including but not limited to the leadership of all the main UK wide political parties, neofascists, the Daily Mail and Tory voters everywhere. Ooo, and the orange people. Definitely not forgetting them. :) But those are not rational reasons for making a decision.

The most compelling reason I’ve had to vote yes is because of migration. A Scottish government would have different demographic problems to a UK one, and that might bring in more xenophilic policies. There might be less attacks on asylum seekers, less ridiculous conditions on those wanting to come here. I spent many months considering whether I should vote yes for this reason. It was more plausible a probable outcome from a yes vote than that the UK would give up trident. However I was also weighing up other plausible outcomes from a yes vote, and one stood out very strongly – that corporations would have more power to undermine workers’ rights by blackmailing a smaller state that they would relocate south of the border otherwise. Salmond has repeatedly said he wants Scotland to be business friendly. And even if he’s not in power, that’s exactly what every party will do under capitalism. These conflicting issues, that of migration vs “business friendliness” meant that even when I just looked at what changes were plausible it did not give me a clear direction to vote.

I do not act to be awkward or different, I act despite this. Despite it being an unpopular choice. Despite the peer pressure. I have learned that the only approval I actually need is my own. I need to be able to look myself in the eyes and know that I acted in accordance with what I believed to be right at the time. I have in the past acted out of expediency. I have been convinced by others to put aside my misgivings and that the end justifies the means. That I should support something because it will lead to gains in the future, though it was not in itself something I supported. I was wrong. We have no way of accurately predicting the results of any of our actions, especially in something so complex as social change. There are too many interacting variables and unknowns, and unknown unknowns ;) … Rather than attempting the impossible and futile task of picking from what the possible outcomes are of my actions, instead I chose to align my actions to my principles and beliefs. In doing this I am not trying to manipulate others, or compromising for possible benefit ahead, but creating what I want in the here and now. I organise using direct democracy. And I do not agree to things that are against my principles because they might have a positive outcome in the future. When I look back, I am proud of those times I did what I felt to be right at the time, or at least refused to condone something I disagreed with. I am glad that I did not vote to accept the pitiful offer we at the Free Hetherington ended up taking – I was outvoted but I’m still proud that I took the position that I did, and that history showed to be accurate – the University management ignored all of those agreements in the following few months anyway, and we sold out Crichton Campus too. But that’s another, very long, post. I’ve abstained frequently on things, and often wanted my abstention recorded. Its part of being able to look myself in the eyes – I don’t vote for things I don’t agree with.

There’s a bunch of other things I’d like to write about here. About how Scotland is just older than the UK, but really has no more logic. Nationality is a social construct. That the yes campaign has actively harmed the class struggle, not just by diverting every activist and progressive campaign, but by encouraging cross class allegiances and obfuscating power relations. Despite claims that Scottish nationalism is not like UKIP’s brand, but “civic”, I’ve frequently heard talk of the “English”, whether non ethnic Scots should be allowed to vote, versus expat Scots. I’ve heard a lot about how finally we will have those like us in power – no, we will remain with the ruling class in power and their “ethnicity” is irrelevant compared to their role in governing us for capital. And this “If someone walks up to you in the street, and asks you to choose between a dish of shite and a dish of vomit, you wouldnae want to pick either.” (https://www.facebook.com/notes/jens-m%C3%B8lgaard/my-thoughts-on-the-referendum/10205136903610568)

I’m going to end with a quote from an awesome friend. Massive urgings to read the rest of her post.

A referendum isn’t direct democracy – it’s a question framed by those in power offering a choice they are willing to give, which of course is why it’s a question I don’t even particularly want to answer, because what they’re willing to offer is another capitalist state.

http://edinburghanarchists.noflag.org.uk/2014/09/referendum-rant-from-an-immigrant/

Whichever the outcome is, I won’t be too sad. As I said, a yes appeals to me for many emotive reasons. But a no is not bad. Whatever the outcome I’ll still be working with incredible people on projects that I do see as being the seeds of a truly better society. And I’ll know I rejected two options, when I disagreed with them both.