Banned Books 153

At Saturday’s great march in support of Palestine in London, police arrested members of the Communist Party of Great Britain Marxist-Leninist (CPGBML) for having a pamphlet on sale on their stall.

The “illegal” pamphlet is entitled Zionism: A Racist, Anti-Semitic and Reactionary Tool of Imperialism.

Just what is illegal about it, I do not know. The authorship is ascribed to the CPGBML. I have looked through it and it is scrupulous in distinguishing between zionism and judaism. Criticism of Israel and of the zionist movement is not anti-semitic.

I suspect what may have upset the authorities are the passages on collaboration between some leaders of the zionist movement and the Nazis.

This is a difficult subject. My own view, which I have discussed both in several articles on this blog and in person with many friends who take a different view, (including Tony Greenstein who has written an entire book on the subject), is that it serves no useful purpose to keep bringing this up. Aberrations of history at a time of great world convulsion, including the events leading up to the Holocaust and that genocide itself, throw up many horrors it is often not helpful to try to tie in to contemporary events.

I see this in Scotland. It appears true that unfortunately a few Scottish nationalists momentarily considered Nazi Germany a possible ally against a common enemy in London. But efforts are made constantly on social media to use that as a meme to portray modern Scottish nationalists as Nazis, which is utter nonsense. Furthermore bringing the Nazis into political debate, especially in anything relating to the Holocaust, immediately causes all kinds of nutters to come out of the woodwork.

Truth is important and true history should always be acknowledged and faced. But I believe my fellow supporters of Palestine do not help today’s debate or the Palestinian cause by dredging up 90-year-old marginal stories.

This particular truth certainly has a place in the history books, but most of the attempts to insert it into current debate are not, in my view, justified.

That, however, is a very different view to saying that books addressing the subject should be banned and people arrested for possessing them. This is a simply appalling attack on freedom of speech. I condemn it unreservedly.

It is also not in the least plain to me where the offence lies.

Is it an offence simply to possess this pamphlet? Does the offence lie rather in displaying it, or in offering to sell it? Is it only an offence to try to sell it at a demonstration? Would it be an offence to sell it in a bookshop? Would it be an offence if it were in a university library for the study of Marxist-Leninist thought?

The pamphlet was published in 2015. Was that an offence at the time? Did anybody who displayed or sold a copy of the pamphlet over the last eight years commit an offence? Is everybody today in possession of a copy committing an offence, including me who has one for the purposes of journalism?

And what offence is it precisely?

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has put out a very strong statement on the use of the current attacks on Gaza to damage freedom of expression worldwide:

GENEVA (23 November 2023) – UN experts* today expressed alarm at the worldwide wave of attacks, reprisals, criminalisation and sanctions against those who publicly express solidarity with the victims of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine.

“Calls for an end to the violence and attacks in Gaza, or for a humanitarian ceasefire, or criticism of Israeli government’s policies and actions, have in too many contexts been misleadingly equated with support for terrorism or antisemitism. This stifles free expression, including artistic expression, and creates an atmosphere of fear to participate in public life,” the experts said…

“People have the right to express solidarity with victims of grave human rights violations and demand justice, whether from one side or the other or both,” the experts said.

They noted with deep concern that several artists around the world have been targeted because of their art or political messaging, pressured to change topics of artistic expression, and labelled either as troublemakers or as indifferent to the suffering of one side or the other. “Some artists have been deprogrammed and censored for calling for peace, others have lost their jobs, and some artists have been silenced or side-lined by their own cultural organisations and artistic communities,” they said.

Journalists and media outlets in Israel and Western countries reporting critically about Israeli policies and operations in the occupied territories or expressing pro-Palestinian views have been the target of threats, intimidation, discrimination and retaliation, which have increased the risk of self-censorship, undermining the diversity and plurality of news that is essential for press freedom and the right of the public to be informed. At least one media outlet in Israel has been threatened reportedly with closure for perceived “bias” towards Palestine. They also criticised the disproportionate and wrongful removal of pro-Palestinian content by social media platforms.

The experts raised concerns about suspensions and expulsions of students from universities, dismissal of academics, calls for their deportation, threats to dissolve student unions and associations, and restrictions on campus meetings to express solidarity with the suffering civilians in Gaza and denounce the ongoing Israeli military response. Students have also been blacklisted in some universities as supporters of terrorism, with accompanying threats to their prospects for future employment…

The experts noted a highly disturbing trend to criminalise and label pro-Palestinian protests as “hate protests” and to pre-emptively ban them, often citing risks to national security, including risks related to incitement to hatred, without providing evidence-based justification. “Such actions not only violate the right to protest guaranteed by Article 21 of the ICCPR, but are also detrimental to democracy and any peace-building efforts,” they said.

The experts recalled that any restriction on human rights must meet the conditions of legality, necessity and proportionality. “Furthermore, advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to violence, hostility or discrimination is prohibited under international law,” they said, calling on individuals in official positions in particular to desist from hate speech and inflammatory statements…

Alexandra Xanthaki, Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights; Farida Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on the right to education; Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the protection and promotion of freedom of opinion and expression.

The attack on freedom of speech and association is across the western world. Little incidents like this arrest of CPGBML activists, or my own investigation for “terrorism”, are all signs of a real slide towards fascism. Fascism is being enabled by zionism.

As you know, I am not myself a communist. But society is losing touch with the idea that freedom of speech is not freedom for those who agree either with the government, or with you.

The activists have been released on police bail.

On the surface of it, the first bail condition is ludicrous to impose on avowed Marxists, but this appears to be another manifestation of the desire to criminalise any attempt to refer to Nazi genocide in association with the Gaza genocide. The restriction on distributing leaflets at protests is straight from the handbook of a totalitarian state.

Which is a much scarier handbook than a political pamphlet.


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153 thoughts on “Banned Books

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  • Brian Sides

    While filing in the online consultation on Central Bank Digital Currency
    (yes I know that it is not a true consolation , they shall do what they want to regardless. It is just a way of gauging the awareness and possible opposition of CBDC. That they are promising hand on heart will not be programable and nothing like the Chinese social credit control)
    Some of the questions had the usual accepted premise that excluded the non premise position.
    But I was surprised by the last question it related to people with protected characteristics .
    Yes there are laws that are designed to give certain people more protection against offence than other people.
    If that makes any sense. These include “race including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin religion or belief” I thought we all had some colour except the invisible man.
    My reply was
    We all have to pay our dues
    but be careful how you say that or you may offend some one with protected characteristics.

  • Jack

    Note that it is apparently perfectly fine to claim that Hamas are nazis:

    Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Hamas the “new Nazis” on Tuesday at a press conference alongside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

    But as soon as you claim that Israel behave like nazis all hell breaks loose for some reason. Why is that? Are israelis/lobby living in denial of their obvious racism, brutality warcrimes and therefore project all these negative views/traits/thoughts onto the palestinians?

    • Stevie Boy

      Poor old Benji was just trying to highlight that the Israeli Zionists are the “old (proper) nazis”, whilst Hamas are just usurpers, not proper nazis. ‘Mein fuhrer knew how to deal with all those women, children and prisoners’.

  • Brianfujisan

    In A Shop Doorway
    Love on Display
    For the world passing on
    yet rises a new dawn.

    With Cherished Gifts
    Children and Spirits they lift

  • Goose

    Jewish BBC news staff defy ban to attend march against antisemitism

    Jewish employees working in current affairs and factual journalism told Times Radio that being Jewish “took precedence over what the BBC thinks”.

    This is a real test for the BBC. I’d guess many of their staff wanted to attend the pro-Palestine/ceasefire marches, but resisted on the basis of threatened disciplinary action. Since the situation isn’t over, if there’s no disciplinary action it’ll certainly set a precedent.

    • TS

      Both the news staffers who wanted to attend, and the BBC officials who told them not to, are perfectly well aware that such a “march against antisemitism” was nothing of the sort, but a Zionist rally in support of Israeli war crimes!

  • fonso

    There is no justification for hiding that period of Zionist history and angrily shutting down all mention of it. Least of all at a moment like this when the world is struggling to comprehend what is being done to the Gaza Strip. The years of the Second World War are highly illuminating of the true nature of Zionist ideology. They’re also the years that are constantly referenced by Zionists and their supporters to justify Zionism and to hail it as one of history’s most noble movements. So why should people not know what the Zionist Movement actually did during those years?

  • John Main

    Nobody is saying it, so I guess it’s up to me.

    To equate what is happening in Gaza to the Nazi genocide is fatuous. The people making this false equivalence are ignorant, irredeemably biased, or motivated by the most malign of intentions.

    As for the actions of the police. There are two extreme factions in this country right now – both factions would happily see the subjugation, even the elimination, of the other. Both factions contain hotheads who can’t wait to start spilling blood along the way. And no, neither of the factions is explicitly Jewish.

    The police are in the middle, and will be expected to put their lives in danger if the hotheads, on either side, get their way.

    Anything that dampens down the smouldering fires is necessary and welcome. It’s greatly preferable to pitched battles to the death on the streets of our cities.

    • Brianfujisan

      Stop your Nonsense. If Israel could get away with it (and they plan to) – a PAUSE like you would with a movie – ‘Give the Kids a Drink before Starting Murdering them again…’?

      • Goose

        Israel is currently hosting Douglas Murray. A man who made his own comparison to the Nazis recently, when he claimed that Hamas are, wait for it…worse than the Nazis!
        His absurd reasoning being: the Nazis didn’t revel in, or enjoy their killing. As absurd as Douglas’ comparison is, how on earth does he know the Nazis didn’t enjoy their murdering? The whole idea the Nazis suffered some sort of collective remorse, and post-homicidal depression, is revisionist nonsense. Yet there he is, reporting from Israel.

    • Cabbage

      An ethnic group is being subjected to industrial murder by a bunch of European racists who are ideologically sympathetic to the racist ideas outlined by an Austrian with distinctive facial hair however the Zionist State Terrorist group predates Hitlerite Germany by some 50 years.

      The correct parallel is not Germany – but Iraq – The Zionist State Terrorist Group is essentially the Ukrainian mirror of ISIS.

    • Bayard

      “Nobody is saying it,”

      Perhaps that should have told you something. Sadly it didn’t. Stevie Boy at 17.02 [John Main at 17:49] on the 28th had the right quotation for this situation.

      “To equate what is happening in Gaza to the Nazi genocide is fatuous.”

      Killing of people for the simple reason of their belonging to a religious, ethnic or national group – check
      Indiscriminate killing of people regardless of sex and age – check
      Use of mass extermination techniques – check
      Demonisation of the victims – check
      Thus it would be truer to say the exact opposite: “The people denying this equivalence are ignorant, irredeemably biased, or motivated by the most malign of intentions.”

        • Bayard

          SB, you were quoting Mark Twain and I was referencing that quote until the mods altered my post and changed its meaning entirely.
          (Mods, you will see that the sentence you altered ends in a full stop. If I had meant it to mean what you took it to mean, I would have ended it with either a comma or a colon.)

  • Kacper

    Minor correction here, too. There is no “United Nations High Commission for Human Rights”. None. There is a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and there’s their office – UN OHCHR, or the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights that publishes brochures, etc.

    This is a really minor detail, but like every misattributed quote, it can be annoying for some people with ADHD 😉

    [ Mod: Indeed. That minor detail has now been corrected. Thank you. ]

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