Against the Current, No. 128, May/June 2007

Against the Current, No. 128, May/June 2007

Nakba One, Two, Three?

— The Editors

IN SHEER MAGNITUDE, the Palestine partition of 1947 wasn’t even that year’s most disastrous division of a former British colonial possession. The partition of the Indian subcontinent — between India and the new Muslim state Pakistan — produced roughly as many deaths, in horrific communal violence between Muslims and Hindus, as the numbers of Palestinian Arabs expelled from their homeland and robbed of their lands in the 1947-49 Catastrophe — al-Nakba — accompanying the establishment of the state of Israel.

Court Upholds Indecent Act

— A Letter from The Editors

WE WILL PROTECT you for your own good: The U.S. Supreme Court’s bizarre decision in Gonzales v. Carhart and Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood reintroduces to American jurisprudence the paternalistic motivation that characterized decisions about women from a century ago.

Race and Class: What Is "Black Enough"?

— Malik Miah

BARACK OBAMA’S BID to be the first African American president of The United States has brought on an unusual discussion among many Blacks: “Is he Black enough?”

The junior U.S. Senator from Illinois is making history by the broad support he’s receiving from a broad spectrum of social and racial groups in the country. Yet it’s reopened an old debate within the community about what defines Blackness.

Framing Reverend Pinkney

— Ted McTaggart

ON MARCH 21, 2007, REVEREND Edward Pinkney, leader of the Black Autonomy Network Community Organization (BANCO), was convicted by an all-white jury at the Berrien County Courthouse in St. Joseph, Michigan. The jury found him guilty on five counts of voter fraud — four felonies and one misdemeanor — for which he could face up to 20 years in prison.

Mexicans Defend Their Humble Tortilla

— Diana Denham

TENS OF THOUSANDS of Mexicans filled the central plaza of the capital on January 31, 2007 in the March for Food Sovereignty and In Defense of a Minimum Wage and Employment. This megamarcha in Mexico City was a mass expression of similar mobilizations throughout the country since the beginning of the year, when the price of tortillas rose drastically. Marchers chanted, “We want tortillas, not PAN”— pan means bread in Spanish and is also the acronymn for Felipe Calderón’s Nacional Action Party, currently in power at the national level.

Indonesia's Democratic Movement Under Attack

— Max Lane

ON MARCH 28 and 29, a series of rightist mobilizations took place in Jakarta, Indonesia. The largest of these was a 500-strong mobilization aimed at disrupting a march and rally being organized by the United Party for National Liberation (Papernas) protesting foreign domination of the Indonesian minerals sector and demanding nationalization of companies in the sector. These groups were armed with scythes, knives and canes. This was the fourth time in the last six months that Papernas had been targeted for violent disruption.

German Social Democracy in the Great Coalition

— William Smaldone

IN AN EARLIER article, I noted that the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) leadership’s continued catering to the needs of capital would endanger its hold on power.(1) That appraisal, however, underestimated the political skills of SPD leader and Chancellor of the Red-Green coalition government, Gerhard Schröder.

Harvest of Empire, Part 2

— Kim Moody

ACCORDING TO THE Migration Policy Institute’s estimate, 1.8 million foreign-born workers belonged to unions in 2003, up from 1.4 million in 1996, increasing as a proportion of union membership from 8.9% to 11.5% in that period. The rapid increase in the proportion of foreign-born union members was due in part to the decline in membership among native-born workers.(1)

The Iron Cage--1947, 1967, 2007

The High Stakes of Unity

— interview with Hisham Ahmed

PROFESSOR HISHAM H. AHMED, currently in the department of politics at Saint Mary’s College of California, is a Palestinian-American scholar in the field of Middle East politics and Islamist movements. He has contributed to several books and is the author of From Religious Salvation to Political Transformation: The Role of Hamas in Palestinian Society (1994). Born in the Dheisheh refugee camp near Bethlehem, he was interviewed by phone by David Finkel from the ATC editorial board, shortly after the announcement of the Palestinian government of national unity. (Visit his website

Artistry & Activism: The Poetry of Irena Klepfisz

— Ursula McTaggart

“I see now the present dangers, the dangers of the void, of the American hollowness in which I walk calmly day and night as I continue my life. I begin to see the incessant grinding down of lines for stamps, for jobs, for a bed to sleep in, of a death stretched imperceptibly over a lifetime. I begin to understand the ingenuity of it. The invisibility. The Holocaust without smoke.” —Irena Klepfisz, “Bashert”(1)

Review: Escaping the Iron Cage

— Dianne Feeley

The Iron Cage
The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood
Rashid Khalidi
Boston: Beacon Press, 2006,
$24.95 hardcover.

SINCE BRITISH FIELD Marshall Edmund Allenby’s troops captured Jerusalem in December 1917 the Arab population of Palestine has been trapped in an iron cage. This vivid image is the central metaphor Rashid Khalidi uses to examine nearly a century of desire for an independent Palestinian state. His book, completed last summer as Israel bombed Lebanon and laid seize to Gaza, focuses on Palestinian agency within the constraints imposed.

Five Brief Reviews

— David Finkel

The 33-Day War
Israel’s War on Hezbollah
in Lebanon and Its Consequences
Gilbert Achcar with Michel Warschawski. Boulder and London: Paradigm Publishers, 2007. 95 pages + notes and index. $17.95 paper.

THE SPIRALLING DISASTER generated by the George W. Bush administration’s Middle East adventures is at the center of this concise and sharp little book.

Review: Do Zionists Run America?

— Allen Ruff

The Power of Israel
in the United States
James Petras
Atlanta: Clarity Press, 2006,
190 pages, $16.95 paperback.

WIDELY KNOWN AS an expert in Latin American history and social movements, and a prolific critic of U.S. imperialism, James Petras has ventured forth in his latest book The Power of Israel in the United States, and several recent essays on the same theme, as a modern-day exorcist eager to take on a cabal currently holding in its grasp the very course and direction of the nation.

Israel's Future Foretold

— Hal Draper

[The following text is taken from Hal Draper’s article in the July, 1948 issue of the U.S. revolutionary socialist journal New International, “How to Defend Israel: A Political Program for Israeli Socialists.” It proposes a democratic and revolutionary approach to defending the right of self-determination of the Jewish nation that had emerged in Palestine.

Prophetic Warning

— Hannah Arendt

[The following brief excerpt is taken from the beginning of the essay “Zionism Reconsidered,” by the dissident Jewish political philosopher Hannah Arendt, which appeared in The Menorah Journal, August 1945 and reprinted in the volume Zionism Reconsidered (Michael Selzer ed., The Macmillan Company, 1970). The centenary of the birth of this remarkable and complex author was observed in 2006. “Hannah Arendt always asked the right questions,” comments Norman Finkelstein, comparing her pioneering work on the Nazi genocide and anti-semitism to the shallow production of “Holocaust Studies” figures like Daniel Goldhagen in today’s degraded intellectual climate.

The West East Divan Project

— Clara Takarabe

SEEING OLD FRIENDS, former students, colleagues, landscapes and voices from my past, I was filled with conflicting emotions from elation to sorrow when I first watched Paul Smaczny’s double DVD “The Ramallah Concert/Knowledge is the Beginning: West Eastern Divan Orchestra” with Daniel Barenboim, the superstar Israeli-Argentinian  conductor and pianist.

One DVD is a filming of the orchestra’s concert in Ramallah, occupied West Bank in 2005; the second is a documentary that chronicles the years 1999, 2002-2005 of the West Eastern Divan (WED) orchestra and participants, Barenboim’s journey to the West Bank, and the effects of the wall.

Hounding Azmi Bishara

— David Finkel

AZMI BISHARA, THE leader and representative in the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) of the National Democratic Assembly (Tajamu’) — and quite possibly Israel’s most outstanding democratic politician — has resigned his Knesset seat and apparently gone into exile.

In Memoriam: Tanya Reinhart, 1943-2007

— David Finkel

THE SUDDEN AND untimely death of Tanya Reinhart is a tragic loss. It is particularly painful as this brilliant Israeli linguist and dissident, with her husband and poet Aharon Shabtai, had moved to New York in December feeling they could no longer live in Israel while the brutal repression continued in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.


Spirits of Revolution

— Michael Löwy

Marx, Lenin and the Revolutionary Experience.
Studies of Communism and Radicalism
in the Age of Globalization
Paul Le Blanc
New York, Routledge, 2006, 337 pages, $29.95 paper.

IN THIS MOST welcome and refreshing contribution to the discussion on the present relevance of 20th Century radical traditions,  Paul Le Blanc offers insightful and sympathetic assessments of Marx, Lenin, and currents ranging from Radical Christianity to Anarchism.

Radical Religion: A Comment

— Gloria Albrecht

[The following is an excerpt from Dr. Gloria Albrecht's paper “Labor Radicalism, Spirituality, Scholarship and Activism: Reactions to Paul LeBlanc’s Marx, Lenin and the Revolutionary Experience,” which she delivered October 19, 2006  at Wayne State University in Detroit. Professor Albrecht is Professor of Religious Studies at University of Detroit-Mercy and a Christian feminist ethicist specializing in the study of social justice.]

PAUL LE BLANC begins by noting that his book is full of “odd combinations” (1). For example, the inclusion of both secular political theorists and Christian theologians: Lenin and Tillich....

One Man in Two Middles

— J. Quinn Brisben

Twilight People:
One Man’s Journey to Find His Roots
David Houze
Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006.
329 pages,  $24.95 hardback.

DAVID HOUZE WAS born in South Africa in 1965. In late 1966 he left that country with his mother and went to Meridian, Mississippi. In South Africa, where he has returned several times as an adult, he would not be classified as African but as “coloured,” a person of mixed European and African ancestry with a definite but uneasy place in the apartheid society which existed at the time of his birth.

In Memoriam

Iris M. Young, 1949-2006

— Mechthild Nagel

IRIS MARION YOUNG, one of the leading feminist and political philosophers of our time, died in August, 2006 at the age of 57. Born January 2, 1949 in New York City, she studied philosophy as an undergraduate at Queens College, where she graduated with honors in 1970, and received her masters and doctorate in philosophy from Pennsylvania State University in 1974.


The "Labor Aristocracy"

— Charlie Post

SEBASTIAN LAMB, TOM Smith and Steve Bloom raise important issues in their responses to my articles on the labor aristocracy. Lamb and I agree that working class reformism and conservatism are rooted in the experience of capitalist social relations of production. Both of us reject elitist explanations that reduce workers to “passive empty vessels” into whose heads are poured all sorts of “garbage” by the ruling class. Our differences on the material foundations of working class conservatism are, in my opinion, matters of nuance.