Video: Jeff Halper presents ‘War Against the People’ (part 1)

Check out our latest short video of Jeff Halper talking about his forthcoming book,War Against the People: Israel, the Palestinians and Global Pacification.

In this first of two short videos, Jeff Halper explores the reasons behind the reluctance of both the Israeli state and western governments to end the occupation of Palestine.

His book, War Against the People, is a disturbing insight into the new ways world powers such as the US, Israel, Britain and China forge war today. It is a subliminal war of surveillance and whitewashed terror, conducted through new, high-tech military apparatuses, designed and first used in Israel against the Palestinian population. Including hidden camera systems, sophisticated sensors, information databases on civilian activity, automated targeting systems and, in some cases, unmanned drones, it is used to control the very people the nation’s leaders profess to serve.
Halper WATP

Drawing from years of research, as well as investigations and interviews conducted at international arms fairs, Halper reveals that this practice is much more insidious than was previously thought. As Western governments tighten the grip on their use of private information and claw back individual liberties, War Against the People is a timely reminder that fundamental human rights are being compromised for vast sections of the world, and that this is a subject that should concern everyone.

The video can also be found on Pluto’s Youtube channel.

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Jeff Halper is the head of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). He is the author of Between Redemption and Revival: The Jewish Yishuv in Jerusalem in the Nineteenth Century (Westview, 1991), An Israeli in Palestine (Pluto, 2008) and Obstacles to Peace (ICAHD, Fifth Edition, 2013).

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War Against the People: Israel, the Palestinians and Global Pacification is available to buy from Pluto Press here.

The Origins of the Left Book Club

Pluto Press are excited to announce our partnership with the new Left Book Club. You can find out more about joining the club, as well as the books that will be included in the collection here.

Below we publish an article by LBC director Roger van Zwanenberg about the history of the original Left Book Club.

‘The creation of the Left Book Club was a unique event. It was the first book club in Britain, the first Peoples-History-of-England-200x300socialist book club, and its overriding feature was that it brought together all elements of the Left. Historically, despite many attempts, no one had ever achieved left unity on such a scale. The book club was more than just a club,  it was seen by all who took part as a political movement, that stimulated its members to work together for a better future. When the first socialist government took power in Britain in 1945, a significant number of senior members of the new government had received their earlier training through the Left Book Club. Ernest Bevin, Herbert Morrison and nine other Left Book Club authors sat in the Cabinet, including the new Prime Minister. The Left Book Club’s achievement was due in part to the social and political conditions of the time, and to the character of its founder, Victor Gollancz.

The Left Book Club was a child of its time. I think people sometimes forget that governments before 1945 openly worked primarily for the owners of large capital, for the wealthy.  Workers in the 19th century had made important gains through struggles for democracy, and through the creation of trades unions. Up until 1914, relations between Labour and the owners of Capital had changed little since Karl Marx wrote in the 1850s and 60s. The advent of the Liberal Party had instituted some changes, but generally speaking Parliament represented the owners of Capital.  Despite the huge sacrifices of human life and resources in the 1914-18 war, where nearly a million young men died, government policy in 1919 made no concessions for the death and suffering of the people.

The interwar years were years of near permanent depression. Poverty and unemployment ensured that the British ruling classes regained their 1914 predominance.  The immediate policy of the British government had been to regain their dominant position in the world, and that meant controlling the Gold Standard.  By 1929,  at the beginning of the Great Crash, British unemployment was still very high. By 1931 it had risen even higher. The hunger marches and suffering of a wide section of the British population were the backdrop for the creation of the Left Book Club.

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The Disciplinary Violence of Sectarianism in Lebanon

Bassel F. Salloukh introduces the new co-authored bookThe Politics of Sectarianism in Postwar Lebanon for the Pluto Press blog.

Salloukh POSIPWLWho would have thought that the popular uprisings that swept across the Arab World, starting in Tunisia in 2010, and bringing with them the promise of a better and more democratic future, would mutate into destructive sectarianism that has left many states and societies in ruins? From Yemen to Syria, to Libya and Morocco, sectarianism is growing in the Arab World as invariably polyphonic identities are reimagined and reconstructed along chauvinistic and reductionist sectarian fault lines. By contrast, Lebanon’s political system seems immune from this sectarian wave, but for all the wrong reasons. Some four years after the eruption of the popular uprisings, a number of Arab states are looking eerily like Lebanon, or about to reproduce the pitfalls of its uniquely sectarian system.

In writing The Politics of Sectarianism in Postwar Lebanon, my co-authors and I did not want to focus mainly on politicians and cataclysmic events, nor on Lebanon’s endless political crises and multiple wars, but rather on the disciplinary violence of Lebanon’s sectarian system as an everyday lived experience. Inspired by Foucauldian and Gramscian paradigms, as well as the work of James Tully, we unpacked the operation of a complex ensemble of institutional, clientelist, and discursive ‘practices of governance’, that collectively sustain the political economy and ideological hegemony of Lebanon’s postwar sectarian system. We argued that the disciplinary tentacles of the system we describe reach deep into Lebanese society, and operate to produce and reproduce sectarian identities, loyalties, and  forms of political mobilization. This system manufactures disciplined sectarian subjects who embrace what are otherwise very modern and historically constructed sectarian identities, but are assumed to be timeless and primordial.

Ultimately, what emerged from our survey was a framework of social reproduction which stretches over substantial areas of everyday life, demarcating the parameters of the possible, preventing the emergence of any semblance of rule of law or accountability, and, finally, undermining challenges and alternatives to the sectarian system itself. This framework appears to perpetuate the sectarian/political, economic, and religious elite’s political, material and symbolic perogatives in postwar Lebanon.

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BRICS bankers confirm they won’t undermine Western financial decadence

As the 7th BRICS Summit comes to a close in Russia, Patrick Bond discusses the financial aspirations of imperialism in these countries. His book, BRICS: An Anti-Capitalist Critique is published next month. 

‘The main point of the summit of leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa this week Bond BRICSwas host Vladimir Putin’s demonstration of economic autonomy, given how much Western sanctions and low oil prices keep biting Russia. In part this sense of autonomy comes from nominal progress made on finally launching the bloc’s two new financial institutions.

But can these new banks address the extraordinary challenges in world finance? For example, more than 60% of Greeks voting in last Sunday’s referendum opposed the neoliberal dictates of Brussels-Berlin-Washington, thus raising hopes across Southern Europe and amongst victims of ‘Odious Debt’ everywhere.

Meanwhile, bubbly Shanghai and Shenzhen stock markets were crashing by $3 trillion from peak levels in just 17 days, a world-historic meltdown, at a time Chinese housing prices were also down 20% over the prior year. Beijing’s emergency bail-out measures represent vast subsidies to financiers, just like those used in Washington, London, Brussels and Tokyo since 2007.

Change is urgently needed yet the BRICS’ finance bureaucrats – especially two leading appointees from South Africa – won’t deviate from orthodoxy. Ongoing financial turbulence should offer a gap for the $100 billion Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA), which is anticipated to open its doors next month. However, it carries not only a strange name that even many insider experts often get wrong, but is dollar-denominated and structurally hard-wired to support the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

To illustrate, according to CRA rules agreed at last year’s BRICS Fortaleza summit, after 30% of a country’s quota is borrowed – based on double the amount of its own contributions (China at $41 billion, and Brazil, Russia and India at $18 billion each, and South Africa at $5 billion) – then the borrower must next sign a neoliberal IMF agreement.

For South Africa this could prove painful in the period ahead, after Pretoria finds itself borrowing from the CRA to repay the country’s soaring foreign debt. Inheriting $25 billion in apartheid Odious Debt in 1994, Nelson Mandela’s government worked diligently to repay. But over the past decade, outflows of profits, dividends and interest soared as the largest Johannesburg-based firms (Anglo American, DeBeers, etc) shifted their financial headquarters to London.

The foreign debt ballooned to its present $145 billion, the same level compared to the size of the economy that was hit thirty years ago when PW Botha’s apartheid regime declared a default. To repay short-term debt in a crisis would soon exhaust the $3 billion Pretoria is permitted to immediately access from the CRA, and then the IMF will march in.

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Syriza’s Economic Brain

As Euclid Tsakalotos emerges as Greece’s new finance minister, we reflect on the continuing relevance of his book, co-authored with Christos Laskos, Crucible of Resistance: Greece, the Eurozone and the World Economic Crisis.

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One of the most pernicious aspects of the democratic deficit in European politics is the undue focus it places upon individual political actors – their habits, their motives, their ‘style’. The case of the outgoing Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, illustrates this perfectly: the story ought to have been Mr. Varoufakis as conduit for the resurgent energies of the Greek people, a principle economic actor in a radical democratic party which came to power with a mandate to seek change in Europe. Yet, to follow the coverage across almost the entire spectrum of mainstream media outlets in the last few months, you could be forgiven for thinking that the real story was a maverick motorcycle riding economist with a penchant for leather jackets and a bad boy attitude.

But now Mr. Varoufakis has quite literally ‘rode off into the sunset’ and his ‘less flamboyant’ replacement, Euclid Tsakalotos, seemingly raises the grim spectre of serious political discussion. Described as ‘mild-mannered’, ‘moderate’, ‘professorial’ and even ‘gentlemanly’, the choice of adjectives suggest journalists who are now only delaying the inevitable – a renewed focus on substance. Unless Mr. Tsakalotos starts arriving in Brussels by speedboat or dating supermodels, we may at last hear more of the mandate for change in Europe. Continue reading

Does unarmed resistance in Palestine work?

The authors of the new book  Popular Protest in Palestine discuss whether peaceful resistance to Israeli occupation is appropriate in the face of so much violence.

Darweish PPIP‘In March 2015 the Israeli electorate voted into power the most hard-line coalition in Israel’s history, headed up by Benjamin Netanyahu who had campaigned on the promise that he would prevent the establishment of any Palestinian state. In the national newspaper Haaretz the correspondent Gideon Levy bemoaned the result: ‘If after six years years of sowing fear and anxiety, hatred and despair, this is the nation’s choice, then it is very ill indeed. Netanyahu deserves the Israeli people and they deserve him.’ (Haaretz, 18 March 2015) Another commentator, James Besser, concluded that ‘apartheid is the path Israeli voters have chosen. The inevitable results will include even greater international isolation for the Jewish state, a boost to efforts to apply boycotts and sanctions, diminished support from American Jews and endlessly intensifying cycles of violence.’ (Haaretz, 20 March 2015)

But whilst the Israeli peace-camp anguished over the result, in the Occupied Palestinian Territories the return of Netanyahu to power was met with indifference by significant sections of the population. As Huneida Ghanem of the Palestinian Forum for Israeli Studies explained, ‘Nothing is going to come from the Israeli state if the Israelis don’t feel they don’t pay any price for the Israeli occupation.’ (http://tinyurl.com/nshownb, 22 June 2015)

Ghanem’s analysis echoed one of the conclusions we reached in Popular Protest in Palestine: The Uncertain Future of Unarmed Resistance. In 2002, the wave of Palestinian unarmed resistance to occupation grew in response to the Israeli decision to build a Wall between the West Bank and Israel. The subsequent resistance movement failed to exert sufficient leverage on Israeli publics and decision-makers, and the question of Israeli commitment to occupation was left untouched.

We came to this conclusion after conducting numerous interviews with Israeli peace activists struggling to maintain hope for the future of their country. One of our informants expressed herself with brutal frankness:

“The popular resistance is weakening. It breaks my heart. I want to live here, but the worst thing for Israel is peace and quiet. If the occupation continues there is no future for Israel. The weakening of Palestinian popular resistance allows the occupation to continue.

People here in Israel – they just don’t realise, they don’t have to deal with it. It is a different world for Israelis – but it will blow up.

There was the second intifada – nothing came out of that and the buses being blown up. Now the buses are not being blown up and still nothing comes out of it. Israelis are comfortable with the situation … people look the other way … people live with it.”

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