Letters

Islamophobia and the left in France

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I would like to thank John Mullen for reading my article “Rage against police racism rocks France” (March SR) and for taking the time to respond to it.

John is absolutely correct to point out that the question of Islamophobia is far from solved when it comes to the radical left in France; however, he is underestimating the substantial improvements that have been secured in recent years.

Art and revolution

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Roger Huddle is right to be disappointed by the Royal Academy’s Revolution exhibition (March SR). Thankfully, unlike the stolid display on show there, the Imagine Moscow show at the Design Museum makes an effort to bring to life the artistic dynamism that the events of 1917 propelled.

None of the six architectural projects exhibited were ever built, but the fantastic ideas behind them live on in cities across the world, though sadly more often than not without their original political aims.

Robotic limitations

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Joseph Choonara’s article “If robots took our jobs, could they do them?” (March SR) made for refreshing reading. I work as a software developer and there is much talk of the impact AI will have on employment levels in our line of work. Much of it seems to follow the bleak “robot overlords” narrative that has dominated the debate so far.

I was pleased that Joseph raised the profitability problems inherent in automation under capitalism. Crucial arguments such as this one have been swept under the carpet by AI proponents.

Islamophobia in France

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Jad Bouharoun’s article “Rage against police racism in France” (March SR) was very good. It contained one error, however. The New Anticapitalist Party (NPA) candidate, Philippe Poutou, has absolutely not made fighting Islamophobia a priority in his presidential campaign.

Indeed, in the NPA newspaper, the issue is practically invisible. This is because, like all the other left and far-left groups in France, the NPA is hopelessly divided on whether one should organise against Islamophobia or not.

Once more on Zionism and antisemitism (2)

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“Out of the Ashes”, the last chapter of my book The Myths of Zionism, explored prospects for alliances between the Palestinian liberation movement and Jews, both in Europe and America, but also in Israel. I looked at a number of key Jewish individuals, including Avraham Burg, a religious Jew, a long standing senior Israel Labour politician and former speaker of Israel’s Knesset, parliament.

Once more on Zionism and antisemitism (1)

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The heart of John Rose’s argument (“Antisemitism and anti-Zionism today”, January SR) seems to me to be twofold: firstly, his emphasis on the need for dialogue between Israeli Jews and Palestinians as a precondition for resolution of the conflict. But secondly, it also raises the issue of the nature of Jewish cultural identity in a post-Zionist state of Palestine.

Can we define good art?

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Bob Light’s powerful tribute to John Berger (February SR) contained the claim, “There is no objective way to define what good art…is.” This raises interesting questions.

Clearly the merits of works of art cannot be measured in the same “objective” way as a person’s age or height. But societies (and individuals — including Berger and Light) do make aesthetic judgements and it is a mistake to imagine that these are purely subjective, individual or arbitrary.

Antisemitism and the left in Britain today (1)

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The political terrain underlying debates about antisemitism and Zionism has shifted dramatically since 2000. This shift has been shaped by the second intifada, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the more recent revival of antisemitism on the far right.

John Rose’s contribution to the discussion (“Antisemitism and anti-Zionism today”, January SR) is a serious attempt to address the consequences of these developments. However, I fear John’s approach risks confusing the issues at stake rather than clarifying them.

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