Letters

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.

Gender: we need more than self-identification

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Sally Campbell’s article on the Gender Recognition Act (September SR) raised important issues, but I don’t think accepting self-identification is the answer. Gender reform must seek women’s consent, not their deference.

It can take up to five years to go through the process of applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate. This is monstrously long for people wishing to transition and leaves them abandoned in a legal limbo and more vulnerable to misogynist violence.

We're not blank slates

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Kevin Devine and Susan Rosenthal make some valid points about the importance of social environment in the genesis of mental disorder, in their defence of Oliver James’s book Not In Your Genes (Feedback, September SR).

But this doesn’t prevent their “blank slate” view of the mind being not just scientifically flawed, but also potentially reactionary in a political sense.

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.

Antisemitism and the left in Britain today (2)

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John Rose’s article may serve to begin a discussion but certainly was not a “clear perspective” as claimed by SR. John argues “the need to campaign for national dialogue between Palestinians and Israeli Jews”. That would be nice. But in what world have the Palestinians got the power to make Israeli Jews listen? The Netanyahu government may step back from the proposal to extend Israeli law to Ma’ale Adumin, the massive illegal settlement which cuts the West Bank in two.

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