Left Party Makes Gains in Latvia

Yesterday’s election in Latvia is more than a curiosity for two reasons; firstly that Latvia has been the poster-child state for austerity, with political claims made that the Latvian population have supported huge spending cuts; and secondly that Latvia is one of the few parts of the former USSR to now be part of the EU.

Given the use of rhetoric about human rights by Western governments, the unconditional acceptance of Estonia and Latvia into the EU, despite the legal discrimination in those states against Russians, (and other ethnic minorities who use Russian as a lingua franca) is extraordinary. A full 16% of people domiciled in Latvia are denied a vote in elections, including many who were born there, and whose parents were born there.

In response to the 2008 recession, Latvia’s government made the decision to assume responsibility not only for the state’s sovereign debt, but also for the private sector debt of the banking institutions; and to protect the banks they launched extraordinary cuts in public spending. As Daniel McConnell in the Irish Independent reports:

A third of teachers in Latvia were laid off; the rest have endured savage salary cuts of up to 40 per cent, leaving them barely above the minimum wage.

Many have seen their pension entitlements slashed by 70 per cent; doctors and police officers face sacrificing a fifth of their pay. Many other key state services were severely curtailed including the cancellation of medical surgeries and closure of hospital wards in order to bring the cost of running the state into line.

According to an excellent study by Fine Gael TD Paschal Donohoe, which compares Ireland’s economy to other similar-sized European and Scandinavian countries, living standards in Latvia are well below those of Ireland and the EU average.

Despite the strong growth this year, unemployment remains high at 18 per cent but is falling.

The article in the Irish Independent quoted above is flawed by accepting the conventional but preposterous narrative that Latvia has somehow benefitted by these austerity measures. based upon the flimsy evidence that since its economy fell by a full 25% since 2008, and unemployment reached 22%, Latvia has more recently experienced a limited dead-cat bounce.

Robert J. Samuelson in the Washington Post had boasted that this limited recovery is linked to mass political support for what is euphemistically called “internal devaluation”, i.e. massive deflation of Latvia’s domestic economy and devastation of its civic institutions in the short term interests of servicing the debt:

What distinguished Latvia’s experience from our own is that, once people recognized the gravity of the crisis, they came together to support the necessary, if harsh, policies to stop the free-fall and restore stability. The economy is now growing again, and although joblessness remains horrific (16.6 percent), it is gradually declining. There is renewed hope. The government that presided over the punishing measures that brought about recovery was reelected last October with an expanded majority.

Yesterday’s election which reverses the 2010 result both burst the bubble of the myth that Latvians support austerity, but also reveals starkly the ethnic and linguistic divide in Latvian society which produced last year’s anomalous election result.

With regard to the economy, Samuelson is simply wrong. As Professor Michael Hudson argues:

The modest uptick in growth is primarily a consequence of Swedish demand for Latvian timber. Long-term economic prospects in the country, however, remain grim. … … let’s interrogate what Latvia’s “success” means? First, the banks are being paid. There has been no debt write-down. That would be an answer to the question previously raised of cui bono. Latvians are paying their private debts (largely to the Swedes, …  helping to ensure that Sweden has faced no economic crisis). The cost, however, came at 25% GDP contraction of Latvia’s economy and public-sector salaries to driven down 30%, with unemployment from public spending cutbacks driving down private sector salaries.

Meanwhile, the Latvian public will have to bear the cost of this programme through the future debt payments required on the more than €4.4bn borrowed from the EU and IMF, which was required to keep its government running on life support during the crisis.

The Latvian solution’s defenders, however, argued that the economic contraction has ended and that modest growth has returned, with unemployment finally below 15%. But emigration has been part of the reason for the fall in unemployment, while investment in manufacturing and savings are far too low to return the country to robust growth. Unlike, say, Argentina, which rejected austerity, and saw its economy grow at 6% annually for six of the seven years following its crisis, Latvia shows no signs of posting such numbers.

… So, is Latvia on the way to recovery? Only time will tell, but the initial signs look very bad. Demographically, the country’s very survival looks in doubt. Economically, according the internal devaluation proponents, the country will have to export its way back to health. Yet, as the economist Edward Hugh has shown, only 10% of Latvia’s economy is from manufacturing, as opposed to roughly 40% for an industrialised economy like Germany’s.

Effectively, Latvia has become a colony for the EU, with the population toiling to service debt, but their real economy and social infrastructure disintegrating. Let us be clear, Latvians now have a standard of living (as measured by Parity Purchasing Power (PPP)) roughly half that of Greece, and only slightly higher than Belarus; and a large proportion of Latvians are now economically worse off than when they were part of the USSR.

This is the context where the 28% vote for the centre-left “Harmony Centre” party (Saskanas Centrs) must be understood.

Harmony have opposed austerity, and strategically opposes the discrimination which denies citizenship to almost half the Russian speaking population. Russians make up a majority of the population of Daugavpils, the second city, and over 40% of population of the capital, Riga; but many Russian speakers are not accepted as citizens in Latvia’s racist constitution. Remember that almost half of Latvia’s Russian population are denied a vote.

Latvian government statistics show that 630,380 ethnic Russians live in the Baltic state. Some 367,662 are Latvian citizens, and around 22,000 hold Russian passports. Another 235,908 people are neither Russian nor Latvian and are classed as “non-citizens.”

For example, Tatjana Zdanoka, the only Russian out of Latvia’s nine MEPs, (despite one in four Latvians being Russian). She gained citizenship in 1996, but only after a court battle, and the original rejection of her citizenship was on political grounds, because she had opposed independence in 1991.

The centre-left Harmony party now has 31 seats in the 100 seat parliament (Saeima), and to have acheived that they must have attracted votes from left inclined ethnic Latvians. But a pro-austerity coalition seems to have been swiftly stitched together between the so-called Reform Party, and the Unity bloc, the parties which came second and third in the election; they can probably also count on the support of the Latvian ultra-nationalists.

This is an extraordinarily volatile situation. In particular, the apparent electoral support for pro-austerity parties is a reflection of the racialised politics in Latvia; where support for Keynesian economic intervention has become associated with the Russian minority; and austerity is trumpeted by Latvian nationalists.

104 comments on “Left Party Makes Gains in Latvia

  1. jim mclean on said:

    Told you interesting things were happening in Latvia, the oligarchs and their puppet politicians have stripped the country of its assets and are playing the “race” card. The role the Fascists in these countries is a blot in their history, that they now openly commemorate their Nazi Past along with Lithuania’s and Estonian’s highlights a dangerous precedence among “Democractic” countries of the former USSR. And those former USSR countries that have maintained a Stalinist tradition give support to minorities. If the Facists do seize power and implement Ethnic cleansing then the tanks will roll in. The Rights of Nations to self determination has always been a questionable right in if a country implements inhumane practices against its people others have a duty to intervene.

  2. “The centre-left Harmony party now has 31 seats in the 100 seat parliament (Saeima), and to have achieved that they must have attracted votes from left inclined ethnic Latvians.” In the longer term, that is probably the most encouraging aspect of this result. It’s not hard to see why Latvian nationalism has appeal, or why it behaves the way it does, but it’s not doing the Latvian people any favours, and the sooner it breaks down, the better.

  3. Stange that economists can talk about success when people’s standard of living is nose diving.

    You would think they would say something along the lines of “The system has screwed up big time and people’s standard of living will have to be sacrificed in order to save the economic system. This is unfortunate and the lessons will be addressed. But again, sorry for any inconvenience caused. Please don’t get mad. This really is the best system of a bad bunch we have. Honest, take our word for it. Again please don’t get mad, pretty please. Love and best wishes, your friendly economists”

    But no, they feel they can say what an astounding success this has all been. I mean has the ruling ideology been so successful. Has the ruling class victory been that complete? Jesus wept!.

  4. Perhaps some of our own domestic racists – who concentrate their fire on ‘Eastern European’ migrant workers above any other group – should look at what’s happening in countries like Latvia.

    The idea that Russian speakers with ‘historic roots’ in the land have to learn Latvian – one of the most difficult Indo-European languages – is a warning to all who want to restrict citizenship on such grounds.

  5. #3 Thankfully it appears that it hasn’t, as ahown by the ability of left parties (as in this case) to win sizeable votes in countries where an alternative to capitalism was tried, failed and caused huge resentment and trauma at the same time.

    The fact is that all over the world growing numbers of people can see in practice, not economics text books, that an economy based on unrestrained market forces is a bad idea.

    The tragedy is that the forces of the political left, particularly in Britain, are incapable at present of assisting those people to organise themselves to effectively challenge the ruling class ideology as you put it.

  6. Andrew – I think our domestic racists would be inspired by what has been happening in Latvia, which has seen a considerable amount of EU-assisted ethnic cleansing. A large proportion of the Latvian citizens working over here in Britain are ethnic Russians, assimilated enough to be full Latvian (and therefore EU) passport holders, but still second-class citizens in Latvia, and therefore last in line for jobs, housing etc. Paradoxically, liberalisation of Latvia’s citizenship rules, allowing the non-citizen Russians to get an EU passport, would probably further assist the process of exporting them from Latvia.

  7. It is perhaps worth pointing out that Russians in Latvia and Estonia suffer similar levels of legal discrimination as Arabs living within Israel’s pre-1967 borders

  8. A difference is that what constitutes an “ethnic Latvian” is very fluid. Lots of Latvians, for whom Latvian is their first language, have Russian ancestry, reflected in their Russian surnames with a Latvian -s stuck on the end. To put it crudely, the project of Latvian nationalism is to Latvianise those who are willing to be Latvianised, and get the rest to leave.

  9. #8 What pressure if any is being put on the EU to do anything about combatting this discrimination? Also, have representations been put to the ECHR?

  10. I’m probably not going to engage in an argument about this, but there are several propositions I’d like to question:

    #4 The idea that Russian speakers with ‘historic roots’ in the land have to learn Latvian – one of the most difficult Indo-European languages – is a warning to all who want to restrict citizenship on such grounds.

    As the Serbs in Kosovo say about Albanian, or Spanish in the Basque country about Euskadi (it doesn’t have an “f” sound, what possible fecking use can it be?) or the English about just about any language other than our own. That the boot was on the other foot for generations would seem to be of more than a little significance.

    #7 similar levels of legal discrimination

    I have to admit I missed the qualifier that it was Arabs in Israel rather than the Occupied Territories on first reading. But still, are Russians who marry Latvian nationals denied residence for example?

    And should the post be titled Left Party Makes Gains in Mickey-Mouse Tinpot Little Baltic Country? And might the “demographic threat” linked to their recent imperial masters be one reason why so many ethnic Latvians support reactionary parties, and is political progress really going to be made on the basis of Russian good, Latvian bad?
    [Put in a slanted way, but genuine question]

  11. #10. “I’m probably not going to engage in an argument about this…”

    Well I suspect you’re going to have to stay away from the thread from now on for that to be likely now.

  12. #10

    The diffcultly of learning the Lettish language is related to the fact that the only language that it is recognisably related to is Lithuanian.

    For Lithuanians it may not be so difficult.

    Generally comparative lingusitics argues that people learn languages more easily if they have structural similarities. For example, although Magyar and Finnish are not close, speakers of these languages encounter less dfficulty in learning the other than most people do. Similarly, English, Swedish and Dutch people – for example – find their languages familiar.

    “I have to admit I missed the qualifier that it was Arabs in Israel rather than the Occupied Territories on first reading.”

    Then read more carefully. Russians in Latvia are denied citizenship, which is a serious discrimination excluding them from political rights.

    And might the “demographic threat” linked to their recent imperial masters be one reason why so many ethnic Latvians support reactionary parties

    I don’t know what you mean by imperial masters, Latvia was liberated from imperialist occupiers in 1944, that isn’t all that recent.

    You misunderstand the nature of Latvia’s demographic threat. The viablity of the state is in danger through emigration, especially as it has the lowest living standards in the EU, and so emigration Westwards is an appealling option for almost everyone

  13. To be fair to skidmarx, the demographic threat which preoccupies Latvian nationalists is the threat of Russification, which was certainly a real enough threat when Latvia was part of the USSR. There is no shortage of examples of small national groups within the USSR and Russia which have largely disappeared over the last century, even while their name has graced the official title of the republic, autonomous oblast or whatever. Try finding a Karelian speaker in the Republic of Karelia – they’re getting ever scarcer. This was not necessarily the result of conscious policy, more the position of Russian as the lingua franca, and the extreme reluctance of Russians to bother with the local language anywhere in the USSR. That is what Latvian nationalism is trying to resist, and it’s not at all hard to see its appeal to ethnic Latvians.

  14. #13

    That is not the entire story, as minority languages are typically under threat from majority languages.

    For example look at the fate of Scottish Gaelic.

    to take another example, France is one of the most inhospitable places for minority languages.

  15. “minority languages are typically under threat from majority languages … look at the fate of Scottish Gaelic.” Quite true. But I’d presume that those Latvians trying to conserve their formerly minority, now majority language are most exercised by precedents closer to home – Livs, Veps, etc. etc.

  16. #15

    But while such cultural preservation projects may well be socially virtuous, that is not necessarily the case if they are linked to a project of political nationalism predciated upon Kleinstaaterei .

    Political nationalism as the promotion of a national consciousness and identity does not necessarily have to be based upon a project for an independent national state; and in the particular circumstacnes of the Baltic states (even if we exclude from consideration the majority Russian areas to the West around Kaliningrad and the East approaching St Petersburg), there is not only a large Russian populatio, but a sizeable number of other minorites for whom Russian is their shared second tongue. Given the economic and social dominance of Russia, then national indepenence projects for these Baltic states have in practice proven repressive, as they are in a sense trying to turn history backwards.

    They are where they are, and the existence of these states is now underpinned by the EU and NATO, and perhas their reemergecne as political entities was inevitable given the history of the USSR, and its demise.

    However, in the long term these republics can only prosper if they give full citizenship to their Russian populations, and develop closer and better relationships with MOscow.

  17. #11 Possibly, though my questions were designed to elicit clarifications, and while I disagree with Andy, and it would appear Andrew and Francis on the nature of the relationship between Russia and other former constituent republics of the Soviet Union, I can be happy without having to get into a row about the general merits of our viewpoints, at least today.Ironically an earlier version of this comment went into spam.

    #12 I don’t know what you mean by imperial masters

    No, you know[originally linked to picture of Stalin ,and a Martian] exactly[originally linked to picture of Nicholas II, with some joke attached] what I mean, but disagree.

    I can accept that Latvian may be more difficult for Russian speakers to learn that t’other way about, though using as an excuse not to be schooled in the national language that you are from a sizeable minority with links to the neighbouring great power with a disputable history with regard to that nation doesn’t sit easy with me, an seems at first sight to be an excuse based on a different interpretation of the relationship of nation to history, but thus it would be the underlying interpretation that would be worth contesting, and I’m not in the mood.

    #13 I’d largely agree, though might add that just as I can see a reactionary role to the use the Latvian state would put such grievances, there is a problem that didn’t seem to have been addressed thus far that if the opposition is largely based on seeing all legitimate grievances being those reversed in polarity, that’s going to give said state a free ride in one community, and set the stage for a politics based on ethnic rivalry, with some obviously horrific possibilities, rather than something to cheerlead.
    There are many examples of national oppression that aren’t wholly the product of conscious policy.

    I’ll finish with a naked appeal to authority, I agree with Cliff and what he says about national oppression in State Capitalism in Russia, and not to the Stalinist he quotes here:

    Many centuries have passed since the Latvians’ ancestors settled on the shores of the Baltic Sea … During all these centuries the Russians have been good neighbours of the Latvians. The conquest and enslavement of the Baltic by the German knights is a gloomy history filled with killings, plundering and violence by the bloodthirsty Western invaders. The freedom-loving Latvian and Estonian tribes were not strong enough to defend their freedom and independence. But proximity and friendship with the Russians enabled the ancestors of the Latvians to defend their lands from enslavement by turning for help to Russian princes.

    #16 However, in the long term these republics can only prosper if they give full citizenship to their Russian populations, and develop closer and better relationships with Moscow.
    I’d certainly agree with the first clause, but the second has to be based on consent rather than coercion, and I don’t see much reason to trust that the capitalist state that is Russia today should be expected to lean towards the former more than its forbears, but again, that may be a bigger question not to be got into pointlessly.

  18. Maybe there is a languageproblem also with danish, since no one has bother to comment on the extraordinary success of the Red-Green Alliance in the general election.

    Being the biggest party in two workingclass distrikt in Copenhagen, 6,7% nationally and 12 mp:s it is undoubtly a real breaktrough for a leftwing party.

    Maybe something to learn from…??

  19. I wonder what language the Latvian soldiers under Latvian Bolshevik leadership spoke as they struggled through the streets of revolutionary Petrograd

  20. “in the long term these republics can only prosper if they give full citizenship to their Russian populations, and develop closer and better relationships with MOscow.”

    Sounds like a veiled threat.

    A wonderful display of dancing around the elephant in the room, namely why Russia and Russians might not be terribly popular in Latvia. You all know, but none of you will speak about it. Your loyalty even over half a century on to Stalin’s Russo-imperialist brutality and a warmongering is touching.

  21. #17

    “though using as an excuse not to be schooled in the national language that you are from a sizeable minority with links to the neighbouring great power with a disputable history with regard to that nation doesn’t sit easy with me”

    Lots of English people living in Wales don’t learn Welsh.

  22. You must remind us of the last time the English forcibly deported over a hundred thousand Welsh to Labour camps in England and caused a quarter of a million of others to flee the country. Not in the past 70 years, I’ll wager.

  23. Anonymous on said:

    It is a scandal that Latvia and Estonia were allowed in the EU while they have racist citizenship laws.

  24. 2 Nick Wright

    3.”When was the last time the Welsh formed a regiment of the Waffen SS?”

    You have your history the wrong way round. The Soviets invaded Latvia in 1940. The The Latvian SS Legion was formed in 1943, three years after the Soviets invaded and conducted a reign of terror, murder and deportation. Are you seriously suggesting the former criminal campaign was in ‘response’ to a premonition of the latter?

    How many of the 250,000 Latvians who had to flee were in the Waffen SS? Are you suggesting that the 120,000 sent to Soviet Labour camps were also in said regiment? 250,000 would have made it the largest regiment in history.

    You offer pathetic apologism for Russian imperialism and rewriting of history, especially in view of the fact that the original Soviet invasion of Latvia in 1940 was carried out in accordance with the 1939 agreement between the USSR and its then ally… Nazi Germany.

    If the English had invaded Wales, conducted a reign of terror, and deported many thousands to Labour camps, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Welsh had in response formed alliances with all sorts of plain evil allies in order to combat that. It wouldn’t make it right or well advised, but it would hardly be an accusation for the English to hold against said Welsh, especially if the English themselves had previously been allies of said evil parties.

    The countries situated between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union were between a rock and hard place. What the Poles, Baltic states etc had in common was that they neighboured two brutal bullying neighbours. Some of you are still defending one of those aggressors decades later.

  25. Anonymous on said:

    None of which alters that fact that Latvia and Estonia deny citizenship to their Russian minority, many of whom have been born and grown up in the Baltic republics. This is a disgrace. You may try to apologise for it by complaining about Soviet treatment of the Baltics but two wrongs don’t make a right. It is extraordinary that these nasty little chauvinist states were allowed into NATO and the EU while having racist citizenship laws.

  26. Anonymous on said:

    Most Russians did not object to the independence of the Baltic states. Yes, Gorbatchev and the apparatchiks around him tried to oppose it (lamely, healfhartedly and very incompetently), but many, if not most, Russians, even inside the Baltics themselves, supported it. Colonel Alksnis and his beloved OMON were really not very representative of what the Russians wanted at that time. The Russians in the Baltics were sick and tired of the idiotic and oppressive communist system, but also they naively thought that the Balts would act in a civilized way (obviously those clueless Russians knew little about what the Balts actually did the last time they got their independence). But most Russians still like the Balts (just look at how popular Ingeborga Dapkūnaitė is in Russia nowadays!).

    Once the Baltic republics got their independence, the local Russians got a tast of Baltic Apartheid, but that did not prevent another group of Russians to enthusiastically support it: the Russian mob who found out that a) the Baltics are a fantastic place to use as a transit point for the Mob’s money and b) that the Baltics are also a great place to use to “export” precious metals stolen in Russia. Literally billions of dollars where sent through “Baltic” banks (also run by Russian mobsters, of course) to the West and offshore accounts and billions of dollars worth of precious metals (which the three Baltics states did not even have in their own soil) were mysteriously ‘exported’ to the West. These were the ‘glorious’ days for the Russian [CONTENT DELETED] mob. When Putin came to power, things got much tougher for them. Now the only force which was allowed to pillage Russia was the state ifself or, at least, those mobsters willing to play by the rules.
    Where does that leave the Baltics? Well, the Balts were as naive as the Russians. They thought that membership in the EU and NATO would make a difference. It doesn’t. These guys seriously though that the threat to their independence was a Russian tank with a big red star on it. It’s not. The real threat is geographical and economical: the Baltics have minute economies who are now in ruins courtesy of European lies and promises and the only REAL potential of these states is as commercial transit points (which they always have been in the past). Being small, poor and largely irrelevant to the “big guys”, the Balts are now counting their pennies while sitting next to a superpower whose economy is booming, largely thanks to the USA’s idiotic policies which resulted into a hike in gaz/oil prices. In such circumstances, why would Russia want to invade them?
    The Russian military fully understands that the Baltics are militarily indefensible. Sure, they can join NATO, learn English, get new uniforms and maybe even some F-16s, but the fact is that Russia can invade all three of them in less than 24 hours and the fact is that NATO will not fight Russia over three tiny and irrelevant nations. And, really, why would the Europeans risking their wealth over three utterly irrelevant nations? By idealism?! Oh come on!
    But an invasion of the Baltics will not happen. At most, once they get their act together, what they will ‘suffer’ is an invasion of Russian tourists, either those who cannot afford better destinations such as Greece, Turkey or Cyprus, or those who want to spend a week-end in a nice city, sampling the local “Zeppelin” dumplings, and taking some time off.
    For the time being, Russia will do exactly what it did in the Ukraine: it will let the Baltic nations rot under their nationalistic rulers until the population comes back to their senses and elects a pragmatic government. Sure, the hard core xenophobes will be pissed, but most of them will throw in the towel or move elsewhere, their heads still filled with ‘Russian tanks with red stars”, LOL

  27. “the fact is that Russia can invade all three of them in less than 24 hours and NATO will not fight Russia over three tiny and irrelevant nations. ”

    Careful’ you are letting your letting your ‘anti-imperialist’ mask slip and your slavish power worship of Russian imperialism show.

  28. #27
    Calm down Jake, calm down.
    My point is that drawing simple analogies between the relationship between Lativia and Russia on one hand and Wales and England on the other doesn’t take us very far.
    As Latvia was part of the Russian empire from 1772 it seems sensible to consider its struggle for, firstly a measure of autonomy and secondly, in the context of the Russian Revolution, statehood, as part of a broader context.
    Latvian nationalists (and all apologists for the various reactionary, semi feudal, bourgeois and fascist currents) like to present Latvia’s development as somehow apart from class struggle.
    But Latvia’s emergence as an ‘independent’ state has been as politically subordinate to either Soviet socialism or German fascism. Your rock and your hard place. In the conditions of this titanic struggle there was no other choice. You have to take one side or the other and be realistic about the consequences. We do not make history in conditions of our own choice and this is especially true of small nations and small states.
    Latvia’s tragedy is to be caught between two powerful states and with a working class too weak numerically and socially to carry through a revolution on its own (despite the heroic role of Latvians in the Russian revolution) and with a powerful element always willing to collaborate with fascism.
    Anyway, to return to the limitations of the Welsh analogy. Assume that a revolution in the British empire was resisted by a reactionary Welsh ruling landed class but that a contingent of the heroic Welsh machine gun regiment (under its Bolshevik leaders) had returned to from the upsising in London to join the workers militias of miners and steelworkers in rooting out the reactionaries.
    Do you not think that there would not be a large number of refugees, fleeing bourgeois, frightened petit bourgeois and quite a number of class enemies banged up in Cardiff gaol? Or even deported to the prisons of the proletarian British state.

  29. “…It is perhaps worth pointing out that Russians in Latvia and Estonia suffer similar levels of legal discrimination as Arabs living within Israel’s pre-1967 borders…”

    Nonsense.

    The Arab language has always been a recognized official language in Israel. Arabs have always had full voting rights. Arab children go to Arab-language schools, as did their parent and grandparents from the day the Israeli state was founded. Israel has Arab judges, Arab policemen, Arab army officers, and Arab journalists and media stars.

    The is however one thing common to Latvians, Russians and Arabs in modern times, namely their proclivity for murdering Jews. The Latvians themselves wiped out the Jews of Latvia as the Germans invaded in 1941; the Russians have a long history of pogroms, persecution and massacres of Russian Jews; while the Palestine Arabs and their Arab kin have repeatedly tried to wipe out Israeli Jews, and repeatedly failed.

  30. lone nut on said:

    “The is however one thing common to Latvians, Russians and Arabs in modern times, namely their proclivity for murdering Jews.”
    I believe there is a word for people who asctibe negative proclivities to entire ethnic groupings on the basis of the alleged behaviour of certain members of that grouping in particular historical contexts. Can anybody remind me what it is?

  31. jim mclean on said:

    I believe there is a word for people who asctibe negative proclivities to entire ethnic groupings on the basis of the alleged behaviour of certain members of that grouping in particular historical contexts. Can anybody remind me what it is?

    In this cqse Realist

  32. There is a political point of view, one of the frequent characteristics of which is confusing racism and realism.

    Now what would that be called?

    It starts with an “f” and has “ism” at the end.

  33. “… the alleged behaviour of certain members of that grouping in particular historical contexts…”

    Can we have that again please, except a bit more mealy-mouthed this time?

  34. No need, I understood all of them.

    I just wondered why you are unable even to acknowledge in straightforward language the well-documented historical fact of Jews being persecuted in places such as Latvia, Germany, Russia and under Arab rule (just in the last hundred years will give you sufficient appalling instances of each) – instead preferring to use the language of evasion and mitigation: ‘alleged’, ‘historical context’, etc.

    By all means object to the tarring of all members of those peoples with same brush, but there is nothing ‘alleged’ about the statistically innordinate persecution and murder of Jews in those countries. It’s bloody historical fact.

  35. The Undertaker on said:

    #35 Yes the ‘Russians ‘ do have a long history of persecution of the Jews and Pogroms but oddly in around October 1917 they seem to have suddenly developed a bit of a love in with some Jewish People such as Trosky, Zinoviev, Kamenev etc
    Any idea of what might have caused this Ben ?

  36. lone nut on said:

    “the language of evasion and mitigation: ‘alleged’, ‘historical context’, etc.”
    No, it is the language of trying to rebut wild allegations made against entire ethnic groupings. I assume you would have no problem with me using such language against somebody who alleged that Israelis have a propensity to murder Palestinians.

  37. “By all means object to the tarring of all members of those peoples with same brush…”

    That’s exactly what he/she was doing wasn’t it?

    Interesting expression btw in relation to racism.

    I remember a mixed-race friend of mine being told that he had a touch of the tar-brush. The resulting incident nearly had my friend in court for common assault.

    Personally I try to avoid getting too upset by probably innocent remarks like that, but I can see why other people may not be so tolerant.

  38. #35

    I don’t want to hijack this further, but the picture you paint of Arab equality in Israel is false.

    Firstlym, there are not Arab army officers, as Israel’s Arab citizens are exempted from the Army (Bedoin are seperately allowed in the army though)

    Let us look at the status of the 1.3 million Arabs in Israel then, according to Shulamit Avni of Physicians for Human Rights:

    “The Palestinian minority in Israel has a shorter life span than the Jewish majority, is sicker, and has less access, physical and financial, to health services and health-supporting conditions (sanitation, water, electricity, roads).”

    According to the Mossawa Center (Press release, June 18, 2006): of every thousand births, 3.23 Jewish babies die, compared to 7.96 Arab (15.8 among Bedouin). The gaps also remain in two other indicators: general mortality rates and life expectancy.

    Many factors are involved in the low level of health among Arabs in Israel. We may list the lack of infrastructure, the crowded living conditions, and the language barrier that they encounter on seeking medical services. (There is no trace of Arabic, for example, on the health-fund websites.)

    But the decisive factor is poverty. Such is the conclusion of a research paper from July 2003 entitled ” Equity and the Israeli Health Care System: Relative Poverty as a Health Risk Factor,” by the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel.

    This discrimination is from the state:

    In an article for the Mossawa Center (July 2007), Amin Fares writes that the Health Ministry’s development budget for 2007 amounted to about 225 million shekels (NIS)—$55 million— of which only NIS 1.3 million (about 0.4%) was slated for Arab localities, mainly to build family health stations. This kind of allotment is typical. Yet Arabs constitute almost 20% of the population.

    Asma Agbareth reports how the Israeli state discriminates in education, and excludes Arab citizens from the national securoty employment sector, an important part of Israel’s economy
    http://www.challenge-mag.com/en/article__201/on_national_service_for_arabs

    With the Arabs … want to work, but whole professions and jobs are closed to them. Education in the Arab sector prepares them to be “hewers of wood and drawers of water,” not high-tech professionals. Moreover, because the technological jobs are often connected to the security establishment, Arabs are off limits there. Most official government jobs are out of reach.

    Go look for industrial areas in Arab cities or villages. You will find none, aside from a few small pockets. For all these reasons, the better-educated Arabs must gravitate toward the independent professions (law, accountancy, teaching, medicine, dentistry), in which they serve their fellow Arabs. Those with no higher education are shunted toward manual labor in construction, restaurants, and agriculture.

    In manual labor too, opportunities are dwindling. The textile industry, which employed thousands of young Arab women until the mid-1990’s, has gone to other countries where labor is cheap. In the fields of nursing care, construction and agriculture, most of the jobs have been taken by foreign workers.

    The State knows that 57% of the Arab population is below the poverty line, but it remains unwilling to change diskettes: it continues to behave toward its Arab citizens as toward a threat. It refuses to stop the importation of foreign workers. It refuses to shift employment away from the hands of the subcontractors and into those of organized labor.

    Racism is at anextraordinary level among Israel’s Jewish population, accordintg to this report from Haaraetz
    http://www.haaretz.com/news/civil-rights-group-israel-has-reached-new-heights-of-racism-1.234831

    According to the June 2007 Democracy Index of the Israel Democracy Institute, for example, only half the public believes that Jews and Arabs must have full equal rights.

    Among Jewish respondents, 55 percent support the idea that the state should encourage Arab emigration from Israel and 78 percent oppose the inclusion of Arab political parties in the government. According to a Haifa University study, 74 percent of Jewish youths in Israel think that Arabs are “unclean.”

    The ACRI says that bills introduced in the Knesset contribute to delegitimize the country’s Arab citizens, such as ones that would link the right to vote and receive state allowances to military or national service.

    They also include bills that require ministers and MKs to swear allegiance to a Jewish state and those that set aside 13 percent of all state lands owned by the Jewish National Fund for Jews only.

    “Arab citizens are frequently subject to ridicule at the airports,” the report states.

  39. Rebutting a tarring of an entire people over such matters need not and should not entail soft-soaping and casting doubt on actual incidences themselves, which is what ‘alleged’ and ‘historical context’ were doing.

    1. Persecution and murder of Jews in the past 100 years has unquestionably taken place in Germany, Russia, Latvia and Arab countries.
    2. The entire peoples of those country do not deserve to be tarred with the same brush for those crimes.
    3. Nor should the crimes themselves be euphemised or cast doubt upon with mealy-mouthed language. I repeat: there is nothing ‘alleged’ about such incidences, and no amount of ‘historical context’ makes them any less real or excusable. They are bloody historical fact.

    Any clearer now?

  40. And lone nut, you were NOT referring merely to “wild allegations made against entire ethnic groupings”, you referred to “alleged behaviour of certain members of that grouping”, i.e. you were casting on doubt on whether ANY members of those groupings had committed such crimes (and in any case you had a nice soft ‘historical context’ to cushion them).

  41. “the Palestine Arabs and their Arab kin have repeatedly tried to wipe out Israeli Jews”

    Do you stand by that? Apart from the claim itself being ludicrous, in what possible way is that not tarring an entire people which actually transcends national boundaries with the same brush?

  42. #48

    Your argument is completely mangled, and makes no sense.

    Ben said at #35

    “The is however one thing common to Latvians, Russians and Arabs in modern times, namely their proclivity for murdering Jews. ”

    i.e the feature of murdering Jews was explicitly argued to be a common feature shared by Latvians, Russians and Arabs.

    To dispute the fact that proclivity towards such atrocities is a shared national charcteristic does not mean that the fact of such atrocities is disputed, nor even that for politcal and cultural reasons such atrocities may have had widespreadf support by some groups at some times.

    There is of course an unpleasant conflation where the genocidal extermination of Jews in Nazi Germany, and by Latvian fascist Einsatzgruppen is equated with the still deplorable but much lower level anti-semitism in Russia during the 20th Century, or modern Arabia, where anti-Semitism undoubtedly exists, but is interwoven with legitimate greivances against Israeli policy.

  43. “To dispute the fact that proclivity towards such atrocities is a shared national charcteristic does not mean that the fact of such atrocities is disputed,”

    Agreed. It does not necessarily mean that. But the wording lone nut used, as I pointed out, went beyond saying that to referring to “… the alleged behaviour of certain members of that grouping in particular historical contexts…”

    For the third time: it’s not ‘alleged’, it’s factual. Calling it alleged it is to cast doubt on historical fact.

    There is nothing confused about my argument. There is a certain amount of obfuscation in yours however. The fact that entire nations shouldn’t be tarred with the same criminal brush is not under dispute in what I have said – quite the contrary. One can disagree with Ben AND also with the suggestion that crimes in such countries (whether the work of hundreds, thousands or of millions) are merely ‘alleged’ and not fact.

  44. #51 In Latvia there was clear evidence that there was widespread involvement in (including at the top level) the systematic murder of the majority of the Jewish population by Latvians.

    Widespread pogroms were carried out against the Jewish population in the Pale of Settlement all through the existence of the Tsarist empire. Subsequently the picture was mixed, with Jews often playing leading roles in the Communist regime. However those communities survived and to varying degrees thrived until the Nazi invasion. Moreover, many of those carrying out the pogroms will have been members of other nations of the empire such as Ukrainians, Belorussians, (and Balts such as Latvians) etc.

    The Palestinian Arabs have been involved in a war, not only to create their own nation state but for their survival as a people, with the State of Israel. This has as Andy says interwoven itself into the culture of many Arab countries. There has however clearly been no systematic campaign of extermination and the death toll in the conflict has been pretty uneven in favour of Israel, which has done and condoned some pretty significant slaughtering itself.

    So to pose things in the way that they were in relation to the three nations was very much to invite the word “alleged” as there was an implication that the incidents in all 3 cases could somehow be treated as the same when they were clearly not.

    You need to be a bit more careful about defining a “fact”.

  45. #51

    Except that Lone Nut is referring to the general case of racism, not the specific case.

    And it would certainly be correct that Ben makes an implied allegation that the nature of atrictoites against Jews was of the same character in Russia, Germany, Latvia and modern Arab states.

    There was no anti-Jewish holocaust in Russia nor in the Arab world, so it would be correct to refer to Ben as making allegations, rather then referring to facts.

  46. Anti semitism is, of course, a long standing feature of central and eastern European societies It takes many forms. A Polish Catholic (Pax Christi) friend of mine returned home to Warsaw to find there words ‘Commie Jew’ on his front door and his windows smashed.(from a peace conference in Prague) Simply agreeing with the foreign policy of the Polish People’s Republic was enough to turn him into an honorary Jew as well as a communist.
    I was reminded recently of the story told me by Julie Jacobs (the long standing secretary of the London Trades Council) and assistant industrial organiser of the CP. A Polish communist and former partisan decides to emigrate to Israel. His comrades remonstrate with him. His answer,”If I die here they will say that here lies a jew, if I die in Israel they will say here lies a Polish communist. I want to die a Polish communist.”
    Antisemitism is not going to disappear easily in these parts of the world. But one thing is certain, the restoration of capitalist rule, firstly by the defeat of the Latvian bolsheviks after the First World war, secondly by the Nazi invasion and thirdly by the dissolution of the Soviet Union has always resulted in an upsurge in anti semitism.
    http://21stcenturymanifesto.wordpress.com/2011/09/19/capitalist-and-fascism-in-latvia/

  47. “The fact that entire nations shouldn’t be tarred with the same criminal brush is not under dispute in what I have said – quite the contrary”

    It is under dispute. I asked whether you stood by your claim that “the Palestine Arabs and their Arab kin have repeatedly tried to wipe out Israeli Jews” and you ignored it.

    Not “some”, “many”, “a minority” but “the”. You didn’t cite a fact about some Palestinian Arabs but an made an allegation about not just them but all Arabs collectively.

  48. jim mclean on said:

    Antisemitism is not going to disappear easily in these parts of the world.

    What is the take on the Sheriff’s decision at Cupar which is in my neck of the woods. Now I must say Fife Police in a top down policy crack down on racist and anti Islamic incidents,with shopkeepers in the area so nothing unique in the implementation of the law in such circumstances.

    http://www.thecourier.co.uk/News/Fife/article/16740/they-attacked-my-beliefs-former-st-andrews-student-thanks-authorities-for-helping-to-secure-conviction.html

    http://www.workersliberty.org/story/2011/09/18/drunk-man-looks-israeli-flag

  49. lone nut on said:

    I realise this may be difficult for either Ben or Jake to comprehend, but I wasn’t actually thinking about “the Jews” at all in my original remarks, but rather the way in which racist and colonialist ventures habitually ascribe the resistance they encounter to some innate savagery in those they are seeking to conquer (and yes, many accounts of such savagery are “alleged” when not entirely fabricated). And I confess I am always amused that Zionists like Ben manage to make the most outrageously racist remarks even when they are denying any charges of racism – as well as the slurs on hundreds of millions of Latvians, Russians and Arabs, we have the contention that Israel can’t be racist because there are Arab policemen and media stars, and separate schools for Arabs! I don’t think any backwoods cracker judge in Alabama in the 1950s would ever have been as dumb as this lot when it comes to defending the indefensible.

  50. How to enliven an SU thread in 2 easy steps:-

    1. Stop discussing whatever the thread is about, and

    2. Start going on about Israel.

    Works every time! 😉

  51. Still on track
    And here Bloomberg Busineweek argue for a ‘clean hands’ alliance of big business and Harmony Centre excluding corrupt oligarchs and nut case nationalists
    .businessweek.com/news/2011-09-19/latvia-strikes-blow-to-corruption-by-voting-out-oligarchs-view.html

  52. #61

    I am not sure Harmony joiing the coalition is that likely, see this interesting article on Russia Profile

    http://russiaprofile.org/politics/45637.html

    Austerity measures could also thwart Harmony Center’s attempts to be included as part of a ruling coalition, Kasekamp explained. “Harmony Center’s line is that we don’t need to follow the IMF, but should follow the needs of the people,” but while this obviously appealed to voters, it directly contradicts the former government’s approach. “So, although Harmony Center is on the verge of a breakthrough, it doesn’t have the coalition partner to get it into the government,” Kasekamp said. He sees Unity, ZRF and the Latvian nationalist party, the National Alliance, as most likely forming the new coalition. The nationalists, who were not part of the previous government and are therefore free of either the disrepute of corruption or anger over austerity measures, won 14 seats this weekend.

    It also interestingly says that the Russian vote in Estonia has coalesced around the Centre Party, who now control Tallinin.

  53. Surely the intensity of the arguments here, and the impossibility of resolving them, show a need for a class rather than national, ethnic or language based politics?

    Personally I do feel languages are important, and have been a supporter of the Occitan movement (a wooden sculpture in my front room is called ‘Occitan’ by a sculptor from Narbonna).

    But in an economic crisis on the scale of Latvia this kind of division is a classic kind of divide and rule described by one of the few American books to make an impression on me: Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. Strangely that is full of accounts of the divisions between Baltic immigrants and other ethnic groups.

  54. another American on said:

    The headline identifies the Harmony Center party as “Left.” The body of the article is more modest, calling it “centre-left.” But apart from being told that the party opposes “austerity,” we’re not given any evidence to judge its politics for ourselves.

    Meanwhile, the New York Times calls the party “pro-Russian” and reports: “Particularly contentious have been its close ties to United Russia, Russia’s dominant political party, led by Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/19/world/europe/gains-of-pro-russian-party-show-shift-in-sentiment-in-latvia.html?scp=2&sq=latvia&st=cse

    Andy, what do you mean by calling the party “Left” or “centre-left,” and what is the basis for your judgment?

  55. another American on said:

    #46

    Interesting that a spam filter has at least temporarily prevented the positing of my comment demonstrating the presence of more than a “trace of Arabic” on health-fund websites and the presence of Arab officers in the IDF.

  56. Even though Harmony Centre has , to some extent, managed to break out of the ghetto of language and nationality it is still largely a party based among Russian-speaking Latvians. But it is also an ideologically diverse umbrella and includes the Latvian Socialist Party (as the Latvian communists call themselves since they were banned.)
    Andy is right to doubt that it will manage to participate in government but its achievement is that it has made the issue of a genuinely representative government that can speak to all the people of Latvia a real possibility.
    Its politics are shaped by the necessity to counteract the crazed free marketeers and gangster capitalists who dominate the right wing parties and control the state and business. That there are connections with the forces around the ruling elements in Russia is a fact of life. How else in these conditions could life progress?

    This piece by Janis Domburs for Al jazeera is quite well informed
    http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/09/201192055656240940.html

  57. #68

    The flrst ever Arab officer in the IDF was commissioned in October 2010, and from this Y-Net article, he is clearly an unrepresentative odd-ball; and is disparaging about his Arab background and culture.

    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3968706,00.html

    So having a single Arab officer after over 60 years of the Israeli army, and that officer being someone who distances himself as much as he can from his own Arab heritage is evidence of the IDF’s racism, not its inclusivity.

    With regard to health care, clearly there is provision for Arabs, but equally there is clear discrimination, and worse provision for Arabs than Jewish Israelis.

  58. There have been many Arab officers in the IDF, including women. The newspaper article quoted is factually wrong.

  59. Harsanyi_Janos on said:

    What did I miss that magically changed this from a thread about Lettish elections to one about Israel?

    As an aside, Lettish nationalism seems to owe a great deal to the Magyarisation policies of the nineteenth century which conflated a Hungarian identity with the ability to speak Magyar. It — like its Lettish cousin is today — wasn’t really racist as anyone could (and many Germans and Jews did) take up Magyar identity, but its was certainly discriminatory. Germanisation under the Kaiser seems to have been similar.

  60. Harsanyi_Janos on said:

    The link at #73 is interesting “For example, if I had a degree in social work, at an interview they’ll ask me if I served in the army. If not, my chances would plummet, and then I would have to go back to my village and do manual labor.”

  61. Andy:

    You confuse Arab IDF volunteers with Arab IDF conscripts. And amongst the volunteers there have been officers long before the “lone” one you mention. The articles you quote are wrong.

    Israeli Druze and many Israeli Bedouin are subjected to conscription, as are most Israeli Jews. Other Israeli Arabs are not. There have been hundreds of officers among these conscript non-Jewish citizens, some reaching the highest ranks.

    Many postings in the IDF are filled by ranks lower than the official designation. Promotions require a minimum time served at the current rank, usually several years, irrespective of one’s actual posting. To serve at a high-rank posting while holding a lower rank is an honour.

    And yes, citizens who serve in the IDF and risk their life and limb for the safety of their country and the security of their people are granted preference after demobilization, for the years of danger they endured and for the sacrifices they made. And rightly so.

    As for Russo-Latvian enmity, this existed in earlier Czarist times. Solzhenytsin describes how he encountered Russian nationalists in the Gulag, who berated Latvians and looked forward to the day that they will revert to their ordained role as slaves to the Russians. Russian chauvinism became firmly rooted in Russian culture as the Russian Empire was established. Some of the greatest Russian literature is tainted with a persistent disparaging caricature of non-Russians. And the loudest “anti-imperialist” of them all, the Russian Lenin, so eloquent when denigrating other imperial powers, was silent when it came to condemning the Russian Empire.

  62. Eastern Hemisphere on said:

    #77 “And the loudest “anti-imperialist” of them all, the Russian Lenin, so eloquent when denigrating other imperial powers, was silent when it came to condemning the Russian Empire.”
    What nonsense. Lenin’s writings are full of attacks on great Russian chauvinism. It’s no accident that regiments like the Lettish rifles, recruited from minorities such as the Latvians were amongst the first to go over to the Bolsheviks and provided solid support for them in the civil war. Of course Great Russian chauvinism didn’t disappear just because the Bolsheviks were in power and enjoyed a major revival under Stalin. However, to claim Lenin did not condemn the Russian Empire is just ignorant drivel.

  63. #7

    “The articles you quote are wrong. ”

    the articles I ave you were from Y-Net, Jewish Chronicle and the Israeli Defense Force themselves. All wrong according to you.

    I have made no confusion at all about conscripts and volunteers, since Arab israelis are exempt from conscription, by definition, the 150 odd who serve in the Army are volunteers, and as all the above sources agree there has ony recently been the first officer.

    It seem that you are the one who is confused, by seeking to confuse the issues of Druze and Bedouin with the category of Arab israeli.

    It is evidence of the racialisation and discrimination of the Israeli army that there are different legal categories for Druze and bedouin, and for Arab israelis. Under the Israeli State Defense Act of 1949, individuals or groups could be exempt from conscription, and a few years later the Druze had their exemption lifted, i recognition of the fact that Druze consider themselves seperate and apart from the Arab world, despite using the Arabic language.

    Druze are among the most disadvantaged communities in Israel, with the lowest level of educational attainment, and as this report fro the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affaors reports, they often suffer from “being mistaken for Arabs”
    http://www.jcpa.org/jl/hit06.htm

    there are of course also Bediuin soldiers and officers in the IDF – a question that has never been in dispute. BUt it is noticeable that in the racialised Isralei army, nearly all bediuin serve in the Desert Reconnaissance group.

    Frankly, your argument here is wrong. You used the example of the IDF to dispute the fact that Arab Citizens of Israel have legal discrimination against them. And yet in reality the Israeli Army is racialised in the terms of the 1949 State Defense Act, which enacts into law racial differences; and the service of bedouin and Druze is based upon a legal distinction being made between them and Israeli Arab citizens.

    So frankly you are wrong about there being Arab officers in the IDF, there are druze and bedouin officers, who cannot be officers qua Arabs. They are conscripts into the army, and therefore officers – solely on the basis that a legal distinctaion is made whereby they are not considered arabs.

  64. #77

    “As for Russo-Latvian enmity, this existed in earlier Czarist times.”

    not really, Latvian political nationalism was an eccentric minority interest in Czarist times, and less than 1% of Letts voted for independence in the Constituency Assembly elections; and yet independence was foisted upon the region by great power politics, promoted by President Wilson that favoured Kleinstaaterei.

  65. #75 But Hungary wasn’t an independent state in the 19th Century but part of an imperial multi-ethnic state dominated by the German-speaking nation who presumably had citizenship rights throughout the empire. In the case of Latvia today I understand that we are talking about people denied citizenship because of their ethnicity.

    On another point, while not particularly vital to the discussion, are you suggesting that Lettish and Magyar are related languages? My understanding is that while they may be in the wider sense of being Indo-European (as are the Latin and Germanic languages, Greek, Albanian, Farsi and Hindi/ Urdu) that Lettish is similar to the slav languages (as is Lithuanian), it is Estonian (like Finnish) that is part of the same sub-group as Magyar.

    Not a lot of people know that (to be read out loud in a dead-pan cockney accent).

  66. Eastern Hemisphere on said:

    Many of the large landlords in Latvia were Germans. While Latvian national aspirations did exist national feeling was aimed as much against the “black barons” as the German landlords were known as against Russia. However, following the defeat of the 1905 revolution guerrilla war raged in Latvia with Tsarist forces being ambushed right up until the start of the first world war. This, movement was lead primarily by the Latvian Social Democrats, who were politically very close to the Bolsheviks. In this period the Bolsheviks were able to co-opt this national movement because of their opposition to Great Russian chauvinism and support for national-self determination.

  67. #82

    I am not comparative linguist, but I understoor that while Finnish and Magyar are in the Finno-Ugric group they are not in fact-Indo-European langauages ((and arguably thereofre neither is Estonian if it is to be regarded as a different language from Finnish)

    Lettish is relatued to Lituanian, and my understanding is that neither of them are Slavic languages, but they are Indo-European.

    Lithuanis was of course a nation in the early MIddle ages, but since then these langauges became spoken only by the peasantry, while townsfolk spoke German.

  68. skidmarx on said:

    #69 Even though Harmony Centre has , to some extent, managed to break out of the ghetto of language and nationality it is still largely a party based among Russian-speaking Latvians. But it is also an ideologically diverse umbrella and includes the Latvian Socialist Party (as the Latvian communists call themselves since they were banned.)
    Wikipedia says of the latter:
    The LSP is more popular among the Russian-speaking population of Latvia. It places a high priority on issues important to ethnic Russians, such as language and citizenship laws.
    which is a sign that it hasn’t really broken out of the ghetto of language and nationality, I think. That doesn’t necessarily directly contradict what you say.

  69. Ben – it’s a somewhat confused argument to claim Israel doesn’t discriminate on a racial/ethnic basis and in support go on to list all the ways in which the army’s recruitment policy discriminates on a racial/ethnic basis.

    As for Lenin being silent on the Russian Empire, you must know yourself what utter nonsense that is. If you really are ignorant of the debates on the right to self determination of nations within the Russian empire both amongst the Bolsheviks and between Lenin and, for example, Rosa Luxemburg then perhaps you should read up on them first before making such ludicrous assertions.

  70. For the foreseeable future, the national question (i.e. – what kind of state is Latvia to be?) is not going to go away in Latvia. It’s easy enough to see the contours of a solution – ethnic Russians will need to accept that the USSR is no more and living in Latvia requires a working knowledge of Latvian; ethnic Latvians will need to accept that Russians and their language are an integral – and necessary – part of Latvian life.

    What happened in or before 1917 is hardly relevant to the present situation. From 1918 to 1940 Latvia was an independent state, run by Latvians rather than German barons or Russian bureaucrats. The existence of the Latvian nation was thereafter recognised and to a considerable extent fostered in the Soviet period – it was precisely because of this that real or imagined Russification caused such resentment. The Latvian state in its present form is 20 years old. Can its 2 main communities find a way of making it work?

    And can people please stop going on about ******* Israel? A far more suggestive analogy, for people who like arguing by analogy, would be Northern Ireland…

  71. The voice of unreason on said:

    87# And can people please stop going on about ******* Israel? A far more suggestive analogy, for people who like arguing by analogy, would be Northern Ireland…

    When Gaelic speaking Irish labourers went into the market towns to find seasonal work they had to “Lift the Scotch” that is to learn the language of the landowners, Scotch, not Scots or English, we have in Northern Ireland a large population made up of a specific group from the former imperialist power, Latvians and Russians, Irish and Scotch.

  72. #87

    “And can people please stop going on about ******* Israel?”

    Sorry, I started that hare running when I pointed out that while the world is understandably exercised about discrimination against Arabs in israel, discrimination against Russians in Estonia and Latvia is under the radar.

    I didn’t anticipate that anyone would then deny that there was discrimination in Israel

  73. another American on said:

    #70

    Andy:

    It’s hardly fair to withhold my original reply to your #46 from publication and then purport to refute it by inaccurately stating my claim. The article to which my unpublished comment linked identified Lt. Aborea as the first Muslim Arab officer. Other criticisms of Israel may be fair, but not your inaccurate claim in #46.

    Also, I note your failure to acknowledge the accuracy of the other point in my unpublished comment, namely, that the first two Israeli health funds that came up on my Google search both have Arabic-language websites that are linked from the Hebrew-language websites.

  74. #90

    well i can’t find your comment in the spam filter, and I didn’t delete them.

    You are just digging yourself deeper into the mire of Israel’s racialised army policy. Lt. Aborea is simply not the first Muslim offcier in the IDF as Bedouin are overwhelmingly Muslim, and there have been several Bedouin officers for years now.

    What you are perhaps clumsily fumbling for is a formulation which acknowledges that Druze and Bedouin are Arabs, but regarded as exceptions under the 1949 State Defense act, which effectively means that legally they are regarded as non-Arab under Israeli law for the purpose of conscription.

    So the fact that there are druze and Bedouin officers cannot be used as proof that the IDF is non-racist; as it is in fact living proof of the fact that conscription to the IDF is based upon racist legal categories, where Druze and Bedouin are regarded as non-Arab.

    What you cannot wriggle out of is that Israel is a state where 20% of the population are exempt by law from national service based upon their race, and that exemption also excludes them from the large sectors of the Israeli economy related to defence.

    I have no idea what relevence you think there is in showing that Israeli health websites have links in Arabic. Surely it would be a scandal if they didn’t? BUt it is simply a fact that there is less money spent on health for Arab Israeli citizens than for israeli Jews.

    I would have though that genuine freinds of Israel would acknowledge that this is true.

  75. The Undertaker on said:

    In apartheid south Africa Chinese people were classed as non white but Japanese people were classed as ‘honorary’ white based on economic needs of state.
    It is inevitable that in a state which defines itself on ethnicity all aspects of society are racialised

  76. #91 I sometimes make comments that either disappear or never appear, and I am generally on the same political wavelength as Andy.

  77. jim mclean on said:

    92# Hitler signed exemption orders in relation to officers in the Wehrmacht with Jewish ancestry allowing them to remaining the military and exempting them from the “racial” laws of the day and when the Law of Return was passed thousands of Hitler’s troops qualified.

  78. #92

    Quite so, and as your example makes clear, because making such distinctions on such arbitrary and irrational grounds as “race” or religious heritage, then you end up with absurd anomalies.

    For example, that a Russian that choses to learn the Lettish tongue is a latvian, unless they opposed independence, in which case they are still not latvian enough.

  79. #94

    Indeed, there was a 2002 book on this by professor Bryan Rigg.

    It has been criticised for being sensationalist in blurring the distinction between actual Jews and “Mischlinge”.

    But as we have seen in this debate so far, categorising people based upon inherently irrational crieria is fraught with danger.

  80. Harsanyi_Janos on said:

    “Lettish and Magyar are related languages”

    No — not at all. The tongues are very different.

    My point was that the Letts have a linguistic nationalism that is reminiscent of that of Imperial Hapsburg Hungary.

  81. Janos, there are probably as many different types of nationalism as there are types of perceived “threat” to “the nation”. And where there is no perceived threat, you won’t usually find much nationalism, either.

  82. another American on said:

    #91

    Andy, I’ve not defended Israel as a perfect society. It is quite imperfect. A major imperfection concerns the position of the country’s Arab citizens.

    But nor do you do your character any good by trying to brazen out the factually incorrect statements in your #46 to which I called attention.

    First, you wrote: “There is no trace of Arabic, for example, on the health-fund websites.” Incorrect. For you now to write, “I have no idea what relevence you think there is in showing that Israeli health websites have links in Arabic. Surely it would be a scandal if they didn’t?” is disingenuous at best. The relevance is that you claimed there was “no trace of Arabic.”

    Second, you wrote: “Firstlym, there are not Arab army officers, as Israel’s Arab citizens are exempted from the Army (Bedoin are seperately allowed in the army though)” Incorrect, again, as I showed.

    If you want to engage in a constructive discussion about ways and means of improving Israeli society (chief among them, greater equality for Israel’s Arab citizens), while at the same time trying to achieve a peace settlement with its neighbors (chief among them, the Palestinians), that would, I suppose, be suitable for a separate article. I was merely pointing out errors in a comment you chose to post. Look to yourself, Andy.

  83. #99

    I did not personaly say that there is no trace of Arabic on Israeli health websites.

    It is a quote from a Jewish israeli citizen, Michal Schwartz

    http://www.challenge-mag.com/en/article__149

    Himself quoting the Israeli health campiagning group to Physicians for Human Rights (“The Health System in Israel: Circles of Inclusion and Exclusion,” April 7, 2007),

    the new law at first seemed to provide “a very progressive apparatus of inclusion, making it obligatory to enroll very weak populations in the public health services, people who were not previously insured in the Health Funds. But it soon became apparent that the law was nothing but another tool aimed at privatizing the health system.” The report explains that a supplementary law to the budget for 1998 “allowed the Health Funds to charge more for medicines and medical services and to add new dues for additional services. Today an ever widening population must forgo medicines and vital treatments because of their cost.” In 2005, 15% of Israelis reported that they had to do without prescribed medicines. In the year 2003, in the Arab sector, 39% reported that they had to forgo prescribed medicines because of economic hardship (Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, 2004).

    Many factors are involved in the low level of health among Arabs in Israel. We may list the lack of infrastructure, the crowded living conditions, and the language barrier that they encounter on seeking medical services. (There is no trace of Arabic, for example, on the health-fund websites.)

    That was 4 years ago admittedly.

  84. #99

    “Incorrect, again, as I showed.”

    No, you haven’t shown it at all. all the evidence so far posted has gone my way.

    Why don’t you post your killer quote again, instead of hiding behind an inaccurate allegation that I deleted it?

  85. another American on said:

    ##100, 101

    Andy,

    1. Your #46 had neither quotation marks nor an attribution to anyone else. (I’m speaking of the statement you made regarding an absence of even a “trace” of Arabic.) Your unwillingness to admit even the smallest mistake is as telling as it is sad. (Here’s a link to the Hebrew website of the Israeli health fund that comes up first on a Google search for “Israel kupat holim.” Notice the Arabic-language link to the Arabic-language website in the upper-left-hand corner. http://www.clalit.co.il/he-il)

    2. I did not say that you deleted a comment of mine. I wrote, in #68: “Interesting that a spam filter has at least temporarily prevented the positing of my comment demonstrating the presence of more than a “trace of Arabic” on health-fund websites and the presence of Arab officers in the IDF.” It seems that you no longer dispute the presence of Arab officers, so I don’t understand why you think the evidence on this point has gone your way. Here, nevertheless, is a link to an article about a non-Beduin, non-Druze Muslim Arab IDF officer. http://dover.idf.il/IDF/English/News/Up_Close/10/10/1102.htm. My original (unpublished comment) also noted the presence of Druze and Circassion officers in the IDF.

    3. Your attempts to portray our disagreement as having something to do with the fundamental character of Israel or apologetics may play with your especial constituency. I don’t know. But my consistent effort has simply been to point out factual inaccuracies on two points in a comment you chose to make.

  86. lone nut on said:

    “Here, nevertheless, is a link to an article about a non-Beduin, non-Druze Muslim Arab IDF officer.”
    All reminds me a bit of an interview with John Wzyne where he attempted to refute charges of racism by pointing out that there was a black character playing a slave in “The Alamo”.