One Nation legitimises fascist ideas – The time to stop Hansonism is now!

racist-hanson

This article by Debbie Brennan was originally published by the Freedom Socialist Party (Australia).

Debbie represents Radical Women in CARF and is a community member of the National Union of Workers.

Contact Freedom Socialist Party of Aotearoa at freedom.socialist.aotearoa@gmail.com or Freedom Socialist Party of Australia at freedom.socialist.party@ozemail.com.au.

“I’m back — but not alone.” Pauline Hanson, leader of the extreme-right One Nation party, made a parliamentary comeback in Australia’s federal election this past July. These taunting words are from her “maiden” speech to Parliament on September 15.

In 1996 Hanson was elected to the House of Representatives, but lost her seat two years later. Back then, she said Asians were taking over the country. Twenty years later, she warns, “Now we are in danger of being swamped by Muslims”—who, she claims, will commit terror and impose sharia law.

It gets worse. As Hanson says, she’s not alone. She’s one of four newly elected One Nation Senators: two, including herself, from Queensland and the others from New South Wales and Western Australia.

Pauline Hanson and the One Nation party she formed in 1997 are notorious for their racism. In her first 1996 parliamentary speech, Hanson went on the attack against First Nations people, who, she stated, are privileged over whites. Asians were not only “swamping” Australia, they weren’t assimilating. She praised Labor Party leader, Arthur Calwell, who said in 1955: “Japan, India, Burma, Ceylon and every new African nation are fiercely anti-white and anti one another. Do we want or need any of these people here? I am one red-blooded Australian who says no and who speaks for 90 percent of Australians.”

Fast forward to 2016: Asians are replaced with Muslims. In 1996, Hanson called for a “radical review” of immigration and the abolition of multiculturalism. Today, she demands that Muslim immigration be stopped and the burqa banned.

More than racist. The notion of race was invented in early capitalism to justify slavery and plunder. In times of class conflict—like now—racism has been indispensable to capitalists as a weapon to split the working class and destabilise resistance. Islamophobia is that weapon now. But sexism, nationalism and anti-unionism are also instruments of control, and Hanson’s oratory is full of it.

Hanson’s close connection with men’s rights groups is reflected in One Nation’s policies. Since 1996, she has called for the scrapping of the Family Court—claiming a bias toward women who “make frivolous claims and believe they have the sole right to children.” She further blames the court for pushing non-custodial fathers into poverty and causing many to suicide. One Nation would force women to stay in miserable, often violent, relationships. Hanson instructs women to “put your differences aside, make your peace and come to agreements outside of the law courts.” If not, any woman going to court for custody better be ready to pay all costs if she loses.

She slams people on welfare, especially single mothers for “having more children just to maintain their welfare payments.” One Nation would deny payment increases to women after the first child. In Hanson’s words: “Get a job and start taking responsibility for your own actions.”

Hanson calls for an Australian identity card to access welfare, healthcare, education or any other tax-funded service, and she defies “do-gooders” to “complain about people’s privacy.”

In September, Hanson gave a thinly veiled attack on unionism when she accused “overpaid public servants” of bludging off the budget. Throughout the country, public sector workers have been in a tough three-year battle against the federal government over wages, which remain frozen, and the shredding of hard-won conditions. Community and Public Sector Union members in the Department of Immigration and Border Protection are planning another week of industrial action (See: Trans-Tasman Union Beat, page 9). The potential power that public workers hold in their collective hands is massive. This fight is historic: these unionists are taking on the State, and the government wants to crush them. No wonder the rabidly anti-union Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash hugged Hanson at the conclusion of her speech.

A former fish and chip shop owner, Hanson typifies small capitalists’ contempt for workers’ rights and hatred toward militant unionism. In a recent media interview, she said, “we need to protect the small end of town, the small contractors and subbies so that they have a chance to get jobs and not be bullied by unions.”

The nationalist fantasy. Hanson’s style may not be Donald Trump’s, but, like him, she appeals to prejudices to answer why life for most people has become so insecure and hard. As the global economy disintegrates and the capitalist class foists the burden onto workers and the oppressed, these far-right demagogues offer up scapegoats—served with a big dollop of nationalism.

Hanson paints Australia as expanses of farmland and infrastructure, Australian owned; a land of families, nuclear, Christian, Australian born and assimilated. The school day starts with raising the Australian flag and singing the national anthem. TVs in homes and pubs across the country show Australian athletes competing for their country and saluting the flag from the victory podium.

She condemns “foreign” capital, especially Chinese, which she says is buying up Australia’s farms, real estate and resources. These investors, she claims, put housing prices beyond Australians’ reach. She denounces big business for being behind Australia’s intake of immigrants.

The illusion she constructs is of a hardworking nation exploited by foreign capital. This idea isn’t new—fascists used it in post-World War I Germany and Italy to deflect attention from local industrialists who backed the unleashing of jackboots on a working class that was in revolt. Today, Hanson directs the attention of those attracted to her vile ideas away from the source of their problems: the global capitalist system itself.

Understanding the threat. Hanson’s September parliamentary speech had the eerie ring of fascism. Her inflammatory calls to strip women on welfare of their rights to independence and reproductive choice, her anti-union comments and demonisation of Muslims and immigrants are classic far-right speak. But is this fascism?

Fascism is more than a vicious ideology. It’s is a movement, built to destroy the capacity of the working class to organise and revolt. Fascism’s social base is the middle class—small business people like Hanson—which, caught between the two powerful classes of capital and labour, will flip to whichever side looks likely to win over the other.

In her speech, Hanson was appealing to the middle class as well as less conscious working class folks looking for scapegoats to blame. In so doing, she legitimises fascist ideas, creating fertile ground in which a jackbooted fascist movement can take root and grow. One Nation is well positioned to coalesce the far right, inside and outside of Parliament, including neo-Nazis forces, which until now have been fragmented.

Hanson is well connected with this milieu. She has spoken at Reclaim Australia rallies. Leading members of the neo-Nazi United Patriots Front campaigned for her in the federal election. UPF even offered to be her bodyguards. Hanson is also friendly with the fascist Party for Freedom. These are the known connections.

If this leads to the cohering of a mass movement aimed at crushing the ability of the working class to organise, we’re dealing with fascism. While such a movement has not yet emerged, the danger is all too real. And Hanson is a contributor, encouraging more assaults on Muslims, immigrants, women and unionists—legislatively and physically. The need to countermobilise in our streets and communities—as we’ve done from Melbourne to Bendigo—remains urgent, because the threat could escalate.

Build the united front. Since Reclaim Australia first attempted to rally at Melbourne’s Federation Square in April 2015, Campaign Against Racism and Fascism (CARF) has countered these ultra-right and fascist groups whenever and wherever they’ve gathered. This united front of unionists, feminists, socialists, anarchists and Aboriginal justice activists has successfully prevented them from growing into a movement.

As the global economy continues to sink and the need to resist intensifies, a fascist movement could materialise—unless there’s a strong working class-led movement to stop it. The time to build this anti-fascist movement is right now. The CARF united front needs to grow into a force of today’s and tomorrow’s scapegoats—Muslims, women, First Nations, LGBTIQ, refugees and immigrants, unions, radicals, welfare recipients, the homeless and unemployed.

 

Anti-racists outnumber white supremacists in CHCH

racism rally

Over a hundred anti-racism protestors clashed with white supremacists led by Kyle Chapman in Christchurch today.

Despite an attempt at tricking the count-protesters by changing at two hours’ notice the advertised location of the white-pride rally from New Brighton to Cathedral Square, over a hundred counter-protestors surrounded and outnumbered the 50 or so white supremacists, who were quickly drowned out by the chants of the anti-racism protestors, a number of whom had come from Dunedin, Wellington and Auckland to show solidarity with Christchurch anti-racist activists.

Counter-demonstrators chanted “immigrants are welcome here, racists are not.”

“The fact the racists need to hide their rally is a victory for us, and that they were stopped from preaching their hate” says Fightback member Ben Peterson.

Eventually the police had to escort the outnumbered white supremacists out of the square for their own safety.

“Obviously racism still exists, so it’s good that we stood up and shut them down today, however by chasing the white supremacists out of town doesn’t end racism, it’s much deeper than that in our society, we need to keep fighting to root it out,” says Fightback member Wei Sun.

Over the course of the rally, organisers held a collection to raise money for the Refugee Council of Canterbury.

See also

CHCH: Rally against racism + Fighting Racism meeting

rally against racism chch 2014

Rally Against Racism

The “White Pride World Wide” rally is happening again with Right Wing Resistance (http://rwrnz.blogspot.co.nz/) having it’s flag day celebrating bigotry and intimidation. They appear to be working with National Front (https://www.facebook.com/wpwwnznf) who are a well known Neo-Nazi/White Nationalist group.

Last year was excellent, and hopefully with more time we can make this counter demonstration larger and better.

12:30 Saturday 22nd March
Cnr New Brighton Mall & Marine Parade, Christchurch
[Facebook event]

___

ChCh Fighting Racism in Aotearoa Meeting

‘Fighting Racism in Aotearoa’ meeting

Fightback presents a facilitated discussion on fighting racism throughout Aotearoa.
Regan Stokes (guest speaker) – E korara ana ngā kapua [The clouds are dispersing]
Wei Sun (Fightback) on migrant struggles & open borders.
Ben Peterson (Australian guest) on solidarity with refugees.

7pm, Sunday 23rd March
WEA, 59 Gloucester Street, Christchurch
[Facebook event]

Mainstream racism and white power groups

protest free news nz herald waitangi day

By Ian Anderson, with contributions by Joel Cosgrove (Fightback Wellington).

“When fascism comes to America, it will not be in brown and black shirts. It will not be with jackboots. It will be Nike sneakers and smiley shirts.”

-George Carlin, comedian

 On Waitangi Day 2014, the NZ Herald ran a “protest-free” edition, proudly announcing this editorial decision with an image of a raised fist.

The Facebook page Wake Up NZ (with around 10,000 likes) reported the fist as a “white power” symbol, associated with far-right groups including Right Wing Resistance and the National Front. UK leftist tabloid the Morning Star echoed this assertion, in an article reprinted by popular Australian paper Green Left Weekly.

Some responded that the raised fist is a broader symbol, also used by black power and leftist groups. Socialist Aotearoa is probably the most known group in Aotearoa/NZ to use the fist as their main logo, albeit in yellow. It’s entirely possible that the editors of the Herald intended the fist to symbolise dreaded ‘protest,’ by indigenous and radical forces.

Whatever their intention, the message was racist. By filtering out militant anti-colonisation politics, the Herald editorial team endorsed a colonial vision of Waitangi Day.

In fact, editorial choices made by the Herald in part reflect the difference between liberal racism and the straight-up fascism of white power groups.

The National Front deny that Māori are the tangata whenua, the indigenous people of Aotearoa/NZ, instead relying on pseudo-history to argue that Celts came first. By contrast, the Herald coverage accepted a kind of tokenised, ceremonial Māori indigeneity.

Instead of protest action, the Herald’s Waitangi Day photo gallery depicted the militarist dawn service on Waitangi grounds, a celebration of the Pākehā treaty – the treaty that guarantees Crown ownership, not the legitimate (dishonoured) treaty which guarantees absolute chieftanship to tangata whenua. Ultimately, the NZ Herald does more to advance white power than some bonehead1 with a swastika.

While groups like Right Wing Resistance insist on ‘white pride’ and ‘white power,’ using separatist language, politicians and opinion-makers largely insist on ‘one law for all’ and ‘one nation,’ hiding the domination of one nation by another (see Grant Brookes, Waitangi Day, Te Ra o Waitangi – What does it mean today?). This capitalist domination is legitimised by a layer of corporate iwi leaders (see Annette Sykes, The Politics of the Brown Table).

In light of this liberal racism, fascist and white power groups can appear as a relic, a reminder of politics that were supposedly defeated last century. In Spain and Germany, the 20th century growth of fascism was initially supported or tolerated by much of the international ruling class, particularly because fascists were willing to get their hands dirty killing communists. Nowadays in Aotearoa/NZ, white power groups are considered unfashionable in polite company.

In some ways this historical irrelevance is an illusion; fascism may be unfashionable when liberal democracy is serving capitalism just fine, but when the ruling class are threatened by the spectre of communism, the liberal mask comes off.

In Europe in the 21st century, since the global financial crisis, fascist groups have grown. In the UK, the British National Party (BNP) made a bid for respectability, winning seats in elections, while the English Defence League (EDL) remain street-thugs. Greece’s Golden Dawn openly assaults migrants, leftists and queers, with backing from much of the police. In a situation of economic and ideological crisis, the battle between the far-right and the left can play a major determining role.

However, the situation is different in Aotearoa/NZ. Although we have experienced a decades-long growth in inequality, this country was relatively sheltered from the shock of the global financial crisis. There is also no substantial left or radical workers’ movement to defeat (something Fightback, and other groups, aim to change). There is no sign that white power groups are growing substantially here, in part because the ruling class currently has no need to support their growth.

This is not to say we should tolerate white power groups. In Ōtautahi/Christchurch, Right Wing Resistance (headed by Kyle Chapman, former head of the National Front) have a tangible presence in the community, leafleting houses and intimidating people of colour. In 2012, their annual White Pride Worldwide rally attracted a reported 90 people, marching unchallenged. In this context, it is absolutely necessary to confront fascists in the streets and stop them marching; in 2013, counter-protestors easily outnumbered the White Pride Worldwide rally. Anti-fascist rallies resonate widely in Christchurch precisely because Right Wing Resistance has a tangible presence.

It’s also necessary to clarify that fascism is unwelcome in progressive spaces. In 2013, media revealed that a youth who vandalised Jewish gravestones had previously marched with Occupy Auckland, bearing a skateboard marked with swastikas. In Occupy Wellington, the (successful) struggle to get consensus on banning the National Front initiated a more general debate over ensuring that Occupy was an anti-oppressive space. For any kind of progressive politics to flourish, intolerance of white power groups must be an agreed bottom line.

However, confronting white power groups can become a ritual for the left, disconnected from wider reality.

From 2003-2008, the National Front attempted to march on the cenotaph in Poneke/Wellington, annually on Labour weekend. Each year progressives resisted this march.

The largest mobilisation was in 2004, after attacks on Jewish gravestones (and NF support for a church led anti-gay march). Hundreds of counter-protesters mobilised and chased the NF out of parliament grounds, led by a large contingent of ‘anarcho-fairies’, dressed in pink tutus, chasing the scattered NF remnants back to the railway station. From then on the annual mobilisations became much more formulaic and predictable, with a slowly dwindling number of counter-protesters, and an organised police presence keeping the NF apart from the counter-protestors.

In 2009, the following comment was posted by ‘annoymous’ on indymedia.org.nz:

[Counter-demonstrations against the National Front have] become nothing more than a annual ritual… I would very much doubt if many of the Anti-Fa crew would travel to say the Hutt Valley and protest outside the Hutt Park Motor Camp and do something useful and put pressure on the owners of the Motor Camp not to take bookings from these guys.

The time has come to re-evaluate the way we react to the Nationalist Flag Day protest and come up with fresh ideas rather than another pointless protest with more embarrassing arrests.”

In the end, the Hutt Valley Motor Camp cancelled the NF booking, forcing them to find other accommodation. However, with the annual confrontations fizzling out, there was no reassessment of anti-fascist strategy and tactics. As futurist Alvin Toffler is often quoted as saying, “if you don’t have a strategy, you become part of someone else’s.”

For Pākehā, anti-fascism can work to alleviate guilt. On the Facebook event for the Christchurch Rally Against Racism 2014, suggested chants include “Adolf Hitler was a d**k, fascist bigots make me sick.” The cathartic ritual of confronting an unpopular group of boneheads can underline how deviant, how marginal white power groups currently are. However, racism is embedded throughout our society.

Our ‘justice’ system is a case in point. Māori make up about 14% of the general population, and 50% of the prison population. Tagata Pasifika are also overrepresented in prisons. Criminalisation is not simply a matter of oppressed groups perpetrating more offences; Māori and Pasifika are more likely to be targeted for drug offences than Pākehā. Although Europeans make up the majority of overstayers, Tagata Pasifika are also more likely to be targeted for overstaying.

This is not a country run by Kyle Chapman’s mob. Aotearoa/NZ is a country run by (mainly) Pākehā who overwhelmingly support marriage equality, who work with the Māori Party and selected iwi leaders, who say they value the content of a man’s character (read; bank account) over the colour of his skin. The racism that keeps capitalism running here is a liberal racism, repulsed both by swastikas and Black Power patches.

In The People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn notes that early in the colonisation of North America, the capitalist state deliberately drew the ‘colour line’ to undermine working-class solidarity. In Aotearoa/NZ, Māori workers were the first to take strike action, in the Bay of Islands 1821, demanding to be paid ‘for their labour in Money, as was the case in England, or else in Gun Powder.’ In keeping with the racist pseudo-science of the day, Māori were portrayed as genetically inferior to Europeans.

By demonising tangata whenua – the most dispossessed, militant workers – capitalists undermine working-class unity. Bigoted Pākehā, most obviously those in Right Wing Resistance, play into this divide-and-conquer strategy. By clinging to meagre privileges, racist Pākehā workers prolong the system that exploits them. Racism is ultimately a structural matter, not just a matter of prejudice.

White power groups cannot be tolerated. However, confronting mainstream racism is also a necessary project. This project demands that we amplify voices ignored by the NZ Herald (one reason liberation movements need our own media). This project demands that we actively support and participate in struggles for self-determination, including the MANA Movement. This project demands that we weave our struggles together, recognise that all forms of liberation rely on eachother. Liberation demands that we recognise, in the words of Civil Rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer, that “nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”

***

1‘Bonehead’ refers to white power skinheads; not all skinheads are fascists.

See also

A young migrant woman’s experience of work in NZ

Unite Burger King occupation: "Burger King has always remained to be the fast food company which pays the lowest wages."

Unite Burger King occupation: “Burger King has always remained to be the fast food company which pays the lowest wages.”

Wei Sun (Fightback, Christchurch)

After the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi (The Treaty of Waitangi) in 1840 anyone could immigrate to New Zealand, while most settlers in the nineteenth century came from the UK, substantial numbers of Chinese labours immigrated to work on the goldfields of Otago. These migrants faced discrimination from white migrants but were not discriminated against in law until 1881 when a ‘poll tax’ was introduced for Chinese entering New Zealand.

The 1920 Immigration Restriction Act allowed the Minister of Customs to exclude any people who were ‘unsuitable’. While not officially adopting the ‘White New Zealand’ immigration policy, the law was used in practice to restrict the immigration of Asian people, especially Chinese. The idea of a ‘White New Zealand’ was supported by the early Labour as well as the Liberal and Reform parties (forerunners of National, which formed when they merged).

While Asian students began coming to New Zealand to study under the Colombo Plan in the 1950s, some choosing to stay after completing study, the 1920 law was used to restrict Asian immigration throughout most of the twentieth century. From 1974 criteria for entry to New Zealand gradually changed from race or nationality to merits and skills, but it wasn’t until the 1987 Immigration Act that legal discrimination against some races and nationalities was ended.

Today migrant workers are still struggling for their equal rights.  Burger King has always remained to be the fast food company which pays the lowest wages. Even some of those who have worked there for over ten years are still struggling on minimum wage. One of the biggest issues presented is the exploitation and bullying of migrant workers.

Many employers threaten their migrant workers by saying they might withdraw the workers’ work visa. Thus many migrants end up working under unreasonable working conditions and extremely low wages. While some unions still maintain a hostile attitude towards immigrants, Unite has made an impact organising in migrant workers in fast food, an industry which employs a large number of international students.

As an international student myself, I am currently holding a student visa and I am allowed to work up to 20 hours a week except for summer and winter holidays. In 2011, which was my first year in New Zealand, I had three jobs at different Chinese restaurants in Christchurch. Due to my lack of knowledge of New Zealand’s employment law and a strong English language barrier, I believed that it is ‘normal’ and ‘reasonable’ to work on nine dollars an hour in the first three-month trial period. At all of these restaurants I was getting paid cash.

I was being told off all the time. My bosses pointed at my nose and yelled at me almost every time I was on my shift, mostly because I was not moving fast enough or smiling enough to the customers.  I had to cover all the ‘losses’ made by myself due to careless working. The worst times were when the till was fifty dollars short, or when customers ran away without paying the bills.

The first place I worked at was called Zest Noodle House. My bosses would tell me to leave when there were not enough customers so they could just work by themselves. Sometimes after a long commute to work they told me to leave after one and half or two hours because it was not ‘busy enough’.

I signed the date, my name, starting time and finishing time of the day on a notebook they had for all the staff, and they paid every one of us cash on our last shift of the week. Unsurprisingly, the cash was always short, sometimes 50 cents, sometimes a few dollars.

I ended up quitting the job, like all the other previous staff had. I never got time and a half pay on public holidays, or sick pay. As I heard from previous co-workers and Chinese friends, this sort of thing is a common experience, and a common response; leaving instead of reporting the employers or taking other action. It is a sad but ‘normal’ thing that we are all shy, scared, or confused and never tell anyone else or get help.

Now it has been over two years since I was employed by those Chinese restaurants’ owners, and I do regret not standing up for myself and the co-workers. Of course horrible things as such do not just happen to us Chinese girls. One of my Thai friends told me the situation is exactly the same at the restaurant she was working at. She was threatened that her visa would be withdrawn if she refused to get paid ten dollars per hour cash.

More recently I was employed at a dairy shop in south west Christchurch. I was extremely happy when they decided to hire me, because they agreed to pay me proper minimum wage and tax to the government rather than cash ‘under the table’, but I left after one year due to sexual harassment over the last two months at the dairy shop.

One shift I was doing the ‘end of the day settlement’ and closing the shop, my boss threw 50-dollar note at my face, ‘he said the camera was off and no one would ever know, plus I needed cash anyway’. I said there is no way I am going to do that, and then quit the job not long after.

I had a long talk with him. I said “Look, you’ve got a lovely wife and a 23-year-old daughter. If you stop doing this, I will not report you, because your wife (the other boss of mine) is the nicest boss I have ever had. But you have to promise to stop doing this, otherwise I really will go report you” He agreed.

A little over six months since I quit the job at the dairy, a young woman who works at a neighbouring shop (owned by the same people as the dairy shop) contacted me and told me that the boss attempted to harass another Chinese girl who works there, who then quit.

This time I will not let him go. We have agreed that the girl from the dairy, the girl from the neighbouring shop, and I are going to report this boss together.

At the beginning of last year, the Centre for Strategic and International Studies pointed out that Kiwi xenophobia has been growing. I have experienced Xenophobia myself. Some employers only seek for similar values and beliefs, and avoid ‘the others’.

Maintaining a work visa is of upmost importance to many migrant workers. To some of us, the most difficult condition we face is that we could be arrested and deported for militant action. But since we have the most to lose from militant action, sometimes we do know a lot about unionism and politics.

A Japanese friend of mine also told me that his previous boss promised to get him a work visa for his permanent residency if he agreed to work under certain wage and conditions. He worked for a year, but the work visa or residency never happened.

Migrant workers are part of the working class too. Regardless of our ethnicity, we do work and we contribute to New Zealand society. We bring our experiences from our home countries, and help the New Zealand working class to be more cosmopolitan and international. It is important to defend all workers against attacks, including the controls put on migrant workers that help maintain their oppression and exploitation. Capitalism exploits the global working class as a whole, therefore, the more we unite workers together, not divide workers along lines of race or nationality, the stronger we get, and the better we can fight against the system itself.

Palestine: Queer liberation vs Pinkwashing

This talk by Ali Nissenbaum was originally delivered as part of Beyond, a conference organised by Queer Avengers. It is reprinted here from the Not Afraid of Ruins blog.

Note: for the purpose of this article I’m using ‘queer’ as a broad term to describe all of us who are marginalised because our gender or sexual identity isn’t normative. That includes trans, intersex, pansexual, lesbian and gay folks, among others. I know that ‘queer’ is a culturally specific label and that not all gender/sexually diverse people identify as such.

Let me start by explaining a few concepts that are useful for understanding the relationship between struggles for queer liberation and nationalism.

Homonormative: a normative way of being gay. The ‘proper’ gay person is someone who’s cisgendered, monogamous, White, middle-class, and definitely not disabled—because disabled people aren’t supposed to have a sexuality. The normative gay just wants to be allowed to serve in the military, to get a job, get married, have babies, and fit in to heteronormative society.

Homonationalism: means homonormative nationalism. This is about the way that the cause of GLBT rights—but more often than not just G and L rights—gets used to prop up nationalism and justify imperialism and militarism. One example is when people justify military attacks on Iran by arguing that it is a homophobic country. Another example is when people blame homophobia in New Zealand on Māori and Pacific Islander communities, who are portrayed as conservative and homophobic.

It’s worth thinking about the correlation between the social acceptance of some queers (normative ones) and racism, especially anti-Arab and Muslim racism. Identity is always formed in opposition to someone else, it’s ‘us’ and ‘them’. Normative gays are allowed entry into ‘proper society’ in order to emphasise the dichotomy between the White West (modern, progressive, liberal) and the Brown East: Arabs, Muslims, Southeast Asians and other populations who are constructed as conservative, patriarchal, homophobic, violent, backwards and terrorists.

Pinkwashing: a term used to describe the way that GLBT rights are used to whitewash over unethical behavior. We see this when corporations use gay-friendly marketing to distract from the terrible way they treat their workers. We see it when NZ Defence wins an award for being an equal opportunity employer, which is another way of saying that anyone, regardless of sexual or gender identity, can join in the imperialist occupation of Afghanistan.

For the purpose of this talk I’m going to focus on the state of Israel as an example of pinkwashing—partly because I’m an Israeli, or to put it more accurately, I’m a settler-colonist on Palestinian land. Israel is a state that consistently oppresses its Indigenous Palestinian population in order to maintain an ethnically-exclusive state. In other words, it’s an apartheid state. Maintaining an apartheid state requires a huge amount of PR work to convince the rest of the world that they should allow you to continue oppressing people. So the state of Israel has come up with a marketing campaign called ‘Brand Israel’.

Part of ‘Brand Israel’ is to promote Israel as a queer-friendly country. This is really a two-pronged approach: (1) situate Israel as a progressive, modern, pro-LGBT country and (2) construct Arabs and Muslims in general, and Palestinians in particular as conservative, patriarchal, and violently homophobic.

Image shows two men being hanged on the left with the caption 'Palestine: when they find out you are gay they hang you'. On the right image shows two soldiers holding hands with the caption 'Israel: we love and admire gay men and women'.

What’s wrong with this picture?

First of all the image on the right is a bit misleading. The two soldiers in this photo aren’t lovers, and actually one of them is heterosexual. The photo was staged by the Israeli Defence Force Spokesperson’s Office and posted on its facebook page with the caption ‘It’s Pride Month. Did you know that the IDF treats all of its soldiers equally? Let’s see how many shares you can get for this photo.’

The image on the left is just plain incorrect. This photo isn’t from Palestine, it’s from Iran. The two boys in this photo were hanged—though their supposed crime is unclear. Originally Western media outlets were reporting they were hanged for having consensual sex with each other, but human rights NGOs haven’t found any evidence that corroborates this claim, it’s more likely that they had raped a younger boy. Either way, what happened to them is horrific and inexcusable—the death penalty is never ok, especially against children. But this is an example of how information about human rights abuses is manipulated to justify imperialist intentions, whether against Palestinians or against Iran.

Vincent Autin and Bruno Boileau in Tel Aviv for their honeymoon.

Part of this ‘Brand Israel’ campaign has been to promote Israel as a gay tourism destination. These are Vincent Autin and Bruno Boileau, the first gay French couple to get married after France legalised same-sex marriage. Hila Oren, the CEO of Tel Aviv Global & Tourism, came up with a great marketing idea. She invited this couple to come honeymoon in Tel Aviv during Tel Aviv pride week. According to Oren, ‘the meaning beneath is our mission, to broaden the conversation about Tel Aviv, for people to know that Tel Aviv is a place of tolerance, of business and tourism, a place beyond the conflict’. Vincent Autin told Israeli media that ‘for us it’s very important to be a bridge, especially here in the Middle East, so that what’s happened in France, and the way we are received and embraced here, can become an example for the rest of the Middle East.’ This is homonationalism—the idea that Westerners constitute ‘an example’ that the Middle East should follow.

This kind of pinkwashing has found its way into the queer community in New Zealand too. At Queer the Night 2011 someone showed up with a pro-Israel placard. Queer the Night was supposed to be about standing up against transphobia, homophobia and oppression. But somebody managed to derail it and use it as an opportunity to incite prejudice against Arab and Muslim people.

Pro-Israel placard at Queer the Night 2011 reads: 'Long live Israel, the only gay-friendly mid-east state'.

Sometimes pinkwashing is a lot subtler than that. I was pretty shocked when I read this article in the June issue of Express. The author was clearly impressed with the Gay Cultural Centre in Tel Aviv, and on the surface this seems pretty innocuous. But celebrating Tel Aviv as a queer-friendly city without acknowledging that it is a city built on the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians is pinkwashing racism—as the Jewish American lesbian writer Sarah Schulman puts it ‘Tel Aviv is a theater set, behind it is the reality of profound oppression and violation of human rights.’

Pinkwashing arguments are built on a false logic. Transphobia and homophobia aren’t limited to Arab and Muslim societies. Israel is also a homophobic and transphobic society. New Zealand has its own problems with anti-queer oppression. More than that, struggles against racism and colonisation and struggles against transphobia and homophobia can’t be fought separately. Homophobia, transphobia, racism and occupation are all intertwined; they are part of the matrix of violence and oppression in Palestine. This isn’t just an abstract idea, it has real consequences for people’s safety. For example, there’s a history of the Shabak, Israel’s General Security Services, blackmailing Palestinian queers into becoming informants—because they know that outing them could endanger their lives. The lack of freedom of movement for Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank means that queers living in transphobic or homophobic communities cannot easily leave.

This is why Palestinian queer groups like al-Qaws, Aswat and Palestinian Queers for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions all work to fight both anti-queer oppression, and the racism and colonialism of the Israeli state.

Palestinian queer groups endorse the Palestinian call for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) on Israel. Palestinian civil society groups launched the BDS campaign in 2005, and part of the campaign is ‘queer BDS’ which is specifically about challenging Israel’s pinkwashing. Joining the BDS campaign is one way that we can be solid with all Palestinians—queer and straight.

Here in Aotearoa we’ve recently established the Aotearoa BDS Network, and our first campaign is focusing on G4S, a private security company that provides prisons and checkpoints for Israel. We’re inviting queer organisations to endorse the campaign by signing the letter we’re writing to Super Fund asking them to divest their shares in G4S. If you want to learn more, you should come along to our campaign launch on November 2 at Thistle Hall.

Further reading

al-Qaws for Sexual and Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society

Aswat (lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex, questioning & queer Palestinian women)

Palestinian Queers for Boycott Divestment & Sanctions

Queers Against Israeli Apartheid

Israeli Laundry

Palestinian BDS National Committee

Palestinian Campaign for Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel

Jasbir K. Puar, Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times (Duke University Press: 2007)

Sarah Schulman, Israel/Palestine and the Queer International (Duke University Press: 2012)

Ali Abunimah, One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli–Palestinian Impasse (Picador: 2007)

Ben White, Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide (Pluto Press: 2009)

Omar Barghouti, Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights (Haymarket Books: 2011)

Racist “Pakeha Party” ignores history

Anti-racist action in Christchurch: http://www.flickr.com/photos/94331833@N06/

Anti-racist action in Christchurch, photo by popartyrights

Thomas Inwood, member of Fightback and Anti-Racist Action (Christchurch).

A Facebook page for “The Pakeha Party” caused a stir in early July, quickly gaining more ‘likes’ than any other political party in New Zealand. While the founder, David Ruck, admitted that the idea was initially a joke between friends, the torrent of interest has resulted in an attempt to build a real political party based on rhetoric of ‘equal rights’ for all New Zealanders. The Pakeha Party illustrates the profound ignorance of history within our society, as well as an underbelly of racism which have both  been emerging more frequently during the economic recession. While many have, quite rightly, pointed out that David Ruck is a complete buffoon, the popularity of his bigoted ‘joke’ highlights a dangerous ideological tendency.

Historical Illiteracy

Reading comments in the media, and made by Ruck via the Facebook page, it is clear that supporters of the message of ‘equal rights’ completely misunderstand a great deal of New Zealand’s colonial history, and race relations. The myth of a privileged Māori beneficiary living off the hard work of others is commonplace not just within misinformed racist circles, but has representation in mainstream media. The disgusting cartoon by Al Nisbet earlier this year is  a clear example of mainstream attacks on Māori living in poverty – and a perpetuation of the myths around beneficiaries in general.

More disturbing are the many calls from white New Zealanders to discard the Treaty of Waitangi and ‘let bygones be bygones’. This is perhaps one of the most fundamental misunderstandings, reinforced by a kind of abstracted liberalism based around ‘individual’ rights and responsibilities. The argument is familiar enough: that “Pākehā now should not be paying for the crimes of our ancestors”. The separation of who is ‘guilty’ for particular wrongs in the past from any repercussions over time must be challenged. What supporters of Ruck’s message ignore are the ways that violations of the Treaty (illegal land seizure etc.) by The Crown have created a fundamentally unequal society. All workers are dispossessed, but indigenous people experience dispossession in the extreme within colonial societies. Ancestral land which sustained families for generations were enclosed, carved up, and sold – often illegally or in a fraudulent manner. Naturally, this forced Māori into poverty in rural communities while the collective wealth of the nation circulated through predominately white hands. Revenue from these injustices, and the labour of the working class, built New Zealand largely in the image of Europe. Institutions with European ‘sensibilities’ were seen as normal and Māori struggling to integrate into these systems were punished.

In the mid 20th century a migration from rural communities by Māori into urban centres took place. Māori were slotted in always at the lowest rung of the working class within urban environments. Māori integrated, often discouraging children to learn their own language so as to better fit in within the white, European-centered schooling system. Māori were being incorporated into European society, but effectively as an underclass. Urbanization largely destroyed widespread understanding of Kaupapa, and over the following decades Te Reo was in serious jeopardy  of becoming extinct. This loss of cultural identity is still being grappled with today. The Pakeha Party are likely informed by the generation of white New Zealand who remember this era as the “good old days” when race and The Treaty were ignored. As Morgan Godfrey pointed out recently, New Zealand’s egalitarian myth does allow Māori (and everyone else) to participate, so long as they assimilate. “There’s no room for Māori participating as Māori.”. The message of ‘equal rights’ from The Pakeha Party would effectively see a reverse of Māori initiatives which attempt to allow Māori full participation in society as Māori.

Those who find Ruck’s message resonating with them seem to misunderstand that the crimes and injustices of the past have created and reinforced the inequity of the present. Māori are over represented in prisons, have poorer health outcomes and die younger, are in more dangerous and lower paid jobs; all related to systemic poverty and institutionalized racism that has built up over decades. Treaty settlements and  Māori specific social development schemes are  trying to correct very real wrongs that not only disenfranchised Māori, but inversely allowed for the over-privilege of Pākehā in New Zealand. What Malcolm X said of America rings no less true with the meagre Treaty reparations being made now for past crimes:

“If you stick a knife nine inches into my back and pull it out three inches, that is not progress. Even if you pull it all the way out, that is not progress. Progress is healing the wound, and America hasn’t even begun to pull out the knife.”

Reparations, progress; these  ideas are ongoing. Even in supposedly progressive journalism around the Pakeha Party it is often pointed out that the Waitangi Tribunal is two years off finishing up all settlement claims, as though in two years New Zealand will finally have racial harmony once more. The harm done in the past has shaped the present and will continue to shape the future regardless of Treaty settlement processes. The ongoing struggle with racial oppression cannot be overcome under capitalism, but cannot be reduced simply to questions of class. [Read more…]

Cornel West: “President Obama is a global George Zimmerman”

Transcript of an interview on Democracy Now [video here]

AMY GOODMAN: In the aftermath of the Zimmerman verdict and the mass protests around the country, we turn right now to Dr. Cornel West, professor at Union Theological Seminary, author of numerous books, co-host of the radio show Smiley & West with Tavis Smiley. Together, they wrote the book The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto, among Cornel West’s other books.

Professor Cornel West—

CORNEL WEST: Yes, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: President Obama surprised not only the press room at the White House, but the nation, I think, on Friday, in his first public remarks following the George Zimmerman acquittal. What are your thoughts?

CORNEL WEST: Well, the first thing, I think we have to acknowledge that President Obama has very little moral authority at this point, because we know anybody who tries to rationalize the killing of innocent peoples, a criminal—George Zimmerman is a criminal—but President Obama is a global George Zimmerman, because he tries to rationalize the killing of innocent children, 221 so far, in the name of self-defense, so that there’s actually parallels here. [Read more…]

Zimmerman acquittal: The verdict on American racism

times square zimmerman acquittal rally

Thousands rallied in Times Square, NYC against the acquittal of George Zimmerman.

On February the 6th, 2012, vigilante George Zimmerman killed African American teenager Trayvon Martin. It took 44 days and mass protests to initiate prosecution against Zimmerman. On the 15th of July 2013, George Zimmerman was acquitted.

In a piece reprinted from Socialist Worker, (US) Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor analyses the racism underlying the killing and the verdict.

SHOCK, HORROR and then rage. These were the feelings experienced by tens of thousands of people across the country as they struggled to comprehend the meaning of George Zimmerman’s acquittal. How could Zimmerman be free? It was he who stalked Trayvon Martin, confronted him, pulled out a gun and ultimately murdered the unarmed teenage boy.

Before the verdict was even determined, the mainstream media did its best to both whip up hysteria about the potential for riots in the event of a not-guilty verdict, while simultaneously broadcasting appeals to “respect” the system and whatever outcome was announced. These media-generated appeals helped to provide law enforcement with a cover to harass and intimidate protesters–and they once again shifted the blame for racially inspired violence onto the victims and away from the perpetrators.

The media might have instead performed a public service to publicize the new warning that has issued forth as a result of the outcome of this trial: It is open season on young Black men.

Trayvon Martin was killed in February 2012 because George Zimmerman decided he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Instead of Zimmerman being held accountable for his deadly act of racial profiling, Martin, his family and friends were put on trial, first in the media and then in the courtroom–and they were ultimately found guilty of being Black in a country where Black lives get next-to-no value nor respect. [Read more…]

Racism in Aotearoa/NZ

class struggle not racist scapegoating chch

by Byron Clark

On March 23rd Christchurch witnessed the spectacle of a white pride demonstration. In a Saint Albans park, with plans to march down Papanui road, approximately thirty people gathered. Mostly young men, they wore military style garb, many of them adorned with swastikas. Organisers of the demonstration advertised it as a family friendly outing, advocating “white rights” and pride in one’s ethnicity, but the rank-and-file of the white nationalist movement didn’t want to leave their neo-Nazi regalia at home, and couldn’t resist the temptation to make sieg heil salutes.

The local community was out in force to oppose racism, around a hundred people gathered in a counter demonstration. Many of them residents of St Albans who wanted to make it clear that racism is not welcome in their community and the white pride demonstrators did not represent their views. In a fact that should embarrass most of this city’s residents, Christchurch is only city in Aotearoa with an active white supremacist movement. The Te Ara encyclopaedia entry on the city notes that a white supremacist subculture emerged here in the 1990s, and members of it would periodically attack ethnic minorities.

Although many of the people on the demonstration would have been just children at that time, white supremacy is still a violent movement today. In 2010 white supremacist Shannon Brent Flewellen was sentenced to life imprisonment in a Christchurch court for the brutal murder of South Korean student Kim Jae-Hyeon. The judge noted that Flewellen “regarded [the victim] as not deserving of the same dignity and respect as a white person.”

There was no outright violence at the recent white pride rally, although one of the demonstrators was arrested at the beginning of the demonstration for a prior incident, and near the end a carload of white supremacists grabbed a sign from one of the counter-protesters as they drove past yelling “white pride!” injuring the woman’s arm. It’s no surprise that few people from ethnic minority groups joined the counter protest. While they would have agreed with its aims they would have been putting themselves at a greater risk than the Pakeha protesters.

Counter protestors successfully cut the white pride march short, blocking the footpath making the white supremacists change direction and return to the park. The action has solidified a core group of anti-racist activists, who have since held meetings to plan further anti-racist activities. It’s a big  task, opposing racism means more than just opposing  the Right Wing Resistance, the group behind March’s white supremacist rally.

No one is born racist. We need to be asking ourselves what it is about our society that has allowed a white-supremacist movement to grow in this Christchurch. Part of it is demographics. While in other cities the working class is made up largely of Maori and Polynesians, Christchurch still has a predominantly white working class. With unemployment high, and the state of many poorer suburbs following the earthquakes, it’s unsurprising that working class Pakeha are feeling abandoned, looking for something to join and someone to blame. [Read more…]