Israel and The British Left: The Great Betrayal Revisited

An article from earlier this year continues to provoke discussion, but it should not poison other de

It is difficult to know what to do about people visiting this site who hide behind their anonymity to make obsessive and personal comments. We do not have a policy on these so-called "trolls". Perhaps we should. Much of this comment would never have seen the light of day in the pre-internet age because there is only a certain amount of space on the letters page. Magazines and newspapers do their readers the courtesy of making a selection of the best letters to save them from the green-ink merchants.

I have long believed that we insult our readers by allowing a free-for-all on the web. But it is extremely time-consuming to constantly moderate the trolls.

However, the New Statesman Investigates section is too important for this. I have decided it does decent readers of the website no favours for us to get involved in discussions about articles published several weeks ago.

I have therefore taken the unusual step of removing comments by "redharry" about The Great Betrayal article I wrote from Israel, which was published on 15 May 2008. The 168 comments the original article received discussed the issue in great detail. The article is still available for anyone to read.

There is no real obligation to engage with people who refuse to write under their real identity, but I do not want to stifle debate.

So here, once more, is "redharry" on his favourite subject:

Bright's trip to Israel was bankrolled by BICOM founder and backer Poju Zabludowicz.

'Poju Zabludowicz, whom the Sunday Times reveals has donated £70,000 to the Conservative party over the past three years, is also one of the financial supporters of the Conservative Friends of Israel, which has also given money to the party. He is chairman of the Britain-Israel Communications and Research group, BICOM, which works directly with the Israeli embassy.'

[See New Statesman article Kosher Conspiracy.]

Today, the family fortune is managed by Shlomo's son Poju, who has kept a finger in the arms pie through the munitions manufacturer Pocal.

Poju Zabludowicz got his money from the family firm Soltam

Soltam is an Israeli company which operates both on the military market and the civilian market. Its military expertise is artillery systems, cannons and ammunition. It is a subsidiary of the Israeli defense firm Elbit.

Military products:

* Tank guns

o Merkava smoothbore 120 mm main gun

* Artillery - towed gun and self-propelled gunshowitzers

o M-68 towed 155 mm howitzer.

o M-71 towed 155 mm howitzer.

o Rascal self-propelled 155 mm howitzer

o Slammer (Sholef) - Merkava-based self-propelled 155 mm howitzer.

* Mortars

o Merkava 60 mm internal mortar.

o Cardom 120 mm self-propelled mortar.

o Dragon EFSS (Cardom, version for the USMC).

o M-65 120 mm mortar.

o M-66 160 mm mortar.

* Ammunition

o Mortar shells (60 mm, 81 mm, 120 mm, 160 mm)

o Artillery shells (155 mm , 175 mm)

Civilian products:

* Cooking pots

I suppose Bright will claim that his trip was paid for with the proceeds of the sale of cooking pots.

Please feel free to carry on the discussion here, but please keep to the point when discussing the New Statesman investigations.

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Why Podemos will defeat the Spanish Socialists

A new alliance on the Spanish Left will be stronger than the sum of its parts.

On Saturday morning, on a palm-tree lined promenade in the small city of Badalona in eastern Catalonia, a 38-year-old woman named Mar García Puig fanned herself with her speaking notes after taking her turn on the stage.

Until six months ago, Puig was a literary editor with no professional experience in politics apart from attending demonstrations and rallies. Then, in December, her life was transformed twice over. In the national election, she won a parliamentary seat for En Comú Podem, the Catalan regional ally of the anti-austerity party Podemos. Four hours after she learned of her victory, Puig gave birth to twins.

Fortunately Puig’s husband, who is a teacher, was able to take paternity leave so that she could take up her seat. In parliament, Puig “felt like an alien”, she told me over coffee. As it turned out, she had to give up her seat prematurely anyway – along with all the other Spanish MPs – when repeated attempts to form a government failed. So now, in the lead-up to Spain’s first repeat election of the modern era, to be held on 26 June, Puig was on the campaign trail once more in a drive to win a parliamentary seat.

The December general election was as historic as it was inconclusive, ushering in a novel political era in Spain and leaving the country with the most fragmented parliament in its history. Fed up with corruption, austerity and a weak recovery from the global financial crisis, voters punished the mainstream parties, ending the 40-year dominance of the conservative Partido Popular (People’s Party) and the centre-left PSOE (Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party), which have held power since the death of General Franco. Neither group was able to win an absolute majority as new parties from both ends of the political spectrum garnered support from disenchanted voters.

On the left, Podemos, which was only founded in March 2014 by the ponytailed political scientist Pablo Iglesias, won 20 per cent of the vote. Ciudadanos (Citizens), formed in Catalonia a decade ago and occupying the centre left or centre right, depending on which analyst you talk to, secured a 14 per cent share.

Despite having four months to form a coalition government, the two biggest political parties could not reach a deal. The People’s Party, which had implemented a harsh austerity package over the past five years, recorded its worst electoral performance since 1989, losing 16 percentage points. It still won the most votes, however, and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy was the first leader to be asked by King Felipe VI to form a government.

By the end of January, Rajoy conceded defeat after the PSOE refused to join his “grand coalition”. The Socialists then failed in their own attempt to form a government, leading the king to dissolve parliament and call a fresh election.

Despite the inconvenience of having to campaign nationwide once again – and being away from her twins – Mar García Puig’s enthusiasm for her new career is undiminished. “In Spain there is a window of opportunity,” she said. “There is a receptiveness to politics that there wasn’t before.”

When the repeat elections were called, some questioned whether Podemos and its regional allies could mobilise its supporters to the same extent as in December. Yet Puig believes that the party’s appeal has grown further in the six months that the country has been without a government. “We are still new and Podemos has this freshness – it can still make people join,” she told me.

The following day, as the church bells rang at noon in the Basque city of Bilbao, crowds gathered for another rally. For protection against the sun, Podemos supporters had covered their heads with purple triangular paper hats displaying the party name as it will appear on the ballot paper: Unidos Podemos, or “United We Can”.

In May, Podemos entered into an alliance with Izquierda Unida (United Left), the radical left-wing party that includes the Communist Party of Spain, and which won 3 per cent of the vote in December. Izquierda Unida is headed by Alberto Garzón, a 30-year-old Marxist economist who, according to a poll by the state-run CIS research institute, is the most highly rated party leader in Spain. Unlike Podemos’s Iglesias, who can fire up a crowd and is seen by some as divisive, Garzón is a calm and articulate politician who appeals to disaffected voters.

Nagua Alba, who at 26 is Podemos’s youngest MP, said the new alliance would be stronger than the sum of its parts, because Spain’s voting system punishes smaller parties when it comes to allocating seats in parliament. “It [the alliance] will attract all those people that aren’t convinced yet. It shows we can all work together,” Alba said.

As part of the agreement with Podemos, Izquierda Unida has agreed to drop its demands for a programme of renationalisation and withdrawing Spain from Nato. The alliance is campaigning on a platform of reversing Rajoy’s labour reforms, removing the national debt ceiling, opposing the TTIP trade deal, and increasing the minimum wage to €900 a month. A Unidos Podemos government would attempt to move the EU’s economic policy away from austerity and towards a more expansionist stance, joining a broader effort that involves Greece, Italy and Portugal. It is also committed to offering the Catalans a referendum on independence, a move that the mainstream parties strongly oppose.

The latest polls suggest that Unidos Podemos will become Spain’s second-biggest party, with 26 per cent of the vote, behind Rajoy’s Popular Party. The Socialist Party looks poised to fall into third place, with 21 per cent, and Ciudadanos is expected to hold its 14 per cent share. If the polls are accurate, the PSOE will face a difficult choice that highlights how far its stock has fallen. It can choose to enter as a junior partner into a coalition with the insurgent left, which has politically outmanoeuvred it. Or it could decide to prop up a Partido Popular-led right-wing coalition, serving as a constraint on power. 

This article first appeared in the 23 June 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Divided Britain