‘This includes any reference to their wildlife’

  This is a guest post by Max Dunbar.

Following my post on the Manchester Leila Khaled controversy, a reader got in touch to share a marvellous Morning Star letter from Linda Clair, a Manchester PSC activist who was supposed to be hosting the Khaled event.

Not being a regular reader, I am unfamiliar with the Morning Star quiz. I’m not going for high-minded disdain. Maybe I really am missing out. A few weeks ago, the quiz apparently included a question about Israel’s national bird, the Hoopoe. This provoked letters from two readers, Linda Clair and George Abendstern, who complained that the question breached the anti-Zionist left’s academic and cultural boycott of Israel. I am not making this up.

I often wonder why so many of its readers find the Morning Star so exasperating.

Despite its condemnation of zionists it yet finds space to include an item in its daily quiz about Israel’s national bird.

Is the Star not aware there’s a cultural boycott going on?

And then, despite it’s condemnation of the Bahrain Grand Prix and rightly so, it then goes on to tell us who won.

For goodness sake comrades, get your act together.

George Abendstern



The Morning Star has always been the newspaper you could rely on to support the cause of the Palestinians, so why of all the birds in the world did you choose the Israeli national bird to include in your quiz?

Maybe you don’t support the methods chosen by the International Solidarity Movement of BDS to assist the Palestinians in their struggle for freedom and justice – a demand that came from them originally.

This includes any reference to their wildlife.

Linda Clair


Full credit to the Star though, for publishing this whimsical response from another reader, Martyn Lewis. The signoff makes it.

As a shareholder and daily
Reader of The Morning Star
I find Abenstern and
Clair’s objections to a bird
Just bizzare. It’s a pity the
United Nations can’t get
The dove of peace flying in
For some birdsong. No doubt
My letter will hit the waste
Paper bin faster than a can
Of Spam!

Marytn Lewis
Leighton Buzzard

But Lewis’s playful riposte was, unfortunately, not the end of it as the Rochdale duo, with an apparent lack of any humour or self awareness, decided to write another letter about the bird quiz question:

Regarding Martyn Lewis’s dismissal of our objection to quiz questions on Israel’s national bird (M Star April 30), it’s not the bird we object to but what this bird represents – the racist and apartheid state of Israel.

We too are shareholders and daily readers of the Morning Star and the Daily Worker before it.

George Abendstern & Linda Clair


The Star’s letter page has a tagline saying ‘If you have enjoyed this article then please consider making a donation to the Morning Star‘s Fighting Fund’. For moments like this, I’m tempted.

Worker’s Liberty on Perdition

I remember reading Socialist Organiser (which became Workers’ Liberty) on Perdition at the time. It wasn’t long after Socialist Organiser had dropped their position of a single state as the solution to the  Palestine / Israel conflict,  changing to a 2 states position. At the time this was a brave decision for a Trotskyist organisation to take in the U.K., with only The Militant Tendency refusing to support the destruction of Israel. Those of us involved in Engage were at the time students and remember how Socialist Organiser was the only group on the left to support Jewish students when they came under attack at NUS Conferences. This led to the SWP refusing to continue publishing Socialist Organiser’s newspaper and Socialist Organiser suffered a fair amount of abuse for their principled opposition to anti-semitism and to absolute anti-zionism.

From Worker’s Liberty

In early 1987 there was a public controversy about “Perdition”, a play by Jim Allen, a radical writer with a Trotskyist background, which was scheduled to be directed by Ken Loach at the Royal Court Theatre in London.

Critics claimed that the play, representing Zionists as collaborating with the Nazis in the massacre of Jews in Hungary, was anti-Jewish, and designed primarily to “delegitimise” Israel; defenders argued that it was being banned for highlighting awkward truths.

The Royal Court cancelled the production at a late stage. Later, the play, in an amended version, was published, and in 1999 it was performed at the Gate Theatre in London.


Colin Shindler: The non-Jewish Jews who became the scholars of an ideological dreamworld.

Colin Shindler author of recently published “Israel and the European Left”, writes in the Jewish Chronicle :

During Jewish Book Week in February 1958, the great Marxist historian, Isaac Deutscher, gave a talk entitled “The Non-Jewish Jew”. It was later published and became required reading for the student revolutionaries of the 1960s. Deutscher tried to explain why some Jews embraced the revolutionary imperative and relegated their Jewishness to a secondary level.

As an ilui (child prodigy) of the yeshiva of Chrzanow in Poland, Deutscher supplanted God with Lenin and Trotsky at an early age. Although he moved beyond the Jewish community, he never renounced his Jewishness. He believed that non-Jewish Jews symbolised “the highest ideals of mankind” and that Jewish revolutionaries carried “the message of universal human emancipation”. He regarded such figures as optimists. And yet his father, the author of a book in Hebrew on Spinoza, disappeared in the hell of Auschwitz.

Deutscher argued that such Jews existed on the borderlines of various civilisations, religions and cultures. And from there on the margins, they were able to clearly analyse societies and events – and guide humanity into more benevolent channels.

His revolutionary heroes included the Talmudic heretic, Elisha Ben Abuya who was the teacher and friend, according to the midrash, of Rabbi Meir Baal Hanas. While his actual misdemeanours were never revealed, Ben Abuya was at pains to warn his close friend, Rabbi Meir not to transgress the Sabbath when he was unwittingly in danger of doing so. Why did Elisha do this if he was the advocate of heresy? Why did Rabbi Meir maintain his friendship with Elisha when the entire Jewish community had boycotted him? Such questions perplexed Deutscher, who identified with Ben Abuya and regarded him as the model for contemporary revolutionaries such as Rosa Luxemburg and Leon Trotsky. Yet this story and its mystery did point to the convoluted issues that faced non-Jewish Jews who had travelled outside the community yet culturally remained within. Such issues of national identity and internationalism affected many Jews on the European Left who were often marooned between identities.

Read the full article here.


You can also watch Colin talking about his book