Jewish protesters against Trump’s ICE injured


This 16 August 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

Guard Strikes ICE Protesters With Car

A correctional officer came dangerously close to running over protesters with his car. Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian, hosts of The Young Turks, break it down.

“The protesters were sitting on the pavement to block staff from parking at a Rhode Island prison that works with Immigration and Customs Enforcement when a black pickup truck swerved toward them. The protesters shouted as the driver laid on the horn, and the truck briefly stopped.

And then, the driver hit the gas.

In a viral video captured by bystanders, the protesters screamed and jumped out of the way. Several were struck, according to organizers of the Wednesday night demonstration at the Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, R.I. Some were treated at a hospital, though none were severely injured.

“It was terrifying because we didn’t know what exactly his intention was”, Amy Anthony, a spokesperson for Never Again Action, a Jewish activist group that planned the protest, told The Washington Post. “It certainly appeared he was trying to hit us.”

By Trévon Austin in the USA:

Protesters pepper-sprayed outside Rhode Island ICE facility after officer drives truck into crowd

16 August 2019

An Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer was placed on administrative leave after driving his pickup truck through a group of Jewish protesters Wednesday night outside of the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, Rhode Island. A 64-year-old man, identified by protesters as Jerry Belair, suffered a broken leg, internal bleeding and a possible back injury in the assault.

The suspended officer was identified in a statement released by the ICE facility as Captain Thomas Woodworth. Representatives would not confirm whether Woodworth was behind the wheel of the truck, but a video of the incident showed protesters shouting Woodworth’s name as they surrounded the vehicle.

The episode unfolded as Woodworth allegedly accelerated towards protesters sitting peacefully on the ground outside of the facility’s employee parking lot. The video shows a truck nearly ramming into a line of people while the driver honked his horn. The group of protesters stood and surrounded the vehicle, shouting “shame” at the truck driver. An individual also jumped into the truck’s cargo bed to try to dissuade the driver from moving. The driver then accelerated again before stopping shortly after and screaming is heard.

Soon after, police officers approached the scene and demanded the group move away from the truck while protesters chanted “The whole world is watching.” One of the officers claimed to be a federal official. After about 45 seconds, one agent is seen unleashing a cloud of pepper spray, causing the group to disperse. About a dozen people were treated for irritation due to pepper spray and one other went to the hospital for minor injuries.

The protest outside the facility was organized under the banner of the Never Again protest movement, which has drawn parallels between the Trump Administration’s treatment of migrants and that of the Jewish people during the Holocaust by the Nazis. Similar demonstrations organized by Jewish groups have been held outside ICE offices and detention centers nationally this summer.

Protesters have been at the Wyatt center since July, but they say it is the first time any of their demonstrations ended in violence.

The group released a statement Thursday, saying, “Last night we experienced a small example of the violence that ICE uses against our immigrant neighbors every day. As Jews, our families taught us the lessons of the Holocaust, and we promised that we would speak out and act if we ever saw a group of people being targeted, dehumanized, and rounded up.

“We are answering the call of our ancestors to sound the alarm: #NeverAgainIsNow. Every person in the United States needs to join the fight to close the concentration camps, shut down ICE, and secure permanent protection for all undocumented people in the U.S.”

J. Aaron Regunberg, a former Democratic state representative who has been participating in the demonstrations, reported in a statement on Facebook that local police at the scene declined to intervene on behalf of the protesters, arrest Woodworth, or even take witness statements from protesters.

“I also want to make very clear that literally dozens of us from tonight’s protest asked, clamored, demanded that the police take witness statements about the attack, and they actively refused to do so,” Regunberg wrote. “What kind of violence is someone like that willing to regularly unleash on powerless detainees, inside a prison where there are no cameras and no accountability?”

Rhode Island’s attorney general’s office and state police announced Thursday that an investigation would be opened into the attack.

By Ben Sales, Jewish Telegraph Agency, August 15, 2019:

Truck Drives Into Jewish Protestors At ICE Detention Center

(JTA) — A pickup truck drove into a row of Jewish protestors demonstrating at the street entrance to an ICE detention center in Rhode Island on Wednesday night. …

Protesters were then pepper-sprayed, according to people present at the protest.

Hundreds of Jewish protestors had gathered at the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement center in Central Falls, and risked arrest by blocking the center’s entrance. The protest was the latest demonstration by Never Again Action, a new Jewish group protesting ICE and United States immigration policy by getting arrested at its detention facilities.

At around 9:45 p.m., according to an eyewitness and social media posts from the protest, a black pickup truck driving 10 to 15 miles per hour drove into a group of about 30 people who were sitting in a row and blocking the street that fed into the detention center’s parking lot.

Video of the incident shows people screaming and running as the car moves slowly into the crowd. The crowd then broke out into a chant of “The whole world is watching.” Protesters then surrounded the truck.

“The truck came in and people ran,” Lex Rofeberg, a protester who was not in the car’s path, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. …

A person taking video of the event said “Everybody is OK, thank you for asking. I don’t think anyone was hurt,” though the person later added that someone may have been hurt.

Never Again Action tweeted that the car belonged to a guard at the detention center.

“Oh my god”, the group tweeted. “An ICE Detention Center guard just drove their truck straight through a line of us sitting peacefully to block the parking lot. … still assessing the situation, police are moving in on us now.”

Minutes later, guards at the detention center pepper-sprayed the protesters.

“All of us who were in the vicinity caught some of the tear gas,” Rofeberg said.

“It was shocking, it was unexpected,” he added. “There’s some amount of risk when you go to an action like this. You don’t expect it to unfold like this.”

Forty Jews were arrested at a New York City protest against Amazon’s work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement; August 12, 2019, by Ben Sales.

American Jews Divided On Israel Are Uniting — In Anti-ICE ‘Never Again’ Protests; July 16, 2019. By Aiden Pink and Ari Feldman.

This 15 August 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

An ICE official runs over civilians, who are peacefully protesting. John Iadarola breaks it down on The Damage Report.

By Alyssa Fisher, August 15, 2019:

Several Hospitalized After Truck Drives Into Jewish ICE Protestors

Several people were taken to the hospital Wednesday evening after a pickup truck drove into a row of Jewish protestors blocking an entrance at an ICE detention center in Rhode Island.

Some injuries were caused by the truck and others from the affects of being pepper-sprayed by detention officials, said Matthew Harvey, a spokesperson for Never Again Providence who was at the protest.

Between 400 and 500 people gathered in an attempt to shut down the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement center in Central Falls. At about 9 p.m., the crowd thinned a little and moved to the entrance of the guard parking lot, coinciding with the center’s staff shift change. The protestors linked arms and continued chanting, singing and praying, Harvey said.

At about 9:45 p.m., a pickup truck swerved into the row of protestors. Some jumped up out of the way and others tried to block its process. The driver was in a detention center’s uniform, with a badge and walkie talkie, according to Harvey, and at one point he revved his engine. After a few minutes of idling, a few more officials arrived and pushed protestors. About half a dozen people were on the ground from being pepper-sprayed. EMT aids were on site to help until ambulances arrived.

Some left without being admitted, but others, like a man in his 70s who suffered a broken leg, stayed the night. Several told Harvey on Thursday that they still felt the effect of the pepper spray, and one person had to return to the hospital to seek treatment.

The group protested once before at Wyatt on July 2, which ended peacefully. On Wednesday night, the crowd was “shocked, horrified,” Harvey said, and left “shaken up and scared.” But he said it mostly heightened fears at the worse treatment the immigrants must be getting behind the center’s walls. The violence proved to him that the group is having an effect and is being seen as a threat.

“We’re not going to be deterred,” Harvey said. “We’ll be back.”

ICE Officer Who Drove Truck Into Jewish Protesters Won’t Be Charged: here.

Facing Jewish Protest, ICE Detention Center Moves Public Meeting To Shabbat: here.

ICE off our buses: End Greyhound collaboration with ICE: here.

United States Jews against Trump’s anti-immigrant atrocities


This 12 August 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

American Jews Lead Nationwide Protests to #CloseTheCamps

As 100 are arrested in New York, hundreds rally in Maryland to demand local officials stop cooperating with ICE. Hours after the protest, the Howard County Executive told TRNN he will review their ICE contracts.

‘#JewsAgainstICE’ Is Transforming The Jewish Community, Returning Us To Our Diasporic Roots: here.

Yesterday, the Trump administration published a new regulation in the federal register that will give immigration officers the power to deny legal permanent residency and citizenship to any immigrant on explicitly class-based grounds. Under the new class quota, an undocumented immigrant can be denied legal residency and citizenship if they have “a medical condition” that could interfere with work, if they do not have enough money to cover “any reasonably foreseeable medical costs” from that condition, if they have “financial liabilities,” if they have a low credit score, if they do not have health insurance, if they do not have a college degree, or if they do not speak English. In addition, any immigrant who has used social programs like food stamps, Medicaid and housing subsidies can also be denied legal permanent residency and citizenship: here.

American Jews against Trump’s horror camps


Donald Trump conxcenntration camp for immigrants in the US

From daily The Independent in Britain today:

If not now, when?‘ Jews in America see echoes of the Holocaust in immigrant detention centres

‘I’m Jewish, and I refuse to be a good German

Outside the Donald W Wyatt detention centre in Rhode Island, inmates knocking on walls can be heard from the street.

With the nation engaged in a deep and contentious debate surrounding immigration detention in facilities like these, the deep smacks were the only way for a call and response with the hundreds of protesters who rallied outside this week:

Thud. Thud. Thud.

“We hear you”, the masses organised on the street chanted back, in between Jewish prayers, song, and testimonial to the horrors of the Holocaust that demonstrators worry could be in the beginning stages of a repeat in the United States.

Megaphones and signs in hand, the protesters with the Jewish group Never Again is Now marched on, joining a culture of civil disobedience that has thrived in the United States over the past two years, and one with particular resonance in the week of 4 July, the country’s Independence Day. Just metres away, migrants seeking freedom were locked up.

Reflecting on a period marked by a crackdown on immigration, culminating in recent weeks with reports of widespread neglect and abusive conditions for migrants and asylum seekers, they said they could not stand by as the necessary ingredients for an American Holocaust were gathered together. It is a movement and concern that has been gaining traction, with Jews across America vowing that “Never Again is Now”.

“I’m Jewish, and I refuse to be a good German,” Liza Burkin, a 30-year-old urban planner from Providence said, about half an hour before she and 17 others were taken into police custody for refusing to move away from an entry zone for the detention centre, which is one on an extensive list of private prisons known for holding migrants for Immigration and Customs Enforcement or other government agencies.

She continued: “We are focused way too much on the end of the Holocaust, and not as much on the beginning. And this is directly comparable.”

The Wyatt detention centre is the first privately run detention centre in America, and was built in the 1990s in Central Falls — one of the smallest towns in the smallest state of the entire country. The facility houses 730 male inmates and another 40 females, meaning it would technically account for around 5 per cent of the roughly 20,000 residents in the suburban Providence city.

As controversies have mounted across the country in the past two years, Wyatt has been marred in that mix. In April, a federal judge ordered that city officials had no authority to end the facility’s contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which was attempted after it was discovered that the detention centre was holding 133 migrant detainees as a part of the Trump administration’s immigration policy.

It’s a story that has been heard across the country, from Homestead, Florida, where child migrants have been marched in orange hats between large tents and in front of presidential candidates, to the detention centres in Texas that congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez visited last week and reported migrants being subjected to “psychological torture”, told to drink water from toilets, and denied basic needs.

“It is absolutely unfathomable that today in the United States there are children and others who are seeking asylum, who are coming here to escape violence and persecution, and they are being put into detention centres without the ability to take care of themselves, or being taken care of,” said Diana Fox, one of the 18 protesters who were later arrested outside Wyatt.

Ms Fox, like most of those in Central Falls on Tuesday — alongside the near three dozen who were arrested at a similar rally in New Jersey last weekend — said her family was directly impacted by the Holocaust. It’s why she was willing to get arrested: “This is reminiscent of the most horrible situations that we have seen in this country.”

The rows of razor wire installed on the chain link fence outside the facility stand in sharp contrast to its surroundings: on Tuesday, little girls attended soccer training just across the street, in a sprawling field that also hosts baseball and football practice.

In some respects, that contrast is kind of the point. While much of the media coverage understandably focuses on those facilities in Texas or Florida where migrant flows are expected, the fact that Wyatt has been tapped to hold some dozens of migrants at any point in time shows that Donald Trump’s immigration policies have a reach far beyond the border.

The problem, activists say, is not just that these detentions are taking place, but also that they have quietly crept into communities across the country and far away from the border, just like Central Falls.

Rhode Island, with its lush deciduous trees and curving New England roads, bears little resemblance to dusty Texas. But they have both become unwitting homes for migrants who have been arrested by the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance immigration policies that essentially criminalises all unwarranted border crossings, even when those individuals claim asylum upon arrival.

In recent weeks, the impact of those policies have become ever more clear. In facilities across the country, migrants have reportedly been subjected to harsh and inhumane treatment. Children have been denied soap and toothbrushes. Migrants have been packed into facilities meant for a third the population. They have been sleeping on the ground outside, and allegedly told to drink water from the toilet.

“We can’t just sit here knowing what is going on inside these camps, the deplorable conditions, and do nothing because it could happen,” said Wendy Grossman, a 57-year-old mental health worker in Providence, arguing that the detention facilities in the US echo Nazi concentration camps. “It could go really wrong in that direction.”

Ms Grossman added that she believes every moment that immigrants are treated inhumanely is a cause for alarm: “It feels pretty urgent. Like, if not now, when?

On Tuesday, hundreds of demonstrators descended upon the Wyatt facility from 6pm until dusk, and did not cower at the sight of police officers.

Many protesters shared their family stories, saying that the Holocaust that still has ripples in their lives.

They’re concentration camps. That’s what they are,” Aaron Regunberg, a 29-year-old employee with the City of Providence, and a former state representative, said.

Mr Regunberg was one of those arrested: “We’re living in a moment where we cannot afford to go about our lives business as usual. Our government is enacting escalating violence on our neighbours. They’re using our tax dollars to separate parents and their children. They are operating concentration camps with horrendous, appalling, unbelievable conditions under our flag.”

As the 18 were arrested, the chants and speeches continued, with rabbis citing the book of Deuteronomy, extolling a theological imperative to love immigrants, to feed them, and to give them clothing, as God does in the Old Testament book.

“This is our fight. This is our responsibility,” one protester yelled through a megaphone.

And, in the narrow windows behind the barbed wire, inmates continued to peer out. They continued to pound on the walls.

“We hear you”, the protesters yelled back.

German right-wingers call Jewish peace activists ‘anti-Semites’


This 13 March 2019 video says about itself:

German Jewish Peace Group Wins Peace Prize; Then Attacked as being Anti-Semitic

Shir Hever talks about the Göttingen Peace Prize and how it transformed the debate around Palestinian rights in Germany, despite efforts by right-wing politicians to prevent the prize from being given to Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East.

Israel’s Netanyahu attacks Jewish Museum Berlin


This December 2016 video is called Daniel Libeskind‘s Jewish Museum – Berlin.

By Sybille Fuchs in Germany:

Israeli premier demands German government stop funding Jewish Museum Berlin

27 December 2018

The Israeli government is continuing its ferocious campaign of censorship and repression aimed at anyone who dares criticise its policies.

At a German-Israeli government consultation meeting in early October, ultra-right Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany with a letter calling on her government to stop financial support for the Jewish Museum Berlin. The museum was accused of “anti-Israel activities” because it had sought, among various other activities, to engage in dialogue with Muslims and other religious communities.

The Jewish Museum, opened in 2001 and housed in a spectacular building designed by Jewish Polish-American architect Daniel Libeskind, documents the centuries of Jewish culture in Germany that the Nazis tried to wipe out. It also organises eyewitness talks with Holocaust survivors, awards prizes for tolerance and civil courage, and seeks to instil a comprehension of the consequences of anti-Semitism and the crimes of the Nazis in its many visitors and countless school classes. It is one of the most popular museums in the German capital and throughout Germany. By the end of 2016 the museum had attracted nearly 11 million visitors.

Netanyahu’s letter states: “The Jewish Museum in Berlin, which is not affiliated to the Jewish community, often hosts events and discussions with prominent BDS [the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which calls for a boycott of Israel until it meets its ‘obligations under international law’] representatives.” In addition, the museum has been staging an exhibition entitled “Welcome to Jerusalem,” which, according to the Israeli government letter, focuses on “the Palestinian narrative.”

Welcome to Jerusalem at the Jewish Museum Berlin (Photo- Yves Sucksdorff)

In addition to the Jewish Museum, the letter attacks about a dozen other organisations and institutions that criticise the policies of the Netanyahu government, reject the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, promote dialogue between Jews and Palestinians, or merely provide humanitarian aid to Palestinians. It calls on the German government to stop providing financial support for these allegedly “anti-Israeli organisations”.

They include non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and initiatives such as the German Protestant churches’ “Bread for the World” and the Catholic Church’s “Misereor” aid agency. “Bread for the World” is accused of promoting initiatives such as the “Coalition of Women for Peace”, … and supporting B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organisation that seeks to “end the Israeli occupation”. Misereor is accused of supporting “Breaking the Silence”, a coalition of former soldiers who criticise the violation of human rights in the Palestinian territories.

The Berlin Film Festival and the Left Party’s Rosa Luxemburg Foundation are also accused of “anti-Jewish activities”. The document goes on to condemn the magazine +972 published by the Green Party’s Heinrich Böll Foundation for allegedly opposing Israeli interests, citing writers for the magazine who have “regularly” accused Israel of apartheid. Also listed in the letter are funding programs of the German Foreign Office and Ministry of Development.

The letter calls for the federal government to “review its funding guidelines.” The “German support of NGOs that interfere in the internal affairs of Israel or promote anti-Israel activities”, is unique. “We call upon the German government to tie its financial support to a complete halt to such activities.”

The 7-page letter to the German Chancellery and Development Ministry was made public earlier this month, and various media outlets reported on it. The source of the letter, however, was not initially clear, because it contained neither a sender nor a signature. It has only now emerged that it was personally handed over by Netanyahu.

As has been the case in earlier campaigns against opponents of Israeli occupation policy, the letter seeks to connect the organisations mentioned with the BDS movement and denounces them as “anti-Semitic.” For example, the Berlin Film Festival is accused of “regularly hosting BDS activists as guests.”

Opposition to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories is not anti-Semitism. Rather, it is the Netanyahu government in its struggle against the Palestinian population and the Israeli working class that relies on extreme right-wing forces—entirely in the tradition of anti-Semitism.

The WSWS recently published a comment noting that Israel has become a site of pilgrimage for far-right politicians from around the world. This is so obvious that some Israeli media have referred to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial as a “washing machine” where right-wing extremists can cleanse themselves of charges of anti-Semitism. Ultra right-wing politicians who have recently received a red carpet welcome at the memorial include Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini, Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán and his Austrian colleague Sebastian Kurz.

… They [European far right] would like to emulate “the passage last July of the [Israeli] so-called ‘National State Law’, enshrining Jewish supremacy as the legal foundation of the state….with their own xenophobic and racialist laws.”

This affinity between the extreme right and Netanyahu’s government has been underlined by the reaction to the Israeli letter. It has been enthusiastically greeted by the xenophobic, far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which sits in the German parliament.

In a guest commentary for the national-conservative Israeli media network Arutz Sheva, Petr Bystron, the AfD’s chairman in the Bundestag’s foreign affairs committee, warned against anti-Israeli lobby groups that had allegedly infiltrated senior German government circles. They were spreading one-sided reports of human rights abuses, according to Bystron, to slander Israel as “racist” and as an “apartheid state”.

Bystron claimed the AfD was the only party in Germany that opposed the supposed importation of anti-Semitism and Islamist terrorism via uncontrolled mass immigration from the Middle East. In addition, the AfD planned, he claimed, to expose the flow of money from Berlin and Brussels to the well-connected “anti-Israel” lobby.

In fact, the very same Bystron recently took part in a trip to South Africa to participate in exercises carried out by the “Suidlanders”, a right-wing, white “survivalist” group preparing for a “race war” against the country’s majority black population. One can easily anticipate that Bystron and AfD party leader Alexander Gauland may also soon be on the Yad Vashem invitation list.

Netanyahu’s attempt to squeeze off funding for the Jewish Museum plays into the hands of the far right in Germany. Memorials and museums recalling the Holocaust and Nazi crimes have always been a thorn in the side of right-wing extremists. Now the Israeli government is attacking an institution that seeks to educate millions about these crimes.

Netanyahu’s Embrace of Ethno-nationalists Endangers Jews in Europe. Israel’s right-wing is seduced by European nationalists’ warmth toward the Jewish state, and their hostility toward Islam. But an illiberal Europe intolerant of minorities and pluralism is a disaster for Jews. By Giorgio Gomel.

Americans for Peace Now (APN) calls upon fellow American Jewish organizations to join it in condemning Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s embrace of the extremist right-wing political party Otzma Yehudit (“Jewish Power”). The leaders of Otzma Yehudit have publicly endorsed the racist ideology of Rabbi Meir Kahane, whose Kach movement was outlawed by Israel, the United States, the European Union and Canada as a terror organization. American Jewish leaders must not stay silent as Netanyahu not only endorses such a party as legitimate, but also works to bolster its political fortunes: here.

According to Haaretz, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised top positions in the next government to Jewish Home leaders if they merged with the small extremist party Otzma Yehudit, or “Jewish Power,” which is led by three prominent Kahanists: here.

What Happens Now For Netanyahu After Indictment Announcement?. By Allison Kaplan Sommer, February 28, 2019.

NETANYAHU APPEARS TO SUFFER SETBACK Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fell short of securing a parliamentary majority with his religious and nationalist allies in national elections, setting the stage for a period of coalition negotiations that could threaten his political future and clear the way for him to be tried on corruption charges. [AP]

NETANYAHU INDICTED ON CORRUPTION CHARGES Israel’s attorney general indicted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on corruption charges, including bribery, breach of trust and fraud. This heightens uncertainty over who will ultimately lead a country mired in political chaos after two inconclusive elections this year. [Reuters]

British author Michael Rosen interviewed


This video from Britain says about itself:

The Wicked Tricks of Till Owlyglass – DAY 12 – Kids’ Poems and Stories With Michael Rosen

When we hear how Till Owlyglass cured a small boy’s constipation, and how he taught a merchant to pack eggs tightly. Till Owlyglass (Till Eulenspiegel) is a boy who was special from the day he was baptised three times. But not in a good way. Not in a way his parents liked. He was always in trouble for his rudeness and practical jokes, and grew up to be the most outrageous trickster in Germany. Everyone told stories about him – and they still do five centuries later.

By Louise Raw in Britain:

‘I used to think Marx’s or Lenin’s books said communists must go camping’

Saturday 18th November 2017

MICHAEL ROSEN talks to the Star about his communist parents, his childhood, Jeremy Corbyn, Brexit and art.

I DON’T associate with many creative power couples. The Beckhams call, but there are only so many hours in the day. I’d be surprised, though, if they came much more productive or interesting than Michael Rosen and Emma-Louise Williams.

Williams, a radio producer and film-maker, is curating the current art exhibition at Bow’s Nunnery Gallery, along with her husband. It centres on the life and work of the extraordinary Albert Turpin: window cleaner, firefighter, anti-fascist and post-war mayor of Bethnal Green.

Turpin was a member of the East London group of working-class male and female artists, who painted life as they saw it in a way that was ground-breaking.

As well as the paintings, the exhibition displays Turpin’s sketch books — a pencil drawing of Mother, Asleep is breathtakingly tender — and his scrap books, which show how crucial politics were to him; he carefully preserved cuttings detailing the rise of fascism in the 1930s East End and the push-back from men and women like himself.

Williams has also created the show’s soundscape — an aural tapestry of voices and sounds evoking Turpin’s East London.

She tells me she has a long fascination with what the Germans call Strassenrausch — street clamour — and is often to be found around London, happily recording all its manifestations.

She and Rosen collaborated on the 2011 film Under the Cranes, set in Hackney, which uses both sound and image to capture the atmosphere of the place.

Merging words from a voice play by Rosen with geo-history and the testimony of migrants to the area from Bangladesh, Ghana and the Congo, it’s both dreamlike and politically forceful, showing us 1930s street fights with fascists and raising urgent questions about the treatment of migrants, regeneration and “gentrification.”

Rosen’s new memoir, So They Call You Pisher! (a Yiddish expression meaning “What’s the worst that could happen?”) is also redolent with the presence of the past.

The absences of Jewish relatives, there before the war then just gone, and of Rosen’s elder brother Alan, who died in infancy and whose existence Rosen discovered by chance only when he was 10, were palpable in his childhood. His mother Connie never spoke Alan’s name to him or acknowledged that she knew he knew about him. That silence must have reverberated.

Rosen is proudly the child of this intriguing, intellectually engaged couple. He and Williams come today from a meeting on education, and Rosen’s mother and father, both teachers, developed separate reputations as educational theorists.

Williams has to rush off to finish a blog as well as be ready for their 12-year-old’s return from school and, after we talk, Rosen is headed to Brighton for a publicity event for Pisher! and to meet an old friend — poet, legendary activist and CP member Len Goldman, now a mere 101 years old.

But the former Children’s Laureate still submits graciously to what must be a strikingly unprofessional interview in his publicity round (proper journalists don’t rant intemperately about politics, I think, or fail to make comprehensible notes).

Tremendously good company, Rosen is interested in everything and has read everything (probably twice), but wears his knowledge lightly, with no detectable pomposity.

His warmth and enthusiasm are palpable in his work, and key to the huge popularity of his children’s writing. He was one of the first poets not simply to draw on his childhood experiences for his poems, but recount them in words children could understand, and would use.

He’s modest and honest about the creation of his blockbusting kids’ book We’re Going on A Bear Hunt. It is based on an US folk song he used to perform live and his editor commissioned the magical illustrations by artist Helen Oxenbury.

Impossible as it is now to imagine the book without them, Rosen couldn’t at first see how drawings and text would combine, but trusted the process. It was only feedback from young readers down the years which made him fully appreciate what he and Oxenbury had created.

Men of letters tend not to admit to either their strokes of luck or cock-ups along the way, preferring to imply all was planned with godlike genius — not so Rosen.

In his memoir, he shares awkward moments like the sketch he devised at college in Oxford, intended to mock capitalism, which instead appeared to lampoon a flat-capped worker and the forthright consternation of his father on seeing it.

There was also a youthful essay he felt rather brilliantly skewered Jonathan Swift, until his tutor gently pointed out that Swift’s irony had gone soaring over his head: “I had been a knakke (‘know-all’), and thought I could rumble Swift… You can never rumble Swift,” he says. This is something of a relief, given the otherwise imposing scale and scope of Rosen’s achievements.

As well as the memoir, he has a collection of political poetry, Listening to a Pogrom on the Radio, and a biographical work on Emile Zola’s exile in England out this year alone. He presents the Radio 4 stalwart Word of Mouth and has advised the government on literature and literacy.

When his 18-year-old son Eddie, whom Rosen has called the hub of the family, died suddenly from a strain of meningitis, Rosen managed to parlay desolation into a campaign to add a vaccine to the childhood immunisation schedule and a book which helps children deal with grief.

Much of his art is for more than art’s sake, contributing something to the greater good or focusing on those who have, such as Turpin, who confronted British fascists head on, or Zola, who made his own life difficult by challenging anti-semitism at the highest level over the Dreyfus Affair.

He is very much a public artist, in and of the world, not sequestered in a study but out here with the rest of us, worrying about inequality and discombobulated by Brexit. As he’s written, “Poetry can stick up for the weak or it can mock the mighty; it can glorify our rulers or it can dissect them. You choose.”

Rosen’s father Harold joined the Young Communist League in 1935 and there met Rosen’s mother Connie Isakofsky.

In 1936, the young couple were at the battle of Cable Street; Connie would later work in the typing pool of the Daily Worker, the forerunner of the Morning Star.

Rosen’s childhood was shaped by their politics. His memoir recalls the Tuesday evening routine in his childhood home. He writes: “Now, boys, off you go to bed. We’ve got a party branch meeting.”

“Len Goldman himself was a regular attendee. My father said [he] was terrific’ but sometimes, no-one came.

“Even so, my parents still held their branch meeting. We sat on the stairs and they went into the front room and shut the door.

“I’ve often wondered how those particular meetings went…”

The young Michael copped some flak, too, for his and his parents’ views. A teacher he admired looked sideways at the May Day badge on Rosen’s school blazer and sneered: “Oh. We’re communists, are we?”

Bemused, he told his mum about the incident: “She looked into the distance for a moment and then glanced down at my shoes. She gasped. ‘Look at your shoes. You haven’t polished them. They’re going to think communists are people who don’t polish their shoes’.”

Childhood for the Rosen boys also involved Communist Party camping holidays. “No-one in my school went camping…

“Somewhere in one of those books by Karl Marx or VI Lenin on our shelves, I used to think, it must say communists go camping.”

Camps in France began a life-long love affair between Rosen and France and Frenchness (this has served him well: his page-turner of a book on Emile’s exile to England is all the more so because of Rosen’s translations of Zola’s letters home. It’s compelling to see the great author and political crusader moaning about English cooking — to both his wife and his mistress).

Rosen’s parents left the CP in 1957 though never disengaged from socialist politics.

I ask Rosen how they responded to the anti-semitism they inevitably encountered as a Jewish couple. He tells me they had very different approaches.

His father Harold let insults glance off him, and rather enjoyed baiting anti-semites. From his mother, however, he saw occasional manifestations of the pain and anger absorbing prejudice had caused her, as on the occasion she and Harold were lambasted, post-Hungary, for “betraying the working classes” with their CP membership. “Who else” she asked her accuser, “was going to stick up for us?”

Rosen’s father Harold comes across as formidable in the book, if not to his son, certainly too others; one girlfriend thought him something of an intellectual “ogre.”

I ask Williams how she got on with her late father-in-law. “Very well,” she tells me, though his primary relationship was always with Michael and she bonded with him initially over their shared interest in what made Rosen Junior tick. Through Harold’s reminiscences, she came to know the boy and young man who became her husband (‘It was a conspiracy!” chips in Michael).

I tell Rosen I found his mother a more mysterious presence in the book — harder to grasp. This isn’t a failure of characterisation, though, but deliberate.

Rosen found her that way too and realises that her maternal role was perhaps at the heart of that. The “comforts of philosophy” had to cede to day-to-day-life concerns about what to do about the corned beef, for example, of which she had a cupboard full when there was a health scare about it. Connie’s response was typically gnomic, keeping the tins, but not opening them until the panic was over.

After his mother’s death, Rosen came upon a piece of her autobiographical writing about her girlhood and felt he encountered a woman he didn’t quite know, with thoughts and feelings he hadn’t heard her express.

“I think that she must have felt there wasn’t the space in our home for her to say those things … She wasn’t given (or she didn’t take?) the space for that kind of reflection … the airwaves were taken up by Harold, me and Brian,” he writes. Even in a loving, fairly egalitarian household, corned beef can stifle a woman.

Connie really found herself, Rosen says, when she began to study educational theory in earnest and became known in her own right. She gave a series of morning talks on the BBC and suddenly people were coming to the house not for Harold but to talk to Connie.

I ask him if any of her writing is available now and he tells me he’s going to collate them, as he has his father’s.

Success has not steered Rosen’s own politics to the right. He contributed in 2015 to the e-book Poems for Corbyn.

How does he think Labour is doing now? He remains supportive of Corbyn but says he’s worried by signs Labour might “wobble” on immigration. He’s rightly adamant that the Left should always oppose protectionist arguments, such a dangerously slippery slope.

Labour should just tell the truth loudly and clearly. He thinks migration is and has always been a huge benefit to this country.

And Brexit? He is, he says, a “militant abstainer.” He sees the whole thing as an argument between sections of capital in which socialists wouldn’t involve themselves. “Corbyn should say one thing — that our concern is just jobs, conditions and services. Beyond that, let them fight it out.”

He uses the rather good analogy of of a boxing ring. All the lights and focus are on the two fighters in battling it out, but that’s not where the real game is. Surrounding the ring, quiet in the dark, sit the real players — the money and the men and women whose only interest is profit and who will always try to fix the match to their advantage.

He adds that he knows Labour is preparing for power and trying to cover all bases, that, inevitably the day after a Labour victory, billions will be wiped off the economy and the gloves will really be off. If we think the Establishment has gone after Corbyn before, we’ll see that was nothing, he says.

“[The capitalists elite] doesn’t care who’s in charge, as long as it’s a safe pair of hands for capital and its interests. Blair was fine, Corbyn is not.”

Our response, he says, must be to refuse to be panicked and simply call out the false narrative of the Establishment and media. “We should constantly ask them to prove it, to show us one immigrant who caused the flight of capital that has really rocked the economy, one immigrant who caused Dagenham.

“We should question what they mean when they say it’s ‘bad for the economy’. What is our economy? It’s a capitalist system and we have to constantly remind people of that.”

Would Rosen act as adviser to the Corbyn camp, if asked? Probably, he says, though on an independent basis. He is not a Labour Party member. Had he joined during Corbyn’s early term, he thinks he would have been used as a “scalp” in the same way Mark Steel was and refused membership.

He doesn’t agree, however, with my gloomy assessment that the Right has won the battle of language and thought.

Labour’s slogan, For the many not the few, he points out, is quite brilliant in its simplicity, Marx in a sentence, which has succeeded in turning the debate.

As we wrap up, I tell him that, although his career is inspiring in its refusal to accept limits (why “just” be a poet when you can also write biography, memoirs, plays?), it also seems impossible to emulate today.

Young people wanting a broad artistic career are often told they must “settle down” and specialise. I expect Rosen to agree that his trajectory would be hard to emulate, but, cheeringly, he’s having none of that. He doesn’t accept its uniqueness. “Look at the comedians who act, write and so on.”

He also thinks it would be entirely possible to do today. “I lived on soup for a long while and had one pair of trousers and one pair of shoes, but you can do it.” The key, he says, is to take projects that really interest you, regardless as far as possible of the money, because they will usually lead somewhere interesting.

Surely it’s a tougher world now, though, with arts cuts and austerity? Rosen points out that there are also the advantages of the internet and social media, allowing artists to market themselves more effectively than before. He offers some useful pointers. Keep your website clear and up-to-date, make it obvious what skills you offer and easy to book and contact you.

It’s nice to hear. Too often, those who have “made it” seem more interested in pulling up the ladder after them than helping others climb it.

Rosen’s career is also an illustration of Marx’s observation that most people possess a wide range of interests and abilities which they would enrich over their lives if capitalism wasn’t so stultifying limiting for the “cogs” in its machine.

In the awkward moment where you’ve said goodbye then realise you’re going in the same direction, Rosen has to walk with me to the station.

I feel sorry for him but he’s typically nice about it, and regales me with stories of treatment for his ongoing hip problem which necessitates “having my bum electrocuted, basically.” You wouldn’t, I imagine, have got this from Wordsworth, I ask.

At the last minute, I remember I wanted to ask him about an unusual facet of his autobiographical writing. I’d noticed he rarely tells the reader what the people in his life look like. Is this a deliberate strategy to make us focus on their personalities and voices alone?

Rosen thinks for a second, then says: “I suppose I’m just not very good at all that…” I raise an eyebrow: that seems unlikely for a writer of his calibre. “And I suppose it’s because when I went to school at Watford Boys, I got a lot of negative comments. I was told I looked weird. I think it’s because I looked Jewish, probably.”

As a result, he feels uncomfortable focussing on people’s appearances, to the extent that he feels guilty about having described someone several times as bald. “But he was bald,” I ask. “Yes, but I still feel bad about it.”

Michael Rosen is a poet, biographer, memoirist, film-maker and art curator.

Emma-Louise Williams and Michael Rosen’s free exhibition The Working Artist: The East London Group is on at the Nunnery Gallery until December 17. Entrance is free. For more informatiob visit: bowarts.org.

British Jewish solidarity with refugees


This video is about Jewish refugees from nazi Germany in the 1930s.

By Shlomo Ankar in Britain:

The Jewish community stands in solidarity with refugees

Wednesday 3rd February 2016

Memories of the Holocaust mean that even right-wing Jewish people are sympathetic to the plight of Syrian refugees, says SHLOMO ANKAR

JEWISH people never seem to agree on much when it comes to politics, and above all on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We tend to argue with each other more than any other community, but we are united in feeling that we must do more to help those escaping the conflict in Syria.

Since the crisis emerged, the Jewish community has taken a very pro-refugee view. And this has not only come from those people on the left but has also come from those who are non-political and even some who are Conservatives.

The two main Jewish newspapers in Britain — the Jewish Chronicle and the Jewish News, which are traditionally quite reactionary, have broken with their usual right-wing agenda and have been publishing regular articles that are sympathetic to refugees.

Most Jewish institutions, with only a few exceptions, have been opposed to the anti-migrant hostility of the Daily Mail and other right-wing newspapers.

The chief rabbi, who rarely gets involved in any matter which may appear controversial, recently made a symbolic visit to a refugee camp in Greece to meet refugees.

He and a team of leading rabbis went to show solidarity with the people there and the chief rabbi was so moved that he later compared the camp to Auschwitz.

The Movement of Reform Judaism has been active in building a campaign to help refugees.

It has raised funds for charity but has also engaged in political lobbying of local councils to take in more Syrian refugees.

Jewish celebrities such as David Baddiel and David Schneider have been very vocal on Twitter, on TV and on the radio in calling for better treatment of refugees.

They, like many others, feel that Jews like themselves are only alive due to their parents being given asylum, hence we should now provide that to Syrians, Afghans and others in need.

Campaigners and political activists too have been speaking out. Dan Judelson, who is a long-time campaigner from north London, organised a trip to Calais, filling a van full of clothing, blankets and other useful items to offer to refugees there. And there are many more examples of similar stories from the community in recent months.

Junior doctor Jonathon Schwartz, who is a regular at his local synagogue, said he was worried about how vulnerable the refugees from Syria are.

He encourages Jewish people to help, “not only [because of] our own history, but also the Torah clearly states that we have an obligation to help vulnerable people.”

Film-maker Yoni Higgsmith compared the experience of Jews who escaped nazi Germany to Syrian refugees.

He added that “for refugees to leave all their belongings behind to face such peril in the hope of a livelihood, well, these people deserve our admiration and our help.”

Members of the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) have also been active. UJS members tend to only campaign on pro-Israel issues, with many of them being Conservative voters.

Yet UJS members do not share David Cameron’s lack of compassion for refugees and have been active both in raising funds for charity and also in some political activity to help refugees.

This contradicts the right-wing bloggers’ stereotype that the Jewish community is opposed to allowing refugees into the country.

Some have suggested that the Jewish community is only concerned about crime and terrorism, that Jews are more in line with Ukip policy in opposing migration, especially from Muslim countries.

But this could not be further from the truth. For many of us it is heartbreaking that in 2016 there are still people living in refugee camps who are struggling to survive.

This feeling is not confined to Jews on the left, such as myself. It is shared by others who are non-political or even right-wing.

After decades, if not centuries, of learning about Jewish suffering, we all see similarities with the plight of Syrians and hence want to do what we can to help.

Of course it would be wrong to exaggerate. Some members of the Jewish community share David Cameron’s views on migrants and some even support Ukip’s position. But they are in the minority. Most share Jeremy Corbyn’s view that we must do far more to help those fleeing war and persecution in their home countries.

The refugee crisis has warmed much of the community to Corbyn after seeing pictures of him in Calais standing in solidarity with the people in those camps, particularly after Cameron’s criticism of Corbyn for wanting to help “a bunch of migrants.

Jews in 2016 still feel the pain of World War II, even if that occured decades ago. So most Jews stand in solidarity with their fellow humans who had to flee war in Syria and now languish as refugees.