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Guest post by Alex Casper

I would like to take this opportunity to respond to a slanderous and wholly malignant piece, published on the Brighton & Hove Conservative Party website on the 3rd of July. In it there is an ascertation that the Smash EDO campaign is anti-semitic, based on evidence found by Mr. Nemeth published but later retracted by Latest Homes magazine. This evidence appears to be the fact that there is a Smash EDO poster in a building that was once a squat, and in an entirely different part of the building there is the word 'Jew' written on a door. The piece then takes the opportunity to link my conceptual art action of the 23rd of June, in which I threw glitter on Robert Nemeth, tore up his speech and challenged him to a debate, to the Smash EDO campaign and an imagined anti-semitism. This is problematic because I spoke at length to an Argus community reporter about the motivations and context for the action, but also because Nemeth himself acknowledged the reason for the disruption: "it's about squatting", he says in the recorded video of the event. My allegation is that the new Legal Aid Bill, designed by Robert Nemeth and the office of Mike Weatherly MP, is not just ethically bankrupt. Rather, it is economically and sociologically unsound.

Tenant's rights, fought for and won across the expanse of English history, are the reason that Britain was more insulated than other nations from the economic crisis. In the US, where squatting is criminalised and renting is rare, young people and families are forced to find and buy homes, taking on extensive mortgages that are dangerous to the entire economic system, not to mention the foreclosed millions. In the UK, where council housing, squats and homeless shelters are more common, there is a buffer that allows a certain level of protection. Those who chose to live - uncomfortably - in derelict buildings provide a crucial safety valve, tempering rising property prices and decreasing the incentive for large-scale landlords to leave certain properties empty to drive up the rent in others. For some, squatters appear to be lowlifes. I have a distinction in my post-graduate degree, hitchiked last week to present at several conferences and squat only because cuts to education funding and support have made it impossible for me to achieve my dream of an education without living precariously. I run no-budget art galleries, as a way to help my friends avoid drugs and depression. Nemeth considers them to criminals, useless trash. I believe otherwise. What Nemeth seems to propose is a form of alienation and abandonment that cannot but lead to another summer of rage.

I grew up in a mixed Yiddish and Irish family. Celebrating both sets of holidays, I developed a unique understanding of the way cultures develop and evolve. One thing that united different strands of my family was a shared commitment to social justice; while my mother's father was a trade union activist in the english midlands, my father's mother taught lessons of peace in boston's jewish community. While living in New York I had the opportunity to learn more about the Palestinian struggle from some jewish friends; on Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, we typically would say prayers asking for forgiveness, for not doing more to improve the abysmal apartheid conditions in the Holy Land. This is why I take every opportunity I can to stand with my friends in Smash EDO. I have also tried to learn all I can about other faiths I was not born into; Coptic Christianity, Orthodox Judaism, Hinduism, Taoism, and of course Islam. Each encounter gave me a greater appreciation of the faiths we develop in the spaces we occupy.

My initial response was honestly one of anger: as a victim of anti-semitic abuse as a child, as somebody who has taken a beating trying to defend the tolerant community of Brighton and Hove, I was shocked, perhaps more insulted than I have ever been in my life. Yet a Buddhist friend helped me meditate and release my anger, leaving me with the desire to teach and not to return blows. So I will speak of the meaning of the 'graffiti' that Nemeth saw, the eponymous 'writing on the wall'... In the picture, below the word 'Jew' is a reddish diagonal cross. While I assume the substance is not lambs blood and is instead a vegan alternative, the reference is clear to anyone who knows the first thing about Judaism . In the book of Exodus, the tenth plague was to take the first born child of every Egyptian family. Jews were to mark their door with a cross and thereby be 'passed over'. We eat matzo, or unleavened bread, because it was only following this most terrible plague that Jews were allowed to leave and head towards Palestine. I am glad that Nemeth has found evidence that Pesach is celebrated in squats, though I am worried that his discovery of the religious diversity of the Brighton squatter scene has not since endeared him to the victims of his legislative abuse.

Mark my prophecy: the extent of the Conservative agenda of austerity and suffering is such that it can now be seen as nothing else but a plague. They may not take your first-born's life, but they will take their right to a University or College education, their access to universal healthcare, any chance they might have of a stable job or a pension. Though it must be said if multinational corporations such as ITT (of which EDO is a subsidiary) continue to exert the same influence that they have done over British politics, it is highly possible that we will be edged into an apocalyptic war in the Middle East, or perhaps Europe, a war from which few in my generation will emerge unscathed. As such, I suggest that we all, regardless of our religious affiliation, start placing 'X's on our doors. Only blood and glitter can save us.

Alex Casper, Brighton, July 4th

That controversial graffiti in full
Stories about similar subjects...

EDO blockaders finally get their day in court.

Police high tech tool of oppression turned against the arms dealers during Smash EDO's Weapons Inspection demo

Activists began a project of land reclamation in Runnymeade

Brighton and Hove Tories were kind enough to respond to our previous story. Unfortunately their response left a little to be desired. Here's what we said in return.

Local Tories libel anti-arms trade campaign as anti-semitic. We unveil how Weatherly's minions failed the smear test.

Brighton's squatted Autonomous Homeless Shelter organised a Mass Sleep Out action outside Brighton Town Hall. The following day representatives from the AHS attended a court hearing in Brighton magistrates where they lost possession of the property.

New Police tactics but the good city of Brighton and Hove luckily survives to live another day as Smash EDO score a pre-emptive strike for peace with a "No War on Iran" demo

New squatted space in London puts Palestine on the map

Twitter: @SchNEWS