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For Israel, Imperialism Isn't Enough

category mashriq / arabia / iraq | imperialism / war | non-anarchist press author Saturday November 17, 2012 05:06author by Dan Freeman-Maloy - The Bullet Report this post to the editors

“What I am trying to say to you, my friends, comrades, brothers and sisters, is that what we are facing with Israel is a two-headed monster: it is both an imperialist monster, a colonialist monster; but it is also an exterminist state.” — Eqbal Ahmad, speaking on the occasion of Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon.

Things in Palestine have developed far beyond the point where any given “flare-up” in the constant violence that defines Israeli rule can be addressed in isolation. The significance of the ongoing Israeli assault on Gaza has absolutely nothing to do with the tired, dull hasbara talking points being peddled by Israeli diplomats – less still with their enterprising “twitter offensive.” But nor is it simply reflected in the destructive impact of this wave of Israeli state killings. As Eqbal Ahmad put it in a 1982 speech that today rings very true, “What matters is the goal, the actuality, of what the Israelis want.”

Israel, of course, has no monopoly on the politics of violent domination. But if, as the late Eric Hobsbawm wrote, “most historic empires have ruled indirectly, through native elites often operating native institutions,” in its rule over the Palestinians Israel does not easily fit into this imperial mainstream.[1] As a result, the threat posed by Israeli politics involves dangers much more severe than external dominance and the suppression of genuine independence.

The false promise of conventional imperial rule in Palestine has gotten much public play in recent years. A decade ago, endorsing Israel's renewed onslaught throughout the occupied territories, President Bush declared (June 2002) that what was needed was “a new and different Palestinian leadership so that a Palestinian state can be born.” A Palestinian “state”!

A Palestinian State?

Of course, if this were the case, some obvious questions arose. Like, why not in the 1990s? The Palestinian Authority (PA) under Yasser Arafat had already been caught in a system of extreme financial dependence on Israel and its superpower sponsor, thanks in no small part to conditional funding from a willing Europe. As it rubbed shoulders with donors, the PA leadership had increasingly demobilized and sidelined the organized mass base of the Palestine Liberation Organization. And by decade's end, it was clamoring to overcome Israeli objections to the increased involvement of CIA operatives and their close associates in PA affairs.[2] If the objective was a viable client state, what was the problem?

Full Israeli re-invasion of this budding client state, the occupied West Bank and Gaza, thus raised some eyebrows. When Israel moved beyond prisons and bullets to deploy U.S.-supplied F16 fighter jets against the occupied Palestinian population (spring 2001) – the first deployment of warplanes within Palestine since 1967 – no less a dove than Dick Cheney publicly objected. Even after September 11 2001, it took some time for official Western acceptance of this escalation to sink in. With Binyamin Netanyahu, for example, declaring that 9/11 demonstrated the need to “destroy terrorist regimes, starting with the Palestinian Authority,” George W. Bush countered that “the world ought to applaud” Arafat for deploying PA security forces against “radical elements” (October 2001). To the end, CIA director George Tenet objected to the application of “regime change” politics against Arafat's PA.[3]

Yet there were limits to the Arafat leadership's indulgence of foreign sponsors – limits to the diplomatic concessions it would make, limits to its willingness to deploy PA forces against Palestinians when they would all be attacked by Israeli military power, regardless. And the days of U.S. (and hence international Western) cooperation with Arafat were numbered.

Karma Nabulsi, speaking on a panel in Boston just after Israel's 2008-09 assault on Gaza, recalls the ensuing transition to Bush's “new and different Palestinian leadership”:

“[In] 2005, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) ran for the presidency of the Palestinian Authority – this was after the death of Arafat. And if you remember, Arafat had been under a two-and-a-half year siege in his headquarters in Ramallah for very much the same kind of issues that are facing Hamas today. Mahmoud Abbas was elected on a vast popular landslide. And his position was much different from Arafat's. His position was that we are going to – as Fateh, as a political party, as a president who will lead the negotiations – we are going to entirely rely upon the goodwill of the Israeli government and of the U.S. administration in order to achieve our rights, in order to raise the issues that concern us, and in order to get a peaceful settlement. If any of you remember what happened during that year, Sharon was in power, and Mahmoud Abbas received absolutely nothing. And not only that, was humiliated, and treated with contempt, by the Israeli administration.”

The election of a Hamas majority in the parliamentary votes of early 2006 occurred against this backdrop. The outcome, Nabulsi emphasizes, reflected not the bare popularity of Hamas, but the presence within its electoral platform of the consensual Palestinian positions (on prisoners, on refugees) that the Abbas presidency had set aside under the pressure of external threats and demands.

Under the pressure of a suffocating destabilization campaign jointly pursued by Israel, U.S.-allied donor states, and foreign security personnel, the politics of the occupied West Bank and Gaza were further fragmented in June 2007 – the elected Hamas government effectively confined to Gaza, control of the fragmented PA authority within the West Bank returned to those Palestinian leaders favoured by Israel and the West.[4]

But even as those Palestinians resisting have been punished, the politics of compliance have themselves been allowed to develop only within the narrowest of cages.

Roman Option

To be sure, development of something like a genuine Western protectorate in parts of Palestine has had its prominent advocates. “I firmly believe,” explained the ranking U.S. military commander responsible for the Palestinian file in 2007, “that you make changes in this world the way the Romans did – by being on the ground, by getting your feet dirty in the mud and working with the people on the scene.”[5] And partnered with a compliant West Bank administration, why not? After summer 2007 the influence in the West Bank of the 2006 election results had been nullified; or in other words (those of then Secretary of State Rice), “you now have in the Palestinian territories a democratic leadership.”[6]

Armed with the “Roman option,” the likes of Keith Dayton thus pitched the politics of sustained imperial cooptation to Israeli officialdom. Compliant Palestinian security forces could be developed, brought into the orbit of U.S.-allied protectorate networks in the region, and clear the way for limited Israeli withdrawals that addressed Israel's stated security concerns. “For the first time,” Dayton kvelled in 2009, “I think it's fair to say that the Palestinian security forces feel they are on a winning team.”

This message, however, does not resonate all that strongly in predominant Israeli political circles. Leaders considering the Palestine question are much more inclined to play New England Puritans and Pequots than to merely dispatch imperial proconsuls.

When the Obama administration took over, neocolonial dictates were predictable and quick in coming. “The new U.S. Administration,” PA officials were told before Obama even assumed office, “expects to see the same Palestinian faces (Abu Mazen and Salaam Fayyad) if it is to continue funding the Palestinian Authority.”[7] But a question remained: Might a middle path be developed between conventional imperialism and Israel's settler colonial zeal? Might Israel be seriously pressed to reserve some stable fragments of Palestinian land, and some position of plausible diplomatic dignity, for some kind of Palestinian polity?

Until autumn 2010, it seemed possible. Since, the illusion has faded. Political manipulation by Western donor states continues – but fewer and fewer are taking development of a viable Palestinian protectorate seriously. The vaunted Palestinian-Israeli “bilateral track” stands exposed as the relationship between an occupied population and a pioneering military power intent on brutalizing and suppressing it (at best). And the U.S., true to form, stands vigilant in defense of the sanctity of this fine “bilateral process” against any who would interfere.


So what of Gaza? What does it mean when Israel threatens, bombs, and kills to ensure its compliance? Its compliance with what? Note that the territorial and demographic reality that is the Gaza Strip is itself, to begin, an ominous reflection of Israeli colonial strategy to date: “When transfer doesn't work, concentration is tried.”

In 1948, the greater part of Palestine's population was forcefully displaced beyond Israel's pre-1967 sphere of control to clear the way for Israel's anachronistic pioneering. A great number of the “transferred” ended up in the Gaza Strip. Their nearby existence quickly gave rise to an abiding Israeli wish: “If I believed in miracles,” declared David Ben-Gurion in an October 1956 Knesset speech, “I would pray that Gaza would be washed down into the sea.”[8] After 1967, Gaza's inhabitants not only remained above water but came under direct Israeli rule.

Several decades later, they surely aren't taking up very much room. “Taken in isolation,” Darryl Li wrote in 2006, “the Gaza Strip is often described as one of the most densely populated places on earth: 1.4 million Palestinians crowded into 365 square kilometers. But in the broader Zionist calculus of minima and maxima, this fact can be redescribed as follows: some 25 per cent of all Palestinians living under Israeli control have been confined to 1.4 per cent of the territory of the British Mandate of Palestine.”

Still, they exist, they take part in Palestinian politics, they resist with all the means at their disposal. And Israeli officialdom continues to look wistfully at the water.

But how simultaneously to exclude and control these people while clearing safe space to pioneer? “It will be a difficult struggle,” explained Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Sunday. “Gaza's residents are not about to jump into the sea.”[9] Until the likes of Barak can be so lucky, however, they do see ways to proceed. Fabricating pretexts for aggression on the southern front is, after all, a vibrant tradition, as old as the state itself.

Hence Wednesday's dramatic demonstration killing – an old-fashioned public political execution, carried out with the latest technology. It is worth quoting this Wednesday's report by Aluf Benn, editor-in-chief of the Israeli daily Ha’aretz, at some length:

“Israel demanded of Hamas that it observe the truce in the south and enforce it on the multiplicity of armed organizations in the Gaza Strip. The man responsible for carrying out this policy was Ahmed Jabari ... Now Israel is saying that its subcontrator did not do his part and did not maintain the promised quiet on the southern border. The repeated complaint against him was that Hamas did not succeed in controlling the other organizations, even though it is not interested in escalation. After Jabari was warned openly …, he was executed on Wednesday in a public assassination action, for which Israel hastened to take responsibility. The message was simple and clear: You failed – you're dead.”[10]

Now – the principal line of actual communication between Israel and Hamas having been violently severed in the most spectacular way possible – hundreds of air strikes on Gaza form the backdrop to Israeli explanations that it will need to move in hard with ground forces if complete quiet in the south is not immediately forthcoming. During last year's spring wave of aerial killings in Gaza, Israeli cabinet minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch declared that there “is no immunity for anyone in Gaza.”[11] Until Israeli wishes are fulfilled, the state reserves the right to kill at a pace of its choosing.

The Challenge of Liberation

Not long after giving the speech cited at the outset of this article, Eqbal Ahmad wrote that “the PLO has been saddled with a heavier burden than any other liberation movement in contemporary history except one” (that of the Vietnamese after the Korean war).[12] How this challenge still facing Palestinians can be met by those facing ruthless exclusion on the one hand and, on the other, a proudly declared “continuum of assassinations”[13] executed with overwhelming military force, is well beyond me. It is also, I hasten to add, very much beyond most people who often speak to it from the West with undue confidence. The very resilience of Palestinian challenges, locally and around the world, is in any event extremely impressive.

But the issue here is absolutely not Palestinian conduct in the south. And to consider the ongoing attacks on Gaza as part of a disproportionate back-and-forth is to miss the point. These killings, which are startling far beyond their body count, must instead be taken as confirmation of the grievous threat posed by the Israeli political system and its current place in the region's politics for the coming period – irrespective of how this particular surge in violence develops. Recall that as Palestinians face mass imprisonment and aerial political killings, there also remain on the record the threats, issued via quasi-official Israeli documents, to reduce the main population centres across the Middle East to “vapour and ash” should any state in the region pose too serious a challenge.[14]

Perhaps Israeli killings will continue to rage with impunity, checked only by the armed responses others in the region can muster. But this may well be catastrophic for everyone concerned. Those of us observing these developments from the West, and identifying with the kind of politics that avoid bloodshed, should take very seriously the question of what forms of political deterrence can be developed to check this threat. •


1. Eric Hobsbawm, On Empire: America, War, and Global Supremacy (New York: Pantheon Books, 2008), pp. 53-4.

2. See, for example, Karma Nabulsi, “The State-Building Project: What Went Wrong?,” in Michael Keating et al, eds., Aid, Diplomacy and Facts on the Ground: The Case of Palestine (London: Royal Institute of International Affairs, 2005); Anne Le More, International Assistance to the Palestinians after Oslo: Political Guilt, Wasted Money (New York: Routledge, 2008); and Jamil Hilal, “The Polarization of the Palestinian Political Field,” Journal of Palestine Studies (Vol. 24, No. 3, Spring 2010).

3. Michele K. Esposito: “Peace Monitor: 16 May - 15 August 2001,” JPS (Vol. 31, No. 1, Autumn 2001), p. 103; “Peace Monitor: 16 August - 15 November 2001,” JPS (Vol. 31, No. 2, Winter 2002), pp. 104 & 108; “Peace Monitor: 16 May - 15 August 2002,” JPS (Vol. 23, No 1, Autumn 2002), p. 121.

4. See Alvaro de Soto, “End of Mission Report” (May 2007), available online.

5. Capitol Hill Hearing transcript from the Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Federal News Service (May 23 2007). For more details on Dayton's efforts, see Jon Elmer's work (

6. Capitol Hill Hearing transcript from the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Federal News Service (October 24 2007).

7. Clayton E. Swisher, ed., The Palestine Papers: The End of the Road? (Stroud: Hesperus Press Ltd, 2011), p. 60. Document also available online.

8. Orna Almog, Britain, Israel and the United States, 1955-1958: Beyond Suez (London: Frank Cass Publishers, 2003), p. 114.

9. Israel Defence Forces Radio via BBC Monitoring Middle East, “Israeli defence minister discusses Gaza 'escalation'” (November 11 2012).

10. Amos Harel, “Israel killed its subcontractor in Gaza", Ha'aretz (November 14 2012).

11. Yaakov Lappin, “‘It's Cast Lead all over again for us,’ Eshkol Council head Halin tells ‘Post.’ Aharonovitch: There is no immunity for anyone in Gaza,” Jerusalem Post (April 10, 2011), p. 3.

12. Eqbal Ahmad, “Pioneering in the Nuclear Age: An Essay on Israel and the Palestinians,” in Carollee Bengelsdorf et al, eds., The Selected Writings of Eqbal Ahmad (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006), p. 302.

13. Amos Harel, “Will bin Laden killing pave way for similar moves by Israel?,” Ha'aretz (May 4 2011), available online.

14. See this article of mine from November 2011 for more details.

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Issue #3 of the Newsletter of the Tokologo African Anarchist Collective

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Mashriq / Arabia / Iraq | Imperialism / War | en

Sat 20 Sep, 11:55

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oabubakralbaghdadi570.jpg imageWhat do we think about the current crisis of Iraq? 21:25 Tue 24 Jun by Kurdish Anarchists Forum 0 comments

The Iraq crisis has been continued for decades while it has been under the power of Saddam Hussein or under the “current democratic Regime” since the invasion of 2003. There were no freedom, no social justice; no equality and also little opportunity for those who were independent from the political parties who were in power. In addition to existing brutality and discrimination against women and the ordinary people a very big gap was created between the rich and poor, making the poor even poorer and the rich richer. [Italiano]

textPalestine-Israel, History's wheels turn faster and scream as blood does not oil the axes enough* 23:23 Mon 26 Aug by Ilan S. 0 comments

The turmoil in our region expresses the melting of world history as we knew it. It accelerates before it reaches its end as the axes of the old order cannot hold it any more. The Zionist settler colonialist bridgehead of the developed imperial countries in the cradle of human culture at the east of the Mediterranean Sea is being eroded by the resistance of the indigenous inhabitants who are recruiting supporters from all over the world. The cracks in neoliberal global capitalism, which seemed to have reached its ultimate victory just a few years ago when the end of history was declared, are pointing to the real end of the history of egoistic and alienated class society. In the day-to-day struggle here, it is still hard to discern the cracks in the structure of the system, but you can already smell it in the clouds of tear gas at the weekly demos and feel the ground tremor under your feet. [Italiano]

textPalestine-Israel, Some activities the Anarchists Against the Wall initiative involved with lately 17:23 Tue 15 Feb by Ilan S. 0 comments

There are four main areas of struggles the AAtW activists are involved with: Joint struggle with communities that invite us to join, like Bil'in and other struggles against the separation fence. Other joint struggles against occupation and settler colonialists like Nabi Salih. Joint struggles with wider coalitions like the Sheikh Jarrah coalition and South Hebron. The fourth is within Israel, like prison and jail solidarity, Al Araqeeb and Lod. It seems that our confrontational and direct-action mode of struggle is being adopted by more and more Israeli radicals.

textIraqi trade union leader on the current situation in Iraq 20:28 Wed 03 Oct by Manuel Baptista 0 comments

Falah Alwan, president of the Federation of Workers Councils & Unions in Iraq was recently on a short visit to Lisbon to gather some support for the workers' resistance inside Iraq.

textIsrael: "Occupation 40" - first actions in Tel Aviv 16:48 Wed 06 Jun by Ilan Shalif 1 comments

The 6 days of actions to commemorate the atrocities of the 40 years of Israeli occupation from the 1967 war started in Tel Aviv this afternoon, after an appetizer in the form of nightly hanging of placards during the last few weeks.

text6 days of protests to mark 40 years of occupation 18:50 Tue 05 Jun by Kibush 40 0 comments

For six days, June 5 to 10 - corresponding to the days of the 1967 War - a wide spectrum of events will take place, including exhibitions, demonstrations, theatre plays, academic conferences etc., in order to place a the occupation and the millions suffering under its yoke on the public agenda. June 9 and 10 had been declared as International Days of Protest Against the Israeli Occupation, and we will hold The main march and rally on Saturday, June 9.

textItaly: "Resistance, disobedience, solidarity" - an evening with an Israeli refusni 17:09 Tue 21 Nov by FdCA Fano 0 comments

On Monday 20th November 2006 at the Istituto Tecnico-Commerciale Battisti in Fano, eastern Italy, with Lior Volinytz, a 19-year-old Israeli refusnik and activist in the Anarchists Against the Wall initiative.

textIsrael, Direct action near the border of Gaza Strip 01:29 Sun 19 Nov by Ilan S. 0 comments

It happened when the Zionist leftist peace now (who refused to join the previous Saturday more radical left demonstration against the massacre in Beit Hanun) had their demonstration and at Erez road block. 25 activists organized by the anarchists against the wall initiative traveled to the region bordering the Gaza strip. When the boring speeches started at the peace now not far away demonstration, we entered a compound of army tools of war - about 50 heavily armored soldiers carriers and 5 D9s (of the model that crashed to death Rachel Cury). We climbed on two of the carriers and placed around pictures, banners, and other materials representing massacred people. The soldiers on guard there tried to make us go away but we just ignored their commands. Police officers who came there just asked to see our ID cards, but surprisingly did noting more.

text655,000 Dead in Iraq since Invasion 17:23 Fri 13 Oct by Anarcho 0 comments

According to a new study published by a medical journal between 420,000 and 790,000 Iraqis have died as a result of war and political violence since the beginning of the US-UK invasion in March, 2003, with 655,000 considered the most likely figure.

textStatement on al-Badil article 16:51 Mon 11 Sep by Alternative Libertaire 0 comments

On 27th July 2006, Alternative Libertaire (France) distributed a text entitled "News from Lebanon: the Israeli attack" by our Lebanese comrades, Al-Badil al-Chouyouii al-Taharrouri (Libertarian Communist Alternative). This text denounced the Israeli war, Western plans for a Great Middle East, and criticized Hezbollah as a religious and reactionary organization.

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imageThe wonders of the desperate gamble that Netanyahu lost Aug 26 by Ilan S. 0 comments

To keep Hamas on its legs again after the Egyptian closure forced it to its knees and to compromise with the West Bank Palestinian Authority, Netanyahu started a war that was supposed to set Hamas back on its feet, though much weaker than before the closure.

textKurdish "Terrorists" Rescue Yezidis Aug 15 by PaulB 0 comments

The US special forces finally sent to Mount Sinjar in Northern Iraq to assess a mission to rescue the threatened Yezidis this morning [Thursday 14 August], reported that most of the displaced population had already been rescued in the previous days. What is not being widely reported is the identity of the Kurdish forces who secured the northern side of the mountain and opened a safe passage for the threatened Yezidi civilians, through the Syrian territory they control to Dohuk in the north of the Kurdish Autonomous region in Iraq.

Embarrassingly for the US, arriving on its white charger to save the day, only to discover they are far too late, the saviours of the Yezidis are the Turkish Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and their Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) allies. The PKK are officially on the US and EU “terrorist” lists and the autonomous Syrian region defended by the YPG is subject to blockade by ISIS to the South and West, Turkey to the North and the corrupt Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) regime in Kurdish Northern Iraq to the East.

textIsrael burned the stew Aug 02 by Ilan S. 0 comments

The present Gaza war was started before the actual shooting, by Egypt's blockade of the Gaza Strip, intended to break the rule of Hamas due to it being a part of the Islamic Brotherhood movement. [Italiano] [Türkçe]

imageIsrael/Palestine: Background to the present conflict Jul 27 by Ilan S. 0 comments

Egypt insists on dissolving the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood offshoot, Hamas, in the Gaza Strip. Israel "just" wants to sabotage the yielding/compromise by Hamas to the Palestinian West Bank Authority. The relevant political context for the present round begins in November 2012, with the agreement between Israel and Hamas under Egyptian sponsorship. [Italiano] [Português]

textSyria: the Struggle Continues – “Day of Rage Against Al-Qaeda & Assad” Jan 19 by TŘÍDNÍ VÁLKA 0 comments

Since nearly three years that an uprising broke out in Syria (as a local materialization of the upheavals shaking the whole regions of Maghreb and Mashreq) most of the reactions, comments and critics from militant structures which claim to be revolutionary, internationalist, communist, anarchist… go in the same direction: doubts about what happens, doubts about essential material determinations that give birth to the movements that develop in front of our eyes, doubts about the class nature of these events, doubts about the potentially subversive content of struggles of our class when it doesn’t wave the “good” flags, etc. [Português] [Français] [Italiano]

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imageWhat do we think about the current crisis of Iraq? Jun 24 KAF 0 comments

The Iraq crisis has been continued for decades while it has been under the power of Saddam Hussein or under the “current democratic Regime” since the invasion of 2003. There were no freedom, no social justice; no equality and also little opportunity for those who were independent from the political parties who were in power. In addition to existing brutality and discrimination against women and the ordinary people a very big gap was created between the rich and poor, making the poor even poorer and the rich richer. [Italiano]

text6 days of protests to mark 40 years of occupation Jun 05 0 comments

For six days, June 5 to 10 - corresponding to the days of the 1967 War - a wide spectrum of events will take place, including exhibitions, demonstrations, theatre plays, academic conferences etc., in order to place a the occupation and the millions suffering under its yoke on the public agenda. June 9 and 10 had been declared as International Days of Protest Against the Israeli Occupation, and we will hold The main march and rally on Saturday, June 9.

textStatement on al-Badil article Sep 11 AL 0 comments

On 27th July 2006, Alternative Libertaire (France) distributed a text entitled "News from Lebanon: the Israeli attack" by our Lebanese comrades, Al-Badil al-Chouyouii al-Taharrouri (Libertarian Communist Alternative). This text denounced the Israeli war, Western plans for a Great Middle East, and criticized Hezbollah as a religious and reactionary organization.

textLebanon- The Smoke, Anguish and Terror of a Fascist Attack Sep 02 Grupo Qhispikay Llaqta, Perú 1 comments

The anarchists of Peru and the rest of the world oppose the fascist attacks of the Israeli State against the Palestinian and Lebanese peoples. We refuse to follow reformist or reactionary positions that call for the formation of a new Palestinian state- a state that even if established could only survive subject to the mandates of American imperialism. Instead, we support and instigate the class struggle in the region as a means toward the eventual foundation of an Anarchist Federation, which in turn is the only way to secure a truly humane and dignified existence for the working class of these countries.

textOn the slaughter in the Middle East Aug 19 Anarkismo 19 comments

«Being slaves of God, the people owe to be, also, slaves of the Church and the State, insofar as the State has been blessed by the Church» Michael Bakounin

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