The Gaza slaughter: Europe's hand is bloodied too
mashriq / arabia / iraq |
imperialism / war |
Monday January 05, 2009 16:47 by Federazione dei Comunisti Anarchici - FdCA
International anarchist communist statement
Demonstration in Jaffa. 27/12/2008. Pictures by ActiveStills
Joint international anarchist communist statement on the situation in Israel/Palestine, signed by the Federazione dei Comunisti Anarchici (Italy), Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (South Africa), Common Cause (Ontario, Canada), members of Anarchists Against the Wall (Israel), Alternative Libertaire (France) and Anarchistische Gruppe Solidarität von Unten (Berlin, Germany).
"Hundreds of dead and thousands of injured, sacrificed on the altar of Zionist expansionism and fundamentalism. In Europe, the foreign ministers of every EU country talk about an "exaggerated", though "legitimate", reaction on the part of Israel, reversing the true situation with an operation that would make the most cynical illusionist feel proud by making the aggressor, the State of Israel, appear to be the victim.
The Gaza slaughter: Europe's hand is bloodied too
Hundreds of dead and thousands of injured, sacrificed on the altar of Zionist expansionism and fundamentalism. In Europe, the foreign ministers of every EU country talk about an "exaggerated", though "legitimate", reaction on the part of Israel, reversing the true situation with an operation that would make the most cynical illusionist feel proud by making the aggressor, the State of Israel, appear to be the victim.
They continue to pretend that they do not remember that Gaza - one of the most densely-populated regions with around one and a half million inhabitants, about half of whom are children - has been the object of a total embargo for years, an embargo which includes medicines and basic necessities and which is supported by the entire "civilized" western world, imposed by Israel and the West as a result of the Hamas election victory, thanks to the mixed electoral system of majority and proportional representation. Just as they pretend to forget that Hamas was once financed by Israel as a way of countering the PLO.
Despite a 6-month truce, the embargo was not even slightly relaxed and not one of the Western powers even timidly suggested relaxing it. The State of Israel has returned to its strategy of military control over Gaza and the West Bank. All Europe's useless, hypocritical proclamations of a desire for peace systematically forget to mention that for 60 years Israel has been blithely violating countless UN resolutions and continues to occupy the territory militarily, with Israeli colonies spreading throughout Palestinian land day by day, building walls that segregate entire villages and prevent millions of refugees from returning to their land, uprooting olive groves and killing livestock, day after day humiliating anyone who tries to cross the segregation walls in order to go to work, to hospital or to school.
And not only that: they hide the fact that the truce was broken by the Israeli State on 4th November 2008 when its army killed a 22-year-old Hamas militant.
But aside from the false, hypocritical proclamations of pacifism, what is the reason for this unconditional support for such an aggressive, warmongering State by practically every major Western power?
As far as the USA is concerned, there is no doubt. Apart from the important strategic and territorial alliance that Israel represents for American imperialism in the Middle East, it also has to deal with the powerful US pro-Israel lobby, which is strong enough to bring about a strong influence on US foreign policy. And what is happening today comes across as a clear warning to the president-elect, Obama.
Europe has partially regained its unity on foreign policy and is probably playing the card of active diplomacy in order to strengthen its role in the Mediterranean and to warn the USA that it cannot act alone in the Mare Nostrum area. But one must not forget arms sales, an area where States are always ready to hide the truth under the blanket of "State secrets" and support the orders of those companies who produce arms and support systems. And these businesses are never biased. They are quite happy to sell arms to opposing parties, as long as they can pay for them. Italy, for example, is one of the biggest arms suppliers to Iran and Lebanon, but has also supplied the Israeli army for years with arms technology through companies like Oto-Melara, Beretta, Borletti and Selenia. And the other countries in Europe do likewise.
Palestine is cynically used as an experimentation ground for deadly new technologies which are increasingly specialising in "urban warfare" and in which every arms company is interested: from US and Israeli companies to English, French, German, Italian, and so on.
So, in this tortured land where men, women and children, crushed by the wargames of the powerful, seem to have no future, new arms are tested, from cluster bombs to impoverished uranium bullets, the effectiveness of UAVs (pilotless aircraft) - able to launch remote controlled missiles - is studied, Achzarit tanks able to withstand landmines are experimented, Namer armoured vehicles with Continental Motors (US) or MTU (German) engines are tested, as is the efficacy of avant-garde systems such as Italian added protection and remote-controlled turrets mounted on Puma armoured vehicles, and Alenia's futuristic robotic war systems such as Sky-X, the first system in the world able to refuel pilotless aircraft in flight.
All this on the shoulders of a people who have always been used in clashes between States and others, cynically used even in the political clashes between the internal factions of one State, as in the case of Israeli political machinations connected with the electoral struggle both within the governing coalition between the hawkish Kadima, responsible for some of the most extreme acts - like the evacuation of the Strip proposed by the MK Yisrael Hasson - on the one hand and the Labour doves, in favour of a more measured approach, on the other, and between Kadima and the Likud super-hawks, increasingly moving towards ultra hardline positions.
We certainly do not expect the Arab and/or Islamic States to do anything, divided as they are or intent on strengthening their prestige and their influence in the area, even if it comes at the cost of the Palestinian people. Like the case of Iran, that uses the Palestinian tragedy to publicise itself as the only bulwark against the hated American imperialism and set itself up as the emerging power in the region.
But beyond all the international political conjecturing, the situation of the Palestinian population today seems bleak, with few prospects for reaching a solution that can give them a chance for a life with even a minimum of dignity, both from the point of view of social security and from that of guaranteeing respect of the minimum rights of survival.
Today perhaps the only guarantee that the Palestinian people may, as quickly as possible, find even a little respite and peace is that the marauders of all shapes and sizes - physically or ideologically thronging at their borders, or engaging in political speculation inside - reach a new, precarious balance.
The only real prospect for emancipation that we can glimpse in the near future is a growth and spread of the sort of self-organisation that many Palestinian villages practise, encouraged by the solidarity between Palestinian popular committees and initiatives such as Anarchists Against the Wall, involving internationalists from all over the world and anti-Zionist Israelis, who fight the arrogance of the Israeli settler colonists and the army that supports them using prevalently peaceful resistance. And it is not by chance that in these villages another road has been chosen and not the militarism of Hamas.
As class-struggle anarchists and libertarians we will continue to denounce Zionist settler colonialismm as we denounce all forms of imperialism and fundamentalism that oppress the liberty and dignity of every people. We will go on denouncing the fact that huge swathes of the world's proletariat suffer under the oppression and misery that results from inter-imperialist clashes and the cynical political games of powerful local oligarchs who are in turn used, knowingly or unknowingly, as pawns in the international chessboard of imperialist disputes, marked with the blood of the proletariat.
We will continue to support the struggles and act of solidarity with the Palestinian people, supporting all those embryonic manifestations of self-determination that typify the struggles of whole villages in Palestine, convinced that only if they can free themselves of the malicious influences of all State or para-State oligarchies can the working men and women begin to hope for a more dignified life.
2 January 2009
1. Literally "our sea", used by the imperial Romans with reference to the Mediterranean. The suggestion is that the modern European powers want to control the Med as the Romans did 2,000 years ago.
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Some Members of the Anarchists Against the Wall initiative (Israel) add our signature during the demonstration in Tel Aviv against the war on Gaza.
Common Cause (Ontario, Canada) also signs this statement and has distributed a Canadian version of it at the rallies today as well as on our website at www.linchpin.ca
If anyone is interested in watching a short video clip on Conservative Party of Canada politicians stating their support for Israel, including PM Steven Harper speaking at a celebration of the 60th anniversary of the forced ethnic cleansing Nakba (or establishment of the state of Israel) in May of this year.
The analysis in the video is a little liberal in that it asks people to contact their MP, but overall it's quite well done and worth circulating to people in Canada.
Embedded Video Description: Embedded video Youtube Video
The statement originally published contained a grave error in wording and, while it was a minor part of the statement as a whole, gave rise to some controversy. This error has now been rectified.
for FdCA International Relations
I'd like to commend the authors of this statement on hearing criticism and modifying the statement in response to that criticism. I'd like to suggest that there are other challenges with the modified version though. I don't think its very useful for anarchists to use "zionism" as a critique. It creates an exceptionalism in Israeli nationalism and draws conceptual links to the views of organized anti-semites. I'd also like to suggest that the use of "fundamentalism" feels designed to mirror right wing marginalization of Arabs. I don't think that is particularly helpful. Anyway, thanks to the authors for being thoughtful and listening to criticism.
The discussion on the first version of this statement can be found at http://www.anarkismo.net/article/11178
Response to thugarchist:
"I don't think its very useful for anarchists to use "zionism" as a critique. It creates an exceptionalism in Israeli nationalism and draws conceptual links to the views of organized anti-semites."
There are many things that can be discussed of this argument (let alone the discussion on anti-semitism as synonym for anti-jewish, when in fairness, semites are all Arabs -including, of course, Palestinians).
But I will focus on the nature of nationalism: not all nationalisms are the same and this is quite obvious. The nationalism of an oppressed nation is not the same as the nationalism of an imperialist country. It is not the same a movement that claims the right to self-determination from a colonial master, and therefore is a national liberation movement, from a nationalist ideology used to oppress another group of people (as most imperialist countries developed their supposed divine right to civilise savages all over the world)
Unfortunately, many anarchists (not surprisingly prevalent in imperialist countries or countries with an imperialist past) fail to realize these differences, that are quite obvious for most people in the Third World. Certainly, to confuse fascism with the national liberation movements, it is a gross and crude misconception that explains absolutely nothing about reality. (It is a tendency among some anarchists to simplify reality to the point that "categories" used to analyze reality are meaningless -a classic example is when anarchists state about candidates in elections that "they are all the same", when it is obvious in some cases that they are not the same, and those statements make us seem a bit out of touch with reality to the ordinary folk -but this is another discussion, though I think that this tendency lies at the roots of both misconceptions).
Zionism can certainly be singled out, as it is specifically an ideology to justify the divine right of Jewish people to oppress others (and displace them, and so on). It is an ideology for oppression, and to acknowledge this obvious fact, does not mean thatyou start leaning towards fascism. I don´t accept the blackmail of zionists that any criticism to their ideology or to the heinous treatment they give to Palestinians means "anti-semitism" (and again, for them anti-semitism means anti-jewishness).
Zionism and Palestinian nationalism is not the same for one simple reason: one is the ideology of the occupiers and the other is the ideology of occupied people. And the ideological differences spring out from this fact. This does not mean that anarchists should accept the nationalist ideology in any form, or that we should quit and abandon class politics -but this means that while I can go to the same march and accept some of the arguments of the national liberation movements as valid, at no point I will side with the oppressors (Zionism in this case).
Class Struggle Anarchists need to understand that while class struggle is the axis of our politics, it does not invalidate the existence of other types of oppression: national, racial and gender, that relate to class in many ways, but which are not mechanically and directly linked to class. If someone abuses a black person, that is wrong, irrespective of the class of the black person. Some anarchists -obssessed to prove their class struggle credentials- seem to forget this...
The use of the term fundamentalism I think it is also accurate: that´s what Zionism is about! Unfortunately, the term is used to describe only radical and ultra-right wing tendencies of Islam, implying that other religions (includinh Christianity or Judaism) are free from this scorge, and therefore I think the use in this context is quite relevant.
A final question: why is it so difficult to criticize Israel among anarchists circles after 500 people have been slaughtered? you would expect the focus of the discussion to be around that and what we can do to show solidarity with the victims... this whole debate I find quite disappointing and a symptom of our own political immaturity and explains to me why there is yet to be born a significant libertarian alternative in Palestine... good luck to the comrades in AATW!
First of all, let me say I think it is generally an excellent article, and also the FdCA authors are to be commended for their serious consideration of criticisms and readiness to correct errors. I do not want to address, therefore, the original controversy, but there are a few clarifications of this entire subject I want to make. (Note, I had considered writing this as a short seperate article, but it seemed best placed as a reply given the specific content.)
To start, Jose wrote: "Zionism can certainly be singled out, as it is specifically an ideology to justify the divine right of Jewish people to oppress others (and displace them, and so on). It is an ideology for oppression, and to acknowledge this obvious fact, does not mean thatyou start leaning towards fascism. [...]
Zionism and Palestinian nationalism is not the same for one simple reason: one is the ideology of the occupiers and the other is the ideology of occupied people. And the ideological differences spring out from this fact. This does not mean that anarchists should accept the nationalist ideology in any form, or that we should quit and abandon class politics -but this means that while I can go to the same march and accept some of the arguments of the national liberation movements as valid, at no point I will side with the oppressors (Zionism in this case)." [End quote]
I actually think Jose's remarks about anarchists being "out of touch" etc. etc. have a lot merit, and in the past I have harshly criticized this fact. I also get what Jose is saying about the difference between national liberation and colonialism/imperialism. However, I think Jose's framwork does not apply here with that kind of neatness, and his comment reflects, in my opinion, a serious lack of understanding or perception of this issue (unfortunately, as I consider him one of our best writers and am usually more impressed by his comments).
First, let there be no mistaking -- Zionism (i.e. Jewish nationalism) historicially arose in response to the *oppression of Jews*, particularly in Europe. The Holocaust especially fueled Zionism and, more concretely, Jewish mass migration to Palestine. As is only to be expected given the context (as Palestinians know well, as Jose should, and as anyone with any understanding should), they adopted there a super-militant attitude toward all non-Jewish parties in their attempt to secure an exclusively Jewish state in Palestine. It should only be expected, coming out of their specific background, that they would be distrustful of non-Jewish parties, including Arab neighbors among whom there was a considerable "anti-Semitic" (i.e. anti-Jewish) influence, and therefore it comes as no surprise that the Jewish-Israeli settlers would disregard both Arab and international opposition.
As for the ruthless "ethnic cleansing" and occupation of Palestinians, which unquestionably ought to be denounced, it is not, however, substantially any different either in content or in cause from Hamas' objective of eradicating Israel -- and given such an argument has been made by nearly every side of Hamas' popular support, it goes without saying that many Palestinians seek the same policy of either occupation or simple "ethnic cleansing" of Jews. In fact, this very thing was attempted in 1948 when the Arab states assaulted the newborn Jewish State.
So, it seems to me rather ridiculous to, as Jose does, simplistically present Jewish nationalism as oppressor-nationalism and Palestinian nationalism as liberation-nationalism. Quite frankly, it is a worthless dichotomy in this circumstance that ignores the whole background of Zionism. Furthermore, it is simply false that Zionism is "about" fundamentalism. It is simply Jewish/Israeli nationalism -- in fact, some of the most famous Zionists were atheists! Obviously, there is a certain element of Zionism, especially among the hardline expansionists, that links religious fanaticism into nationalism (the same is true of Hamas with Palestinian nationalism); but that is not to say that *all Zionists* are fundamentalists, which is clearly false.
Having said all of that, there is no question that the Israeli military state is main aggressor today, and especially that Palestinians are the main ones suffering from the mass-murder in Gaza. That is not a matter of "national liberation," it is primarily a humanitarian crisis, and more generally it is a matter of social liberation. Palestinian nationalism is as much a dead end as Jewish nationalism -- it comes from the same problems, it has the same character and it can only end in the same tragedy.
Kevin, thanks very much both for your kind comments and for the response to my post. I want to clarify some elements of my original comment which was written in a rush (unfortunately I´ve a sick boy in hospital)... I do agree with you the regional situation is quite complex and I was not intending to present a simplistic "dichotomy" of "goodies and badies" (although re-reading the post I accept that it could be taken that way), as we´ve systematically criticized of other left wing groups (notably the SWP).
My whole point is to show that there´s not ONE nationalism, and my view was more an examination of useless labels prevalent in anarchism, such as "nationalism", which instead of being helpful to understand reality do conceal important differences and cannot be taken but with a pinch of salt. If it appears as a dichotomy is because I presented the two poles (left wing and right wing nationalism), but there is a need to emphasize that there are too many hues in between. Indeed, things such as Third World fascism do exist (recent examples such as etno-cacerismo in Peru or the Cruceñismo in Bolivia...) and many of these movements have tendencies and currents instead of being one homogenous block (even the Nazi party had them and certainly Zionism does have them as well).
The original comment is obviously not an examination of Hamas (which as you rightly point out is not a national liberation movement as the DFLP was, but which is not the same Hamas as back in the 80s either), an examination which I´m not able or willing to do, but remains necessary nonetheless. The point, however, remains on if resisting national oppression is a legitimate action from an anarchist point of view (what does not necessarily mean to politically endorse groups carrying these resistance -we had discussed this issue at lenght in the past in relation to the Lebanese war). And I insist that the national question remains a weak area of anarchism, often dismissed by a crass class struggle discourse which ignores real issues for huge segments of the world population. And anarchism needs to provide an answer to people´s pressing needs instead of systematically shunning or dismissing stuff which is vital for some people, irrespective if they "fit" perfectly in the theory or not.
I don´t think we disagree much on this. But some other remarks you make on the historic background of the conflict I think they can´t be taken but with a pinch of salt either... First of all, if this is a case of national or social liberation, it is a false dilemma in my opinion (not to say that to view it as a mere "humanitarian crisis", as you do, seems completely inadequate in my opinion, as it devoids the conflict of its structural causes, independent of the fact that the humanitarian situation is indeed desperate). Certainly we agree that nationalism is a dead end and that´s why we advocate anarchism and not nationalism as a solution to the oppressed and exploited irrespective of their nation.
But inasmuch as a clear understanding of the class implications of the social struggle in Palestine, it is just not possible to divide this from the national oppression that the Palestinian population obviously experience under Israeli occupation. "National Liberation" is not a magical solution to the problems of the Palestinians (neither it is for any other people, past or present, as the results of national liberation struggles in the period 1945-1980 proved), but a "national liberation" component in their struggle is unavoidable under the current circumstances. And what´s more: I believe that the birth of a significant class struggle tendency embrassing Palestinians and Israelis alike is seriously hampered while the occupation remains the main factor shaping local politics (although valuable micro-experiences do exist and need to be encouraged). And it will definitely not happen if the Palestinian question is not addressed as such by advocates of these politics.
Secondly, to compare an actual policy of ethnic cleansing, which started way before the constitution of the State of Israel by unjustifiable terrorist actions of groups such as Irgun and which has left many thousand dead behind with the potential "ethnic cleansing" that Hamas plans on Israel (which they are quite contradictory about, sometimes denying it, sometimes acknowledging it), is weighting in the same scale a shocking reality with something which is not likely to happen. Although sectors of the Palestinian movement state such ideas (and should be energetically confronted when they do so), you can´t say that this equals both parties as being exactly the "same": resentment and hatred is fuelled by oppression and often the rebellions of the oppressed are gruesome and disturbing (don´t forget the practice of the Pere Lebrun in the Haiti 1986 anti-duvalierist rebellion), and their fury is proportional to the degree to which they are oppressed (in the case of the population of Gaza, to asn unbearable degree). Though you can´t justify these views, you can explain them under the terrible occupation they endure -and in understanding them we both confront the view of the aggressor posing as the victim and we can start thinking of ways to move beyond the politics of retaliation.
It is the Israeli libertarian Tanya Reinhart who puts it forward in the clearest manner: "Besieged occupied people with nothing to hope for, and no alternative means of political struggle, will always seek ways to fight their oppressor. The imprisoned Gaza Palestinians found a way to disturb the life of the Israelis in the vicinity of the Strip, by launching home-made Qassam rockets across the Gaza wall against Israeli towns bordering the Strip. These primitive rockets lack the precision to focus on a target, and have rarely caused Israeli casualties; they do however cause physical and psychological damage and seriously disturb life in the targeted Israeli neighborhoods. In the eyes of many Palestinians, the Qassams are a response to the war Israel has declared on them. As a student from Gaza said to the New York Times, "Why should we be the only ones who live in fear? With these rockets, the Israelis feel fear, too. We will have to live in peace together, or live in fear together." http://www.anarkismo.net/article/3433
Sam Dolgoff, whose opinions on Israel were at times puzzling for an anarchist, insisted in his memoirs that Arabs were largely not hostile to Jewish settlers when they arrived first and that the prospect of the constitution of a Jewish State in their territory created the animosity, consolidated with the birth of the State in 1948 (should we also insist that early Zionist organised terrorism played a role as well?). Certainly, there were riots in the ´20s in which Jews were murdered by the local Palestinians, but it happened fueled by the scapegoating of local elites under the British colonial mandate who channeled towards the settlers the Palestinian anger over the desperate situation they faced -not by some inherent and instinctive anti-jewishness of Arabs, a western myth which should be challenged at all times (and which is historically inaccurate -the record of Muslim tolerance for Jews is much better than that of Christians).
On Zionism, it is indeed a complex phaenomenon and as any other nationalist mass movement has many currents (ranging from a secular and even "left wing" current to a religious one). But as a whole sustains the idea of a State exclusive for a religious identity (Jews´ identity spring out originally from religion, not ethnicity -a very telling book on the subject is "Comment le peuple juif fut inventé", by the Israeli professor Shlomo Sand) in a land where they claim ancestry according to a religious myth (based in a supposed divine right over a territory formerly inhabited by others). Wether secular or religious, Zionism has this religious identity and foundational myth as its origin. As stated in the Jersualem Programme: "Strengthening Israel as a Jewish, Zionist and democratic state and shaping it as an exemplary society with a unique moral and spiritual character, marked by mutual respect for the multi-faceted Jewish people, rooted in the vision of the prophets, striving for peace and contributing to the betterment of the world.". The part on the Prophets is quite telling of the central aspect of the religious identity in Zionism, even for none religious Zionists.
As a further proof of how complex the development of Zionism and the process which led to the formation and birth of the State of Israel, let us not forget that a Zionist faction (Lehi) collaborated with the Nazi side in the world war II as they realized that Nazi policy on Judaism was functional to their own project of taking Jewish people from Europe back to the Eretz Israel, but also, because of the tactical common goal of defeating the British.
I am no expert on the matter and my knowledge does not go beyond some reading and following the news. Also, my views are may be biased by the fact that the country where I come from has the largest peopulation of Palestinian refugees out of the Arab world and I have Palestinians in my family. This is why I originally preferred to point out to a flawed way of thinking in anarchism through blanket labels with little or no practical use and which systematically dismisses other forms of oppression (a point to which we agree) and therefore avoided getting too far into the specifics of the Palestine-Israel conflict. I appreciate your own knowledge on the matter and you may be willing to clarify and discuss some of my opinions and views -I am willing to learn more and often find it frustrating about how difficult it is to find balanced information of what´s going on there (and think thus far the best information centre I´ve found is "electronic intifada").
I´m sorry if the reply was too long -and also I´m sorry about replying in a rush again for my personal circumstances.
I also agree with Kevin that this is an excellent "article" (too long for being considered a statement), and I endorse the spirit of it, though there´s a lot of stuff to discuss on it (and which I do not have the time at the moment to do). Personally, I do think that the correction was necessary, but as Ilan Shalif stated clearly in another thread, because the original controversial line (talking of a Jewish lobby instead of a pro-Israel lobby) was inaccurate... indeed, the movement of Anti-Zionist Jewish issued a statement against the Gaza slaughter, proving that "such" a lobby did not exist! Personally, I think that you need a lot of ignorance on the FdCA or an awful lot of bad faith (or both) to attack irresponsibly proven comrades in the way some did...
Antonio writes: "Sam Dolgoff, whose opinions on Israel were at times puzzling for an anarchist, insisted in his memoirs"
Just briefly. Dolgoff's somewhat favorable view of kibbutz (collective farms) was not much different then some on the left. When he spoke about the kibbutzim, he spoke about some of the intiial non-authoritarian forms of organization and work. He spoke about those whose often maleria infested land was either part of areas of Jewish Palestine or purchased from Palestinian's. I would think Sam would've been pretty dead set against land being used or purchased in any other way.
Where some of what we see as a contradiction for an anarchist in Sam's and others of his generation, would be a sort of softness on Jews living in Palestine/Israel. What I always gather from conversations with Sam, Esther (his compa) and other Jewish anarchists (who were of age when WW2 broke out), was a reaction to the holocaust. That European Jewry was incinerated.That the cities and towns of pre-WW2 Jewish life were either gone or clearly unwelcoming to them. While being ardently anti-zionist in pre-WW2 years (as most Jews were), the tradegy of the holocaust softened some views. Given the immigration quotas that existed in England, US and elsewhere, the Zionists played on this. They said the only place to go was Palestine. I gather this was weakly supported by some of our own comrades...if not in deed, then in heart.
Hope this helps gives some perspective to that generation's thinking. You may not agree with it, but this is what I was able to surmise having been around them
In the earlier discussion a comrade asked if the AF were going to produce a statement on the war in Gaza. Manchester AF met last night and agreed a text which is available on our website: http://www.af-north.org/palestine/gaza%20leaflet%202-1.pdf
The progressive and revolutionary movements should not contribute in any way or form to creating more division in our camp. The Middle East problem can't be tackled outside of a proletarian alternative. We, also, shouldn't contribute to perpetuating a conflict from the interest of any of these reactionary groups, whether Israeli or Palestinian. These two countries are becoming so dependent on each other: Palestine's labor force and trade. The continuation of these conflicts from an ultra reactionary nationalist position doesn't provide a correct political line, a proletarian approach and our critical support only allowed the perpetuation of this conflict from a reactionary perspective. The people of Israel (workers, petit bourgeoisie) are not our enemies. The dominant classes of Palestine and Israel are our enemy. The struggle against the occupation of Palestine should be waged from a class perspective, not by favoring the consolidation of a nationalistic ultra reactionary dominant classes or fraction. Even militarily, I am confounded by these senseless acts of provocation, with no political objective, where the only victims are the popular classes of Israel and Palestine. Inside these, social formation class struggle does exist: general strikes in Israel against austerity measures, workers struggle against exploitation. My knowledge of the Middle East is quite empirical but I do think and convince that a peaceful solution in that region is impossible outside a proletarian line. To put even temporarily the contradiction of labor and capital to a second plan for the pursuit of national liberation is a political orientation that has proven to benefit the dominant classes. We shouldn’t sacrifice principle for illusions. An illusion that ultra reactionary group, some even feudalistic, will bring social change beneficial to a proletarian struggle needed in the Middle East
I like a lot of points you mentioned, but I think you are both ignoring certain critical factors and also missing some of the necessary conclusions to derive from the very points you make. Also, some remarks I make at risk of being looked upon as "apologizing" for oppression, so sometimes it will require fairly detailed explanation to avoid wasting time on emotional response. (Unfortunately, this will take a bit long and I have to quote extensively, so apologies in advance for the length.)
You said: "First of all, if this is a case of national or social liberation, it is a false dilemma in my opinion (not to say that to view it as a mere "humanitarian crisis", as you do, seems completely inadequate in my opinion, as it devoids the conflict of its structural causes, independent of the fact that the humanitarian situation is indeed desperate). " [End quote]
In this specific case of Palestine, I have to disagree with you. The basic problem, in my opinion, has always been primarily social while nationalism (both Jewish and Arab/Palestinian) has always been an obstruction in this respect. Also, "humanitarian crisis" has always been the driving force that fuels national and religious extremism for both Jews and Palestinians. By "humanitarian crisis" I am talking both of economic conditions (especially for Palestinians) and extreme conditions of violence (on both sides). The point that mitch made about Dolgoff in relation to the Holocaust etc. etc. exemplify that fact as I see it. In fact, humanitarian crisis of post-WW2 Jews is exactly what makes the conflict so difficult historically. Let's examine this historical point carefully.
You said: "Sam Dolgoff, whose opinions on Israel were at times puzzling for an anarchist, insisted in his memoirs that Arabs were largely not hostile to Jewish settlers when they arrived first and that the prospect of the constitution of a Jewish State in their territory created the animosity, consolidated with the birth of the State in 1948 (should we also insist that early Zionist organised terrorism played a role as well?). Certainly, there were riots in the ´20s in which Jews were murdered by the local Palestinians, but it happened fueled by the scapegoating of local elites under the British colonial mandate who channeled towards the settlers the Palestinian anger over the desperate situation they faced -not by some inherent and instinctive anti-jewishness of Arabs, a western myth which should be challenged at all times (and which is historically inaccurate -the record of Muslim tolerance for Jews is much better than that of Christians)." [End quote]
From my own reading (which is also limited, and I am no "expert" on the subject either), this seems to be true. However, looking closely a few things stand out: first, Zionist terrorism was itself largely in retaliation to Arab anti-Jewish riots, which to be sure were fueled by animosity to Zionism and by Jewish-exclusive practices of the settlers, which led Arab tenants being kicked off land etc. etc.; second, Arab riots targeted native Jews as much as settlers, especially as the Zionists procured better arms and defense and as anti-Jewish Arab nationalism evolved; third, that Arab nationalism in Palestine itself was of an extremely reactionary-fuedal character, and at many points was not even exactly "Palestinian"-specific, as the latter mainly developed by degrees in response to Jewish settlement.
But beside those points, the extent of Arab anti-Jewish sentiment became especially clear around WW2, as the main Palestinian leader of the time, the Mufti of Jerusalem, openly aligned with the Nazis and exhorted Arabs to exterminate Jews. Similarly, the Mufti as well as other Arab leaders made open statements about a "war of extermination" in 1948, and some saying it was too bad the Germans had not finished the job. The point being, that Arab intentions were as bad or worse to Jews as what Palestinians themselves suffered. By comparison, for years the PLO did, and today Hamas still does, claim to want the destruction Israel, and more concretely both Hamas and PLO have always attacked civilians as much as Israel. It seems fair, in my view, to say that Hamas are mass-murderers in the same way Israeli "defense" are mass-murderers. (Note, an excellent book, which I've not read in its entirety, but which highlights both Arab and Jewish Nazi-collaboration, is Hannah Arendt "Eichman in Jerusalem" ... Arendt herself being a non-Zionist Jew -- also, in my opinion, a rather medioce political theorist -- who was heavily ostracized for her book)
You said: "Secondly, to compare an actual policy of ethnic cleansing, which started way before the constitution of the State of Israel by unjustifiable terrorist actions of groups such as Irgun and which has left many thousand dead behind with the potential "ethnic cleansing" that Hamas plans on Israel (which they are quite contradictory about, sometimes denying it, sometimes acknowledging it), is weighting in the same scale a shocking reality with something which is not likely to happen." [End quote]
That is true, but only because Israel is stronger. And besides, it could be argued that Hamas already practices its plans of ethnic cleansing when it purposefully bombs Israeli children. That is not to excuse or justify Israeli crimes, it is simply to say that the main Palestinian resistance groups have similar crimes, and the difference is only a matter of a degrees that is primarily determined by the balance of force.
I think you put it quite well, when you say: "Although sectors of the Palestinian movement state such ideas (and should be energetically confronted when they do so), you can´t say that this equals both parties as being exactly the "same": resentment and hatred is fuelled by oppression and often the rebellions of the oppressed are gruesome and disturbing (don´t forget the practice of the Pere Lebrun in the Haiti 1986 anti-duvalierist rebellion), and their fury is proportional to the degree to which they are oppressed (in the case of the population of Gaza, to asn unbearable degree)."
My point is that the same applies both ways -- Jews were oppressed, Zionism attempted to solve that oppression, it was met by hate and fury from Arabs, so they reacted as made sense to them, with hatred and fury against Arabs. Similarly, if one is going to point reactionary elements of Zionism, the same has to be done of Arab/Palestinian nationalism. My own feeling is, the tragedy of Palestine is that "both" (as though there were only two) sides have a point, but "both" sides have a criminal record and it only gets worse by the day. If anything, I think Palestine is a case where anarchist analysis on the "national question," for instance, could not apply better, although it is unlikely to succeed practically.
Dear Kevin, thanks again for your detailed response. I think that you are missing also some important facts that can lead to some biased views and some wrong judgements. I will deal at the moment only with the first part of your comments and later I will deal with the rest. And I apologize if again I have to extend myself a bit.
First of all, I want to deal with Mitch´s comment: when I talked about Sam Dolgoff´s unfortunate opinions on Israel, certainly I did not meant his opinions on the kibbutzim (I´m sure he was against buiding those experiences at the expense of Palestinian´s displacement). As you say, I´m referring to the lack of reaction on the formula for disaster that was the partition of Palestine into two sectarian entities: an Arab and a Jewish State. Particularly as anarchists, you would have expected better from them. This indulgence with Zionism (which in the end devoured the significant radical Jewish community) may be understandable for sectors of the Jewish community in the wake of the WW2 and the horrors of the nazi holocaust. But thirty years later (when writing his memoirs) you would have expected a bit more of a critical analysis, particularly, if the result of Zionism had been clearly the creation of an extremely authoritarian an militaristic State, with very little political space for a radical revolutionary movement. But I was referring more to some shocking comments of Dolgoff on Arabs which share the typical Western racist prejudice of Arabs as "being" backwarded and so on, what has been used for decades to justify Israeli oppression on Palestinians (don´t have his book at hand, but can send you the quote later so you can judge yourself).
In relation to Zionist terrorism, I strongly disagree with the view that it was a mere "retaliation" to the Arab riots of the ´20s (and the civil war of the ´30s). It was necessary to the Zionist project -which consisted explictly in the formation of an exclusive Jewish state where they were a majority. The only way this could be achieved was by ethnic cleansing of Palestinians (immigration was quite obviously insufficient). Indeed, historically, Zionist terrorism, is not born as a mechanism just for self-defence, it is born more explicitly as a means to fight the British authorities and fight Arabs with the purpose of expelling them from a land they felt theirs by divine mandate.
I won´t deal extensively with Arab nationalism on the ´20s, which was certainly feudal. But it is necessary to state that this nationalism itself was a product of the Palestinian´s own history of oppression and we have at all times to confront the Western myth of the supposed inherent anti-Jewishness of Arabs. Arabs and the Muslin culture in general, have a much better record of treatment to the Jewish community than the West: under the Caliphate of Cordoba in Spain, Sefardí culture (Jewish-Spanish) flourished until they were expelled by the Catholic kings in he XVth century. After this they were systematically welcomed both by the Muslim Maghreb and the Ottoman Empire. In Palestine Jewsih settlers were not originally frowned by the locals when immigration started in the 1880s. This welcoming attitude, that Dolgoff admits, changed dramatically in the XXth century as Zionism developed the project of an exclusive and sectarian Jewish state (way before Hitler). With the Balfour statement in 1917 a real cause of concern started for Palestinians: let us remember that this was a solution imposed by a colonial authority over 92% of the Palestinian population which were Arabs at the time. And let us remember that the Palestinians themselves were yearning for their own freedom and independence, after centuries of Turkish imperialism, which was only finished for a new era of British imperialism to start (in spite of the original British promises on freedom for Palestine during WW1). Against this record, it is obvious that they would react with hostility to this project.
This new found hostility was fueled by the colonial authorities policies. As for the riots, it is utterly false to state that the Jewish were the exclusive victims of them: the Palestinian riots were, in no way, pogroms as those of Russia back in the days. In fact, they were blind riots with no clear purpose were everyone was a potential victim. True, there were Jewish victims (resentment to Jewish settlers and natives being fueled after the Balfour declaration and the prospect of the zionist project becoming a reality, but also by the Jewish-exclusive practices of settlers which, as you point out, led to Arans being expelled from their lands, etc.). But the vast majority of the victims of these riots were indeed Arabs killed at the hands of other Arabs. As for the Mufti of Jerusalem, Hadj Amin, his whole career shows that he was indeed an opportunist, a feudal warlord and one of the architects of the Palestinian disaster: his collaboration with the nazis does not invalidate the legitimate resentment of the Arabs and Palestinians at the time wich saw the establishment of the state of Israel as a colonial imposition (which it was indeed). And it can be better understood if you see his career supporting first the British troops -as he saw them as a way for an independent Palestine under his firm grip. As he was ready to work with anyone to advance his own project, so were some factions of Zionism (notably Lehi, that actually went as far as collaboration with nazis, but the other factions worked at the same time with the USA and the USSR) and the nazis themselves! But these positions can´t be taken as prevalent at the time, not at least of the grassroots (indeed, a new book highlight the level of strong protection Jewish received in North Africa by the local Arab and Muslim population against the raids of the Afrika Korps).
Then, when the partition was decided in 1947 (after heavy and ilegitimate pressures over countries which oppossed the partition, such as Liberia, Haiti, the Philipines, etc.) again it was felt that decisions were taken over the Palestinians without any regard for their own opinion. The Arab predominant position at the time was against the sectarian partition and for a SINGLE STATE with no sectarian discrimination for Jewish or anyone else. This was discarded by the zionist who had a project of an exclusive sectarian state designed way before the nazi Holocaust, but it was nazism and WW2 that made their positions (which before Hitler where in a minority among Jewish people) gain momentum and eventually to become hegemonic. The international community also dismissed absolutely this position. So Arab Palestinians not only felt unheard and not taken into consideration: when the partition was decided and 57% of the territory was given to the Jewish state they saw themselves as victms of a new colonial imposition, of a new form of occupation (which lasts to the present day) and as scapegoats of the West for the West own crimes and guilty conscience against the Jews. They felt it was unfair for Palestine to pay the price of a crime they have not made, to pay the price of centuries of persecution by Christians. Particularly furious they were because of the Western hipocrisy, that while they greeted the need to compensate the "Jewish" with their own sectarian state, they were unwilling to receive Jewish refugees in their own countries (the US rejected the 4.700 applications of asylum by Jewish in the first half of 1946). This reaction is completely understandable, and I wonder what would be the reaction of, lets say, the British if 57% of their territory was given to some other people as a country to compensate them for the persectuion of, lets say, the Chinese.
While there were people that called for throwing Jews to the sea, such as the Mufti Amin, most Palestinians sided with the one state solution, and it is in this spirit that the calls for the destruction of Israel have to be understood. Without this context, such a claim can be turned into something very different in meaning... When the PLO called for the destruction for Israel, they also called for the establishment of a secular, democratic state with no sectarian dvisions -a project quite different to the zionist sectarian state project, based on the segregation, control and expulsion of Arabs as Ben Gurion stated, for the necessity of remaining a majority. I think that comparing the views of the PLO of the ´60s-´80s with that of Hamas is completely false and disfigures facts. You can´t claim seriously that their project was ethnic cleansing, which it was not. That is just false, and after the partition, Arab nationalism started receiving socialist influences which changed radically the views present about solutions to the conflict. Attacks on civilians have to be understood from the point of view of Palestinians own current oppressio, by the level of desperation and the lack of prospects for a solution to their conflict: wherever there is brtual oppression, the response of the oppressed will be brutal and indiscriminate, particularly in a context of colonialism or occupation where, as Frantz Fanon poses, confronts two types of humanity as well as classes... I recommend the reading of Ali Abuminah´s new book on the One State Solution to the Palestinian-Israeli crisis, which after almost two decades of the Oslo fiasco, should be seriously considered... and is af anarchists we should not be enthusiastic about new states with their new leaders being in place, we need to think of ways of bringing people together from the grassroots, and certainly, one land requires one country with everyone living together equally. But this needs a serious acknowledging of the serious mistake which was the establishment of a Sectarian entity such as the State of Israel in 1948.
Because this is a very expansive and complicated subject, I am dividing my response in two replies. First, I want to address Zionism and the points you made in that regard.
I have not, myself, read Dolgoff on Israel, but by all means I would be interested to see the quote you refer to. Unfortunately, I myself observe a certain hypocritical, emotional tendency even among well-meaning people about this subject, to react harshly against any manifestation of "backwards" mentality among Arabs (usually downplaying or overlooking elements of "advanced" secular thought, as you mentioned in the PLO etc.) as being anti-Semitic, fanatic etc. etc., while ignoring or even sharing the same kind of tendency in Zionism (e.g. Israeli racism against Arabs in 1948 is ignored in the face of Arab anti-Semitism). So I agree with your basic point on that matter, although I don't know about the particular quote.
I would interested in the book you mentioned about North Africa etc. ... certainly, I am aware of the historical fact that Muslims and Arabs were more tolerant of Jews. I do not know enough about "grassroots" thinking of Arab Palestinians at that time, to say what the level of anti-Jewish hatred was. For sure the Mufti's particular level of Nazi-collaboration was not standard, but neither was Lehi's attempt at collaboration. But the Mufti was not the only Arab leader who either supported the Nazis or who called for extermination of Jews, certainly by 1948 (indeed, it was a common component of Arab propaganda and even speeches by Arab leaders).
That is not to say that Palestinian concerns were illegitimate, or that they were all Nazis, or even to excuse Israeli crimes in any way. To the contrary, I agree with you, as an anarchist, the Zionist project was definitely a "recipe for disaster" which ought to have been denounced from the beginning as a racist-nationalist project. But I think it cannot be overstated the fundamental part played by the Holocaust and WW2, and that to portray Israel as a simple racist/imperialist project while ignoring the influence of both European and Arab persecution of Jews on, inevitably fails to understand the roots of Israeli militarism.
About early Zionist terrorism, I don't want to over-estimate my knowledge of the matter by making absolute statements of fact on its history or motivations. I do know that in particular Irgun and Lehi were noted for their criminality, and certainly a huge influence on all of the Jewish armed groups came from the right-wing Betar youth groups (in some respects these tendencies remind me very much of Hamas, only they are Jewish rather than Arab-Muslim). I also know that Haganah, which tended to publicly denounce the worst massacres and for some years had an official policy of restraint, nonetheless engaged in terrorism even in the early '20s when it murdered a famous Jewish moderate. Beyond that I am not especially familiar with early Jewish-Arab violence enough to state firmly where the main source of violence was, but I have always only read of Zionist arming as initially a response to Arab anti-Jewish violence, whereas initially they tended to rely on Turkish and later British authorities for protection. (Note that that itself should, in my opinion, be looked upon as symptomatic of colonialist mentality of early Zionists and understandably reinforced Arab resentment, as you pointed out.)
The last thing I will say on Zionism at this point, based on those points, is that I think it is unquestionable most of the Jewish settlers, especially post-War, definitely saw Jewish arming, in particular the Haganah (Irgun was more controversial, and Lehi even more so), as defensive in much the same way that Palestinian rockets are explained defensively, and that Israeli violence continues to be seen largely as a self-defense measure. I think unless that is understood and addressed concretely, Israelis will inevitably continue to rely on these methods and the conflict will only get worse. Beyond that, some of which you might agree with, I think we are more-or-less entirely in agreement. Certainly I agree Zionism, for all its complexity and for some sympathetic aspects, is at base definitely a colonialist project and that, regardless of liberal intentions by its left-wing, it inevitably has racist aspects which historically have played out to an extremely violent level.
Okay, I want to say a few things about the Palestinian side, if for nothing else than to clarify my present views on the issue, as a counter to my lengthy comments about Zionism. Thanks again to you Jose, for your responses, which despite my criticism of your first comment, again I consider quite helpful.
The basic difficulty for Palestinians, as I see it, has always been the need to define their own struggle independently. In this it has had to confront, from the start, extremely complex problems from every concievable direction. To begin with, Palestinian resistance had little or no coherent direction before 1948, suffering from serious problems of leadership (e.g. the Mufti already discussed), and basically relying on fuedal-reactionary Arab armies to wage war with Israel. One aspect of this internal difficulty right through today has been a persistance of certain reactionary tendencies, such as fundamentalism and anti-Semitism -- a problem especially confounded by Zionist appropriation of Jewish experience (lumping "anti-Semitic" with "anti-Zionist" and "anti-Israeli"), and marginalization of Arabs and Muslims. So Palestinians confront a "double-edge sword" of "extremism" from both ends, which in the historical context that has been discussed, obscures the basic issue of Israeli oppression of Palestinians.
Since 1948 until today, the Palestinians themselves have been cynically used by other Arab regimes (e.g. Jordan and Egypt, Syria, etc.) for their own purposes, while doing little to alleviate refugee conditions, not to mention their own dealings with "the West" and oppression of their own people. In that context, the creation of the PLO as an independent Palestinian resistance incorporating secular democratic and even socialist ideals into a distinctly Palestinian movement, was an important step that signifying the real beginning of the Palestinian liberation movement. I think it is important to place this movement in proper perspective -- it came about, in the place, as a response to desperate situation of the refugees, originating out of the scattered fedayeen groups that took shape after the war. Nevertheless, it was clearly an authoritarian-nationalist project, led by educated men who had been influenced by a wide variety of movements and ideologies, often resorting to terrorist methods both morally repugnant and strategically counter-productive.
The one other important step forward by PLO, even if only half-decent, was seriously attempting to negotiate a peaceful solution making numerous concessions. In actuality, these steps made with the explicit purpose of setting up a Palestinian State with support from "the West" are clearly counterrevolutionary as far as anarchists are concerned (and a lot of Palestinians too, a view Hamas shares and exploits) and have resulted in little improvement for most Palestinians -- basically, it is "one step forward, two steps back."
The real crucial turning point for Palestinian resistance, I think, is the First Intifida in the '80s. This was important as it established a consistent dialogue at the popular level between Palestinians and Israelis, opening the way for the solidarity movement, of which the "Anarchist Against the Wall" group is one element, and for a "grassroots" popular resistance movement outside of State control by either Israel or the PLO. (Some of Alfredo Bonanno's essays in "Palestine, mon amour" examine this point very well, I think, from an insurrectional perspective -- I highly recommend it as reading, although not a scholarly work.) It also opened unprecedented opportunities for nonviolent resistance, which in the context of Palestine/Israel is of particular significance although it remains a marginal factor there. Unfortunately, given the absence of a coherent direction or of anything resembling anarchist influence, it was easy prey for manipulation by the Fatah thugs. My impression is it was similar as well with Hamas in regards to the Second Intifada, although not an exact repetition.
The Anarchistische Gruppe Solidarität von Unten (Anarchist Group "Solidarity from Below") of Berlin, Germany, add their signature to the above statement.
BRUSSELS (IPS) - Senior European Union figures have signaled that they could push ahead with plans to strengthen formal ties with Israel, even though more than 1,000 have now been killed by the bombardment of Gaza.
Two conflicting statements about EU-Israeli relations were delivered 14 January, as the number of Palestinians, about one-third of them children, killed in Gaza continued to climb.
Ramiro Cibrian-Uzal, the European Commission's envoy in Jerusalem, claimed that a proposed "upgrading" in relations with Israel cannot "proceed business as usual." Yet his statement was soon contradicted by Karel Schwarzenberg, foreign minister of the Czech Republic, which holds the EU's rotating presidency.
Schwarzenberg noted that EU governments agreed in June last year to intensify efforts to build a stronger alliance with Israel. This decision could only be revised by those governments, he said, adding: "It can't be changed at the word of a very respected representative of the European Union in Jerusalem."
The June decision paves the way for Israel to be offered a "privileged partnership" with the Union, allowing it to become integrated into the single market on which the EU has been based, and to take part in a wide variety of other programs.
Schwarzenberg, who described himself as a "lifelong friend of Israel," though "not too happy with what it's doing at the moment," was speaking to members of the European Parliament (MEPs). Many MEPs demanded a robust response from the EU to the carnage in Gaza.
Complete article at:
Dear Kevin, sorry for the delay in my response... I’m glad to see the discussion moving on. This proves that there’s good will to understand each other’s point of view instead of just trying to pick conveniently a line and distort the whole argument from there. Unfortunately, that is still the prevalent attitude towards discussion in anarchist circles –a discussion more focused on winning a debate over a supposed adversary instead of trying to clarify positions and issues. I appreciate the chance you have given me for constructive debate that is quite rare among anarchist circles. I’ll reply to both your last posts and to the second part of the comment before them that I could not finish on my last reply. I won’t deal much with the points of agreement, but I’ll deal only with issues which I think are still problematic.
In regard to your comments on Zionism, we are largely in agreement, and being, as you say, an expansive issue that we discuss with limited knowledge, I think it is fair enough to move on. We may emphasize one aspect or another, but the agreement is largely there.
On the Palestinian struggle, I don’t think we are largely at disagreement either on the following issues: the nature of the Palestinian leadership before 1948 was disastrous (when I hold the Mufti responsible in many respects of the Palestinian Nakba, I don’t mean only because of his opportunism, his lack of clear directions apart of his own personal power, the feudal-reactionary nature of it, but because he dedicated to systematically annihilate every other possible “leader” among the Palestinians not to have rivals in the eventual post-colonial Palestine –notably, during the 1936 riots), and so has been the cynical influence of Arab regimes, that are keen to use Palestinians for their own purposes but have stood aside during the course of the slaughter in Gaza (as ever). Also, we seem to agree on the authoritarian nature of the PLO in spite of the massive progress it meant in relation to former leaderships as it incorporated progressive and even socialist elements.
But I think that we need to notice that some issues remain an area of controversy, and I feel quite frustrated to see that many anarchists instead of trying to clarify them, repeat common places and dogmas, that may reinforce the anarchist beliefs, but do not help the anarchist movement to fully understand the conflict in Palestine, neither to come up with realistic approaches to it, that place an emphasis in what we should do from wherever we are. Instead of trying to come up with a programme for the Palestinians as anarchists we should be exploring how we can help to release the pressure over the region, a pressure we know to well, is largely exercised by Western powers.
1. The National question:
I agree that at the basis of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict there’s a social question, a class conflict. Ultimately, it is on behalf of certain class interests that even the colonial order was built. But we have to beware of not being over simplistic and reduce class struggle to a crude sketch that conceals rather than clarify the real complexity of particular situations such as the Palestinian one. Yes, we know that both Israel and Palestine have a working class... but how does this explain what’s been going on there for 60 year? How do we explain through this the interaction between class and ethnicity or nationality or even religion (which is a very complex issue in that part of the world)? Does this deny that there are specific burdens placed on Palestinians, and particularly on the Palestinian working class? For the Israeli blockade and now bombings affect all of the Gaza Strip and not only the working class suburbs of it (al though the effects are felt differently). Is not true that Palestinians have to wait even two hours in the check points, a humiliation reserved for Palestinians only, and not even the lowest ranks of the Israeli working class undergoes a comparable treatment?
This simplistic view, that goes to the basic class definition and ignores any other aspects involved, can lead, in my opinion, to somewhat problematic views, such as you can find in the WSA statement (which I find overall excellent, and don’t want this constructive criticism to be taken as undermining the value of their effort, particularly as I’m aware of how complicated this issue is), when they say: “For all sincere class-struggle anarchists the death or suffering of any member of the working class, of whatever nationality or ethnicity, is a cause for great and equal concern.”. So, if the victims of Israeli bombings are not members of the working class, but relatives (including children) of a Hamas minister –as happened yesterday- we do not show any concern at all? If bombs fall on a private school, does this means we don't give a toss? This observation is relevant because Palestinians are victims of a collective form of punishment, that is condemnable, and though the worst part is taken by members of the working class, we believe that the embargo, blockade and the massive air bombings to their camps and towns are despicable, irrespective of the class to which the victims belong two (and certainly, there are victims of all classes). This gives a Palestinian dimension to the particular suffering in Gaza that is not even imaginable for the average member of the Israeli working class.
However crossed by the class dynamics, the national oppression is a reality and needs to be acknowledged in our analysis, no matter how uncomfortable it may be for classic anarchist theory. Irrespective of the nature of its leadership at different times of the history, Palestinians have had for long a strong desire of freedom from the colonialist yoke (Turkish, British and Israeli) and the demand of self-determination has always been there and will remain there as long as the occupation and a Sectarian division of the region persists.
(Note that contrary to your assertion that the PLO’s involvement in the negotiation of a “peaceful” solution through the Oslo Agreement was a step forward, I think it was a massive step backward, and I think it came in no way as a half-decent solution, but as an attempt of the PLO’s leadership to accommodate with the so called New World Order after the end of the Cold War. At this stage, the PLO had turned into a gang of thugs and corrupt politicians that now fill the massive State-lett of the PA, that with its massive corruption and systematic treason to the cause of Palestinian independence, boosted the prestige of the recently formed Hamas. What Oslo did was to accept the sectarian division of Palestine, and therefore, it was a much worse way out that the single State solution –democratic and non sectarian- proposed by Palestinians in 1947, and now reconsidered by many Palestinian radicals).
2. On resistance:
On another point, although I understand and agree with you that emergence of non-violent forms of resistance has been of paramount importance (given the militaristic nature of political projects in the region, both Israelis and Palestinians alike), as they allow the expression of other forms of political rationales and they permit grassroots mass involvement, I think that the violence of the occupation gives total legitimacy to all forms of resistance –both violent and non-violent. I don’t see why the occupied people should accept the authority of the occupying power to impose on them methods of struggle –and should accept definitions such as “terrorists” whenever they do not accept this imposition. The aggressors always tend to preach “peace” to others, and the first objective of reactionaries of all sorts is to disarm the people or their potential “rivals”.
I think that a comment from a NEFAC militant in another thread sums up my own thinking on the subject (eventhough I disagree with other stuff he comments on): “I understand the criticism of national liberation, but sometimes I wonder if resistance movements having a national character is an inevitability in the here and now. The truth is that the Working people of warring national groups suddenly uniting is unlikely without massive organizing. We should support this organizing, but also support the right of all oppressed people to defend themselves. This does not mean we should support groups that preach class collaboration, nationalism etc, or are willing to use violence against civillians. But I think we also have to understand that when bombs are falling on your homes, and troops are entering your towns people will fight back. There has to be a way of supporting that without wanting nation states as an end goal. Of course we should always be arguing for the support of Anarchists/Communists and Workers movements within those situations, but we also should not be overly critical perhaps of people who are forced to counter vicious Imperialism.”
Given the peculiar militarism of the Zionist project I see it as very difficult, if not impossible, to defeat it without a military line. As a Zionist leader stated back in the days, because Arabs will never accept the Zionist project (“because if we had been the Arabs we would not have accepted it either”, as the same Zionist leader admitted on that same occasion) Israel needs to build an iron wall around it. Needless to say, this iron wall is the military might of Israel. The Zionist project has gone hand in hand with the construction of a proto-fascist state, armed to the teeth and highly militarised, that lives in a constant state of paranoia. This is certainly not a healthy way to live and it is in the best interest of everyone to finish for good that state of affairs. Unfortunately, as the experience of fascism shows, in a militaristic state the army does not function purely as a repressive apparatus of the State (to use Gramsci’s terminology), but more than anything, as an ideological apparatus of State. And certainly in Israel the ideology has gone quite deep into the common sense of the citizenship.
This is proved when you see the high level of consensus of Israeli society on the occupation and the project of a greater Israel. Indeed, this is particularly true in the current offensive in Gaza, that, in spite its heinous atrocities, has the support of 95% of Israeli society (if we are to believe to CNN polls, and I know polls are also part of the propaganda war –as I know too well from the Colombian experience-, but in this case, judging from testimonies of Israeli anarchists, it seems to be more or less accurate).
Is it possible to crack that “iron wall”, which is Israeli military might, without a Palestinian military line? I doubt it. Certainly, it is important to give AS WELL the ideological struggle against militarism, but when ideology finds its source in the material conditions (property, army, etc.) we know it is important as well to attack the institutions which lay at the roots of this ideology. (The problem is that “military line” is often confused in Palestinian politics with “militarism”, but that’s another matter...). Military defeats of Israel produce cracks in the ruling block and in the “iron wall”, they render with the prospect of crisis, they bring uncertainty to the hegemonic ideology as the Lebanese war in 2006 proved... if the result of that war would have been different, I don’t want to think of the repercussions it would have had...
Taking another example we are all well familiar with, do you think, Kevin, that without the enormous resistance found in Iraq and the number of US casualties and certainly without the military defeat to the Bush’s adventure, you would find the mass movement against war you find today in the US? There’s no way to know, but judging from past experiences, if the victory to the US would have been achieved as Bush expected by May 2003, I think the war and the Iraqi tragedy would have soon been forgotten, news would not have talked about the hundreds of thousands of dead, the neocons would still be healthy in government, the US dominant ideology would have been reinforced on everyone (US citizens tend to have a very high opinion of themselves, as if they were goodies in an awful world full of tyrants and lunatics) and surely the anti-war movement would have declined into the usual ten demonstrators in the odd demo. Instead, the Iraqi resistance (just as the Vietnamese did back in the ‘60s) with their constant military hits on US soldiers brought war home and made US society stop to think of what was happening. As a result, Bush is now discredited, the neocons face a massive ideological crisis (which has not been used to its full advantage by radicals, but that’s another issue) and we have a massive anti-war movement, that otherwise would not be there. As a result, the US leadership will have to think twice before jumping into another military adventure.
I believe that the military line cannot be the central aspect of a correct strategy to confront the occupation of Palestine. Not only because of the "militarism" deviation inherent to political projects that rely heavily on its weapons, but also, because of the huge asymmetry between the two parties. I agree with your view that the Intifada in 1988 meant a massive step forward to the Palestinian people and we were shown that you did not need to have a gun to be able to stand against an Israeli tank: it built bridges with critical sectors of Israeli society, and most importantly, it brought to the common Palestinian folk a sense of empowerment that needs to exist for a revolutionary consciousness to take place. Change (positive change) will only be brought by the masses themselves, as we anarchists has been saying for over a century now, and this has been well understood by the Palestinian people. I acknowledge all this, but this does not mean that there is no necessity of a military line of action as well for the reasons already given. I don't think it is a matter of either this or thast, but of how you articulate them and of the preminence of politics...
3. “Both factions attack civilians and therefore they should be condemned AS strongly”:
In the face of an unconceivable oppression, the reaction of the oppressed has always been to resort to terrorist methods. The experience of every single anti-colonial struggle or civil war will prove that. I don’t understand why we expect the Palestinians to behave any differently! Even anarchist have resorted to morally repugnant tactics more than once –look at Spain in the 1890s, when the horrific tortures at Montjuich sparked a wave of bomb attacks that were anything but morally lofty –Pallas bombed a religious procession and Salvador i Franch bombed a theatre! Only emotionally detached people (or those writing from a comfortable position) can sometimes have the “luxury” of even considering “ethical-only” resistance.
(The Nazis, by the way, also claimed to be righteous people fighting mindless terrorists: Jewish clandestine resistance groups in Europe against Nazism also resorted to questionable terrorist tactics that affected civilians like putting bombs on cafes, and so on... and still no one would dare to say that they –ie, Jewish resistance groups- were the same as the Nazis!)
It is true that terrorist actions against unarmed civilians are practised by both sides, as I mention in a previous comment. And I do believe that this should be condemned at all times from a revolutionary perspective. What I don’t believe is that they should be condemned equally, and I am not taking a hypocritical stance. You said in another thread “that there is not nearly the level of international anarchist or leftist outrage at the crimes of Hamas against Israeli civilians -- equally criminal to the Israeli terror -- as there is at the latter”. There are many arguments to reject this “fair on both sides” view (which I think it is suitable for Amnesty International, but NOT for revolutionaries). I can give some of them:
A. From a purely (bourgeois) juridical point of view, there’s a fundamental difference between those actors: Israel is a recognized State but most countries in the world and as such, has a number of obligations, such as the Geneva conventions, the Human Rights declarations, the rights of women and children, the international humanitarian law, etc... a number of obligations that they systematically violate. In fact, the history of Israel for the last 40 years, is a history of sticking the two fingers constantly to the UN and the so called “international community” regulations.
Also, Israel enjoys preferential treatment with a number of countries (economic and diplomatic), including the US and the EU. What’s more, Israel is traditionally portrayed as a “beacon” of “democracy” in the Middle East by the Western media, in spite of its constant violation of every single human right of Palestinians (what makes me think if the world thinks of Palestinians as humans at all!). Therefore, Israel counts with the complicity of the most influential countries in the world (countries we many of us live, by the way), when they slaughter Palestinian civilians.
This is not the case of Hamas. The Hamas government has not been recognised; it has been boycotted and has been subject even to a coup attempt started by an infamous Fatah thug called Mahmous Dahlan. So those who count with international support for their crimes are Israel and therefore it is those we should be more concerned about.
B. From the point of view of the results of their actions, there’s an enormous difference: take for instance the last war. Hamas has killed around 15 Israelis. Of them, just 3 are civilians (the vast majority are soldiers). In the case of the Israelis, of over 1000 dead people, some 70% it is estimated to be civilians. And I don’t buy into the disgraceful line of argument of some anarchists that state “Hamas are willing to sacrifice their own people” (an argument that resembles quite a lot the Israeli way to justify their attacks on civilians blaming Hamas to shelter among civilians, as if the expected them to operate from the moon!)... Hamas have been fighting directly the Israeli Army, many of their leaders have been assassinated, and that’s why they have an awful lot of credibility among Palestinians, whether we like it or not! It is the Israeli Army that has deliberately targeted civilians, including Red Cross ambulances and facilities and UN refugee centres, and this is inexcusable.
Israel counts with an enormous military superiority and has top technology that could help them with precision in order to avoid civilian victims. Yet, they routinely slay scores of civilians, including children, and resort to use cluster (popcorn) bombs and forbidden poisonous chemicals, what can be explained whether by the most cold-hearted despise for the lives of Palestinians or by an actual policy of covert ethnic cleansing.
C. The people that resorts to terrorist methods, in real terms, is people that are not equivalent. The Israeli State is a colonialist, oppressive institution; all factions of the Palestinian resistance represent some of the most oppressed people in the whole world, that live in abject conditions, that have a second class citizen statues, and that have to deal daily with numerous humiliations, violence, deprivations, etc... Israel sticks to an unjust occupation, the people in Gaza are actually acting out of desperation. Attacks on civilians from the Palestinian side can purely be understood in terms of the desperation of their situation: Gaza, indeed, is in an awful state, with no water, no electricity, no fuel, no enough food to feed its population... it is just desperate and it is frustrating when some anarchists don’t take this into account and talk on “both” sides as standing in equal conditions! The collective punishment of Gazans, quite naturally, leads many Gazans to try to hit back the whole society they feel punishes them (and that in reality is quite tolerant with this crime against humanity). You can disagree with it, you can condemn it, you can do whatever you want, but we can’t fail to understand this. Still, the moral higher ground is on the Gazans: while Israel has not stepped down any of its terrorist methods against Palestinians, Hamas has not organised suicide bombings for 4 long years!
You can say that Jews were oppressed and that explains their violence and terrorism... but although it is questionable the way in which Zionists punished Palestinians who never oppressed them (save the riots, where everyone was a potential victim), that could only be an argument at the time of the British mandate. We have moved 60 years from that time; it can no longer be used as a valid argument. How many more decades of terror do we need to go through to state quite simply that NOTHING (and I mean nothing) justifies Israeli terrorism against Palestinians? Here there’s clearly an oppressor and an oppressed group. And certainly, the oppressors are not the Palestinians...
I’ll quote again the Israeli libertarian Tanya Reinhart, for she puts the argument much better than me: "Besieged occupied people with nothing to hope for, and no alternative means of political struggle, will always seek ways to fight their oppressor. The imprisoned Gaza Palestinians found a way to disturb the life of the Israelis in the vicinity of the Strip, by launching home-made Qassam rockets across the Gaza wall against Israeli towns bordering the Strip. These primitive rockets lack the precision to focus on a target, and have rarely caused Israeli casualties; they do however cause physical and psychological damage and seriously disturb life in the targeted Israeli neighborhoods. In the eyes of many Palestinians, the Qassams are a response to the war Israel has declared on them. As a student from Gaza said to the New York Times, "Why should we be the only ones who live in fear? With these rockets, the Israelis feel fear, too. We will have to live in peace together, or live in fear together." http://www.anarkismo.net/article/3433
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not talking of being condescending with those methods. I’m just explaining the reasons why I think that playing “fair on both sides” is cynical (as it ignores facts on the ground and where each of the actors are coming from) and why I can’t condemn EQUALLY the terrorist actions of both parties. Although from a (bourgeois) point of view, all crimes are the same, irrespective of the perpetrator, I feel that as anarchists we should reject that notion: capitalism makes us all equal in front of the law, but unequal in reality. We have to pay attention to context and see who does what and why.
I want to apologize for this too long reply... but I think I’ve put an awful lot of controversial issues there. I don’t have answers for all of this issues but I think as anarchists we should start asking ourselves the right questions at least: what can we do to be relevant as anarchists in the current context? If we want, we can write a lot on Hamas, but who cares? Do Palestinians care? Do Hamas care? Or should we start denouncing our own role as “Western” citizens into the massacre and taking relevant action, as supporting a boycott on Israeli products? Do we really expect Palestinians to take into account what we say if we fail to practice actual solidarity first? Are we only going to support the just cause for national liberation of the Palestinians only if there are anarchists involved? Is it more relevant at the moment to theorize on the ideal resistance movement we’d like to see, or supporting the worthwhile expressions that do exist at the moment? How can we express a clear voice against Israeli terrorism and which supports the struggle against the occupation without becoming uncritical cheerleaders of thugs and fundamentalists?
My good friend Iyad Burnat from Bil’in sent a request to anarkismo on boycotting Israeli products... that’s a good start, if we campaign on this and turn it into a political issue.
All the best,
Ps. On North African Muslims helping Jewish escape Nazi persecution at their own peril, there’s a couple of books alright, but I would suggest Robert Satloff’s “Among the Righteous” (who is quite pro-Zionist himself). I found a good review in http://www.qantara.de/webcom/show_article.php/_c-476/_n....html where they let us know, for instance, that the religious and political leadership of Algeria refused to be accomplices of the expropriation of local Jewish –he quotes Messali Hahj, a predecessor of the Algerian independance movement, saying “Restricting the rights of Jews will not bring new rights for Muslims." All this was forgotten both by the Jewish community and by the Arabs themselves, mainly because of the trauma of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Surely, most Arabs were more interested into their own lives and challenging the colonial order than in saving the Jewish. Nonetheless, the majority of Arabs did not support the Nazi anti-Jewish campaign and many did courageously oppose it taking a huge amount of risk.
Ps2. I'm interested in reading your article on the issue...
Dear Kevin, I just want to say that I've learned an awful lot from this debate and I wish all debates over the internet could be like this. The internet gives us many possibilities of exchanging with comrades that otherwise would be very difficult to be in touch with, and I feel that often we squander them with pointless quarrels and insults (given the anonymous condition internet allows you to have). I am most certainly keen to read your article and replies, and please note, that many of my arguments on problematic issues sprung out from your last responses, but not all of them, so don't feel it is all directed to you (the crude vision of class struggle I criticize has not been displayed at all in your comments, but refer more to the positions held by some other comrades...), but I think it is relevant to share those problems with you given the fact that we are discussing of many issues... and I'm interested in what you have to say.
I agree this is a good discussion, and I also am frustrated by the prevalence of petty-argumentative attitudes over serious debate. As for an article, I appreciate the interest; I do intend to take some time reading more thoroughly on this subject (in which respect this discussion is also helpful to me), before publishing any complete article about it.
I do want to try and address your points right now, as you layed them out. Unfortunately, given the wide scope of a lot of these issues going beyond the Palestinian context, I may not be able to address certain aspects as detailed or completely as others. One thing I definitely agree with you on is the need to make anarchism relevant to this and other struggles, but for the sake of the time I cannot delve too deeply into "how" at the moment.
I only agree with your view on the "national question" to a limited extent -- that is, that not all nationalisms are the same and that some degree of nationalism is inevitable in struggles against national oppression. However, I think it would be foolish from an anarchist perspective to mistake that "inevitablity" for an actual doctrine of nationalism. Recognizing and denouncing national oppression, and sympathizing with the oppressed, is not the same as adopting an opposing nationalism. The existence and importance of national oppression is undeniable, and has to be opposed like every other oppression. But nationalism, even in support of the oppressed, always ends up contradictory and can never compensate limitations in the social struggle. (I still consider Makhno's essay on the national question in Ukraine one of the best expressions of anarchist perspective on nationalism.)
Also, I agree with what you say about the "death of any working-class member" comment. What you have to realize is that this applies to everyone, not just Palestinians as the oppressed "nationality." While it is true that the Palestinians suffer more than Israel, that argument might not be so persuasive to Israelis when their children are killed, or when Hamas rockets are landing outside their homes. Coupled with the memory of Jewish oppression and the (somewhat legitimate) feeling that they are now besieged by "the Arab world" and fighting for their life, it should be no surprise that they react super-militantly and learn to disregard Palestinian life in the same way their own lives are disregarded. This is, by the way, why I emphasize so much the "humanitarian crisis" aspect more than national-liberation. (Side note -- I have not heard before your claim that Hamas has not organized suicide bombings for four years; if you could reference a source it would be helpful. Also, while I generally agree Israel has not let up on its terror, it is worth noting that Israeli forces did, in fact, avoid a large percentage of targets in their invasion officially to avoid civilian casualties.)
Again, that is no excuse or "apology" for the oppression and mass-murder Palestinians. But it does speak, in my opinion, to the need for addressing Israeli concerns in a more thoughtful and empathetic way, and the importance of Palestinians not attacking Israeli civilians, if they want to have a definite moral high-ground in the face of Israeli terrorism. (Incidentally, it is for that reason I consider PLO concessions to Israel "one step forward" from the standpoint of peace, even if it was "two steps backward" from the standpoint of Palestinian liberation for reasons previously discussed.) It also speaks to the enormous power of non-violent resistance in the case of Palestine, to "crack the iron wall" as you put it and make stronger social connections between Palestinians and Israelis. Keep in mind, I am not a pacifist nor a Ghandian proponent of "total non-violence" in a strict sense, but I do believe that the present form of Palestinian armed struggle is largely counter-productive, despite my sympathizing with it and by no means condemning self-defense.
On your last part, I see what you are saying abut it not being "equal," although again, I think that has a lot more to do with the balance of forces than with intent, and therefore it is in many ways a matter of degrees and not of substance (i.e. they are of equal character but not extent). Also, the bourgeois-juridical point is, for one thing, a side point, but also do not forget Hamas claims and aspires to be the "legitimate" government of Palestine, and thus from a standpoint of legality it is on equal field with Israel. (For that matter, the supposed reason for not recognizing Hamas government's "legitimacy" in the first place, and excuse for Fatah's coup attempt, was the criminality of Hamas.) But again, it is a side point and I agree with you that anarchists should pay attention to context and motivation as opposed to legality.
That aside, I mostly agree with your last points, and I also think that Tanya Reinhart says it excellently. I would only make last remark here, when you say:
"You can say that Jews were oppressed and that explains their violence and terrorism... but although it is questionable the way in which Zionists punished Palestinians who never oppressed them (save the riots, where everyone was a potential victim), that could only be an argument at the time of the British mandate. We have moved 60 years from that time; it can no longer be used as a valid argument. How many more decades of terror do we need to go through to state quite simply that NOTHING (and I mean nothing) justifies Israeli terrorism against Palestinians?"
It is a huge error to ignore the power of memory, especially in the context of a more-or-less constant struggle over the course of these 60 years, to shape one's perspective on the present. Such history defines and shapes the present, and unless it is addressed seriously and understandingly, both the oppression and the conflict will only get worse and inevitably end in horror. That is what makes the conflict so difficult and complicated, unlike any simple, "ordinary" case of oppression. Certainly, the intensity and emotion that goes into the issue, especially from those living the daily consequences, is entirely proper; but that emotion has also, sadly, obscured thoughtful analysis to a point where "both" sides are furiously digging deeper their own graves.
Dear Kevin, thanks for your reply and I think that we are getting to a common understanding... certainly, there's a lot of problematic issues where we will not have answers and that's normal. We are doing the right thing in raising honest questions, in a constructive spirit and trying to find answers. I don't have much time, so excuse me if I copy and paste your points just to clarify some of my positions...
"However, I think it would be foolish from an anarchist perspective to mistake that "inevitablity" for an actual doctrine of nationalism. Recognizing and denouncing national oppression, and sympathizing with the oppressed, is not the same as adopting an opposing nationalism. The existence and importance of national oppression is undeniable, and has to be opposed like every other oppression. But nationalism, even in support of the oppressed, always ends up contradictory and can never compensate limitations in the social struggle. (I still consider Makhno's essay on the national question in Ukraine one of the best expressions of anarchist perspective on nationalism.)"
I don't think either we should adopt any brand of "nationalism". But I do think that the right of self-determination is crucial in certain types of struggles and if we recognize that national oppression does exist (as many other types of oppression do exist as well) we need some thought of how to address this issue from an anarchist perspective and how we can deal with the national question without being "nationalists", how can we enrich the anarchist programme with an answer to that specific problem, an answer based in facts and concrete proposals and not mere wishful thinking. A tricky, but necessary question if you ever want to be relevant among Palestinians as anarchists...
The important thing is how you can demonstrate that the liberation of the Palestinians at the end of the day is not only a better deal for the Palestinians themselves but for everyone, including Israelis? How you can prove on the ground the Bakunin saying that you are not free unless anyone around you is equally free? That the freedom of others projects my own freedom to the infinite? That the liberation of Palestine and the creation of a single country, built from the bottom up, in the principles of solidarity rather than militaristic paranoia is better for all?
"What you have to realize is that this applies to everyone, not just Palestinians as the oppressed "nationality." While it is true that the Palestinians suffer more than Israel, that argument might not be so persuasive to Israelis when their children are killed, or when Hamas rockets are landing outside their homes."
I realize that and that's why I believe we should condemn attacks on civilians whatever way they happen... my point is that I think we need to take the context into account and that I don't think they are EQUALLY condemnable, not because the individual lives of some are more valuable than the lives of others, but because in one case, they are a purely desperate tactic born out of the frustration of seeing your people slaughtered and oppressed on a daily basis and not seeing much more you can do (if you actually say that 15 Israelis dead are as condemnable as 1000 Palestinians dead, you are saying de facto that Palestinians are somehow "cheaper")... Reinhart puts it quite clearly.
"(Side note -- I have not heard before your claim that Hamas has not organized suicide bombings for four years; if you could reference a source it would be helpful. Also, while I generally agree Israel has not let up on its terror, it is worth noting that Israeli forces did, in fact, avoid a large percentage of targets in their invasion officially to avoid civilian casualties.)"
There's been no suicide attacks since 2005. Check http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Hamas_suicide_attacks
"It is a huge error to ignore the power of memory, especially in the context of a more-or-less constant struggle over the course of these 60 years, to shape one's perspective on the present. Such history defines and shapes the present, and unless it is addressed seriously and understandingly, both the oppression and the conflict will only get worse and inevitably end in horror."
I agree with you. That's exactly what I mean: we need to seriously address history, and that is something that Israeli progressive historians know too well, is almost impossible in the current context of paranoia in Israel, where a number of national myths have replaced history. In Israel, a certain version of the last 60 years has been used as a way to manufacture a ready-made justification to whatever atrocity they perpetrate. And what I want to say, is that to justify their ongoing atrocities by a history that puts a number of facts upside down and turns the Palestinians in scapegoats of the crimes of Europeans, is just unacceptable.
We need to challenge some widespread Zinoist views, particularly, that Jewish people will ALWAYS be persecuted and that's why they need their own Sectarian State (a founding principle of Zionism) and show with facts that at numerous times in history the Jewish have coexisted peacefully with others (particularly Arabs) and that a society where everyone has equal rights and live together is not only desirable, but possible... (there's where anarchism comes in :))
Dear Kevin, still I'm not convinced on the "humanitarian crisis" label for the conflict. Although there is a "humanitarian crisis" as a result of the conflict, that term is used for hurricanes, tornados, floods, droughts and other "natural" disasters (though indirectly there's always a social component to them). I think that in this case to talk of humanitarian crisis is to ignore the direct participation of social interests on it, the fact that this is naked aggression against a whole population and the colonial content of it. There's a structural root to the conflict we should not disguise behind "humanitarian" jargon (I know this is not your intention, but interested parties in concealing the aggressive nature of the Israeli state are starting to use the same wording). The Palestinian-Israeli problem remains a colonial question, probably one of the last colonial questions from the post-WW2 world...
I mostly agree with your last comments, including on the "humanitarian crisis" label to an extent, in that I can definitely see how it is used to avoid the basic point of Israeli aggression and direct oppression of Palestinians. But at the same time, it can be flipped around to say, for people whose first thought is that Israeli aggression is somehow justified by Palestinian terrorism, that clearly there are deeper problems behind the "latest chapter" of violence. In that sense, it can thus also be a way of retorting cynical attitudes about the conflict as when people say "it has always been that way" or along those lines (which was the point in my comment on the other thread, responding to "Danny"). It is then a matter of showing how Israel is a primary culprit in those deeper problems, which is to say, of exposing the hypocrisy of Israel's justifications and the reasons for Palestinian resistance.
About the national question, certainly enriching anarchism in this respect could be valuable and would perhaps be helpful not only making anarchism more relevant but also providing a framework in which oppressed "nationalities" (e.g. Palestinians) can more easily advance their struggle in a stateless direction. I think there are two sides to this, one of which has been dealt with resolutely by anarchists from the start, which is negating the emotional-religious sense of attachment to nationality, exposing the false virtue of "love of country" in a nationalistic sense. The other side, I think, is half dealt with, in the form of acknowledging the right of people to their cultural heritage while never excusing oppression in the name of "cultural tradition." But from the standpoint of national liberation struggles, what is absent from that idea is a political approach to which the oppressed groups can relate. Obviously, that requires specific elaboration mainly by the members of that oppressed group (in this case, Palestinians) while sticking firmly to anarchist principles.
My own opinion is, the guiding ideal of their struggle should be anarchist, and the national element should consist simply in the context of struggling against national oppression, which is addressed fairly naturally by forming their independent social organs (village assemblies) and political organs (resistance committees). In other words, it is just a matter of taking the already in-place tendency of Palestinian national struggle, and infusing it with an anarchist content. The difficulty comes in the fact that, inevitably such content opposes authoritarian statist and fundamentalist tendencies and would thus put Palestinians in revolt against "their own" leadrs. But that is really no different than any other internal revolt, and indeed has its relative in the struggle between Hamas and Fatah, which has pitted two powerful parties, both claiming to advance Palestinian liberation, against each other. (On that note also, again I consider the Intifada crucial not only for mobilizing popular resistance to the occupation, but also as it points the way to the potential of Palestinians to rise up independently, or even against the authoritarian parties scheming to control their life from inside the walls.)
Dear Kevin, I think we have reached a good degree of agreement... on the "humanitarian crisis" label, though I do believe it is complicated to use (particularly in the face of the current "NGO-fication" of conflict) and I think that, particularly the media, use it to conceal the structural causes of the conflict, I can see the value of your argument and definitely get your point. I think that, put that way, I don't have any disagreement. The only observation is that, as you say, it is the context what gives relevance to the use of this label.
On the national question, I'm fully in agreement with you. There's nothing else to be added for now. I do think we need to look, with a critical rather than with a simplistic eye, at the experience of national liberation movements (Algeria, Angola, Cuba, Nicaragua, Mozambique, Vietnam, etc.) I feel somehow that anarchist theory is missing 50 years of modern human history on its political debate!
I think it would be worthwhile, most importantly, to re-visit the experience of anarchist fighting "national liberation" struggles (very few examples, such as Korea and Cuba, which are probably the two most remarkable examples... the book of Benedict Anderson, "Under Three Flags", poses the question of Filipino anarchists, though the movement does not seem to have been as relevant as in the two above mentioned countries). In the Raven Quarterly (I think issue 4) there was a good article I read ages ago on Bakunin and the national question as well...
Thanks very much Kevin for the opportunity given to address all this issues in a civilised and constructive manner. I'm looking forward to your further contributions to the website (saw one on Obama already, another of the important issues to address at the moment...)
Debate on the Middle East
I, also, have learned a great deal from this debate. I must tell you my knowledge on the Middle East question is still at an empirical stage and this debate contributed greatly in developing a more rationalized stage of my thought process on this issue. For me an issue still remains. The lack of an autonomous proletarian position and alternative at the level of proletarian internationalism is still prevalent in looking at the crisis. Because of this, the issues seem to be deadlocked. I understand clearly our objective limitations since we all, I assume, are outside these two social formations and we could only give our support to the struggles of the popular masses of Palestine against occupation as well as the struggle inside these two societies for the abolition of capital.
However limited our solidarity is, we should not fall into a politic where the proletarian alternative is totally inexistent. We need to understand the limitations and most importantly the reactionary nature of the forces leading the struggle in these two societies respectively and recognize that outside of a proletarian alternative, independent and autonomous from petit bourgeois and bourgeois alternative, THERE IS NO PEACE. We need to guarantee ourselves that we do not deviate from our long-term objective. We need to prove and convince ourselves that the struggle against capital and imperialism are not sacrificed for an illusionary National Liberation of Palestine under the leadership of some reactionary forces.
We could mobilize on some points more than others but at the same time never forgetting our ultimate goals. For me to think PLO/HAMAS could lead a fight for national liberation is to take the moon for cheese. In supporting HAMAS or the PLO we are sacrifying our principles for illusions. The only guarantee the dominated people of these two societies have for a victory, in their best interest, is not to support their respective reactionary leaders but rather to trust in the capacity of autonomous masse struggle under the leadership of the proletariat to wage battle and to defeat, in unison, their respective dominant classes.
Dear Kevin, here it goes an interesting letter written by "His Majesty King Abdullah" of Jordan... it gives an insight of the attitudes of the Arab leaders at the time on the Zionist project and the UN resolution of 1947... I found it instructive from that point of view...
"As The Arabs See The Jews"
His Majesty King Abdullah
The American Magazine November, 1947
I am especially delighted to address an American audience, for the tragic problem of Palestine will never be solved without American understanding, American sympathy, American support.
So many billions of words have been written about Palestine€ â’ ’´perhaps more than on any other subject in history€ â’ ’´that I hesitate to add to them. Yet I am compelled to do so, for I am reluctantly convinced that the world in general, and America in particular, knows almost nothing of the true case for the Arabs.
We Arabs follow, perhaps far more than you think, the press of America. We are frankly disturbed to find that for every word printed on the Arab side, a thousand are printed on the Zionist side.
There are many reasons for this. You have many millions of Jewish citizens interested in this question. They are highly vocal and wise in the ways of publicity. There are few Arab citizens in America, and we are as yet unskilled in the technique of modern propaganda.
The results have been alarming for us. In your press we see a horrible caricature and are told it is our true portrait. In all justice, we cannot let this pass by default.
Our case is quite simple: For nearly 2,000 years Palestine has been almost 100 per cent Arab. It is still preponderantly Arab today, in spite of enormous Jewish immigration. But if this immigration continues we shall soon be outnumbered€ â’ ’´a minority in our home.
Palestine is a small and very poor country, about the size of your state of Vermont. Its Arab population is only about 1,200,000. Already we have had forced on us, against our will, some 600,000 Zionist Jews. We are threatened with many hundreds of thousands more.
Our position is so simple and natural that we are amazed it should even be questioned. It is exactly the same position you in America take in regard to the unhappy European Jews. You are sorry for them, but you do not want them in your country.
We do not want them in ours, either. Not because they are Jews, but because they are foreigners. We would not want hundreds of thousands of foreigners in our country, be they Englishmen or Norwegians or Brazilians or whatever.
Think for a moment: In the last 25 years we have had one third of our entire population forced upon us. In America that would be the equivalent of 45,000,000 complete strangers admitted to your country, over your violent protest, since 1921. How would you have reacted to that?
Because of our perfectly natural dislike of being overwhelmed in our own homeland, we are called blind nationalists and heartless anti-Semites. This charge would be ludicrous were it not so dangerous.
No people on earth have been less "anti-Semitic" than the Arabs. The persecution of the Jews has been confined almost entirely to the Christian nations of the West. Jews, themselves, will admit that never since the Great Dispersion did Jews develop so freely and reach such importance as in Spain when it was an Arab possession. With very minor exceptions, Jews have lived for many centuries in the Middle East, in complete peace and friendliness with their Arab neighbours.
Damascus, Baghdad, Beirut and other Arab centres have always contained large and prosperous Jewish colonies. Until the Zionist invasion of Palestine began, these Jews received the most generous treatment€ â’ ’´far, far better than in Christian Europe. Now, unhappily, for the first time in history, these Jews are beginning to feel the effects of Arab resistance to the Zionist assault. Most of them are as anxious as Arabs to stop it. Most of these Jews who have found happy homes among us resent, as we do, the coming of these strangers.
I was puzzled for a long time about the odd belief which apparently persists in America that Palestine has somehow "always been a Jewish land." Recently an American I talked to cleared up this mystery. He pointed out that the only things most Americans know about Palestine are what they read in the Bible. It was a Jewish land in those days, they reason, and they assume it has always remained so.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. It is absurd to reach so far back into the mists of history to argue about who should have Palestine today, and I apologise for it. Yet the Jews do this, and I must reply to their "historic claim." I wonder if the world has ever seen a stranger sight than a group of people seriously pretending to claim a land because their ancestors lived there some 2,000 years ago!
If you suggest that I am biased, I invite you to read any sound history of the period and verify the facts.
Such fragmentary records as we have indicate that the Jews were wandering nomads from Iraq who moved to southern Turkey, came south to Palestine, stayed there a short time, and then passed to Egypt, where they remained about 400 years. About 1300 BC (according to your calendar) they left Egypt and gradually conquered most€ â’ ’´but not all€ â’ ’´of the inhabitants of Palestine.
It is significant that the Philistines€ â’ ’´not the Jews€ â’ ’´gave their name to the country: "Palestine" is merely the Greek form of "Philistia."
Only once, during the empire of David and Solomon, did the Jews ever control nearly€ â’ ’´but not all€ â’ ’´the land which is today Palestine. This empire lasted only 70 years, ending in 926 BC. Only 250 years later the Kingdom of Judah had shrunk to a small province around Jerusalem, barely a quarter of modern Palestine.
In 63 BC the Jews were conquered by Roman Pompey, and never again had even the vestige of independence. The Roman Emperor Hadrian finally wiped them out about 135 AD. He utterly destroyed Jerusalem, rebuilt under another name, and for hundreds of years no Jew was permitted to enter it. A handful of Jews remained in Palestine but the vast majority were killed or scattered to other countries, in the Diaspora, or the Great Dispersion. From that time Palestine ceased to be a Jewish country, in any conceivable sense.
This was 1,815 years ago, and yet the Jews solemnly pretend they still own Palestine! If such fantasy were allowed, how the map of the world would dance about!
Italians might claim England, which the Romans held so long. England might claim France, "homeland" of the conquering Normans. And the French Normans might claim Norway, where their ancestors originated. And incidentally, we Arabs might claim Spain, which we held for 700 years.
Many Mexicans might claim Spain, "homeland" of their forefathers. They might even claim Texas, which was Mexican until 100 years ago. And suppose the American Indians claimed the "homeland" of which they were the sole, native, and ancient occupants until only some 450 years ago!
I am not being facetious. All these claims are just as valid€ â’ ’´or just as fantastic€ â’ ’´as the Jewish "historic connection" with Palestine. Most are more valid.
In any event, the great Moslem expansion about 650 AD finally settled things. It dominated Palestine completely. From that day on, Palestine was solidly Arabic in population, language, and religion. When British armies entered the country during the last war, they found 500,000 Arabs and only 65,000 Jews.
If solid, uninterrupted Arab occupation for nearly 1,300 years does not make a country "Arab", what does?
The Jews say, and rightly, that Palestine is the home of their religion. It is likewise the birthplace of Christianity, but would any Christian nation claim it on that account? In passing, let me say that the Christian Arabs€ â’ ’´and there are many hundreds of thousands of them in the Arab World€ â’ ’´are in absolute agreement with all other Arabs in opposing the Zionist invasion of Palestine.
May I also point out that Jerusalem is, after Mecca and Medina, the holiest place in Islam. In fact, in the early days of our religion, Moslems prayed toward Jerusalem instead of Mecca.
The Jewish "religious claim" to Palestine is as absurd as the "historic claim." The Holy Places, sacred to three great religions, must be open to all, the monopoly of none. Let us not confuse religion and politics.
We are told that we are inhumane and heartless because do not accept with open arms the perhaps 200,000 Jews in Europe who suffered so frightfully under Nazi cruelty, and who even now€ â’ ’´almost three years after war€ â’ ’¹s end€ â’ ’´still languish in cold, depressing camps.
Let me underline several facts. The unimaginable persecution of the Jews was not done by the Arabs: it was done by a Christian nation in the West. The war which ruined Europe and made it almost impossible for these Jews to rehabilitate themselves was fought by the Christian nations of the West. The rich and empty portions of the earth belong, not to the Arabs, but to the Christian nations of the West.
And yet, to ease their consciences, these Christian nations of the West are asking Palestine€ â’ ’´a poor and tiny Moslem country of the East€ â’ ’´to accept the entire burden. "We have hurt these people terribly," cries the West to the East. "Won€ â’ ’¹t you please take care of them for us?"
We find neither logic nor justice in this. Are we therefore "cruel and heartless nationalists" ?
We are a generous people: we are proud that "Arab hospitality" is a phrase famous throughout the world. We are a humane people: no one was shocked more than we by the Hitlerite terror. No one pities the present plight of the desperate European Jews more than we.
But we say that Palestine has already sheltered 600,000 refugees. We believe that is enough to expect of us€ â’ ’´even too much. We believe it is now the turn of the rest of the world to accept some of them.
I will be entirely frank with you. There is one thing the Arab world simply cannot understand. Of all the nations of the earth, America is most insistent that something be done for these suffering Jews of Europe. This feeling does credit to the humanity for which America is famous, and to that glorious inscription on your Statue of Liberty.
And yet this same America€ â’ ’´the richest, greatest, most powerful nation the world has ever known€ â’ ’´refuses to accept more than a token handful of these same Jews herself!
I hope you will not think I am being bitter about this. I have tried hard to understand that mysterious paradox, and I confess I cannot. Nor can any other Arab.
Perhaps you have been informed that "the Jews in Europe want to go to no other place except Palestine."
This myth is one of the greatest propaganda triumphs of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, the organisation which promotes with fanatic zeal the emigration to Palestine. It is a subtle half-truth, thus doubly dangerous.
The astounding truth is that nobody on earth really knows where these unfortunate Jews really want to go!
You would think that in so grave a problem, the American, British, and other authorities responsible for the European Jews would have made a very careful survey, probably by vote, to find out where each Jew actually wants to go. Amazingly enough this has never been done! The Jewish Agency has prevented it.
Some time ago the American Military Governor in Germany was asked at a press conference how he was so certain that all Jews there wanted to go to Palestine. His answer was simple: "My Jewish advisors tell me so." He admitted no poll had ever been made. Preparations were indeed begun for one, but the Jewish Agency stepped in to stop it.
The truth is that the Jews in German camps are now subjected to a Zionist pressure campaign which learned much from the Nazi terror. It is dangerous for a Jew to say that he would rather go to some other country, not Palestine. Such dissenters have been severely beaten, and worse.
Not long ago, in Palestine, nearly 1,000 Austrian Jews informed the international refugee organisation that they would like to go back to Austria, and plans were made to repatriate them.
The Jewish Agency heard of this, and exerted enough political pressure to stop it. It would be bad propaganda for Zionism if Jews began leaving Palestine. The nearly 1,000 Austrian are still there, against their will.
The fact is that most of the European Jews are Western in culture and outlook, entirely urban in experience and habits. They cannot really have their hearts set on becoming pioneers in the barren, arid, cramped land which is Palestine.
One thing, however, is undoubtedly true. As matters stand now, most refugee Jews in Europe would, indeed, vote for Palestine, simply because they know no other country will have them.
If you or I were given a choice between a near-prison camp for the rest of our lives€ â’ ’´or Palestine€ â’ ’´we would both choose Palestine, too.
But open up any other alternative to them€ â’ ’´give them any other choice, and see what happens!
No poll, however, will be worth anything unless the nations of the earth are willing to open their doors€ â’ ’´just a little€ â’ ’´to the Jews. In other words, if in such a poll a Jew says he wants to go to Sweden, Sweden must be willing to accept him. If he votes for America, you must let him come in.
Any other kind of poll would be a farce. For the desperate Jew, this is no idle testing of opinion: this is a grave matter of life or death. Unless he is absolutely sure that his vote means something, he will always vote for Palestine, so as not to risk his bird in the hand for one in the bush.
In any event, Palestine can accept no more. The 65,000 Jews in Palestine in 1918 have jumped to 600,000 today. We Arabs have increased, too, but not by immigration. The Jews were then a mere 11 per cent of our population. Today they are one third of it.
The rate of increase has been terrifying. In a few more years€ â’ ’´unless stopped now€ â’ ’´it will overwhelm us, and we shall be an important minority in our own home.
Surely the rest of the wide world is rich enough and generous enough to find a place for 200,000 Jews€ â’ ’´about one third the number that tiny, poor Palestine has already sheltered. For the rest of the world, it is hardly a drop in the bucket. For us it means national suicide.
We are sometimes told that since the Jews came to Palestine, the Arab standard of living has improved. This is a most complicated question. But let us even assume, for the argument, that it is true. We would rather be a bit poorer, and masters of our own home. Is this unnatural?
The sorry story of the so-called "Balfour Declaration, " which started Zionist immigration into Palestine, is too complicated to repeat here in detail. It is grounded in broken promises to the Arabs€ â’ ’´promises made in cold print which admit no denying.
We utterly deny its validity. We utterly deny the right of Great Britain to give away Arab land for a "national home" for an entirely foreign people.
Even the League of Nations sanction does not alter this. At the time, not a single Arab state was a member of the League. We were not allowed to say a word in our own defense.
I must point out, again in friendly frankness, that America was nearly as responsible as Britain for this Balfour Declaration. President Wilson approved it before it was issued, and the American Congress adopted it word for word in a joint resolution on 30th June, 1922.
In the 1920s, Arabs were annoyed and insulted by Zionist immigration, but not alarmed by it. It was steady, but fairly small, as even the Zionist founders thought it would remain. Indeed for some years, more Jews left Palestine than entered it€ â’ ’´in 1927 almost twice as many.
But two new factors, entirely unforeseen by Britain or the League or America or the most fervent Zionist, arose in the early thirties to raise the immigration to undreamed heights. One was the World Depression; the second the rise of Hitler.
In 1932, the year before Hitler came to power, only 9,500 Jews came to Palestine. We did not welcome them, but we were not afraid that, at that rate, our solid Arab majority would ever be in danger.
But the next year€ â’ ’´the year of Hitler€ â’ ’´it jumped to 30,000! In 1934 it was 42,000! In 1935 it reached 61,000!
It was no longer the orderly arrival of idealist Zionists. Rather, all Europe was pouring its frightened Jews upon us. Then, at last, we, too, became frightened. We knew that unless this enormous influx stopped, we were, as Arabs, doomed in our Palestine homeland. And we have not changed our minds.
I have the impression that many Americans believe the trouble in Palestine is very remote from them, that America had little to do with it, and that your only interest now is that of a humane bystander.
I believe that you do not realise how directly you are, as a nation, responsible in general for the whole Zionist move and specifically for the present terrorism. I call this to your attention because I am certain that if you realise your responsibility you will act fairly to admit it and assume it.
Quite aside from official American support for the "National Home" of the Balfour Declaration, the Zionist settlements in Palestine would have been almost impossible, on anything like the current scale, without American money. This was contributed by American Jewry in an idealistic effort to help their fellows.
The motive was worthy: the result were disastrous. The contributions were by private individuals, but they were almost entirely Americans, and, as a nation, only America can answer for it.
The present catastrophe may be laid almost entirely at your door. Your government, almost alone in the world, is insisting on the immediate admission of 100,000 more Jews into Palestine€ â’ ’´to be followed by countless additional ones. This will have the most frightful consequences in bloody chaos beyond anything ever hinted at in Palestine before.
It is your press and political leadership, almost alone in the world, who press this demand. It is almost entirely American money which hires or buys the "refugee ships" that steam illegally toward Palestine: American money which pays their crews. The illegal immigration from Europe is arranged by the Jewish Agency, supported almost entirely by American funds. It is American dollars which support the terrorists, which buy the bullets and pistols that kill British soldiers€ â’ ’´your allies€ â’ ’´and Arab citizens€ â’ ’´your friends.
We in the Arab world were stunned to hear that you permit open advertisements in newspapers asking for money to finance these terrorists, to arm them openly and deliberately for murder. We could not believe this could really happen in the modern world. Now we must believe it: we have seen the advertisements with our own eyes.
I point out these things because nothing less than complete frankness will be of use. The crisis is too stark for mere polite vagueness which means nothing.
I have the most complete confidence in the fair-mindedness and generosity of the American public. We Arabs ask no favours. We ask only that you know the full truth, not half of it. We ask only that when you judge the Palestine question, you put yourselves in our place.
What would your answer be if some outside agency told you that you must accept in America many millions of utter strangers in your midst€ â’ ’´enough to dominate your country€ â’ ’´merely because they insisted on going to America, and because their forefathers had once lived there some 2,000 years ago?
Our answer is the same.
And what would be your action if, in spite of your refusal, this outside agency began forcing them on you?
Ours will be the same.
Thanks for this. It is indeed highly interesting and "instructive" on a number of things. Unfortunately I don't have time to analyze it in detail now, but it is well worth reading in any case.