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The Palestinian Struggle and the Anarchist Dilemma
mashriq / arabia / iraq | anarchist movement | feature Saturday May 16, 2009 00:03 by Wayne Price - personal opinion drwdprice at aol dot com
Comments on Gordon’s Anarchy Alive!
A review of the discussion of the relationship between anarchism and the Palestinian/Israeli struggle by Uri Gordon, an Israeli anarchist, in his book "Anarchy Alive!", including a response to his attack on my views.There has been very little written on the relation between anarchism and the Palestinian struggle against Israeli oppression. Therefore it is interesting to read the discussion of this topic by an Israeli anarchist, Uri Gordon, in his recent book, "Anarchy Alive!". Chapter 6 is titled, “HomeLand: Anarchy and Joint Struggle in Palestine/Israel.”
As he notes, most Palestinians want their own state next to Israel. He worries that anarchist opposition to this demand could be seen as “paternalism,” saying that we know what is good for the Arabs better than they do. More significantly, he is concerned that opposition to a Palestinian state leaves anarchists with nothing positive to say, except that Palestinians need anarchism. But they do not—yet?—want anarchism and it is not going to happen anytime soon. (Nor, I would add, are people likely to be persuaded of anarchism if it is seen as opposed to what they do want, namely national self-determination.) Shall anarchists say that we refuse to support the Palestinians’ struggle against a brutal national oppression until the Palestinians see the light and oppose states and capitalism?
The Palestinian Struggle and the Anarchist Dilemma
Comments on Gordon’s Anarchy Alive!
There has been very little written on the relation between anarchism and the Palestinian struggle against Isreali oppression. Therefore it is interesting to read the discussion of this topic by an Israeli anarchist, Uri Gordon, in his recent book, Anarchy Alive! Chapter 6 is titled, “HomeLand: Anarchy and Joint Struggle in Palestine/Israel.” (pp. 139—162) Unfortunately, the chapter is marred by an intemperate and gratuitous attack on my views. Before getting to this, I will review his discussion.
Gordon confronts “the apparent contradiction between anarchists’ commitment to support oppressed groups on the latter’s own terms, and those terms being—in the Palestinian case—a new nation-state.” (p. 139) Again, he says that the conflict “…between anarchist’ anti-imperialist commitments … and their traditionally wholesale rebuttal of the state and nationalism…, would seem to leave them at an impasse regarding the national liberation struggles of oppressed peoples.” (p. 152) This expresses the dilemma nicely.
He briefly notes that Bakunin, Gustav Landauer, and Rudolf Rocker—all historically important anarchists—supported a people’s attachment to its own culture and land (including their right to secede from larger units) but opposed national states. Kropotkin supported national liberation struggles of stateless peoples to remove foreign domination. Gordon could have mentioned anarchists’ participation in many national liberation and anti-imperialist struggles around the world, perhaps the most famous being Nestor Mahkno in the Ukraine. However, these examples do not resolve the dilemma of Palestine/Israel.
As he notes, most Palestinians want their own state next to Israel. He worries that anarchist opposition to this demand could be seen as “paternalism,” saying that we know what is good for the Arabs better than they do. More significantly, he is concerned that opposition to a Palestinian state leaves anarchists with nothing positive to say, except that Palestinians need anarchism. But they do not—yet?—want anarchism and it is not going to happen anytime soon. (Nor, I would add, are people likely to be persuaded of anarchism if it is seen as opposed to what they do want, namely national self-determination.) Shall anarchists say that we refuse to support the Palestinians’ struggle against a brutal national oppression until the Palestinians see the light and oppose states and capitalism?
Possible Anarchist ResponsesGordon offers a series of possible “responses” (by Israeli or European anarchists essentially) to this dilemma.
A first possible response, he writes, is to accept that there is inconsistency in “endorsement of Palestinian statehood by anarchists,” (p. 154) but to endorse it anyway due to the primary value of solidarity. It may be the only “pragmatic,” “viable,” way to counter the Palestinians’ oppression “in the short term.” (pp. 154-5) (I am reviewing his opinions, which I find thought-provoking, but not yet stating my own.)
A second possible response, he suggests, would deny that there is any inconsistency for anarchists. Palestinians already live under a state, that of Israel (including in the Occupied Territories). To demand that Palestinians live under a Palestinian state instead of under that of Israel would not be unprincipled for an anti-statist, he argues. At most it would be just as bad for the Palestinians; at best, it might be somewhat better, due to the removal of direct foreign oppression.
His third response is “anarchists can support a Palestinian state as a strategic choice…” (p. 155), one step in a long term struggle. Obviously, the region will not move immediately into anarchism; there will be many stages to go through. Decreasing the tensions between the Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs can open things up for further struggles around gender, sexual orientation, and class in each nation. Having got what they wanted, the Palestinians may learn the limitations of statist solutions and continue the struggle on a new basis.
A fourth response may seem to completely contradict the other three responses. It is to ignore the issue of national statehood while supporting day-to-day Palestinian struggles for jobs and dignity. This includes defending farmers from attacks by Jewish settlers, opposing the wall when it cuts through villages, taking apart roadblocks, etc. Anarchists can be engaged in as united fronts with nationalists, without agreeing with their politics. Israeli anarchists may loyally participate in them without endorsing a Palestinian state. He cites the work of Bill Templer, an anarchist, who recognizes that there will be an eventual two-state settlement in the short run, but focuses his work among Israelis and Palestinian villagers around such issues as resisting the wall. Templer believes that such work will someday lead to a “dual power” situation as it “hollows out” the state and capitalism. (p. 161)
Uri Gordon deserves credit for trying to face up to the anarchist dilemma in dealing with the issue of Palestinian oppression. Although he never says which response he agrees with (which is somewhat confusing), he seems to support them all to some degree. As anyone who has consistently read my material on this site knows, I am sympathetic to an anarchist who wants to both support national movements against oppression while remaining anti-statist and anti-capitalist (e.g., Price, 2006). However I do not think he has quite found the proper resolution of the dilemma.
Gordon’s WeaknessesGordon does not distinguish between “endorsement of Palestinian statehood by anarchists,” or “anarchists can support a Palestinian state,” on the one hand, and anarchist support or endorsement of the Palestinians’ national self-determination, on the other. The first idea means that anarchists would say that we agree with the program of an independent state for Palestinians, that we think it would be a good thing for them. This would be a drastic mistake. It would be “paternalistic” in that it would not tell the Palestinians the truth as best s we see it.
Support for self-determination is quite different. It implies that out of solidarity we defend Palestinians getting the solution they want, because they want it, even though we anarchists would not make this choice. Similarly, we defend the freedom of workers to join the union of their choice, even though we are likely to oppose most business unions. We defend people’s legal right to vote, as against dictatorships, even though we are anti-electoralists. We defend the legal right to divorce, even though we neither advocate that any particular couples break up nor support bourgeois marriage. In brief, anarchists should defend oppressed people’s freedom to make choices, without having to agree with the choices they pick. Making their own choices is how people (and peoples, and classes) learn.
Further, his “endorsement” and “support” for a new state, in the short term, misses the point that nationalism can misdirect the struggle. While in solidarity with the Palestinian people (who are mostly peasants, workers, and small businesspeople), anarchists still oppose the program of nationalism. At best, the Palestinians could win their own, structurally independent, state. But they would still be dominated by the world market and international power politics. That is, they would not win real national liberation. That needs an international revolution of the workers and all the oppressed. The nationalist leaders have a disasterous program for the Palestinians. Whether or not Gordon knows this, he does not insist that anarchists say this, even while supporting Palestinian struggles (not say it at every moment of course, but over time and in various ways). He never discusses how to help persuade some Palestinians of anarchism instead of nationalism.
He tries to deal with this by his suggested fourth response, in which anarchists ignore the statehood question while showing solidarity in action. In practice, solidarity actions, united front work, is the right tactic, but eventually the statehood issue would become impossible to ignore. Surely friendly Palestinians would want to know whether we support their freedom to have their own state or not. What would Gordon answer? Templer, his model, apparently does accept the coming of a Palestinian state; he could not ignore the issue in practice.
Gordon’s Attack on My ViewsGordon introduces his discussion of my opinions by saying that Wayne Price “descends into very crude terms.” (p. 150) He then quotes me:
“…Israel is the oppressor and the Palestinian Arabs are the oppressed. Therefore anarchists, and all decent people, should be on the side of the Palestinians. Criticisms of their leaderships or their methods of fighting are all secondary; so is recognition that the Israeli Jews are also people and also have certain collective rights. The first step, always, is to stand with the oppressed as they fight for their freedom.” (quoted on p. 150)
This passage does not deny that nationalist misleaders should be criticized or that some methods of fighting (e.g. attacks on civilians) should be criticized nor does it deny that Israeli Jews are people and that they should have certain collective rights. But it says that anarchists (and all decent people) should start by being on the side of the oppressed, the Palestinians, against the state of Israel. Frankly I thought this was noncontroversial among anarchists.
Not so for Gordon. He writes, “Asking all decent people to see someone else’s humanity and collective rights as secondary to anything—whatever this is, this is not anarchism….This kind of attitude has become…a typically leftist form of Judeophobia or anti-Semitism.” (p. 150) So, I am not an anarchist and am perhaps an anti-Semite! (It is a blessing that Gordon does not like using “crude terms.”)
He claims that I ignore the (small minority of) Israelis who have worked with Palestinians. Based on nothing whatever, he refers to “Price’s complete indifference to those who consciously intervene against the occupation….” (same) He says that they take action not “because they are ‘siding with the Palestinians,’ but rather out of a sense of responsibility and solidarity.” (same) Responsibility for what, if not for the oppression of Palestinians by the Israeli state? Solidarity with whom, if not with the Palestinians? Earlier, he even quoted, with approval, a statement by the International Solidarity Movement, which declared a need “to actively engage in resistance to the Occupation, to take sides…” (quoted on p. 142) That is, “siding with the Palestinians.”
Again he quotes me: “We must support the resistance of the Palestinian people. They have the right to self-determination, that is, to choose their leaders, their programs, and their methods of struggle, whatever we think.” (quoted on p. 151)
Gordon again goes ballistic, calling this passage, “A blank check, then, to suicide bombings and any present or future Palestinian elite.” (p. 151) But as the last phrase (“whatever we think”) should make clear, supporting the Palestinians’ resistance and self-determination does not mean that we have to agree with their leaders, programs, or methods of struggle. In this I disagree with Gordon, as stated above, since he apparently does support and endorse a Palestinian state, despite its inevitable “Palestinian elite” (in Responses 1, 2, and 3).
Interestingly, throughout this chapter, he only discusses conceivable anarchist “responses” to the two-state program (Israel plus Palestine), never to the idea of a democratic-secular (or binational) single state. Perhaps (I speculate), this is due to his concern for the interests of Israeli Jews, since a two-state settlement would mean that they would keep their own, Zionist-oppressor, state?
Gordon argues that it wrong of me to ask the movement to make demands on the Israeli, the U.S., or any other state. “…This would be a ‘politics of demand’ which extends undue recognition and legitimation to state power….” This is “far removed from anarchism.” (p. 151) (Personally I do not say that people who call themselves anarchists, but with whom I otherwise disagree, are not anarchists, nor am I interested in “proving” that what I propose is anarchist. ) In any case, this is an odd attack coming from someone who is willing to consider “endorsing” or “supporting” the Palestinians’ demand for their own state (a demand on the Israeli and U.S. states).
Anarchists have often made demands on the state, such as to stop waging specific wars or to release prisoners. And we have made demands on capitalists, as in fighting for union recognition or better working conditions. Refusing to make demands on the state or on the capitalists may sound very radical (as if they care whether anarchists give them “recognition and legitimation”!) but it is a reformist cop-out, an abdication of the struggle.
Gordon is so upset that I denied the humanity of Israeli Jews (which I did not do), that I wondered if he would be as concerned about the humanity of other oppressors. And he is! He quotes the revolutionary anarchist Errico Malatesta, “The slave is always in a state of legitimate defense and consequently, his [note] violence against the boss, against the oppressor, is always morally justifiable.” (quoted on p. 100) However, Malatesta added that violence should be “controlled” by taking into account “human effort and human sufferings.” (same)
Gordon reacts by noting that the modern worker, even though exploited, is not the same as a chattel slave (true, but irrelevant to Malatesta’s point). He then writes that Malatesta is seeking “a convenient way to dehumanize ‘class enemies’ for the sole purpose of making the violation of persons more palatable.” (p.100) This is in spite of the fact that Gordon does not come out for absolute pacifism in his discussion of violence and non-violence (chapter 4).
What Gordon wants to emphasize is the humanity of the exploiter. Yet oppressors have never suffered from a lack of defenders. It is the slaves, the workers, and the oppressed nations who need defenders—or more precisely, comrades.
Which Side Are You On?I think that Uri Gordon expresses well the dilemma of anarchists in dealing with national liberation struggles. He looks for ways to be for the oppressed nation of Palestine while remaining true to his anti-statist and anti-capitalist convictions. While respecting his motives, and sharing them, I do not think that he succeeds. I suggest an alternate approach based on defending national self-determination while opposing nationalism.
Unfortunately, his thought-provoking discussion is marred by intemperate attacks on my opinions. His reaction is apparently due to his over-sensitivity toward the interests of oppressors (such as the Israeli Jews or the capitalists—his examples). He objects to the idea that we should be “siding with the Palestinians.” By his own account, then, Gordon does not stand unequivocally on the side of the oppressed, the exploited, and the wretched of the earth.
Gordon, Uri (2008). Anarchy alive! London/Ann Arbor: Pluto Press.
Price, Wayne (2006). Lessons for the Anarchist Movement of the Isreali-Lebanese War; The Anarchist Debate About National Liberation
Written for www.Anarkismo.net
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Excellent piece Wayne, good to se you back, hope you are faring well. By the way, if you found the time, remember the suggestion for a subject (statizations, workers control, transitional programs, strategy, etc) I sent you a while back.
This is an interesting piece on an important subject for the anarchist movement. I want to give my thoughts as plainly and simply as possible, hopefully without causing confusion over certain points (as always seems to happen, unfortunately). So to start with....
I suspect the source of Uri Gordon's reaction to Wayne's "secondary" comment is not based on his "taking sides" but rather on the clearly dehumanizing implications of this comment. Again, to quote Wayne: “…Israel is the oppressor and the Palestinian Arabs are the oppressed. Therefore anarchists, and all decent people, should be on the side of the Palestinians. Criticisms of their leaderships or their methods of fighting are all secondary; so is recognition that the Israeli Jews are also people and also have certain collective rights. The first step, always, is to stand with the oppressed as they fight for their freedom.” While I assume all Wayne is meaning to say, is that the Palestinians' oppression has to be addressed first before the issue can be dealt with fairly (?), the choice of wording to make Israelis' humanity "secondary" is absolutely awful and also flat out stupid, given how it begs to be twisted and misunderstood. I do not mean this as an insult to Wayne, simply as a needed harsh criticism and also as an explanation as to why somebody (let alone and Israeli, not to mention anarchists who ought to be aware how easily the "oppressed" turns into the "oppressor" as indeed happened with oppressed Jews!) would react against that statement in the way that Uri Gordon seems to. Even if you are not a pacifist (I certainly am not), it is all the more pertinent to recognize and insist on the humanity of the so-called "oppressor nation" (a very different matter from individual oppressors) if you do not want end up as criminal and an oppressor yourself. Unless Wayne's own criticism of terrorist tactics is entirely "tactical," if it is a moral criticism (which it most certainly ought to be), then he should surely recognize this.
As for Wayne's proposal "unequivocally" take the side of the oppressor against the oppressed -- it is a fine sentiment, but it does seem a bit crudely applied if it is contorted into a simplistic attitude about every conflict, or as well into "supporting" (despite criticizing) the "choice" of the oppressed to support a new oppression. Again, has Wayne forgotten how this same rationale allowed so many to excuse or ignore similar errors in Zionism, and crimes of Zionists, out of sympathy for Jews who were oppressed? The fact is, much as the oppressor today does not need "defenders," nor are Palestinians helplessly waiting on support from anarchists, and like all oppressed people they will defend themselves without our "approval." So our dilemma is not primarily how to support "the Palestinian struggle" but rather how to add to that struggle. Inevitably, the significance of adding will depend on the presence of an actual movement with which we can relate, as well as on the value of our own contributions. (Similarly, anarchists had no need to "support" the oppressive government of North Vietnam, or the thuggery of some elements of the Viet Cong guerrillas; but it certainly would not prevent anarchists from resisting the U.S. colonial project or from supporting the right of Vietnamese to take up arms against it as well.)
Our concer should be this: first, to establish clearly what the conflict is, who are "oppressed" and who are "oppressors" (sometimes one and the same, as in a case like Hamas and also of individual Israelis, despite Wayne's once-again awfully phrased sentence at the end about "oppressors .. such as the Israeli Jews" etc.), what are the conditions etc. etc.; and second, how can anarchism contribute to the struggle against oppression, standing on its own force and becoming truly a weapon of all the oppressed against every oppression. In this case, extremely complicated and difficult as it is, the simple idea remains necessary and all the more relevant to drive on the struggle of Palestinians without turning into a new oppressor. Anarchism will either be an autonomous force, or it will be nothing at all. So to my mind, the only sensible response of anarchists to the Palestinian struggle can be to support the struggles against oppression in Palestine, but not ever subordinating to or "supporting" the oppressive forces of nationalism, fundamentalism and so on -- rather, insisting on and beginning to develop an autonomous, free and revolutionary practice of organization and struggle toward social self-direction, which any program of statism or fundamentalism is absolutely incapable of doing.
(Note, my apologies for any confusions, errors or the like as I am writing rather in a rush and do not have time at the moment to edit.)
On the margin of Wayne article
“…Israel is the oppressor and the Palestinian Arabs are the oppressed. Therefore anarchists, and all decent people, should be on the side of the Palestinians".
From a true fact one can conclude many things.
Just an example: The Serbians were bombed and massacred by the Nato forces, but they - as organized community massacred Bosnians and Cosovars, who did the same to the Serbs when they could.
On the east the old wisdom is expressed in the riddle: "what is the sound of clapping of one hand?"
The true anarchist (and humanist) opinion would be that on every case we oppose the oppressor, regardless if we endorse the actions of the oppressed or not.
Israel is the oppressor and the Palestinian Arabs are the oppressed. Therefore anarchists, and all decent people, should be AGAINST ISRAELI oppression.
"Criticisms of their leaderships or their methods of fighting are all secondary"...
I do not think that organizing opinion about a complex situation can be linear.
Criticism of their leaderships or their methods of fighting are not "primary" and not "secondary"... it is just on a different dimension.
" so is recognition that the Israeli Jews are also people and also have certain collective rights...."
Here I disagree with both Wayne and Uri.... "Rights" is a concept of the capitalist ideology.
Us anarchists have more comprehensive approach to human beings: Freedom & Equality & Solidarity.
We support the self organizing of collectives not because it is their "right" but because it may be an expression of the Freedom & Equality & Solidarity principles. When a society or collective is self organizing but not respecting Freedom & Equality & Solidarity for all - they step out of our boundary of support.
"The first step, always, is to stand with the oppressed as they fight for their freedom.”
Not if like the Taliban who fought against the Soviet oppressors in order to be free to oppress their own women.
As for Uri Gordon book, it is just a Ph.D. dissertation of a not yet ripe anarchist.
Uri made a long way since serving in the army radio station as conscript.
He never was a member of a serious anarchist collective, and he still improving....
“Asking all decent people to see someone else’s humanity and collective rights as secondary to anything—whatever this is, this is not anarchism…."
As I wrote above I do not accept the concept of "right" in any way. Some one else’s humanity and collective actions are measured against our main principles of Freedom & Equality & Solidarity. There is no such absolute unconditional humanity and collective "rights" in disregard to adhering to Freedom & Equality & Solidarity for all.
"This kind of attitude has become…a typically leftist form of Judeophobia or anti-Semitism.”
To object to the "right" of Jews as a collective to do things that are in contradiction to for all is NOT Judeophobia or anti-Semitism.
"Which Side Are You On?
I think that Uri Gordon expresses well the dilemma of anarchists in dealing with national liberation struggles. He looks for ways to be for the oppressed nation of Palestine while remaining true to his anti-statist and anti-capitalist convictions. While respecting his motives, and sharing them, I do not think that he succeeds".
I think both Uri and Wayne are complicating things because they regard some extra "rights" to national entities.
Wayne tend to support their struggle against the oppressor regardless of their line of actions.
Uri tend to regard the Israeli Jews as having national "rights", regardless of their abuse of the non respecting of the principles of Freedom & Equality & Solidarity to all.
By the way, the old antiauthoritarian anticapitalist Matzpen predicted that only socialist revolution in the whole
region will be able to solve the Zionist-Palestinian conflict.
The Israeli Anarchists do not support one or two states. As for practical solutions worth struggling for, the struggle against occupation, settler colonialism and discriminations against the Palestinians are good enough... without slipping to nationalist urges and solutions.
Just as the majority of Palestinians who are Israeli citizens prefer to stay Israeli second rate citizens over annexing to the would be Palestinian state, so most of the Palestinians of the 1967 occupied territories would gladly accept any solution that will enable them to integrate in modern economy that will solve the refugee problem.
(Be it as integration with any neighboring state and not just one state or two states.)
" I suggest an alternate approach based on defending national self-determination while opposing nationalism."
"National self-determination" rings as allocating a qualitative endorsement to a pseudo nationalist entity.
I adhere to my "sound of one hand clapping" - objecting to suppression of individuals and communities along nationalist characteristics, without any positive regard to such nationalist characteristics entity.
Wayne, thanks very much for your article and for giving a fresh insight on the anarchist-taboo issue of national liberation... it is great to see you back with a revenge and certainly thought-provoking articles like yours are much needed (there's nothing I find more useless than those who only repeat the same old safe places & clichés and prefer to ignore uneasy problems of the real world).
I want to emphasize a point that no matter how much we stress, never seems to be quite understood: the fact that we support the right to a people to resist a brutal occupation does not mean that we endorse every aspect of their political views. It only means that the fact that the existence of colonial projects are completely and utterly unacceptable, they exacerbate exploitation that may already be there, and they add an extra layer of oppression to those that the average occupied and colonised people have already to put up with: it is often understated how much colonialism in fact stregthens conservative tendencies in society. The rise of the Taliban would have been unthinkable without the Soviet invasion in the '80s or look at Iraq or even Gaza -Hamas would have not been possible without the brutal Zionist occupation. So I think that de-colonisation in the long term helps get rid of these conservative tendencies some liberal -and unfortunately some anarchists behind them- seem to be really "worried" about as long as they are held by those resisting colonialism or occupation -for all the talk on how bad the Taliban are, there's not much talk on the fact that Karzai's government with US support have made the situation of women in Afghanistan worse than it ever was, hard as this is to imagine.
And supporting a "right" to resist colonialism is quite a futile intellectual game if we don't support this "right" when applied in practice -that is, when people take up arms to fight the colonial oppressors (I make this distinction for it is obvious that an oppressed person can be an oppressor at times -a unionised worker can beat up his wife but it does not mean that when that man is on strike I will not support him! And likewise, it does not mean that I will support his brutal domestic behaviour because I support his right to strike. This argument seems quite obvious to me, but in anarchist circles we can't ever take anything for granted). Every single armed struggle has aspects that are unpleasant and although revolutionaries need to be clear in the importance of a clear ethical behaviour when conducting the struggle (not to torture prisoners, prevent attacks on civilians, etc.) the more desperate your struggle is, the more you will resort to brutal actions -but the main responsible here remains the occupiers and the colonialists. The war of indepedence in Haiti was a glorious event, and yet unspeakable acts of cruelty were committed by the former slaves against the white masters and their families -this does not make me for a second condemn the slaves that were just responding to the brutality of their own existence. Compared to the brutality of the oppression they had to endure, the brilliant CLR James states in his seminal work "the Black Jacobins":
"And yet they were surprisingly moderate, then and afterwards, far more humane than their masters had been or would ever be to them. They did not mantain their revengeful spirit for long (ie. Bakunin makes a similar point saying that revolutions unleash passions and that is unavoidable and that brutal retaliation will exist as long as oppression does -but that this passions are unacceptable in the process of construction of socialism). The cruelties of property and privilege are always more ferocious than the revenges of poverty and oppression. For the one aims at perpetuating resented injustice, the other is merely a momentary passion soon appeased".
I think it is impossible to be any clearer. And yet many anarchists are far tougher with the oppressed Plaestinians kept like starving hamsters in a cage, in their own homeland, than they are to the Zionist colonialist project. Some anarchists to play fair on "both sides", show equal outrage about 3 dead Israelis than they do about 1,300 massacred captive Palestinians (and this only shows you how cheap Palestinians are!) - this sort of logic is acceptable to liberal organisations like Amnesty, NOT for revolutionary anarchists -or pretending to be revolutionaries anyway.
Talking about oppressed and oppressors, Kevin makes the point that you can be both, and I believe that 90% of humanity is in that condition -indeed, an Afghan woman, no matter how oppressed she is, can still beat the crap out of her children. The thing is if you agree in her or his struggle against one form of oppression, that does not mean you support her or his oppression of others. But you need to do the walk before doing the talk: if I stand unequivocally on the side of the Palestinians on their right to self-determination and this means that there's a bridge from where I can address other issues. He talks on Zionist having been oppressed -well, my opposition to nazism and to the victimisation of European Jewish did not mean I had to endorse their "right" to displace and occupy other population, by the way completely unrelated to the Holocaust, in order to create a Sectarian and militaristic State. In the same sense, the fact that I support the right of any Palestinian to resist Zionism (and I mean ANY Palestinian, even those Palestinians that are not of my liking, or Hamas, or anyone), by all necessary means, including armed struggle, it does not mean that I support their view on gay rights for instance. And it does not mean that I endorse enthusiastically every single action they carry. I don't know why is this so hard to understand.
At the time of the Nazi occupation of Europe, the resistance, composed of the left and Jewish people, they resorted to "terrorist" methods to fight the Nazis -and yes, they included bombings of cafes and others attacks to civilians that we would not be quite enthusiastic about. Yet, no one would have equated the Resistance to the Nazis. Everyone understood that the blame was on the Nazis' side and that those regrettable circumstances were the product of a bitter struggle against a bitter enemy. Why we expect the Palestinians or any other occupied people to behave somehow differently?
Neither does it mean to support the right to self-determination to support a nation statist agenda. Indeed, particularly in Latin American indigenous populations there's a number of national liberation movements that want autonomy and they reclaim non-statis forms of organisation, community based, as their right to self-determination. I was surprised to talk with Kurdish people recently and finding a similar approach (they call Democratic Confederalism), and as a Kurdish anarchist comrade mentiones to me recently, "the tragedy of all this is that the Kurdish movement is far more open to anarchism than the Turkish anarchists are to Kurds". At the moment I'm reading Basil Davidson's "the Black Man's Burden" on the question of African de-colonisation and shed some light in the same direction. Yet, what I'm saying should not be taken as if I'm proposing that we should tell others how to conduct their struggle of what their objectives should be. All I'm saying is that the national liberation could not unavoidable lead you to nation-statism, and I'm saying that while you are in solidarity with people resisting an occupation unexpected doors can be open and only then your ideas will be taken seriously by others.
Particularly in the context of the War on Terror, when all forms of resistance have been turned into a "crime" and huge sections of the population are buying into the fact that you can only oppose the new world order by pleading for mercy to your oppressors, I think it is particularly necessary for anarchists not to be equivocal in putting the blame of the current conflicts and violence raging not only in the Middle East, but also Asia and Latin America on the new aggressive neo-colonialism growing in the 21st century. And I think that Wayne's approach comes like rain in the desert!
Thanks to the positive comments by Javier, whom I owe a lengthy essay at some time) and to the clear remarks, with which I fully agree, by Jose Antonio.
In responding to Kevin and Ilan, it is important to distinguish between stylistic issues (matters of formulation) and the political content.
Kevin writes, of my "awful" and "stupid" statements, " I suspect the source of Uri Gordon's reaction to Wayne's "secondary" comment is not based on his "taking sides" but rather on the clearly dehumanizing implications of this comment." On the contrary, Gordon's disagreement with me is precisely over the issue of whether to "take side" with the Palestinians, to "support " or "defend" them againsts the Israeli state, and to be "in solidarity" with them (pick whatever formulation you prefer; the point is the same). Of course, I do not mean that every Palestinian is a better person than every Israel Jew; I am talking about collectivities, that Israeli Jews and their Zionist state oppress the Palestinian people.
The proof of my interpretation of Gordon's views is that he has the very same over-the-top reaction to Malestata's defense of slaves and workers against their bosses (as I quote them). Here too, Gordon is full of concern for the humanity of the masters and bosses and their agents and denounces what he takes to be Malatesta's evil motives.
Ilan has a thing about the use of the word "rights," which he has raised before, even when I try not to set him off by instead referring to "freedom" (as in "the freedom of national self-determinationzz"). This is a tenth-rate issue. Of course, I do not mean that people have "rights" provided by God or engraved in the heavens. I mean that, in my set of values, in my view of social and political morality , I think that people should not be controlled by other nations but have the opportunity to chose how they want their nation to be organized. If Ilan does not want to call this a right, then use some other term. It does not affect the issue.
Ilan refers to the Taliban. Well, I am not for the Taliban. I am for the Afghan people having the right to determine their own future. It is up to them to settle with the Taliban. I distinguish between the people of Afghanistan and the Taliban.
As for Uri Gordon's book, it is not just a Ph.D. thesis,, as Ilan says it is an influential book these days.I may write a critique of the rest of the book some time soon.
First, I do apologize again for the rushed nature of the last comment, and inevitably confusion over a couple of my remarks. I thought it was worth posting anyway to get the exchange going, while I could clarify some points later (i.e. now).
Wayne is quite right to distinguish stylistic formulations from political content. Something I point out last time, maybe not sufficiently, is that I was actually denouncing Wayne's sentiment itself, or indeed criticizing this whole article. By and large I agree with it, as it hits some important points quite hard which cannot be done enough these days. So I like the article and agree with Wayne's point that the priority for us, as anarchists, should be to support the Palestinian struggle against Israeli state-oppression, which clearly is the biggest source of oppression in Palestine. Nonetheless, I feel that simplistic attitudes about a complicated issue like the Palestinian conflict will always fuel even more confusion, misdirection and inevitably serious errors. It also cannot be stressed enough, as it ought to be with every struggle or revolution the danger of "the oppressed" becoming "the oppressor." The Serbian example is quite apt in my opinion, as one in which claims about national oppression etc. were used on every nearly every side to hide or excuse their own atrocities. Similarly, the single-minded focus in Afghanistan on the evils of the Soviet invasion, and later the Taliban, have been used to cover up and ignore the unbelievable atrocities of "mujahadeen" thugs against the Afghan people, which the U.S. has conveniently neglected to legitimize their support for those thugs.
All of that said, I remain fully in agreement with the basic point, that should go without saying for any anarchist, that oppressed people have the right and necessity to fight back against their oppression, and I do not aline at all with hypocritical "pacifist" excuses for oppression through denouncing armed resistance. But I insist, at every point, anarchist principles must not ever be crudely reduced to "defending," in this case for instance, a Palestinian resistance that frankly has no no need and has never asked for our approval. Rather, as I already stated before, our concern has to be how to add to that struggle so that anarchism can stand up on its own force instead of being shoved into the sidelines of every struggle. (Note here, I like quite a lot Bonanno's essays in "Palestine, mon amour" for this very reason; and surely no one can accuse him of not supporting the Palestinians!)
I do apologize again if my other comment came off as insulting ("stupid" and "awful"), as this was not meant to insult Wayne or even directed a the whole of the article; simply making clear what I thought the problem was with the comment in question (that is, its wording) by way of contrasting with a basic content which I more-or-less agree with. As for Gordon's contention with it, I am not sure and I make no claim to know -- only I can guess based on how Wayne has described his writing, which seemed to indicate some confusion on Gordon's part over supporting the Palestinians while considering even Malatesta's statement (which is spot on, in my opinion) to be too "dehumanizing" of "class enemies."
Jose wrote: 'Talking about oppressed and oppressors, Kevin makes the point that you can be both, and I believe that 90% of humanity is in that condition -indeed, an Afghan woman, no matter how oppressed she is, can still beat the crap out of her children. The thing is if you agree in her or his struggle against one form of oppression, that does not mean you support her or his oppression of others. But you need to do the walk before doing the talk: if I stand unequivocally on the side of the Palestinians on their right to self-determination and this means that there's a bridge from where I can address other issues. He talks on Zionist having been oppressed -well, my opposition to nazism and to the victimisation of European Jewish did not mean I had to endorse their "right" to displace and occupy other population, by the way completely unrelated to the Holocaust, in order to create a Sectarian and militaristic State. In the same sense, the fact that I support the right of any Palestinian to resist Zionism (and I mean ANY Palestinian, even those Palestinians that are not of my liking, or Hamas, or anyone), by all necessary means, including armed struggle, it does not mean that I support their view on gay rights for instance.'
This is clearly missing my point, seeing as I do stand on the side of Palestinian self-determination and absolutely oppose Israeli colonialism, as also I support the right of "any" Palestinian to resist. On my mention of Zionism, to quote again what I said before: 'Again, has Wayne forgotten how this same rationale allowed so many to excuse or ignore similar errors in Zionism, and crimes of Zionists, out of sympathy for Jews who were oppressed?' Clearly, my point here is to highlight the irresponsibility of "unequivocal" support for any resistance movement, if it precludes denouncing the crimes and oppression perpetrated by the same movement. For instance, my support for the resistance against Nazism does not preclude me from denouncing American war crimes, or Stalinist oppression. Similarly today, I can support the Palestinian resistance while denouncing attacks on civilians, or the oppressive regimes of Fatah and Hamas; and I insist that not to do so would be irresponsibe. The last point in particular (oppressive regimes), seems to me necessary if anarchists ever hope to play a meaningful part in mass resistance movements. I do not understand what is so controversial about this.
The objection to the use of the concepts of "right" and "right to self-determination" is not just a whim. The AAtW join the struggle of the Palestinians not to protect their "rights" (written somewhere) but to oppose Israeli infringement on the quality of their lives.
We oppose the occupation not because it infringes on "the right to self-determination" but because we are in Solidarity with the objection to infringement by Israel and others of their Freedom and Equality.
The term "right to self-determination" is too loaded with the idea of independence for states along national borders.
The objection to colonial/imperialist infringing on the freedom of populations and support for their struggles against it is not dedicated from any list of "rights" - it is just the application of our anarchist principles of Solidarity & Freedom & Equality. (The more we use our concepts the less our positions will be confused.)
We have our own opinions about the specific activities of the oppressed Palestinians... but expressing them can easily be taken out of context...
"And supporting a "right" to resist colonialism is quite a futile intellectual game if we don't support this "right" when applied in practice. "
Another reason not to use these abstract concepts of "rights" and "self determination".... We do not support the "right" of the Palestinians to resist Zionist settler colonialism - we do support and join the struggle of the Palestinian resistance to Zionist settler colonialism.
Returning again to Wayne's original article:
"As he notes, (Uri) most Palestinians want their own state next to Israel."
No they do not.
They agree to compromise with Israel in order to get rid of the occupation, but what they really want is the return of the refugees to Israel which will disable it from being a Jewish state. One state is the wish of most of the Palestinians. (Most of them do not want to expel the Jews.)
"He worries that anarchist opposition to this demand could be seen as “paternalism,” saying that we know what is good for the Arabs better than they do. More significantly, he is concerned that opposition to a Palestinian state leaves anarchists with nothing positive to say, except that Palestinians need anarchism."
Our position that we do not support states of any kind is accepted by our Palestinian partners. For them, the main concern is the end of Zionist settler colonialism. For them, the basis for cooperation with us is that we join the struggle against the separation fence and occupation with our bodies. (If they got the option to return to Jordanian and Egyptian rule they would accept it. If they got the option for one democratic state for all its inhabitants they would accept that too...)
The position of the old antiauthoritarian anticapitalist Matzpen for a non statist socialist revolution of the East of the Mediterranean Sea was accepted as legit also by those who wanted a Palestinian state.
"Shall anarchists say that we refuse to support the Palestinians’ struggle against a brutal national oppression until the Palestinians see the light and oppose states and capitalism? "
A really absurd choice of alternatives. No Israeli radical conditions the struggle against brutal oppression of the Palestinians on their position on any subject.
The fourth option of Uri is really the good anarchist position I am sure Uri share with me.
His choice of presenting it this way is for style critics.
"Support for self-determination" rings a different tune than out of solidarity we defend Palestinians struggle against Israeli domination... and it does not imply we support every solution they want, because they want it. We do not struggle against any of their choices, even if we as anarchists would not make this choice, but we do not have to support it either.
Uri criticized Wayne:
"“…Israel is the oppressor and the Palestinian Arabs are the oppressed. Therefore anarchists, and all decent people, should be on the side of the Palestinians. Criticisms of their leaderships or their methods of fighting are all secondary; so is recognition that the Israeli Jews are also people and also have certain collective rights. The first step, always, is to stand with the oppressed as they fight for their freedom.” (quoted on p. 150)
The above smells of unconditional support. Rephrasing it into:
“…Israel is the oppressor and the Palestinian Arabs are the oppressed. Therefore anarchists, and all decent people, should be against Israel. Criticisms of the Palestinian leaderships or their methods of fighting are not putting in question the objection to the Israeli oppression. "
Wayne's sentence: "so is the recognition that the Israeli Jews are also people and also have certain collective rights" or "that Israeli Jews are people and that they should have certain collective rights" is entirely out of my anarchist spectrum. I do not accept any national collective as an entity with life of its own with "rights".
The principles of Solidarity & Freedom & Equality do not exclude the options of association of people along any lines of definition of their choice, even a nationalist one. But the principles of Solidarity & Freedom & Equality are applied to the people themselves and not to any entity they form.
The wish of the Israeli Jews that no one will infringe on their Freedom & Equality, does not allocate them any additional benefits because they are different from the Palestinians or define themselves as a nation.
I do not see that from the fact that the Israeli Jews are also people it thereby follows that they/we also have certain collective "rights", that are not already within the general principle of Freedom & Equality for all.
(In the name of the "right for national self determination" for the Israeli Jews to have their own state, they object to the return of the Palestinian refugees that will disable the option of one Jewish nation state.)
And Wayne again
"I suggest an alternate approach based on defending national self-determination while opposing nationalism".
Words can express any meaning we want them.. but defending national self-determination while opposing "nationalism" rings as logical contradiction. Of course, Wayne will say that the concept of "national self-determination" is not within "nationalism" entity... but the common meaning of national self-determination and self-determination of a people IS within the nationalist domain.
Kevin raises the point that the oppressed (or part of them) can become oppressors. Yes, this is one reason we do not support nationalism. It is a reason why most anarchists and Marxists opposed Zionism even before it won its state. It is why I specificalliy criticized Gordon in the article for supporting or endorsing a Palestinian state.
Kevin writes, "my point here is to highlight the irresponsibility of "unequivocal" support for any resistance movement, if it precludes denouncing the crimes and oppression perpetrated by the same movement." Yeah, but being clearly and forthrightly and unequivocallly on the side of the Palestinian people against their oppressors does not (in my opinion, which is what we were discussiing) preclude denouncing....etc. In fact, my article rather insisted on such denunciation, didn't it?
"For instance, my support for the resistance against Nazism does not preclude me from denouncing American war crimes, or Stalinist oppression." A poor analogy, since US imperialism and Stalinist Russian imperialisms are imperialists, even though they opposed Nazism. This is a big topic, but it is not the same as being on the side of an oppressed nation against imperialism.
"I do not understand what is so controversial about this." But Kevin, you are the one who brought it up.
I still do not get Ilan's extreme rejection of the language of "rights." In any case, it is not rights he objects to but national self-determination. Apprently he does not believe that the Palestinians are a collective people. And it they were, he would not support their making a collective decision about how they wanted to organize themselves. This is really what we disagree about, not the use of "rights."
BTW, I do not support the right of the Israeli people to self-determination, since they have the state and social system they "want" and it involves the oppression of another people. Self-determination is only an issue for an oppressed nation, not oppressor nations.
Nationalism is just an inflated and abused version of the natural tendency of humans to affiliate and build communities.
"I still do not get Ilan's extreme rejection of the language of "rights"."
I object to the use of "rights" because it is of the capitalist liberal jargon and logic. Liberty and equality are principles we want to apply not because of any metaphysical sphere.
"In any case, it is not rights he objects to but national self-determination. Apprently he does not believe that the Palestinians are a collective people."
Facts are facts. We may want to change them but better not ignore them. I know that people are regrouping according to many characteristics - including religious and nationalism. They are free to do that as long as they do not infringe on freedom, equality and solidarity. I just refuse to allocate such groupings any benefit in addition to what is becoming to the individuals include within it already.
As what are the definition of collective - it is a different question.
As a cosmopolitan I regard the organization along national characters as divisive. It may have some positive value in the recruitment to struggle against suppression direct toward the specific population that have national characteristics.
"And it they were, he would not support their making a collective decision about how they wanted to organize themselves."
Collective decisions are fine... but where you have free and equal decisions in a broad mass of people in the colonial/capitalist environment.
"This is really what we disagree about, not the use of "rights.""
The use of "rights" is of the same family of generalization as national/self determination.
If you get into the details you will find that the level of freedom and equality involved in the national domain is no better than that which is involved in capitalist national election...
Why should the support we give the Palestinians oppressed by the Zionist settler colonialist project against the occupation be labeled nationalist? Why do objecting to Israeli rule and joining the struggle against it need to be labeled as support for the "right for national self determonation".
(In spite of any nationalist patriotism, the overwhelming majority of Israeli Jews and the Palestinians would prefer better economic life level in Europe and America over the citizenship of their national state. )
In general we should support/defend resistance against state oppression and imperialism etc.
We need to further clarification of the term and idea of 'national liberation movement' because it is very ambigous. What sort of nlm are we talking about? What is its structure and relationship between various tendencies? For example, using the example of Ireland- would we be talking about anarchists joining the IRA and INLA which were the embodiment of the 'nlm' here? Did the Makno movement even describes themselves are participating in the national liberation movement? I dont think they did. As far as Im aware there was a social revolution which involved resisting the Bolsheviks, Germans etc.
What Im trying to say is that for me participation in 'national liberation struggles' depends on whether it will advance anarchist ideas and methods of struggles. Participation depends on local dynamics and logistics, allies and the wider political and social conditions. Put simply Palestine is different to Haiti and like-wise the situation in Ireland. ie. It would pure madness for any anarchist movement- post-1969 in the North to have thrown themselves behind the 'national liberation struggle', in terms of a negative step in pushing anarchist ideas and building working-class unity and strength.
I agree with Sean (above) as far as treating "national liberation" on a case-by-case basis. The question, of course, is whether Palestine is a case for anarchists to support and/or take part in the "national liberation movement," and if so, how. For my part, I think "national liberation" should be looked at as a context for the movement, in struggling against colonialism, and an a potential vehicle for social revolution.
Wayne wrote: 'Kevin raises the point that the oppressed (or part of them) can become oppressors. Yes, this is one reason we do not support nationalism. It is a reason why most anarchists and Marxists opposed Zionism even before it won its state. It is why I specificalliy criticized Gordon in the article for supporting or endorsing a Palestinian state.
Kevin writes, "my point here is to highlight the irresponsibility of "unequivocal" support for any resistance movement, if it precludes denouncing the crimes and oppression perpetrated by the same movement." Yeah, but being clearly and forthrightly and unequivocallly on the side of the Palestinian people against their oppressors does not (in my opinion, which is what we were discussiing) preclude denouncing....etc. In fact, my article rather insisted on such denunciation, didn't it?'
Certainly, I am "unequivocally" opposed to the Israeli state, military occupation, crimes against humanity and so on. But that does not make me an "unequivocal" supporter of, for instance, a Hamas partisan simply because he fights against Israel, nor Fatah, nor any other party or movement in Palestine. But those are the real "sides" that exist. No one simply fights against Israel, they fight for a "new" Palestine, and over what the "new" Palestine will be. Specifically, there are a number of Palestinian groups, parties, movements etc. who sometimes even fight each other, kill each other, and more often than not also oppress "the Palestinian people" (though not, ordinarily, as much Israel does). So talking about "unequivocal support for the Palestinian people against their oppressors" ... would include "support" against the main Palestinian movements (primarily, Hamas and Fatah).
(Note also, that by opposing Zionism anarchists did not stand "unequivocally" on the side of the oppressed Jews.... Does that mean we did not support Jewish liberation?)
All of that said, I still agree with your basic point here, in that one cannot legitimately claim to argue for "true liberation" of Palestine unless they support a free Palestine in the first place, not demanding "perfection" from Palestinians as a condition for their liberation. Besides that, I do not need to "unequivocally support" a group of people, like Hamas, in order to sympathize with their struggle.
'"For instance, my support for the resistance against Nazism does not preclude me from denouncing American war crimes, or Stalinist oppression." A poor analogy, since US imperialism and Stalinist Russian imperialisms are imperialists, even though they opposed Nazism. This is a big topic, but it is not the same as being on the side of an oppressed nation against imperialism.'
Nazi Germany invaded the USSR, butchered millions of "Soviet" people (Jews, Esthonians, Ukrianians, Russians etc.), occupied huge areas -- this all sounds a lot to me like an "oppressed nation against imperialism." (Being an imperialist country does not prevent you from also being oppressed and fighting against imperialism; e.g. Kurds are oppressed by Iraq, but today Iraq is occupied which anarchists oppose.) That aside, would Palestine not also be an "oppressed nation" if were only oppressed by Palestinians (which, in fact, it frequently is, e.g. Fatah or Hamas)? This seems like a given to me, certainly for an anarchist.
Apprently he [Ilan] does not believe that the Palestinians are a collective people. And it they were, he would not support their making a collective decision about how they wanted to organize themselves.[....]
BTW, I do not support the right of the Israeli people to self-determination, since they have the state and social system they "want" and it involves the oppression of another people. Self-determination is only an issue for an oppressed nation, not oppressor nations.'
Nationalist gibberish. This talk about "collective peoples" and "national self-determination" is no different than typical mystifications of nationalism. I support social self-direction by Palestinians, a free Palestine, including also Jewish people in Palestine. I do not support a "Jewish state" or an "Arab state" or anything similar, regardless how popular it might be. Are Palestinians who "want" a state and social system involving oppression of their own people also not worthy of self-determination, not to mention your "unequivocal support"...?
Indeed, if, as according to you, "self-determination" does not equte to outright nationalism or statism, then surely when you say you don't support the "right of the Israeli people to self-determination" does this mean Israelis (i.e. Palestinian Jews) should become an "occupied people"...? Again, nationalist gibberish veering towards racist "collective punishment." Does it surprise you when this is labelled as anti-Semitic? (How many times are we accused of anti-Semitism by opposing a "country for Jews"?) I'm not saying you are actually racist here, but I think your grasp on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is rather childish, or at least lacking any kind of historical perspective.
Sorry, in the last comment I wrote: "... I think your grasp on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is rather childish, or at least lacking any kind of historical perspective." I apologize as this statement is both rude and also unclear. First, again, overall I agree with the points you raise in this article (which was also very well-written), so I am not trying to insult you at all; nor do I claim to have an infallible perspective on Israel/Palestine. So, secondly, I should specify the point I was trying (poorly) to emphasize inthe above quotation, which is the extreme complexity of the Palestinian conflict that, despite clearly marking (for us) the Palestinians as a being oppressed by Israel, nonetheless cannot be simplistically addressed as in your remark about Israelis not deserving self-determination (not entirely sure what you mean by that, anyway) without fueling even more harm and problems. The whole historical background to Israel, as I see it, requires a more empathetic dealing and a more complex grasp than simplistic nationalist rhetoric allows for.
There’s a lot being said, a lot I agree and disagree with, but I’ll try to avoid quoting extensively others and limiting myself to the arguments exposed, as I see there’s a number of misconceptions and distortions, as well as genuine disagreement, along the way that need further clarification. I’ll only quote Kevin a bit, because he raises important issues that reflect very well the points of contention.
National Liberation and Nationalism
First of all, I think we are confusing the concept of national liberation with nationalism. National liberation is not the same thing as nationalism: while the first means that any human community has a right to be independent, autonomous and not part of a larger community in which they feel in disadvantage (ultimately, meaning the need to end any form of occupation of one State over a given community), the second means the primacy of this contradiction, which is very real, over other contradictions (ie. Class struggle). In some versions, they would even deny that any other contradiction does indeed exist.
Although Makhno was not a nationalist, to put forward one example, his insurgent army did actually start with the resistance to the Austro-German invaders and they faced it with armed resistance, not with a mere request to the German working class. Of course, this resistance was well before of the massive de-colonisation struggles of the ‘50s, so they could not have elements to think of their struggle as “national liberation”, although nationalism did exist in the Ukraine and they did rightly opposed it.
Anarchism... an end on itslef, or a powerful set of ideas and practices to advance people's struggles?
I oppose the view that we should request from struggles that they “advance” anarchism as such before supporting them. This is a poor and typically autistic (in a political sense) attitude prevalent in anarchist circles that lead towards isolation and sectarianism. I much prefer the recommendation of Carlo Cafiero:
“Don’t wait to take part in a movement which appears with the label of official socialism on it. Every popular movement already carries with it the seeds of the revolutionary socialism: we must take part in it to ensure its growth. A clear and precise ideal of the revolution is formulated only by an infinitesimal minority, and if we wait to take part in a struggle which appears exactly as we have imagined it in our minds, -we shall wait forever. Don’t imitate the dogmatists who ask for the formula before anything else: the people carry the living revolution in their hearts, and we must fight and die with them” (1880)
Anarchist credentials (even if it is only the potential for anarchism) is not a pre-condition for me to decide if a cause is worthwhile fighting or not. The legitimacy of a struggle is determined if the cause if just or not: and the plea of occupied people always is. But by taking part in those struggles, we create a political space for anarchism –we do the talk, then the walk. But waiting for movements that have potential for anarchism to take part only in them, is a futile exercise that leads to a passive stance at odds with the revolutionary stance we should hold. It is up to us to create opportunities for anarchism.
What’s more, I don’t see anarchism as something external to the people, to the working class. I don’t expect struggles just to “advance” anarchism: I see anarchism in a two way relationship with the social movement, not as some method we want to impose over people, but as a revolutionary tool at the service of the exploited and oppressed people, that has a lot to offer, but which is not finished in itself. Through struggle we need to be open to learn from the people in order to make anarchism advance as well. I feel that in any struggle we take part, not only we create a space for anarchism, but we also enhance our anarchism.
Kevin is right in saying that “For my part, I think "national liberation" should be looked at as a context for the movement, in struggling against colonialism, and a potential vehicle for social revolution.” Even if a national liberation struggle does not lead to social revolution, let alone anarchism, I think it is still worthwhile to support, for the same reason that I support, let’s say, feminist struggles, even though most do not have a direct revolutionary result, or even if I disagree with methods, views, etc. But at the shade of most national liberation movements, there’s certainly a real potential for radicalization, but it is necessary to do the talk before the walk. Without a real link to revolutionaries and particularly to anarchists, it is quite difficult that autonomously these movements will develop in a libertarian sense and this makes the presence of anarchists (on the field, on solidarity) more relevant.
What do we mean by unequivocal support
I think it is necessary to insist on one point in particular, and that is of “unequivocal” support. Kevin said I missed the point when I mentioned that 90% of humanity are oppressed but also oppressors (potentially or in real terms) at the same time. I am not missing the point at all, and his further argument only validates what I said. He said that “So talking about "unequivocal support for the Palestinian people against their oppressors" ... would include "support" against the main Palestinian movements (primarily, Hamas and Fatah).” And that is right, AS LONG AS THEY RESIST IMPERIALIST OPPRESSION and only at that point. The fact that I support not only their right to resist the occupation (and the right of any Palestinian for that matter), do not mean I have to join ranks with anyone resisting or that I have to accept other aspects of their programme (including their attitude towards trade unions, women, etc.)
“(Note also, that by opposing Zionism anarchists did not stand "unequivocally" on the side of the oppressed Jews.... Does that mean we did not support Jewish liberation?)” This side note only reinforces the point I’m trying to make. We supported anyone in their fight against Nazism... what does not mean that we had to support their “right” to create a Sectarian State!
To support the struggle of a community against a particular type of oppression do not mean that we have to turn a blind eye to other situations of oppression (a gay person can be a businessman, and still I don't flinch from supporting everyone's right to free sexuality).
It is complex, but is it so to the point we can't draw clear general conclusions?
We know that Israel-Palestine is a complex conflict: but all conflicts are complex (the same could be said of Kurdish, Haitian and Colombian conflicts and thousands more). What you say about self-determination of the Israeli-Jewish would be right only if you mean by it the right that people should have to master their own destiny wherever they are, irrespective if its their place of origin or not (that’s why anarchists propose a federative solution drawn on non-sectarian lines). But you can’t ignore the fact that the Israeli state is basically a colonial-settler project, and therefore to talk about “self-determination” for Israelis is as misleading as talking about self-determination for white-colonialists in South Africa.
But even if this was the case to talk about self-determination, one’s right to self-determination cannot be fulfilled at the expense of another community. That is all the point we are trying to make. And that is the point raised by the history of the formation of the State of Israel: while the Jewish arrived to Palestine they were always welcome until the idea of a Sectarian state, with a Jewish majority, became part of the agenda. Vernon Richards summed it up wonderfully: “Right from the beginning the Arabs had opposed the idea of a Jewish homeland, though they had lived in peace and profitably with early non-Zionist settlers. Their fears were not groundless. With funds from the World Jewry, especially from the wealthy American Jews, land was being bought up in Palestine and the Arab peasant simply driven off”. That’s the context for all further discussion.
Notwithstanding I agree that each case have to be looked in particular -whether is Palestine, or Sri Lanka or whatever- I still think that general conclusions, as guidelines and principles should be extracted. And that's what I find more remarkable of Wayne, that he goes to the core issues behinf individual cases and is developing a consistent anarchist anti-imperialist theory, what is an invaluable contribution to modern anarchism.
Wrapping it up
That said, I actually don’t think there’s a great difference with what you are saying Kevin, and feel that a lot of the discussion revolves around terms (self-determination, self-direction, unequivocal support, etc.). I particularly like when you say: “All of that said, I still agree with your basic point here, in that one cannot legitimately claim to argue for "true liberation" of Palestine unless they support a free Palestine in the first place, not demanding "perfection" from Palestinians as a condition for their liberation. “. Cafiero could not have said it any better.
ps. Kevin, in case you did not know, Wayne himself if a Jew, so please do not resort to the cheap argument of “anti-semitism”... that is completely to miss the point and to mislead discussion by labeling...
First note ... Jose wrote: 'Kevin, in case you did not know, Wayne himself if a Jew, so please do not resort to the cheap argument of “anti-semitism”... that is completely to miss the point and to mislead discussion by labeling...' Sorry if my words were unclear there and in my "backstep" statement: I was not accusing Wayne of anti-Semitism, I was underlining the (in my opinion) serious problems with such a statement as he made about "Israeli self-determination" which, clearly, adds fuel to the pro-Israeli argument that presents it as a free Jewish nation defending itself against Arab aggression, and opponents as anti-Semites who want to send them back into two thousand years of oppression through occupation and dispersal. Unfair as it is, there are plenty of good reasons for Israelis to feel this way, saying they will never be taken again from their homeland, never be occupied again, never again submit to Jewish oppression.... Not sure how to make my point here much clearer, but again, I am not accusing Wayne of anti-Semitism, simply underlining the problems with that statement and why it needs a more empathetic dealing than might ordinarily be considered appropriate in regards to a militaristic colonial state.
More on "complexity" (see above) ... Jose wrote: 'We know that Israel-Palestine is a complex conflict: but all conflicts are complex (the same could be said of Kurdish, Haitian and Colombian conflicts and thousands more). What you say about self-determination of the Israeli-Jewish would be right only if you mean by it the right that people should have to master their own destiny wherever they are, irrespective if its their place of origin or not (that’s why anarchists propose a federative solution drawn on non-sectarian lines). But you can’t ignore the fact that the Israeli state is basically a colonial-settler project, and therefore to talk about “self-determination” for Israelis is as misleading as talking about self-determination for white-colonialists in South Africa.
But even if this was the case to talk about self-determination, one’s right to self-determination cannot be fulfilled at the expense of another community. That is all the point we are trying to make. And that is the point raised by the history of the formation of the State of Israel: while the Jewish arrived to Palestine they were always welcome until the idea of a Sectarian state, with a Jewish majority, became part of the agenda.'
Clearly, I am not arguing for the "right" of Jews to a sectarian colonial state in Palestine. Again, I was questioning the value of Wayne's specific statement about self-determination, referring also (in context) to his previous emphasis that "national self-determination" does equate to nationalism. In short, trying to figure what Wayne means by all these words. Judging from the article itself, and also being familiar enough Wayne's writing elsewhere, I suspect his perspective and mine on the issue are not radically different. But the need for clarity, always crucial, is all the more necessary talking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, not least from simply a pragmatic understanding that without our arguments will be useful only to a tiny number of people, with no meaningful influence either on general perspective of the conflict or, most importantly, on the actual struggle there.
It is maybe worth noting, so my concern here does not seem out place, that since anarchism has recently attained a finger-hold in Palestine by the activities of the "Anarchists Against the Wall" (including Ilan, who posted earlier on this thread as well), the need for clarity, to condition our specific arguments to the complexities of the struggle, to display a proper healthy dose of human empathy -- something lacking from many "perspectives" on Palestine, from the Palestinians themselves have suffered most -- and to put forward a solid, effective program, becomes all the more pertinent to me. So I make criticisms here, not to mark my place as a "detractor" (I consider Wayne a comrade in our movement), but in a constructive intent to push our argument onto firmer ground.
Last notes here ... Jose wrote: 'Anarchist credentials (even if it is only the potential for anarchism) is not a pre-condition for me to decide if a cause is worthwhile fighting or not. The legitimacy of a struggle is determined if the cause if just or not: and the plea of occupied people always is. But by taking part in those struggles, we create a political space for anarchism –we do the talk, then the walk. But waiting for movements that have potential for anarchism to take part only in them, is a futile exercise that leads to a passive stance at odds with the revolutionary stance we should hold. It is up to us to create opportunities for anarchism.'
... and: 'He said that “So talking about "unequivocal support for the Palestinian people against their oppressors" ... would include "support" against the main Palestinian movements (primarily, Hamas and Fatah).” And that is right, AS LONG AS THEY RESIST IMPERIALIST OPPRESSION and only at that point. The fact that I support not only their right to resist the occupation (and the right of any Palestinian for that matter), do not mean I have to join ranks with anyone resisting or that I have to accept other aspects of their programme (including their attitude towards trade unions, women, etc.)'
First, I agree anarchist ideas are not an "end," but a means and weapon, primarily of the oppressed to fight against their oppresion, and secondarily a base of solidarity and comradeship in struggle; so anarchist presence in any struggle should not be a condition for support but, rather, a a driving force and demand for resistance. This is why, as in my first post in particular, I keep stressing the need for a clear and forceful anarchist program, to stand on its own power as a force for resistance and something more than vindicating the right of other parties to resist. Anarchist ideas, to make any sense or have any real place, have to assume a sense of independence and mark out clearly a program that those in struggle can take on as it is useful to them. I hope that makes sense and I myself am being clear. Certainly, I am not trying to attack Wayne's article; on the contrary, I am trying to improve on the essential point that I think all of us are more or less in unity on, that is, what anarchism has to add to the Palestinians' struggle for liberation. I am sorry if I have not properly conveyed this idea throughout my argument.
One other last note ... Jose wrote: 'I think it is necessary to insist on one point in particular, and that is of “unequivocal” support. Kevin said I missed the point when I mentioned that 90% of humanity are oppressed but also oppressors (potentially or in real terms) at the same time. I am not missing the point at all, and his further argument only validates what I said. He said that “So talking about "unequivocal support for the Palestinian people against their oppressors" ... would include "support" against the main Palestinian movements (primarily, Hamas and Fatah).” And that is right, AS LONG AS THEY RESIST IMPERIALIST OPPRESSION and only at that point.' [Etc.....]
This is a fairly coherent and concrete explanation, I think, and one I have no contention with. Clearly none of us disagree with the principle at work here, and so I don't want to continue debating that part; only briefly noting again importance of clear explanation at all times, seeing as a phrase like "unequivocal support" can be different ways, either along the above lines or as a rather irresponsible, uncritical attitude. But clearly neither Wayne nor Jose is adopting this attitude, so I see no point to continue arguing it.
One position that is often taken is the one-state/binational state/no state position. But these appear to basically be an avoidance of some major issues, namely that the Israel/Palestinian conflict is not simply a local conflict, but rather a very broad one, and that has to do with the more than 100 year old problem of the need for Jewish sovereignty due to anti-Jewish persecution. How does an anti-nationalist position address this complicated issue?
To summarize the problem, the central issue at the heart of the Israel/Palestinian conflict (and earlier, the Jewish/Arab conflict) is/was that of open borders for Jewish immigration. The Jewish authorities in Mandate Palestine wanted open borders for Jewish refugees. The Arab authorities rejected it. The British complied with the Arabs' demand in an attempt to stabilize the conflict. This led the Zionists to give up on the binational idea and to support partition (see The Biltmore Program of 1942), because it was with partition that they would be able to keep the borders open for Jewish refugees. Jewish statehood appears to be a result of the struggle for open borders for Jewish refugees (first, fleeing Nazi occupied Europe, and afterwards for those coming from Arab and African countries, and later from the former Soviet States.)
The binational or nonnational proposal doesn't address this issue, does it? The issue being unconditional jewish immigration. Without doing so, the conflict over unconditional immigration would lead to further conflict, likely civil war (again), and re-partition. I know you might think that this is just a cynical position. But I am not speaking about the personal views of Israelis and Palestinians towards one another, but rather of the needs of a, yes "national" group, that appear to be unchanged in over a century. Unfortunately, it appears that as long as antisemitism exists, Zionism will remain a necessity. This reminds me of the position of Ashanti Alston, the former Black Panther and now anarchist, who argues that we need to go beyond nationalism, but not without it. How can anarchists address this complexity? That would be a great conversation.
Zionism developed as a response to anti-semitism, but before the rise of Nazism. From the start, its goal was a "Jewish state," not any kind of a binational or secular-democratic state. Socialists, including anarchists, and including most Jewish socialists, opposed Zionism, aiming to avoid a Nazi-type of reaction to capitalism's crisis. They failed to prevent the rise of Nazism, due to the betrayal of the Social Democrats and Stalinists. At that point, the real issue was between those (Jews and others) who campaigned to open all borders for the Jewish refugees and those Zionists who opposed this effort because they wanted to channel the Jewish masses into Palestine to serve as their cannon fodder. Again, the socialists failed and the Zionists won, at the expense of millions of Jews.
Today, as several writers have pointed out, the immediate issue is not the potential oppression of the Jews, which may or may not happen again, but that the former oppressed have become oppressors. They have the state they want. The issue of refugees is not that of Jews but of the victims of the Israeli state. But it has not resulted in safety and security for the Jews as the Zionists promised. It is completely dependent on the support of Western imperialism. And if a new anti-semitic repression should sweep through the world, Israel will be of no help. Instead it has been a provocation of anti-semitism. If you really want to prevent a new anti-semitic fascism from arising, then you should fight for an internationalist working class revolution, not for a more democratic Israel.
Although the previous comment by s.l. is well argued, I think it takes as a starting point two fundamentally flawed assumptions:
1. First, that Zionism is a mechanical response to Jewish persecution;
2. That a sectarian Jewish state is THE solution to Judeophobia (I oppose the use of anti-semitism as synonym for Judeophobia, for Palestinians are semitic people too)
Also, I think that the "central issue" you identify is equally wrong -that of Jewish migration. This is so, because you fail to take into account that Jewish people during the different moments of persecution in the XIXth and XXth century tried going anywhere, including across the ocean, and not necessarily to Palestine. But nowhere were they received enthusiastically (as it happens to most asylum seekers regardless of colour or condition). Indeed, the most vocal supporters of the Jewish State of Israel, were far from impressive in their "solidarity" to persecuted Jeiwsh people when they knocked at their doors: the US, for instance, rejected 4,700 application for asylum of Jewish people in the first half of 1946, when the horrors of the Holocaust were known to everyone in the West. But going back to the issue of the supposed Arab "opposition" to Jeiwsh immigration, this is a classic distortion of what really happened. In reality, Arabs did not oppose Jewish immigration, but the prospect of being displaced from their lands -as it actually happened in the end, so they were not that wrong after all.
The problem of "open borders" alone, and Arab rejection to open borders cannot be seen as you do in an ahistorical way, in a way devoided of a proper context to Arabs' opposition. In fact, Palestinians had been much better than most peoples in relation to massive Jewish immigration to their lands. The emergence of Arab hostility we have discussed in much more detail elsewhere and it is not my intention to repeat myself again here (http://www.anarkismo.net/article/11133 check the discussion at the end of the statement). The letter to the American Magazine of the king of Jordan "As The Arabs See The Jews" (Nov. 1947) sums up quite well the attitudes of most Arabs at the time. I will quote again Vernon Richards because I think he sums up the whole complex context leading to the emergence of Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict wonderfully: “Right from the beginning the Arabs had opposed the idea of a Jewish homeland, though they had lived in peace and profitably with early non-Zionist settlers. Their fears were not groundless. With funds from the World Jewry, especially from the wealthy American Jews, land was being bought up in Palestine and the Arab peasant simply driven off”. Without understanding this, I don't think you can really explain what happened since.
You are right in stating that behind the one-state, two-state or no-state solution, there's a broader picture. But you fail to give serious thought to the role of imperialism (British and US) behind the current mess in which the Middle East has been turned. With the War on Terror, the colonial occupation-penetration of that region has intensified and therefore the Palestinian question is becoming increasingly senstive as it is the region that has become a paradigm of the contradiction between the will for national liberation and imperialism (in the form of a colonial-settler project). The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not just a problem that could be understood without the role of colonialism and imperialism in the region.
Furthermore, you seem to have a lot of concern for the needs of one national community (built around a religious identity, by the way), while completely failing to understand the needs of the "other" national community -that which was displaced, abused and denigrated to the category of "second-class citizens", "terrorists", "casualty figures", etc. I'll repeat my point stated above: the needs of one community of people cannot be met at the expense of another community of people. You can't grant rights to some by sacrificing the rights of others, that in the first place were not responsible of the Jewish persecutions you refer too. Why Palestinians have to pay the price of the West's crimes? This remains unanswered.
Likewise, you confuse "nationalism" with "national liberation": I've already reflected on this common misconception in a previous comment to this article, but let me insist that while nationalism is a double-edge sword that can turn oppressed easily into oppresors, national liberation represents purely the right of every community to exist and of self-determination -something which lays at the heart of the anarchist concept of federalism.
This said, I think the flawed assumptions, an ahistorical view lacking in political context and a wrongly identified "central issue" lead you to a shocking conclusion: you say "Unfortunately, it appears that as long as antisemitism exists, Zionism will remain a necessity". Again, Zionism has nothing to do with the imagined (but non-existent, or not at least in any significant degree) Arab opposition to Jewish "immigration" (theoretically it developed during the XIXth century). Secondly, the problem of Judeophobia (that you call anti-semitism, but this term is inaccurate) is not addressed by the existence of a sectarian state: actually, it reinforces the view that the Jewish cannot be safe in Western Europe, and the Western capitalist seem to be quite happy with having the Jewish in their own ghetto-state in the Middle East. And thirdly, the "Anti-Semitism" as a justification for the state of Israel (a state built on racism, displacement and naked terrorism) is at this stage largely rethorical and manufactured -the Jewish population do not suffer as many racist attacks as other immigrant communities in Europe (Africans and Arabs, indeed, Islamophobia -as the set of racist stereotypes and prejudices against people coming from a Muslim background- is a far greater problem at the moment) and certainly whatever racism they face is not comparable, in any form, to what they had to suffer in the last two centuries. To keep using it as a justification to the existence of a sectarian state and to give weight to the ideology behind it, is, to say the least, cynical (which I don't mean as a personal offense). And even if it was true, it does not address the fundamental issue that is intolerance and racism: to make a paralell with racism in the US, the Civil Rights movement addressed the issue that the Back to Africa movement only diverted attention from and is that anyone should have a right to live with equal rights and duites anywhere in the world.
Wayne and Jose,
I would be curious which resources you are using. It might be helpful to actually have this debate, but I seriously doubt the value of it if we are not citing sources and backing up our arguments, beyond Finkelstein.
Wayne wrote: "From the start, [Zionism's] goal was a "Jewish state," not any kind of a binational or secular-democratic state." If you actually take a look at Herzl's writing, you will see a vision of a secular and cosmopolitan society, that was simultaneously a jewish national home. Many zionist thinkers believed in this vision, and sought a binational arrangement in which "neither group would dominate the other."
Wayne wrote: "Socialists, including anarchists, and including most Jewish socialists, opposed Zionism." Actually there was a huge overlap, and Zionism was dominated by Marxists, communists, and socialists. The kibbutz and strong welfare state are a result of this left orientation. Many non-Zionist jewish leftists turned towards Zionism (or at least to immigration to Palestine) as the only realistic option as the war progressed.
Wayne writes: "The real issue was between those (Jews and others) who campaigned to open all borders for the Jewish refugees and those Zionists who opposed this effort because they wanted to channel the Jewish masses into Palestine to serve as their cannon fodder. Again, the socialists failed and the Zionists won, at the expense of millions of Jews." This is completely wrong. Non-Zionist Jewish leftists in Eastern Europe fought for survival in Europe while the Zionists fought against the closing of borders, also against the British closing borders in Mandate Palestine (who did so to appease Arab leaders, to gain Arab support against Axis powers in the Middle East. Though the Arab regimes sided with Mussolini and Hitler instead).
Wayne wrote: "the immediate issue is not the potential oppression of the Jews." Well, it is the issue, but not the only issue, because there continues to be jewish immigration to Palestine due to anti-Jewish measures. Sudan was the latest example.
Wayne wrote: " the former oppressed have become oppressors." Uri made some good criticism of your over-simplification, so I don't think I need to add to his criticism.
Wayne wrote: "[The State of Israel] has not resulted in safety and security for the Jews as the Zionists promised. It is completely dependent on the support of Western imperialism. And if a new anti-semitic repression should sweep through the world, Israel will be of no help." Wayne, where do you think the majority of Jewish refugees from the displaced persons camps went after the war? (And if you still think the British were whole-heartedly supporting the Zionists and allowing immigration, please explain to me why they continually attacked refugee ships.) If Israel had not existed, the Jewish tragedy would have continued on. Israel gave stateless Jews a way to normalize their situation. It is far from ideal. Left zionists recognized this (also against the Bundists, and other non-Zionist Jewish leftists in E. Europe before and during WWII). They argued that Zionism was an immediate solution given the absence of a real solution (revolution and a post-capitalist society).
Wayne wrote: "If you really want to prevent a new anti-semitic fascism from arising, then you should fight for an internationalist working class revolution, not for a more democratic Israel." I love your idealism. I think it's hard to have such an either or position after witnessing the 20th century. But as remarked above, the real trick is how to deal with the real-world contradiction between our ideals and what is possible.
I am not arguing that Zionism was a "mechanical response to Jewish persecution." The majority of Jews were opposed to Zionism. They preferred some form of assimilation or revolutionary universalism. But as they became aware of the Holocaust, Jewish support for Zionism sharply increased. It was not a mechanical response, but rather a contingent one. Like I argued above, Left Zionists saw it as the only realistic current solution to the problem.
Regarding the issue of Jewish immigration, you are absolutely right. State's closed their doors, and during WWI the only place to go was the Shanghai ghetto or Palestine, and both of these had their restrictions. Jews preferred Western Europe (foolishly) or the U.S. But U.S. was closed to them as early as 1924. The different immigration waves (aliyah) showed the different opinions. Earlier waves for idealists, pioneers, later waves were reluctant and unhappy. They wanted to remain in Europe, but knew it was a life or death situation.
Jose wrote that I hold a "fundamentally flawed assumption" that a "sectarian Jewish state is THE solution to Judeophobia." That is clearly not what I argued, as I tried to clarify above. It was a particular attempt at a particular time, responding to the particular situation of Eastern European Jewry. Jews can't solve antisemitism, only non-Jews can. Jewish sovereignty, which resulted in the establishment of the State of Israel was only a necessary condition, but not a sufficient one.
As for the issue of Arab positions on Jewish immigration to Palestine, you are right to point out the issue of displacement. The two were linked. But economic development by the Jews and the British Mandate also attracted Arab immigration to Palestine (as the Arab standard of living was higher in Mandate Palestine as in other countries). Arab authorities opposed the selling of Arab-owned lands to Jews, but Arab land-owners did it anyway. There of course was conflict within the Arab population, which Uri also points out. There were also economic relations between Arabs and Jews, such as trade in produce, industrial products, or labor. Jewish immigration and Arab displacement were related, but Arab violence was directed indiscriminately at Jews, including Palestinian Jews who had live there for centuries. And Arab lobbying focused on stopping Jewish immigration, not on stopping displacement. They bet on winning, on an absolute rejection of Jewish immigration, and they lost, to the detriment of the Arab population.
Regarding the letter of King Jordan you cite, I am surprised to see that it is written as late as 1947. The facts on the ground meant clearly at that time that there was going to be a partition, but he acted as if history could be turned back. I agree completely that the borders of the US should not have been closed to Jewish immigration. They shouldn't have been closed anywhere. But the Zionists understood that it was only Jews, with sovereignty over their own nation-state, which would be able to open the doors to Jewish refugees. It is a tragedy that the Partition Plan was not accepted by the Arabs, which appears to have been the only realistic solution as late as 1947. The borders of such a partition could have been negotiated, but instead the Arab governments refused it completely, and this has been at the detriment of the Palestinian Arab population.
Regarding the role of imperialism in the Middle East, I did not deny it. The British Mandate was exactly for that purpose. And US support for Israel had much to do with the Cold War. Likewise, Syria and Iran have their own regional imperialist interests, but these are not spoken about critically from the Left. Leftists actually believe that Ahmadinejad is a freedom fighter. He cynically uses the Palestinians for his own ends.
I absolutely agree with your statement, "the needs of one community of people cannot be met at the expense of another community of people." I entered the discussion to exactly defend the humanity of those who were being reduced to second-class by the likes of Wayne, which Uri already brought to our attention. I think the Left understands well that Palestinians' needs are not being addressed, but the Left often denigrates the needs of Jews in their battle for "justice." That's what I was responding to.
"From the start, its goal was a "Jewish state," not any kind of a binational or secular-democratic state."
You are assuming that "Jewish state" means religious, when almost all Zionists historically have been both secularists and democrats.
"Socialists, including anarchists, and including most Jewish socialists, opposed Zionism, aiming to avoid a Nazi-type of reaction to capitalism's crisis."
There were also pro-Zionist anarchist, libertarians and socialists, such as Martin Buber, Gershom Scholem and Ahad Ha'am. There was no sense in which Zionism prior to 1948 would have been thought "Nazi-like" by anyone, anarchist or otherwise. There were, of course, fascistic currents in the Zionist movement, but very marginal.
"At that point, the real issue was between those (Jews and others) who campaigned to open all borders for the Jewish refugees and those Zionists who opposed this effort because they wanted to channel the Jewish masses into Palestine to serve as their cannon fodder."
An extremely simplistic and misleading analysis. Most Zionists fought for open borders everywhere, and the anti-Zionists (like all decent people) fought for the right to emigrate to Palestine. Some Zionist leaders acted dishonourably, but the choices they faced were harsher than most of the choices you or I have to face. The real scandal, though, is not the behaviour of the Zionist leaders, which had little impact on numbers of lives saved: the real scandal was the failure of the democracies to take refugees. Not failure, actually: refusal. (Google Evian 1938 if you don't know what I'm talking about.)
"the former oppressed have become oppressors."
THE former oppressed? What, all of them? Whenever anyone makes a claim about THE Jews, as opposed to SOME Jews, they need to be very careful. (Just as if you make a claim about THE Arabs, THE Muslims, THE blacks, etc).
Dear S.l., on the bibliography I'm based is Tanya Reinhart's book, Ilan Pappe's, Ali Abuminah's and Shlomo Sand's. Also the book of Robert Fisk is a bit illustrative. From an anarchist perspective on the birth of the State of Israel, I highly recommend a book from Freedom Press (UK) from the end of the '80s, published just after the first intifada had started, that's called "British Imperialism and the Palestinian crisis" (various authors). The quote from Vernon Richards was taken from there. Also, there used to be an excellent collection of left-wing books from Argentina called "colección del pasado y presente", that back in 1972 produced a volume on the Arab-Israeli conflict that published documents of the Israeli and the Palestinian left. Also I follow on a regular basis Haaretz and Electronic Intifada. The online archive of Matzpen has some interesting stuff too. But I did not quote many facts, apart from the number of applications rejected by the US that I took from a Chilean magazine of the '80s, for you to ask me for bibliography (note that this is just comment, not an article). Most of my comment is just a reply to a number of statements you made, from a purely political point of view, based on some facts that anyone familiar enough with the situation in the Middle East would know (or anyone exposed to anything different to Zionist propaganda alone). So I did not think that you would require quotes.
That said, and after you asked first, I'm interested to know your own sources just for curiosity...
Now, excuse me if this is a quick reply, so I will not consult books and reply from my head (you know what's my background on the issue anyway).
On the understanding on Zionism as a response to the Holocaust (whether mechanical or not, it does not matter for the sake of the argument), you confirm that support from Zionism rose sharply after the Holocaust -that's one thing and quite an accurate thing indeed. But my point is that Zionism as an ideology was not created because of the Holocaust but much earlier, and indeed, even earlier than the first quarrels between Arabs and Israelis started.
On the assumption that a sectarian Jewish state was THE solution: probably I did not explain well my point. What I tried to say is that even the assumption that it was a necessary temporary solution (that's your argument as far as I can see -it was a necessary "evil" at the time) is a flawed assumption. First, because it did not address the main issue, being intolerance and racism, and it came too late as for being an effective response of Judeophobic persecution. Secondly, and this is a moral issue, because not even on a temporary basis a state based on displacement of other population can be a solution acceptabnle to any degree for anarchists. Obviously you don't need to be an anarchist or you don't need to agree with the morals behind this argument, but therefore that's why there is a struggle going on.
On the issue of immigration and displacement: I did not argue, at any point that Jewish immigration was an absolute evil. It was not. And indeed the Palestinians received immigrants (Arabs or Jewish) with no problem at first. The problem emerged with the prospect of a homeland and with the resulting increasing displacement of Palestinians from their lands, through means of economic power or brute force. Why they focused on stopping Jewish immigration is not difficult to see and I don't think it is correct to put the blame on the Arab political objective (they lost to Arab's detriment as you say, is an unfortunate phrase). With the Arab revolts of the '30s, the truth is that violence was indiscriminate. But therefore not only Jewish were victims and most victims were actually Arabs in the '30s (the Mufti took the chance to get rid of most of his possible opponents).
Until the very end -indeed, until the present for the historical OPL tradition- the idea of a single country and rejection of partition was on the agenda. Arabs at the time of the UN discussion on the issue did openly stated their favoured solution: one state for everyone. I don't think they were wrong, even if they failed -if failure of success is your measure to the righteousness of a cause, you would support very unworthy causes and not support others that are wortwhile. I don't think it was a "tragedy" that the Arabs did not accept the partition plan: it was the right thing to do. The tragedy would have been if they had accepted it and thus endorsed what was to come. It is completely naive to believe that they could have "negotiated" the borders. This was an imposed solution and even if the Arabs had agreed to discuss partition, the results would not have been different -if something is characteristic of Israeli politics is their absolute disregard for their own commitments and what you may call the rule of (international) law.
On a final note: I don't think Wayne's point is to reduce Jewish people to sencond class (after all he's a Jewish himself). I think this is an abusive and misleading interpretation of what his trying to say. His point is clearly stated in the article -the oppressors (in this case the Zionist project) has plenty of defenders; the oppressed (in this particular case, the Palestinian community) do not have any. As for the left, I don't know what left do you hang around with, but I have not seen many enthusiasts of Ahmadinejad. But every time I read the papers, watch the news, etc. you see the Palestinian cause absolutely denigrated, distorted, reduced to crazed terrorists with no arguments, etc. while Israel, even in the face of appalling atrocities such as that of Gaza, is managed to be protrayed as a "victim". That is why I fully support Wayne's effort, particularly as in the English speaking anarchist circles there's a tendency to be quite soft with Zionism and even apollogetic of it.
Hi again Jose,
I appreciate you citing those sources. I will add them to my list of resources to look into. For a good historical account of Zionism, I recommend Walter Lacqeuer's "A History of Zionism." Tom Segev's "One Palestine Complete" is also worthwhile. Of course I have also read through some of Finkelstein's "Truth and Reality of the Israel/Palestine Conflict," and "The Hidden History of Zionism," but I try to avoid texts that are more meant as manifestos then scholarly work, especially when it comes to this conflict in particular. There are also other resources about pre- and post- WWII situation of Jews in Europe, including their situation under actually existing communism, including "The Jews of East and Central Europe Between the World Wars" by Ezra Mendelsohn and "Fear: Antisemitism in Poland After Auschwitz" by Jan T. Gross, or "Forced Out: The Fate of Polish Jewry in Communist Poland." These are really important in understanding anti-zionism. Also "Free to Hate: The Rise of the Far Right in Post-Communist Eastern Europe." There's also a good couple of essays by Olaf Kistenmacher on antisemitism in the German communist party (the web link is currently down but you can find it with a simple google search). Also Hannah Arendt's classic "The Origins of Totalitarianism." OK, I will stop there. Of course I read Ha'aretz and Bitter Lemons as well.
Jose wrote: "my point is that Zionism as an ideology was not created because of the Holocaust but much earlier, and indeed, even earlier than the first quarrels between Arabs and Israelis started." Absolutely. This is a very simple point that no one could disagree with. I didn't mean to give a different impression. My point is that Zionism emerges as a Jewish response to persecution, marginalization, exclusion, etc. that Jews faced in Europe, which of course began way before the Holocaust.
Jose wrote that Zionism is flawed "because it did not address the main issue, being intolerance and racism." As I previously argued, Zionists believed (and unfortunately correctly), that antisemitism was not going to subside, at least any time in the foreseeable future. And because of this, Jews needs a place to find refuge and security. This was the "territorialist" position. Various ideas were floated, including Uganda and South America. But in the end, it was Palestine that became the focus for the territorialist project.
As for point about Zionist "[coming] too late as for being an effective response of Judeophobic persecution," I agree with you if you are referring to the Shoah. This was however not the fault of the Zionists. As you noted, Zionism began way before the Nazis even came to power.
Jose wrote: "Even on a temporary basis a state based on displacement of other population can be a solution acceptabnle to any degree for anarchists." This is very complicated point. To put it in perspective, take a look at the displacement of Jews from the current Palestinian territories that took place in 48/49, as well as afterwards, and tell me if these acts disqualify the Palestinians from therefore having a state. Additionally, look at the displacement of Iraqi Jews from Iraq, and other Arab states. Tell me if these states are then disqualified. I am not saying that displacement is therefore irrelevant simply because it is a general phenomenon, but I do think we have to address it in a different way than simply saying that all states are therefore "disqualified." We might be anti-statists, but we have to also be realists in some form or another in terms of assessing what is possible.
Regarding the Arab positions, can you tell me where to find good sources about their proposals for a single country? I would like to look into that. As I mentioned in a previous comment, for the Jews, there were 2 unconditional issues: unlimited immigration, and that neither population dominate the other. From what I understand, it was Arab opposition to these that led the Zionists further and further towards accepting the partition plan, because it meant sovereignty, which enabled them to keep the borders open to Jewish immigration. But I would be interested in particular sources if you have other info on this particular topic.
I am surprised to hear you say that you "don't think it was a 'tragedy' that the Arabs did not accept the partition plan: it was the right thing to do." It basically put them in a state of war. And their refusal to recognize Israel to this date means continues to worsen their chance of negotiation some kind of meaningful settlement. This is not to say that their situation is entirely their fault. Absolutely not. But they are also not innocent. Their leadership made bad decisions, and they suffered because of it.
Additionally, I am not sure that "It is completely naive to believe that [the Arabs] could have 'negotiated' the borders." Why not? The UN committee on partition met with Arab leaders exactly about this issue. But they refused to negotiate, and chose all out war instead.
Thanks for the continued conversation.
I just want to point out that the discussion has changed considerably on this thread. Originally I critiqued Uri Gordon, who is subjectively on the side of the Palestinians against the Israeli state, although concerned that we recognize the humanity of the Israelis. Such a pro-Palestinian position is also held generally by Ilan and by Kevin. But S.L. and Bob have a very different position, one which is profoundly immoral. They defend the right of people mainly from Europe to come to Palestine and take away a part of it from the Palestinian Arabs. S. L. condemns the Arabs for being unwilling to negotiate...to negotiate giving up part of their own country! Why the hell should they have had to give up part of their country? If the Jews were justified in taking a country after WWII, why not demand that they get part of Germany, not an oppressed, "Third World" country. (That the Palestinians might perhaps have been wiser to accede to the loss of some of their country, due to the military power of the Zionists, is an argument for Palestinians to consider; it in no way justifies the behavior of the Zionist colonizer-bullies.) And S.L. is quite clear that due to possible anti-Jewish repression in the future, the Zionists should right now be allowed to oppress another people.
Along the way S.L and Bob create all kinds of pseudo-facts. They seem to deny that the goal of the Zionist movement was from the first to create its own Jewish country in someone else's land (not in Europe, but in an oppressed people's country). They appear to deny that the big majority of Jewish and nonJewish socialists and anarchists of all sorts opposed Zionism. But this is secondary.
S.L. writes, condescendingly to me, "I love your idealism." Image that, an anarchist who is idealistic! I despise his or her cynicism.
The discussion with Jose is actually interesting because we are engaging in a debate. You, on the other hand, are not raising any credible points to discuss. I don't think your "pro-Palestinian position" is helpful to the situation considering your reduction of Israeli Jews to secondary concerns. You appear to find it too difficult to address both the Jewish and Palestinian concerns, and therefore you don't have much to say.
You criticize my "defend[ing] the right of people mainly from Europe to come to Palestine and take away a part of it from the Palestinian Arabs," but you don't address the situation Jews were in, in trying to find refuge from persecution, which culminated in the continent-wide exterminatory war. Without addressing this, you come up very out of tune with what was going on in the 20th century, and very unsympathetic to the struggles of an terribly oppressed people fighting for survival.
You miss 2 points when you ask, "If the Jews were justified in taking a country after WWII, why not demand that they get part of Germany, not an oppressed, "Third World" country." First point, the Zionist project began before the Nazis even came to power, and succeeded despite, not because of, the Nazi genocide. Secondly, Palestine was not awarded to the Jews as apology for the Shoah. By 1948 there was hardly any other option than to accept the situation on the ground. Third point, the country was partitioned.
Then you write, "And S.L. is quite clear that due to possible anti-Jewish repression in the future, the Zionists should right now be allowed to oppress another people." Please point to any statement that supports this. You simply assume that I believe in the occupation or the Gaza war simply because I don't accept your fantasy story of Zionist history? Gimme a break!
Then you restate your points without giving any info, sources, etc. for your argument. You write, "[S.L. and Bob deny that the goal of the Zionist movement was from the first to create its own Jewish country in someone else's land (not in Europe, but in an oppressed people's country). They appear to deny that the big majority of Jewish and nonJewish socialists and anarchists of all sorts opposed Zionism." Yes, we challenged your fairytale. Don't restate your mantra. Challenge our claims. Are you debating us, or simply presenting yourself as the good one to the crowd?
And yes I challenge your idealism because it is totally disconnected from reality. It's a children's idealism. And you have to rewrite history (20th century history, Zionist history, non-Zionist Jewish Left history, etc.) in order to hold onto it. You're clearly afraid of engaging with the real issues, preferring your fairytale to real challenges. Anarchists must have an idealism that is conditioned by reality. No wonder you continue to hold onto the Bund as your heroes. I wish they could have won, but history was stacked against them. This is why you can't understand Zionism.
On the issue of what states should be "disqualified". I am opposed to all forms of nationalism, including Zionism, because all forms of nationalism necessarily mean ethnic cleansing. There is no nation-state in the world that has not had ethnic cleansing and/or colonial expansion as part of its very foundation, even if that is far in the past. The nation-states created in the 20th century, in the age of pure nationalism, were often accompanied by the most horrific of "population transfers", involving massive violence. Look at the emergence of Turkey and Greece, and the millions slaughtered or displaced to create national states. Or look at the Partition of India. For me, all nation-states are tragedies.
To subjectively take the "side" of those who have been displaced in a particular national project is therefore morally understandable, but politically wrong. The ethnically cleansed in one context are so often the ethnic cleansers (or would-be ethnic cleansers) in another: Greeks were the victims of Turks in what became Turkey, but the aggressors in what became Greece, and so on. Similarly, the emergence of pure Arab states in the 1948 period meant the ethnic cleansing of Jews from Arab lands. If history had turned a slightly different corner, I have no doubt a Palestinian state would have done its best to "transfer" the Jewish population out by hook or by crook. This is why the bi-national solution proposed in the 1940s by people like Arendt, Magnes and Scholem is so inspiring, and its failure such a source of sorrow.
A "pro-Palestinian" position is as alien to the anarchist traditions of internationalism as a "pro-Zionist" position. It is a form of vicarious social chauvinism.
I do not take a pro-Zionist position. I do not defend the right of people to take any other people's land. My position is simple. Either all nations have the right to self-determination, and so do the Jews. Or no nations have the right to self-determination, and nor do the Palestinians. In my view, the latter option is the only option consistent with anarchist traditions of internationalism.
The Zionist exclusive claim over Palestine is of course wrong. But equally, any other exclusive claim over the land is wrong too. The whole idea of a land someone's being someone's "own" country is based on nationalist thinking. Therefore, we must defend the rights of refugees, from Europe or from wherever (and not forgetting the numbers of Israelis that came from elsewhere than Europe, ethnically cleansed from the Arab lands).
The Zionist movement was historically very heterogeneous. Some of its leaders wanted a Jewish nation-state. Others wanted a Jewish national home, which is rather different. Others wanted simply to live in the land they had a powerful historical relationship with. Others simply wanted to escape various forms of persecution, in Europe, in Iraq or wherever. There was a powerful socialist current in the Zionist movement from the start, as well as a smaller anarchist current. There were many different Zionisms. (If you don't know about them, look up people like Ahad Ha'am, Martin Buber, Gustav Landauer, Jacob Israel De Haan, Bernard Lazare.)
However, these debates became academic when the Jews were ethnically cleansed from Europe and urgently needed a place of refuge. The best option, given the refusal of any other place to take them, seemed to be their ancestral homeland, where many Jews already lived. Their best option seemed to be to stop being dependent on the conditional hospitality of racist Europe, and find a place of their own. Of course, we can debate whether this was the best option in retrospect. But what other option was there?
S.l., this is a very expanisve issue, so you will forgive me if my replies are quick. I just want to reply to some of your comments, because they are often used to validate the existence of the Sectarian state of Israel and of the ongoing occupation of Palestine and the submission of its inhabitants into second class citizens (or no citizens even).
"As I previously argued, Zionists believed (and unfortunately correctly), that antisemitism was not going to subside, at least any time in the foreseeable future."
I don't think they were correct. Indeed, by the time the State of Israel was established, judeophobia had become taboo in the West. Today, any single attack on Jews in Europe is object of public condemnation and the press gives a massive coverage even to the profanation of tombs whenever it has happened. So I don't think this argument can be used to justify the existence of the state of Israel to the present, in any form (let alone the way in which it came to being). Compared to the constant attacks to other immigrant communities in Europe (where murders go even unnoticed anymore), let us say that the Jews are in a situation where an attack to them is socially unacceptable, while a racist attack to anyone else is turned a blind eye to.
On displacement disqualifying the Israeli state, I'll quote you (for there's a number of other comments and I don't want the line of argument to be lost along the way): "To put it in perspective, take a look at the displacement of Jews from the current Palestinian territories that took place in 48/49, as well as afterwards, and tell me if these acts disqualify the Palestinians from therefore having a state. Additionally, look at the displacement of Iraqi Jews from Iraq, and other Arab states. Tell me if these states are then disqualified. I am not saying that displacement is therefore irrelevant simply because it is a general phenomenon, but I do think we have to address it in a different way than simply saying that all states are therefore "disqualified." We might be anti-statists, but we have to also be realists in some form or another in terms of assessing what is possible."
All states are funded upon violence. There's not a single one who has not been funded on that base. The difference is that in this case we had the displacement, occupation and slaughter of the whole of its native population of Palestine. Israel is considerable and as morally condemnable as what happened in the US or Australia, which were gross crimes against humanity not acknowledge to this very day (hence I think is the psychological origin of the "love" of this two countries for Israel, as they see it as a white sister in a savage backwiood) with the difference that this (Israel) happened in the very XXth century and the nastiest aspects of it have a great relevance up to the present... it is impossible not to have been moved by the images of Gaza, and to silence it or justify it as right-wing intellectuals do, is nothing short of complicity to that crime. And on your comment on Jewish people being displaced in the period of 1948 with the establishment of the sectarian states, of course I oppose it too: I am against the sectarian partition! (although you can't compare the scale of the two processes -neither the end result of them!)
On the Arab position, the book of Ali Abuminah "One country" will give you a good insight... also, I consulted the book from Argentina I commented to you from "colección cuadernos del pasado y presente" that dealt with this issue. Anyway, that Zionists proposed from the start that no p[opulation dominated other is wrong: their project explicitly stated to have a State with a majority of Jewish people.
I will insist that the rejection of the partition plan was the right thing to do for the above given reasons. I do not see why you should accept voluntarily the expropiation of your land and the displacement of your own people in any form. I do not think why you should "accept" such a state of affairs up to the present. If that puts you in a state of war, let it be war, because there are just wars too. And I think that Palestinians have a rigt to resist, by any necessary means, this unfair state of affairs. My solidarity do not go to "helpless victims" called Palestinians, but to a people with rights and with a will to resist and fight back. I explained this point earlier in the following article http://www.anarkismo.net/article/11663 To blame their leaders for taking bad decisions, would have been the same as to blame the dispossessed for not allowing dispossession to take place in the first place, and then as it goes ahead through violence, saying to them "well, we could have done this without so much violence". That is a shocking statement and it proves further Wayne's argument that some anarchists (I assume you are an anarchist) fail to put themselves on the side of the oppressed even in the face of an unspeakable barbarity such as the ongoing violent occupation of Palestine. And this proves me why no friendly settlement will be found without struggle (considering that 95% of Israeli-Jews endorse the barbaric bombing of Gaza).
Hi again Jose,
You argue that Zionists were *wrong* in believing that antisemitism was not going to subside any time soon? This is incredibly strange given that the worst form of it manifested in the content-wide extermination of European Jewry. However much we may criticize the Zionists, it seems difficult to deny the fact that they were the only ones who knew how bad European anti-Jewish violence could get.
It should also be remembered that the Shoah was ended only through military defeat of Nazi Germany, not through revolution, nor opposition to antisemitism, nor for universalism, but rather through nationalism. And Jews returning home faced violence from their former neighbors in Poland and many Easter European countries. Pogroms took place in eastern europe *after* the war. The violence culminated in Poland in 1967, when thousands of Jews were stripped of their jobs and expelled from the country by the Communist Party in an "anti-zionist campaign." These are just a few examples of Jewish life in Europe after WWII.
On the issue of displacement, you argue that while it occurs/occurred with most if not all modern nation-states, Israel is unique because of "the displacement, occupation and slaughter of the whole of its native population of Palestine." Here you are ignoring that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are citizens of Israel (not displaced, occupied nor slaughtered), and the Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank (which were also not slaughtered, and whose territory was only occupied since 1967). These issues need desperately and immediately to be addressed by the Israeli state, but your basis for arguing that it places Israel in a category of its own does not hold up. Bob's examples on this issue are also instructive.
Regarding the contrast of Israeli displacement of Palestinians and vice versa in 48/49, a striking difference is that no Jews were allowed to remain in the Palestinian territories, whereas hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were to remain within the Israeli territory. That's a drastic difference in forms of ethnic displacement that goes overlooked.
You also argued that "that Zionists proposed from the start that no p[opulation dominated other is wrong: their project explicitly stated to have a State with a majority of Jewish people." As Bob also wrote, the positions of the Zionists were very varied. Additionally, they changed throughout the time period. The issue of having a Jewish majority is not the same as dominating the potential Arab minority. The objective was to prevent being dominated, not simply in terms of numbers, but in terms of sovereignty (that is, self-determination).
Regarding the partition plan, I think you are conflating things. The displacement of the Arab population occurred during the course of the war, not as part of the partition plan. I think the rejection of the partition plan and the subsequent war against the Jews has been disastrous for the Palestinians. Today the majority of Palestinians support a two-state solution. If you really support them, then why do you want to push them to war? That doesn't make sense to me.
The Palestinians seem to be the object for the Western Left's projections of a revolutionary war that they neither can be part of, nor would they desire to be so if they were born in the occupied territories themselves. I think the Left needs to give up on this revolutionary fantasy, to stop projecting its own demonic fantasies on the Israelis and romantic fantasies on the Palestinians. It is a bad, dangerous, and irresponsible projection and doesn't help the Palestinians at all.
Hi sl, I'm not denying at any point anti-Jewish violence leading to the Holocaust. All I'm stating is that this cannot be used as an argument to create a state through mass displacement of a population who did not take part in that brand of violence in the first place. As Wayne states, if the west is so concerned about the safety of Jewish people (and at least in Western Europe pogroms were history by 1946), why was not that country proclaimed in Germany? I'm afraid that to do this project in the Middle East, on the lands of colonized people, was a cheaper way to do it. And it is easy to put all the blame of displacement in 1948 on the conflict that ensued the declaration of the State of Israel -by the time of the conflict, already 350,000 Palestinians had been displaced (a similar amount was to be displaced as a result of the conflict) and this does not take into account the number of people previously displaced by terrorism of groups such as Lehi and Irgun, which numbers I ignore, but certainly were not small numbers.
(btw. the Jewish state took up to 57% of the land to much less people than there was in the Palestinian side, so it is understandable why the Palestinians were reluctant to Israeli-Jews in their land!!!! But in any case, far from the romantic idea of tolerant Israeli-Jeiwsh people accepting Arabs in their land -a myth- I recommend you to have a look to one article on Jaffa, which is very telling of what happened at the time http://www.badil.org/al-majdal/2008/autumn-winter/artic...1.htm)
Also, I did not say that Israel was unique, and I was very explicit on that: I compared Israel to Australia and the US (Turkey, that is comparable in its brutal treatment of Kurds, Armenians and Greek is a different story, for it is not a settler colonialistt case). And I said that any such a state, has an extra-layer of immorality.
On the issue of Palestinian citizens of Israel, don't forget the fuss created by a document based on a civil rights perspective calling for equality "the Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel" http://www.adalah.org/newsletter/eng/dec06/tasawor-most...i.pdf Their second class sitizen status has been acknowledged by people such as Jimmy Carter, hardly a left-winger. Most of those Palestinian citizens see themselves as occupied in their own land by a sectarian state or as second class citizens, something hardly surprising with some of the findings of different studies on the facts on the ground like this one prepared by the US government http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2004/41723.htm (I'm quoting this one, because any Arab source could be said to be biased and this certainly is biased in terms that it shows an even more benign picture, but can't deny completely reality). According to Ilan Pappe, even the word to refer to Palestinians in Israel and to Israeli citizens was different, a further denial of the "citizenship" condition of Arabs! (you can check his conference at Trinity College Dublin, where he mentions this, in http://www.indymedia.ie/article/91133)
Varied as the positions of Zionists were, that's a point (the point of the Jewish majority state) in which all of the tendencies agreed. And it is not me, but this state of affairs that is pushing them to war, as proved by the popularity of militant factions as opposed to those that want to compromise. As someone who knows from a first hand the pains caused by struggle, I am not happy with that. Instead of being someone who supports revolutionary politics, my nature would rather prefer if change could be achieved through peaceful means, but particularly in the case of Palestine, I don't see it that happening. Even the "moderate", compromising Abbas, finds it tough to keep the collaboration politics as Israel's position hardens even more. It is this that pushed conflict to happen, and eventhough the majority may endorse a two state solution, those who argue for a one-country solution are on the increase in the Palestinian side, if only because at this stage it is obvious that Oslo left an even worse mess after it. (By the way, majority politics that you seem to endorse make it clear to me that you can't be an anarchist -most people think states are necessary and benefitial, most Israelis agree that to bomb Gaza was fine, most people endorse a number of stuff that we don't have to agree with, so again your comment comes as a nother surprise! Neither is your assertion that revolution is a fantasy... obviously you are not speaking from an anarchist background, what does not necessarily mean that you are wrong -that's why we engage in discussion- but certainly puts us in a different starting point).
Indeed, my "projections" are no part of this at all. In fact, most of my politics on Palestine do not come from reading but from actual engagement with Palestinian people themselves, that I'm quite happy and proud to have as friends, comrades and relatives. And certainly, a patronising line such as you say "It is a bad, dangerous, and irresponsible projection and doesn't help the Palestinians at all" would be sneered (and rightly so) by the vast majority of them. Certainly, they know better who their friends are, and they know they cannot be found among the Zionists or their apollogists. There is an ongoing struggle, and we are asked for support. And therefore all of my support goes to them -and patronisation by those who think with a right to know best what is good for them -surprise, surprise, by those who occupy them or justify occupation- is not at all surprising (all oppressors at all times have behaved like that, saying that the cause of the "poor victims" is not helped by trouble makers or "fantasist" that believe in pricipled stances) but not any less spurious than predictable. If not cynical (and again, I do not mean this as a personal offence, but am using the term in its strict sense). The tragedy for Israel is that Palestinians, no matter how much they are slaughtered, denied their right to exist, or to circulate freely, etc. do not stop resisting. And they will not stop. There will be no peace as long as occupation and the sectarian partition persists, and this is proven by facts on the ground, not by fantasist's statements.
a. Jose writes: "by the time the State of Israel was established, judeophobia had become taboo in the West." and "As Wayne states, if the west is so concerned about the safety of Jewish people (and at least in Western Europe pogroms were history by 1946), why was not that country proclaimed in Germany?"
S.L.'s point, as I understand it, is precisely that the West is NOT "so concerned about the safety of Jewish people". The lesson of the Holocaust was clear to its survivors: that security could not be dependent on Western generosity. The notion that by 1948, Judeophobia was taboo in the west is nonsense. There were antisemitic riots in Leeds, England, in 1948, and the fascist parties arose again in Britain almost immediately after the war (hence the need for militant anti-fascism, as embodied by groups like the 43 Group and by the Trotskyists who fought the fascists at Ridley Road market in London). In Poland, there were murderous pogroms after the Nazis departed. Sure, there was an official discourse of the unacceptability of antisemitism, but no country was taking in the survivors and displaced persons.
b. Jose writes; "it is easy to put all the blame of displacement in 1948 on the conflict that ensued the declaration of the State of Israel -by the time of the conflict, already 350,000 Palestinians had been displaced (a similar amount was to be displaced as a result of the conflict) and this does not take into account the number of people previously displaced by terrorism of groups such as Lehi and Irgun, which numbers I ignore, but certainly were not small numbers."
I am willing to be corrected, but are you sure about this? I believe that the current consensus is around 350,000 were displaced in the first phase of the conflict, from winter 1947, and the same again in the period immediately after the declaration of statehood up to early 1949. That is, the conflict began before the declaration of statehood, and there was very little displacement prior to the conflict. The numbers displaced by Irgun and Lehi before 1947 were negligible, although the numbers they were responsible during the conflict were fairly large.
But these are all historical quibbles. The key question is how we should orientate ourselves towards nationalist movements. I had a look at Jose's recent article here on the Tamil situation ( http://www.anarkismo.net/article/12996 ). Here you write: "As professor Basil Davidson reflects in relation to the emergence of Slav nationalism in the XIXth Century, the demand of national liberation comes only when the most basic sense of justice is repeatedly denied, mocked or trodden into the ground." It seems to me that EITHER you have to take this line consistently, and recognise the national liberation movement of the Jews as well, given the centuries of brutal denial of justice for the Jewish people at the hands of the European and Muslim worlds, OR you have to say that national self-determination is a bourgeois myth, including the national self-determination of the Palestinians. You cannot have one principle for the Tamils, Palestinians and everyone else, and another for the Jews.
In my view, all forms of national self-determination are a dead end. In your Tamil piece, you say: "All of the revolutionary movement should actively oppose the Rajapaksa genocidal regime and support the struggle for self-determination of the Tamil people, even though some may have differences with the main political forces behind it. Political differences [with the nationalists] are natural and there’s no use in concealing them, but this should not prevent us from understanding that it is up to the Tamil people to decide what sort of a future they want." But surely, as libertarians, we cannot simply accept the political aspirations of "national" elites like the PLO or Tigers as in any way something we would support? Surely, we want a free society with no oppression, not a society where one national elite takes over from the other? Solidarity with the oppressed should never mean support, however critical, for nationalist leaderships.
Bob, I take my line of argument on the Tamils, and actually on every single national liberation movement quite seriously. But I think you are messing up the facts: Zionism is not a Jewish national liberation movement of any sorts, even though it did respond to a situation of persecution in Europe (Muslims have a tendency to be much better in their record to Jewish people than Christians -indeed, the Sefardi population expelled from Catholic Spain, were invariably received by Muslim countries, wheteher by the Ottman caliphate or by the Moroccan kingdom). National liberation movements are about a national group claiming the liberation of their own land, not moving somewhere else to become settler-colonialist, displace the former inhabitants of those lands and claim ownership of them. People resisting Nazi occupation in Germany were genuine liberation movements, not those who pointed their guns to a different group of people.
Self-determination is a right; whether you agree with the "elites" behind it or not. Even if you are critical about the politics of a certain national liberation movement (and more often than not we are), this does not prevent me from taking a principled approach that no one has a right to occupy others as a distinct community of people. (funnily enough, you don't hold up to your own "anti-nationalist" views with your staunch defence of the Zionist elite's project and of the fundation of the State of Israel, in which case you seem to be extremely acritical and supportive, even though it is one of the deadliest forms of nationalism at present). If you ask me for my point of view, a post-colonial world would maybe be still far away from the socialism from below world we wish to build, but it is better than a world where, apart from all other forms of oppression that do exist at the moment, we also have colonialism. Full stop.
But what does one's own land mean? Why is this land theirs and not theirs? Whose land, for example, is Britain? Is Britain only for the British? And who are the British? Where did they come from? Most anarchists believe in No Borders. You cannot believe in no borders and then say this land is for me and my kind only. Self-determination, defined in the territorial terms you use, is completely incompatible with the idea of no borders.
The Palestinians, like any other nation, are a modern invention. To talk of the "rights" of nations is a fiction. Your argument rests on the idea that one people is "native" ("the native population of Palestine") and the other not. The whole idea of a "native" people is a nationalist myth. What does native mean? If we only give national rights to the "native", how do we decide who is native? How far back does it have to go? Do we need to remove all non-Native Americans from the US and Canada, all whites from Australia, all the people of Pakistani/Bangladeshi/Polish/etc origin from Britain? If the Jews lose their nativity in Palestine by virtue of being in exile for so long, when do the Palestinian refugees lose it? And where do the Jews go, who are not native anywhere? Or the Roma for that matter?
If Jews in Israel are "settler colonialists", where should they go home to? I have an Israeli friend (an extremely anti-Zionist libertarian) who recently applied for Polish citizenship, given that's where her family came from before the war, and also for Austrian citizenship, given another branch came from a place that was part of the Austrian empire before they left. Did she have any luck? Of course not. So, when European leftists vicariously have their dream of a Greater Palestine reborn, where will the Jews go? Into the sea?
I am not defending Zionism; I am not a Zionist. I am simply asking you to apply the same principles to it that you apply to any other nationalism. Solidarity with the Palestinians means calling for a world without nations, not calling for a new nation.
I am not sure how to make this more clear. But I'll try a last time on this point. Israel is not a gift from guilt-ridden Western states after they felt sorry for betraying european Jewry to the Nazis. Jewish resettlement in Palestine began as early as the 1880s, just after major pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe took place.
You seem to be treating the issue in some religious sense, as if after the Shoah God came down to earth, passed down a judgment, and Israel was born. No, Jews had to fight for sovereignty. Although huge numbers of them were concentrated in Eastern Europe (3.3 million in Poland alone), they had no territory of their own. The only option was to find a new place to live. They chose their ancestral homeland, where some tens of thousands still lived. As flawed as this choice was, any choice would have been flawed. They also failed to reach an agreement with the Arab population, who had sought no accommodation with the Jews. As nationalist movements increased their exclusion of Jews, and fascist movements became dominant in the interwar period, the Jewish refugee problem grew enormously. Palestine was the only place where immigration was possible. And because of the West's refusal to open their own borders, the pressure on the Zionists was immense. They did not reach and agreement with the Arabs, and it was also not their priority. Because of this, one catastrophe rolled into another. But neither one of these can be rolled back.
Regarding revolutionary positions in relation to the real world, I did not endorse simply what the majority believes, even if I support a radical democratic form of anarchism. My point was rather that many on the Left hold a non/bi-national position on the issue, whereas the majority of Palestinians want a state of their own. They believe, like the Jews do, that it is the only way of securing their rights and defending themselves, at least in the immediate future. The obsession with a non/bi-nationalist position is a fantasy that ignores the situation of the people who live there, the probability of civil war. Self-righteous leftists offer this fantasy as from the clouds and disregard what this would mean for people's actual lives. This is authoritarian even if anarchists don't have the power to implement it. It is truly patronizing.
Bob, it seems that at some point we are missing the point and I think it is because we have a completely different starting point in a political sense.
"But what does one's own land mean? Why is this land theirs and not theirs?"
Land belongs to those who have been living and working in there for generations. Therefore the solution I'm proposing (and that the left-wing Palestinian movement endorses) is a non-sectarian one.
"Whose land, for example, is Britain? Is Britain only for the British?"
If people come to work and live there in solidarity with others, they have a right as anyone else to share it and be "political subjects" of it, with even rights and duties. Not if they come to steal the land from their original population. It is a similar point we make on the indigenous movement in Latin America -not that non-indigenous should leave the continent, but a. that there's a historical acceptance of the worngdoings of the past (instead of justification or open denial) b. that the second class citizen status is finished c. that some justice is done in order to repair in some way the damage done. Up to this point, indigenous peoples have not got even a "sorry" and just like Palestinians they keep being displaced and murdered in the lands they've lived and worked for millenia. (it is great stuff to see the "no borders" slogan applied to defend imperialism and colonialism... so let's go and defend also the right of the US Marines to occupy Iraq, etc.)
"The Palestinians, like any other nation, are a modern invention. To talk of the "rights" of nations is a fiction. Your argument rests on the idea that one people is "native" ("the native population of Palestine") and the other not. The whole idea of a "native" people is a nationalist myth. What does native mean?"
At this point it is obvious that we are forcing arguments way beyond common sense. The Palestinians can claim a history of thousands of years occupying that strip of land, from the time of the Philistines,. They are not an "invention", but a historic product like most nations are.
"If Jews in Israel are "settler colonialists", where should they go home to?"
I replied to that, I endorse a non sectarian solution, that means, that people can live in peace together, but sectarian partition created a neverending conflict.
"I am not defending Zionism; I am not a Zionist. I am simply asking you to apply the same principles to it that you apply to any other nationalism."
Irrespective if you are a Zionist or not, your starting point is exactly the same, and so are your conclusions. At this stage I think my principles have been well explained.
S.l., I think I have insisted well in my previous comments on the different points of view we hold over the issue in discussion. I don't think that the Israeli state was created as a Godsend gift or as merely a gift from the British. Certainly they fought for it, and quite hard. I'm not disagreeing with it. I'm disagreeing with the morals of turning their guns to occupied peoples as the Palestinians in order to solve their problem (I have explained before the exact moment in which Arabs turned against the project carried by Jewish settlers, and as history proved it, they were right in opposing the project of a sectarian homeland in their own lands). Again, my point is that they solved their problem at the expense of the rights of other population -note, that for as much as I support the struggle of the Mapuche indians in Chile, I would not support a project of them moving in order to have self-determination to the Middle of the Amazon, with Brazilian support, and displace another population there). To support this, is to support the politics of bullying -what colonialism can be reduced to at the end of the day. This is so, because they did not fight against those who were rejecting refugee to them, but with their support, they decided to fight on the Palestinians.
On the issue of non or binational solution, increasing numbers of Palestinian activist hold this view to be the right one, and indeed it was the dominant view in the PLO until Oslo like a mirage made most believe that this could be a shortcut to a solution -which it was not. I was actually instructed in this by a Palestinian activist and the work of Ali Abuminah proves you that there's a consistent block of Palestinian activists endorsing it. I go with it, but indeed I don't ask Palestinians what is their preferred solution before supporting their cause: I just think it is important to defend their right to self-determination irrespective of whatever solution they think of (unless it becomes to be something right against every value I hold dear) -what does not prevent me from having my own views on the issues, which are based on actual exchange and commitment to this cause. So this is natural in SOLIDARITY (if you are someone willing to think and engage in a political debate). To patronise is actually what you are doing: complaining why Arabs did not accept on peaceful terms their dispossession, and then tell them, from the otuside (and actually from the values of the dispossessors) what is "best" for them. People in the West have an awful tendency to do the latter...
For the most part I agree with Jose, but I want to underline a few points which I see as critical to anarchists' perspective on Palestine. Some of this I hope to address in an article I am finishing on the "national question." But I will give try at some review here.
Bob wrote: 'But surely, as libertarians, we cannot simply accept the political aspirations of "national" elites like the PLO or Tigers as in any way something we would support? Surely, we want a free society with no oppression, not a society where one national elite takes over from the other? Solidarity with the oppressed should never mean support, however critical, for nationalist leaderships.'
I have a suspicion that, if explained more complexly and not simply in such strict anti-nationalist language, your views are not so far off from the "pro-Palestinian position" being pushed by others here. Read carefully over the debate here -- http://www.anarkismo.net/article/11133 -- and see if that does not clarify some of it. I also take a firmly anti-nationalist position, which I consider as necessary for clarity between anarchist anti-colonialism and statist nationalism; but in that anti-colonialist position there is, of course, an opposition to "national oppression" that leads one to support "national liberation" of occupied people, that does not mean endorsing national myths or supporting a new state. This is a slightly different conception, from appearances at least, from some of Jose's or Wayne's statements, but one that in practice means the same thing: supporting the struggle against colonialism, taking such a position clearly, and for anarchists actually in Palestine taking up that struggle independent of statist and/or fundamentalist parties.
About Zionism and Israel, I basically agree with Jose to put the "liberation" of militarist Zionism as little more than bullying against other oppressed people in order to accomodate those in power who are oppressing them. Notwithstanding that "Zionism" as a catch-all term, before 1948, included many different theories and programs, some of which looked to a free Palestine along "bi-national" and/or "non-national" lines (something which I have no problem with in itself); even so, the basic element of Zionism from the start, as in Herzl, was an "acceptance" that anti-Jewish hatreds would supposedly follow Jews everywhere, so instead of fight against it they should compromise with existing state of things and set up a Jewish colony that would have support from the European powers. So Zionism at the outset was a theory of compromise, not a national liberation movement, and the idea put out by "s.l." that Arab Palestinians should have "accepted" Zionist colonialism is also an example of such compromising attitude that criticizes people for fighting against oppression.
Now, the militant Zionism that evolved in the 1920s-30s, and took a "revolutionary" form (quotations needed), both of Marxist-Zionism and its offshoots, and of right-wing Revionist Zionism, in some respects shirked off this compromising tone, but it also tended to cast anyone who opposed them as Jew-hating fascists, a dangerous mentality that treated Palestinians right down to the poorest field-hand as racist enemies unless they cheerfully greeted disposession and displacement. This is, in my view, a much a more tragic fact about Jewish nationalism in the late'30s-40s, that as it became more influenced by revolutionary socialist ideas, in a sense more socially aware and advanced, and especially as the horrors of Nazism lent them vindication putting them in a role of pure oppressed people, it lost all perspective on the complexity of the situation in Palestine. That was also an easy role to swallow, not simply because it justified them, but because the whole historico-religious tradition of Judaism (note, huge numbers of socialist Zionists were still deeply religious) cast Jews as a specially oppressed "people of God" distinct from any other oppressed ethnic group. (This mentality has some loose analogies to the attitude of Puritan colonists in America, although my sympathies go much more to the Jewish settlers than to the Puritans.)
One last thing I want to point out in reply to several comments made, including s.l.'s claim about Arabs not accepting the Jews, but also about the "mistakes" of Arab leaders etc. etc. There is not even dispute, that it was Jewish settlers who first initiated the policy of Jewish-exclusivity in particular by kicking off all the Arab tenants from the land they bought (hardly symptomatic of a revolutionary "national liberation movement," rather the typical approach of colonial land-grabbing). That was a conflict over land-possession that amounts to much, much more than a dispute over national borders. This was already creating the early social crisis of displaced Palestinians that fueled the riots of the '20s and '30s, and in particular the Qassamite uprising in '30s in which the dispossessed tenants (or those feared being dispossessed) were a main social base of the nationalist movement. (This has close similarity with the social aspect of Hamas today, which is typically ignored or downplayed in attempt to portray their supporters as a bloodthirsty horde of Jew-hating fanatics, rather than uncover any sympathetic reasons for their popularity.)
Unfortunately, this did not become a coherent social movement before the war in 1948, instead being manipulated by reactionary, feudal Arab leaders; the emptyness of those leaders' sympathy for peasants in shown, in the first place, by the very fact of their social condition before they were displaced, and even more so by the shifting, cynical attitude of the nearby Arab governments toward the refugees. (Sometimes it is pointed out that the fedayeen groups in '50s were armed and based in Egypt and Jordan, attempting to incriminate it as a continued Arab aggression on Israel; but that flies against the facts that evolved in following years, that the refugees were distrusted and disliked, as in "Black Semptember" when Jordan actually attacked the PLO camps!) So, I neither agree with Jose nor s.l. to argue over the "mistakes" of Arab leaders, as though that is the main point -- clearly, the "Arab leaders" for the most part are as much responsible for Palestinians' oppression, but this only underlines the need for Palestinians to struggle independently, something which began with the creation of the PLO, later expanded by the Intifada, but which it is the duty of anarchists to push all the way rather than make countless compromises with oppression, as s.l. seems to be arguing for.
Hi, My friend Jose informed me of the discussion around this topic. I don’t really want to get bogged down in the tedium of dealing with BobfromBrockley’s or S.I’s pro-Israel points, but somehow can’t help myself. But where do you start? There’s the specific nonsense that Israeli ethnic cleansing wasn’t so bad or that it was simply as a result of the conflict, (to deal with this, Nur Masalha’s and Ilan Pappe’s works are useful), or the more general argument that since every nationalism is bad, you can’t criticise Jewish nationalism, or rather you shouldn’t single out Israel. As Jacqueline Rose once said ‘Israel is the only country we are not allowed criticise, until we have criticised every other country first’. Also there’s the self-indulgent crap about many different types of Zionism. This academic footnote is something ‘left’ Zionists always shout about, to obscure the fact (one which they probably know) that the only Zionism that mattered was the ‘build a state/get rid of the Arabs’ type.
The first (though not the worst) violence of Zionism was not against the Palestinians but diaspora Jews, and the diasporist conception of Jewishness (for more on this, Daniel Boyarin is interesting). Reducing heterogeneous Jewish people from all over the world to a nation-people was a sickening process, and is one which more and more Jews in the diaspora are revolting against. Attempts to continue conflating ‘the Jews’ with ‘Israel’ must be seen as a wholly regressive position, in the light of increasing diaspora Jewish rejection of Zionism. More sickening is blaming Arab people for European antisemitism – BobfromBrockley’s nonsense about ‘brutal denial of justice for the Jewish people at the hands of the European and Muslim worlds,’ (emphasis mine). This again is a common tactic to justify what Europeanised Jews did/are doing to the Palestinians. But I suppose folks on this site know this already.
It’s a pity, because the original article and original discussion is really interesting. I’m with Wayne in what he says about steering away from unthinking third-worldism. I also think Israelis, and pro-Palestinian campaigners in the West need to take seriously the charge about being gatekeepers of Palestinian resistance. Palestinian resistance doesn’t need our approval to justify itself of course, but unfortunately, for it to be successful it has to run the gauntlet of our approval. This is what I find so troubling with calls to be equally severe with Palestinian nationalism and Israeli nationalism. There is a major inequality in applying the same criticisms equally to an established state and to a national resistance movement which is itself only an ideology lacking physical institutions. Israel can happily deal with the nationalism critique by ignoring it, Palestinian’s actions are hampered. But then universalist calls equally applied to oppressor and oppressed, whether anti-nationalism or human rights, do tend to support the status quo.
We have to be a bit reflective about our objective positions - and this is why I think Wayne was right to query the Israeli demand for recognition and these demands that we always must respect the humanity of the Israelis. I guess this is a problem I have with the Gordon book. It seems (I’ve only read snippets) to be an exercise in self-congratulation. Which is fine in a way, we all need to pat ourselves on the back. But I know it will be used by supporters of Israel (if it hasn’t already been used) to show what a wonderful, self-critical place Israel is (unlike Palestine). And that we should show solidarity with leftist Israelis (not Palestinians). At the same time, it’s stupid to blame left-wing Israeli for the way they’re used by Western leftists to block out the subjectivity of Palestinians. It’s not the Israelis fault. I just wish they, and we, would be more aware of this process.
Always forwarding the subjectivity of Israelis is a preciousness that leads us into fruitless, timewasting attempts to ‘prove’ that we aren’t really antisemitic every time we criticise Israel. Whenever I comment in the mainstream media, criticising Israel, I’m made to jump through these linguistic hoops. This is to be expected, it’s something that allows the oppressors to determine what is acceptable criticism. But it’s daft for us to adopt the same self-censorship, that we always need be mindful of the Israeli subject.
The problem with this is that once you start down this road, you’ll inevitably have folks like BobfromBrockley jumping in to monitor your p’s and q’s. More importantly, by continually foregrounding Israeli subjects, we’re blocking out Palestinian ones, and aren’t trying to engage in or understand the very real debates going on there about the future, which can’t be reduced to simple nationalist flag-waving.
You write that you oppose zionism on the ground that it "accepted antisemitism" rather than fought to overthrow it. After witnessing 20th century developments, it seems extremely naive (and unsolidaric) to expect Jews to have been able to fight back the wave of anti-Jewish violence and ultimately the extermination committed by the Germans and their european collaborators, but I want to ask how this approach relates to your other positions.
Regarding zionism's "compromise", do you also oppose the struggle for the 8-hour work day because of its compromise with capitalism? If by your assessment, this "compromise" makes zionism "not a national liberation movement," then such labor reforms are also not part of a class struggle, right?
While struggles against national oppression and those against capitalism are very difficult to compare, this is a question of approach: how do anarchists approach given realities, given their extreme distance from emancipatory visions.
From your statement, you seem to think there is an either-or choice. But the relationship of labor reforms to revolution is a complicated one. The difficulty is similar regarding the relationship of "national liberation struggles" (ie. zionism, palestinian national self-determination, etc.) to a vision of non-national societies. This is why I brought up Ashanti Alston's position on nationalism.
In his "Beyond Nationalism But Not Without It" he wrote:
"the black nationalist understood that we must primarily look to ourselves to free ourselves. And none of these thinkers felt it was necessary to ‘check in’ with The White Man – from the ruler to the revolutionary – to see if it was okay. It was about our survival as a people, not as that mythical “working class” or that equally mythical “citizen.” For me, as this teenager who had just witnessed the 60’s Rebellions in my own thoroughly racist hometown, nationalism was a lifesaver.”
These statements apply very well to the situation of Jews in europe. No one came to their rescue. No "international working class" as Wayne wants to imagine. The concept of "working class" and "citizen" lost all their meaning for them with the onslaught of nationalisms, especially after the first world war. For them, zionism was literally "a lifesaver."
The question is therefore not whether zionism "compromised" with antisemitism. (Of course it did, Jews can't defeat it. It is a problem of the non-jewish population. That is the main difference between revolutionary overthrow of capitalism -- of which the protagonists are everyone -- and the overcoming of racism and antisemitism -- of which those oppressed by these are unable to overcome them alone, but search for forms of protection, and self-determination given the particular circumstrances.) The pertinent question is how zionism -- that is, the Jewish self-determination struggle -- relates to the broader field of antinationalism. Zionists are much to blame regarding their failure to achieve, and lack of real interest in, a better compromise with the Palestinians. But similarly, they do not carry this burden alone.
I would be curious to know how you expect to address a given situation of national oppression, such as that european Jewry faced, without "accepting" it. Is not "acceptance" of a given situation an essential part of figuring out how to oppose it, or minimally to survive it?
Temporary summing-up of the debate
There is questioning of the use of some concepts:
Is "rights" sums or is included within the principles of Freedom & Equality & Solidarity we all hold, or carry a liberal capitalist flavor we better distance from.
Does "unequivocal" mean a wholesome support for a trend of struggle or just a way to say we "strongly support the main aspect" of that struggle?
And of course "self determination"... is it applied to selves = individuals and groups of individuals of a certain nature or does the group/nation/community have a "self" of its own, with benefits coming to it beyond these of the individuals included in it?
Do the Palestinians as a group have any "rights" over and above those the Palestinians as individuals have?
I think that the use of "national self determination" or national liberation or national rights and struggle is misleading.
To put the struggle of the Palestinians against Israeli Zionist settler colonialism under the label "struggle of the Palestinians for [national] self determination or independence or liberation" is misleading and tends to confound our opinions about nationalism and states.
(Most Palestinians do not live in the territories occupied by Israel, and most Palestinians would prefer other options than becoming citizens of a Palestinian state neighboring Israel. Most of the involved would regard any option that puts an end to the present occupation as an improvement, even if it has a stinking nationalist/religious structure and does not solve the question of Palestinians in the diaspora. The call to put an end to the suppression of Palestinians as Palestinians does not need to be wrapped in any "national(ist) liberation" wrapping.)
I think all of us support the wish and struggle to put end to the suppression of the Palestinians by the Israeli Zionist settler colonialist project and to enable all those involved to live in Equality & freedom & solidarity. In spite of the overwhelming support of Israeli Jews for the suppression of the Palestinians, once this ends, there will be no problem in applying the principles of Freedom & Equality & Solidarity to all the people in the region.
We can cooperate with people who have other opinions to our own as long as they accept and respect our differences (as most of the Palestinian activists in the joint struggles the AAtW participate in do).
Some Zionist appologetic texts by s.l. and BobFromBrockley were found their way to the discussion - though moderator failed to erase them - better just ignore them...
First of all, I'm glad to see the debate coming back on tracks, and I appreciate Landy's comments (someone whose commitment to the Palestinians cause I really admire) on how it is so easy to turn any meaningful debate on the Palestinian question into a quarrel on the misleading concept of "anti-semitism" from where the sufferings and the oppressions of Palestinian get lost.
I appreciate also the thoughtful response of Kevin S. of which I endorse every word of it. As he says, probably as we come from different backgrounds, we have a slightly different way to address the issue, but as proved by the two extremely instructive and fruitful discussions we've held on Palestine and national liberation, I think, as he says, that our positions are close on all essential matters. I am looking forward for his article on the national liberation (a much needed topic to cover as in some anarchist circles, anti-nationalism equals to turn a blind eye to imperialism and colonialism).
I just want to further clarify my position on what I meant during the debate with s.l. that I thought Arab leaders were "right" on rejecting the sectarian partition, because obviously it did not come across clear enough for Kevin S. to misunderstand my point. What I said was strictly in the context of s.l. comments that the Arabs leaders were responsible of dispossession because they "opposed" the partition. On that context it is correct to say that they were right in rejecting it -even if this does not mean that I endorse the Arab leaders, which were feudal, stiffled popular movements, were unwilling to put their privileges at risk in order to push a real struggle against colonialism (for any such a mass movement would have carried the risk of the questioning of the whole order -as I said earlier, at the shade of the national question, class struggle is always lurking) and finally, who accomodated to the new circumstance and finally accepted the new Middle East (even the Palestinian Authority stands to prove that). My point is that even though they are to a great extent responsible of what happened in the end, they cannot be criticized because they did not approve Zionist dispossession. In no way I was trying to let them get away with their deal of responsibility, but rather confronting the idea that colonized people should be demanded to save suffering by happily accepting colonialism -what is basically an immoral, colonialist, white-supremacist and imperialist view. Hopefully I explained my argument better now.
S.l.'s final comment repeats exactly the same line of argument that we have systematically rejected as flawed and instead of addressing the bottom line (the dubious morality of punishing Palestinians for the crimes of Nazi Germany and the fact that Zionism is NOT a national liberation movement), he prefers to avoid these issues and come back with more of the same. But now he quotes Ashanti Alston, whom I was lucky to meet personally and I can tell you that is far from being a Zionist sympathiser (I actually did a very interesting interview with him on white supremacy, national liberation movements, oppressions vs. exploitation, etc, that I will try to publish here in the next week or so). Zionism is NOT a national liberation movement, for national liberation movements fight their oppression in their own land instead of shunning this oppression and move somewhere else by force and subjecting a different population in order to have your own ghetto-state. We have stated this, but s.l. keeps ignoring the argument. The Black liberation movement in the US fought for liberation in their own country (the US), fought for empowering black communities wherever they were, instead of having as their project to merrily move to let's say Congo, subject the Bantu population, rob 57% of their land and eventually grab the whole country for themselves. Can spot the difference between a national liberation movement and a settler colonialist project?
Your defeatist view, s.l. that Jewish people cannot do anything about Judeophobia because this is a problem held by "non Jewish" people (of course they can, judging for the huge roar of "antisemitism" and demonisation Israel mounts any time someone dares criticize them) draws a clear line with revolutionary politics. With this line of argument, we should recommend to the GLTB movement to give up their struggle, to the femminist movement to give up their struggle also, and a number of others to give up their struggle too, because they will never be able to change "men" or "straight people". Better pack your crap and leave for the moon! Fortunately, history proves how hollow this argument is when you look at the important victories and advances done by these movements, advances which have been fought quite hard for.
I think that often in anarchists cricles we get bogged down in semantic discussions on what we mean by terms, and so on and so forth. Ilan's opposition in the beginning to the use of the term "rights" seemed to go in that direction. But I think in formulating the questions on what is meant by the use of certain terms, we avoid this by bringing the debate back to the political content of the terms being used.
"Does "unequivocal" mean a wholesome support for a trend of struggle or just a way to say we "strongly support the main aspect" of that struggle?"
I think that reply number two is pretty much what we are trying to say with Wayne. The fact that we support especifically (in this context) the struggle against colonialism, up to that point, and not necessarily meaning to support everything else a movement does. I also replied what we did meant by unequivocal support in my comment of Monday May 04, 2009 04:02.
The discussion on terms such as rights and self-determination is definitely a bigger one, but by the latter we are referring specifically to the collective rights that communities have. Individual rights I think come on a different level. But I don't think that national liberation is necessarily at odds with a non-statist project: the fact that most national liberation projects up to the present have been nation-statists (because they happened at a time when anarchism was not in a position to play any significant role) does not imply that libertarian prospects are impossible, In the same way that "revolutions" do not necessarily have to finish in totalitarian dictatorships because all of them up to the present have finished that way. I am convinced, in any case, that full national liberation is not possible out of a libertarian framework.
The concepts of indigenous national liberation struggles in Latin America, all the struggles for autonomies, are indicative of that. Even in the Kurdish movement there are interesting examples of people starting to recognize that their national question cannot be solved through statism, thus developing the theory of democratic confederalism (based to some degree on Bookchin's libertarian municipalism). So I think to a large degree it depends on the attitude that anarchists adopt at present, if our ideas will be helpful to push forward the struggles going on in the world, or if we keep a self-important distance and we dedicate ourselves to condemn other people's struggles without even attempting to understand them in the first place (let alone supporting them in the constant way AAtW has been doing for years on a weekly basis).
Just to make clear, because I have been portrayed here as some kind of imperialist apologist, that I am in favour of a one-state solution, that I support immediate right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendents, that I absolutely condemn the inequalities of the Israeli state and the violence of the Settler movement, that I absolutely condemn the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in the Nakba of 1947-9.
However, I think that many of the formulations on this thread are simply wrong, and echo the formulations of the reactionary "anti-imperialists" in the trad left, violating the basic principles of internationalism. I didn't have any computer time yesterday, so I'm cathcing up with the debate. Here are some of my issues with yesterday morning's posting. Apologies for being out of sequence.
*Jose: "The Palestinians can claim a history of thousands of years occupying that strip of land, from the time of the Philistines,. They are not an "invention", but a historic product like most nations are."
Yes, Palestinians are a historic product, an imagined community, like ALL nations. Nations have no objective reality; they are constructs of history and power and imagination and ideology. This is true of the Jewish nation too. The Jewish imagined community was only conceived as a nation in the 19th century, as the idea of nations began to take hold. The idea of a Palestinian nation is far more recent. Small segments of the Palestinian political elite began talking about it in the early 20th century, but it was much more common for the nationalist movement to think in terms of an Arab nation, or a Syrian nation. The Palestinian masses had little or no national consciousness until the 1940s, with clan affiliations, religious denominations and local belonging far, far more important. The idea of some unbroken line of Palestinian nationhood going back to the Philistines is pure nonsense.
*Kevin, whose position on nationalism is obviously very close to mine, catpures much better the complexity of the Zionist movement. However, he says: "the basic element of Zionism from the start, as in Herzl, was an "acceptance" that anti-Jewish hatreds would supposedly follow Jews everywhere, so instead of fight against it they should compromise with existing state of things and set up a Jewish colony that would have support from the European powers"
Well, this is absolutely true of Herzl and of many of the bourgeois leaders of the early Zionist movement. It is also true to some extent of some of the Marxist Zionists like Ber Borochov. But I don't think it was true of the majority of rank and file Zionists in Eastern Europe, who genuinely believed in the idea of a Jewish homeland, based on very deeply engrained cultural orientation to Palestine, or to the early religious Zionists like Rav Kook. it was only after the rise of the Nazis that antisemitism the NEED for a safe haven, became the dominant note in the Zionist mix.
Many significant voices in the Zionist movement were also hostile to the leadership's dealings with the imperial powers, both on the right of the movement (e.g. Jabotinsky) and on the left (e.g. Bernard Lazare). Indeed, Lehi used the language of "anti-imperialism" and recruited far left people to their organisation on this basis, seeing the British as the main enemy (hence the utterly counter-productive terror attacks on British targets that made a peaceful partitition less possible).
*David L says: "More sickening is blaming Arab people for European antisemitism – BobfromBrockley’s nonsense about ‘brutal denial of justice for the Jewish people at the hands of the European and Muslim worlds,’ (emphasis mine). This again is a common tactic to justify what Europeanised Jews did/are doing to the Palestinians."
Of course the brutality of Europe against the Jews in the centuries up to 1948 far outweighed the brutality of any Muslim peoples or states. But the idea of the Muslim states as a utopia for the Jews is a myth. To say this is to to exonerate European antisemitism in any way, or to excuse Israeli violence. It is simply a historical truth.
*David also says: "Palestinian resistance doesn’t need our approval to justify itself of course, but unfortunately, for it to be successful it has to run the gauntlet of our approval. This is what I find so troubling with calls to be equally severe with Palestinian nationalism and Israeli nationalism. There is a major inequality in applying the same criticisms equally to an established state and to a national resistance movement which is itself only an ideology lacking physical institutions."
I take these points seriously, and agree to some extent. I do not want to be equally severe with the two nationalisms. There are vast differences, and in particular in the material outcomes in terms of suffering for the respective peoples. However, what I see in this debate up to now, as on the Trot left, is much more frequently the converse of this: an utterly uncritical attititude towards Palestinian nationalism, including to the actually existing physical institutions of the Hamas para-state, institutions the perpetrate a great deal of violence, not least against the Palestinian working class. my intervention here is not to say that we cannot criticise Zionism, but that we need to apply careful critical sense to Palestinian nationalism. Because it is quite correct for internationalists and libertarians to be sharply critical of the reactionary nationalist leaderships that dominate the Third Worldist scene. I apply a similar critical lense to the Tamil Tigers, even though I am completely in solidarity with the suffering of the Tamil people at the hands of the Sinhala majoritarian regime. I apply a similar critical lense to the PKK, even though I am completely in solidarity with the suffering of the Kurds in semi-fascist Turkey. And so on. We cannot allow nationalist thugs and terrorists a blank card because they are "the resistance".
Just a couple more minor things relating to Jose's latest reply to S.L.
First, on the black liberation struggle. In fact, as you must know, a large part of the black nationalist movement has been about Pan-Africanism and "Back to Africa", from the dawn of the black nationalist movement in the 18th century when it was bound up with colonial projects in Liberia and Sierra Leone, through to the period of Marcus Garvey and WEB Du Bois. There have indeed been African-American colonies in Africa, including Rastafarian settlements in Ethiopia. This does not make the black natonalist movement a "settler-colonialist" project though does it?
Second, on the obligation Jews have to deal with antisemitism and the analogy with feminist and LGBT struggles. S.L. did not say that Jews should give up the struggle against antisemitism. He said that ultimately, as with white anti-black racism, it is the racists who have to change. The point is, what should the victims of racism do UNTIL they change, alongside the struggle against racism?
That's me for today, you'll be glad to hear.
On your last comment Bob, of course I know of the "Back to Africa" movement and I already mentioned this, as you mat have noticed if you had took care in carefully reading my arguments (which you obviously did not, so makes me wonder of how useful is to discuss with people who don't take what you say into account and then comes back to repeat exactly the same line of argument). On the comment of May 11th this is what I replied:
"And even if it was true, it does not address the fundamental issue that is intolerance and racism: to make a paralell with racism in the US, the Civil Rights movement addressed the issue that the Back to Africa movement only diverted attention from and is that anyone should have a right to live with equal rights and duites anywhere in the world."
Liberia was effectively a settler colonialist model, with disastrous consequences for Africa in the long term as professor Davidson remarks in his seminal boog on post-colonial Africa "The Black Man's Burden". But inasmuch as they were settlers, they had a far more direct link with the native people of Liberia and therefore there was almost no violence used and at no point there was a system of segregation of natives in place, the natives were not reduced to second class citizens and they were not proposing to have a militaristic sectarian state in place. This is why there was no resistance to their project, as little resistance the Jewish faced in Palestine in the first wave of migration of 1880s. You seem to blatantly ignore the nastiest aspects of Zionism IN PRACTICE and this obviously means that all of the dialogue is flawed.
s.l. wrote: 'Kevin,
You write that you oppose zionism on the ground that it "accepted antisemitism" rather than fought to overthrow it.'
... and Bob wrote: 'Well, this is absolutely true of Herzl and of many of the bourgeois leaders of the early Zionist movement. It is also true to some extent of some of the Marxist Zionists like Ber Borochov. But I don't think it was true of the majority of rank and file Zionists in Eastern Europe, who genuinely believed in the idea of a Jewish homeland, based on very deeply engrained cultural orientation to Palestine, or to the early religious Zionists like Rav Kook. it was only after the rise of the Nazis that antisemitism the NEED for a safe haven, became the dominant note in the Zionist mix.
Many significant voices in the Zionist movement were also hostile to the leadership's dealings with the imperial powers, both on the right of the movement (e.g. Jabotinsky) and on the left (e.g. Bernard Lazare).'
Sorry if I wasn't clear enough, although I though I was. I'll quote again the second relevant paragraph on this issue: 'Now, the militant Zionism that evolved in the 1920s-30s, and took a "revolutionary" form (quotations needed), both of Marxist-Zionism and its offshoots, and of right-wing Revionist Zionism, in some respects shirked off this compromising tone, but it also tended to cast anyone who opposed them as Jew-hating fascists, a dangerous mentality that treated Palestinians right down to the poorest field-hand as racist enemies unless they cheerfully greeted disposession and displacement. This is, in my view, a much a more tragic fact about Jewish nationalism in the late'30s-40s, that as it became more influenced by revolutionary socialist ideas, in a sense more socially aware and advanced, and especially as the horrors of Nazism lent them vindication putting them in a role of pure oppressed people, it lost all perspective on the complexity of the situation in Palestine. '
So, I was not lumping all Zionists into this "compromising" mentality, on the contrary, I specifically drew attention to the militant "revolutionary" Zionism that increasingly dominated the movement from the 1920s-30s, until the Holocaust shook up the whole social dynamic, driving unprecedented masses of European Jews into the Zionist camp. I also specifically mentioned in this "revolutionary" trend both the left socialist Zionists and the right Revisionists (that would include Jabotinsky), who often could not stand each other but were united in dislike for compromising attitude of, as you call them, the "bourgeois Zionists." I certainly have some sympathy for these groups (the left Zionists much more so), and am familiar enough with their appeal from studying their part in the anti-German resistance in Poland, as in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the partisan war that took place afterward.
But, as already noted, tragically even the left Zionists who were quite advanced in some respects of their social program (a legacy of which still exists today, in the social-welfare state and some aspects of the kibbutzim) and even sometimes showed desires for a better relationship with Palestinians ... tragically, feeling vindicated in their nationalist convictions by the anti-Semitic experience of the '30s-40s, they completely lost perspective on the complex conditions in Palestine. Displaying no concern for the worse and worse conditions of poor Arab peasants (who, by the way, were being systematically disposessed long before then), they treated anyone who opposed Zionism as an anti-Semite. Ironically, left Zionists who were quite advanced in their social thinking in respect to Jewish workers, or even European workers, were apparantly all too inclined to paint the Arab masses as some kind of barbarian horde, a frankly racist attitude that dominates a lot of pro-Israeli thinking through to today. I am firmly convinced that history, in the long run, has completely vindicated the Bundists much more so than the Zionists, as today the "Jewish problem" has not at all been solved by the state of Israel, but rather it has been made all the worse since it has put Israeli-Jews in a state of permanent war and siege with no apparant end in site, while it has put them in the role of oppressors against a whole population.
Kevin, I completely agree with you. The only thing I took issue with, really, was the idea of "the basic element of Zionism". As the rest of your comment indicates, Zionism, like black nationalism, is too complex and heterogeneous to reduce to a simplistic formula like "settler-colonialist".
Just as Palestinian nationalism includes a variety of formations, from political Islam to bourgeois secular nationalism to leftist Third Worldism and beyond, and just as black nationalism includes contradictory elements, so too does Zionism. Most of the commenters on this thread, however, seem to only see one of the elements of Zionism, even as they can see the complexity of other nationalisms. Thus, e.g. David "the only Zionism that mattered was the ‘build a state/get rid of the Arabs’ type." If we took this logic with other nationalisms, we would have to ignore those Palestinian nationalists, for example, who genuinely want a single, binational, secular democratic state, and say "the only Palestinian nationalism that matters is the bomb Israel into the sea type", which would be stupid.
Bob, don't stretch the argument too far: the fact that many trends existed in Zionism (and they remain existing to a much higher degree as almost all of the Jewish political spectrum was hijacked by Zionism), do not mean that they do not share something in common. And what they share in common is the belief that the Jewish needed to have their own sectarian state in the Middle of Palestine (the Eretz Yisrael) where the Jewish remain a majority. This is the basic element of Zionism, and it could not be fulfilled by any other means that those that were eventually put in place. And to call this project a setller colonialist project is not a capricious term, nor is it a reductionist one: it is descriptive of the main element of a state formed by immigrants (settlers) through the mass displacement of the native population.
Obviously we are going to have to agree to differ. It is not true that "what they share in common is the belief that the Jewish needed to have their own sectarian state in the Middle of Palestine (the Eretz Yisrael) where the Jewish remain a majority." The Zionist movement was wracked in its early decades between the "practicals", who wanted Jewish settlement in Palestine, the "territorialists", who wanted a Jewish home anywhere, and the "politicals", who wanted a Jewish nation-state. Those who wanted a Jewish nation-state only became dominant quite close to 1948, and even then was fiercely contested. Only a tiny marginal minority wanted a Jewish-only nation-state; most wanted a Jewish majority nation-state. While Ben Gurion was happy to achieve this through fair means or foul, most other Zionist leaders imagined (foolishly, perhaps) that it would happen through voluntary migration in both directions.
The basic element of Zionism is not a sectarian state. The basic element of Zionism is a Jewish homeland. There is a difference, and other ways of making a Jewish homeland were, at various points, possible.
I guess we're winding to the end of where we can usefully go with this discussion, so I'll try and shut up now.
Uri's fourth option:
"A fourth response may seem to completely contradict the other three responses. It is to ignore the issue of national statehood while supporting day-to-day Palestinian struggles for jobs and dignity. This includes defending farmers from attacks by Jewish settlers, opposing the wall when it cuts through villages, taking apart roadblocks, etc. Anarchists can be engaged in as united fronts with nationalists, without agreeing with their politics. Israeli anarchists may loyally participate in them without endorsing a Palestinian state."
This is in my opinion the most appropriate approach for anarchists who want to support and join the struggle of people who are under suppression and discrimination along national lines - whether it is under occupation, specific region(s) in a state, or just a minority.
When the people we join who are striving for a nationalist entity/solution ask our opinion, we can tell them the simple truth that we do not regard a state of any kind, a national structure as a solution - even when it seems so.
The Palestinians we join in the struggle accept our strange anarchist opinions about the state, religion, gender, food, clothing, tactics, etc. and respect us. We agree in a friendly way not to agree on lot of things.
Wayne writes on Uri:
"As he notes, most Palestinians want their own state next to Israel." - This is a clear mistake. Most of the Palestinians will prefer the return of the refugees and one democratic state solution. For practical reasons it seems that two states is a real politics practical compromise, but no one can be too sure about it.
As for the "collective rights" of the Palestinians or the Jews in the region, I think that it is better for anarchist not to accept any wish interests or rights of a national entity which is not just the sum of the interests and wishes of the individuals regarding themselves as belonging to that entity.
"(Nor, I would add, are people likely to be persuaded of anarchism if it is seen as opposed to what they do want, namely national self-determination.)"
I am not sure what is the best way to persuade people to adopt anarchism, but for sure people will respect us more when we adhere to our principles while joining in their struggles we support.
I think that most of the Palestinian working people would prefer any solution that could put an end to their present suffering over the probably impossible one of fulfilling "national self-determination" under the rule of their present national elite leadership.
When the reactionary rightist party of Israel "offered" the Israeli Palestinian citizens "national self-determination" by annexation of the regions they live in to the would-be Palestinian state, the overwhelming majority rejected it.
I suspect that if the suppression and discrimination of the Palestinians of the Jerusalem districts annexed to Israel were to end, they would have the same opinion.
Among Palestinian activists there is an increasingly common opinion that abolishing the Palestinian authority - accepting the fact that we've already lived in a single state for 42 years and starting the struggle for equality - would be a better strategy.
I have read the comments and I just have a question.. Why Jose Antonio is an anarquist? I really don´t understand, he defend all the trotskist topics (defense of the nation, support of the less reactionary bourgeois faction, etc.)
The program of the proletariat (that is the program of the anarquist and all the revolutionary communists) is the intransigent autonomy of our class, cause we know that any alliance with any faction of the bourgeoisie (even with the bourgeoisie of the "oppresed" country) only delay the process of the constitution of the proletariat in class. An alliance with the political (bourgeois) forces of palestina only contribute to exacerbate the hate between proletarians in both countries, only contribute to mantain the illusion of the same interests between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat of palestina.
Ernest, if you had read my comments you would not say such a bleeding non-sense. At no point, and read well my comments, I do a defence of an actual political alliance with any sector of the bourgeoisie (if you knew Spanish as I assume you do by your spelling mistakes, such as the use of q instead of ch, also you could read my lessons on the 1973 coup in Chile and have a more careful dealing with the issue of class alliances and so on and so forth). Indeed, I explicitly mention that you can't confuse to support the right of every faction to resist occupation and national oppression with giving a political backing to the political programme of those resisting -a very different thing. But obviously you did not take the bother of reading carefully any of this. Instead, you just went by the arguments quickly, saw a couple of taboo terms employed and then swiftly draw your own ready-made conclusions according to the political ABC in your own head. Not any differently Ernest to what Trots do to counter argue other people's arguments, indeed (label them and then attack them with a ready-made criticism that do not necessarily address the other party's argument -call them front-populist, class collaborator, bureaucrat, etc.)
Finally, if you knew what Trotskism is about, you would see that you could actually claim even that I'm a "nationalist", blah, blah, blah, but not a Trot. Have you read Trotsky? Go back and read the thesis of the uneven and combined development and the political implications they take out of that to see that I have conclusions which are diametrically opposed to Trotskist who always dismissed the struggle for national liberation (only exception is the SWP but more out of opportunism than out of any political coherence). Indeed, some of the fiercest critics I have in Latin America are indeed Trotskists. But obviously the repetition of a couple of half digested slogans, labels and magic formulas often replace political debate in anarchist circles, unfortunately.
There's nothing I find more embarassing in anarchist circles than people labeling others of Marxists, Leninists, Stalininst, Trotskists and many other "ists", without actually having a fair grasp of what this concept mean, or without having ever read Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin or Marx. Political illiteracy is so widespread among anarchists that comments such as this are hardly surprising and the idea of a place like anarkismo.net was to have a debate that moved beyond the repetition of slogans and "one-size fit all" solutions to a real understanding of real situations of struggle. Yes, I know there is a bourgeoisie and a proletariat: but to know that alone does not help to understand an inch better the specific situations as that of Palestine, than watching CNN. Up to your comment, we had 51 comments of a well informed discussion -a record in an anarchists forum. Hooray for that!
Well Bob, again, we can agree to disagree (and certainly I do disagree that there was another way of building a Jewish homeland in Arab and Muslim territory by any other means that those that were actually put in place or that this"homeland" could have resulted in anything but a sectarian state as it actually happened. Science fiction is nice and we can discuss a lot if there were nicer versions of Zionism, but reality solved this debate in the most awful of the possible ways, and I do not see the merit of going back to see what could have happened if etc., other than that of diverting attention for the groos violations committed by Israel now. What probably is not your intention, but it is what has actuallye happened even during this debate)
But what I fail to see is how, even if you were right, this justifies in any form the existence of the State of Israel or the morality of the ongoing oppression of Palestinians. And this is the key point we have to go back to time and again.
Ilan -on your quote of Uri, that you seem to partially endorse, the big problem is that the struggle of Palestinians is largely not about jobs and dignity alone (no matter how important an crucial they are), but on national liberation, and the point we are arguing is that you can support a national liberation project without endorsing a nation-statist project. You know that the oppression goes as well along national lines when you say "anarchists who want to support and join the struggle of people who are under suppression and discrimination along national lines - whether it is under occupation, specific region(s) in a state, or just a minority."
What you don't seem keen to agree on is that you can be for national liberation without endorsing a new state (and starting as you point out by rejecting the sham Palestinian Authority which exists today) -and at that point I think it is important to bring to your attention the indigenous struggles in Latin America today and even Kurdistan (that I mentioned earlier, quite influenced over the last while by Bookchin). I think that we need to develop better this idea ourselves of what does national liberation means from a libertarian perspective if we want to be able to have a positive and constructive influence on the struggle of people we are in actual solidarity with anyway (as you prove by deeds more than words every week in B'ilin).
I think that in that direction the comrades from the newly funded Miami Autonomy & Solidarity have something important to say in their chapter called "Against Imperialism" (which I would largely endorse, though I think it is necessary to make some precisions according to particular circumstances and on the "right to resist" that has to be stressed at all times, particularly when resistance to imperialism has been turned into synonym of terrorism in the context of the War on Terror). Check it here:
José Antonio Gutiérrez D.:
"Well Bob, again, we can agree to disagree (and certainly I do disagree that there was another way of building a Jewish homeland in Arab and Muslim territory by any other means that those that were actually put in place or that this"homeland" could have resulted in anything but a sectarian state as it actually happened. Science fiction is nice and we can discuss a lot if there were nicer versions of Zionism, but reality solved this debate in the most awful of the possible ways, and I do not see the merit of going back to see what could have happened if etc., other than that of diverting attention for the groos violations committed by Israel now. What probably is not your intention, but it is what has actuallye happened even during this debate)"
The above was a typical claim of the Zionist-Leninists who tried to con the local youth with leftist leanings. They even claimed they wanted a bi-national state... but they could not hide their condition for it to be under Jewish hegemony. The proof is clearer when you learn that these hypocrite Zionist-Leninists refused to accept Palestinians as members of their communes. (They also opposed the return of refugees of the 1948 war.)
JoséAntonio Gutiérrez D.:
"Ilan -on your quote of Uri, that you seem to partially endorse, the big problem is that the struggle of Palestinians is largely not about jobs and dignity alone (no matter how important an crucial they are), but on national liberation"
No, it is not so. The Palestinians citizens in Jordan (70% of population) do not struggle for national liberation from the ruling 30% indigenous Beduins. The Israeli Palestinians refuse "national liberation" in the form of annexation to the would-be Palestinian state.
José Antonio Gutiérrez D.:
"and the point we are arguing is that you can support a national liberation project without endorsing a nation-statist project. You know that the oppression goes as well along national lines when you say "anarchists who want to support and join the struggle of people who are under suppression and discrimination along national lines - whether it is under occupation, specific region(s) in a state, or just a minority.
What you don't seem keen to agree on is that you can be for national liberation without endorsing a new state"
José Antonio Gutiérrez D. seems to ignore the fact that you can participate in and support a struggle for liberation, without promoting the national part of those who hold it.
JoséAntonio Gutiérrez D.:
"I think that we need to develop better this idea ourselves of what does national liberation means from a libertarian perspective if we want to be able to have a positive and constructive influence on the struggle of people we are in actual solidarity with anyway (as you prove by deeds more than words every week in B'ilin)."
I think that the obvious position is to participate and support any struggle for liberation without endorsing the erroneous urges and illusions of these struggle for liberation. (Thus, we can join the struggle against the exploitation and suffering inflicted on animals without endorsing the concept of "animals rights" or "animal liberation".)
Just for your information:
"Nationalist urges" among the Palestinians are not so high.
Those who lost their jobs in Israel following the Oslo pact are not the only ones whose nationalist urges and illusions evaporated. (They do not keep that as secret and say so in the open.)
The wish for an end to suppression and the return of refugees is much higher on their agenda.
I am sure the overwhelming majority of the Palestinians would prefer one democratic state with the return of the refugees, even if it had a Jewish majority, over the two-state solution that is on the agenda.
The Palestinians reluctantly endorse the two-state solution only because the alternative is the present military apartheid occupation.
The overwhelming majority of Palestinians are similar to the Palestinians who are Israeli citizens (and those who emigrated to the developed countries and are citizens there).
Quality of life is higher on their agenda than any nationalist urges or entity.
(When given an easy way to emigrate, even Israeli Zionists grab the US green card and leave the country. The overwhelming majority of the one million Russian Jews who emigrated to Israel did it only when other options were blocked.)
Jose, what I think you have not done so far is adequately explain how there can be NATIONAL "liberation" without a national state, and it is this gap that leads to Ernest's misreading of what you say.
Abdullah Ocalan's "democratic confederalism" is an interesting model. It essentially reproduces the model of "national cultural autonomy" developed by the Austro-Marxists and taken up by some Jewish nationalists in the Russian and Austrian empires (including the Bund). It also essentially reproduces the council-based form of binationalism Hannah Arendt advocated for Palestine in the 1940s. However, it seems to me that with these sorts of examples we are moving away from "national liberation" as it is understood by most people, and simply towards the kinds of decentralisation that libertarians support anyway. The actually existing "national liberation" movements on the ground in Palestine don't seem to me that interested in these sorts of models, either, so to support "national liberation" for Palestinians on this basis is at least as science-fictional as me suggesting other futures (along similar lines) were possible in 1948.
So, based on what you have said so far, I would agree with Ilan when he says "José Antonio Gutiérrez D. seems to ignore the fact that you can participate in and support a struggle for liberation, without promoting the national part of those who hold it." B'ilin, the example you bring up, is a very good example. Those acting in solidarity with the people in B'ilin are not fighting for the "national" rights of the residents, but for very concrete, specific, day-to-day things: the wall, the militarised policing, systematic harassment, access to fields and trees, freedom of movement. These issues are not "national" issues, except within the framework of a nationalist ideology like the one you seem to espouse.
They are struggles over real, important issues. In contrast, nationalist struggles, such as for the "right" of Palestinians to be ruled by this set of theocratic maniacs or that set of corrupt authoritarians, or for the "right" to drive the Jews into the sea, are NOT in the interests of ordinary working class Palestinians.
Solidarity "Third Worldism or Socialism" on-line at Bataille Socialiste and Libcom:
Sorry, when I said "for very concrete, specific, day-to-day things" I meant "about very concrete, specific, day-to-day things". Obviously they are not fighting for the wall, but against it!
Bob, I don't think that the source of the "misunderstanding" in Ernesto's case is me being ambiguous on terms, as I have taken the bother to clarify concepts and positions along the way. I think it has more to do with the classic over-simplistic and reductionist way to look at things prevalent among anarchist circles that makes us utterly irrelevant in political terms to real situations. And more so, on the widespread practice of quickly scanning a text, finding one or two words to start a largely semantical discussion with nil link to reality and equally void importance (and using labels without any substance).
On what do I mean by "national" liberation, as you say, it is no coincidence that I quote two examples which I think of paramount importance for an anarchist understanding of the issue: one being the Kurdish question, the other, the indigenous movements. As you say, they don't represent "national liberation" as it is understood by most people, and simply towards the kinds of decentralisation that libertarians support anyway". But then again I do not advocate "national liberation" as most people understand it (and certainly not as you put it forward in a caricature and ludicrous fashion by saying "supporting the right of Palestinian's to be ruled by their own set of authoritarian elite, etc.), but both Wayne and I support the right to self-determination of communities while we propose a libertarian, de-centralised, socialist political programme. I do not want to repeat myself, but I think this was clear enough when I put it forward earlier in the discussion:
"National Liberation and Nationalism
First of all, I think we are confusing the concept of national liberation with nationalism. National liberation is not the same thing as nationalism: while the first means that any human community has a right to be independent, autonomous and not part of a larger community in which they feel in disadvantage (ultimately, meaning the need to end any form of occupation of one State over a given community), the second means the primacy of this contradiction, which is very real, over other contradictions (ie. Class struggle). In some versions, they would even deny that any other contradiction does indeed exist.
Although Makhno was not a nationalist, to put forward one example, his insurgent army did actually start with the resistance to the Austro-German invaders and they faced it with armed resistance, not with a mere request to the German working class. Of course, this resistance was well before of the massive de-colonisation struggles of the ‘50s, so they could not have elements to think of their struggle as “national liberation”, although nationalism did exist in the Ukraine and they did rightly opposed it."
But I disagree that this is "the kind of decentralisation that libertarians support anyway". Anarchism, unfortunately, has became increasingly reductionist with times, and can barely move an inch forward the debate from "bourgeoisie" vs. "proletariat" as if all of the problems in the world could be easily reduced to this extremely abstract formmula (for in real life class struggle is far more complex than that). And please note that I'm a class struggle anarchist, so it is not that I'm dismissing class struggle's centrality to the social question, what I reject is this over-simplified scheme. Probably as a reaction against the non-class cultural-type anarchism prevalent in the '80s and '90s a lot of anarchists became to stress the class struggle nature of anarchism, but in the process, they've played down the importance of other forms of oppression, that no matter how linked they are to class struggle and the general issues relating the capitalist social formation, they have their own dynamics and certainly pre date capitalism in many cases (we have discussed about thyat in the past). This crude, caricature version of class struggle that wants to reduce in this particular case the Palestinian question to a simple matter of proletariat vs. bourgeoise is what I strongly reject, because it is a matter of using politics as an ideology that takes us away from the real issues involved.
The problem is: are Palestinians oppressed only as a class, or also as a nation? Is it the same to be an Israeli working person than a Palestinian working person? How many ways and layers to oppress a people can there be? Our ideology turns as blind to problems beyond class and it can be paid at a dear price as the CNT-FAI's blindndess towards the colonial question (except for some exceptional comrades) guaranteed Morocco remaining a colony largely indifferent to the agitations during the time of the Republic, as they thought they could gain nothing out of it, and thus providing a safe haven for fascism to operate from.
On Ilan's comments, he can see his participation in the joint struggle in whatever way he wants to see it, but definitely Palestinians see it differently, or at least, I can only be informed in that respect by my relations to Palestinian activists and refugees. Eyad Burnat, the head of the B'ilin committee holds a very different opinion, and states that self-determination is central to their own political objectives. Certainly, as Ilan said, you can participate in a struggle for "liberation" (liberation from what? I wonder... the number of Palestinian flags waved by B'ilin residents makes me think it is not just liberation from "capitalism") without supporting the national aspect of it. But in doing so we are missing a fundamental element that is not necessarily (for reasons explained above) in opposition to anarchist ideas and practices (of course Ilan can deny how important it is the national aspect of the struggle for Palestinians, but neither him nor I are Palestinians and I can only judge from my exchange with Palestinian activists and refugees and their opinion, including those from B'ilin, do not seem to be the same as Ilan's). So I think that you can oppose the national oppression of a community or an ethnic group (and yes, this is national liberation) and I don't see how this is opposed to anarchist principles.
Bob, you even go to say: "Those acting in solidarity with the people in B'ilin are not fighting for the "national" rights of the residents, but for very concrete, specific, day-to-day things: the wall, the militarised policing, systematic harassment, access to fields and trees, freedom of movement. These issues are not "national" issues, except within the framework of a nationalist ideology like the one you seem to espouse." Not a national issue? So they are not related to the issue of the brutal occupation? Interesting. But I beg to differ on that point. You can call it whatever way you want, I know how precious anarchists can be about terms, you can disguise it in a "libertarian-only" terminology, but that will not change reality. And instead of beating around the bush with terminology, we should face real political issues even if they pose "dilemmas" and problems for anarchism. It is only in practice were you encounter contradictions, those who bever abandon their ivory towers never have any contradictions so they don't have to deal with them.
I just want to finish my comment Bob, by stating clearly the paradox of your defence of the State of Israel and the justification of its origin, in contrast to your "libertarian" sensitivity ONLY when it is about Palestinians (only then you seem to remember you are -I assume- an anarchist). This line is very telling: "In contrast, nationalist struggles, such as for the "right" of Palestinians to be ruled by this set of theocratic maniacs or that set of corrupt authoritarians, or for the "right" to drive the Jews into the sea, are NOT in the interests of ordinary working class Palestinians." Funnily enough your description of the murderous and terrorist Israeli leadership is quite benevolent, even calling Ben Gurion as a "naive" character (and claiming the legacy of pro-Zionist anarchists such as Martin Bubber, a kind of down with the State as long as it is not the State of Israel!). But also, it is most schocking that a person that justified openly in this forum the displacement of 750,000 Palestinians in 1948 thinks to know best what's in the interest of "ordinary" working class Palestinians. All of them I've known, say "end of the occupation". Full stop. And this makes me reflect on how clear Landy's comment earlier in the discussion was -we have a lot of anti-nationalist jargon in the English-speaking left as a way to turn a blind eye to colonialism and occupation. Certainly, imperialist ideologues have made some inroads here too...
That's all for now.
Thanks, Jose, for clarifying. I agree with you 100% on what you say about class. I believe in the primacy of class, but am against the reductionism that sees only in terms of class (as exemplified, perhaps, by Ernest's comment).
So, the key question:
"are Palestinians oppressed only as a class, or also as a nation? Is it the same to be an Israeli working person than a Palestinian working person?"
Of course it is enormously different to be an Israeli Jewish working person than a Palestinian Israeli citizen working person or a Palestinian non-Israeli citizen working person. (Indeed, the experiences of Mizrahi workers and Ashkenazi workers, of black Jewish workers, of Russian Jewish workers, etc etc, are also very different.) However, I don't see this difference in terms of being "oppressed as a nation". The Arabs in Israel are victims of racism; they are oppressed as an ethnicity. That does not mean they are oppressed as a nation, unless you think a nation has rights etc, which I don't. The main reason I am not a Zionist (or Bundist) is that I don't recognise the Jews in Europe as being oppressed as a nation, even if that is how they experienced; they were (and are) victims of racism and oppressed an ethnicity, which is a different thing. The concept of nation simply makes no sense without the concept of nation-state. If we are not talking about nation-states, we can use the formula you use "oppression as a community or an ethnic group" without getting into messy waters with talk of "national" oppression.
On B'ilin. Yes, to be sure many, maybe even most, of the Palestinian activists do not divorce their day to day struggles from their national aspirations. But when anarchists or other radicals stand side by side with them, they should stand side by side with them on the basis of the everyday struggles. If the campaign's focus was on national aspirations, though, rather than house demolitions, the wall, etc, then radicals should step back.
To say something is a "national" struggle because it is related to the occupation is wrong. The anti-fascists in France who fought the Nazi occupation included nationalists and non-nationalists. ( http://libcom.org/library/1914-1946-third-camp-internat...ar-ii ) You can be against the Sri Lankan army's actions in the Tamil areas without calling for a Tamil nation. Lots of issues are "related to" brutal occupations without thereby becoming "national" struggles.
On the other issues, I don't think that's a productive line of engagement, so I'll simply say that I did NOT justify the displacement of 750,000 Palestinians; I simply disputed your timeline around it. Also, I am quite happy to use abusive terms like "authoritarian thugs" for Lehi, the Continuity IRA, the Tamil Tigers and PKK, or "theocratic maniacs" for the Kahane movement, or far worse things for the Hindutva movement. I hate all nationalisms.
Bob, I'm glad that we agree on the issue of class reductionism -this is why you can rightly point out at the many differences within the very Israeli working class (differences within Ashkenazis, Mirhazis, Israeli Arabs, etc.). Let me make the point though that Israel in this respect is no different to any other colonial society: they are all based, by its origin, in the crossover between class and ethnicity, with the primacy of the settler communities and then a whole range of other positions according to the divide and rule system. It is interesting to check the following article called "Sacrificing Gaza to revive Israel's labour party", as it represents an interesting analysis on the importance of the alliance between Palestinians with the downtrodden sectors of Israeli society in order to finish the racist colonial-settler system: http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article10208.shtml
On the issue of national oppression, although I acknowledge they can be messy waters this is why I try to be particularly clear with concepts and positions. I do not want to start another expanisve debate, and rather am looking forward to Kevin S.'s article on the particular, but I want to make some further clarifications. First off, I don't agree that the concept of nation cannot be thought of without the concept of state -this is a conclusion of the romantic nationalists of the XIXth century, which views I reject. That this is not the case is shown by two diametrically opposed examples: first, the process of Conctituent Assemblies in countries such as Bolivia and Ecuador that acknowledge the multi-national nature of both states (so no nation-state binary combination here). And secondly, by the struggle of some indigenous peoples in Latin America that refer to them (and rightly so) as nations, but reject the notion of state as a foreign imposition. I'm thinking of Aymara radical nationalism and the Mapuche movement, both thinking of a federal solution of autonomous communities for their historic oppression and segregation, what is not in great contradiction with anarchist aims and principles. I think that to see the Palestinian question as a mere problem of racism, is to downplay their problem -they are victims of a settler colonialist project, not a mere oppression by other ethnic group reaching power and controlling the state apparatus. Nations have rights in my view, and one of them is to accept their right to self-determination, that is, to decide by themselves as a separate entities of what's best for them. This is not contradictory with the federalist principle of Bakunin in the first international (On the Raven Quarterly number 9, there's an interesting article of Serge Cipko on Bakunin and the national question), but what is more, I don't think that a full "national" liberation is possible unless with the abolition of the state and the ultimate abolition of the class system -until then, at best, you will only have fragmented communities.
(Sidenote: I think that to define the Jewish community as a nation in the same sense as the Palestinians it is a bit more complicated, as it is a community that developed around a particular religious tradition, with no ethnic unity and no territorial space. Shlomo Sand is actually quite good and has a book on that particular matter).
On your comment that anarchists "should" stand side by side with oppressed nations or communities "only" on day to day struggles, I disagree. I think you can do it and it is a perfectly valid option, but one in my opinion with many short comings. And the most important one is that you are fighting the symptoms of a disease (wall, exclusion, lower wages, etc.) but not the colonial root of it. And you can be forever fighting against the symptoms while we have to attack the disease. If you ask me, I think that post-colonial Africa is far from perfect, indeed, is more a nightmare than anything, but with a colonial presence on it, a solution to the many problems of Africa (largely inherited from the period of slavery and then colonialism) it would be impossible. I want to quote a Nigerian student from the '50s quoted by Bassil Davidson in his book "The Black Man's Burden" (p.167) who gives a very realistic approach from a nation-statist perspective but which is nonetheless quite instructive: "self-government will not necessarily lead to a paradise overnight, nor will it turn African nationalists leaders into angels. But it will have ended the rule of one race over another, with all the humiliation and exploitation which that implies. It can also pave the way for the internal social revolution which is required in each country".
It should be mentioned that a similar question as that posed by the Nigerian students had been posed in the past by Cuban anarchists (in the period 1895-1900), the Korean anarchists under Japanese occupation (Shin Chae Ho text in Robert Graham's anthology on Anarchism is quite revealing) and faced by the FCL in France during the Algerian civil war. At no point this comrades stood aside and said "this is not our struggle".
Finally, I juts want to point out that when I made the comments on the paradoxical statements you make, it was not trying to wind you up or trying to be smart in any form. I was pointing them out as I think that I have been very open and clear on my positions while yours remain quite obscure to me at least. And you final comment only made me wonder where you are standing: you said to be "quite happy to use abusive terms like "authoritarian thugs" for Lehi, the Continuity IRA, the Tamil Tigers and PKK, or "theocratic maniacs" for the Kahane movement, or far worse things for the Hindutva movement. I hate all nationalisms.". This comment surprises me as you are quite happy in lumping together a number of quite different movements such as C-IRA, the LTTE, Hindutva and the PKK, while you were very picky and uneasy with emphasizing the distinctions within one particular "nationalist" movement, that is Zionism. You spend quite a lot of time trying to make clear that those distinctions are necessary to understand Zionism, but then ignore the distinctions within other nationalisms (and within the movements: the PKK has at least five currents and actually only in Turkey recently I realized how wrong I was on a number of misconceptions I had regarding to this movement in particular). You can't lump all nationalisms together, even though theoretically, nationalism is fundamentally flawed (Hamas is not the same as Lehi, the PKK in not the same as the LTTE, etc.) What makes me feel that, even if you hate all natioanlisms, you don't hate them all equally. And I don't think you are doing this consciously, but that ideology (and the positive light shed in the Western media on Zionism) has probably something to do with that. All of us, in one way or another, to a lesser or greater extent, reproduce the ideology of our dominant classes, and that's why we need to be constantly challenging our views (as proved by the femminist movement and the left).
José Antonio Gutiérrez D.:
"This crude, caricature version of class struggle that wants to reduce in this particular case the Palestinian question to a simple matter of proletariat vs. bourgeoisie is what I strongly reject, because it is a matter of using politics as an ideology that takes us away from the real issues involved."
No serious person can reduce the Palestinian question to a simple matter of proletariat vs. bourgeoisie. The Palestinian problem is the result of settler colonialist project - not a project of exploitation but one of transfer and annihilation.
The struggle of the Palestinians was and is still the struggle against transfer - not against exploitation that happens too but much less important.
José Antonio Gutiérrez D.:
"Ilan can deny how important it is the national aspect of the struggle for Palestinians, but neither him nor I are Palestinians and I can only judge from my exchange with Palestinian activists and refugees and their opinion, including those from B'ilin, do not seem to be the same as Ilan's)."
I think that even the most nationalist among the Palestinians when presented with the choice between the return of the refugees and Palestinian state will take the return of the refugees.
José Antonio Gutiérrez D.:
"On Ilan's comments, he can see his participation in the joint struggle in whatever way he wants to see it, but definitely Palestinians see it differently, or at least, I can only be informed in that respect by my relations to Palestinian activists and refugees. Eyad Burnat, the head of the B'ilin committee holds a very different opinion, and states that self-determination is central to their own political objectives."
You can take things out of context. You can choose what quotes you want, but the fact remains: For the last 70 years since the Palestinian uprising was defeated (if not before) the "TSUMUD" is the highest on the agenda. The "TSUMUD" means to hold to the country and resist the Zionist settler colonialist efforts to transfer the Palestinian out.
José Antonio Gutiérrez D.:
"the number of Palestinian flags waved by B'ilin residents makes me think it is not just liberation from "capitalism""
The Palestinian flags are not the expression of nationalist urges. Bil'in is in area B where the Palestinian authority is in charge. The struggle against the separation fence is not about the robbing of fertile fields - the land is mainly rocks. The main concern of the people who used to work in Israel is that the Oslo pact, the second Intifada, and the separation fence diminished the option to earn living in Israel.
José Antonio Gutiérrez D.:
"Ilan can deny how important it is the national aspect of the struggle for Palestinians, but neither him nor I are Palestinians and I can only judge from my exchange with Palestinian activists and refugees and their opinion, including those from B'ilin, do not seem to be the same as Ilan's)."
The importance of "national independence" to the Palestinians is not relevant to the polemic. We do not join the struggle because the nationalist urges are frustrated. We joined the struggle because the struggle against the separation fence and occupation is part of the long struggle against the transfer of the Palestinians. The Palestinians who support the efforts to get the Palestinian state do it because they think it will stop the efforts of Israel to transfer them and may let some of the refugees return.
José Antonio Gutiérrez D.:
"Let me make the point though that Israel in this respect is no different to any other colonial society: they are all based, by its origin, in the crossover between class and ethnicity,"
Just to sum previous points:
Israel is NOT "a colonial society" Israel is "a settler colonialist society". The word "colonialist" included in both are the content is diametrically opposite. The "colonialist" in the first imply the rule and the exploitation of the colonized. The "colonialist" in the second is about the the colonists who came by force to replace the inhomogeneous people - not to exploit them.
The end of "a settler colonialist" project is not the removal of foreign rulle but the end to transfer and return of the inhomogeneous people.
The main striving of the Palestinians in Israel, Occupied territories, Jordan, Lebanon... is not the rempval of foreign rulers but the end of transfer and returned of the refugees.
The only ones who put the national Independence the highest on their agenda are the elite of the Palestinian Authority who will accept a state of their own in return for renegading the refugees.
José Antonio Gutiérrez D.:
"Nations have rights in my view, and one of them is to accept their right to self-determination, that is, to decide by themselves as a separate entities of what's best for them."
Nation is an abstract entity. There are people who have some common characteristics that are regarded or regard themselves as of specific nation.
"Nations" have no "rights" or interests or legitimate interests. The people who are characterized or regard themselves as of specific nation may have legitimate interests - mainly to be let alone and do their own things if they so wish, as long as they do not infringe on legitimate interests of others.
We better support and join struggles of human beings their legitimate interests were infringed to put end and or rectify these infringements without support to other things they are interested in.
José Antonio Gutiérrez D.:
"(Sidenote: I think that to define the Jewish community as a nation in the same sense as the Palestinians it is a bit more complicated, as it is a community that developed around a particular religious tradition, with no ethnic unity and no territorial space. Shlomo Sand is actually quite good and has a book on that particular matter)".
The self-labeling is free to all... though it may be misleading. This is why it make no sense to dispute the self label of "Anarchists" by people with opinions we do not endorse.
There is no sense in contemplating the appropriate label to these who regard themselves as part of the abstract entity or "Israeli Jewish nation", or "Jews". There is no sense in contemplating what does the label or self label "Jew" means in general or in relation to the other abstract concept "nation".
The fact or myth of common origin and or common characteristics of those who self label themselves as Jews... or so labeled by others do not give or justify any infringement on the legitimate interests of other human beings - including the Palestinians.
(Shlomo Sand deserted the Libertarian communist Matzpen for academic career and have at present very radical opinions for Israeli academian.)
José Antonio Gutiérrez D. on Bob text:
"On your comment that anarchists "should" stand side by side with oppressed nations or communities "only" on day to day struggles, I disagree. I think you can do it and it is a perfectly valid option, but one in my opinion with many short comings. And the most important one is that you are fighting the symptoms of a disease (wall, exclusion, lower wages, etc.) but not the colonial root of it."
The struggle against the Zionist settler colonialism that infringe so much in the past and continue in the present on the interests of the Palestinians is to stand side by side with them on day to day struggles.
This is the most heroic struggle we can do. Of course we participate ans contribute to other aspects of the struggle - including the exposer of the nature of the Zionist settler colonialism that is entirely different from "regular" colonialism and anti-colonialism.
Doing it do not mean and do not need to make us join the efforts to present the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a colonial one that only need a national liberation solution.
Ilan has made most of the points I would make regarding the more substantive issues. So, just briefly on the minor personal stuff. You're right, I don't hate all nationalisms equally. I hate Lehi and the Kach movement while I only mildly condemn the more libertarian currents of Zionism. I hate the Continuity IRA, while I only mildly condemn earlier socialist versions of Irish Republicanism. I hate Hamas and Islamic Jihad in a way that I do not hate secular leftist Palestinian nationalism. You are absolutely right to say that nationalisms are each variegated. My point is that you seem not to acknowledge this in relation to Zionism or Jewish nationalism more broadly. You reduce the vast range of Zionisms to a single simplistic formula, settler-colonialism, while insisting on the diversity of other Zionisms. That would be like me saying that Kurdish nationalism begins and ends with Abdullah Öcalan.
You (in an more or less level) pretend to separate nationalism from "national liberation", that´s impossible. Nations, all of them, have been formed by the interests of the capital they are completely ARTIFICIAL constructions. National liberation has nothing to do with communism, not even as an "stage" previous to the social revolution just like the stalinism teorized (and like neoplatformism is doing now with the difference that you use more libertarians words).
You say that could be possible national liberation out of a state project and put as examples the struggles of minorities in latin america. Don´t you see that all those struggles only divide the proletariat in a heterogeneous mass that restrain the process of the unity of our class? See in Mexico tha counterrevolutionary work of the EZLN that disolve the proletarians of Chiapas in the bourgeoise cateory of "indigenous" that "fight" for their "rigths" in a separate form from the rest of the proletarians.
Some minorities in their countries fight even for their national recognition and independence but some of them are part of a country that is opressed for a imperialist force What struggle are you gonna support, that of the country from the "imperialism" or that of the minority from the opressed country? Do you see that all this shit is a bunch of contraditions in relation with the interests of the proletariat as an international class that only has the interest of the abolition of all nations through the worldwide revolution?
And yes, I defend the idea that all these ideas of national liberation are leninists (trotskists, stalinists, etc.) and I have read a lot of that tendency, and I know what I´m talking about.
Here I put an quote from the Spartacist League (Trotskist from the USA) about this conflict.:
"It is vital for the international proletariat to stand for the military defense of Hamas against Israel without giving that reactionary Islamic fundamentalist outfit any political support. Down with U.S. aid to Israel! "
Is it too different from the position of Jose that say that the matter of the bourgeois factions in this struggles is secondary ?
Complete article: http://www.icl-fi.org/english/wv/928/palestine.html
This is an interesting article about the capitalist nature of national liberation struggles. Altough I don´t agree with the totally of the text it gives a lot of clarity to this question from a proletarian view.
Gustavo, the distinction between nationalism and national liberation I already explained with arguments -you do not address my particular arguments. Also I explained why I reject the view that our struggle is only against exploitation and why I reject the simplistic formula of proletariat vs. bourgeoisie that you defend. And certainly, the more simplistic it comes, the more irrelevant it becomes to understand reality (particularly in cases like the indigenous people, colonized people, etc. that we are discussing). Not to talk about the simplistic and ludicrous argument that all "nations" are "artificial" (that they all have a history, that's out of question, but to see the deliberate hand of Capital behind the "creation" of the Palestinians, is really hard to sustain. Ideology often is a barrier against understanding reality).
This obssession with smashing every living creature into a uniform and simplistic scheme that is a crude caricature of real class struggle is more linked, indeed, to the huge influence that Left Wing Communism has had in anarchist circles (particularly in Britain) over the last couple of decades than to anarchist tradition. The far more interesting and rich approach to people's struggles showed by the anarchist tradition rather than its left-wing communist anarchist caricature is proved by the attitude of Cuban anarchists towards the war of independence in 1895 (including remarkable anarchists such as Enrique Creci -see the book of Carlos Serrano "Anarchisme et independance nationale a Cuba a la fin du XIX siecle"), towards the Korean liberation movement (see the Robert Graham's anthology) and towards Algeria (see the book of Alternative Libertaire "L'insurrection algerienne et les communistes libertaires"). Also the book of Benedict Anderson "Under three flags" is quite interesting from this point of view. But don't take me wrong that I am not advocating a "purist" form of anarchism. In principle, there's nothing wrong with learning from other political currents, but the problem is when together with their lessons comes their rigid sectarianism and dogmatism (groups like the ICC are hardly anything but a sect that in every single pamphlet come up with the same predictable conclusions and their rabid sectarianism and dogmatism constitutes, in my opinion, the most unpleasant reading).
Certainly we can discuss the merits and the problems of the EZLN in Chiapas, but altogether and accepting that it is far from perfect, there is certainly more that has been advanced with this struggle than with thousands of purist anarchist proclamations. Sectarianism typically exaggerates the difficulties and problems of other social movements than try to build from their strenghts. (sidenote: I think it is quite depressing that some of the most interesting libertarian experiences in the last twenty years -libertarian in the broadest sense- have come from out of the anarchist movement)
Now funnily enough we jump with more labels: trotskism, stalinism, leninism, "neo"platformism (I love the use of "neo", that means at least you recognize we are doing something new) but at least we get to understand what our friend refers to Trotskism -a marginal sect of crazed up people called the Spartacist that actually hold no significant importance for that current nor are representative of that tradition as the Morenistas, Loristas, Mandelistas and Lambertistas are. But in taking a particular line (as if Sparts did not say anything else, or as if I had not said anything else either) to jump and make parallels with what I am saying, the poverty of the argument is exposed. Particularly, when it is a line of argument that many in the left would agree with, even if with reserves. The argument also says "down with US military aid to Israel"... so does Gustavo also suggests that we therefore support US military aid to Israel just to oppose what Sparts have to say? And they also talk about the "international proletariat"... so we have to deny that such a thing exists so we are not confused with this particular bunch? What a poor argument, as if Spartacism (and what's more, Trotskism) could be reduced to that line of 30 words or so. And this is the same people that want to reduce anarchism, as well, to one or two slogans of 30 words each! (This reminds me of those that used to call us leninists because we talked of "organisation" and "class struggle"! of course leninists also use those terms, but this reductionist mentality turns this type of anarchism into little more than a joke for most people)
But this debate is so irrelevant, boring, predictable and pointless that I will not dedicate it a single word more.
Ilan you say that "No serious person can reduce the Palestinian question to a simple matter of proletariat vs. bourgeoisie. The Palestinian problem is the result of settler colonialist project - not a project of exploitation but one of transfer and annihilation. The struggle of the Palestinians was and is still the struggle against transfer - not against exploitation that happens too but much less important.. I agree with you fully. So I was certainly not discussing with your views, but actually with a prevalent attitude in English speaking circles. The problem is that in anarchist circles there's all sort of people that can come up with the most puzzling comments, as you can see from the person commenting above. How serious they are is a matter of debate, but one I'm not interested in.
But coming back to our debate, as I said before, I think there are too many issues to be discussed to do it here. Most I've already covered (nations, if nations have rights -that you don't seem to agree with the concept of rights in the first place, etc.) and I do not want to repeat myself again. The arguments have been laid down and feel that if I reply to you, I would go back again and again to the same issues, what I do not have the time to do in fairness as this debate has been dragging for too long now. But just want to clarify that I know well that Israel is not a colonial situation like any other but one of settler colonialism: I insist on that point time and again, as Bob does not agree with this concept and say it is not fit to understand the Israeli question (and then surprisingly says to endorse your views, even though you insist on the settler colonialist nature of Israel). But eventhough it is "settler" colonialism, has in common with other colonial situations, the overlapping between class and ethnicity, that was all of my point.
Thanks for the biographical note on Shlomo Sand. I did not know about his past involvement with Matzpen, what makes him a far more interesting writer in my view now.
Bob, I do acknowledge that Zionism has many strands and tendencies, but there is one element that makes them be Zionist, there's one point of unity, and that is the creation of a Jewish state that forcefully had to become a settler-colonialist project. All of the Zionists would agree at this point, in defending the state of Israel and the way it was created, and with the morality of the settler colonialist project. There can't be a Zionism that agrees with the dissolution of the State of Israel and forming a unitarian entity with Palestinians, in the same way that, no matter how varied anarchist tendencies can be, there cannot be an anarchist tendency that supports the need of the State. That's all my point.
I think I will leave the debate at this point because it dragged for too long and I believe that most arguments have been discussed anyway.
This article is now available in Spanish translation:
Old-time anarchists always defended teh workers have no fatherland, and they were right. They stood against the two imperialist world wars and realized "national liberaion" liberated only local burgeoises to opress local proletarians the way colonizers did before (mostly in the centralist, bolshevik variants of capitalism). Just look what kind of national movement is the palestinian one and tell me if their state would be better to them than Israel is to JEWISH workers. This is the right criteria. You may have ethnies as cultural communities, but nations as political entities are a burgeois scheme. There are no "nations", no "races", no "genders" in class struggle; and believing in such myths weakens the proletarian movement against capital and its anarchist wing speciallly. Let us preach always revolutionary defeatism on both sides of every border, and teach workers to turn their guns against their own generals. Over the bodies of their bosses, jewish and arab workers in Canaan shall build their alliance. But a two-state solution is two-states too many...
Mondego writes,"Old-time anarchists always defended the workers have no fatherland." Old time anarchists,such as Bakunin and Kropotkin and Rocker, supported the right of oppressed nations to freedom. Anarchists fought in many national liberation struggles, such as Makhno in Ukraine. See Black Flame (vol. 1).
"They stood against the two imperialist world wars." We are not discussing wars between imperialist states but wars between imperialist (and colonialist) states and oppressed nations, an entirely different matter.
"tell me if their state would be better to them than Israel is to JEWISH workers. This is the right criteria." No it is not. The question is not even whether a Palestinian state would be better to Palestinians than the Israeli state is to Palestinians. The question is what the Palestinaians want and believe, not what Mondego or I want and believe.
"You may have [ethnicities] as cultural communities, but nations as political entities are a burgeois scheme." This distinction between ethnicities/cultural communities and nations is playing with words. Does Mondego support self-determination for ethnicities and cultural communities? I do. Of course it is a "bourgeois scheme," that is, a bourgeois-democratic right, which capitalism has never been able to provide or live up to. Only proletarian anarchism will be able to provide national self-determination, free speech, land to the peasants, political democracy, religious freedom, gender and racial equality, etc.
"There are no "nations", no "races", no "genders" in class struggle...such myths." I rub my eyes. Are genders mythical? Races? Nations (he had just agreed that there were ethnicities and cultural communities)? What world does Mondego live in?
"believing in such myths weakens the proletarian movement against capital and its anarchist wing specially" No, it strengthens revolutionary proletarian anarchism, by getting all struggles for freedom on our side of the class war. What is anarchism if not the struggle for freedom in every aspect of life? Freedom is indivisible.
All of these discussions about Nationalism vs. Stateism, and related nuances, leave me with a question.
I have found anarchism to generally have a more developed analysis of oppression than simply class analysis and this is often called intersectionality. The commitment to fight all oppressions because they each reinforce each other in various interactive ways, and eliminating one type of oppression is no guarantee that everyone will be liberated from the other oppressions.
My question is, if we support national liberation struggles, without critiquing the people who we side with, then are we not letting down our comrades?
For example, if we support the Palestinians, because we follow the will of the oppressed and avoid paternalism, does this have to mean that on some other level we are NOT allowed to also support the the internal queer liberation movements within the Palestinian society?
This discussion sounds like we are reducing oppression struggles here to National Liberation struggles at the expense of the complexity that will build real liberation.
Am I mistaken?
Hi CatMushroom. I don't want to rehash this whole debate again, but basically there are two contentious problems running through it: anarchists treatment of "national liberation" (is it nationalist? etc. etc.), and, the Israeli-Palestinian specifically with all its problems and complexity (Zionism, Palestinian nationalism, etc. etc.). I think the question you asked was already more or less resolved fairly early on in the discussion ... that is, of course are free to expose and condemn oppression anywhere, but it should not prevent us supporting broad struggles against say "national oppression."
The only thing I will repeat here again is, in short, my own opinion on "national liberation." I don't exactly share the insistence on "nationality" and "national rights" displayed by Wayne and Jose, it seems to me like dead baggage from nationalism, myths that have no place in anarchist thought. But that doesn't exclude the existence of real oppression which goes under the name of "national oppression." Fundamentally "national oppression," as in colonial occupation or settler expansion, is a real social problem to which "national" talk is a rather crude explanation. Palestinians are oppressed today "as a nation" - but not because the "national rights" of Palestine have been violated on some map, it is because Palestinians in real life are systematically massacred, subdued and displaced by the Israeli state in the name of "Jewish national rights." That's the real meaning of Israeli occupation, not some abstract disagreement over borders (something best left to the ruling classes to bicker about), but a concrete, living experience of daily persecution at the hands of Israeli colonizers.
Hope that clears it up.
To answer your questions: Although I have never seen the term "intersectionality," I completely agree with a "commitment to fight all oppressions because they each reinforce each other in various interactive ways." I do think that class is sort-of "central" to this mess of oppressions (the way a specific stick may be central to a pile of pick-up sticks or a fireplace pile), but I agree that all oppressions must be addressed.
But no, I certainly do NOT believe that we should "support national liberation struggles without critiqing the people who we side with." Nor should we support a women's liberation struggle withoiut, say, opposing the racism or pro-capitalism of its leadership (or even its ranks) or a workers' struggle without pointing out the limits of reformism or of its racism, and so on. Why would you assume otherwise?
Kevin S: Being AGAINST "national oppression" (like you are) is what I mean by being for "national liberation" (certainly our program for national liberation is not the same as that of the nationalists). BTW, didn't you write me off-line that you were going to send me something?
Indeed, my point was exactly that anarchists can be for "national liberation" without being nationalist, in the sense "national oppression" exists at a social level too, not merely on the maps of states. I dodn't personally care for the talk about "national rights" as it abstracts away the real issues at stake on the ground, in a way that is characteristic of nationalist doctrines. But as was made clear earlier in the discussion and in a previous debate with Jose, while they are different ways to frame the problem the difference is unimportant if our responses to the problem are the same.
I do like how you explain it, that class is the "central stick" to the "pile" of oppression. Possibly what you mean is different than how I take it; to me class struggle is the clearest expression of any social struggle, and in particular things like "national struggles" are but a crude expression of what is really, at base, a social struggle. (Obviously this concept of "class" is rather more than economic, but personally I'm critical of the sterile economicism that defines "class" only as a conflict on the shopfloor, the flip side being that I also criticize insistent "national" labelling of racist oppression.)
On a side note ... yes, I did ask if you would review some notes, to which you said yes. Unfortunately I've been super distracted lately and haven't managed to finish those up yet. The same problem also has prevented me publishing that report on the national question which I had promised months ago! So my apologies for that....
This text is now available as .pdf pamphlet (along with the "Lessons for the anarchist movement of the Israeli-Lebanese War" text by Wayne Price) from Zabalaza Books at the following link.
The existence of the Zionist entity in the heart of the Arab-Muslim is in itself a strange
Because the Zionist entity is not shared with the Arab world, anything that characteristics such as religion, customs
Traditions and language. The existence of Israel within the Arab world is a big mistake, and constant tension
In the Middle East also note since 1948. Such as the entry of foreign objects inside the human body begins
Body fever, tension and fatigue and to ensure even go out foreign objects.
To all Arab and Islamic countries to form the Ministry of Defence and one common to all States and the expulsion of the Jews
From the Middle East. This is the best choice for Arabs and Jews in that one because he Bjrdasiraiil within the Arab world
Will feel the Arab world would not be true of the world would not be true of the Jewish people will never feel the stability and comfort, but if
Came out of Palestine, all Palestine greetings to all
I would like to thank the author, for enlightening me, as I was shocked to hear-from a young comrade of the 'anarchist' position on Palestine, considering the recent bombings in Gaza. And how would we support the Palestinian people. To which the reply was that Palestine was the bitch of the arab world-just like israel was the US bitch....
This didn't clear up my original question-of solidarity with the Palestinian people; but also more importantly how would one support Palestinian/Israeli anarchist. The young comrade has not provided an answer yet.... The anarchist predicament, is once again relegated to the personal pecadillos of individuals views/interpretation of anarchism-which ultimately is a shame-as solidarity with the Palestinian people is left to individual support-as opposed to the more 'traditional' ways-unions, solidarity groups, socialist/communist groups etc.
Will this view/practice, change?
I am not quite sure what Tek No More is asking (nor do I understand the meaning of his anarchist friend's comment). My essay was dealing with the basic political question, which side are we on? Israel or the Palestinian people? Are we neutral? Or are we on the side of the oppressed? Once we anarchists decide that we are on the side of the oppressed, then we have to decide how to practically implement such a position.