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Eyewitness Lebanon: In the land of the Blind

category mashriq / arabia / iraq | imperialism / war | feature author Sunday September 03, 2006 00:04author by Michael Schmidt - reporting for Anarkismo Report this post to the editors

Hezbollah worship, slavish anti-imperialism and the need for a real alternative

I’m an anarchist communist journalist and wrote this piece specifically for I entered Lebanon via Syria, from the north during the second half of the war, on the last access road not yet bombed by the Israelis (yet a plantation I travelled through was flattened an hour after I passed). I travelled mainly in Beirut and in its bombed southern suburbs, and in Sidon in the south as far south-east as the target of Ghazieh, leaving on the first military transport flight out after the ceasefire came into effect.

Photo: The stone arch of a monument under construction in Ghazieh frames a damaged Mercedes and the rubble of the home in which the 7-member Khalifeh and 14-member Badran families were killed and 28 others injured.
Picture: Michael Schmidt



[NB: I’m an anarchist communist journalist and wrote this piece specifically for I entered Lebanon via Syria, from the north during the second half of the war, on the last access road not yet bombed by the Israelis (yet a plantation I travelled through was flattened an hour after I passed). I travelled mainly in Beirut and in its bombed southern suburbs, and in Sidon in the south as far sout-east as the target of Ghazieh, leaving on the first military transport flight out after the ceasefire came into effect. The experienced of war narrows one’s focus very sharply: in other words, being on the ground gives one a unique insight into local conditions, but deprives one of a wider perspective. For example, coming within 1.5km of being on the receiving end of an Israeli airstrike made a deep impression on me in terms of the Lebanese cost - but it was impossible for me to assess the Israeli cost from that position].

Even for conservative capitalist journals such as The Economist, bearded, smiling Hezbollah chieftain Hassan Nasrallah is the face of the recent Israeli-Lebanese War - but for me, the face that defined the war will always be that of two-year-old Malak Jubeily, lying dead in a morgue in the southern port city of Sidon.

Malak lived in the predominantly Shi’ite suburb of Ghazieh, south-east of Sidon. Tall for her age, she had just complained to her father Ali Mohammed Jubeily, 31, that she was hungry, when an Israeli rocket slammed into the tiny cemetery next door to her house on August 8. Shrapnel from the rocket - targeted at a funeral being held for the entire families of a pharmacist named Khalifeh and a fisherman named Badran, killed in the Israeli bombing of the central square of Ghazieh the previous day - cut open Malak’s belly and sliced through her left thigh.

Malak bled to death.

Photo:Two-year-old Malak Jubeily, killed in the bombing of a funeral in Ghazieh, south-east of Sidon, shrouded in a bloodied sheet in the morgue of the Al-Raai Hospital in Sidon.
Picture: Michael Schmidt

Now she is merely a statistic (1), listed among the 1,261 Lebanese dead (60 of them non-combatant soldiers, and perhaps 100 of them combatant Hezbollah guerrillas) and 159 Israeli dead (116 of them combatant soldiers). And yet, in the inevitable capitalist logic, a victor had to be declared in this, yet another illegitimate imperialist war waged against a civilian population in the Middle East by US proxy Israel.

So, The Economist boldly proclaimed on its front page Nasrallah wins the war (2), arguing that the surprisingly sustained Hezbollah rocket attacks against Israel fostered “the old illusion that Palestine can be liberated by force” among other Islamist forces including the Hammas government of the Palestinian territories.

A debate has been raging in anarchist communist circles (see comments on articles on the war) about where the emphasis should lie in our analysis of the war. It is clear that for people living in Northern and Western countries, the strategic objectives of the US/Israeli powers in pursuing this imperialist war - weakening Lebanon presumably in order to pave the way for the conquest of Syria and Iran in the manner of the Iraqi invasion and occupation - need to be underlined. However, for many people living in the South and East - including both Lebanese and South African anarchist communists - the question of US/Israeli imperialism is patently obvious, and so our analysis shifts rather to Hezbollah which is being upheld by the left for its “legitimate defence” against attack.

This does not in any way mean we equate the nuclear rogue state of Israel with massive conventional forces on its side - surely a greater danger to Middle Eastern and world peace than Iran with its uranium enrichment programme - with the ill-armed, marginal, sub-state guerrilla forces of Hezbollah. And it’s not merely a question of a military imbalance, but a political imbalance between a people, many of them extremely poor, who for so long have been pawns in the geo-politics of the region, and a relatively wealthy people propped up by the world’s single-most aggressive super-power.


The socialist press, from which one would expect a different take to that of The Economist, trumpeted a similar theme, albeit for different reasons. Socialist Worker, the British paper whose photographer Guy Smallman I met briefly in Beirut, proclaimed US empire is rocked by Israel’s defeat (3), stating that “the resistance across the region has been strengthened”, thwarting American designs on following up the invasion of Iraq with that of Hezbollah’s alma mater, Iran. Certainly, Israel threw more than enough ordnance at Lebanon in pursuit of objectives that clearly had nothing to do with the recapture of two of its kidnapped soldiers, having been worked out months in advance. Its cluster-bombs (apparently made by the US) continue to maim people returning to the devastated areas who stumble across them, while several others have died since the official cease-fire in further Israeli incursions into Lebanon. Israel’s imperialist campaign against Lebanon is far from over and any multinational “pece-keeping force” is likely to prop up Israel against its neighbour.

Socialist Worker’s Simon Assaf said (4) that Hezbollah’s victory was assured because of a massive return of displacees into south Lebanon on the last day before the cease-fire of August 14, in defiance of continued Israeli bombing and that the Israeli forces were compelled to retreat by this human wave; that it was “freedom from below”. That seems a little unconvincing to me, because whatever the left may wish, “the people” in this context usually means Nasrallah’s armed choirboys.

Of course, Israel and the right, naturally also claim victory, in having significantly damaged Hezbollah’s main base of operations south of the Litani River, in the southern Shi’ite suburbs of Beirut and in the Bekaa Valley, that traditional hideout of every radical organisation from the nearly-defunct Japanese Red Army to the now-moderate Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

Militarily, as Kenneth Besig said in the Jerusalem Post (5), the “victory” may well be Hezbollah’s: “Fewer than 5,000 poorly-armed Hezbollah terrorists stood off the mighty IDF [Israeli Defence Force] for over a month. An Islamic terrorist gang with no tanks, no artillery, no fighter jets, no attack helicopters, and just a few RPG’s and rifles held to a standstill nearly 30,000 crack IDF troops with the finest tanks, the best artillery, the fastest and most advanced fighter-jets and attack helicopters in the world. And they can still empty our northern communities with their rockets whenever they want. If that is not a victory, then the word has no meaning.”

In military terms, of course, this was an asymmetrical war, with Israeli might overwhelmingly targeting civilians and civil infrastructure with precision bombing (and many “mistakes” resulting from such precision including the Qana Massacre and the shooting up of a United Nations-protected displacee convoy). Nose-cones, shrapnel and fins of powerful missiles, allegedly US-made smart-bombs and bunker-busters, were found in the rubble of flattened neighbourhoods, leading to widespread suspicions that the US was using Lebanon as a bombing test-range in the same way as the Nazis used Spain.

I certainly witnessed chilling evidence of a bomb that takes buildings down soundlessly, apparently sucking them into an intense vacuum, whereas other bombs and rockets were exceptionally. Ranged against this, Hezbollah tried to hit who knew what (civilian or military targets) with low-yield guidance-less World War II-era Katyusha rockets. I did not personally see any evidence of Hezbollah firing missiles from residential areas - but I was shooed away by security men, presumably Hezbollah, in their stronghold of Ghazieh, who wanted to prevent me seeing some relatively small items being removed from the garage of a bombed house into the boot of a black Mercedes. These may well have been mortars, or some such small ordnance, but I have no proof. Nevertheless, the imbalance of power neither makes this a “conflict” instead of a war, as some analysts argued, nor means that anarchists should uncritically back the underdog.

Photo: The body of five-year-old Fatima Khalifeh is buried alongside that of her three-year-old brother Hassan, two other brothers, both grandparents and both parents - all killed in the Israeli bombing of a funeral in Ghazieh the previous day. While witnessing the funeral on a baking hot day, an Israeli targetting drone flew overhead, followed by four bombers, one by one. It was a very nerve-wracking experience and the funerals were conducted swiftly.
Picture: Michael Schmidt


But, in political terms, both sides’ claims of victory are wrong - and not only the dead testify to that. Israel clearly failed not only to comprehensively crush Hezbollah, but united, rather than divided the Lebanese population along its traditional religious fault-lines that were so painfully in evidence during the 1975-1991 Civil War (this divide-and-rule strategy was alleged by some Lebanese I spoke to to be Israel’s objective: keep Lebanon disunited and weak in order to install a puppet regime in Beirut).

Israel is also back in south Lebanon, where I doubt it actually wants to be, having withdrawn in 2000 in what was a positive move towards alleviating tensions in the region. Its war has pushed the inevitable negotiations with Hammas (with the bonus of the moderating gentrification that being in power brings) to a more remote date, making fill withdrawal from the unwanted Gaza Strip and unmanageable West Bank impossible.

On the other hand, Hezbollah’s “victory” is just as Pyrrhic. The Arab world, in disarray ever since Israel’s stunning pre-emptive Six-Day War in 1967 and increasingly lured by Western patronage in the absence of a Soviet option, is nowhere near as united behind a Hezbollah-style project as the rhetoric issuing from capitals such as Damascus makes it seem.

Egypt and Jordan have signed peace deals with Israel, effectively giving up on the dream of pushing Israel into the sea (significant in Egypt because Cairo was once the capital of para-fascist “Nasser-socialism” (6), and in Jordan because it is a de facto Palestinian state, yet one with a stable, employed, integrated Palestinian majority).

Libya and Syria no longer intervene directly in Lebanese affairs, with Syria having withdrawn its military forces last year (and, contrary to “Axis of Evil” propaganda, Syria keeps it Palestinians under strict control) (7). Iraq is wrapped up in its own bloody insurgency - while the Arabian Peninsula oil-states bask in the glamour of huge tourist-oriented building projects.

The Palestinian cause that Hezbollah champions is an article of faith that few Arabs care to get their hands dirty over. For distant, non-Arab Iran, Hezbollah is an expendable pawn of use only so long as it can drum up Islamist support. But what is the true nature of Hezbollah, the self-proclaimed Party of God? It is at the same time a guerrilla force, a Shi’ite religious movement, a social organisation - and a conventional Lebanese parliamentary political party.


Nasrallah himself has mutated his image, from the close-cropped beard, modern glasses, sports jacket and open-necked shirt of a Mediterranean businessman to the black-turban, grey abaya, and bushy beard of a fundamentalist patriarch whose acolytes chant “Allah! Nasrullah!” as if he is a new prophet.

Most commentators note that Hezbollah sprang up in 1985 among Shi’ites in the Palestinian refugee camps of southern Lebanon - three years after the last major Israeli invasion - as a new generation of radicals tired of the compromises struck by the Palestinian Liberation Organisation under the late Yassir Arafat and Fatah. The right unsurprisingly sees Hezbollah as an outright terrorist organisation publicly dedicated to the obliteration of Israel. The left, however, is not at all sure how to deal with Hezbollah, especially given the fact that it appeared to be the only force that resisted the Israeli invasion. Marxist-Leninist journalists such as Michael Karadjis of Australia’s Green Left Weekly (8) claim it as a “a national liberation movement, rather than an ‘Islamist’ or ‘terrorist’ organisation” that has managed remain non-sectarian and avoid the pitfalls of both Islamic fundamentalism (being hostile to a marginal Al Qaeda presence in Lebanon) and of opposing Jews for their faith instead of Zionism for its imperialism. But however “non-sectarian” it is, it is hardly in favour of free thought - as the martial tone of its propaganda videos on al-Manar TV show (9).

Is Hezbollah “Islamo-fascist” as the European, American and Israeli right claims? The Lebanese people should be able to tell, having direct experience of home-grown fascism thanks to the Khataeb (Falangist) party, founded along Spanish Falangist lines in 1936 and responsible for the Israeli-sanctioned Sabra and Shatilla massacre of Palestinian refugees in southern Beirut in 1982. Certainly Hezbollah is a theocratic right-wing organisation built on conservative social grounds and an obscene leadership cult - and I suspect its adoption of the goose-step and the Nazi salute is far from accidental. The most visible faction of the Lebanese anarchist movement (10) characterizes Hezbollah as “reactionary”. I’d prefer the term clerico-populist.

Karadjis writes: “Hezbollah is a nationalist, not a socialist, organisation, and socialists have many differences with Hezbollah’s ideology and many of its tactics. However, recognising that it is a national liberation movement rather than a ‘fundamentalist’ or ‘terrorist’ organisation is important in understanding the kinds of allies that are necessary in national struggle. Moreover, it is not necessary to romanticise Hezbollah in order to recognise that its actual political evolution and many of its tactical decisions make it a far better vehicle for the national struggle than many other organisations in the region with roots in ‘political Islam’, such as al Qaeda.”

He must have been watching a different Hezbollah propaganda broadcast to me. Hezbollah could easily be viewed as Iranian proxy force in much the same way as many national communist parties of the Cold War were little more than proxys for Soviet foreign policy. Established as a strike-breaking force of thugs in Iran by the Ayatollah Khomeini’s clerical counter-revolution in 1979 (apparently deemed a genuine revolution by Karadjis), its Lebanese offshoot is still used to play a plausibly-deniable long-range game by financiers and armourers in far-off Iran and elsewhere. But despite Iran’s boast of having armed Hezbollah, this should not be seen as an endorsement of US aims to tar-and-feather Iran with Hezbollah’s brush - which is according to many analysts the real strategic objective behind the Israeli-Lebanese War: to prop up the “War on Terror” after the outright failure of the invasion of Iraq to either find weapons of mass destruction or to stop Iraqi resistance to Coalition/proxy rule.


Anarchists such as Wayne Price of the North-Eastern Federation of Anarchist Communists (NEFAC) have argued (11) that it is an error to “equate the two sides” - Israel and Hezbollah - which naturally leads to a failure to support the oppressed against the oppressors. Clearly both sides have antique grudges against each other, so the question of who started the war is irrelevant. But though anarchists instinctively back the underdog, for us to be ‘“on the side of’ the people of the oppressed nation, supporting them against attacks from their oppressors,” as Price put it, could imply being on the side of Hezbollah, simply because it was doing most of the (defensive and offensive) fighting on the Lebanese side.

Price argues convincingly that anarchists should support “national liberation (here meaning the same as national self-determination: the right of a people to determine its own fate).” And he also rightly points to the Makhnovist model of “a national liberation struggle being waged with a non-nationalist program”. But the problem here, in real terms, is: whose “national struggle” (Karadjis’ phrase) is this anyway? The Palestinians? The Lebanese? The Iranians? And at the moment, there simply is as yet no Lebanese mass organisation with a clearly non-nationalist programme for anarchists to support.

On the other hand, Hezbollah has become inextricably linked with Lebanon, and has developed a wide range of social functions (a key feature of populist movements), stepping into the vacuum created by both the weakness of the Lebanese state and the Syrian withdrawal to become what some have called a “state within the state” (a clear source of its power).

But clearly, this Lebanese patriotism has been forced on Hezbollah simply because it is a fish out of water in any other context. It certainly would not be at home in either Syria or Iran or, even, arguably, the Palestinian territories: with a membership drawn primarily from among third- and fourth-generation Lebanese, they are naturalised Lebanese and no longer Palestinian. Though its recruiting-grounds are the impoverished camps established after the 1948 Israeli land-grab, many poor non-Palestinian Lebanese also live in these camps simply because rents and food are subsidised, further diluting the “Palestinian” nature of Hezbollah and, thus, to a degree, the validity of its claims against Israel.

The poverty in the camps and the lack of a future make their inhabitants prime fodder in being trained up in the death-cults espoused by groups such as Hezbollah. This is identical to the warped ethic under which young boys depicted in films such as Death in Gaza (12) are trained by their cynical “elder brothers” to seek martyrdom. Malak’s father told me without a trace of regret: “We offer up our children as a sacrifice to Allah” - though her mother Khadija, 24, choked in pain when she heard his callous words. This martyrology is a national mental disease in Lebanon, with public displays running the gamut from street-light posters of “martyred” children in Ghazieh to the bullet-holed Martyr’s Monument in downtown Beirut, one statue of which has ironically lost an arm.


In the land of the blind, the one-eyed is king. But who is king in Lebanon, in the sense of who has vision? Is it the nascent anarchist movement, al-Badil al-Chouii al-Taharruri (ACT, Libertarian Communist Alternative: )? As an anarchist-communist, I would like to think so, but in order to assess this, I met with ACT militant and academic Georges Saad in Baabda, south-east of Beirut and from his balcony, watched Israeli warplanes and warships flatten entire city blocks in the neighbouring suburb of An outgrowth of Alternative Libertaire (AL) of France, but consisting primarily of Arabic-speaking Lebanese members, ACT is a small organisation in a country with 3-million people. It associates closely with Communist Intifada, a radical faction within the declining Lebanese Communist Party (LCP), and work together within a broader social formation called the 14th of March Movement which is opposed to Syrian meddling in Lebanese affairs - in opposition to a Syrian revanchist faction (Syria and Lebanon were one state under French mandate from 1918-1946).

Syria/Lebanon’s anarchist history is slender, but a ground-breaking study by Ilham Khuri-Makdisi (12) shows that from about 1904, a group of Syrian/Lebanese radicals grouped around the figure of Daud Muja’is began disseminating socialist thought, and established night schools and reading rooms in Beirut and in Mount Lebanon (then a semi-autonomous province of the Ottoman Empire). This network interacted with other revolutionary networks in the region, notably the multi-ethnic network in Alexandria and Cairo that established the Free Popular University in Egypt in 1901, and the International League of Cigarette Workers and Millers of Cairo in 1908 (Egypt had been represented by Errico Malatesta in the Black International as far back as 1881 and by 1895, the first Arabic anarchist translations appeared).

The Muja’is network held what appears to be the Middle East’s first celebration of May Day near Beirut in 1907. After the Young Turk 'revolution' of 1908/9 overthrew Sultan Abdulhamid II, and the Turkish nationalists - who had initially been drawn to insurgent anarchism - showed their true colours, the Muja’is network and its papers al Nar of Beirut and al Hurriyya of Alexandria took a distinctly anarchist turn and in 1909 staged a wildly popular play about the anarchist educator Francisco Ferrer, murdered that year by the Spanish state.

However, the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 and the rise of Arab nationalism after the 1918 collapse of the Ottoman Empire put paid to the Syrian/Lebanese anarchist movement - until, as far as is know, the founding of ACT after the end of the Civil War (details have been lost on the Palestinians who trained Argentine’s Resistencia Libertaria anarcho-syndicalist guerrilla force in the 1970s). This is history that the ACT, according to Saad, was unaware of and what this rootlessness means in a Middle Eastern country with far more liberal than libertarian socialist tradition.


This is tough territory for the left to operate in, after all: pro-Syrian former LCP leader George Hawi was among those assassinated in a series of bombings last year. Saad said that ACT is a staunchly atheistic organisation, a hard sell in Lebanon perhaps, but one which could enable it to cross the religious sectarianism exploited by imperialist powers such as the US/Israel and Iran/Syria/Libya during the Civil War. As ACT’s Basina Bassan said in a 1995 statement (when the organisation’s name was simply Libertarian Alternative) (13), “the underlying cause of the war - the religious divide - has not really been addressed, and so the situation remains explosive”. Lebanese society remained deeply divided along confessional lines (14).

“Lebanon is a land of unrestrained capitalism,” Bassan continued, “with a government in favour of economic liberalism and privatisation - this in a country with little electricity, few telephones, and little clean drinking water. The wages of the most impoverished continue to fall, while the rich avoid paying their taxes, and what money there is the government spends on luxuries for its ministers.

“There is little to say about the Lebanese left - much of it is identical to the petit-bourgeois parties, more interested in getting a bigger slice of the cake than with real change. Its members actually support the liberal economic policies of the government - it is strange to sometimes hear the old Maoists quoting Marx to justify their ‘provisional return’ to capitalism.”

But, following the Lebanese General Union of Workers standing up to state military suppression of a demonstration in 1994, Bassan said, “the radical communist left is starting to regroup. It is made up of many political strands, but it is noticeable that even the nationalists are becoming more influenced by libertarianism, even anarcho-syndicalism. There is, then, a glimmer of hope, providing everyone learns the bitter lessons of experience. If we can work together in our areas of agreement, we may be able to regain the good years of 1970-75, before the war overtook the radical left.”

In its statement on the war this year, ACT said (15) that this radical communist left had since consolidated: “Since Syria’s humiliating retreat from Lebanon, two large political trends have developed: the 14th of March current (the date of the huge demonstration that took place after the assassination of ex-Prime minister Rafik Hariri), and the pro-Syrian 8th of March current, which has been joined by the Christian supporters of [retired pro-Hezbollah] General [Michel] Aoun, since he was promised the presidency of the Republic. We believe that the 14th of March camp constitutes a relatively ‘revolutionary’ current, in comparison with the 8th of March current which comprises corrupt elements under Syrian control and nostalgics of Lebanon’s dark past (17). The behaviour of the Lebanese Communist Party is nothing short of scandalous. Together with a few others, most of whom nostalgic for Arab Nasserism, it makes up a very weak third camp with little or nothing to offer [so it backs Hezbollah]. There has, however, been a split within it (Communist Intifada), which Al-Badil is close to.”


The condition of anarchist communism in Lebanon is nevertheless very weak, notably ACT’s failure to establish relations with the Israeli/Palestinian organisation Anarchists Against The Wall (AATW) - the “apartheid” wall that divides their territory - and its lack of contact with anarchists and left communists in countries such as Egypt, Turkey (Anarchist Communist Initiative), Iran and Iraq in particular (the councillist Workers’ Communist Parties in the latter two) that would allow a far clearer regional anarchist communist analysis and jointly co-ordinated approach to the problems of the Middle East to be developed (18).

Regarding this year’s war, the ACT said: “This attack must be analyzed as part of a wider scenario. In our opinion, it arises in the context of the American plan for a Great Middle East. George W. Bush wants to create a large area that would be favourable to him and which would include Arabic countries and Israel, leading to the end, in one way or another, of conflict in the Near East. Iran and Syria are opposed to this project, which is obviously a good thing. But the bad thing is that Syria and Iran, who support Hezbollah and who fight against the plans of Bush and the Israeli government, are clearly totally reactionary countries, from all aspects.”

Hezbollah was described as “a party that, despite all it has done in order to drive Israel from Southern Lebanon and despite the large number of martyrs sent to carry out their religious duty, a one-way ticket to a paradise of honey and houris, has not satisfied Lebanese expectations for many years. The ‘Party of God’, under Iranian control, is clearly and obstinately anti-freedom... Once a party of resistance and sacrifice, the ‘Party of God’ has become unbearable...

“We say NO to Hezbollah as a reactionary, religious, pro-Iran party; NO to Bush, Blair and Chirac, who consider these disproportionate attacks (the destruction of Lebanon to obtain the release of some soldiers) as a legitimate form of self-defence by Israel; NO to the UN Security Council’s timid and ambiguous behaviour; NO to the Lebanese government which is incapable, weak and contradictory, wasting its time begging for help, counting the casualties and placing its hope in international tribunals.” This comment has, however, been criticised by other anarchists in Lebanon (19) as coming from a group out of touch with the grassroots and by an helper for raising”not a single NO (among all the NOs included) to the Israeli Zionist fascist clique.”

So much for anarchist analysis - but is there a real anarchist communist option for Lebanon? As the most socially liberal country in the Arab world, there is a great chance for a real politics of liberation to take root. If, as Price argues, “only the anarchist programe can” “liberate Lebanon and other countries from imperialism,” such a programme at least requires pragmatic solidarity and a functional network of councillist, left communist and anarchist communist organisations in the region. Only these, working within broader working class formations - such as the Lebanese General Union of Workers or the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq or whatever progressive social forces exist - can begin to build a counter-power that not only resists imperialism, but also the seductive lure of “radical, anti-imperialist” Islam.

- Michael Schmidt, Johannesburg, South Africa

Written for

(1) The reasons I name Malak are firstly, that she represents 27% of those killed on the Lebanese side: children under 15 who are clearly not legitimate military targets. And secondly, because humanity needs to be injected into these debates, not for reasons of sentiment, but because if we are waging a battle for the heart of society, we have to care about actual people.
(2) Editorial, The Economist, Nasrallah wins the war, August 19-25, 2006.
(3) Joseph Choonara, Socialist Worker, US empire is rocked by Israel’s defeat,
(4) Simon Assaf, Socialist Worker, Lebanon: freedom from below,
(5) Kenneth Besig, Jerusalem Post, quoted in Mike Whitney, Restarting the 34-day War, Counterpunch,
(6) For the Nazi origins of Gamal Abdel Nasser’s “Arab socialism” read Martin A. Lee’s seminal account of the post-war survival of the fascist idea in The Beast Reawakens: Fascism’s Resurgence from Hitler’s Spymasters to Today’s Neo-Nazi Groups and Right-Wing Extremists, Little Brown & Co., 1997. Lee’s arguments, it must be noted, are often deeply unpopular with the left which tries to divine a liberatory project in such state centralism - but an Arabist “third position” has certainly proven influential among certain neo-fascist factions. From &n=283155
(7) Apart from a yellow-and-green Hezbollah flag flying from a statue of Salah ad-Din - the conquerer of the Crusaders - in downtown Damascus, and several on roadside stalls near the Lebanese border, I saw very little obvious Syrian support for Hezbollah.
(8) Michael Karadjis, Green Left Weekly, Lebanon: Hezbollah: its origins and aims, August 9, 2006,
(9) Clips from these Hezbollah propaganda adverts can be viewed online at:
(10) I heard of, but did not encounter, student anarchists at the American University of Beirut. A (presumably Lebanese) group from international anti-fascist organisation Red and Anarchist Skin-Heads (RASH) working in Europe reported that they had returned to Lebanon to provide direct mutual aid to villages in the south of Lebanon deemed unreachable by aid workers. Interview with anarchist militants in Lebanon, Infoshop, 23 August 2006,
(11) Wayne Price, North-Eastern Federation of Anarchist Communists, Lessons for the anarchist movement of the Israeli-Lebanese war, written for, 2006,
(12) James Miller (killed by Israeli fire during the filming) & Saira Shah, Death in Gaza, 2004,
(13) Ilham Khuri-Makdisi, Levantine Trajectories: The Formulation and Dissemination of Radical Ideas in and between Beirut, Cairo and Alexandria 1860-1914, Harvard University, 2003.
(14) Basina Bassan, Al-Badil al-Taharurri, Alternative Libertaire (English translation), 1996, News from the Land of the Cedars,
(15) However, an unyielding atheist position may prove problematic in that if anarchist communists slam the door on Muslim youth looking for a radical path, it could simply drive them into the arms of the likes of Hezbollah or even al-Qaeda. So far, this debate has primarily been held in the West where Muslims are in the minority - but is of far greater interest to Middle Eastern and North African anarchist movements where mainstream society is dominated by Islam. On the other hand, anarchists cannot, like much of the left, align themselves with right-wing imams on the spurious grounds that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”.
(16) Al-Badil al-Chouii al-Taharurri, The Lebanese and Palestinian People and Israeli Aggression, Alternative Libertaire (English translation), 27 July 2006,
(17) The 2005 “Cedar Revolution” that forced the withdrawal of Syrian forces was precipitated by a mass demonstration on March 14 of that year, but this force is really a very broad front of mixed political orientation including many Hariri supporters, leading to criticism by some Lebanese anarchists about working within or alongside it. Nevertheless, anarchists have to work within the working class and poor, not outside them. This is a real challenge in the conditions of Lebanon where non-party social movements appear to be virtually non-existent and party-based patronage and exclusion dominates social life, from getting a job to where you live.
(18) This weakness is sadly common to many anarchist organisations: they tend to relate to organisations with a common language, which divides the anarchist world into Anglophone, Lusophone, Francophone etc blocs. So, a key strength of the anarkismo project is its rapid translation of anarchist analysis from around the world into a range of different languages (similar to the a-infos project’s work relating to anarchist news).
(19) A member of RASH filed a comment to criticising the al-Badil statement on the war (note 15 below), saying it “does not represent in any way the tendancy of [the] lebanese autonomous or anarchist movement. [T]his writer should be ashamed of himself and could do better by showin up in protests rather then just writting nonsence propaganda.” Saad admitted to me when I was in Baabda that al-Badil was not as active as it could be, a capacity problem common to small “Third World” anarchist organisations such as my own. In response to this criticism, he asked those making it to get in touch with al-Badil in order to establish a dialogue. Later addition (5 Sept). Specifically he says ""I know that to be small organisation is not a wrong. But the problem it is that there are not many anarchists in Lebanon. We will go down more and more on the ground. The comrades of France perhaps will organize a money collection to help lebanese after this war; they have another project on the level of the SIL to finance us precise projects to reinforce us. We continue to estimate that the theoretical level is important and not only to take part in demonstrations. We have the project to ask to the SIL to finance us the publication of other delivers on anarchism.""

author by Ilan Shalif - AATWpublication date Sat Sep 02, 2006 23:02author address Tel Avivauthor phone Report this post to the editors

Michael wrote:

The condition of anarchist communism in Lebanon is nevertheless very weak, notably ACT’s failure to establish relations with the Israeli/Palestinian organisation Anarchists Against The Wall (AATW) - the “apartheid” wall that divides their territory - and its lack of contact with anarchists and left communists in countries such as Egypt, Turkey (Anarchist Communist Initiative), Iran and Iraq in particular (the councillist Workers’ Communist Parties in the latter two) that would allow a far clearer regional anarchist communist analysis and jointly co-ordinated approach to the problems of the Middle East to be developed (18). "

It seems Michael is not aware of the dangers in the Middle East are facing. The Palestinian anarchists are in the most dangerous position. The Turkish ones started organizing relatively freely only the last years. In Egypt, there are for sure anarchists, but it will still take time till we will have signs of them. (To my knowledge there is only one Egyptian libertarian communist active in the internet.) As for the councillist Workers’ Communist Parties in Iran and Iraq, I am not sure at all how much antiauthoritarian label fits them...
As for the Israeli Anarchists Against The Wall (AATW), it is not really an organization.... and clearly not Israeli/Palestinian though some Israeli Palestinians participate in its actions.
(AATW is really a loose direct action movement consisted mostly by anti organizational antiauthoritarians many not even labeling themselves "anarchists".)

Any way, direct contacts between Israeli anarchists with like minded people in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, are too dangerous to both sides. Worthy communications can be easily done indirectly through international anarchists forums on the internet.

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author by Batur Ozdincpublication date Sun Sep 03, 2006 02:05author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Anarchism is relatively a new movement in Turkey. (first anarchist issue was published in 1986) That's why it took some time to get organizations having their own ideological path. Anarchist communists have started organizing just a few years ago. Apart from that (unfortunately) people living in here are little bit far from Middle Eastern politics. For sure many anarchists participate anti-war demonstrations and write some declarations on that, but from my point of view they mostly see the eastern "moslem" world relatively far from the "christian" western world. Maybe this has sth. to do with not speaking Arabic language or geological distance but in anycase I belive it is sth. related with the country's own agenda turning its face to EU. That's not the unique problem of anarchists in Turkey also problem of marxists.

Some 25-30 years ago the atmosphere was quite different and many leftists went to Lebanon to get guerilla training; but things have changed now. Since PKK was forced to leave Syria and Lebanon in late 90s, probably there is not much connection with Lebanon or Palestinian left. On the other hand, with the effect political immigration to Europe (after the 1980 military coup) many -illegal- leftists (and few anarchists) are now more integrated with the problems in the western world -no matter they "confess" it or not.

Though still some people try to integrate Turkey's left with Middle East political movements. A few weeks ago an interview with Hezbollah leader Nasrallah has appeared in a marxist daily paper Evrensel. In here Nasrallah was talking about Turkish marxist revolutionaries and kindda seeking cooperation with them. However, it was understood that all this interview was a fake one and attempts to integrate Turkey's left with Middle East islamist movements seem to fail again.

author by Wayne Pricepublication date Sun Sep 03, 2006 13:34author email drwdprice at aol dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Michael writes that I wrote "that it is an error to “equate the two sides” - Israel and Hezbollah - which naturally leads to a failure to support the oppressed against the oppressors. But for us to be ‘“on the side of’ the people of the oppressed nation, supporting them against attacks from their oppressors,” as Price put it, could imply being on the side of Hezbollah, simply because it was doing most of the (defensive and offensive) fighting on the Lebanese side."

(1) He leaves out that I also wrote that class-struggle anarchists should politically oppose Hezballah and advocate an alternate program.
(2) However, since there was no other military force available in southern Lebanon, yes, I would be "on the side" of Hezballah, because it was doing the fighting on the Lebanese side. Between the imperialist and/or colonialist forces and the forces of the oppressed nation, even with its terrible politics, I would "support" those of the oppressed nation. I do NOT stand neutral between the oppressor and the oppressed and I do not understand anarchists who are.
(3) But that does not mean giving up our political opposition to the nationalists/theocrats/etc. Most important of all is to maintain separate organization of the working class. The praise of Hezballah by so-called socialists reminds me of the history of Chinese communism, where the early, working class, Chinese CP was ordered by Stalin's agents to join with Chaing-Kai Shek's Nationalist Army. Until the Nationalists turned on the CCP and murdered them by the thousands (see Malraux's Man's Fate). (This was eventually followed by Mao leading the CCP into the rural areas, giving up its working class base.)

author by mikail firtinaci - internationalist communist leftpublication date Sun Sep 03, 2006 16:19author email mikailfirtinaci at hotmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

I am in a communist organisation in turkey and personally like the article of schmidt. However while speaking of a radical alliance against both islamist and american emperialism -which is a vital neccesitty- one must realise that even anarchist communists are not so clear about the need for a communist revolutionary alternative for the existing burgeoise dual reality dominating the region. For most anarchist commies it is obvious that islamists are not better than amercan imperialism, but their self-critique of anarchism as a middle class individualist life style turned them towards leninists and their real-politics. That means to support both kurdish nationalist movement and the next step is possibiliy to support half islamic resistance.

No anarchist communist could recognise here that this can not allow a real internationalist movement to emerge with a real solid working class base rather that a fluid and shaking politico-allianceses ground with leninists.

So for the middle eastern anarchists -and for turkey anarchist communists to be concrete- the first vital necessity is to discuss and to be clear about the internationalism issue.

Unlike whatever Wayne Price says a political group can not be both pro-national liberation and pro-working class These are not the ideological commodities that can be bought frm the liberal idelogical market. If you want to be with the oppressed than you must always criticise their movement and try to show the counter revolutionary role of the burgeoise alternatives rather they are islamist, nationalist etc. If the anarchist communists choose this path then they will of course find themselves in the situation of searching for international allies - Which means going one step further and choosing the side.

author by Ilan S. - AATWpublication date Sun Sep 03, 2006 16:47author address Tel Avivauthor phone Report this post to the editors

Wayne wrote:
(2) However, since there was no other military force available in southern Lebanon, yes, I would be "on the side" of Hezballah, because it was doing the fighting on the Lebanese side. Between the imperialist and/or colonialist forces and the forces of the oppressed nation, even with its terrible politics, I would "support" those of the oppressed nation. I do NOT stand neutral between the oppressor and the oppressed and I do not understand anarchists who are.

On the same logic Wayne may suport the Hamas suicide bombers who explode with lot of Israeli jews and arabs in
busses and other places....

There is a quqlitative difference between opposing the Israeli murderous onslought and terror against the Lebanese people,
and supporting the Hizballah whose durderous Katyushas fired indiscriminantly kill mostly Israeli and Palestinians citizens living
in the north.

Or siding with people who want to oust a colonial/imperialist but not supporting organization of their who terorize their own people in order to "recruit" them to the struggle.

Though the Hizballa have some populist aspects it is not an organization that have any Lebanese peoople interests as thair main motive.

The guerrila act that gave Israel the excuse to its muderous onslought on the Lebaneze people was not in the service of the Lebanese people.

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author by José Antonio Gutiérrezpublication date Sun Sep 03, 2006 17:07author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"If you want to be with the oppressed than you must always criticise their movement and try to show the counter revolutionary role of the burgeoise alternatives"

That's exactly what Wayne is proposing. Stay with the oppressed, but in a state of constant criticism to be able to develop an alternative... that's the only way to get into the terrain of meaningful politics. By giving our back to something (let's say, national struggles) that is felt as urgent by the people but does not necessarily fit into our idea of a perfect A to Z revolutionary plan, then we are only alienating ourselves from the mass struggle and definitely the building of an "alternative" programme will remain confined to our feverish dreams.

As Cafiero said in his famous work "The Action", anarchists should go where the struggle is going on, where the people are opposing their oppresors and there agitate; he said quite rightly if anarchists are only to join movements that have an anarchist label on them, then they can wait forever and revolutions will happen, without us being able to play no role in them. We can wait for those movements as if it was Godot...

Probably, it is interesting to check out the efforts of the FCL back in the days of the Algerian liberation war to draw some lessons from it. But definitely, there is a possibility of national liberations to turn into class struggle movements -as the experience of the Makhnovists show. But that won't happen spontaneously, it depends on the people involved in class struggle politics.

author by Waynepublication date Mon Sep 04, 2006 12:03author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Anarchists with differing views like Michael's insightful article, because it is both well-written as well as focusing on the human costs of the war, at least in Lebanon. And I agree with the politics of his introductory statement, "This does not in any way mean we equate the nuclear rogue state of Israel with massive conventional forces on its side with the ill-armed, marginal, sub-state guerrilla forces of Hezbollah. It’s a political imbalance."

Also, he identifies me correctly as "Wayne Price of the North-Eastern Federation of Anarchist Communists (NEFAC)." However, it should be said that these are MY views and I am not speaking (writing) for NEFAC, which does not have a consensus on these questions.

mikail firtinaci of the internationalist communist left declares "that islamists are not better than amercan imperialism", which is true in that both have terriblely oppressive politics, but is false when you consider that U.S. imperialism dominates the whole world, which makes it the number one danger. Anarchists must oppose both imperialism and Islamism, but imperialism is still the main threat.

He writes that, contrary to my views, "a political group can not be both pro-national liberation and pro-working class." Well, I ask him, can a political group be pro-women's liberation and pro-working class? pro-African-American liberation and pro-working class? pro-Gay liberation and pro-working class? Is it possible to be pro-working class and also to support nonclass resistances? (1) If not, if working class issues are all that matters, then you are both being sectarian and capitulating to the sexism, racism, and NATIONALISM of the dominant society, of the oppressors! (2) If yes, if you do support nonclass struggles (while criticizing their bourgeois leaderships) then why not support the Kurds struggle for freedom? In that case, you are being inconsistent.

Ilan asks if I support Muslim suicide bombers. No I do not, since I think that it is an ineffective as well as immoral method of fighting. Being in solidarity with a military struggle (obviously I am not in a position to give much real military support!) does not mean agreeing with every method they use. Especially if I am also in opposition to the politics of the leadership. As to Hezballah's military struggle, I was mostly thinking of its armed resistance to the Israeli troops and bombs which attacked Lebanese territory.

author by simon Assafpublication date Mon Sep 04, 2006 20:13author email assafsimon at hotmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Sorry Micheal, but you should refrain form flippant comments about one million refugees... Do think that the Lebanese are just puppets on the big man's fingers?

You need to read a little about our history, and the part played by mass movements, maybe then you will be less inclined to make such basic errors.

A little more hummility is in order... don't you think?

author by curiouspublication date Tue Sep 05, 2006 08:17author address author phone Report this post to the editors

(from Hizbullah's declaration of principles)

Hizbullah and Dialogue.

Hizbullah observes the creed of the genuine Muhammadan Islam and the sublime human values emanating from it. This observance arises from ideological conviction that is established with proofs and evidence and does not originate from emotional liking or sectarian, denominational or racial group spirit. Since reason is the source of this observance, Hizbullah has always been ready to have dialogue with others over its convictions and creeds or even its method and positions; Hizbullah does not seek to impose its convictions on anyone, as it does not like anyone to impose their convictions on it. It is attached to have mutual understanding with the others. It does not think of annulling anyone, as it does not accept anyone to annul it. Therefore, continuing and incessant dialogue is the best way to rectify visions and positions; it is also a feature of Hizbullah.

author by Michael Schmidt - Anti-Repression Networkpublication date Tue Sep 05, 2006 21:16author email blackdragon at africamail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

You're right: it was flippant and worse, unclear. What I meant was that I do not buy Socialist Worker's theory, attractive as it is, that Israeli forces had been pushed back by the influx of Lebanese civilians - precisely because these were the same civilians they had had no compuction about killing en masse a few hours earlier. Though Socialist Worker was on the scene, its correspondents to not appear to have personally witnessed any Israei units cut off and having to be escorted back to the border by Hezbollah (as they reported). In other words, they were relying on information passed on to them by Hezbollah's choir for their interpretation of Israel's retreat prior to the ceasefire. My apologies if that was not clear (and I can see how it easily might not be).

- Michael

author by 4N4RCH15Tpublication date Wed Sep 06, 2006 05:50author email camokid0032 at aol dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

I must say, I truly do not understand how people are against Israel in this war. The country is so small, stranded in a sea of Arab nations. They ask simply for their land and for peace. However, simply the existance of this state is impossible for the stubborn Islamic Radicalist minds, so the goal of these terrorist groups is only the destruction of Israel. It is true that rockets have killed innocent people...ON BOTH SIDES. The main difference is that Israel does not support terrorism OR uses terrorist attacks. They nearly always attack in relatialtion rather than advancement. Get your facts in order, look at reality, and see that the problem does not lie with Israel, it lies with the hatred towards Israel. My father regularily visits Israel, and the horrors that occur are depressing. I wish for both Israel and Palestine, and every other nation to exist togeather. Israel's goal is pretty much the same, while the Arab nations only want a life without Israel. This is why I side with Israel.


author by Andrewpublication date Wed Sep 06, 2006 19:24author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Hi 4N4RCH15T.

I don't know if you read the article you are replying to or have read the other articles about Israel/Palestine on the site. If not I would suggest you start off by having a look at the index at where you will find many articles including several from Israeli anarchists. You will find these offer a perspective you seem to be unaware of.

On to you claims. It is true the Israeli state claims it only acts in self defence and does not carry out terrorist attacks. From an anarchist persepctive this is not surprising, can you show me a state that claims in its own words to carry out terrorist aggression? In their public pronouncements Hezbollah also claims to be acting in self defence and it describes the actions of the Israeli state as terrorist. So whose word should we take?

If we look at the casualtiy figures for the recent war we see that in Lebanon there were 1,600 civilians killed. Also Hezbollah admitted to 74 of its fighters being killed while Israel claimed to have killed 500. This means that even according to its own figures Israel killled over 3 civilians for every Hezbollah fighter.

Now lets look at the Israeli casualties. There were 39 civilians killed and 119 fighters killed. So for every Israeli civilian Hezbollah killed it killed 3 Israeli fighters.

You cannot examine these figures and still belive the claim of the Israeli state that Hezbollah is a terrorist organisation that targets civilians but the IDF is a defensive organisation that targets fighters. Even according to its own figures the IDF killed 9 times (900%) more civilians then fighters in comparison with Helbollah. If Hezbollahs figures are the correct ones then its much worse, the IDF killled around 80 times (8000%) more civilians in comparison with Hezbollah.

Things become much worse when we consider the weapons being used. The Hezbollah rockets were crude things that have almost no guidance and thus are likely to result in a high ratio of civilian to military casualties. Isreal claims and indeed has a high tech military with state of the art precision weaponary. It therefore should result in a much lower ratio of civilian to military targets.

Of course the official Israeli line is that this is because Hezbollah hid its rocket launchers in amongst villages. There are three problems with this.
1. Israeli military bases are also to be found amongst civilian infrastructure and indeed because it has universal conscription most Israelis are or have been part of the military structure.
2. Israel quite openly used strategic / terror bombing against areas of Southern Beirut in particular that is considered being in suppport of Hezbollah. And of course this and many other areas bombed were well beyond the range from where Hezbollah rockers could be fired into Israel.
3. Israel boasts about its precision munitions yet not only did it engage in stategic bombing of southern Beirut it also used area effect weapons like cluster bombs in areas where it knew there were large numbers of civilians. The terrorism involved in the use of these weapons in particular was made explicit when the UN revealed some 90% had been used in the last 3 days of the war, .i.e. when all involved new that a deal and a ceasefire was imminenet.

It is very well known that the use of such weapons result in unexploded munitions that can kill for months and years to come. As of 29 August these had killed 13 killed civilians suggesting that the use of this terror weapon will over the next months result in many more Lebanese civilian casualties then Isreal itself suffered during the war.

From these facts it is very clear that one cannot honestly say that Hezbollah used terrorism against civilians without acknowledging that Israel did the same. This does not tie in with the rhetoric of the Israeli state but again what state admits to carrying out terrorist attacks.

The rest of your comment can be deconstructed in a similar manner. When you write "They ask simply for their land and for peace" you have to also ask whose land and whose peace. It is hardly a secret that a large proportion of the land the Israeli military occupied was invaded by the IDF in 1967. Even the Israeli state does not consider this 'their land' although it continues to exercise military control over it. And of course a significant proportion of the rest of land in Israel was until 1948 occupied by Arabs. Engaging in a military land grab and then insisting that 'peace' means you get to hold what you grabbed is as old as imperialism.

You also should consider the language you use because although this may shock you it makes you sound like a racist. Have you considered how the phrase 'stranded in a sea of Arab nations' sounds to others. There was a time when the regime in South Africa would have seen itself as 'stranded in a sea of Black nations' and indeed there are Australians think they are "stranded in a sea of Asian nations". Identifying as the problem that those around you are of different ethnic background is pretty straight forward racism.

Anyway hopefullly you will take the time to read some of the articles on the site and realise there is another side to this story.

author by José Antonio Gutiérrezpublication date Wed Sep 06, 2006 22:06author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"The country is so small, stranded in a sea of Arab nations"

Apart from the blatant racism of this comment, it is quite easy to state the fact that a country that receives every year U$2 billion in military aid from the US and is a nuclear power in the region, cannot be seriously regarded as "stranded".

"However, simply the existance of this state is impossible for the stubborn Islamic Radicalist minds"

Again racism... but ugh, let's get to the facts clear. 87% of the Lebanese population supported Hizbullah's resistance to the Israeli aggression, including 80% of druze and christians. So the act og aggression of Israel was so blatant that the support to the resistance was well beyond some "stubborn" islamists. Even the Popular Guard of the Lebanese Communit Party was engaged in the conflict as well (losing 12 combatants).

"They nearly always attack in relatialtion rather than advancement"

In relation to the Palestine conflict, the attack on the Gaza Strip, it is important to note that the root of the conflict really lies in the assasination on the 8th of june of Abu Samhadana, a senior figure linked to Hamas. Then the 12th of june the preparations for a major attack on the Gaza Strip and the West Bank started. On the 24th of june, two Palestinian lads were kidnapped by the IDF, brothers Mustafa and Osama Muamar. Next day, Hamas kidnapped the soldier Shalit... the rest is a well known stroy. Can we call the Hamas kidnap unprovoked?

In relation to hostilities in Lebanon, on the 26th of may, a car bomb placed by Mossad in Southern Lebanon, killed brothers Nidal and Mahmud Majzub, from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. This lead to a minor one day crisis on the 28th, when both Hizbullah and the IDF exchanged rocket fire. Then in june some Mossad agents were captured in Lebanon in relation to the assasination and previous attacks on Hizbullah militants. so again, did the kidnappings of the 12th of july came out of the blue?

Apart from these facts, all the rest is well answered in Andrew's reply.

author by Michael Karadjispublication date Wed Sep 06, 2006 23:20author email mkaradjis at thenplanet dot net dot auauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Michael, you might be interested in my response to your criticism of my article in Green Left Weekly. Frankly, you coild have done a little better with nthe factual side of things. As it is, there is little real basis in your criticism at all:

author by Devrim Valerian - EKSpublication date Thu Sep 07, 2006 17:17author address author phone Report this post to the editors

We have replied to Michael Schmidt's suggestion of 'jointly co-ordinated approach', and Wayne Price's pro national liberation arguments in the link below:

Devrim Valerian


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author by Nestor - Anarkismopublication date Thu Sep 07, 2006 21:08author address author phone Report this post to the editors

This article in Italian:

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author by rx - three way fightpublication date Fri Sep 08, 2006 07:42author address author phone Report this post to the editors

interessting article by Left Turn contributor, Rami El-Amine.

he is quite critical of anarchists and anti-authoritarians for taking positions that in any way oppose Hezbollah. He considers many of our side to accept ruling class ideology and "Islamophobia",

"the anti-capitalists who blog at posted an entry titled "Defending My Enemy's Enemy" during Israel's recent invasion of Lebanon in which they argued that while Israel is the clear aggressor in the conflict and needs to be opposed, it doesn't mean the left should support Hezbollah. The bloggers argue:

…Hezbollah is essentially a right-wing political movement. Its guiding ideology is Khomeini-style Islamic fundamentalism. Hezbollah's political ideal, the Islamic Republic of Iran, enforces medieval religious law, imposes brutal strictures on women and LGBT people, persecutes religious and ethnic minorities, and has executed tens of thousands of leftists and other political dissenters.

If it's not already, this argument will one day become part of one of Hillary Clinton's or even George Bush's (minus the part about LGBT people) speeches justifying a war on Lebanon and Iran. Even though the entry is insignificant in terms of the number of people who probably read it, it articulates a political view that a lot of the left, particularly anarchists and anti-authoritarians, subscribe to but are not as open about -- hence their conspicuous absence from a lot of the organizing against Israel's invasion."

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author by Andrew - WSM - personal capacitypublication date Fri Sep 08, 2006 19:12author address author phone Report this post to the editors

rx far from being interesting this is a boringly familar argument. It's simply inverting Bush's "you are for us or against us' manta that he trots out every couple of months. So under his logic those who criticise conditions at Guantomino are aiding Al Queada.

And although sections of the left are very fond of applying this "Islamophobia" label I don't think it actually explains US/British policy at all. Far from having a general opposition to Islam they seek to bring on board Immams and others that will support US/British policy and to marginalise those who do not. Blairs support for 'faith schools' is a clear example.

author by Jedipublication date Sat Sep 09, 2006 04:55author email jedijedikiadimundi at yahoo dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

After following the debate on what is going on in Lebanon, and reading Wayne Price's article on the lessons us anarchists can learn from Lebanon, I believe that this point on national liberation is crucial for any further advancement of anarchist praxis.

The primary principle of anarchy, the end of the domination of man by man, must be adhered to. Of this there can be no debate, but the debate we are having is centered on the material relationships created by social constructs -- race, religion, and nationalism. We need to be much more dialectic in our understanding of the class struggle, as opposed to being absolutist, mechanical, and dogmatic which leads to reactionary opportunism. Class struggle is both internal and external. Working class versus Bourgiousie and working class versus working class. At this stage of history, the working class is divided against itself and the capitalists are enjoying free reign and are heading full steam into imperialist wars.

The working class in Lebanon is being bombed, who are these people but poor young men who are sick of being massacred for the interests of capital. They are exploited.

The young 4nar3ist (I think that's how he spelled it) was resolutely for Israel. Why? Because he sees "HIS PEOPLE" being surrounded by a sea of hostility. Again, the contradictions of state are being manifested. The young men and women of Israel see their fellow exploited workers in the middle east as their enemy, and their capitalist oppressors as closer to them then both the Isreali orthodox religious right and the "barbarians at the gate". They are exploited.

The working class of both spheres of inluence are exploited, just in different ways and by different methods. It was working class blood that was shed in the war, and it was working class rage that ended it prematurely. This cessation of the war is also part of the valuable lesson that the anarchist movement should look to by the way. So, why did the workers of who have more reasons to be in solidarity against the capitalist oppresors fight against each other? Simple, ideological social constructs with the sole purpose of dividing the working class against itself.

All forms of nationalism are capitalist ideology. Local cultural identity peculiar to geographical areas is used as a part of the statist ideology of nationalism, but is very distinct from the idea of a nation. Nationalism is a form of stateism where the national identity is primary over the individual identity of the workers themselves. The workers sublimate themselves to a percieved likeness based on the lowest common denominator projected in the interests of creating an affinity for the ruling elite. These projected stereotypes of the master class -- race, language, religion, etc. become calls to arms against "the barbarian horde invaders". The identity of the individual is lost to the the identiy of the state. Bakunin does a great job of explaining the religion of the state, much better than I can actually.

Okay, so, the debate that we are having is where does this leave us as anarchists. Simple, we struggle. Only anarchism can lead to the social revolution necessary for socialist construction to a communist world. Social revolution, socialism, and eventually communism are an effect of the anarchist struggle. If we struggle for National liberation, reformism, or socialism, then we may lose sight of the anarchist struggle. Anarchist revolution is a long term struggle. It takes a quantity of struggle to create qualitative leaps that will eventually negate the social antagonisms of capitalism. Capitalism must maintain divisions in order to preserve itself, and anarchists must create unity to destroy capitalism. Anarchist revolution can only come by fomenting the spirit of revolt within the masses themselves and where the masses organize themselves to struggle. We must struggle with the workers, but our focus should be to link their struggles to other worker's struggle thus creating solidarity and the potential for increased mutual aid.

We must join the mass organizations and struggle to win them away from any form of nationalist ideology and to an anarchist understanding of the world. This is a long process that is going to pay off with an international social revolution in the far distant future. We build today, one by one, but these ones will be multitudes someday. Today, we cannot ever support a nationalist struggle, but we can support the fact that workers need to shoot back to defend themselves. We must point out that the workers are shooting workers. We must point out that only the capitalist swine are benefiting from the bullets and bloodshed.

As the working class struggles against all forms of oppression, the only path that they can follow is the communist path. We join the struggles that the workers organize to illustrate how they need to keep fighting in their interests because their interests are humanity's interests.

We must not juxtapose a tactic for a principle. Will we join unions that are reactionary or national liberation movements? Of course, but only with the express purpose of pushing the movment to attack all forms of oppression, exploitation, and the state. Supporting the ideological construct of stateism in the form of national liberation is anathema to anarchism, but supporting self-defense is another thing. This is a contradiction, but it is based upon the reality that we are living in. Communist revolution is a long term struggle, but only anarchist organizing on anarchist principles will allow us to get there.

author by rxpublication date Sat Sep 09, 2006 13:05author address author phone Report this post to the editors

my comment about "interessting" was more about the fact that El-Amine seems to represent the line of thinking that many Leftists exhibit. i was disappointed, though not surprised, in his piece. i find it shallow politically. he avoids any indepth discussion of various Lebanese and Arab political tendencies and their varied relationships, and does not discuss the relationship of the populace in struggle to leading movements in the resistance, speciffically Hezbollah.

El-Amine instead adopts the position that any critical view towards Hezbollah, and ultimatley any Arab/Muslim movement, is based on "Islamophobia". he does what he accusses Bush and others of doing, that is he fails to seperate out political tendencies from the populace and rank and file.

El-Amine represents one trend in the post-Seattle anti-capitalist movements, that being Left Turn, a group that many US class struggle anarchists have worked in coalition with and probably will do so in the future. his article is interesting because it further shows differences that exist among the US anti-capitalist movement. i think we have to be aware of these positions and develop some responses.

I think the important issue for libertarian socialists, radical anti-authoritarians, class struggle anarchists, is to understand that their are real right-wing movements emerging that are in opposition to US/Western interests. i think there is a political contest between libertarians and authoritarians.

the discussion around national libertaion and popular resistance to imperialist aggression shows differences amongst our side, and it points towards the fact that our trend is a minority. it also shows we need to carve out positions and develop working campaigns that build on and advance our ideas, while simulataneously offering solidarity and aid to those is struggle.

author by Simon Assafpublication date Tue Sep 12, 2006 22:20author email assafsimon at hotmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Sorry Micheal, I have lived in Lebanon since 1970. Don't want to seem rude but I did not just appear for a bit of war tourism.

I have seen the country go through all kinds of wars and deep changes (from the 1973 student riots, the sectarian massacres of 1975, to the withdrawel of the Israelis in 2000... untill today) The one element that always goes unreported in the part played by ordinary people.

You can easily make the mistake that its just about parties... and people are just dupes or victims.

At every important point in our history the mass of ordinary people have proved disisive.

It is often said that the cvil war was ended by the 1989 Taif agreement, that the warlords suddenly found a formula to end the horror ... what is missing is the role played, for example, by mothers during the 1980s who kept boys out the reach of the militias (usually by sending them out the country). Not grand history, I grant you. But the hidden story of our country.

This is not new. The popular movements run like a river through our history, reaching back to the "commune movement" in the 1830s, up untill the solidarity shown by ordinary people during this war.

The movement of refugees on the day of the ceasefire was a replay of 2000 when ordinary people stormed the Khiam prison camp and drove off Israel's proxy South Lebanese Army.

We could spend all day listing the interventions of the "choirboys"-- the student movement of hte 1960s and 70s, the movement of Apple growers (gunned down by state secturty forces in the 60s), the network of familes and individuals who stood up against sectarian murder, the riots against price rises two years ago... the mass demonstrations against privatisation earlier this year...

A case in point is civil marriage. In Lebanon it is imposible (virtually) to marry out of your religious sect. You can conclude therefore that it is a deeply sectarian society... only thing is that people simply fly to Cyprus and marry under Cypriot law. Are they aware that they are undermining the rule of the clergy? probably not. But it is this changing the nature of Lebanon.

Micheal has made many interesting observations about the war... but please don't make the mistake of dismissing the actions, however small, of ordinary people.

In this war they made the difference between victory and defeat.

Much is made of Hizbollah, Islamism etc... but how do we explain that 80 percent of the country backed them... including Christians. Have the Eastern Orthodox and Maronites suddenly become converts to Sharia? Or to Shia Muslim philosophy? Of course not.

The country was being invaded (for the seventh time) and if there is one thing that we have learnt is not to allow our enemies to divide us. So in this war a mass of ordinary people opened their houses and communities to the refugees. Neighbours going round collecting food, nappies etc did not make on CNN or the BBC. It was a million small actions that taken together represents a movement of ordinary people.

By the time the refugees moved to reclaim the south they knew they had the whole country behind them... and they understood that if they did not return the resistance fighters would be isolate, and they would probably never be able to return (we remeber Palsetine).

Don't belittle this, or dismiss it. If you do you will make the same mistake made by countless others: that we are just "passive victims", "choirboys" etc.

Simon Assaf

author by Irving da Nailepublication date Sun Oct 15, 2006 01:07author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Isn't this "Oppressed Nation" thesis just a re-wording of the old "proletarian nation" idea floated by the Italian national syndicalists (later dubbed fascists) to justify Italian entry into WWI?

Isn't this "military support" for authoritarian nationalist gangs just a re-working of the old Trotskyite thesis of defending the "deformed workers states" against imperialism?

Anarchists in Russian sided with Bolsheviks against the Whites in the name of the revolution and ended up in gulag, in exile or dead.

Anarchists is Spain allied with republicans and stalinists in the name of anti-fascism and lost both the revolution and the war.

My point is that the enemy of my enemy is not my friend. If my supporting a statist gang at the head of an oppressed people only ends up helping that gang consolidate its power over those people how can that be being on the side of the oppressed.

Anarchist have to decide: are we going to continue to tail after nationalist gangsters in the name of anti-imperialism or are we going to stand on our own against Church, State and Capital.

author by Waynepublication date Wed Oct 18, 2006 09:51author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Irving da Naile writes, *Anarchist have to decide: are we going to continue to tail after nationalist gangsters in the name of anti-imperialism or are we going to stand on our own against Church, State and Capital.* He sees only two alternatives for anarchists: either tail after nationalist gangsters OR isolate ourselves from the mass movement of oppressed people in these countries, stay on the sidelines and make powerless comments. But others of us are trying to propose a third approach: to be part of the mass movement, to support the oppressed people when they fight against real oppression, but to counterpose the anarchist program to the nationalist program, not in the abstract but in the actual process of struggle. Sectarians never get it.

Irving writes, *Isn't this "Oppressed Nation" thesis just a re-wording of the old "proletarian nation" idea floated by the Italian national syndicalists (later dubbed fascists) to justify Italian entry into WWI?* Nope. Nothing to do with it. It is based on the idea that, well, some nations are oppressed. Mostly impressed by imperialism, although some of the oppressed nations also oppress other, weaker, nations (as Iraq oppresses its Kurds). Nor does this have anything at all to do with Trotskyist theories of "deformed workers' states."

Do you, Irving, deny that some nations are oppressed? Do you deny that imperialism exists? Or do you join with those autonomist Marxists, such as Hardt and Negri who have concluded that imperialism is over and no nations are oppressed any longer?

author by Omar Hamed - Auckland University Students for Justice in Palestinepublication date Tue Oct 24, 2006 22:37author email omarhamed123 at gmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

[note: this comment is a response to both wayne and Michael's articles]

there are some very interesting comments and debates and articles that i have read on anarkismo lately concerning the Israeli-Lebanon war.

i don't see how any of it actually relates to practical lessons for the anarchist movement and i thouroughly agree with simons comment that, "We must always be with those standing against imperialism." I would add, 'especially the imperialism caused by our silence'.

Some very practical lessons for the anarchist movement from the latest war:

*It is the job of people in the west, especially America and Israel to stop their states from executing or supporting imperialist projects. this means that regardless of ideology liberal/socialist/anarchist our job is to stop our state from carrying out it's imperialist goals. Wayne says, "I am writing from New York City and there is not much I could have done to support the military struggle in Lebanon".

1. How about, stop your nation-state from arming Israel?
2. How about pressure your government into calling for Israel to stop it's war on Lebanon?
3. How about get your local universities/schools/churches to divest from and boycott Israel?
4. How about build a global solidarity movement capable of ending US imperialism and colonialism?
5. How about confronting arms manufacturers that supply the israeli and us war machine?
6. How about trying to make imperialism unworkable by sabotaging it and subverting it?

Is this really the best conclusion that could be thought up, "Slogans are not enough. We need a sophisticated effort to express our politics."

*The way forward for anarchists and revolutionary communists is not to pore for hours over sophisticated efforts to express our politics but practical efforts to express our solidarity and to ultimately inhibit and restrict to the greatest extent possible the imperialist projects our states are waging or supporting.

*It is our job as activists, anarchists, revolutionaries, human beings to aid the struggle of the oppressed against the oppressor.

*use direct action in the struggle against imperialism

*highlight the military-industrial complex and seek to destroy it bit by bit.

*the proper analysis is one which ends US imperialism the fastest not the one that suits your personal revolutionary strategy

in this case this meant lending political support to the lebanese struggle and lending political support to the palestinian struggle.

this means we must show our political support for the people of Palestine and Lebanon and the Hezbollah and Hamas resistance movements in their struggle against Israeli aggression.

only when a critical mass of people in imperialist or pro-imperialist nations actively support (direct action/civil disobediance/ etc) this anti-colonial resistance can we stop these imperialist wars whic surely must be our specific goal when our nation states are openly attacking Palestinians and Lebanese.

a note on me: I am a Palestinian-Pakeha anarchist, living in Auckland, NZ. I am the spokesperson for Auckland University Students for Justice in Palestine. During this war i organised three demonstrations in support of the Lebanese resistance as well as a national "stop the war on Palestine and lebanon" day of action. I also organised a demonstration at the shareholder AGM of a NZ company that makes crystal oscillators used in US and Israeli smart bombs.
I went on national tv/radio/newspapers and openly gave political support to Hamas and Hizbollah. Last week i participated in and helped organise the disruption of the annual weapons conference in wellington.

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author by Michael Schmidt - Zabalaza Education Fundpublication date Wed Jan 17, 2007 17:55author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I forgot to note the meanings of the Arabic anarchist newspapers mentioned in my article: al-Nur means The Light; al-Hurriyya means Freedom.

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