Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Israe, One Struggle*, LEFT, RIGHT, TURN BACK! 28/01/04

Before leftist activists take to the streets with vigils against the settlements or the oppression of the Palestinians, and in order for them to even be able to formulate a real alternative to the Apartheid policies, massive land theft and low-profile transfer which we are witnessing these days, they must first identify the social conditions that enable the current right wing government to imprison, starve, wound and kill the Palestinian people. The left must also recognize and understand its' own role in creating and prolonging these conditions.

Contrary to the political conditions which make current policies possible (a simple arithmetic majority in the Israeli parliament), social conditions have much stronger, deeper roots (historical, cultural), and enjoy an equally strong hold within the left as they do within the right.

These conditions are interconnected and weaved with one another, however it is possible to isolate two main ones, which are at the heart of the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians: Zionism and Militarism.

The Israeli left cannot become an obstacle for the brutality of Ariel Sharon's government (or Barak, or Netanyahu or Rabin before him), because its' hands are tied in blind obedience to the demands, needs and to the very viewpoint of the Israeli army. The leftist camp declares it does not believe in a military solution to the conflict, but with the same breath declares also that it intends to join the army and give it full, unconditional support, no matter what. Thus, in its' willingness to always and as a matter of principle hand itself over to military service - the left neutralizes its' own potential to halt the Militaristic carnage. If Israeli prime ministers throughout history, from both the left and the right, hadn't known that the army is a sacred "apolitical" tool at their disposal, enjoying sweeping popular support, they would not have been able to depend on it so readily and easily, and one can assume they would have had to stick more rigidly to the road of negotiation and true diplomatic solutions.

We ask, what credibility is there for people who realize that military force is not a solution, and who witness today the high, ever-growing number of victims and the vast destruction that the attempts to implement it bring, and yet are still willing (as well as demand of others) to serve in the army: to become cogs in the very same machine that creates and perpetrates these ill-fated attempts?

A good example of the hegemony of Militarism in Israel is that group of people labeled "Refusniks". As a whole, members of this group are not conscientious objectors in the true meaning of the term, as it is in the rest of the world, meaning people who do not believe in war and combat. The "Refusniks" merely refuse to serve in the occupied territories. They are ripe with the disease of Militarism, since they do not question, not even for a second, the legitimacy of the Israeli "defense" force, and do not challenge the legitimacy of war as a means to solve national conflicts. They are willing to serve the war machinery, to kill and be killed by command, as long as they, personally, do not have to march their little feet across this or that geographic line (in this case the "green line": Israel's border prior to the 1967 war and its' subsequent occupational misadventure).

The rest of the left, institutions such as "Peace Now" and "Meretz", are even more captivated than the "Refusniks" by that old myth according to which joining the Israeli army is not a political act or statement. The uniform and unit pride, like the baton, the rifle and the tank, are not "neutral".

Lending a hand to any and all of these means actively supporting the suffering, wreckage and death they sow among non-Jewish populations. For the more than two thousand Palestinians killed since the beginning of the El-Aqsa Intifada alone, for their families and for the tens of thousands injured, dispossessed and the homeless "our forces" have created - for them there is no comfort in the fact that the soldiers who inflicted this upon them did not do it out of "malice". It does not make an ounce of difference whether those who are crushing their cities under armored bulldozers, imprisoning them in their homes at gunpoint for weeks and dropping bombs on them from the sky, are "right wingers" or "leftists", racists or humanists, believe in military solutions or don't. In the talk-shows on our TV screens the difference might seem significant, but if it was us standing in the shoes of the people in the occupied territories, we would no doubt finally understand the simple fact that there is, in all honesty, no difference at all.

The second social condition paralyzing the leftist camp from rising up against the killing, along with the sanctity of the IDF, is Zionism.

In the official stance and even slogans of mainstream Zionist leftists, one can detect a certain thesis: "Let us pull out of the occupied territories and all will be well" says a student group, "Leave the territories, return to our senses" exclaims the Peace Coalition, and so forth. The thesis is that the military conquest and occupation of the left bank and the Gaza strip were and still are something "alien" to the state of Israel, a kind of isolated historical "mistake" committed in the past, for reasons supposedly unrelated to the nature and essence of Zionism, and if we were only to pull out of them then everything would fall into place and back to normal. The truth, however, is not that simple.

Long before the occupation of the Palestinian territories in 1967 (almost twenty years before), in what the Zionists call "The War Of Independence" and the Palestinian people call "El Nakba" (The Disaster), close to 500 Palestinian villages were destroyed by Zionist armed forces (villages which today have no trace of existence in our current geographic or political landscape), and more than half the Palestinian people were expelled from the territory that became the state of Israel (we are talking about 750,000 people who were torn out of their lands and homes, whether directly by forceful transfer or by threats and the spread of fear through various massacres perpetrated by the Zionist side - of which Deir Yassin is the most famous, although not the only one or most terrible).

As long as the left continues to see the occupation of the Palestinian territories as some isolated historical mistake - the root of the problem instead of another one of its' symptoms - it ignores (quite conveniently) the most crucial chapter of the Israeli-Arab conflict, which is the nature of the establishment of the "Jewish state": at the expense of the Palestinian people who lived here until the arrival of the Zionist movement. That is why the Zionist left fails to comprehend, just as Itzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak failed to comprehend in the Oslo and Camp David accords, the viewpoints and demands of the Palestinian side, which "insisted" on full control of the west bank and the Gaza strip (only 22 percent of Palestinian territory during British mandatorial rule). He who remains blind to this - and this includes of course the Zionist left which enthusiastically supported these accords - cannot see that for the Palestinians, the demand of statehood over the aforementioned 22 percent meant that they were willing to give up 78 percent of the land from which they were expelled and exiled, and was in fact a historical compromise.

The left, the so-called "peace" camp, will never be able to establish a real, lasting peace, as long as it denies the responsibility of Zionism in the displacement of the Palestinian people from their land, and as long as it refuses to understand that a country in which more than a fifth of the population is not Jewish cannot be both Zionist (a "Jewish state") and truly democratic. The best that the Zionist left can afford itself is a "military democracy" with second class citizens (Palestinian, Bedouin, Druze and foreign workers) and "generous offerings" a la Barak or a "recognition of a Palestinian State" a la Sharon, which mean nothing but the establishment of poor Palestinian ghettos, separated and devoid of hope, to become easy dumping grounds for products, sweatshop infrastructures and a source of cheap labor for Israeli industries - Shimon Peres' "New Middle East". Indeed, it is not the least surprising that from 1993 (the beginning of the so-called "peace process") until today, the situation of the Palestinian people has only gotten worse (and the number of settlers on their lands has doubled!).

The only thing that a left which insists on staying inside the parameters of Militarism and Zionism and their historical narrative can offer Palestinians is peace "from a position of superiority", hoping all the while that "Gaza will sink into the sea", as its' beloved martyr Rabin once put it (that same man of peace who ordered the breaking of arms and legs of innocent Palestinians as a determent measure). The headline of the latest left wing mass demonstration says it all: "Get out of the territories, for Israel's sake!" - the other side does not exist, its' demands and needs are irrelevant, and only the Jewish dead are taken into account.

The Zionist left is not capable of rising above its' inherent limitations. Its' political role is reduced to merely playing "good cop" to the "bad cop" of Ariel Sharon and the fascist generals who will follow in his footsteps. It's role is to assess damage control, put a more gentle face on Apartheid policies. It's role is to bomb, kill, destroy, discriminate - only slightly less. To shoot and shed tears at the same time, with drawings of doves, flowers and peace chants in the background. The absolute most it can do is try to impose a "peace agreement" like the ones the right wing and the USA are currently trying to impose: a peace agreement which brings no "peace" and no "agreement", and will be forced under military threat on Arafat, Abu Mazen or any other Palestinian leader willing to sell his people in exchange for the chance to be a corrupt, brutal despot in one giant prison disguised as a state.

The Zionist left is constantly competing with the right wing: which one carries more national flags during its' events, which one sings the national anthem louder, which one is harsher in its' condemnation of “draft dodgers”...

We wish to convey the message that there is no longer a need to compete. You, the left, have become its' equal. The common ground you share - Militarism and Zionism - is stronger and more meaningful than all those cosmetic differences separating between you. The Palestinian people, on whom our fathers, brothers and sons are committing war crimes via the terrorist organization known as the IDF, sure as hell can’t tell the difference.
* Copied from the web page of the Israely anarchist group Maavak Ehad (One Struggle in Hebrew)

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