palestinian solidarity in a time of massacres

December 13, 2006 at 4:16 am (anti-oppression, palestine, west bank)

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http://www.counterp unch.org/ atzmon11222006. html
November 22, 2006
What is to be Done?
Palestinian Solidarity in a Time of Massacres

By GILAD ATZMON

Let’s face it; while the Palestinian and Arab resistance evolves into an
absolute example of the ultimate heroism and collective patriotism, the
Palestinian solidarity movement in the UK and around the world is not
exactly what could be called a profound success story. In fact, it would
be erroneous to state that this is really the fault of those who
dedicate their time and energy to it. Supporting the Palestinians is a
complicated subject. Though the crimes against the Palestinians have
taken place in broad daylight and are not some well-kept secret, the
priorities of the solidarity movement are far from being clear.

When thinking about Palestinian society we are basically used to
thinking of some sharp ideological and cultural disputes between the
Hamas and PLO. Not that I wish to undermine that staunch disagreement,
but I am here to suggest an alternative perspective that perhaps could
lead towards a different understanding of the notion of Palestinian
activism and solidarity both ideologically and pragmatically.

I maintain that Palestinian people are largely divided into three main
groups and it is actually this division that dictates three different
political narratives, with three different political discourses and
agendas to consider:

The three groups can be described as follows:

1. The Palestinians who happen to live within the Israeli State and
possess Israeli citizenship – The Israelis have a name for them; they
call them ‘Israeli Arabs’. These Palestinians are largely discriminated
by Israeli law in all aspects of their lives; their struggle is for
civil rights and civil equality.

2. The Palestinians who live in the Occupied Territories – In most cases
those Palestinians are locked behind walls and barbed wire in Bantustans
and concentration camps in the so-called ‘Palestinian Authority
Controlled Area’ (PA). Practically speaking, those people live under a
criminal occupation. For three decades these people have been terrorised
on a daily basis by Israeli soldiers in roadblocks and incursions, they
are subject to air raids and artillery bombardments. Their civil system
is shattered, their educational system is falling apart, their health
system is extinct. These Palestinian people are craving for a single day
with no casualties.

3. The Diaspora Palestinians – Palestinians who were ethnically cleansed
over the course of the years and denied return to their homes by the
racially orientated Israeli legal system (the Law of Return and Absentee
Laws). The Israelis do not have a name for them, they simply deny their
existence. The Diaspora Palestinians live all over around the world.
According to the UN statistics every third refugee is a Palestinian.
Millions of exiled Palestinians live in the region in refugee camps, the
others can be found in every corner of the globe. The Diaspora
Palestinians know their rights and they want to be able to come home if
they so choose, they demand their right of return.

Confronting very different realities, the three groups above have
managed to develop three competing political discourses: The 1st group,
the so-called ‘Israeli Arabs’, struggle for equality. The means they
have to achieve their goals are largely political. They search for a
voice within the racially orientated Israeli society.

The 2nd group, namely the ‘PA inhabitants’ , battle against the
occupation. They fight for liberation. Their means are political, civil
resistance as well as armed struggle (in fact it is within the 2nd group
where the bitter struggle for hegemony between the PLO and the Hamas is
taking place).

Being out of Israel and lacking international support as well as
adequate political representation, the 3rd group is still ignored by the
entire Israeli political system and even by major players within the
international community. The exiled Palestinians are largely neglected
and their demand for the right of return is yet to be addressed properly.

Apparently, the Palestinian discourse is fragmented. It is divided into
at least three different, sometimes opposing discourses. Cleverly, not
to mention mercilessly, on their behalf, it is the Israelis who maintain
this very state of fragmentation. It is the Israelis who manage to stop
the Palestinian political and cultural discourse from integrating into a
single grand solid narrative. How do they do it? They apply different
tactics that maintain the isolation and conflict between the three
distinct groups. Within the State of Israel the Israelis maintain a
racially orientated legal system that turns the Israeli Palestinians
into 10th class citizens. When PA inhabitants are concerned, the Israeli
military maintains solid and constant pressure on the civilian
population. Gaza is kept starving, it is bombed on a daily basis. Some
of it is flattened. More than a few observers regard the situation in
the PA as nothing but slow extermination and genocide.

In order to humiliate the 3rd group, the Israelis enforce a racist
legislation that welcomes Jews to the country but rejects others (Law of
Return). In practice it is a racially orientated system that stops
exiled Palestinians from returning to their land.

Paradoxically enough, the more pain the Israelis inflict on any of the
groups, the further the Palestinians get from establishing a grand
narrative of resistance. Similarly, the more vicious the Israelis are,
the further the Palestinian Solidarity movement is getting from
establishing a unified agenda of activism. Indeed the Palestinian
solidarity campaigner is confused and asks himself what campaign to
choose. Who should be supported? The division of the Palestinian
discourse into three conflicting narratives makes the issue of
solidarity rather complicated.

Seemingly, different Palestinian solidarity groups follow different
political calls and Palestinian causes. Some call for an end to the
Israeli occupation, others call for the right of return. Some call for
equality. Many of the solidarity campaigners are divided amongst
themselves. Those who call for the right of return and ‘one State’ are
totally unhappy with what they regard as a watery and limited demand for
the ‘end of occupation’. Seemingly, Palestinian solidarity is trapped.

Joining one call and not another is actually surrendering to a discourse
that is violently and criminally imposed by the Israelis.

This is exactly where Zionism is maintaining its hegemony within the
Palestinian solidarity discourse. It is Israeli brutality that dictates
a state of ideological fragmentation upon the Palestinian solidarity
discourse. Whatever decision the Palestinian activist is willing to make
is set a priori to dismiss a certain notion of the Palestinian cause. It
is indeed painful to admit that it is the Israelis who have set us into
this trap. Our work, discourse and terminology as activists are totally
shaped by Israeli aggression.

The Battle Is Not Lost

However, there is a way around that complexity. Rather than surrendering
to the Zionist practice which splits the Palestinian solidarity
discourse, we can simply redefine the core of the Palestinian tragedy,
which is now turning into a global crisis.

Once we manage to internalise that the discourse of solidarity with
Palestinians is dominated by the malicious and brutal Israeli practices,
we are more or less ready to admit: it is the Jewish State: a racist
nationalist ideology that we must oppose primarily. It is Jewish State
and its supporters around the world that we must tackle. It is Zionism
and global Zionism that we must confront immediately.

Yet, this is exactly where the solidarity campaigner loses his grip. To
identify the Palestinian disaster with the concept of ‘Jews Only State’
is a leap not many activists are capable to do for the time being. To
admit that the Jewish State is the core of the problem implies that
there may be something slightly more fundamental in the conflict than
merely colonial interests or an ethnic dispute over land. To identify
the ‘Jews Only State’ as the core of the problem is to admit that peace
is not necessarily an option. The reason is rather simple: the ‘Jews
Only State’ follows an expansionist and racially orientated philosophy.
It leaves no room for other people as a matter of fact and principle.

Yet, once we come to grips with this very understanding, once we are
enlightened and realise that something here is slightly more fundamental
than merely a battle between an invader facing some indigenous counter
freedom fighting. We are probably more or less ready to engage in a
critical enquiry into the notion of Zionism. We are more or less ready
to grasp the notion of the emerging secular emancipated Jewish
collective identity. We are ready to confront the modern notion of
Jewishness (rather than Judaism).

Once we are brave enough to admit that Zionism is a continuation of
Jewishness (rather than Judaism), once we admit that Israel draws its
force from a racist ideology, harboured in national chauvinism and
blatant expansionism, once we admit that Zionism, which was once a
marginal Jewish ideology, has become the voice of world Jewry, once we
accept it all, we may be ready to defeat the Zionist disease. We do it
for the sake of the Palestinians but as well for the sake of world peace.

The Gatekeepers

Let’s try to think of an imaginary situation in which a dozen exiled
German dissident intellectuals insist upon monitoring and controlling
Churchill’s addresses to the British public at the peak of the Blitz.
Every time Churchill speaks his heart calling the British people to
stand firm against Germany and its military might, the exiled dissident
Germans raise their voice: “It isn’t Germany, Mr Prime Minister, it is
the Nazi party, the German people and the German spirit are innocent.”
Churchill obviously apologises immediately.

I assume that you all realise that such a scene is totally surreal.
Britain would never allow a bunch of German exiles to control its
rhetoric at the time of a war against Germany. Moreover, dissident
German intellectuals would not have the Chutzpah to even consider
telling the British what should or what shouldn’t be the appropriate
rhetoric to use at time of a war with Germany.

However, when it comes to the Palestinian solidarity discourse, we are
somehow far more tolerant. In spite of the fact that it is the ‘Jews
Only State’ that we struggle against, we allow a bunch of self-appointed
Jewish leaders and activists to become our gatekeepers. As soon as
anyone identifies the symptoms of Zionism with some fundamental or
essential Jewish precepts a smear campaign is launched against that person.

I have been closely monitoring the Jewish left discourse for more than a
few years now. I might as well admit that I can think of at least one
good reason behind Jewish anti-Zionist activism. I do understand the
need of some humanist Jews to stand up and say, ‘I am a Jew and I find
Zionism disgusting.’ At a certain stage of my life I myself was saying
just that. As some of you know, I totally admire Torah Jews for doing
just that. However, when it comes to predominantly Jewish socialist and
secular left groups, I am slightly confused.

Moshe Machover, a legendary Israeli dissident and a Jewish Marxist who
happens to be the intellectual mentor of the British progressive Jewish
activists, expressed the following view just a few days ago when he
stated a complaint he had with a petition:

“anti-Semitism is a Palestinian problem, as it pushes Jews into the
arms of Zionism. This has long been understood by all progressive
Palestinians. Anti-semitism is an objective ally of Zionism, and the
common enemy of Palestinians, Jews, and all humankind.”

Indeed anti-Semitism may be a problem, yet, is it really a Palestinian
problem? Should the Palestinian solidarity campaign engage in fighting
anti-Semitism? Shouldn’t we leave it to ADL and Abe Foxman? I think that
we better try to do whatever we can to save the people of Beit Hanoun.
This is where we are needed. I am certain that the vast majority of the
Palestinian activists know that I am right.

Every PSC campaigner I have ever spoken to admits to me that only very
few Palestinians find interest in the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign.
In fact, the statement by Machover provides the reason. According to
Machover, those amongst the Palestinians who fail to see that
anti-Semitism is the problem are nothing but reactionary, as only the
‘Progressive’ Palestinians acknowledge that anti-Semitism is indeed a
problem. Let me tell you, the Palestinians I know do not like it when
Machover or anyone else calls them reactionaries just because they are
not that concerned with anti-Semitism. Reading Machover, it is rather
clear that such views serve as a body shield for Jewish secular
collectivism and the Zio-centric historical narrative. If to be honest,
there is not much reason for any Palestinian to join a movement
predominated by the obsession with anti-Semitism.

May I tell you, I am not an historian. I am academically trained as a
philosopher and particularly as a continental one. I am interested in
the notion of essence. For me to attack Zionism is to aim towards a
thorough realisation of the essence of Zionism. To a certain extent I am
indeed an essentialist. This is pretty worrying for those who try to
reduce the discourse into positivistic exchange regarding numbers and
historical facts. I am interested in the spirit of Zionism. I’m
concerned about that which transforms the Israelis and their supporters
into ethically blind killing machines.

Beyond Chutzpah

You may have heard of the book I am holding in my hand. Probably, it’s
the ultimate Zionist tract: Alan Dershowitz’s The Case For Israel. I
don’t know whether any of you have ever considered reading this banal
not to say idiotic text. I did, it fell into my hands a few days ago.

Shockingly enough, this book is structured as a beginner’s guide for the
Zionist enthusiast, a kind of “Israel for Dummies”. It teaches the
nationalist Jew how to be an advocate and defend the ‘case of Israel’.
We know already that Norman Finkelstein has managed to prove beyond
doubt that the text is academically a farce. Yet, there is something
revealing in this text.

The book is a set of deconstructions of ‘the anti-Zionist argument’. It
starts with the heaviest ideological and moral accusation against Israel
and it gets lighter, more historical and forensic as you progress.

Dershowitz launches with the ‘million Shekels’ question “Is Israel a
Colonial, Imperialist State?” To a certain degree Dershowitz manages to
tackle the question. He asks, “if it is indeed a colonial state, what
flag does it serve?” Fair enough, I say, he may be right. I myself do
not regard Zionism as a colonial adventure. However, hang on for a
second, Mr. Dershowitz. It seems you might be getting off the hook
easily here. Our problem with Israel has nothing to do with its colonial
characteristics. Our problems with the ‘Jews Only State’ have something
to do with its racist, expansionist and nationalist qualities. Our
problems with Israel have something to do with it being a Fascist State
supported by the vast majority of Jewish people around the world.

Now if you, Scottish activists stop for a second, ask yourselves why
Dershowitz starts his book tackling the colonial aspect of Israel rather
than facing its Fascist characteristics. My answer is simple. We are
afraid to admit that Israel is indeed a Fascist State. It is
predominantly the politically correct groups that furnish Dershowitz
with a Zionist fig leaf. In fact, it is the Jewish gatekeepers on the
left who have managed to reduce Zionism merely into a colonial
adventure. Why did they do it? I can think of two reasons:

1. If Israel, the ‘Jews Only State’ is wrong for being a racially
orientated adventure, then ‘Jews for peace’, ‘Jews against Zionism’,
‘Jewish Socialists’, ‘Jews Sans Frontieres’ etc. are all wrong for the
very same reason (being a racially orientated adventure).

2. To regard the Israeli Palestinian conflict as a colonial dispute is
to make sure it fits nicely into their notion of working class politics.
May I suggest that a universal working class vision of Israel implies
that the Jewish State is nothing but a Fascist experiment.

I would use this opportunity and appeal to our friends amongst the
Jewish socialists and other Jewish solidarity groups. I would ask them
to clear the stage willingly, and to re-join as ordinary human beings.
The Palestinian Solidarity movement is craving for a change. It needs
open gates rather than gatekeepers. It yearns for an open and dynamic
discourse. The Palestinians on the ground have realised it already. They
democratically elected an alternative vision of their future. Isn’t it
about time we support the Palestinians for what they are rather than
expecting them to fit into our worldview?

From a talk for the Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign in Edinburgh.

Gilad Atzmon was born in Israel and served in the Israeli military. He
is the author of two novels: A Guide to the Perplexed and the recently
released My One and Only Love. Atzmon is also one of the most
accomplished jazz saxophonists in Europe. His recent CD, Exile, was
named the year’s best jazz CD by the BBC. He now lives in London and can
be reached at: atz@onetel.net. uk

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