All posts by Zeev bin Natan

Palestine Now

In the spectacle of image manipulation that surrounds the bitter conflict for justice in Palestine and Israel, suffering will likely continue unabated after the latest ‘watershed’ of the Jan. 9 Palestinian presidential elections. The election, a non-contest from the beginning without the presence of Marwan Barghouti, led to its foregone conclusion: victory for Mahmoud Abbas (aka Abu Mazen), the ‘preferred’ candidate of the neoliberal global network of control and its media machinery, the White House, the Israeli political and economic elites, the Palestinian oligarchy and the Fatah political machine. The cynicism with which ordinary Palestinians’ hopes for change and an end to the nightmare of the Occupation have been manipulated by discourse and hype about “windows of opportunity” is extraordinary. More important for assessing public mood on the street in Gaza was the huge victory by Hamas in the election on Jan. 28 to ten local councils, the first-ever municipal elections in Palestine, garnering two-thirds of the vote. It was a crushing defeat for Fatah. Turn-out topped 80 percent, far greater than in the presidential poll. The message to the entrenched Fatah leadership is loud and clear.

Despite the great ruse of Sharon’s ‘disengagement plan,’ it is common knowledge on the Israeli left that over the short range, Sharon may pay lip service to “the new chance for peace” while he and his cabal of generals will do everything in their power, including a continuation of Israel state violence, to eviscerate the Mazen presidency and ensure its failure or turn him into a Palestinian puppet. The Israeli political-military machine may halt targeted assassinations as a tactical move while keeping its finger on the trigger and ever tightening its grip on Palestinian lands. Above all: pay heed to the actions of Sharon and his ruling clique, not their rhetoric.

Abu Mazen is the Israeli’s puppet in that they hold ALL the strings. He has already deployed bulldozers to tear down Palestinian homes and banned civilians from carrying weapons. The ‘irrationality’ of the ‘spiral of violence’ begins to look more rational when you understand that the generals who run Israel feed on further violence. Chaos is in the ultimate ‘interest’ of the expansionist Israeli state and its ruling elite, though not of ordinary Israelis. In Palestine, Jewish nationalist strategy has been a ‘land and water grab’ for the past 80 years. It is driven by maintaining a permanent state of emergency. The generals remain poised for a single ‘provocation’ in order to unleash a massive attack on Gaza.

The new Palestinian leader may believe that if he can end the violence (= armed resistance), Sharon will face domestic and international pressure to start talking about the issues at the heart of the conflict — borders, refugees, and the future of Jerusalem. But why should Sharon suddenly do an about-face? Pressure from where? “Some people say, only half in jest, that the USA is an Israeli colony. . . . President Bush dances to Ariel Sharon’s tune. Both Houses of Congress are totally subservient to the Israeli right-wing — much more so than the Knesset” [1]. What may emerge is a kind of Vichy-ization of the Palestinian Authority (PA) under the Occupation, analogous in some ways to the German puppet regime in occupied France in WW II.

As Mid-East Realities observed: “With no real Palestinian State any longer possible west of the Jordan, the U.S. and Israel have worked long and hard to get to the point where they could force a quisling Palestinian leadership of their choosing into a kind of convoluted submission while pretending it is an agreed settlement brought about by the ‘Peace Process’. . . . Abu Mazen and the key Palestinian in the background, Nabil Shaath (the long-time PA ‘Foreign Minister’ operative working closely with the Israelis and the CIA), are poised to in effect accept the Sharon Plan for what will be called a ‘Temporary State’ with ‘Provisional Boundaries’ in about 25% of historic Palestine. Everywhere the Palestinian ‘population centers’, i.e. Bantustans and Reservations in reality, will be surrounded by the Israeli army which will continue to control all entry/exit and airspace of what is to be a permanently crippled and controlled ‘Palestinian state’. The plan is then to flood the Palestinian Bantustans with two things to give this new arrangement a chance to work — monies largely from Europe and the World Bank to make daily life a little better . . . and guns supplied by Israel along with the U.S. and U.K. so PA forces will be able to enforce an end to the Palestinian Intifada and in effect become the Israeli police-force in the occupied territories” [2].

What can stateside anti-authoritarians do?

1. For starters, lend critical support to the minimal program for an Israeli military withdrawal as laid out by Gush Shalom: “Without serious steps to end the Occupation no ‘window of opportunity’” [3]. These are short-term demands which no Israeli political-military elite, intent on furthering the long-term national Zionist agenda of Control of all of Palestine, can accede to. They include “Complete cessation of the settlement construction and extension, going on throughout the West Bank, and dismantling of all the ‘unauthorized settlement outposts,’ total cessation of the manhunt against the ‘wanted Palestinians,’ their assassinations and detentions and the nightly invasions of the Palestinian towns and villages; removal of all the roadblocks which deny free movement to the Palestinians and strangle the Palestinian economy; release of the Palestinian political leaders imprisoned in Israel, such as Marwan Barghouti and Husam Hader, members of the Palestinian Legislature.”

2. Begin to consider ways to publicize and support the continuing work of the one opposition candidate with a substantial following in the Palestinian political and public arena, Mustafa Barghouthi, Abbas’s main opponent in the Jan. 9 poll who garnered nearly 20 percent of the vote. Barghouthi is a radical democrat who believes in the power of mass non-violent resistance. As long as Marwan remains behind bars, Mustafa is the best alternative on the democratic left. Familiarize yourselves with his organization, the Palestine National Initiative (Al Mubadara), founded in 2002. A noted physician, he is head of the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees, and director of HDIP, the Health, Development Information and Policy Institute based in Ramallah, a grassroots formation bringing together over 90 Palestinian NGOs. Al Mubadara’s online journal is The Palestine Monitor [4]. Mustafa has been an outspoken critic of Arafat and the PLO old guard.

We also need to better understand the huge popularity enjoyed by Hamas, coupling militant resistance with social welfare and an entire supplementary kindergarten and school system. Their example, a movement deeply rooted in the people rather than party, is a paradigm worth studying [5]. In some respects they are a concrete embodiment in occupied Palestine of ‘dual power’ in the absence of a ‘state.’

3. Add your weight to the economic boycott of Israel, supporting initiatives such as www.boycottisraeligoods.org/ . In Israel itself, Conscience (Matzpun, www.matzpun.com ) is campaigning for an international boycott of Israeli goods in an effort to put pressure on the Israeli government and Israeli electorate where it hurts, namely in the pocketbook. As Matzpun notes: “We call on the world community to organize and boycott Israeli industrial and agricultural exports and goods, as well as leisure tourism, in the hope that it will have the same positive result that the boycott of South Africa had on apartheid. This boycott should remain in force as long as Israel controls any part of the territories it occupied in 1967. Those who squash the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians must be made to feel the consequences of their own bitter medicine.”

4. Join the struggle against the Israeli military. One way is to support Israeli soldiers who are refusing to serve in the Occupied Territories or ‘breaking the silence.’ The organization Refusing for Israel needs international solidarity, take a look at their principles, work and call for signatures: www.seruv.org.il/english/ An extraordinary organization fighting the militarization of Israeli society, consciousness and education is New Profile, also worth checking out at www.newprofile.org.

5. Join the worldwide fight against the Great Wall of Palestine. The Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign is a good place to begin: www.stopthewall.org/ And the Yahoo group Anarchists Against the Wall, join in: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ againstwall/ Along with opposition to the Wall, a new focus is the massive expropriation of Palestinian property in al-Quds (East Jerusalem) now being finessed by the Israeli authorities: “The Sharon government intends to strip thousands of West Bank Palestinians of their property in occupied East Jerusalem, according to the Israeli press quoting newly released government documents. At stake are thousands of donoms of land belonging to Palestinians who live in the West Bank and are now unable to access their land due to Israel’s separation barrier. . . . By all accounts, the Israeli ministry of interior is using land expropriations, identity-card seizure, exorbitant taxes and difficult-to-obtain building, family-reunion and residency permits to slowly force Palestinian residents out of the city…. The total land to be expropriated could add up to half of all East Jerusalem property.” [6]. This opens up a new front for struggle.

6. In attempting to build a strong pro-Palestinian movement in the U.S., consider the positions as laid out by the New England Committee to Defend Palestine. Perhaps the most radical viewpoint on the path forward voiced by an active group in the United States, they envision a unitary one-state solution for Arabs and Jews: “The Two-State Solution is not just. It is no solution to the turmoil in historic Palestine because at its core it does not undo any wrongs. It is unjust because it is premised on the continued acceptance of the Zionist claim to at least three quarters, if not all, of Palestine as being the exclusive land of the Jews. It is fundamentally flawed as it denies Palestinians the Right of Return; it abandons the Palestinians living within Israel; it does not provide Palestinians any semblance of an independent sovereign state and it allows the US to maintain its role as the main imperialist occupier of the entire Middle East.” [7]. Central is their demand for an end to all U.S. aid to Israel now — military, economic, and political. That call stateside can be a primary focus in all anti-authoritarian campaigning for a just solution. It has the support of anarchists in the belly of Leviathan in Israel.

1. Uri Avnery, “King George,” 22 Jan 2005, www.truthout.org/docs_05/012405I.shtml

2. MER, “Abu Mazen poised to accept Sharon Plan,” 27 Jan 2005, www.middleeast.org

3. Accessible at http://gush-shalom.org/pr/pr13-1-2005eng.html

4. For information on the PNI, see www.almubadara.org For links to some of his articles, www.palestinemonitor.org/archives/Article_archives_04.htm

5. See Beverley Milton-Edwards and Alastair Crooke, “Elusive Ingredient;Hamas and the Peace Process,” 25 Aug 2004, MIFTAH, www.miftah.org/Display.cfm?DocId=4591&CategoryId=21

6. “Israel plans big Jerusalem land grab,” Al-jazeera, 20 Jan 2005, http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/0B317D0C-9689-43F0-B773-E6A833C8F296.htm

7. Lana Habash and Noah Cohen, “Zionism is the Issue: Building a Strong Pro-Palestinian Movement In the US,” 11 Jan 2005, www.onepalestine.org/resources/articles/Zionism_Is_Issue.html

PLO to Arafat’s Popular Successor: Stand Aside for the Puppet

Palestinian freedom fighter Marwan Barghouti is Arafat’s likely popular successor. But due to intense political pressure, he is standing aside in upcoming elections and urging support of moderate candidate Mahmoud Abbas — favorite of Sharon and the US.

Marwan Barghouti has been Fatah Secretary-General since 1994 and played a key role on the street in both the first Intifada and the present Intifadat al-Aqsa. Marwan sits in Nafha prison in the al-Naqab/Negev desert, sentenced last June 6 and now serving five life terms plus 40 years on trumped-up charges of multiple murder.

At the present critical juncture, anti-authoritarians should be part of a broad international movement to ensure the emergence of a new Palestinian leadership with strong ties to the Palestinian masses — a leadership that isn’t a compliant puppet of the Israeli ruling class and the West, overseeing a vassal state totally controlled by Israel.

Freedom Now!

Elections for the Palestinian president to succeed Arafat have been called for January 9, 2005. In the name of Palestine Liberation Organization unity, Barghouti has, apparently under great pressure from the PLO old guard, decided not to enter the fray as an independent and has called on supporters in the PLO new guard — and in effect on the Palestinian masses in the West Bank and Gaza — to support the PLO moderate candidate Mahmoud Abbas. That decision — which came after various ‘informed’ reports that Barghouti had indeed opted for making a presidential bid from his prison cell — may help keep the PLO externally unified over the months to come, masking what is already a fierce power struggle for authentic directions within.

Yet it is widely acknowledged in the Palestinian street, where Marwan earned his credentials as the leader of the Intifada, that he is Abu Ammar’s popular successor. He is probably also the only man who can end the Intifada. It is also clear that Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas), whatever his stature as a senior PLO leader, is the candidate of choice of Sharon, his cabal and the Euro-Atlantic power axis — a man whom they hope to wind around their political finger in any future ‘negotiated’ settlement.

Marwan’s decision takes him out of what would have been intense international limelight, returning him to the limbo of his cell in the desert. At this crucial conjuncture, Israeli and international progressives should raise two demands: for Barghouti’s immediate release from prison and for his safety. There is a definite danger the Israeli government may decide — before or after the election — to liquidate him if they think he is the true popular choice of the Palestinian masses. They have him in custody; his assassination, or a staged fatal ‘accident,’ would be child’s play.

When sentenced last June, Barghouti stressed: “The continuation of the intifada is the only path to independence. No matter how many they arrest or kill, they will not break the determination of the Palestinian people. I don’t care whether I am sentenced to one life sentence, or 10 or 50; my day of liberty is the day the occupation ends. [...] The Israeli courts are a partner to the Israeli occupation. The judges are just like pilots who fly planes and drop bombs.” During his trial, the Israeli peace bloc Gush Shalom protested demanding: “Barghouti to the negotiating table, not to jail!”

In an article in the Washington Post in January 2002, Marwan stressed: “I am not a terrorist, but neither am I a pacifist. I am simply a regular guy from the Palestinian street advocating only what every other oppressed person has advocated — the right to help myself in the absence of help from anywhere else.”

Marwan was apprehended by the Israeli army in Ramallah on April 15, 2002, and has been illegally held in Israeli jails since then. He is kept in solitary confinement, separated from all other prisoners in Nafha, many of them Palestinian freedom fighters like himself. Marwan has repeatedly denied any involvement whatsoever with the deaths he has been charged with. During the proceedings against him, which began in 2003, he denounced the “show trial” as illegal, the Israeli court without any right to try him.

Permanent State of Emergency

Many Palestinians believe Barghouti is the only man who can end the Intifada. But key figures inside the Israeli political-military elite may fear precisely that: they do not want to see an end to the violence and actively scheme to engineer its repeated ‘churning,’ provoking militant groups. They may well want a weak president who will be increasingly discredited in the eyes of the Palestinian masses, thus strengthening the hand of Hamas, the Aqsa Brigades and other militant organizations. As Giorgio Agamben has written: “How could we not think that a system that can no longer function at all except on the basis of emergency would not also be interested in preserving such an emergency at any price?”

That permanent state of emergency is the subterfuge under which to continue the expansion of existing settlements, the demoralization of the Palestinian masses, and the incessant expropriation of ever more of their land in the West Bank.

Election Doomed From the Start?

The poll itself can easily turn out to be a sham. We have no example of a supposedly democratic election under the extraordinary conditions of a massive and oppressive Occupation. The West Bank today is a mazeway of road blocks and checkpoints that have earned the Occupation the name in Arabic Ihtilal, the Suffocation.

The Israeli short-term strategy will be to pressure Mahmoud Abbas toward a set of compromises that will in effect produce what Arafat refused to agree to: an Israel-dominated Palestinian Bantustan, an archipelago of enclaves, behind a Great Wall and a high Gaza fence: the 0.5-state solution. The Palestinian refugees will continue to rot in their camps, half a nation in limbo with nowhere to go.

Israel itself has probably already destroyed the geographic basis for any viable two-state arrangement. What exists de facto is indeed two states: Israel and its settler state exclave on the West Bank, with prospects for Gaza to become a fully quarantined isolate under Israeli spatial and economic control. This reality, culminating in the Great Wall of Palestine, reflects the radical separation of Jews and Arabs at all scales which has remained the fundamental principle of mainstream Zionist-nationalist policy since the earliest period of Jewish colonization in Palestine.

he Path Forward

The real need over the longer haul is to build a mass non-violent movement of Israelis and Palestinians toward a single democratic non-national state, a “politics from below,” forging bonds of ta’ayush (togetherness) in common struggle, and the return of refugees in massive numbers. Inside Israel, there remains the absolute necessity to move beyond the ‘ethnocracy’ of apartheid that Zionism has created for the 20 percent of its citizenry that is Palestinian [1], and the ‘decolonizing’ of the consciousness of the Jewish-Israeli masses. As historian Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin has stated: “Bi-nationalism, in the broad sense, is the question of the Arab-Jew, and its aim is to counter the Orientalist paradigm that pits one of these identities against the other […] As long as Israeli discourse is premised on the dichotomy Arab vs. Jew, it will be impossible to frame an alternative. Arab-Jew is, thus, a call for partnership based on the decolonization of Jewish identity in all senses and contexts” [2].

Direct democracy can only spring from mass and massive unity of purpose and action among Palestinians and Israelis in direct action. Working in stages over say 15 years: from two (or even 1.5) states to one state and on to ‘no state’ — forward to a Cooperative Socialist Commonwealth of Canaan in federation with a radically democratized Jordan [3].

Over the shorter term, I would argue pragmatism, or a kind of utopian realism: press now for the “best deal” option for a Palestinian statelet, recognizing that such a Palestinian 0.5-state inevitably controlled by Israeli nationalists, international Capital and its elites is a short-term compromise and not a solution. Yet its nominal creation holds out a desperately needed space for Palestinians in which to breathe inside the Ihtilal and its orchestrated nightmare.

1. See interview with Uri Davis: http://mumbai.indymedia.org/en/2004/10/209807.shtml

2. Quoted in Yael Lerer, “The Word in Times of Crisis,” http://oznik.com/words/041116.html

3. B. Templer, “Tanks & Ostriches,” The Dawn, August 2004, http://the-dawn.org/2004/08/ostriches.html