left that way is a dead end: a case study in palestine

If history is the alchemy of theory, then communists turned gold into lead in Palestine. When I first arrived in 2009, I was one of those hand-wringing well-meaning comrades who shed tears over the absence of a progressive political left in Palestine. No doubt, there exists in Palestine some of the strongest and bravest leftists in the region, but their work is for naught and their books (printed with French, German, and Canadian money) get used to warm hovels in Askar refugee camp. They are at best tolerated and called in from time to time to answer questions on economy. When the Soviet money dried up, the network of civil supporters did as well, until all that was left were empty storefronts and the staff had moved on to NGOs and ideologies that would catch the foreign dollar, euro, or dinar.

Like most other ideas – democracy, liberal rights fantasies, Wahhabism, western civic models, and open markets – communism was thrown into the trash heap in Palestine because it was presented in an unrealistic and condescending way. Leftists crouched around telefaxes worrying “No, you’re doing it wrong! You need to… There needs to be… This theory is really…” while Israel continued to pummel their neighborhoods. Such disregard was given to the situation on the ground, to the realities of the society, that after the militant wing died down the people themselves shrugged off the theories and put all their efforts into courting money and robbing the donors blind. A handful remained to churn out honest work, but their romance with how “they” did it seemed to only further alienate their efforts.

After all, what does the left really have to offer Palestine save money and a few PFLP t-shirts? Obviously not their unwavering support. The condescending insistence on ideological purity puts leftist organizations in the same boat as USAID. There’s nothing wrong, I suppose, in offering money with ideological strings attached – a business transaction obviously! – but don’t for a second try and fool yourself into assuming you’re helping. Own up to the fact you’re settling the hearts and minds as much as Israelis are.

A prominent leftist organization recently cut funding to civil society NGOs, insisting that their strategy had changed from promoting a “culture of dependence” through NGOs to funding political parties directly, thereby cutting out the middle man (the citizen) I assume! It is, of course, much easier to inject a political program directly into a certain class of people rather than to everyone. And how late the left is to this game! After all, the cafes and imported cars already promote a kind of politik and the imams living the high life in Masyoon can promote yet another. Now, 10 years too late, is when the left decides to try and resuscitate the leftist parties – at least, the ones that are allowed to exist by the powers that be.

Indeed, the left has spent so much time cozying up to the powers that be that no one takes them seriously anymore. With the dissolution of the Soviet paycheck, those left in the cold were simply begging to be invited to summits and dinners and willing to throw just about anything away for inclusion.

So where does this mentality come from? Look no further than the left of today, whether it be Kadima and its JStreet front, the progressives left holding the bag after the election of Obama, or the ineffectual and laughable socialist/communist parties of Europe.

24. While communists have no truck with Zionism and condemn the colonial-settler origins of Israel, we recognise that over the last 50 or 60 years a definite Israeli Jewish nation has come into existence. To call for its abolition is unMarxist. Such a programme is either naive utopianism or genocidal. Both are reactionary. The Israeli Jewish nation is historically constituted. The Israeli Jews speak the same language, inhabit the same territory, have the same culture and sense of identity.

25. The Palestinian national movement has been sustained only because of the existence of and its relationship with the wider Arab nation. Solving the Israel-Palestine question requires a combined Arab and proletarian solution. Communism and nationalism are antithetical. Nevertheless we champion the right of all oppressed nations to self-determination. In the conditions of Israel/Palestine that means supporting the right of the Palestinians where they form a clear majority to form their own state. Such a state is only realistic with a working class-led Arab revolution.

from CPGB Theses on “The Arab Awakening and Israel-Palestine

What fiery words to galvanize the youth of Palestine into direct unified action!

27. The immediate call for a single Palestinian state, within which the Jewish Israeli nationality is given citizenship and religious, but not national rights, is in present circumstances to perpetuate division. Israeli Jews will not accept such a solution – the whole of the 20th century since 1933 militates against that. There is moreover the distinct danger that the poles of oppression would be reversed if such a programme were ever to be put into practice. In all likelihood it would have to involve military conquest. The call for a single-state solution is therefore impractical – Israel is the strong nation – and, more than that, reactionary, anti-working class and profoundly anti-socialist. Liberation and socialism must come from below. It cannot be imposed from the outside.

The thrust of this position is that only a unified working class revolution can solve the problems in the Middle East, and that until then the Palestinians will be left sitting in bulldozed houses. And God forbid they actually achieve a single state solution wherein their Jewish settler neighbors suddenly face a dearth of privilege, where they may in fact be tossed to the curb by the living, rightful inhabitants of the homes they have settled in!

Really, arguing this kind of thing is tedious and only engages those arguing, while those who are left in prison and at checkpoints tap their feet. When the people’s revolution fails to materialize, the leftists snap: “Weren’t you listening? Weren’t you reading your Marx?” Those gross intellectuals abroad typing up policy papers and party positions were the vanguard, why weren’t you jumping to attention? Where are the actual homegrown progressives? Well, if it doesn’t smell like a communist or walk like a communist, I’m not gonna call it a communist!

Beware to those who moan about the rise of “Islamic fundamentalism” in such places! When your books and papers and groups can’t provide the soup, childcare, medical attention, and social services that those caught up in the “barbarity” of Islam can provide, you have a problem. Is there no one to work with, no one to attend your meetings? A Western leftist (centrist! rightist!) is not going to find the “partner” he wants in Palestine – the partner that looks, acts, and talks like he does – unless he molds a group to his pleasure. Rather than work within the parameters offered, rather than ask the Palestinians what they need, or worse – ask them how they think liberation should be achieved, the Westerner wants to dress up a few students and put money in their hands. They perch on a party and gain privilege over the party’s constituents by pumping money into party leaders.

I spoke with aid workers who lamented the state of things – how they had to pay for supporters, offer food or transportation to people in return for participation in their programs. Why would no one take initiative and make sacrifices? A somber walk through the old city of Nablus looking at martyr posters shows such people exist.. or at least once did. They did not die for foreign money, not for the pleasure of foreign political parties, not for a unified Arab proletariat and not for Karl Marx. They died for the people, their land, their memories, and their pride. Forcing people into contortions to fit your mold of “leftist progressive worth supporting” insults this.

I’m not Palestinian nor am I personally affected by this conflict past my experiences, but I have some suggestions for Western leftists who want to call themselves supporters of Palestine:

1. Stay close to the core truths of the conflict. There already is a one-state entity in Palestine and Israel and it is called al-Ihtilel (the occupation). It is racist, sexist, classist, homophobic, imperialist, and reactionary. Do not deviate from this core truth and do not delude yourselves. Visit if you can, and if you cannot, take it from someone who’s been there or who is from there.

2. Support the people. Do leftists really need this lecture? Support the people. Support the people. If the people pray, support them. If the people throw rocks, support them. If the people oppress one another due to colonialism, do not think it is out of “barbarity” or inherent fault with the people and their traditions. It is more possible to fix the ills of social society by supporting the society rather than by shoving your morals down their throats with a spoonful of money to help it go down easier.

3. They do not trust you. You are not their comrade unless you are taking orders from the people. They are not your partners and you will never be on equal footing with them. You do not know the situation. You do not know Arabic. You do not have the right to pretend you know anything more more than the faces on the martyr posters. They are the ones to make the sacrifices, so let them decide what is worth making sacrifices for.

If leftists passionate about the Palestinian cause were as passionate about their own situations in their home countries, there might be change faster than you think. The I/P conflict does not exist in a bubble, it is the result of policies and attitudes worldwide that have nothing to do with the Palestinians… and if you call yourself a leftist this should be clear as day. Accepting that you have little to nothing to do with the Palestinian solution to the occupation (and it is coming) will give you leave to address the attitudes and policies in your own society that contribute to the occupation of Palestine and elsewhere. Involving yourself with what Arabs or Palestinians or Israelis “should do” is a misdirection of your efforts and borderline chauvinistic.

Just as the Palestinians are the winners and inheritors of their own liberation, so too are we responsible for what happens in our own communities. Your position should be to support the liberation and self-determination of oppressed people worldwide, but you should start with what you know best and among people you are affiliated with. Stop planning and criticizing action or positions abroad when you first need to take the log out of your own eye to see anything clearly.

Discussion of left that way is a dead end: a case study in palestine on tHE r H i z z o n E:

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A somber read... I have to admit that I have found myself """supporting""" Palestine with donations and words despite not having any personal connection to the land - even through experience. And yes, I did feel a bit like a phony for doing so! Why did I bother? Why did I care? It is so abstract to me!

But, as you said, the I/P conflict does not exist in a bubble, and, as such, it is fought as much abroad, on an ideological front, as it is on the ground. The conflict is so asymmetrical as it is specifically because of the immense support Israel enjoys from the United States. And I do have a personal connection there - I am an American! I have, for instance, in both my family and my workplace, some hardline Israel supporters. They often don't understand why they are, but they are. So how can I have "little to nothing to do" with the Palestinian solution to the occupation, if it is my world around me that is occupying them?

I don't mean this to say that this gives me a right to be patronize the Palestinian people. A "liberty" that a people do not win for themselves will not be a real liberty. However, the reality of the I/P situation is not really so simple as the "oppressor" and "oppressed" dichotomy that you present. Yes, Israel is an oppressor, and Palestine is oppressed, but you also cannot deny that the I/P conflict has morphosed into a proxy battlefield on which various Western power-desiring machines struggle. That is to say, "Israel" is the oppressor, "Israel" in this case means quite a lot more than the 7-8M citizens of that nation.

This presents a bit of a dilemma. If we, as Western leftists, disengage our own meddling in the conflict, the Palestinian people may then be free to grasp for the autonomy, in their struggle, that they rightly deserve, but - will they then be overrun by my friends, family, and coworkers?

What say you?
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Your two main examples of the "left" are Kadima, which is a centrist Zionist party that supported the war on Gaza, and the CPGB, which is a tiny sect with almost no support. To use these as the only real examples of the left seems odd.
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What do you think of Norman Chominsky?
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You know when a child says a controversial swear word and gets a lot of attention, so they keep saying it, and they build a little career out of it, and then put out a book called The Holocaust Industry, then they slander the good name of Israel, all so that bigots will pave a golden road in front of them. Guess what, the road goes to hell.
i like palestine mor then isriel
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maybe oppression isn't a simple binary that gives unlimited powers to the oppressed in the eyes of most people. i mean you know that israel says exactly the same thing, if jews are oppressed anywhere then israel is right everywhere.
i have a question, when you say to support the people including supporting self-oppression within the oppressed class, why are you discriminating and telling people only to support the palestinians. can't you support the israelis as well. there are oppressed people among the israelis and they are also fighting for survival.

just support everyone, everyone is trying to make a living

capitalism posted:
i have a question, when you say to support the people including supporting self-oppression within the oppressed class, why are you discriminating and telling people only to support the palestinians. can't you support the israelis as well. there are oppressed people among the israelis and they are also fighting for survival.

just support everyone, everyone is trying to make a living

And there members of the bourgeoisie who are oppressed and live in suffering, but when looking at the bourgeoisie as a class do you call for their support? The fact is that the Israelis are an oppressor class, and once you start negotiating strategy for being "too cruel" to the oppressor class, you start supporting the status quo. Not to mention, saying "support everyone" is a trite, meaningless tautology that says nothing about anything. That being said, I don't believe we should start supporting the complete extermination and expulsion of the Israeli people either, because that's not really a strategy.

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people should be able to exercise their due rights. palestinians can't. israelis benefit directly from palestinian loss, so supporting israelis is supporting attacks on palestinian rights. dont infringe on israeli due rights either, but dont buy into made up fascist nonsense like the "right to exist" of a racist apartheid state.

discipline posted:
nobody palestinian is asking you to support the complete extermination and expulsion of jewish people from occupied palestine/israel. even hamas' charter outlines a national solution where members of all religions can live in peace together in the holy land, much like they did for like a bajillion years after the crusades when the muslims ran things. israeli jews want dominance in the holy land, not coexistence. if they were simply after coexistence things would be a lot easier. anyway, you can use your own judgment on this one!

yeah, i know, i should have been more clear i was arguing the hypothetical that i thought capitalism was bringing up

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well then what's the game plan. like, be specific, is it to bomb enough pizzerias that israel changes its mind or something.
palestinians are doing that BDS thing, and in our home countries we can oppose local zionist politics

mostly i hear from palestinians that they want us to promote awareness of the situation and fight israeli disinformation

babyfinland posted:
palestinians are doing that BDS thing, and in our home countries we can oppose local zionist politics

mostly i hear from palestinians that they want us to promote awareness of the situation and fight israeli disinformation

are you envisioning something like the international campaign against apartheid in south africa?


elemennop posted:

babyfinland posted:
palestinians are doing that BDS thing, and in our home countries we can oppose local zionist politics

mostly i hear from palestinians that they want us to promote awareness of the situation and fight israeli disinformation

are you envisioning something like the international campaign against apartheid in south africa?

i think that's the idea


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the thing is that a lot of the reason why there was one-state/two-debate/etc debates and debates over the "right" palestinian tactics is that some people think that certain tactics (murdering Israeli youth) are not tolerable and they don't want to support political groups (Fatah or Hamas) who condone such things.
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why isnt there similar debates about israeli politics?
i'm not sure it is racist or weird to say "governments that support suicide bombing are not acting in a just way that i want to support." as i said, some people don't reduce it to a simple binary where one side gets to do anything they want if the other is worse. you're entire framework is saying that if they don't back "the palestinians" in some vague overarching way then they support israel, but that's just inverting the same thinking that israel uses. it gets you in gross places.
No one supports FATAH and very few support HAMAS, I'm not sure if I understand what your point is.

discipline posted:
the palestinians definitely learned that suicide bombing was not an effective tactic for mass resistance after the second intifada. that's why they don't do it anymore. the first intifada's tactics were most effective because it brought the community together and didn't sow resentment. it also gained more support internationally. having a neighbor's kid blow himself up in tel aviv results in the entire neighborhood or even the entire city being under heavily mechanized attack and there's nothing you can do except hide under your bed or grab a gun and go die in the alleys. meanwhile, mass civil disobedience results in community gardens, schools, neighborhood watches, etc.

the majority of posters up around centers like jenin or nablus don't feature suicide bombers. they feature the young men and women who either died from local attacks or died fighting the israeli military locally. suicide bombing gave the israelis a strong PR tool because it pushed attention away from these local incursions and sieges and subsequent fighting. the strategic planning for "the next intifada" focuses on utilizing community resistance techniques - art, civil disobedience, marches, etc - and so most of the people picked out and imprisoned by israel include these community leaders. indeed it's more dangerous to israel because people feel a lot more for the guy who is getting his arm or leg broken on camera than the guy on the martyrdom video. suicide bombing is a really strange social phenomenon in palestine and would take a whole thread to discuss. but they've mostly given it up and community support for it being an accepted tactic of civil disobedience is low.

but who is this PR for exactly? the large majority of the world already supports palestine and americans and israelis are so brainwashed/fascist that this seems like wanting to be a noble failure instead of actually win through effective guerrilla tactics.

what exactly would constitute effective guerilla tactics in these specific circumstances?
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urban guerrilla warfare is effective if coupled with wider maoist warfare in the countryside. the countryside in this case would be the Sinai peninsula, which from what i understand is already being used to wage war on israel after the egyptian revolution, the golan heights and syria as a base to draw israel out into a long war, and hezbollah in lebanon supplying more effective weapons than dinky rockets.

the problems in the past have been relying on the states in the region rather than palestinians themselves using territory, thinking that non-violence does anything in this situation (unless it's by rich white people and even then the flotilla didn't really do anything), and being unable to mobilize the entire population because of a lack of good leadership (the PLO is awful, Hamas is not great)

this is my uninformed anaylsis of the situation.
that's fine and all but that's not a realistic or productive plan for the population at large.

babyfinland posted:
that's fine and all but that's not a realistic or productive plan for the population at large.

i agree and the population should be taking part non-violent protest in order to radicalize them. however this cannot be instead of violence and terrorism, these are the only tactics that have any hope of succeeding in palestine or any colonial situation. provoking violent response to non-violent protest is the best way to eliminate liberalism in the population and make it a good source of popular support for guerrillas, which is needed so they can hide in the general population.

what's interesting is this has happened in reverse in palestine, the population has already become radicalized and is desperate for a guerrilla force to support. the options so far have been very poor, but reducing violence is the best way to make palestinians become completely hopeless and kill any chance for a solution.

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good points and a genuine strategic analysis of what needs to be done in palestine (rather than in israel which is what most of the analysis is) would be far more than the crappy outline i came up with. however you bring up an interesting point about islam being a reaction to bourgeois infiltration of palestine which undermines them through the isolation of late capitalist culture without any of the material benefits. the reaction, which you say didn't work, shows that even in the most oppressive system in the world in the face of centuries of perfected propaganda and oppression techniques people still long for freedom. ultimately, this freedom will have to come through violence (i still think fanon's analysis of the colonized subject needing violence to reclaim his humanity is important) and i cant see the value of non-violent resistance. perhaps a new model of organization will have to emerge to deal with the vast spy network among the palestinians, but it will emerge and theoretically it will have to be terroristic and uncompromising if it has any chance of success.

i know you're mostly for supporting any current efforts by palestinians and not imposing our theoretical frameworks on them, which i understand, but i am curious what you think a model of revolution and protest can be that will be able to succeed since you're far more knowledgeable than me.
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babyfinland posted:
No one supports FATAH and very few support HAMAS, I'm not sure if I understand what your point is.

well international debates used to be about whether to support fatah or hamas' actions in part. so the debate was more "what do you expect from a colonized people" than "i support the palestinian leadership" or something. and that's part of why a lot of people couldn't see themselves in the palestinian struggle. i mean i'm just saying why many of the left were ambivalent. also i have no idea what will solve the conflict for the palestinians, i don't think i'm going to solve that. but i think it is important to talk critically i guess.


discipline posted:

i desperately want goatstein to cover my fat titties with his hot cum

goatstein why did you do this

i honestly don't remember doing that.
i sincerely apologize if i did that.
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