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(en) Slingshot #81 - Khalas (enough!) In Palestine by Bill Templar

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Wed, 19 May 2004 12:00:32 +0200 (CEST)


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The regime that will succeed the nation-state will not be the fruit
of preconception or social engineering, but of sociological and
political imagination wielded through transformative actions. (1)Gustavo Esteva
The chilling observations by Israeli historian Benny Morris in an
interview recently published in the Israeli daily Ha’aretz (2)
shed intriguing light on the real face of the Zionist rationale of
‘ethnic cleansing’ of the Palestinians in 1948 under
David Ben Gurion and its perpetuation today. His remarks also
point out the utter hopelessness of the imaginary nation-state in
resolving the conflict in historic Palestine.

But the bleak assessment of the future of ‘statism’ in
Palestine, Morris suggests, can also be read against its own grain.
Inverting his grim evaluation of Zionist history and the present
impasse, anti-authoritarians must address the problem of
reinventing politics in Israel/Falastin now — laying the
groundwork for a kind of Jewish-Palestinian Zapatismo, a
grassroots movement to “reclaim the commons.” Moving
beyond the necessary preoccupation with the brutal Occupation,
and resistance against it, will entail strategies of building direct
democracy, participatory economy and genuine autonomy for the
people, a new symbiosis of ta’ayush (togetherness). In that
mix of anti-Power, Martin Buber’s vision of the “rebirth
of the commune” could also be re-energized: “an organic
commonwealth — that is a community of communities”
(3). Advancing toward a ‘no-state solution.’
‘Systemic Bifurcation’?
Israel and Palestine may be entering what Wallerstein calls a
conjuncture of “systemic bifurcation,” a
“transformational TimeSpace,” when fundamental values
and narratives are questioned and the “face of an alternative,
credibly better, and historically possible (but far from certain)
future” becomes visible. For Wallerstein, the end to the
“process of endless accumulation of capital that governs our
existing world” is leading to a “structurally chaotic
situation —thoroughly unpredictable in its trajectory” on a
global scale (4). In his diagnosis, this system is swelling into
terminal crisis, unsustainable socially and environmentally, the
most non-egalitarian order in world history.

In Palestine, the cumulative effect of the continued Occupation
and its monstrosities, the Al-Aqsa Intifada, and the implosion of
internationally engineered ‘peace processes,’ has been
system-shattering, at multiple fractal scales. Bifurcation there
finds its literal icon in the Great Wall of Palestine being gouged
into the land against the will of all Palestinians and many Israelis.
Opposition to that Apartheid Wall, including direct action by new
groups such as Anarchists Against the Wall in Israel and the
grassroots Palestinian resistance initiative Stop the Wall, signals a
new qualitative change in the deepening struggle. The views
elaborated by Morris, who has been pushed to the nationalist
right by the dynamic of bifurcation and violence, should be
interpreted in that light. They are worth reviewing at some length
to sense the desperation and reactionary dearth of vision of a key
commentator at the present ‘liminal’ juncture.
Masks RemovedMorris is Israel’s preeminent historian of the
Palestinian expulsion and catastrophe (al-Nakba) in 1948. Over
several decades of research, he has carefully documented the
numerous atrocities (the worst at Dawayima village near Hebron
[5]) and systematic evictions committed by the Hagana in the
‘War of Independence.’ This pre-state precursor of the
present Israel Defense Forces (IDF) was under explicit orders to
capture territory to create the new state and ‘cleanse’ it
(le-taher, the term repeatedly used in 1948 Hagana orders and
field reports) of its native Palestinian population (6). He has long
been considered a leading light of the ‘post-Zionist’ left
in Israel. In 1988, he was jailed for refusing to serve in the
territories. Yet now Morris has taken off his mask, expressing
hard-bitten views that can only hearten Israelis on the extreme
right. As his interviewer Ari Shavit notes: “the great
documenter of the sins of Zionism in fact identifies with those
sins.”
Alas, an ‘Incomplete’ Transfer

Morris praises Ben Gurion’s policy of population
‘transfer’: “Of course. Ben Gurion was a transferist.
He understood that there could be no Jewish state with a large
and hostile Arab minority in its midst. —Ben Gurion was right.
If he had not done what he did, a state would not have come into
being. That has to be clear. It is impossible to evade it. Without
the uprooting of the Palestinians, a Jewish state would not have
arisen here.”

But Morris ups the ante. Startling many Israelis, he accuses Ben
Gurion of a colossal ‘mistake’: “Even though he
understood the demographic issue and the need to establish a
Jewish state without a large Arab minority, he got cold feet
during the war. In the end, he faltered. —But my feeling is that
this place would be quieter and know less suffering if the matter
had been resolved once and for all. If Ben Gurion had carried out
a large expulsion and cleansed the whole country - the whole
Land of Israel, as far as the Jordan River. —It may yet turn out
that this was his fatal mistake. If he had carried out a full
expulsion - rather than a partial one - he would have stabilized
the State of Israel for generations.”
Destroy or be Destroyed

Asked if he thinks ‘ethnic cleansing’ is justified, he
replies: “A Jewish state would not have come into being
without the uprooting of 700,000 Palestinians. Therefore it was
necessary to uproot them. There was no choice but to expel that
population. It was necessary to cleanse the hinterland and cleanse
the border areas and cleanse the main roads. It was necessary to
cleanse the villages from which our convoys and our settlements
were fired on.” And he does not think that the expulsions of
1948 were war crimes: “when the choice is between
destroying or being destroyed, it’s better to destroy. There are
circumstances in history that justify ethnic cleansing.”
Cages and Iron Walls
In commenting on the Great Wall of Palestine now being built,
Morris’s take is almost vicious, racist: “Something like a
cage has to be built for them. I know that sounds terrible. It is
really cruel. But there is no choice. There is a wild animal there
that has to be locked up in one way or another. —An iron wall
is a good image. An iron wall is the most reasonable policy for the
coming generation. In the 1950s — Ben Gurion argued that
the Arabs understand only force and that ultimate force is the one
thing that will persuade them to accept our presence here. He
was right —Preserving my people is more important than
universal moral concepts” (7).,
The Enemy Within

Speaking about his fellow citizens who are Palestinian, nearly 20
percent of the Israeli population today, and more than a quarter of
the population of the Negev/al-Naqab desert where Morris
teaches at Ben Gurion University in Beersheva/ Bi’r
As-Sab’, he replies: “The Israeli Arabs are a time bomb.
Their slide into complete Palestinization has made them an
emissary of the enemy that is among us. They are a potential fifth
column. In both demographic and security terms, they are liable
to undermine the state. So that if Israel again finds itself in a
situation of existential threat, as in 1948, it may be forced to act
as it did then. — If the threat to Israel is existential, expulsion
will be justified.”
Dead End
Does Morris see any solution? Wedded to the notion that there
must be two nation-states, he is totally pessimistic: “in
practice, in this generation, a settlement of that kind will not hold
water. At least 30 to 40 percent of the Palestinian public and at
least 30 to 40 percent of the heart of every Palestinian will not
accept it. —There will not be a solution. We are doomed to live
by the sword. —Even if Israel is not destroyed, we won’t
see a good, normal life here in the decades ahead. —The whole
Zionist project is apocalyptic. It exists within hostile surroundings
and in a certain sense its existence is unreasonable. It wasn’t
reasonable for it to succeed in 1881 and it wasn’t reasonable
for it to succeed in 1948 and it’s not reasonable that it will
succeed now.” He does not even consider the one-state,
bi-national solution, an option now being rekindled in desperation
by many commentators, both Israeli and Palestinian.
Barbarians at the Gate
Invoking racist arguments, Morris goes so far as to reiterate the
‘clash of civilizations’ thesis, with Israel at its very
forward outpost: “The Arab world as it is today is barbarian.
—I think that the war between the civilizations is the main
characteristic of the 21st century. —This is a struggle against a
whole world that espouses different values. And we are on the
front line. Exactly like the Crusaders, we are the vulnerable
branch of Europe in this place.”

Shavit then concludes: “Which leaves us, nevertheless, with
two possibilities: either a cruel, tragic Zionism, or the foregoing of
Zionism.” And Morris concurs: “Yes. That’s so. You
have pared it down, but that’s correct.”
Reclaiming Commons: Harambee!
Morris’s dark assessment of the fundamental unworkability
of the nation-state in Palestine is a powerful argument for the
imperative of alternative vision: the need for a Zapatista’d
movement to capture the imagination of ordinary Israelis and
Palestinians to move beyond the solution of conventional
‘governmentality’ and any ‘state.’ In a sense,
this conflict is emblematic of the “perverse perseverance of
sovereignty,” its “vicious, security-based ontology”
(8). We have to turn that authoritarian ontology on its head,
precisely where community has imploded and the commons is
controlled on both sides of the divide by hierarchies of violence.
We must strive to create a mosaic society of ta’ayush,
founded on autonomy, direct democracy, participatory economy
and the kind of neighborhood Household and Home Assemblies
that Jared James envisions in Getting Free, generating a scalar
geometry of peopleís initiatives from the bottom up, a network
of dual power, the incubators of a new society of synergism (9).
In the spirit of an Arab-Jewish harambee!, we must press ahead
to a more egalitarian society of mutual aid (10) and advance a call
for “non-hierarchy, confederated direct democracies,
communal economics, social freedom, and an ecological
sensibility”(11).

How that movement can be built at this historic impasse, itself
perhaps a ‘transformational TimeSpace,’ is a topic
anti-authoritarians need to be addressing (12). In the transition
from the disintegrating capitalist world-system that Wallerstein
foresees, there will be a period of conflicts and aggravated
disorders, and what many will see as the collapse of moral
systems. Not paradoxically, it will also be a period in which the
“free will” factor will be at its maximum, meaning that
individual and collective action can have a greater impact on the
future structuring of the world than such action can have in more
“normal” times, that is, during the ongoing life of an
historical system (13).

Beginnings in Israel/Falastin can be small. Nodes for an
anti-authoritarian sub-politics are necessary. There is one; the
social-anarchist space now opened on the Israeli left by the
libertarian affinity group One Struggle (Ma’avak Ehad) needs
to be broadened, and extended into Palestinian society.
Popularizing its anti-authoritarian values into a grassroots
movement to prioritize equity, diversity, solidarity, and
self-management within and across the communities in this
internecine struggle (14). The focus on animal rights inside One
Struggle (human and animal liberation) is a distinctive
component many libertarian socialists would not espouse so
centrally. But their overall analysis is congruent with core
anti-authoritarian positions, and they are in daily motion and
direct action against militarism, Zionism, the IDF and the
Occupation. And, they are the principal group in Israel behind
Anarchists Against the Wall.

A hundred flowers can bloom, a hundred schools of thought
contend in this pluralistic imaginary — its very eclecticism a
necessary amplitude at this juncture, as the manifesto of One
Struggle stresses (15). Geographer David Harvey has noted that
there is a time and place “where alternative visions, no matter
how fantastic, provide the grist for shaping powerful forces for
change. I believe we are precisely at such a moment. Utopian
dreams —are omnipresent in the signifiers of our desires”
(16). Khalas!

Notes

1. Esteva, Gustavo. 2003 “A flower in the hands of the
people,” The New Internationalist, #360,
http://www.findarticles.com/cf_0/m0JQP/360/108648118/p1/article.jhtml

2. “Survival of the Fittest,” Ari Shavit interviews Benny
Morris, ‘04 Ha’aretz, Jan. 9.
3. Buber, Martin. 1958 Paths in Utopia, Boston: Beacon, 136.
Separated from their Zionist nationalist envelope, Buber’s
ideas on communalism, heavily influenced by Gustav
Landauer’s anarchism, are worth being retrofitted within a
retrieval of Israeli libertarian heritage, itself feeding into the
beginning of an Israeli and Palestinian people’s movement
for a ‘Cooperative Commonwealth of Jerusalem.’

4. Wallerstein, Immanuel 1998 Utopistics, New York: New
Press, 2-3, 89-90.

5. Morris: “a column entered the village with all guns blazing
and killed anything that moved.”

6. See Morris, 2004 The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee
Problem Revisited, Cambridge: Cambridge UP.
7. The need for an ‘iron wall’ against the Palestinians is a
slogan coined in 1923 by Zeev Jabotinsky, founder and ideologue
of the movement and party Ariel Sharon now heads.

8. Burke, Anthony 2002 “The Perverse Perseverance of
Sovereignty,” borderlands e-journal 1 (2),
http://www.borderlandsejournal.adelaide.edu.au/vol1no2_2002/burke_perverse.html

9. James, Jared. 2002 Getting Free,
http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strategy/GettingFree/

10. In Swahili, harambee means “let’s all pull
together!” It is the cry in unison of the fishermen as they
draw their nets towards the shore, the chorus when a collective
effort is made for the common good. It can be adopted as a
rallying cry for mutual aid on both sides of the divide in
Israel/Falastin. See also Wallerstein, Utopistics, 92.

11. Alliance for Freedom and Direct Democracy 2002
“Manifesto,” http://www.afadd.org
12. See my exploratory paper forthcoming in borderlands
e-journal 2004.

13. Wallerstein, 35.

14. Albert, Michael. 2003 Parecon. Life after Capitalism, London:
Verso, 4 ff.

15. One Struggle 2003 Manifesto, http://www.onestruggle.org
(Hebrew & partial English).

16. Harvey, D. 2000 Spaces of Hope, Berkeley: UCP, 195.
______________________
Bill Templer is a Chicago-born Israeli on the staff of the Dubnow
Institute for Jewish History, University of Leipzig.
slingshot@tao.ca



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