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(en) Palestine-Israel: The conference in Bil'in and the strange cooperation of the anarchists with capitalist and "nationalist" ruling elites

Date Thu, 23 Feb 2006 12:29:18 +0100 (CET)


Though more a colonialist settler project than a normal form of colonial
rule, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has some similarity with "regular"
colonialism, and more so at the present stage of global capitalism and
local (regional) capitalism. It is not strange that in a world of
de-colonization and globalized capitalism, the last remaining colonial
projects still in existence are under pressure to come to an end. It is
even so in regions where, for example, the colonial aspect was, or is,
mixed with nationalist repression (like in Ireland, Turkey and
Israel/Palestine) and is subject more to international pressure to end
when it involves settler colonialism in progress (like in Indonesia and
Israel).

In the case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, although the settler
colonialist nature of colonialism was dominant, the first step towards
de-colonization was still copied from other capitalist states - compromise
with the exiled leadership of the "national liberation movements".

As in other parts (and more so in Algeria, where the cost of suppressing
the local uprising became too great) the co-opting of the exiled
leadership seemed to be the first choice. Thus, like the French pact with
the exiled leadership of the FLN, Israel tried to reach a pact with the
exiled leadership of the PLO. However, the transfer of power to the
leadership of de-colonized countries that worked in most places, failed in
the Israeli-Palestinian case. It could not succeed here as the forces
interested in the continuation of settler colonialism were not defeated
completely, and the "de-colonization" steps were very limited.

It is by no means strange that there is support for the end of colonial
rule from a large section of Israeli capitalists, given that it has become
an economic burden for them. It is not even out of the question that this
section of the capitalist elite will support/cooperate - like in other
countries - with radicals who struggle against the continuation of
colonial rule by their countries over other countries. It is, however, a
bit strange when the cooperation/support is given in the case of Israel to
an initiative by the name of "Anarchists Against The Wall" (AATW). It is
even stranger when the anarchists enter into intensive cooperation with
the media... which so often tries hard not to express open support for the
Anarchists. And it is very strange indeed when the whole radical left
follows the initiative of the Anarchists who organize the weekly struggle
in the Palestinian village Bil'in together with the local popular
committee.

Is not so strange, however, that the anarchists enter such cooperation
when people understand how the colonialist situation, and more so the
settler colonialist one, makes it hard to struggle against the
"colonization" of the minds of the working people by capitalist ideology.

The struggle of anti-authoritarian anti-capitalists against the
colonialism of other states by the ruling elites of their own countries is
of more benefit in the de-colonization of the minds of people in their
communities than in the de-colonization of the people of the colonies, by
replacing external rule with that of a local elite which often make their
lives worse.

And the strange situation in the Israeli-Palestinian struggle provides us
with a unique opportunity to struggle for the freedom of the minds of the
Israeli working people.

In a way, the strange situation is the result of the impasse in the
decolonization of the Palestinian regions colonized by Israel after the
1967 war.

It is not so strange that efforts to co-opt the exiled Palestinian
leadership of the PLO failed, as the de-colonization of a half-successful
settler colonialist project involves much more than a shift between
sections of the mainly monolithic capitalist elite.

And the process became stuck because Israel refused to give the PLO
leadership enough power and resources to enable them to replace the
resistance of the more radical rebels, who refuse to let go of the
struggle against remnants of the settler colonial project in the regions
conquered in the 1967 war. Israel refused to give the PLO the necessary
resources because the change in the balance of power and interests within
the Israeli elite was not radical enough - those who had an interest in
seeing a continuation of as much settler colonialism as possible were
still too strong.

It is no surprise that the authoritarians of the left (including Leninists
and Maoists) became partners of the nationalist capitalist elite that led
the "national liberation" of the colonies or in the Israeli-Palestinian
case. However, what does need some explanation is the cooperation of the
anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist left in Israel with willing partners
in the "Palestinian national liberation" area. It started back in the '60s
and continues today on a greater scale with today's anarchists (of the
Anarchists Against The Wall initiative).

The reason for this is not for any gut feeling of sympathy with the
underdog. Nor is it based on feelings of guilt for enjoying the results of
the colonial project. The reason is because we understand the negative
"contribution" of the settler colonialist project to the reactionary
opinions of both Israeli and Palestinian working people, and we correctly
assess how such cooperation, and more so popular direct action, can
undermine the nationalist ideologies of both sides.

The section of Israeli capital that has an interest in seeing an end to
settler colonialism is not made up of secret anarchists... nor do they
like our messages. But they are anxious enough to overcome the influence
of the capitalist section of the ruling elite that still supports settler
colonialism.

They have invested a lot of effort in getting a majority of public opinion
to support the end of the settler colonialist project, but this majority
is still fragile.

Thus, the section of the capitalist elite that wants an end to settler
colonialism is investing heavily in changing public opinion through the
use of the media. They are using our joint struggle to give space in the
media to the discrediting of settler colonialism and "paying" us by giving
space to our direct-action struggle and the anarchist way in general. In
fact, we have an increasingly positive presence in the media, and its
effects can be seen in the behaviour of the State forces - gradually
diminishing violence. Hard as it is to believe, at least five soldiers who
were on duty around the concluding meeting during our international
conference came closer in order to listen to the talks being given at
it...

The Palestinian ruling elite is in an even worse position.

The partial co-opting of the PLO leadership has not resulted in a stable
compromise with the partial retreat of the settler colonialist project.
Their "corrupt third-world social order" has failed to become strong
enough to repress the more radical elements among the Palestinians. This
failure has caused mounting pressure by the Israeli State on the
Palestinian elite to yield results, pressure which has only led to the
rise to power of Hamas. It has also caused a loss of hope among the
villagers living along the route of the separation fence, that the
Palestinian leaders can lead a struggle against the fence, a fact which
forced them to initiate a struggle themselves.

The various local struggles that the Israeli anarchists have participated
in have indeed achieved some results. The presence of Israeli anarchists
at the joint demonstrations has reduced the vicious brutality of the State
forces while dispersing the demonstrations. It has also drawn much greater
attention from the international and Israeli media... The joint pre-Bil'in
struggles of the previous year and a half at other villages succeeded in
gaining publicity, obtaining results and fostering trust, and led to the
initiation of the joint struggle in Bil'in. It also led to the other
current joint struggles of AATW with grassroot groups of Palestinian
villagers who have invited us to join them (Abud, Beit-Sira, Hebron, and
more).

Over the past two days, we held an international conference in Bil'in
about and in solidarity with the struggle against the fence. It was
organized by the Bil'in joint project of struggle against the fence, which
for the last 12 months has been carried on by the local popular committee
together with the Anarchist Against The Wall initiative. The ruling Fatah
leadership has not promoted popular non-violent direct action and struggle
against the fence, even with the upsurge in it since Israeli anarchists
became involved. They had many obvious reasons for not doing so. However,
little by little, they have got involved in it, even to the extent of
trying to co-opt it. Indeed, just before the shift of power within the
Palestinian capitalist elite, several dignitaries participated in certain
ways, for example by joining in some of the weekly Friday demonstrations.

The efforts of the Palestinian elite to profit from the popular struggle
against the separation fence in general, and more so in Bil'in, have
gradually been mounting. They have sent dignitaries to the large
demonstrations and once even held a session of their "government" in
Bil'in, even though it was not their initiative and in spite of the
well-known fact that it is a joint project by local committees and Israeli
anarchists. In one case, a high ranking official went so far as to issue a
formal letter of support to the AATW... and surprise surprise, even the
local Hamas people and their regional leadership failed to keep their
distance and joined in the Friday demos.

Our "tolerance" of the involvement of the more or less corrupt persons of
the Palestinian ruling elite and their competitors is a must. Even the
local popular committees do not seem to be too happy with it, but they
understand the limits that local grassroots activists have and the
"political taxes" they need to pay to the political elite in a position of
power. And thus, when Israeli-Palestinian MPs and Palestinian MPs
participated in our Friday demos, they got their "taxes" with microphone
time.

Besides local activists and AATW activists, the conference in Bil'in
included participants from many Western countries and, more importantly,
from people in local struggles from the other regions of Palestine - from
Hebron (Halil) in the south to Jenin in the north. It also drew
dignitaries of the PLO and Fatah leadership, to get their "taxes".

Talks were given at a plenary session by PLO dignitaries (Fatah and
others, past and present members of of the PNA), but also by international
guests involved in our common struggle in their own countries. Grassroot
activists also reported on their local struggles. The main discussions
took place in workgroups, each centered on the struggle along a specific
part of the separation fence. In these, some conclusions were reached
about the past, and suggestions for future struggles were arrived at. Some
of these were integrated into a final text of the conference.

And true to the Bil'in mode, the conference could not end without a march
towards the route of the fence, which took place around noon on the second
day of the conference. Surprise, surprise it met with no resistance from
the State forces. We crossed the route and continued on to the Bil'in
centre for joint struggle for peace which was recently built on the
western side of the fence. The centre was built on a plot adjacent to the
building site of a sector of the illegal settler colony, Modi'in Illit,
being built on land stolen from Bil'in.

But no, the State's armed forces did not totally desert us. Though they
did not try to block our march, they circled around us, putting a line of
soldiers west of our meeting at the Bil'in centre, arranging it as if to
block our way if we tried to rush and attack the adjacent illegal
buildings in the nearby section of the Modi'in Illit settler colonialist
town. (This section is currently under an injunction from the highest
court, banning all construction work and occupation.)

At the meeting near the centre some more speeches were made. After the
talks ended, a soccer game was played and an opportunity was given to
media workers to take their photographs, videos and interviews. People
then got back to Bil'in and made their way home.

Ilan S.

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