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(en) Ghetto-statism, or confederal, social emanicipation?

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Tue, 29 Oct 2002 11:59:43 -0500 (EST)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

[The text eppear in the (just published?) issue of the "Anarcho-Syndicalist
Review" by Harald Beyer-Arnesen]

 In the following Zionism is viewed, as a settler colonialist
project of a particular kind, but also in its historical roots as a
mirror image of the German nationalistic proto-type born out
of the debris of capitalist development. But it is the French
Revolution which none the less is the point of departure and
in a certain sense endpoint of this article, as this revolution
posed, at least in theory, but not only so, the idea of a nation,
not resting on nationality but on citizenship irrespective of
blood, even if as we are still talking about a state, also
founded on exploitation and the oppression needed to
maintain it. Still the principle of universal citizenship's rights
(as far as possible imposed and enforced from below) is a far
better base than nationalism to develop a directly democratic
struggle of workers-to-workers-solidarity on.  While the
former falls far short of our ends, it does not, unlike
nationalism, stand in a direct opposition to these.  Thus I will
argue in regards to the Palestine conflict that the only
sensible perspective in the current situation is to advance the
idea of citizenship rights within a East Mediterranean
confederal framework. I will also claim that up to this point,
paradoxically enough, the most advanced corporate capitalist
forces in Israel and the region as a whole, would share our
interests, in as far as this would entail a more effective
exploitation of the labour force (the inhabitants of the refugee
camps may be dirt poor, but they are not lucrative) and
provide a internal market large enough, to become players of
some importance within an increasingly globalized economy.
In this perspective Zionism, with its desire to exclusively
exploit Jewish workers, as well as a Palestinian mini-state,
has both run out of date.

The French Revolution heralded the emancipation of the
European Jews from their ghetto-existence, or in other
words, a dual liberation from a mutually reinforcing external
and internal oppression. Where the Tricolour was carried
triumphantly forward, the ghetto walls went down, literally
and metaphorically speaking. While the conceding of equal
rights for Jews did not reach everywhere, often was less than
complete, and took long to materialize in other parts, this
modern exodus none the less gave abundant evidence of the
creative force of miscegenation. Remarkably much fruit
could be reaped from the tree of knowledge. Within and
without the working class, Jewish intellectuals were among
the foremost upholders of the idea of a rationally based and
shared future, where the human being would have an
intrinsic value independent of his (and more and more also
her) ethnic, national, or religious background. This partially
in sharp contrast to the Judaism that had ruled the ghettos.
In his essay «The Jewish religion and its attitude to
non-Jews» (Khamsin, Journal of Revolutionary Socialists of
the Middle East, issue 8 and 9, 1981) Israel Shahak casts a
light on what Jewish society in 18th century Germany really
was like: Burning of books, persecution of writers, disputes
about the magic powers of amulets, bans on the most
elementary non-Jewish? education such as the teaching of
correct German or indeed German written in the Latin
The break with a feudal legal order at the same time signified
the emergence of a new oppressive order on a broader basis:
The modern bourgeois state, and with it, the beginning of a
new partition of Europe (and the world). For the concept of
the bourgeois state (or any state form) implicates the
existence of other states, whose mere existence stand in
direct contradiction to the notion of universal rights, and is as
a societal phenomenon inextricably linked to the rise of new
and alienating economical forces; to a novel form of
exploitation and dehumanization based on imposed
propertylessness, rootlessness, and the free sale as a
commodity of the human capacity to labour. Conditions that
were bound to bring about a reaction, a search for identity
and roots where many got lost, and many let themselves be
led. Nationalism comes forth and reveals its true face within
the debris of capitalist competition.
Theoretically, and to some degree in reality, the idea of the
Nation that emerged from the French Revolution was
founded on citizens rights independent of nationality, if
certainly not of property. But when nationalism now spread
with the forces of the market, as a climbing-frame for
candidate bourgeoisies, nationality increasingly became the
criterion for citizenship, and not the other way around. The
question of individual rights at all becomes secondary and
that of national blood bonds primary. It then is first and
foremost the nation that is granted rights  national
self-determination  and not the citizens, even if the former
does not absolutely exclude the later. The German
nationalism can stand as a prototype for how one through a
passage within this ideological framework ends up in a racist
ideology, where the already from the inception diffuse
borderline between Volk and Rasse (?nation and race ) gets
Under such conditions, the European Jews had no place.
The Jew once more became a suspicious figure,
unconcerned with if she had converted to Christianity, as
many Jews had, whether she be a Reformed, Conservative,
Orthodox, Buddhist, agnostic or atheist Jew. The great
degree of assimilation that actually had taken place  also
manifested through frequent marriages across old religious
borders, and consequently the breeding of a growing number
of bastards  was interpreted as a conspiracy. Not that such
attitudes towards Jews had ever wholly died out, but now
they grew in strength, and should continue to do so until
culminating in the «Endlösung». Capitalist alienation had
created a monster.
Paradoxically, but rather normally, Zionism was founded on
the German-nationalistic prototype. Also (pan-)Arab
nationalism became German, fetching inspiration from
Europe's darkest forces. The Israeli declaration of
independence from May 14, 1948 promised to ensure
complete equality of social and political rights to all its
inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex?. But these
words could become nothing but an empty phrase
incompatible with the demand of a particular Jewish state, as
well as the not only spiritual but also ethnic cleansing the
establishment of such a state demanded.
Each nation its own ghetto, and now also its own state, its
ghetto-state! This is the ideology we have seen have seen
unfolding within the Balkans. There, as in Palestine, the
logical solution to a demographical problem became ethnic
cleansing, or transfer which was the older Zionist term for
the same. This despite, as I would claim, that neither Jews,
Arabs, French or Norwegians exist in any fundamental
sense. What has real existence are individuals and cultures
without clear borders, ceaselessly undergoing change. If we
are allowed to be so, and are not confined behind imposed
ghetto walls, whether of a mental or more material kind
(such as state borders), we as human beings are our own

settler Colonialism and the conquest of Labour

Zionism connected to European racism through another
point, namely through colonialism, which gained strength in
Palestine when being on the wane elsewhere. Had the
kibbutz movement been all it was about, without being tied
up with the goal of a particular Jewish state, the project
might have proved emancipatory, also for the harshly
exploited Palestine peasants (fellahin). But this was not to be
the case, despite the existence of voices that called for such a
course, and also Zionists who long flinched from the full
logic of Zionism. In 1926, Arthur Ruppin, the father of
[early] Jewish settlement, had co-founded Brit Shalom
(Convenant of Peace), a small oppositional Zionist
organization that called for a deal with the Arabs on the basis
of an «absolute political equality between culturally
autonomous people». To the Zionist Congress in Zürich in
1929, Ruppin had expressed the following sentiment:
«We must get away from the faulty opinion that ruled in
Europe for more than a century and led to a catastrophic
world war  the opinion that only one nationality can be
sovereign within a state. Under the superintendence of the
League of Nations, Palestine must become a political unit
where Jews and Arabs as two distinct nationalities can live
side by side, and with the same rights and privileges. Nobody
shall rule  nobody shall be ruled over. The rights of Jews to
come to Palestine are as great as the rights of Arabs to
remain here [...] We must fight within ourselves the
chauvinism we despise in others.
Even if I cannot share Arthur Ruppin?s notion of distinct
nationalities, I would be highly sceptical towards the
superintendence of the League of Nations, and am opposed
to states as such, there is none the less a fundamental
decency in this speech which regretfully, if not surprisingly
was to be drowned by other, stronger and more cynical
voices. Even if for long yet, a cynical idealism. Also Ruppin
himself came to defend voluntary transfer, and in 1936 he
wrote in his personal journal: It is our destiny to be in a state
of continual warfare with the Arabs.
In the autumn of 1967, David Hacohen, then the head of the
committee for international and security relations in the
Knesset, had described his meeting with Palestine in the
1920ies in the following words:
[As a student in London] I had to defend the fact that I did
not permit Arabs in my union; that we admonished
housewives not to buy from the Arabs; that we walked
guards at the citrus plantations so that the Arab workers
should not be allowed to work there; that we poured paraffin
over Arab tomatoes; that we attacked Jewish housewives in
the marketplace and broke the Arab eggs in their baskets;
that we supported the Jewish National Fund that sent Joshua
Hankin to Beirut to buy land from the absentee effendis and
give the fellahin back home a kick in the behind; that it for us
was permitted to buy tenfold dunums of land of an Arab [1
dunum = ca. 1000 square yards]  but prohibited to sell a
single Jewish dunum to an Arab [...]  It was not easy.
The same year as Hacohen reminisced about his old sins,
Josef Weitz (1890-1973), for many years responsible for the
Jewish National Fund's settlement program, argued that the
continued Jewishness of the state called for the removal of its
Arab citizens. Already in 1940 he had put down in his diary
the words: It must be clear that there is no room in the
country for both peoples [..]  The only solution is a Land of
Israel, at least the western land of Israel [i.e. west of the river
Jordan], without Arabs. There is no room here for
compromises . . . There is no way but to transfer the Arabs
from here to the neighbouring countries, to transfer all of
them, save perhaps for Bethlehem, Nazareth, and the old
Jerusalem. Not one village must be left, not one tribe."

As is apparent from the above, the Zionist colonialization
project none the less differed from that of the great powers,
as well as from the Boer settler-colonialism in South-Africa,
something which made it possible to maintain a degree of
self-delusion for long. The for long dominant Labour
Zinonism - that however secular, and even atheistic it might
have been, unavoidably also had to contain a strong religious
element - did not rely on an economical exploitation of the
native population. On the contrary, it aspired for the Jew?s
conquest of labour, and a return to the soil where from a
reborn Jew could arise, different from the Diaspora Jew. This
excluded the natives as an object of exploitation, but
simultaneously, wholly or partially, from citizen-, property-
and residence-rights. They were simply in the way, as if their
actual presence was a gigantic historical misconception. Meir
Yaari, leader of the Zionist youth organization, Hashomer
Hatzair (The Young Guard), had expressed it clearly in 1942,
in the emerging shadow of the Holocaust: Ben Gurion?s
proposal [on the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine]
completely disregards the fact that a million Arabs live here
together with us - as if they did not exist at all. As such the
fate of the Palestinians have more in common with the
original inhabitants of what was to become the United States
of America than with the imported African slaves and
plantation workers.
On the background of global renewed wave of economical
liberalism it is hence not surprising that the private enterprise
interests in Israel are among the social forces most critical to
the continuation of a Messianic Zionist project. These are the
forces that have always wished to exploit Palestinian labour
power, and not primarily banish those who possess this
lucrative capacity to work. There are every reason to believe
that these corporate interests in the coming years will
reinforce their political power as the pioneers of Zionism die
out and neo-liberalism further undermine the economical
institutions of Labour Zionism?.

Historical Anachronisms

In the new the epoch of capitalist globalization a pure
Zionism more and more appear as a historical anachronism.
The right to exploit Palestinian labour power and the demand
for Palestinian citizens rights thus in a paradoxically way
converge. But is this really that odd? Within the framework
of bourgeois society, to be exploited - or on the contrary, to
be the exploiter - tendentially is the admission card to civil
rights. As a seller of labour power one is granted a value that
in reality, if not necessarily formally, is somewhat greater
than if one has nothing to sell; on the condition that there
also exists a buyer of this very special commodity. Many
living on social security will be able to testify to this, as will
many of the underexploited among the African populations
South of Sahara, and the lumpen-proletariat of the
metropoles of the planet Tellus. Such is the bizarre logic of
One may say what one might wish about Ariel Sharon but he
is not a child of a fast-food culture, and does not listen to the
music of the new age. Neither does he have an ear for the
undercurrents crying for normality?. Like the pathetic and
power-corrupted Yasir Arafat, he belongs to the past. In an
article which appeared in the second Against War and
Terrorism pamphlet, the Israeli anarchist, Ilan Shalif, writes:
?One dominant factor [paving the way for a capitalist
peace?] is the increase of the relative power of the classic
capitalist class of Israel - who in all the years profited by
exploiting the labour of the Palestinians. All through the
years (since the beginning of the Zionist project) the
Palestinian workers could be hired for about 1/2 to 1/3 of the
wages of organized Jewish workers. All these years the
capitalist class preferred to exploit them rather then expelling
them as the zealous Zionists wanted. The privatization of the
previously held industry and services according to the
neo-liberal recipe contributed immensely to the diminishing
power of the old elite, the settler colonialist bureaucracy and
the capitalist interests local and abroad cooperating with it.?
Another old revolutionary, Chaim Hanegbi, who has been a
member of the same Jewish-Arabic, anti-Zionistic
organization as Ilan, namely Matzpen (the Socialist
Organization of Israel, founded in 1962), commented
hopefully in an interview almost 10 years ago with Gõran
Rosenborg, another advocate for Palestinian rights: The
youth do not join the Matzpen, nor the religious settlements
or protest meetings against the Oslo accord, but go to
Michael Jackson concerts. That is positive. That means
Americanization in stead of nationalism. It means the end of
Zionism ... We are one of the countries in the world with the
greatest PC density. We have the most video video players
per...  And now, we have also seen Bosnia ... and thereby us
self. Now we know what it is called what we did in 1948.
(Gõran Rosenborg, Det tapte landet?) Most likely, his words
will be proven true in the end, even if it this is not the
impression created through the media headlines.
It is not only Zionism that has become untimely, out of joint,
within the new epoch of globalized capitalism. The same
goes for a not yet born Palestine mini-state on the West Bank
and Gaza. The narrow borders of Israel are turning into a
prison for cultural and economical needs no continued settler
colonialism can escape. That walls in very literal sense are
erected around the ghetto-state, only further stresses an
emerging claustrophobia. That the settler-colonialist
vanguard increasingly are concentrated within the realm of
religious apocalyptic idiocy, hardly is a sign of strength for
Zionism, but signals its point of decomposition, where it
more and more have become reliant on mirroring itself in the
meaninglessness of Islamist suicide bombers.
Such acts of terror are self-oppressive in more than one
sense. They give Zionism a renewed, prolonged life, while
undermining the moral fabric of Palestinian societies from
within. They are no more voluntary than what honour
killings. They are manifestations of internal oppression, not
bravery. That the forces of self-oppression are nourished by
Israeli state terror does not in any way change this. The
victims are not only the Jews and Palestinians killed and
wounded. Nor is the effect of this terror limited to Israeli
citizens in general. The suicide bombing arise from and
function as mechanism to maintain and fortify the conformity
of an internal justice system, and as such they function as
The logic of Hamas and Islamic Jihad is similar to the logic
of Zionism. In the place of a state for the Jews, they pose a
state for Muslims. It is as if they did not exist at all, neither
the Jews, Christians, Druze, agnostics or atheists (and one
might add, women.) But where religious imprisonment
heralds the end point of Zionism, Hamas and Islamic Jihad
have made the internal religious oppression of the ghetto its
precondition. As Zionism needed antisemitism, Hamas and
Islamic Jihad needs Israel.
The Zionist project depended upon a particular blend of
idealism and brutality, and has everything to fear from
normality. In the final instance, freedom from fear, and the
maintenance or achievement of a certain degree of
economical welfare and security, for most people weighs
heavier than all ideological indoctrination. Under this angle,
the imposed identity as a Jew an Arab, Albanian, Serb, Croat
or Bosnian becomes of secondary order  in particular in an
age when we are becoming American. The question remains
of how much slaughtering and terrorizing it will take before
this simple fact also manifests itself in a collective practice.
Because it is very possible to keep the situation evolving from
bad to worse for a long time yet. For also the present state of
insanity has its logic, its own absurd tombstone rationality.

a secular, directly-democratic confederation
of the East Mediterranean region

In the beginning of the 1980ies, that is before the birth and
death of the Oslo Accord, that is to say, before what today
seems like an eternity ago, a group of Palestinian
intellectuals suggested that Israel should annex the West
Bank and Gaza and make the inhabitants Israeli citizens.
These words derive from an article in the Norwegian paper
Morgenbladet, written by the before mentioned Swedish born
Gõran Rosenberg, who lived in Israel from the age of 13 to all
his childhood illusions about the Jewish state had been
crushed. Regardless of this, the view expressed by the
referred to Palestinians implied putting the struggle into a
citizen rights perspective rather than a nationalist one. This is
an approach we as anarchists should wholly support. But it
should be broadened to include (Trans-) Jordan and
Lebanon, and preferably also the whole of the old
geographically Syria, bilad al-Sham. In other words, the
whole of the East Mediterranean region. It so wished, Iraq
and Egypt could also be added but as long as Bathist fascism
reigns in Syria and Iraq, it is entirely unrealistic to embrace
these states within a possible economical-political
confederation resting on bourgeois democratic civil rights
enforced from below. Even so, I am pretty confident that the
future lies along such a perspective, and that it will be next to
impossible to build a directly-democratic, or in other words a
anti-statist and communistic (i.e. anarchistic) movement in
the Eastern Mediterranean region, without the prior creation
of such a foundation.
Most likely, however, there is today no way today around a
Palestinian mini-state. Hopefully this will also entail that the
worst of the daily humiliation and terror ceases. But there is
still a reason for that so few of the second-rate citizens of
Israel - namely the non-Jewish Arabs   show so little eager
to be incorporated into a Palestinian mini-state. In the Middle
East Report (222, Spring 2002), Sara Hanafi refers to a
proposal published by the Palestinian Academic Society for
the Study of International Affairs, which included the
suggestion that Galilee communities, today a part of Israel,
should be annexed to a future Palestinian state. A proposal,
Hanfi writes, which was vehemently opposed by Palestinians
inside Israel. Despite their second-rate citizen status, the
awareness of that they could have much to loose in
economical standard of living, and even on the terrain of civil
rights, by becoming part of a Palestinian mini-state, is
widespread among Israeli Arabs.
There is also a danger that the establishment of Palestinian
mini-state would be followed by an ethnic cleansing of Israel,
so to racially purify it. This would in case entail the import of
other non-Jewish workers, something that to a considerable
extent already has occurred. But these workers would be
without even the limited rights of the present Palestinian
citizens of Israel.
Whatever the concrete developments in the near future, as
libertarian communists  and anarcho-syndicalists we should
promote the perspective of a broad, confederal unity within
the East Mediterranean region that sets the question of
democratic citizens rights and not national rights in the
focus, while all along, and always, operating on the terrain of
workers-to-workers-solidarity and direct democracy. In the
former if certainly not in the latter, we actually share the
viewpoint of a rational capitalism. It is one of the many
contradictions underlying capitalism that what best furthers
market growth and effective exploitation, also at times can be
the necessary condition for the emergence of a borderless
class struggle that brings with itself the hope and creates the
preconditions for the downfall of capitalism.

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