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(en) Perspectives on Anarchist Theory - V.7 #1 - Spring 2003 The Violence of Everyday life in the Occupied Palestinian Territories II (2/2)

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Thu, 8 May 2003 18:26:05 +0200 (CEST)

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

> "Legitimate" and "Illegitimate" Forms of Violence
The question of how, and with what forms of violence the Israeli
state attempts to achieve its objectives, is an intriguing one. As the
above makes clear, violence is ubiquitous throughout the cultural,
social, and political context of every day life in the occupied
territories. This violence runs the gamut from the most rigidly
state-organized and executed, to the "symbolic" violence of Israeli
soldiers' "playful" antics. Nevertheless, I think that these types of
violence could be usefully grouped into two categories which,
through their intertwining, contribute to some efficacy of Israeli rule
in the territories.

These two groups could be called, somewhat roughly, "legitimate"
and "illegitimate" forms of violence. "Legitimate" violence might be
considered the structural and systematic harassment and terror
formally condoned by the Israeli state and exercised through the
military; this would include the military checkpoints, harassment for
paperwork at checkpoints or in the streets, "episodic" but planned
attacks by the Israeli army (for "retaliation" purposes), and the
general practice of military occupation, crackdowns, and invasions
in and of them-selves. "Illegitimate" violence is a term which might
be used to describe that phenomenon whereby the formalized and
systematic violence of the state withers somewhat at the fringes,
and becomes replaced by something even more arbitrary and
unpredictable. The quintessential symbol--and primary
practitioners--of this would have to be the individual soldier.
Wherever or however they are located, individual soldiers
sometimes seem to represent as terrifying a power as the whole
Israeli army itself. They are more unpredictable than tanks and
states. On a whim, an Israeli soldier may decide to pass someone at
a checkpoint, not pass them, use a child for target practice, or
throw tear gas at passing schoolchildren.

Thinking of violence in terms of different "types" brings up some
interesting questions regarding the nature and function of violence
as it relates to a modern, colonizing power. How do these two
forms of violence intertwine, thus better enabling the Israeli state to
achieve its aims? The wayward and individual soldier corrupts the
totalitarian and formally uniform activities of a state military, but at
the same time, and on the ground in everyday contexts, they
perform the very important function of terrorizing in a more human
and proximate way--with more intimacy and familiarity than a
faceless army. It should be noted that the Israeli state deliberately
chooses young (and theoretically more trigger happy) soldiers for
postings in the occupied territories, older soldiers--more tame and
less unruly--are generally kept in the quiet of the Israeli cities. Is the
episodic and unruly nature of sporadic violence as powerful as a
formal and controlled occupation? Perhaps it is even more
powerful? Is violence only exercised through guns and tanks, or
does it also occur through daily interactions with a power (the
individual soldier) more arbitrary and unpredictable than the
weather? Which wreaks a more lasting sense of terror and
victimization among a population?

What is the relationship between symbolic violence and real,
physical violence? Checkpoints, for example, are important sites for
symbolic violence. They are places where the military likes to flex
its muscle and humiliate in one turn. I have witnessed people being
forced to stand in straight lines without speaking, then sit down,
then move back ten meters, etc.--completely arbitrary orders given
with a sadistic thrill for dehumanizing others. These events
occurred in the direct sunlight and 100 degree heat while soldiers
were joking with each other, smoking cigarettes, and eating ice
cream. Many reports by human rights groups have also told of
Palestinians having to get on their hands and knees, or being forced
to dance for the soldiers. Is this kind of symbolic violence always
just representative of the potential "real" violence--as common
wisdom would have it--or does it exercise a specific form of power
in its own right?
Settlement Patterns and Methods of Rule

The very physical existence of the state in its myriad forms--military
personnel and equipment, roads, checkpoints, the uses of official
Israeli sponsored paperwork for safe passage--also raises some
interesting questions regarding the relationship between the state,
space, and state formation activities in the most banal and mundane
of places and practices. The ways in which the Israeli state has
geographically expanded into the occupied territories is interesting
in this regard. Israeli settlements are usually accompanied by the
construction of a military outpost, next to the entrance into the
settlement. Additionally, settlements and settlers are generally of
two types: first, there are the planned settlements of the Israeli
government whereby they hope--as governments throughout the
world have historically done with "frontier" or ambiguously claimed
territory--that the mere physical presence of Israelis will increase
the legitimacy of their claims upon the land. These settlements
consist of track houses built by the government, they are provided
with services and utilities, and the settlers receive stipends in return
for living there.

The second type of settlements are the spontaneous settlements.
These are settlements of Israelis who organize among themselves
and spontaneously colonize an area. These settlements are
different in the sense that they spring much more directly from the
ideological convictions of the individual colonizers. The type of
settlers or settler communities that one is more likely to encounter
here are those that are more loosely organized, they practice a
virtual citizens' militia for protection of local lands and/or incursions
into Palestinian ones (esp. in the case of the Olive Harvest), and
they are much more unruly and unpredictable precisely because of
their brazenness and ideological convictions. All of their actions are
ultimately cloaked with the power of the Israeli state, however, and,
as in the case of the individual soldiers somewhat ambiguously
located between formal and informal forms of terror, these informal
forms of settlement ultimately serve the formal interests of the
Israeli state.

These settlement patterns and practices raise interesting questions
regarding space, settlement, ideology, and forms of rule. How is the
rule of the Israeli state in the Occupied Territories greatly enhanced
by the mere physicality of an Israeli presence--whether formal or
informal? How does the bizarre occupation pattern--with
settlements, restricted roads, military outposts located next to
settlements, a vast grid laid across the Palestinian landscape--shape
how we view the presence, geographical distribution, and very
spatialization of the Israeli state in this instance? How do these
spatializing practices enable its attempted rule in the occupied
territories? And, how have these different ideologies and practices
(of legitimate and illegitimate forms of violence, legitimate and
illegitimate settlement patterns) combined to produce the very
geography and landscape of what we now understand as the
"occupied territories"? In this instance, where does one draw the
line between "state," "space," "geography," or "landscape"?
IV. Problems which the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Poses for
Anarchist Thought

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict also raises many questions and
issues which are both fundamental to and somewhat problematic for
traditional anarchist thought and action. Anarchist theory may be
enriched by consideration of some of these questions and, at the
same time, existing anarchist ideas may contribute to an
understanding of the conflict and its possible resolution. Some of
these issues might be listed as follows:

1. How can a peaceful and just resolution be achieved when vast
power inequalities exist between two parties?
2. How and why are states and political parties (such as Arafat's)
driven to quell popular revolts? Is it in the nature of political power
that control must be total and totalizing, or not at all?
3. What are the points of connection and disconnection between
states and particular ideologies? How or why is it that certain
ideologies are more enabling of state dogma and power (such as
political Zionism) than others? Are these ideologies merely
"appropriated" by an autonomously acting state or do states
sometime spring from the ideology itself? If or when the latter is the
case, how might that affect anarchist critiques of the state? What
are the intervening cultural or structural variables which may
encourage or discourage certain relations between states and
particular ideologies?
4. Which circumstances are necessary for the establishment of
long-term peace between seemingly hostile groups? Does anarchist
thought have anything to contribute to ideas of resolution?
5. Is the two-state solution which has been advocated by people
on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the best or only
possibility for brining peace to the region? Is the two state solution
just another contribution to the formation of states and nationalist
ideologies? If so, does it not contribute to an ongoing and
seemingly endless cycle of state-organized violence of which
anarchists have always been critical? Is it possible to "imagine
communities" in something other than a nationalist sense?
6. What set of circumstances--either in the Israel-Palestinian
conflict or elsewhere--are the most pressing for anarchists to
address? Is it conflict-resolution, the formation or disruption of
state-making processes, the end of oppression, or all of the above?
Which types of conflicts speak more directly to interests which
have historically been central to anarchist thought and how might
anarchism contribute to its own growth and reinvention by
choosing to direct itself toward these conflicts?

The above questions are all ones which my long involvement with
the anarchist movement, combined with my most recent experience
in the occupied territories, have led me to ponder. Here I can
venture answers to only the first two. With regard to the possibility
of peaceful resolution to a conflict between two unequal parties:
These types of negotiations are always unstable because people
on both sides of the conflict usually believe that their respective
decision-makers are conceding too much in their negotiations.
Glenn Robinson, in an essay entitled "The Peace of the Powerful,"
attempts to shed light on this problem by advancing a concept
which he calls "hegemonic peace." Robinson claims that, a
hegemonic peace is defined as a peace between two significantly
unequal powers that nevertheless retains the autonomy to accept
or reject the terms of settlement. It is not a peace between relative
equals, nor is it a "peace" completely imposed on an utterly
vanquished enemy. Unlike these last two types of peace, a
hegemonic peace tends to be destabilizing to both the hegemonic
and weaker party. The Israeli-Palestinian peace process is clearly
hegemonic in nature, accurately reflecting the broad imbalance of
power between Israel and Palestine.1

In opposition to popular conceptions, he argues that "peace
treaties invariably reflect power, not justice." And in relation to the
Israeli-Palestinian peace treaties, he claims that in spite of the
nature of Palestinian demands, it was, in fact, Israel that held the
real political power to make the treaties happen: "The peace
process should be understood more as an internal Israeli debate
about how much to concede of all that it controlled, rather than as
negotiations between Israel and Palestine. Most of the internal
Israeli debate centered on how much of the 22% of Palestine not
captured in 1948 should be returned to the Palestinians."2 This type
of hegemonic peace is actually internally destabilizing to both
parties. For Palestinians, the negotiators--the Palestinian Authority
and Arafat--appear to have given away too much because politically
they were at the point of becoming irrelevant. They had lost ground
to the Intifada (the popular resistance) and sought to regain it
through "legitimate" politicking with an external nation. The PA,
which did by the way agree to give up too much, would then have
to put down the uprising to maintain authority. Indeed, the Oslo
accords which actually greatly enhanced Arafat's and his colleagues
power, disrupted the popular revolt.

For Israel, hegemonic peace created internal political instability as
opposing parties viewed any peace negotiations with the weaker
party as, also, unnecessarily relinquishing too much power. The
1993 Declaration of Principles "specified that a strong Palestinian
police force would cooperate with Israeli and US security and
intelligence units in crushing the Intifada." Since Israel was already
dominant, it was viewed by many as unnecessary and premature to
give up any power at all. It was precisely for this reason that Ehud
Barak, the former prime minister, was largely seen as a "sell out."
The "hegemonic"--and thus inherently unjust--peace resolution
struck by the two countries thus had deleterious effects on the
internal politics of each, as each suffered the cancerous effects of
the unequal power relations which connected them in the first

The second question, which is intertwined with the first, relates to
how states and authorities attempt to maintain political control by
quelling popular dissent. The first Palestinian Intifada (1987 - 1993)
did not emerge from the Palestinian Authority or old leadership but,
rather, as a popular movement which reflected the changing
relations of civil society in Palestine. Relations of civil society were
changing for a number of reasons, among them; the growth of a
class of university educated students originally from the lower
strata of society (rural areas, small villages, and refugee camps), and
the decline of traditional authority by large land owners. The
political practices of the Intifada were different from those of earlier
or existing movements in the region, largely because they were
democratic and pluralist. Their decentralization made it difficult for
Israel to locate, control and suppress them. Similarly, Arafat and the
Palestinian Authority were external to this popular revolt and,
increasingly, becoming politically irrelevant because of it. When the
Oslo peace negotiations were organized, Arafat participated largely
in order to recapture his declining political power among
Palestinians. The Palestinian Authority sought to solidify its power
base by challenging, attacking, and destroying the decentralized
and democratic networks of the popularly organized Intifada.

Arafat's strategy was and is common for a state seeking to
centralize control and to eliminate competitors for political control.
By undermining the institutional networks, strengthening and vastly
enlarging police and legal authority, and by the "personalization of
politics" around Arafat, the first Intifada was eventually dismantled.
As a consequence, many Palestinians believed and continue to
believe that Arafat and the Palestinian Authority--in their
determination to hold onto internal political power--actually enabled
Israel to gain more control over Palestine. Indeed, Israel's doubling
of the amount of settlements in the occupied territories during this
period may very well have been aided by the Palestinian Authority's
methods of controlling internal dissent.
V. Conclusion

International activist groups provide a welcome disruption of and
intervention into these state-making activities. In contrast to the
media, international, and national groupings which contribute to the
encouragement of the conflict, international networks leap-frog
across the misrepresentations and divisive, violent, nationalist
activities to try and forge a humane and more enlightened
alternative to existing conditions. As such, their activities work
contrary to the nationalist and imperialist ideologies of the Israeli
state, and help to disrupt stereotypes of Palestinians propagated
through western media channels.

It should be mentioned that all of these events were occurring
throughout Israel and the Palestinian territories on the day of
November 7, 2002, despite a report which Amnesty International's
released in April, 2002. The report, entitled "Israel and the Occupied
Territories: Shielded from Scrutiny," documented the sustained and
systematic nature of human right abuses by the Israeli military. The
abuses catalogued in the report include, but are not limited to, the
following: unlawful killings; torture of prisoners/detainees;
intentional destruction of houses (sometimes with the residents still
inside); making medicine inaccessible by the use of checkpoints;
the denial of humanitarian assistance; using Palestinian civilians as
"human shields" during military operations; preventing children from
their right to education, and more. Specific events, such as the
military invasion of Jenin, in which 4,000 people were displaced by
the destruction of their homes, were described. Amnesty
International stated that, "Up to now the Israeli authorities have
failed in their responsibility to bring to justice the perpetrators of
serious human rights violations. War crimes are among the most
serious crimes under International law, and represent offenses
against humanity as a whole. Bringing the perpetrators of these
crimes to justice is therefore the concerns and the responsibility of
the international community. All states who are parties to the
Geneva Conventions must search for those alleged to have
committed grave breaches of the Conventions and bring them to

In the conclusion to their report, AI states that, "There will be no
peace or security in the region until human rights are respected. All
attempts to end human rights violations and install a system of
international protection in Israel and the Occupied Territories, in
particular by introducing monitors with a clear human rights
mandate, have been undermined by the refusal of the government
of Israel. This refusal has been supported by the USA."4

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict illuminates many questions of
importance to anarchists regarding the state, law, power, and
privilege. Might anarchists have something to contribute to a
resolution of this conflict? Or to an understanding of the
state-making activities and nationalist ideology which fuels it? How
do states invent their history? What myths are the nation founded
upon and why are such myths so powerful? Can anarchists only
support movements which have strong anti-authoritarian leanings or
should they also support movements which are simply for
self-determination? Is there an anarchist moral response to which
we should listen?

All these questions and others will need to be investigated as
anarchists navigate their way through and participate in popular
resistance to state-making activities.

1. Glen Robinson, "The Peace of the Powerful," The New Intifada:
Resisting Israeli Apartheid, ed. Roane Carey (New York: Verso,
2001), 112.
2. Ibid.
3. Amnesty International, "Israel and the Occupied Territories:
Shielded from scrutiny: IDF violations in Jenin and Nablus," 4
November 2002,
4. Ibid.

By John Petrovato

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