Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Scoop - Obama is not Che Guevara

Scoop: Barak Obama Is Not Che Guevara
For some reason, it is difficult for many friends in the left to grasp two seemingly contradictory ideas in their minds without an avalanche of confusion at every turn in the road. Is the following truth so hard to understand? Obama, who is not the candidate of the left, was the only suitable strategic choice for the left.
The left, with few exceptions, overwhelmingly supported the candidacy of Barak Obama for the Democratic nomination. The left, with few exceptions, understood quite well that Obama is not the candidate of the left. Of course, here and there, there are good people who can develop illusions in the heat of the battle. But the overwhelming majority of those on the left who supported him understood that Obama is another representative of the political establishment of the powers that be in corporate America.
Barak Obama cannot be thrown out of the ranks of the revolution, despite the thundering demand of many dear friends, for the simple reason that he was never there. Many of these dear friends are beaming with a sense of superiority after Obama’s disgusting AIPAC performance. But it is not clear to whom they are saying “I told you so.”
The left, despite cynicism regarding its weakness, does exist. Because of its weakness, it has nowhere enough strength to mount a presidential campaign. In these conditions and in the light of the hawkishness of his opponents and the racist overtones of the campaign against him, the left identified, worked with, and supported Obama. This strategy was dictated by the circumstances and there is nothing wrong with it.
The Name of the Game
The name of the game is to stay in close contact with the grass roots elements of the Obama campaign and to contribute to the defeat of John McCain in November. At the same time, it is incumbent on those on the left, who remain to the left of Obama, to find suitable opportunities to voice their criticism from within the campaign camp and from outside it. The left must send its message to the millions who joined Obama because they felt instinctively that he was going in their direction. These millions are the potential constituency of the left on the rise.

Heaven Help Us From Military Logic
The official line goes like this: If the Hamas continues to dare to trade attacks with the IDF, if the Hezballah continues to promise revenge on Israel, if the Iranians refuse to understand that they are in line for obliteration – all this is the result of one simple fact: Israel has lost its deterrent power. The generals, who form the hegemonic political-military think-tank in Israel’s perpetual state of emergency are in the media, hour by hour, day by day to explain that Israel as a matter of national survival must teach our enemies a lesson that they never will forget. Deterrence will thereby be restored. Q.E.D.

Our attack, by all accounts, is pending. It has been in the offing since it became clear to all concerned that the Arabs – instead of just sitting there - are using the time at their disposal to improve their armory. They buy, they smuggle, they buy on the sly, they develop, they perfect and they improvise. Now this being the undeniable truth, it is completely imperative, since war is inevitable because of a failure of our deterrent power, that “business” be taken care of as soon as possible.

The rising tension in Israel’s ruling circles is not about whether to mount an attack. It appears that there are some difficulties regarding who can give the relevant ok and just who to attack. The Prime Minister is actually disabled by some form of diminished capacity – he can collect taxes but not declare war. There are so many Arab countries that are potential candidates for some “bang and its over” therapy, how is even a general to know which is the right one? In these circumstances, compromises are inevitable. The current suggestion is that Israel invade Gaza, arrange the massive execution of every Hamas figure from Prime-Minister to traffic cop, and then, get this, Israel will agree to a long term cease fire.
The second cause for indecision is how to evaluate the impact of simultaneous war on three fronts, politically and logistically. Will an attack Gaza make it easier or harder to launch an attack on Iran? At what stage, if any, will war in the north and in the south force Hizballah to enter the fray?
Somebody even cracked a joke and asked how a war on three fronts would influence the progress of the peace talks with Abu Mazen and Bashar Al- Asad.
The accepted wisdom is that the only competent people in Israel are generals and the only thing they are competent about is war. However, many nations have paid the price of countless victims to learn the lesson that war is too important a matter to be left to the discretion of generals.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

To Utopia and Back

From the desk of Reuven Kaminer June 7, 2008

To Utopia and Back

Prof. Gilbert Achcar of the School of Oriental and Asian Studies in London has made a unique contribution to the ongoing “one-state or two-states” debate in a recent wide ranging interview to Mesele, a progressive periodical in Turkey. (www.zmag.org.znet/view/Article/17808)
Achcar’s input is especially important coming from a Lebanese affiliated with the Trotskyist Fourth International and a prominent analyst regarding our region.

Achcar on the ongoing “two states versus one state” debate:

“To be frank, I consider this debate to be largely a waste of time. I mean this is a debate on utopias in both cases and yet, some are conducting it as if the stakes were at hand. Each side accuses the other of being utopian, and they are both right, because both `solutions` are utopian. Of course, an `independent Palestinian state` that would be limited to the West Bank and Gaza is totally utopian. But I would also say that a single state with ten million Palestinians and six million Jews is much more of a utopia, since it requires the destruction of the Zionist state if one wants to look at the issue seriously. Otherwise it cannot work. That is why I think that these are utopias and too much energy is focused on this debate, such that it becomes a waste of time.” Instead of diverting our energy into a growingly sterile debate, Achcar calls for concentrating efforts to end the occupation and support for Palestinian sovereignty over their territories.

In my view there are two levels to be considered when facing the Palestinian issue. On the one hand are the immediate and urgent interests or needs of the Palestinian people. What are the Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank fighting for? They are fighting to get rid of the occupation, of course -- not for the right of voting in Israel. They want sovereignty over their territories. Their fight should obviously be supported. Even if you are a one-state solution proponent, can you say: I oppose the Palestinian fight against the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza because it doesn`t correspond to my maximalist view of the correct solution? That would be completely absurd from a political standpoint. Hence, if we put it in concrete terms, one has to support the actual struggle of the Palestinians for their immediate relief from the occupation.”
Achcar goes on to suggest that if we need to have a long-term utopian program it should be an attractive one, a socialist and regional solution of the conflict.

Three Utopias

Achcar and along with him, Michel Warshavski of the Alternative Information Center in Jerusalem, both with sterling left-wing credentials, have made it clear that the one-state solution does not, as many new to the controversy might have mistakenly assumed, enjoy automatic support from the left. Both clarify that the image of a simple left-right dividing line on this issue is incorrect. It is simply wrong to assume that the liberals tend to be “two-staters,” while consistent leftists support what appears to be the more radical the one-state solution. If it is true that many on the left have come out in support of a one-state solution, this seems to stem more from a desire to express the greatest possible solidarity with the Palestinian people, than any serious programmatic analysis.

Many of those who support the one-state solution seem to labor under the misapprehension that a new and better society can grow out of the present circumstances in some sort of evolutionary process. Achcar rightly stresses that the one state perspective involves the destruction of Israel before any possible agreement on a single unified state is possible. Thus, the one state solution for Israelis and Arabs, which, at any event, enjoys slim Palestinian support, is more a recipe for the continuation of the conflict than its solution.

What is to be Done Today and Tomorrow

Achcar’s input is also important in that it is informed by a realistic evaluation of the urgent strategic implications of “what has to be done.” It would be a terrible mistake for friends of the Palestinian cause to allow themselves to get bogged down in the final-outcome debate. The concrete aim of all those supporting Palestinian rights should be the fullest possible unity in the militant fight against the occupation and for all measures that can alleviate Palestinian suffering.

Unity between all concerned, including those with different positions on the sources and the resolution of the conflict, must be forged in a relentless attack on Israeli policy and the joint responsibility of Israel and its U.S. patron for the continued suffering of millions of innocent people.

Some Utopias are Less Utopian than Others

Achcar is right in the sense that at this point arguments about the final status solution are utopian and have almost no connection to events on the ground. This said, Achcar feels justified in reintroducing the preferred solution of the radical anti-imperialist left.

“Beyond that I would say that no long term, final, lasting and just solution can be conceived other than at a regional level and under socialist conditions -- through a socialist federation of the Middle East and beyond. Of course, this is a utopia, but this is an inspiring utopia.”
However, it should be noted that there are many who support the two- state solution, who also share with others a vision of a socialist regional solution of the Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab conflict. Being realistic about short term possibilities and dangers does not involve the forfeit of an internationalist vision based on social justice in the region. It does however demand a sense of the historical agenda, its present and future stages.

Any peace-loving observer of the cynical and disgusting perversion of the two-state concept by Israel and its allies can understand the disgust and the despair that leads to the conclusion that this solution is no longer possible. The name of peace via two-states has been sullied and besmirched. But even so, as a matter of fact, it is incorrect to describe the two-state solution as utopian. This misunderstanding stems from the undeniable fact that the probability of a two state option is in pronounced retreat. But even with this admittedly diminished probability of a two-state solution, one can make a case for an immanent set of circumstances that would increase the motion towards the completion of a viable two state solution in a time frame that might be termed as the “foreseeable future.”

This is so because the existing stalemate is based on US hegemony in the region as a permanent and unchanging factor. Without illusions and knowing that changes in US imperialist policies are no simple matter, one can at the least, point out strong and important trends in the US political establishment and in the international arena which express, to say the least, dissatisfaction with the present strategic and political configuration of US policy in the region. Without exaggerating the potential of a new administration and more realistic voices such as the Iraq Study Group in Washington, it would be unwise to ignore possible shifts in US policy.

It is incumbent on the peace forces to define and encourage voices in the political establishment everywhere who may be willing to “reinvent” their diplomacy away from the hide-bound alliance with Israeli expansion and aggression. This is far from an easy task but it is an additional vital element in exposing the responsibility of the US and of Israel for rising tensions in the region and the tremendous suffering of the Palestinian people under a cruel and brutal occupation.

[Gilbert Achcar is Professor of Development Studies and International Relations at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. His books include Perilous Power with Noam Chomsky (2007), The 33-Day War (2007), The Clash of Barbarisms (2nd edn, 2006), The Israeli Dilemma (2006), and Eastern Cauldron (2004).]