Thursday, December 8, 2011


A. Routine Security Check

It appears in the media as a routine matter of prison discipline. After three hours (!)of search, and the discovery of a cell phone, Marwan Barghouti, was thrown into solitary confinement, which can be, in many instances, almost a form of torture. A word about the prisoner: Marwan Barghouti has ranked in many polls as the most popular person in Palestinian politics and is widely considered a likely successor to Mahmoud Abbas. Many Palestinian observers argue that the sooner such a succession occurs, the better, for Palestinian fortunes, at home and abroad.

It seems that last week, Barghouti committed an indiscretion:

“Earlier this week, Barghouti issued a statement in which he called for mass protests across the Occupied Territories and the Arab world in support of the Palestinian bid to secure U.N. recognition in September.”

“Winning the battle of next September, which is an important step in our struggle, requires the biggest peaceful popular protests here, and in the diaspora, and in Arab and Muslim countries and international capitals,” Barghouti wrote. (The Daily Star, July 23, 2011)

One of the tests for us on the Israeli left is, that while we involve ourselves, in spirit and body with the mass movement against the Israeli government’s neo-liberal onslaught, we must continue to protest each and every act of cruelty (and political idiotism) generated by the Israeli military-security apparatuses and demand that Israel stop the revenge motivated inhuman harassment against Marwan Barghouti!

B. Self-Criticism

Last week I finished a long article in Hebrew in which I announced that I can no longer support the so-called solution to the Israeli-Arab-Palestinian conflict known as the “two-state solution.” I do not think that this change of my view on the question is of major importance, but do feel it necessary to explain to many friends and political associates, in the broadest of terms the reasons for the change.

I was slow in reading the transformations in the region. Over time, the US abandoned all pretext of objectivity and fairness regarding the Palestinian question. At the same time that Washington was betraying the Palestinians, they established a strategically important military presence in the West Bank, increased the flow of funds to the PA and to wealthy, influential Palestinians. The process was directed mainly by Salim Fayed, who morphed from a mid-level technocrat to the role of prime minister by virtue of his connections to the US.

Washington became more involved militarily and politically in Palestine and at the very same time abandoned any pretense of acting as an “honest broker.” The Democratic Front for Peace and Equality (DFPE) in Israel continued its unqualified support for Mohammed Abbas and his leadership despite the sad fact that Abbas led the Palestinian Authority into a fateful alliance with US policy. [The DPFE is a broader affair built around the Communist Party of Israel. Both groups are a single political formation for all practical purposes] It is not as if the PA could point to any achievement “on the ground” as an excuse for its total subservience to the US patron. It seems that the DPFE, admittedly the strongest party among the Israeli Arab population felt obliged to stick with Abbas. When I and others tried unsuccessfully to convince the DPFE that they would be crossing a critical line by their unconditional support of an openly pro-imperialist leadership, we encountered the stubborn argument that support for the PA and its abject pro-US policies is a logical continuation of support for a two state solution.

Historically, support for the two state solution, was linked to attempts to prevent the US from dominating the Palestinian issue. The two-state solution did embody at one point certain high ideals of a compromise on the national question – though it was clear in the left that the Palestinians would be making disproportionate concessions. At any rate, faced with the DPFE position, I and others argued that in principle it was justified to continue to support the two-state solution despite the capitulation of the Abbas leadership.

Meanwhile, Obama and the entire US political establishment caved in again and again to the Israeli settler right. The US cynically claimed that the moral collapse of its policies and its sickening surrender to Netanyahu and the settler right was part of preparing a new round of negotiations. The two-state solution was rapidly being transformed into some sort of sick joke. In order to reach negotiations on a two state solution, the Palestinians were called upon to negotiate during settlement activity. I do not have the time here to go into the details of the weird process by which control of US policy on Palestine was delivered up to 500 messianic second class cheap politicians in the U.S Congress . One did not have to be a master of diplomatic dynamics to understand that the US would not and could not sponsor any solution that might conceivably meet the minimal demands of the Palestinians – even as defined by the Abbas “moderates”. Negotiations on any two-state solution in the present context appears as some sort of bone to be thrown to an increasingly unpopular Palestinian leadership, or still worse, negotiations based on US-Israeli connivance might well deliver the final death blow to any semblance of genuine Palestinian sovereignty. The two-state solution, I came to understand had lost any of its original humanistic impetus and had become a diplomatic bauble for the Dennis Ross types who organize an infinite amount of meetings and flights for the Tony Blairs of this world, devoid of any real content. I thus came to understand, admittedly a bit late, that there was no reason whatsoever to support the so called two state solution.

In order to keep the record straight I should clarify that I have not abandoned my total skepticism regarding the idea of a “one state” solution. Nothing is to be gained by pretending that there is a solution on the agenda taking into account the given relations of power and the growingly irrational elements in the deployment of US hegemony in its present crisis. The left in this country will not remain without work to do. There must be a constant unremitting effort to condemn the occupation and expose Palestinian suffering in the territories. The struggle for Jewish-Arab solidarity and the rights of Israel’s Palestinian citizens must remain high on the agenda. The renowned flag of Israeli equality has been ripped to shreds by vicious neo-liberal policies. Masses of young Israelis have setoff on a search for social justice. It will be very hard to find equality even for some without equality for all.

C. Irresponsible Hyperbole

The following little piece of hype has no foundation in all the serious reporting on the mega demo in support of the demands for social justice:

“Approximately 30,000 protesters marched in Tel Aviv last night,
with social justice activists blocking central streets and chants
of "Mubarak. Assad. Netanyahu" filling the air.”

The item which appeared on a progressive blog is unsourced and pure fantasy. As a matter of fact, the militant young Israeli marchers did not have the faintest idea of relating in any form or fashion to the Israeli-Arab Palestinian conflict. They are hankering after an elusive quality which goes by the name of social justice and deeply hurt that even large sections of the middle class need some relief from the vicissitudes of what goes in Israel by the name of “market economics.”

Many sharp observers of the ME scene, such as Prof. Joel Beinin from Stanford University, have cited the startling similarities between the effects of neo-liberalism on the middle class in Egypt and Israel. But Beinin among others is quite clear about the danger of stretching that analogy too far, even before examining the gigantic differences linked to the political and diplomatic roles of the two countries.

For quite a while there have been two opposing views regarding the potential of class struggle in Israeli Jewish society. Important leftists such as MK Dov Khenin (HADASH) and the militant journalist Ephraim Davidi have stubbornly defended the view that there is an unlimited revolutionary energy in the streets that can and must be harnessed to radical politics. Many others, myself included, have pointed out that Israel’s colonialist role, past and present has been, at least up to now, a serious brake on any motion past establishment politics in this country, which are, unfortunately Zionist to the core. And Zionist in this frame of reference, means maintaining and protecting Jewish privilege over and against Palestinian demands for national and civic equality.

The young people fighting for decent rental housing, the doctors fighting for reasonable wages and the salvation of the public health system and the consumers who have figured out that they are being ripped off by the big supermarket chains all deserve the warm respect and support of progressives here and abroad. In regards to the revolutionary potential of the movement - this may be another one of those cases where you hope that you are wrong and the widespread disgust at Bibi and his gang may generate one form or another of radical politics. You do hear the chant of “Bibi Go Home”, but for now, no voices coming out of the tent compounds are saying “Go Home Bibi and take your Wars and Occupation with you.”

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Twelve Theses and Six Comments on the ME

Thesis 1: Though the following axiomatic truth is, or should be clear, it is necessary to remind ourselves that we must continue to relate to the ME and the Arab countries, in terms of a system and a structure dominated by the US and its NATO allies, (or US for short) .

Comment 1

It is strange to come across detailed analyses of events in the region, even from people who see themselves as members of the left that stubbornly ignore the above factual background, essential in understanding currents and developments.

Thesis 2: The chief goals of US domination are (a) profits from and control of the region’s resources, e.g., oil and gas and (b) permanent presence of constant strategic military superiority. These goals are guaranteed by an extensive series of agreements, contracts, and treaties with the formally independent, but actually subservient. governments in the region.

Thesis 3: These agreements are based on and ensure super profits resulting from the practice of unequal exchange and implemented so as to establish and maintain ruling circles that govern the specific countries in order to maintain the status quo favorable to foreign domination and local reaction – based on feudal, clerical, dynastic and military circles.

Thesis 4: On the eve of the Arab spring (February 2011) the key factors impacting the US system of domination were:

a) Deepening relative weakness of US economy and international crisis of the capitalist system; b) emerging coalition of countries opposed to foreign domination: Iran; Syria, Gaza and Hezballah in Lebanon; c) relative independence of Turkey re US policy; d) relative failure of US war to control Iraq.

Thesis 5: The first great success of the Arab spring was to undermine the Mubarek regime in Egypt, which along with Israel and Saudi Arabia served as the main agencies of strategic control, military rule and dictatorship against the Arab masses.

Thesis 6: The Arab spring was the signal for the spontaneous and unprecedented rise of the Arab masses in rebellion against the status quo and challenging the leadership of all Arab countries. However, each and every spontaneous rebellion must in its development elaborate its principles and goals – and its orientation regarding possible common fronts and coalitions.

Thesis 7: There is every reason to support the spontaneous rebellion of the masses. But this position must be distinguished from a kind of “revolutionary romanticism” which ignores the capability of existing political forces to co-opt mass movements that are unable or refuse to define their own clear goals.

Comment 2: In Libya many leftist commentators identified left influence and even hegemony among the anti-Quadaffi fighters. Sadly, this turned out to be wishful thinking.

Comment 3: Today, we have to repel attacks on the Arab spring because of current disappointments. It is worth recalling that the rise of the masses in the original spring of nations (1848) met with a resounding defeat. The success of any uprising depends in the final analysis on the clear definition of goals and the ability to organize the movement and its leadership.

Thesis 8: The category of anti-imperialism is under sharp attack by many on the left who argue that it is immoral to define as anti-imperialist regimes characterized by forms of extreme repression. This moralistic approach ignores the following: a) the anti-imperialist nature of such regimes is not a question of abstract theory but of a real, on the ground, clash between the goals and policies of the various anti-imperialist countries, and the US-NATO system of domination and control. The dominant system identifies, for all concerned, threats to it smooth functioning and control. Imperialism knows its enemies.

Comment 4: No one wanted to describe Iraq under Sadam Hussein in progressive terms. But a blatant war of aggression was launched by the US and its allies against the regime and the people of Iraq…. because of their anti-imperialist positions; b) the ideological basis of this approach is widely understood and recognized by Marxism. Resistance to imperial diktat and the aspiration for independence is recognized as progressive even when implemented by backward or repressive regimes.

This policy was completely vindicated in Latin America where the national liberation movements became the foundation of a serious, anti-imperialist threat to Yankee domination.

Thesis 9:

All the regimes in the region are dictatorships. This means that the level of repression and its expressions is more a question of form than of substance. The practice of brutal dictatorship, corruption and unlimited exploitation, cruel and vicious methods of imprisonment, torture and the total subjugation of the masses is commonplace for decades in countries of the region and not headline material. This, the norm of pro-imperialist government, has been imposed on more than 350 million Arabs for decades.

Thesis 10: The countries in the region which have broken away from imperial domination bear witness to having grown up in the same neighborhood. They are no better and no worse in matters linked to individual freedoms and no different in the reliance of brute power when they consider themselves threatened. At any rate, from the minute that they defy imperial domination, they are in danger of bloody reprisal by internal and regional enemies.

Thesis 11: The principle of sovereign rights is an important element which enables and encourages local groupings to consider options based on policies developing national independence. The process of breaking away from imperial domination is an important factor in the acceleration of developing contradictions in the imperial system. This explains the centrality of the intervention issue. Since the West cannot claim the existence of any right of intervention, huge resources are devoted to slanted media coverage and commentary and to richly financed acts of subversion and conspiracy to justify every kind of intervention.

Comment 5: It is amusing to hear the left mocked because it raises the issue of imperial conspiracy and subversion. In the more sophisticated political and intellectual elements of the West it is common knowledge, and rarely denied that such practices are central to the responsible administration of state interests.

12) The system of Western exploitation and domination determines to a decisive degree the class structure of the states in the region. There is throughout the region an almost total lack of investment in manufacturing and industry. As a result it is hard to identify a sizable industrial working class. In many instances, the oil and gas industry is dependent on foreign labor in an area of immense labor surplus.

Comment 6: It can be presumed –though the matter requires further examination – that the strength of religious feeling stems from the fact that it is the main or often the single force that supplies a modicum of material, social and cultural solidarity. It appears that the Islamic clergy and charitable institutions act as a virtual sub-contractor instead of the state – in the area of social services. The source of funding is probably the only oil money that remains in the region that is not devoted to the corrupt regimes and their henchmen.