Iraq’s Other War:The 23rd Anniversary of the Iran-Iraq War

09/08/2011
by Zainab Saleh
Saddam Hussein (right) by an artillery piece during the Iraq-Iran War. Image from www.Boston.com]
Saddam Hussein (right) by an artillery piece during the Iraq-Iran War. Image from http://www.Boston.com

Today is the 23rd anniversary of the end of the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988). Few Iraqis would commemorate or even remember this anniversary. In Iraqi popular memory, this war has been overshadowed by the sanctions imposed on Iraq in the aftermath of its invasion of Kuwait in the summer of 1990, and by two major wars in 1991 and 2003. Indeed, the 1980s is now nostalgically remembered as “the good days.” Then, food and security were abundant, corruption was not heard of, and electricity and water were available twenty-four hours a day. Health, educational and state institutions also functioned at the time, and infant mortality was the lowest in the world. In light of the turn of events since 1990, it has become difficult (if not impossible) to study the impact of this war on the social and political fabric of Iraq. The almost two-year window before the invasion of Kuwait on 2 August, 1990 was too short to produce studies on this war as experienced and lived by Iraqis. One can only study images, military statements, literature, and statistics to glean an idea about the war from the Iraqi perspective. The destruction of Iraqi cities can no longer be assessed. The impact of the war on Iraqi society has been forgotten, its memory long overpowered by the calamities visited upon this country since 1990.

As an Iraqi who came of age during that war and who has recently conducted archival and ethnographic research on Iraq, I am puzzled by some arguments prevalent in scholarly studies on the Iran-Iraq War. These arguments take the overworked Sunni/Shia binary as their launching point. One recurring argument maintains that Shia Iraqi soldiers proved their loyalty to Saddam Hussein’s regime by fighting against their fellow Shia in Iran. The fact that these Iraqi soldiers, the argument goes, did not turn against Saddam Hussein despite his oppression reflects their strong attachment to their Arab identity. Different assumptions undergird this argument: (1) Shia Iraqi soldiers faced a dilemma during this war, whether to fight against the country of their ethnic affiliation (Iraq) or against the country of their sectarian affiliation (Iran); (2) these soldiers would not have fought against the Iranian army if they were not loyal to the Iraqi regime; and (3) Iraqi Sunni soldiers did not experience this dilemma since they did not have any identification with Iran. This deeply flawed approach appears to be based on false conceptual analyses of the war, ones that ignore or misread facts on the ground. People’s views of the war and the experiences of Iraqi soldiers tell a different story.

The phenomenon of deserters (or afrariyya in the Iraqi dialect, from the Arabic word fera, i.e. to flee or run away) challenges the above-mentioned argument. Military desertion was widespread among Iraqi soldiers and presented a major challenge to the Iraqi government. Deserters were thus punished by imprisonment or death. Stories of deserters being hanged in front of their houses were dominant. Fathers who killed their sons for deserting the army were received by Saddam Hussein and rewarded with medals for their patriotic behavior. During the later years of the war, Iraqi soldiers could no longer escape the battlefield. Death squads were employed to kill anyone who refused to fight and/or attempted to escape or surrender. In reality, both Sunni and Shia Iraqi soldiers fought because they had no choice but to fight. The Iranian army was in front of them, and the death squads were behind them. In order to delay enlistment, some young men in high schools and universities would fail their final exams and retake the courses in the following academic year. This strategy enabled them to gain an extra year or two. To these young men and their friends, failing at school meant gaining a year or two on earth. The lucky few managed to escape the country. Still, the majority was not that fortunate and were forced to fight.

Another misconception is more implicit and stresses that ordinary Iraqis supported the war because of their hatred of the Iranians.[1] While I was only seven years old in 1980, I vividly remember the shock expressed by my parents and their friends when the war broke out. People in Iraq often spoke of the war in terms of Saddam Hussein’s oppression and loyalty to the West: that he was a tyrant who singlehandedly decided to start a war, with the support of Western governments, without considering its consequences and its human toll. The terms used by Iraqis to describe the war are telling. The most dominant ones were “war of attrition,” “policy of dual containment,” and “the forgotten war.” Even then, Iraqis understood that the war was waged in order to debilitate both Iran and Iraq, reflecting the anxiety of Western governments and Gulf countries over Iran and Iraq being the two main powers in the region. Iraqis were also well aware that no one in the West remembered the eight-year war or cared about those Iraqis and Iranians who suffered or died, let alone about Saddam Hussein’s human rights violations in Iraq and heavy bombardment of Iranian cities.

It is true that there were celebrations on the streets of Iraq when the Iraqi regime announced its victory against the Iranian army (According to the regime, the Iraqi army never suffered defeats or considerable casualties). It is also true that Iraqi students took to the streets to express their joy over the bombardment of Iranian cities. An unsuspecting observer would read these demonstrations as manifestations of Iraqis’ support of the war and the regime. These celebrations and demonstrations, however, were always staged. The people who filled the streets of Iraq, dancing and acclaiming the wisdom of the Iraqi President, were state agents with orders to go out and celebrate. Even I had to march in many of these demonstrations, along with other students from different schools in the area. Baath Party members were always present, ensuring schools were complying with such orders. We would just walk, refusing to chant the praises of Saddam despite the Baath members’ orders, all the while looking for an opportunity to escape and go back home.

Likewise, Saddam Hussein’s war propaganda that painted Iraq as the protector of “the Eastern Gate” of the Arab homeland against the Magi Persians fell on deaf ears in Iraq. The representation of the war as another instance of the ancient rivalry between ever-heroic Arabs and ever-hateful Persians was just empty rhetoric that filled television stations, newspapers, and school texts. Any serious threat from Iran to the sovereignty of Iraq seemed far-fetched but nonetheless provided an excuse for the regime to put down all forms of political activism. It also enabled it to curb the power of the Shia religious clerics.[2] In reality, what preoccupied Iraqis then were the safety of their male relatives who became fodder for the war as well as the iron grip of Saddam Hussein’s police state. However, Iraqis had to be cautious in voicing their criticism of the regime. An expression of disapproval could lead to imprisonment, death or forced collaboration. With Saddam Hussein’s banning of travel in early 1983 under the pretext that Iraq was in a state of war, Iraq became a big prison. Iraqis had no choice but to endure the war and hope for its end sooner than later. Yet, the turn of events constantly intensified their sense of disbelief. No one thought the war could go on for eight years. No one believed Saddam could stay in power after several military defeats, or that he would get away with gassing the Kurds. No one imagined the United States and Europe would provide Saddam with hundreds of Scud missiles that he would in turn launch randomly on different Iranian cities.

On 8 August, 1988, Iraqis spontaneously took to the streets to celebrate the end of the war. Iraqis observed this anniversary only once. Shortly before the second anniversary, the Iraqi army invaded Kuwait. This event set the stage first for the Gulf War in 1991, and for the thirteen-year sanctions that followed. Reeling under the blockade, environmental disasters, and tyranny, Iraqis themselves began to forget about the Iran-Iraq War. We should pause for a moment and remember that twenty-three years ago, Iraq erupted in joy. It was a genuine moment of happiness that the bloodshed would stop. As a friend told me at the time, “we can start dreaming again.”


[1] Needless to say, some Iraqis supported the war. Some became rich because of the war. Others, like Saddam Hussein’s loyalists, were afraid the regime would fall if the war ended. Still, ordinary Iraqis who were affected by the war directly did not want their family members to die in vain.

[2] Faleh A. Jabar argues that the power of the underground Shia Dawa Party could have been more limited in reality. The severe punishment meted out to its members made it impossible to secure reliable information on the party. See Faleh A. Jabar, 2003. The Shi’ite Movement in Iraq. London: Saqi Books.

First published by jadaliyya.com


Why the Israeli Communist Party defends Assad’s regime

12/07/2011

by Asma Agbarieh-Zahalka

The following article was originally written in Arabic as a response to Muhammad Nafa’a, the General Secretary of the Communist Party in Israel (MAKI). We offer it in English because it gives an important insight into the political and ideological discussions regarding the Arab Spring. Nafa’a has been publicly supporting the Assad regime against the popular uprising in Syria. So have 50 other communist parties. This article proposes an alternative socialist position.

 

 Mohammed Nafa’a, secretary-general of the Communist Party of Israel (Maki), recently published a series of articles in which he adopts the position of Bashar Assad and views the uprisings in Syria as an imperialist-Zionist plot. The articles were published in Al-Ittihad, Maki’s journal, and on the Modern Discussion website (in Arabic).

The secretary-general’s position is dangerous because it not only represents the Israeli party’s position, but also that of no less than 50 communist parties that were present at the congress in Brussels on May 13-15, 2011. According to the congress decision (Paragraph 5), “It is clear that Syria is the victim of destructive and provocative manipulation by American imperialism and its ally Israel, and by other reactionary forces in the region. Washington has long aimed to bring down the Syrian regime, which it categorizes as part of the ‘axis of evil’, and to replace it with a puppet regime loyal to America and its allies. We strongly oppose all intervention in or threats of aggression towards Syria by imperialist forces and Israel. We support all the national democratic forces in Syria which are acting to obtain the legitimate demands of the people.”

Nafa’a adds, “We oppose firing on the demonstrators in Syria! But what about the shots of the ‘resistance’ against the Syrian army!! And why were negotiations rejected, and why the ‘revolutionary’ change of heart of some of the resistance, which at first demanded regime reforms and not its downfall, and then hurried to call for its downfall? If this is their aim, they are just following the will of their master America.” (Modern Discussion, June 19, 2011)

What is the significance of this declaration, which sounds like a quote from a speech by Syrian President Bashar Assad? At best, it ignores the role played by the people in the uprising and belittles the victims without expressing any solidarity or regret for the deaths. At worst, it accuses the people, who demand the downfall of the regime, of cooperating with the US and Israel.

Revolution of workers and farmers

From the congress’ decision, it is clear that the communist parties are failing to read the new political map, and do not understand the nature of the uprisings in the Arab world. Their defense of Assad’s regime, while the Syrian president is slaughtering his own nation, makes one wonder what kind of relationship they had with the regime. It seems that these parties are defending themselves more than Assad, because for many years they tied their fate to the Syrian regime and other similar regimes, which they saw as the militant wing of the global anti-imperialist bloc. In the congress’ decision, and in the articles by Nafa’a, a distinction is made between the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia and that of Syria. While the former receive full support as uprisings against pro-western regimes, the latter is condemned because the Syrian regime was considered anti-imperialist.

If we consider this approach objectively, we see a number of worrying weaknesses. Firstly, do the Syrian people not suffer from the same conditions which led the Egyptian people to rise up? Do Syrian citizens live outside the Arab hell in which Egyptians, Tunisians and Libyans live, with its lack of democracy, its corrupt and violent government, its unemployment and poverty, its dynastic leadership, and an economy privatized for the benefit of the ruling family and friends?

It is no coincidence that the ‘Arab Spring’ broke out in a number of places simultaneously, without distinguishing between regimes from the moderate camp and regimes from the rejectionist camp, and without granting immunity to any regime. The Arab people have learned from personal experience, in the bitter reality of their existence, that there is no connection between a regime’s words, whether moderate or otherwise, and its concern for its citizens. From Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia to Hosni and Gamal Mubarak in Egypt and to Assad and his capitalist cousin Rami Makhlouf in Syria, they each hold a different passport but they all belong to the same bourgeois class, they all plunder the resources of their nations, they all corrupt their surroundings and suppress basic civil freedoms, and they have all caused unemployment and poverty.

While the profits of those close to the regime continue to grow, the regular citizen earns starvation wages. This is what led Muhammad Bouazizi to set himself alight in Tunisia. This is what led Egyptian workers, paid just 200 Egyptian pounds a month ($34), to rise up against the regime, and this is what keeps them demonstrating and striking even now. This corruption is what led the Syrian people, who earn poverty wages of just $3,000 per year, to rise up against Assad.

The uprisings in the Arab world demand social justice and fair employment terms, just as they demand democracy. Thus they are linked to the events in Spain of May 15, and to current events in Greece – popular rage against neo-liberal economic policies and against the powerlessness of their own politicians.

The question arises: what happened to the class perspective of Nafa’a, secretary-general of the Communist Party of Israel? What happened to his working class solidarity, and all the values upon which the communist movement is based? Is he unable to see the difference between the workers and the poor, struggling on the streets, and the corrupt and satiated bourgeois classes of Damascus and Halab?

What rejectionism?

Nafa’a says, “We are against the killing of civilians and dynastic regimes, we are against the emergency laws, detentions and more…” However, in the same breath he adds, “Is the US plotting against the Syrian regime for these reasons?… Syria supported the courageous resistance of Lebanon, and stood strongly against all US plans, just like the Iranian regime which together with Syria, according to the US, is part of the ‘axis of evil’.” (Ibid)

Nafa’a distorts history and counts on his readers’ short memory when he praises the Syrian regime and describes it as anti-imperialist. Perhaps he himself has forgotten or forgiven the regime for the things that don’t quite match the heroic image he paints. We have not forgotten. We have not forgotten how in 1990-91, Assad’s regime participated in the US strike against Iraq or how, in 2003, he ignored Bush Junior’s attack against Iraq, just because he was happy to see the weakening of his old enemy the Iraqi Baath Party and the strengthening of his ally, Iran. This is the same Iran which cooperated with the US in order to win control of Iraq via the Shi’ite prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, and also offered the US extensive assistance in Afghanistan.

We have not forgotten that in 1976, Hafez Assad, Bashar’s father, invaded the refugee camps in Lebanon with full Israeli coordination, to suppress Palestinian resistance. We have not forgotten how Bashar himself, “hero” of the resistance, did not respond to the Israeli aircraft flying over his palace or to the bombing of the nuclear plant, just as he accepted the occupation of the Golan Heights. Bashar’s declarations that he is willing to negotiate with Israel should not surprise anyone. He will not hesitate to throw himself into America’s arms to enable his middle class to flourish and become ever wealthier. This is exactly what happened in Egypt after it adopted the policy of “infitah” – openness to the West.

What is behind the claim that Washington and its allies want to bring down Bashar Assad? All the US and Israel want is to strengthen the bear hug around the Syrian regime in order to steer it away from Iran. The last thing the US and Israel need is democratic Arab uprisings. These uprisings strengthen the Arab people politically, socially and economically, free them from corrupt and despotic regimes, and enable them to contend with imperialism and occupation. Furthermore, the deep changes taking place in the Arab world rob Israel of the claim to be the only democracy in the Middle East, with all the implications this has for its strategic position in the region.

Regarding democracy

Nafa’a doesn’t merely defend Assad, he also aspires to teach us something about revolutionism: “A real revolution knows how to recognize its main enemy, the enemy of humanity, of the people, of the workers: the US and imperialism. This is the compass, and we must guard it well. The dictatorship of the workers of Lenin and the dictatorship of Stalin are immeasurably preferable to the democracy of thieves, imperialists and traitors. This is the compass, and this is the test.” (Ibid.)

In the same article, Nafa’a adds, “Some are in a hurry, some are captivated by the democratic slogans!! I claim that the dictatorial regime in democratic Korea is immeasurably preferable to the democracy in the US, Europe and Israel. Furthermore, some people refer to the concept ‘Stalinism’ in a negative way, in the sense of jails, torture, cult of personality etc… The alternative to all this was Gorbachev, Yeltsin and Yakovlev the democrats, and we’ve already seen the results – complete betrayal of the Party, the motherland and the nation.”

Thus it is clear that the Communist Party of Israel learned nothing from the fall of the Soviet Union, made no personal reckoning and did not reexamine its history and the reasons that led to the painful failure of the first communist state. The political regime in the USSR was based on one party in the name of the dictatorship of the proletariat, which was the Achilles’ heel of the soviet socialist system. The fact that the USSR succeeded in building a strong economic regime did not prevent its fall.

Socialism, in the Marxist sense, is based on democracy and favors a multi-party system. Historical circumstances led the Soviet Communist Party to adopt a dictatorial regime, especially the isolation and numerical weakness of the working class vis-à-vis the peasants after the revolution. Is this enough to justify the dictatorial regime of a single party once it has proved its failure? After all, a one-party dictatorship is exactly what brought the Arab people out onto the streets to protest. These revolutionary uprisings could have been a golden opportunity for Israel’s Communist Party, Maki, to reexamine its antiquated position on dictatorship. However, under Nafa’a, we see no signs of new thinking.

The alternative

“If the Syrian regime falls,” Nafa’a warns, “what will be the alternative?! It will be forces chosen by the US, those who currently demand western intervention, just as happened in Iraq and Afghanistan… Is this real democracy? The partition and dissolution of the state?” (Ibid.)

According to Nafa’a, opposing imperialism necessarily means supporting the Arab regime, regardless of the regime’s character. In Syria’s case, this is a regime that has no connection at all to socialism. A regime that works to privatize the economy to the benefit of the ruling family and its friends, a regime that maintains a monopoly on the economy and security services to ensure it enjoys more rights than the rest of the nation – is this the kind of regime we should be defending? On what basis does Nafa’a claim that the fall of Assad’s regime will mean the rise of an American puppet?

There is a fundamental flaw in Maki’s thinking. We are all familiar with the animosity between the US and the rejectionist camp, but it would be a disgraceful oversimplification to limit these events to the schematic division between “those who are not with me are necessarily with my enemy.” For the first time in 40 years of oppression, a new “camp” is growing in Syria – the people – which does not like the regime but does not like the US either. Why should we take a stand against the will of the people and scorn its objectives?

In recent years, Maki’s flawed thinking has led it to participate in and justify groundless coalitions. With one hand, it supported the Iranian president against domestic opposition, on the grounds that he was opposing the US, and it supported the Islamic nationalist resistance led by Iran and Syria. With the other hand, it supports Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), a moderate leader on the other side of the fence.

It seems that the Party has not yet understood that the Cold War ended with the fall of the USSR, and that the bipolar world of a reactionary US and progressive USSR no longer exists. They seem to think there is no need to adapt to a new reality – all that is needed is to tinker with the old. In their eyes, the USSR’s place in the confrontation between the two blocs has been taken over by Iran and its allies as the flag-bearers of anti-imperialism.

What the Communist Party of Israel refuses to comprehend is that the Arab nations themselves do not believe in this bipolar equation, and are not willing to accept Iran as opposed to the US, or vice versa. At last we are witnessing the end of the era of frustration and despair which drove the Arab nations to support anyone who opposed US imperialism and the Israeli occupation, including bin-Laden’s al-Qaeda, without thinking of creating an alternative. A new player is on the stage, the workers’ movement, allied with the youth and those who support social change, with movements and parties, civil society organizations, intellectuals and artists – all are building a third alternative, a positive alternative, compelling all other forces to contend with its existence.

The Arab uprisings face a harsh reality. They seek ways of building a new society, but not according to the American model. The American example does not speak to the revolutionary youth, especially when American capitalism has been in crisis for a number of years. The Arab nations want to create a regime which will ensure the welfare of society and the workers. Although Arab socialism is still a long way from being implemented, there is no doubt that the socialist ideal is on the horizon for the democratic movements in the Arab states.

And in Israel?

The Israeli Communist Party’s biggest problem is its policies within Israel. The legitimacy of the secretary-general’s position is being undermined, while his party supports the moderate camp in Israel which is beholden to the US. Maki supports the Palestinian Authority chairman, Mahmoud Abbas. Party leaders are regular guests at PA and Fatah events. In 1993, Maki supported the Oslo Accords, and a year earlier it joined Yitzhak Rabin’s bloc as the “lesser evil.” In keeping with this approach, in 1996 Maki called for people to vote for Shimon Peres, the Labor candidate for prime minister, and in 1999 it called on Arab citizens to support Labor candidate Ehud Barak. The justification was the “uniqueness” of conditions in Israel. There is no need to elaborate on the coalitions Maki (along with the various forms of Hadash) has made in local authorities and the Histadrut, as well as with Labor, Kadima and other establishment parties.

In the demonstration marking 44 years of occupation, held in Tel Aviv on June 4, 2011, Maki and Hadash leaders including Nafa’a marched with Labor and Kadima leaders under Israeli flags. Nafa’a and his colleagues forgot their loyalty to the anti-imperialist camp when they joined the coalition at the head of the demonstration which adopted Obama’s speech calling on the creation of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.

Members and supporters of Daam, the Workers’ Party (in which I am active), also took part in the demonstration. Daam did not join this coalition. Daam marched independently shouting slogans calling for the downfall of both Netanyahu and Assad. In the flyers we distributed, we expressed our opposition to the Occupation and our support for the Syrian people’s struggle for democracy and the downfall of the regime. This stance raised the ire of some of the Communist Party leaders who didn’t hesitate to tell us so. They claimed that the demonstration was not about Syria, that we were “mixing messages,” and that such slogans would bring back colonialism to Syria. They made these claims just one day after 62 protestors were killed in Hama.

A historic opportunity

The new Arab uprisings need devoted and experienced leaders who have the knowledge and education to lead the people to achieve their objectives. Without such leadership, the revolutionary energy is liable to evaporate while reactionary forces rush in to fill the vacuum and claim the regime. This kind of struggle is taking place in Egypt today.

The Syrian uprising is the most difficult test. It requires that the Arab Left rethink its path and abandon the option of Iranian and Islamic resistance, which has dominated Arab political discourse, including the Left’s, during the last twenty years. The Left must roll up its sleeves and rebuild its forces, and shake off the dust of cynicism and despair.

Unfortunately, positions such as those adopted by the Communist Party of Israel undermine the crucial process of forming an Arab revolutionary Left. These positions damage the socialist option as we understand the concept: a regime that enables human freedoms, based on democracy and genuine social justice. And a final word: Syria is not just a political test but, first and foremost, a test for the human conscience. Whatever the political differences of opinion, there is nothing that can justify support for a regime that kills its own citizens. The history of nations will not forgive those who stand shoulder to shoulder with torturers and murderers. "end"

  • Translated from the Hebrew version by Yonatan Preminger.

First published by challenge-mag


The Powers of Manipulation: Islam as a Geopolitical Tool to Control the Middle East

04/07/2011

by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

As Washington and its cohorts march towards the Eurasian Heartland, they have tried to manipulate Islam as a geo-political tool. They have created political and social chaos in the process. Along the way they have tried to redefine Islam and to subordinate it to the interests of global capital by ushering in a new generation of so-called Islamists, chiefly amongst the Arabs. 

The Project to Redefine Islam: Turkey as the New Model and “Calvinist Islam”

Turkey in its present form is now being presented as the democratic model for the rebelling Arab masses to follow. It is true that Ankara has progressed since the days it used to ban Kurdish from being spoken in public, but Turkey is not a functional democracy and is very much a kleptocracy with fascist tendencies.

The military still plays a huge role in the affairs of the state and government. The term “deep state,” which denotes a state run secretly from the top-down by unaccountable bodies and individuals, in fact originates from Turkey. Civil rights are still not respected in Turkey and candidates for public office have to be approved by the state apparatus and the groups controlling them, which try to filter out anyone that would go against the status quo in Turkey.

Turkey is not being presented as a model for the Arabs due to its democratic qualifications. It is being presented as the political model for the Arabs, because of a project of political and socio-economic “bida” (innovation) involving the manipulation of Islam.

Although very popular, the Turkish Justice and Development Party or JDP (Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi or AKP) was allowed to come into power in 2002, without opposition by the Turkish military and the Turkish courts. Before this there was little tolerance for political Islam in Turkey. The JDP/AKP was founded in 2001 and the timing of their founding and their electoral win in 2002 was also tied to the objective of redrawing Southwest Asia and North Africa.

This project to manipulate and redefine Islam seeks to subordinate Islam to dominant World Order capitalist interests through a new wave of “political Islamism”, such as the JDP/AKP. A new strand of Islam is thereby being fashioned through what has come to be called “Calvinist Islam” or a “Muslim version of the Protestant work ethic.” It is this model that is been nurtured in Turkey and now being presented to Egypt and the Arabs by Washington and Brussels.

This “Calvinist Islam” also has no problem with the “reba” or interest system, which is prohibited under Islam. It is this system that is used to enslave individuals and societies with the chains of debt to global capitalism. It is in this context that the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is calling for so-called “democratic reforms” in the Arab World.

The ruling families of Sauda Arabia and the Arab petro-sheikhdoms are also partners in the enslavement of the Arab world through debt. In this regard Qatar and the Arab sheikhdoms of the Persian Gulf are in the process of creating a Middle East Development Bank that is intended to give loans to Arab countries to support their “transition towards democracy”. The democracy promotion mission of the Middle East Development Bank is ironic because the countries forming it are all staunch dictatorships.

It is also this subordination of Islam to global capitalism that is causing internal friction in Iran.

Opening the Door for a New Generation of Islamists

The hope in Washington is that this “Calvinist Islam” will take root with a new generation of Islamists under the banner of new democratic states. These governments will effectively enslave their countries by placing them further into debt and selling national assets. They will help subvert the region extending from North Africa to Southwest and Central Asia as the area is being balkanized and restructured in the image of Israel under ethnocratic systems.

Tel Aviv will also wield wide influence amongst these new states. Hand-in-hand with this project, different forms of ethno-linguistic nationalism and religious intolerance are also being promoted to divide the region. Turkey also plays an important, because it is one of the cradle for this new generation of Islamists. Saudi Arabia too plays a role in supporting the militant wing of these Islamists.

Washington’s Restructuring of the Geo-Strategic Chessboard

Targeting Iran and Syria is part of the larger strategy of controlling Eurasia. Chinese interests have been attacked everywhere on the global map. Sudan has been balkanized and both North Sudan and South Sudan are headed towards conflict. Libya has been attacked and is in the process of being balkanized. Syria is being pressured to surrender and fall into line. The U.S. and Britain are now integrating their national security councils, which parallels Anglo-American bodies from the Second World War.

Targeting Pakistan is also connected to neutralizing Iran and attacking Chinese interests and any future unity in Eurasia. In this regard, the U.S. and NATO have militarized the waters around Yemen. At the same time in Eastern Europe, the U.S. is building its fortifications in Poland, Bulgaria, and Romania to neutralize Russia and the former Soviet republics. Belarus and Ukraine are being put under increasing pressure too. All these steps are part of a military strategy to encircle Eurasia and to either control its energy supplies or the flow of energy towards China. Even Cuba and Venezuela are under increasing threat. The military noose is globally being tightened by Washington.

It appears that new Islamist parties are being formed and groomed by the Al-Sauds with the help of Turkey to take power in Arab capitals. Such governments will work to subordinate their respective states. The Pentagon, NATO, and Israel may even select some of these new governments to justify new wars.

It has to be mentioned that Norman Podhoretz, a original member of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), in 2008 suggest an apocalyptic future scenario in which Israel launches a nuclear war against Iran, Syria, and Egypt amongst its other neighbouring countries. This would include Lebanon and Jordan. Podhoretz described an expansionist Israel and even suggested that the Israelis would militarily occupy the oil fields of the Persian Gulf.

What came across as odd in 2008 was the suggestion by Podhoretz, which was influenced by the strategic analysis of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), that Tel Aviv would launch a nuclear attack on its staunch Egyptian allies ruling Cairo under President Mubarak. Despite the fact that the old regime still remains, Mubarak is no longer in power in Cairo. The Egyptian military still gives orders, but Islamists may come to power. This is occuring despite the fact that Islam continues to be demonized by the U.S. and most of its NATO allies.


Unknown Future: What Next?

The U.S., the E.U., and Israel are trying to use the upheavals in the Turko-Arabo-Iranic World to further their own objectives including the war on Libya and the support of an Islamic insurrection in Syria. Along with the Al-Sauds, they are attempting to spread “fitna” or division amongst the peoples of Southwest Asia and North Africa. The Israeli-Khaliji strategic alliance, formed by Tel Aviv and the ruling Arab families in the Persian Gulf, is crucial in this regard.

In Egypt the social upheaval is far from over and the people are become more radical. This is resulting in concessions by the military junta in Cairo. The protest movement is now starting to address the role of Israel and its relationship to the military junta.  In Tunisia too, the popular stream is headed towards radicalization.

Washington and its cohorts are playing with fire. They may think that this period of chaos presents an excellent opportunity for confrontation with Iran and Syria. The upheaval that has taken root in the Turko-Arabo-Iranic World will have unpredictable results. The resilience of the peoples in Bahrain and Yemen under the threats of increased state-sponsored violence indicates the articulation of more cohesive anti-US and Anti-Zionist protest movement.

First published by globalresearch.ca

 


”The West Is Terrified of Arabic Democracies”

23/06/2011

Noam Chomsky is one of the major intellectuals of our time. The eighty-two-year-old American linguist, philosopher and activist is a severe critic of US foreign and economic policy. Ceyda Nurtsch talked to him about the Arabic spring in its global context

Many people claim that the Arab world is incompatible with democracy. Would you say that the recent developments falsify this thesis?

Noam Chomsky: The thesis never had any basis whatsoever. The Arab-Islamic world has a long history of democracy. It’s regularly crushed by western force. In 1953 Iran had a parliamentary system, the US and Britain overthrew it. There was a revolution in Iraq in 1958, we don’t know where it would have gone, but it could have been democratic. The US basically organized a coup.

Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister Mossadegh during a visit in the US in 1951, two years before the CIA’s coup d’état that ousted him In internal discussions in 1958, which have since been declassified, President Eisenhower spoke about a campaign of hatred against us in the Arab world. Not from the governments, but from the people. The National Security Council’s top planning body produced a memorandum – you can pick it up on the web now – in which they explained it. They said that the perception in the Arab world is that the United States blocks democracy and development and supports harsh dictators and we do it to get control over their oil. The memorandum said, this perception is more or less accurate and that’s basically what we ought to be doing.

That means that western democracies prevented the emergence of democracies in the Arab world?

I won’t run through the details, but yes, it continues that way to the present. There are constant democratic uprisings. They are crushed by the dictators we – mainly the US, Britain, and France – support. So sure, there is no democracy because you crush it all. You could have said the same about Latin America: a long series of dictators, brutal murderers. As long as the US controls the hemisphere, or Europe before it, there is no democracy, because it gets crushed.

So you were not surprised at all by the Arab Spring?

Well, I didn’t really expect it. But there is a long background to it. Let’s take Egypt for instance. You’ll notice that the young people who organized the demonstrations on January 25th called themselves the April 6th movement. There is a reason for that. April 6th 2008 was supposed to be a major labour action in Egypt at the Mahalla textile complex, the big industrial centre: strikes, support demonstrations around the country and so on. It was all crushed by the dictatorship. Well, in the West we don’t pay any attention: as long as dictatorships control people, what do we care!

“Efforts to create democracy”: On 6 April 2008 Egyptian workers, primarily in the state-run textile industry, striked in response to low wages and rising food costs. Strikes were illegal in Egypt, and the protests were eventually crushed But in Egypt they remember, and that’s only one in a long series of militant strike actions. Some of them succeeded. There are some good studies of this. There is one American scholar, Joel Beinen – he is at Stanford – he has done a lot of work on the Egyptian labour movement. And he has recent articles and earlier ones, in which he discusses labour struggles going on for a long time: those are efforts to create democracy.

Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, claimed to cause a domino effect of freedom with his policy of the “New Middle East”. Is there a relation between the uprisings in the Arab world to the policy of George W. Bush?

The main theme of modern post-war history is the domino effect: Cuba, Brazil, Vietnam… Henry Kissinger compared it to a virus that might spread contagion. When he and Nixon were planning the overthrow of the democratically elected Allende in Chile – we have all the internal materials now – Kissinger in particular said, the Chilean virus might affect countries as far as Europe. Actually, he and Brezhnev agreed on that, they were both afraid of democracy and Kissinger said, we have to wipe out this virus. And they did, they crushed it.

Today it’s similar. Both Bush and Obama are terrified of the Arab spring. And there is a very sensible reason for that. They don’t want democracies in the Arab world. If Arab public opinion had any influence on policy, the US and Britain had been tossed out of the Middle East. That’s why they are terrified of democracies in the region.

The well-known British Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk recently stated that Obama and his policy is irrelevant for the developments in the region…

I read the article, it’s very good. Robert Fisk is a terrific journalist and he really knows the region well. I think what he means is that the activists in the April 6th movement don’t care about the United States. They have totally given up on the US. They know the United States is their enemy. In fact in public opinion in Egypt about 90 per cent think that the US is the worst threat that they face. In that sense the USA is of course not irrelevant. It’s just too powerful.

Some criticize the Arab intellectuals for being too silent, too passive. What should the role of the Arab intellectual be today?

Intellectuals have a special responsibility. We call them intellectuals because they are privileged and not because they are smarter than anyone else. But if you are privileged and you have some status and you can be articulate and so on we call you an intellectual. And it’s the same in the Arab world as anywhere else.

First published by zcommunications.org


The Super Rich Sabotage the Arab Revolutions

21/06/2011

by Shamus Cooke

With revolutions sweeping the Arab world and bubbling-up across Europe, aging tyrants or discredited governments are doing their best to cling to power. It’s hard to over-exaggerate the importance of these events: the global political and economic status-quo is in deep crisis. If pro-democracy or anti-austerity movements emerge victorious, they’ll have an immediate problem to solve — how to pay for their vision of a better world. The experiences thus far in Egypt and Greece are proof enough that money matters. The wealthy nations holding the purse strings are still able to influence the unfolding of events from afar, subjecting humiliating conditions on those countries undergoing profound social change.

This strategy is being ruthlessly deployed in the Arab world. Take for example Egypt, where the U.S. and Europe are quietly supporting the military dictatorship that replaced the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak. Now Mubarak’s generals rule the country. The people of Egypt, however, still want real change, not a mere shuffling at the top; a strike wave and mass demonstrations are testing the power of the new military dictatorship.

A strike wave implies that Egyptians want better wages and working conditions; and economic opportunity was one of the central demands of the revolutionaries who toppled Mubarak. But revolutions tend to have a temporarily negative effect on a nation’s economy. This is mainly because those who dominate the economy, the rich, do their best to sabotage any social change.

One defining feature of revolutions is the exodus of the rich, who correctly assume their wealth will be targeted for redistribution. This is often referred to as “capital flight.” Also, rich foreign investors stop investing money in the revolutionary country, not knowing if the company they’re investing in will remain privately owned, or if the government they’re investing in will strategically default and choose not to pay back foreign investors. Lastly, workers demand higher wages in revolutions, and many owners would rather shut down — if they don’t flee — than operate for small profits. All of this hurts the economy overall.

The New York Times reports:

“The 18-day [Egyptian] revolt stopped new foreign investment and decimated the pivotal tourist industry… The revolution has inspired new demands for more jobs and higher wages that are fast colliding with the economy’s diminished capacity…Strikes by workers demanding their share of the revolution’s spoils continue to snarl industry… The main sources of capital in this country have either been arrested, escaped or are too afraid to engage in any business…” (June 10, 2011).

Understanding this dynamic, the rich G8 nations are doing their best to exploit it. Knowing that any governments that emerge from the Arab revolutions will be instantly cash-starved, the G8 is dangling $20 billion with strings attached. The strings in this case are demands that the Arab countries pursue only “open market” policies, i.e., business-friendly reforms, such as privatizations, elimination of food and gas subsidies, and allowing foreign banks and corporations better access to the economy. A separate New York Times article addressed the subject with the misleading title, Aid Pledge by Group of 8 Seeks to Bolster Arab Democracy:

“Democracy, the [G8] leaders said, could be rooted only in economic reforms that created open markets…The [$20 billion] pledge, an aide to President Obama said, was “not a blank check” but “an envelope that could be achieved in the context of suitable [economic] reform efforts.” (May 28, 2011).

The G8 policy towards the Arab world is thus the same policy the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank have pursued against weaker nations that have run into economic problems. The cure is always worse than the disease, since “open market” reforms always lead to the national wealth being siphoned into the hands of fewer and fewer people as public entities are privatized, making the rich even richer, while social services are eliminated, making the poor even poorer. Also, the open door to foreign investors evolves into a speculative bubble that inevitably bursts; the investors flee an economically devastated country. It is no accident that many former IMF “beneficiary” countries have paid off their debts and denounced their benefactors, swearing never to return.

Nations that refuse the conditions imposed by the G8 or IMF are thus cut off from the capital that any country would need to maintain itself and expand amid a time of social change. The rich nations proclaim victory in both instances: either the poorer nation asks for help and becomes economically penetrated by western corporations, or the poor country is economically and politically isolated, punished and used as an example of what becomes of those countries that attempt a non-capitalist route to development.

Many Arab countries are especially appetizing to foreign corporations hungry for new investments, since large state-run industries remain in place to help the working-class populations, a tradition begun under the socialist-inspired Egyptian President, Gamal Abdel Nasser that spread across the Arab world. If Egypt falls victim to an Iraq-like privatization frenzy, Egypt’s working people and poor will pay higher prices for food, gas, and other basic necessities. This is one reason, other than oil, that many U.S. corporations would also like to invade Iran.

The social turmoil in the Arab world and Europe have fully exposed the domination that wealthy investors and corporations have over the politics of nations. All over Europe “bailouts” are being discussed for poorer nations facing economic crises. The terms of these bailout loans are ruthless and are dictated by nothing more than the desire to maximize profits. In Greece, for example, the profit-motive of the lenders is obvious to everyone, helping to create a social movement that might reach Arab proportions. The New York Times reports:

“The new [Greece bailout] loans, however, will only be forthcoming if more austerity measures are introduced…Along with faster progress on privatization, Europe and the [IMF] fund have been demanding that Greece finally begin cutting public sector jobs and closing down unprofitable entities.” (June 1, 2011).

This same phenomenon is happening all over Europe, from England to Spain, as working people are told that social programs must be slashed, public jobs eliminated, and state industries privatized. The U.S. is also deeply affected, with daily media threats about the “vigilante bond holders” [rich investors] who will stop buying U.S. debt if Social Security, Medicare, and other social services are not eliminated.

Never before has the global market economy been so damningly exposed as biased and dominated by the super-wealthy. These consciousness-raising experiences cannot be easily siphoned into politicians promising “democracy,” since democracy is precisely the problem: a tiny minority of super-rich individuals have dictatorial power due to their enormous wealth, which they use to threaten governments who don’t cater to their every whim. Money is thus given to subservient governments and taken away from independent ones, while the western media never questions these often sudden shifts in policy, which can instantly transform a longtime U.S. ally into a “dictator” or vice-versa.

The toppling of dictators in the Arab world has immediately raised the question of, “What next”? The economic demands of working people cannot be satisfied while giant corporations dominate the economy, since higher wages mean lower corporate profits, while better social services require that the rich pay higher taxes. These fundamental conflicts lay just beneath the social upheavals all over the world, which came into maturity with the global recession and will continue to dominate social life for years to come. The outcome of this prolonged struggle will determine what type of society emerges from the political tumult, and will meet either the demands of working people or serve the needs of rich investors and giant corporations.

First published by smirkingchimp.com


ON THE CONCATENATION IN THE ARAB WORLD

21/06/2011

http://www.newleftreview.org/?view=2883


The myth of liberal Zionism

13/06/2011

Israeli political parties that promote themselves as supporters of social justice have been part and parcel of Israel’s war on Palestinians, explains Daphna Thier.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to a joint session of Congress

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to a joint session of Congress

MANY ON the left in Israel today are horrified by the lurch of mainstream politics to the extreme right since the coming to power of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the right-wing Likud Party.

The ruling coalition government depends on the support of even further right parties, and Netanyahu gave the prized ministry of foreign affairs to the notorious Avigdor Lieberman, founder of Israel Beyteinu (literally translated, “Israel is our home”) Party and a longtime proponent of the idea of “transfer”–namely a campaign to ethnically cleanse Palestine by forcing the Palestinian population from their homes to other places in the Middle East and beyond.

Since the establishment of Netanyahu’s government, nearly a dozen racist laws have been passed targeting the Arab minority, while the conditions for Palestinians in the West Bank, particularly in the Southern Hills of Hebron, and also for the Bedouin in the Negev, have continually worsened.

To cite one example, the Knesset, or parliament, passed a law authorizing Israeli villages with less than 500 residents to exclude non-Jews in order to “maintain their cultural identity.” There is already a law that Jewish towns and villages must establish committees to decide whether or not some someone may join the community. Practically speaking, these laws are designed to exclude Palestinians from Jewish settlements.

Probably the most atrocious law in this slew of racist legislation was proposed by Lieberman and requires that Palestinian citizens of Israel swear allegiance to Zionism and the Jewish character of the state, or potentially be stripped of their citizenship.

But what should be even more shocking is that there are roughly 30 such laws that discriminate against 1948 Palestinians that have been in place for decades now, including the “law of return” automatically granting Israeli citizenship to any Jew in the world (even those who have never set foot in Israel); various laws restricting Palestinians representation in politics and policy making; the under-funding of education and social services for Israel’s Arab citizens; and very restricted access to land and building permits.

Nevertheless, Netanyahu has the audacity to assert, “Of the 300 million Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa, only Israel’s Arab citizens enjoy real democratic rights.”

During his late May trip to the U.S., Netanyahu delivered a speech before Congress that landed him about a dozen standing ovations from Democrats and Republicans alike. While his speech dismayed many on the left, it perfectly expressed the ideas that have served as the foundation of Israeli policy since its founding in 1948. What’s more, the ideological underpinnings of Israel’s project were crafted, and for the most part enforced, by the Zionist left.

Echoing the leaders of the Zionist project in the 1940s, Netanyahu referred to the Jewish right to Israel this way: “This is the land of our forefathers, the Land of Israel, to which Abraham brought the idea of one God…No distortion of history can deny the 4,000-year-old bond between the Jewish people and the Jewish land.”

- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -

SINCE ANCIENT times, Jerusalem, also known as Zion, was a holy site of pilgrimage for Jews, a place that Jews of the Diaspora yearned to see. A little over 100 years ago, Zionism turned these longings into secular nationalist aspirations.

The Zionists needed a motivation for their colonial project, and such Biblical religious claims served this purpose admirably. Because of this, orthodox rabbis were given sovereignty over several would-be civil services such as marriage and funerals, as well as a strong influence in law and policymaking–despite Israel’s pretensions to being a secular democratic state.

The Jewish National Fund (JNF) has played a leading role in rewriting the history of Palestine to fit this biblical right of return, planting trees over the ruins of Palestinian villages and selling lands confiscated from Palestinians. The JNF has airbrushed history with national parks describing biblical stories and then conveniently skipping over 2,000 years in order to connect these stories to the modern-day Zionist pilgrims who came to “resurrect” the land and “make the desert bloom again.”

While in the U.S., Netanyahu also raised the painful and much-manipulated Jewish Holocaust. “As for Israel, if history has taught the Jewish people anything, it is that we must take calls for our destruction seriously,” said Netanyahu. “We are a nation that rose from the ashes of the Holocaust. When we say never again, we mean never again. Israel always reserves the right to defend itself.”

But it was the early leadership of Israel, under David Ben-Gurion and other left Zionists, that first used the Holocaust in such a cynical manner–in order to justify the ethnic cleansing that took place in 1947-48.

Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, portrayed Arabs as the new Nazis (a parallel drawn today only by the far right) and warned of the imminent threat of a “second Holocaust.” In reality, the Haganah and its elite elements in the Palmach–the military organizations that spearheaded the drive to force the Palestinians from Palestine–greatly outnumbered Arab forces and wielded a far greater quantity of weapons that were also technically superior.

If Ben-Gurion was truly worried about a second Holocaust, he never committed this concern to writing. Not once does he mention such fears in hundreds of pages worth of diary entries. On the other hand, in a February 1948 letter to Moshe Sharett, who was Israel’s second prime minister, Ben-Gurion writes:

We will be able not only to defend but also inflict death blows on the Syrians in their own country and take over Palestine as a whole. I am in no doubt of this. We can face all the Arab forces. This is not a mystical belief but a cold and rational calculation based on practical examination.

Most ironic were the names given to the two types of military action taken against Palestinian villages and towns–there was “le-hatrid,” to harass, and then there was “le-taher,” meaning literally to “purify” (see Ilan Pappé’s description of this in his excellent book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine).

For those of you who didn’t spend your high school years studying every aspect of the Jewish Holocaust, this was the term Hitler coined in regards to “solving the Jewish problem”–to purify, to cleanse, to annihilate.

Ben-Gurion also pioneered the use of the term “security,” which now resides at the heart of all Israeli politics and crowds out all other considerations. “In the Middle East, the only peace that will hold is a peace you can defend,” Netanyahu told Congress. “So peace must be anchored in security.”

This trend has progressed so far that talk of “security” policy dominates every party’s agenda and every electoral race. From the beginning, however, leaders of Israel’s Labor Party and the Histadrut, or Jewish workers’ union, made common cause with capitalists in the Zionist movement.

Particularly in the 1980s, Labor even became an enforcer of neoliberal economic policies alongside the now-dominant trend of right-wing Zionism within the Israeli political establishment. There is always a delicate balance to be maintained between Zionism and capitalism in Israel. Israeli politicians are always keen to mute class antagonisms–after all, “we’re all in it together.”

- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -

FOR ME, however, the contradiction between the dream of the “resurrection of the land,” as we called it, and the bloody occupation, injustices and racism suffered by both 1967 and 1948 Palestinians became all too apparent with the outbreak of the second Intifada in September 2000.

At that time, I thought that had Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin–who signed the 1993 Oslo Accords with Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leader Yasser Arafat, but was assassinated two years later–lived to realize his vision of the “peace process,” surely we would have lived in peace. But I’ve come to see what a naïve and ignorant idea this was–and is.

It is precisely during negotiations to achieve “peace” that Israel has historically made its biggest gains. Negotiations in the 1930s allowed the Jewish colonists to carry out land grabs. In the 1950s, while the UN discussed the fate of the Palestinian refugees driven from their land by Israel’s 1948 war, Israel destroyed their homes and villages en masse. And it was during Oslo that Israel carried out the most far-reaching settlement building and established a web of checkpoints and military bases that shattered any remnant of hope that Israel might grant Palestinians a state even in the tiny fraction of Palestine known as the 1967 borders.

And which party, might you ask, was in government during these time periods? It was the supposedly left-wing Labor Party, of course.

It came as no surprise to anyone in Israel that the Labor Party fared so poorly in this year’s elections. For the past 15 years, the Labor Party has been in decline as the Israeli electorate deserted it for the right-wing Likud Party, a trend that was accelerated by the U.S. launching of the global “war on terror” in 2001.

But this was mostly a reflection of an underlying problem–that ever since Labor’s embrace of neoliberalism, it has nothing unique to offer voters. And once the “peace process” achieved its desired results–to deepen Israel’s grip on the West Bank while ensuring continued conflict with the Palestinians–more and more Israelis wondered why they should vote for less energetic advocacy of the core policies that both Likud and Labor share.

Because the Palestinian birth rate exceeds the Jewish birth rate, the ethnic control and ultimate cleansing of the Palestinian nation is absolutely necessary for the Zionist project to continue. Programs such as Birthright Israel and the conversion to Judaism of indigenous Latin Americans and other immigrants are not sufficient to bridge the gap.

Since the rise of the second Intifada, Labor Party ministers have been the architects of the worst atrocities suffered by Palestinian civilians. Both the Labor Party and Meretz Party declared after the failure of Camp David in 2000 that Arafat was not a “partner for peace.”

Well, if there is no partner for peace, than why would anyone vote for the parties that have historically been the champions of the peace process? As it is, the Israeli public has always preferred military men to intellectuals such as Israeli President Shimon Peres (constantly harassed for “never learning to use a gun”) or Oslo architect Yossi Bellin. These men were always regarded with much suspicion.

The downfall of the Labor Party can certainly be linked to the outbreak of the second Intifada. In 2000, Labor Party Prime Minister Ehud Barak (now Israel’s defense minister) responded with ferocious military force to Palestinian resistance–both in the Occupied Territories and within Israel.

Barak was a military man, but he too had championed the so-called peace process. As the 1990s wore on, Israel had still failed to completely pacify the Palestinian Authority, although a ruling Palestinian elite with interests tied to the Israeli establishment had begun to emerge.

In 2000, Barak met with Arafat and President Bill Clinton at Camp David to try to hammer out a final agreement. But when no agreement was reached, Clinton and Barak successfully portrayed the barren outcome at Camp David as the ideal “compromise” unreasonably rejected by Arafat.

But the reality was very different. The agreement proposed at Camp David was based on the following principles: Jerusalem would not be divided, Israel would not withdraw to the 1967 borders or dismantle existing settlements, and the right of return or any other solution to the situation facing millions of Palestinians refugees living in camps throughout the region would not even be discussed.

Considered in this way, it’s obvious that Arafat had no choice but to reject the offer. These have always been the basic principles aspired to by the PLO–as well as the bare minimum for a just settlement. As Azmi Bishara wrote in the journal Between the Lines in November 2000:

The Israeli left did not really accept the principle of two states. What it supported was an agreement based on cantonization of the Occupied Territories. On the other hand, it is still shocked by the very possibility of one shared democratic state, based on national and citizenship equality. Therefore, it itself is leading to apartheid…

Therein lies the weakness of the left in Israel. It is politically bankrupt. With no social reforms to its credit and no success in the peace process, it offers no alternative. Furthermore Labor Party ministers have always rested peace negotiations on Israel’s military capacity.

Netanyahu’s speech to Congress reveals the culmination of the policies and ideas set in motion by the Zionist Left. “[It is] absolutely vital for Israel’s security that a Palestinian state be fully demilitarized,” said Netanyahu. “And it is vital that Israel maintain a long-term military presence along the Jordan River.” He continued:

I appreciate [Barack Obama's] clear position on this issue. Peace can be achieved only around the negotiating table. The Palestinian attempt to impose a settlement through the United Nations will not bring peace. It should be forcefully opposed by all those who want to see this conflict end…Peace cannot be imposed. It must be negotiated.

But the words conceal Netanyahu’s true meaning: peace cannot be imposed by the Palestinians, only by Israel. And Israel alone will decide the parameters for negotiations–all with the backing of the U.S government.

- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -

PERHAPS THE most interesting consequence of the twisted nature of politics in Israel is the effect Zionism has had on Arab Jews, known in Israel as Mizrachim (literally translated as Easterners). Professor Ella Shohat has written extensively on the experiences of the Arab Jewish community since the founding of Israel and of the effects Zionism had on the forced eviction of Jews from Arab countries.

“Zionism has always looked at the people of the East as inferior, including Jews from Arab countries,” she said in an interview published in Bint Jbeil Shohat. In another article, she writes:

The pervasive notion of “one people” reunited in their ancient homeland actively disauthorizes any affectionate memory of life before Israel. We have never been allowed to mourn a trauma that the images of Iraq’s destruction only intensified and crystallized for some of us.

Arye Deri, who was the right-hand man to Rabbi Ovadia Yossef in the religious Mizrachi party, Shas, once declared that “Zionism brought about the spiritual and cultural extermination of Mizrahi Jews.” This statement explains why impoverished socioeconomic status of the majority of Mizrachis should be drawn to anti-Zionism–and it also explains why Deri was thereafter shunned from the party by Yossef.

Shas’ rise and fall evolved around the promises–and later the broken promises–of representing Mizrachis. When they failed, when they were exposed as corrupt and politically bankrupt, most Mizrahi Jews turned back to the Likud.

Mizrachi Jews in Israel rarely refer to themselves as Arabs. In fact, despite centuries of cultural prosperity of the Jews within the Muslim world, today, most shun this world. The Mizrachi Jews’ tragedy is that not only did they lose the world they lived in before Israel, but now they live in a state where they are never fully accepted in what is a transplanted European heritage and culture.

Over the decades, they have done everything they could to be accepted and deemed “Israeli,” often becoming the most vehement “Arab haters” and comprising the bulk of the electorate of right-wing parties such as Likud.

The Labor Party (and in its original version, Ben-Gurion’s Mapai) has long been the party of the Ashkenazi (that is, Jews from Europe or their descendants) middle class and the intellectual elite. They looked down upon Mizrachi immigrants, first forcing them to flee their own homelands and then packing them into “development towns” where they had limited work options and their labor was easily exploited–as was their presence as Jews on lands that previously belonged to Palestinians.

Fifty years later, the conditions of Mizrachi Jews in Israeli society have changed little. Politics and academia continue to be dominated by Jews of European descent.

- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -

ZIONISM CANNOT encompass peace and justice, because it was founded on a nationalist ideology based on the exclusion of the native inhabitants of Palestine and legitimized itself by attempting to erase history.

There is a saying in Hebrew though that every lie has legs. In light of the attack on Gaza in 2006, Operation Cast Lead in 2008/9, and the attack on the Mavi Marmara, public opinion in the world is starting to shift significantly. Gone are the days of total impunity. We live in an era in which a growing campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel is spreading around the world to unions, community groups and college campuses.

The Arab Spring in the Middle East is, as Netanyahu rightfully characterizes it, a “great convulsion…shaking the earth from the Khyber Pass to the Straits of Gibraltar. The tremors have shattered states and toppled governments. And we can all see that the ground is still shifting.”

As he praised their aspirations to live in democracies such as Israel and the U.S., a Jewish Palestine activist interrupted his speech calling out, “Equal rights for Palestinians!” Members of Congress booed, and as she was violently pulled out of the assembly room they cheered.

Referring to her outburst, Netanyahu said, “You know, I take it as a badge of honor, and so should you, that in our free societies you can have protests. You can’t have these protests in the farcical parliaments in Teheran or in Tripoli. This is real democracy!”

This got him yet another standing ovation from his audience. Of course, after the woman was hospitalized due to her injuries, she was arrested on charges of disruption of Congress. I guess what he meant when he said she was “free” was that she was free to get arrested and injured.

Netanyahu then went on to warn of threats posed by the Arab uprising, reminding Congress of the Iranian Revolution in 1979 that swept another U.S.-backed dictator from power.

Democracy according to the Israeli establishment needs to be contained. And controlled. And maneuvered into serving U.S and Israeli interests. Israeli leftist activists will tell you that they do not feel they live in a democracy. The level of state repression and violence towards left-wing protesters who express solidarity with Palestinians is telling in this so-called democracy. Even as Jews continue to enjoy a higher legal status, the rights of those with dissenting opinions continue to worsen.

The freedom of the Palestinians, though, lies not in the hand of a few hundred Jewish martyrs, brave as they are, but in the hands of Palestinians and the Arab peoples across the region wishing to be liberated from their imperialist oppressors. Tens of thousands of Palestinians courageously descending upon the borders of Israel in the past few weeks proved just this. The “tremors” felt by Israel in the last few months are only the beginning of the fight for a new Middle East.

First published by socialistworker.org


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