Thursday, November 09, 2006

HI I'm back


Well, I have been away for a while in Palestine. Although I had read a lot about the situation, the reality is more disturbing, and the experience was more personal than I was expecting.

I will write more about it by and by. But I start with one thought. Often in the West we read well meaning discussions separating out the Islamists, the suicide bombers, secular traditions and the workers movement as if they are discrete and separate.

In reality they are all jumbled up. This picture was hanging – with pride of place - in a trade union office. It is a picture of one of their members, a manual worker in a stone cutting factory, who martyred himself in a suicide bombing attack against the Zionists. He was a member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs, itself a further level of confusion as Al Aqsa is linked to Fatah, which is effectively the pro-business party in Palestine, and is a nominally secular organisation, but names itself after the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, and note the image of the dome of the rock mosque on the poster.

The brave young Palestinians who have engaged in martyrdom operations against Israel are not separate from mainstream Palestinian society. Look at this young man, fashionably dressed, not a fanatic or someone intrinsicly different from us, but someone responding to intolerable oppression, and apartheid discrimination. A brave young worker, and trade unionist, prepared to take up arms againt the military occupation and attempted anexation of his country.


Anonymous said...

He martyred himself blowing up zionists? Presumably he checked before blowing them up that they weren't part of the majority of the Isreali population who favour a twin state peaceful settlement.

At what age does a child become a zionist? So they have to wait for barmitzvah?

AN said...

I do find anonymous comments annoying, if you have an opinion why are you ashamed of admitting who you are?

There seem to be a few confusions in the above comment. Firstly, when did support by Israelis of a "peaceful twin state solution" stop them being Zionists?

Zionism is the political project of supporting a Jewish state. Zionism is inherently both raciist, and settler based, as israel is founded on stealing Arab land, and to accept the ideologocal justoficatioon of the 1948 borders means that you have to accept that expelling the native poluation is in principle OK. So even if there is a pragmatic recogniction on all sides that the Jewish immigration is now permanent, the acceptance of the idea of an Israeli state with privilages for Jews implicitly accepts the same ideological assumptions as the settlers in the West Bank.

If we quote the ultra-pro Zionist guide book to Israel by Andrew Sanger "Israel is in one sense just one big army". Exactly.

War is war. The martyrdom bombings are a political and military response by Palestinians to their oppression. Of course there may be some discussion and debate about whether or not they have been politically productive.

But given that the IDF routinely murder children, including shots to the head, it is nauseating to read this mealy mouthed, hypocritical comment about when do children become Zionists. It is of course a tragedy when any children are killed in a war - but the war was brought to palestine by the Zionists. As they sow, so shall they reap.

Liz said...

Andy - anon does have a point (and I'll add for the record that it wasn't me who posted that comment!).

Yes, suicide bombings are a response to oppression. But it doesn't follow that they are justifiable. They are not conducive to a national liberation struggle and if anything are detrimental to the cause of the Palestinians.

What does killing yourself and taking innocent civilians with you actually achieve? The IDF do routinely murder children, but this does not make it ok for Israeli children to be killed by suicide bombs. You can't apply 'as they sow, shall they reap' to civilians who want peace with Palestine, least of all children.

I don't see any hypocrisy in anon's statement - he or she was pointing to a fallacy in your argument. You label Israeli civilians per se as being 'zionists' - and to ask in this case at what age do children become 'zionists' is a legitimate comment.
I personally think it a tragedy that young men (and women) are resorting to this, not only ending their own lives but taking others with them. I wouldn't hail it as being bravery either.

AN said...

Hi Liz

This comes down to the tragic brutality of war. Israel is a Zionist state, and military attacks against Israel are attacks against Zionism. The fact that some Israelis are not Zionist (actually very few Israelis are opposed to Zionism per se) does not change that fact.

There is a lot of confusion about the nature of war, which is the use of violence to achieve political aims - usualy by forcing your opponent to do something they don't want to. In my view the moral distinction between civilian and military targets is always tendentious, and is often simply a propaganda argument used by "our side" to demonise "their side". While in fact all professional armies do use violence and delibertely deliberately plan to use violence against civilians. It is in fact ethical to minimise the amount of violence used, and violence against civilians may have greater political effect than violence aginst armed forces in terms of forcing a change of will from your enemies. This is not ravoing on my part - this is what the teach at West Point and Sandhurst.

It is indeed legitimate to question the effectiveness of the suicide bombings, or indeed any military strategy against Israel. But there is a lot of cant spoken - as a people under military occupatioon the palestinians have not only a mooral right but also a right enshrined in International law to offer armed resistance. Both morally and legally armed resistance can target civilians as that is proportionate and symmetrical to the argetting of civilians by isreal. International Law secifically allows the bombing of civilian targets by the way.

He was a young soldier, and he was brave, I don't know how you can dispute that.

Martin Ohr said...

AN, this is total madness. You say that every Israeli citizen is a zionist(do you include the arab citizens of Israrl in this -4 killed by suicide bombers this week only) and that zionism is per se racist and settler therefore every Israeli citizen is by definition a racist and a legitimate target for suicide bombers.

Stop for a second and apply the same logic to Northern Ireland -by the same logic it would make every protestant a legimate target for attack.

Extend your logic further in relation to suicide bombers you state: "It is in fact ethical to minimise the amount of violence used, and violence against civilians may have greater political effect than violence aginst armed forces in terms of forcing a change of will from your enemies." Are you really saying that the more innocent the victim to more effective and more legitimate target they are? Surely by that logic you are calling specifically FOR the targetting of children?

You can't equate what the IDF do as some sort extension of the will of the population of Israel and say 'reap what you sow' without by extension justifying 7/11 7/7.

Did you get chance to see a peace demonstration or speak to a refusenik -perhaps you think these people are legitimate targets too?

seren said...

I was also in Palestine earlier this year, staying in Bethlehem and visiting Jerusalem and Balata refugee camp in Nablus. For the sake of balance, I also stayed at a kibbutz in Northern Israel (this is before the Lebanese war started).

More than ever, I am convinced that the two-state solution cannot work. The current situation, where Israel is effectively trying to imprison the entire West Bank behind its apartheid wall, is an obscenity. Israel is a state founded on terror and, regrettably, I feel it is now exploiting the legacy of the Holocaust for its own supremacist ends.

There are lots of decent Israeli jews just as there are lots of shitty Palestinians. I've lived and worked on both sides and know that's true.

This should be an issue for the international left as crucial (and as black and white - pardon the pun) as the anti-apartheid struggle. The sooner we have a democratic secular state that treats all its people as equals, the better. It's the only way we'll have peace in Palestine and, ultimately, in the Middle East.

AN said...

Funily enough Seren, after several days in palestine, I felt a compulsion to spend time in Israel, to better understand how this madness could come about.

A luxury palestinians do not have of course, when we visited Aida camp in Bethlehem, which is just 5 minutes by road from Jeruselem, there was a display from schol children saying where they would most like to go in their dreams. The moon, the bottom of the sea and Jeruselem were the top answers, all three equally impossible for them!

AN said...


You obvioulsy haven't thought much about the nature of war. I recommend Von Clauswitz.

Ethics and morality are not absolutes, and the ethics and morality of war are in tension with the values of peacetime. Indeed this is a useful (vital!)constraint upon the degree of barbarity of war, and the preparedness of society to go to war.

War is about securing a change of will on the part of your opponent, and the degree of violence that is morally acceptable within any conflict - by those involved in the conflict - develops symetrically.

It is part of the genius of the Israeli propaganda machine that they usually succeed in getting the violence of the palestinians discussed in the outside world as compared to the abstract morals of our own peacetime society.

This allows the Israelis to present the question of violence as if it is a technical security question, and even admit to their own violence, but confine the discussion of solutions to the technicall and administrative. This allows them to proceed with the Wall, assasinations, restrictions of movement for palestinians, etc.

In reality, the aim of war is to acheive a change of political will by your enemy, and the morality of war is to acheive that with the maximum economy of violence. In the modren era that is very rarely acheived by destruction of military forces in the field. There is an interesting discussion on why armies lose wars in Raymond Challinor's book about the second world war.

You ask a bizarre question: "Are you really saying that the more innocent the victim to more effective and more legitimate target they are? " No where did I suggets that. I meant excatly what Ii did say: "It is in fact ethical to minimise the amount of violence used, and violence against civilians may have greater political effect than violence aginst armed forces in terms of forcing a change of will from your enemies."

I dispute the values of words like "legitimate" as they blur the boundaries between what is sanctioned by law, and what is morally justifiable. The second question of moral justifiablity is problematic, as justifiable to whom? War has its own moral compass.

Your question about refusniks and peace campaigners is naive. It is war. It is not about the identity of the victims, it is about the political and military effect of the bombing.

During the Noramandy landings there was a military necessity to bomb the French towns in which fascist troops were stationed. Do you think the Vietnamese Liberation forces should have held back on violence against the American army becausue some of them might be conscripts opposed to the war. On the Eastern Front should the Red Army have worried that tens of thousands of Wehrmacht soldiers had been members of the KPD and SPD and personally opposed the war?

The suicide bombings have in fact had a questionable political and military value - but that is a different questioon from the outraged liberalism that you express. The oppressed will not await your permission before fighting back, and will use whatever weapons they choose.

Oh shock horror, could these arguments be extended to 9/11 and 7/7. Yes, I have never joined the chorus of moral hypocrasy.

Anonymous said...

How you must love hate. To justify the suicide bombings one must be blinded by hate.
Why do you believe in hate?