Archive for Regime Change

A Year On

Posted in Culture, Me, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on 14/01/2012 by arabrhizome

It’s been a year since I was sitting at this very computer in my dad’s appartment while he was watching tv in his room and the news that Ben Ali fled Tunisia came through. It is still very difficult for me to express in words how emotionally charged that moment was. It represented a moment of pure joy and hope that I only experienced once before, when israel was forced out of most of South Lebanon. However, this had another flavour. This event felt monumental in a different way. It wasn’t the defeat and humiliation of a colonising state, it was the victory of a people against their domestic oppressor.

I wrote last year that it felt like the first truely post-colonial revolution in the arab world, and maybe in the whole of the colonised world, and a year on I can but reiterate that thought. The revolution in Tunisia has changed the world. It might sound like a platitude or a blanket statement, but it doesn’t make it less true. The desperate act of Mohamed Bouazzizi has created a tidal wave of revolution that is still building up. I had hoped that the Tunisian model was going to spread to the rest of the Arab World, and maybe the rest of the decolonised world. I’m happy to see a year on that it is still going strong.

What we saw was Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya (although that particular revolution was marred by imperial and neo-colonial intervention), Syria, Kuwait, Saudi, and other Arab countries rise up, in different ways and to varying degrees that speak to the specificities of their situations. Today Nigeria is rising up. What I did not expect is to see the people of Europ and the USA rise up. Much can be said about their particular forms of protest, particularly occupy wall street and its refusal to show solidarity with the people of Palestine (I’m not letting that one go until they rectify the situation), but the point still remains that the revolution has gone global.

We shouldn’t forget the movements in South America, particularly the student movement in Chile. It’s also important to acknowledge the precursor to all that which is the student movement in the UK. I still believe that that particular movement, allied with the anti-cuts movement, has been central in awakening the revolutionary spirit in the world. While Mohammad Bouazzizi’s self immolation is the spark that started it all, it would be wrong not to see the student demonstrations as the kindling that was gathered and made the fire of revolution take.

Now we have seen countless regimes shaken by the tidal wave of revolution, some fell, others are hangging by thin threads, others are trying to weather the storm. We have also seen the forces of counter revolution try to coopt or destroy revolutions or revolutionary gains. The egyptian army is trying to destroy the revolution in Egypt. Saudi, israel, and the West are trying to crush the revolution in Bahrain, but to no avail. We must remain vigilant and continue to show solidarity with the people rising up.

While I think that the counter-revolutionary forces might get some gains in the near future, I believe that the writing on the wall is there for everyone to see. They will eventually be defeated, even if they make some tactical victories. It is important though to realise that in a post-Tunisia world (even though this was true before), we can’t be frightened by the popular uprisings of people. I find that many people are still stuck within a paradigm that sees some dictatorial and tyrannical states as allies. I’m of course referring to Syria and Iran.

We must realise that the people have broken through the wall of fear. We shouldn’t be afraid of their choices. Those who argue that if the Syrian regime falls Syria will become another Saudi or that it will make peace with israel, have no understanding of the significance of the Arab Revolutions. People will not accept a new form of dictatorship. Some puppet regime might try to establish itself, but as Egypt is showing us and as the rumblings against the NTC in Libya are showing us, that’s not going to happen. We must be on the side of the revolutionaries wherever they are and trust that they will not abandon their hard earned freedom.


Bye Bye 2011

Posted in about the blog, Culture, Me, Palestine, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 30/12/2011 by arabrhizome

I thought I’ll write my post saying good bye to 2011 tonight, as I don’t know if I’ll be able to write more than a few words tomorrow. I thought that I would very creatively write a review of 2011. I know no one is blogging about that. I’m the only person in the world who’s ever thought of reviewing the year that’s just passed. Being serious for a second, I thought I’d write about my perspective on the year, with a mixture of personal and not so personal stories that made this year what it was for me. So, let’s start at the beginning.

The year started in a bad place for me. I had just gotten out of a long relationship and wasn’t feeling very good about myself. I had very little self esteem and was not able to get much work done. I felt slightly lost and was not sure what to do to get out of the hole I felt I was in. It was a difficult time and in many ways I’m still dealing with the aftermath of that. I am much happier today, not only because I’m able to be friends with my ex, which is brilliant, but also because I’ve moved on and I’m able to work again, which was another big problem this year.

That was another feature of the year. The clear lack of work. I kept trying and sometimes wrote some stuff, but it was never good enough. It wasn’t even slightly acceptable. However the more common occurrence was me spending most of the year sitting in front of my laptop trying to write but not being able to concentrate. This spell was broken at the end of November and the beginning of December. I was able to write a work in progress which went down very well. That gave me a great boost in confidence in the work department. But the year wasn’t all bad.

To remain within the personal for a bit this year also involved me discovering comic books and Dungeons and Dragons. Well if you’re a regular reader of this blog you’ll know all about Dungeons and Dragons. I’ve met some great people through it and I’m enjoying the great adventure that Andy our Dungeon Master has thought of for us. I’ve also met some new friends who are really brilliant through Remi’s poetry reading. I hope that I’ll get to see more of them  in the coming year. Nothing like meeting some great activist, feminist, pro-Palestine, vegan, anti-capitalists. I can’t wait to hang out with them soon. That also speaks to the other great thing that happened in my world this year. I became a vegan. I have to say that I still feel like this was the best things I’ve ever done. But I’ve written a whole post about that, you can read it if you want to know more.

Another highlight of the year was the wedding of two of my friends. I am not a fan of marriage but if there ever were two people who can make the institution work it’s those two. It was a wonderful wedding, with lots of emotion and many laughs. I met some very interesting people and enjoyed their company. Hopefully I’ll get to see more of them this year. Congratulations again to Mike and Becky. It was a beautiful wedding and I wish them all the happiness in the world. That was definitely a great day.

But how can we talk about 2011 and not talk about the great upheaval that shook the entire world starting in a village in Tunisia in 2010 when a fruit seller set himself on fire out of desperation and in so doing started a movement in the arab world that we are still living through. First it was Tunisia, then Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria. We’ve also seen protests in Kuwait, Saudi, Algeria, Morocco, and Jordan. Dictators fell others are still clinging to power, either through the help of Western imperial powers and their Arab lackeys, or through brute military force. We’ve seen what the West’s intervention in Libya has done, and so even though I fully support the Syrian revolution, I’m not happy to see it repeated in Syria.

The revolutions also moved to Europe, North America, South America, and parts of Asia. The occupy movement made a difference, apart from Occupy Wall Street’s refusal to show solidarity with Palestinians because of some zionist pressure. I point this out because it is important. There can’t be no justice without solidarity between all oppressed people. Occupy Wall Street’s refusal to show solidarity is a stain on their record and needs to be rectified. The rest of the movements showed a lot more solidarity, including occupy Boston, LA, Oakland, Chicago, and others. We also saw how much the US’s political system is sold to corporations. The incredible brutality with which the police responded to those protests, which was reminiscent of some of the worst dictatorships in the world, showed that at the end of the day Corporations mattered more to the US political system than the people.

There was also the riots of the summer in the UK. I saw many people who call themselves leftists, when faced with the actual raw reality of class warfare and the real anger caused by police brutality and economic pain, turned to fascist language about the rioters. I was shocked, but not surprised, to see how many arm chair activists are happy to abandon all of their supposed beliefs when the poor stand up, however clumsily, and are ready to adopt rightwing narratives. The riots showed that a large section of the British society are disenfranchised and feel completely disconnected from their communities. What we saw, in my opinion, is the result of Thatcherism and Reganomics combined with the clear police brutality felt by the youths of deprived areas in Britain.

Then there was Palestine. This year so much in the struggle for justice in Palestine. I can’t cover all of it, however, I’ll write about a few events that marked me. First there were the protests on Nakba. For the first time, Palestinian refugees from neighbouring countries walked to the borders of Palestine demanding their internationally recognised right of return. Israel responded the only way it knows how, with brutality and without any regards for civilian life or international law. They fired across international borders killing and injuring dozens. This year the BDS movement kept growing and becoming more and more mainstream. There was also much unnecessary death and destruction. Palestinian human life is still too cheap in the eyes of israelis and the world.

However, I am feeling optimistic. I believe that public opinion is changing. The world thanks to the incredible work of many activists who work very hard to bring the truth about the Apartheid state of israel and the brutal racist policies of the zionist state to the world. I trust that when people see and understand the deep injustice in Palestine they can’t but find themselves in the anti-zionist camp. What we also saw was that israeli propaganda and intimidation tactics aren’t working as well as they used to. As many have said, the truth is that the facts are anti-zionist. On this note, I hope you all had a very good year. It certainly was an interesting one. Stay safe everyone. Live long and prosper.

No Time To Blog

Posted in about the blog, Me, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on 28/06/2011 by arabrhizome

Hi everyone. I don’t really have much time to blog. I’m working and it seems that it’s kicking off in Egypt again. I’m not very sure what’s happening but it seems that the police has attacked the martyrs families who have been camped out in Tahrir. It seems that clashes are ongoing right now. I’ll try to blog more about it when I know exactly what’s going on. It seems that the revolution, that was never completed since the army seems to continue the dictatorial regime of Mubarak, is back on and might be seen through. I am also going to stay up I think and try to work while I’m also watching the news. In the mean time stay safe. Love you bye.

Weird Sunday

Posted in about the blog, Culture, Me, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on 26/06/2011 by arabrhizome

I had a pretty weird Sunday. I didn’t do much work. I was feeling a little sorry for myself all day but then got a call from a friend of mine and had a very nice long conversation. It’s was the kind of conversations we used to have a long time ago and it felt great. I was still not very happy and a little sulky. I watched some Doctor Who, which always puts me in a better mood. I also listened to some music. But all of a sudden the day is finished. I don’t know how that happened. It’s very weird when a day just races by. Anyway, before I go I wanted to point this out to you. Yesterday night @AngryArabia a tweep from Bahrain, whose husband and father have been imprisoned by the brutal regime of the khalifas, started a twitter hashtag called #factaboutprisoner. The idea was incredibly simple and also incredibly genius.

She just started tweeting everyday facts about her husband and her father and other detainees in the Bahrain dungeons. It was incredibly heartbreaking but at the same time inspiring. People started joining in with facts about people they know who are in prison. The hashtag is mainly about people in Bahrain but very quickly people started tweeting about Palestinians, Syrians, Libyans, Americans, and even people from Belarus. It was one of those beautiful uses of Twitter. All of a sudden you had people from all over the world humanising those that the regimes who imprisoned them seek to dehumanise and turn into numbers.

Thankfully someone created an archive of the hashtag and you can see that archive here. I urge to read through it. It’s I believe a very important set of documents. Thanks to a tweep called @geopoetic now those tweets will not be lost. I’m sure this resource will be used when the history of the bloody crack down by the Bahraini royal family against unarmed civilians is written. It shows twitter at it’s best. Showing what it can do to spread the stories of those that are being silenced by oppressive regimes. There was another hashtag today that showed the other side of the coin. Showing how twitter also gives voice to psychopathic nutters. The hashtag is #SinkTheFlotilla. Basically it asks the israeli government to sink the flotilla that is on its way to break the illegal blockade of Gaza by israel and bring aid into the besieged territory. Anyway, I’ll write more about the flotilla later. For now I’ve got to go and try to do something productive today. Stay safe. Love you bye.

Obama Making Sure the USA is Completely Irrelevant in the MENA Region

Posted in Culture, Palestine, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on 19/05/2011 by arabrhizome

So today Obama gave his “much anticipated” speech on the situation in the Middle East and North Africa region. I put scare quotes around the words much anticipated because it was only so in the world of pundits. In the real world, especially in the MENA region, no one was expecting much. In fact, as most correspondents were reporting on Al Jazeera English many people in the region didn’t even know he was going to speak. That’s not to say that the people of the region are uninformed, just that the USA and its president have lost all credibility and are seen as counter-revolutionary and their opinions irrelevant.

The speech came and it was even worse than the most pessimistic observers expected. Obama talked about human rights, and freedom, and the respect of peaceful protests. He talked about the revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, and mentioned very awkwardly Bahrain and Yemen, but completely ignored the violence against Palestinians, more on that later in the post. His speech was filled with hypocrisy and condescension. Clearly the events in the MENA region have completely been misunderstood by this president and his administration. He doesn’t seem to understand that the time of empty speeches is finished. The people who are not afraid of the bullets of their tyrants aren’t going to be hoodwinked by rhetoric.

The hypocrisy was apparent in the way he was speaking about the Egyptian revolution. We all remember that the US has propped the Egyptian regime and continued to protect it and back it until the eleventh hour. Now he’s trying to buy the revolutionaries with some debt reduction. He doesn’t understand that the people remember the made in USA weapons that were used against them. They remember the statements by Clinton, Gates, and Biden that supported Mubarak. But more importantly they clearly see themselves as part of the MENA region as a whole, and will not let double standards pass.

Clearly, Obama’s policy on dealing with the revolutions is confused at best. Depending on the friendliness of the dictators the US would react differently. Gaddafi gets bombs but the Khalifas in Bahrain get barely a mention for some of the worst oppression we’ve seen. Obama did mention bahrain and Yemen, but clearly he put caveats and showed much less vehemence in his critique than he did about Syria and Libya for example. Then came the inevitable Iran bashing. Which was interesting as Iran has absolutely nothing to do with these protests and is one of the countries that is seen as irrelevant to the revolutions. Obama unironically accused the Iranians of hypocrisy in their support for some of the revolutions, seemingly completely unaware of the hypocrisy of his own administration.

I didn’t mention this but within 5 minutes of the start of the speech Obama of course mentioned the death of Osamma Bin Laden. It was almost comical to see him wedge this irrelevant event to the revolutions in. But it allowed him to keep banging on about terrorism and the need to move away from it for the arabs. This again showed how completely out of touch with the realities of the region he and his administration are. He kept mentioning that peaceful non-violent protests achieved in a few months what terrorism didn’t in years. What is interesting is that the non-violent peaceful protests of the Palestinians for decades were not included in that.

This brings us to the last, and probably the most disingenuous and damaging, part of his speech. He finally got to the Palestinian issue, or the peace process as he still likes to portray it. Obama showed the true colours of the administration in this part of the speech, so that if anyone still had doubts they were completely answered. He expressed his vision for what a Palestinian and an israeli state would look like. And that vision is incredibly disturbing. Basically he reiterated Netanyahu’s vision of a demilitarised Palestinian state, in other words a bentustan. This state would be based on the 1967 borders but with land swaps.

He then went on to explain that the Palestinians need to understand that delegitimisation of israel, the zionist code word for the BDS movement and the attempt to hold israel responsible for its actions by the standards of international law and human rights, isn’t going to work. He also explained that the unilateral move to declare an independent Palestinian state along the 1967 borders at the UN in September isn’t going to work, thus flipping a giant v sign at the PA. He also talked about his fears of the reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. In a hint at the events of the Nakba day protests, he said that violating the borders of israel was unacceptable. O f course forgetting that no border was breached by the peaceful Palestinian protesters and that even if it was, these are people who have been denied the right to return to their homes for 63 years, even though that right is enshrined in international law. He then gave a very mild caution to israel, after what felt like a ten minute (although it probably was only one or two minutes) love declaration for israel. He explained that the US and israel are the greatest of friends and that the US is commited to israel, blah blah blah, we’ve all heard it before.

There was also this moment in the speech that probably made every arab enraged. He explained that israelis suffered the fear of being blown up in busses, and having rockets fall on them, and most terribly (he said) knowing that the Palestinians were teaching their children to hate them. He then said the Palestinians suffered humiliation and statelessness. This is one of the most disgustingly inaccurate portrayals of the situation I have ever heard. What about the Palestinians living in fear of having white phosphorous dropped on them? Their homes, schools and hospitals destroyed? Their families dying on their way to hospital because a sadistic IDF soldier decided that he wouldn’t let them through a check point? Being taken in the middle of the night to be held incommunicado by israeli intelligence?

All in all Obama showed that the US’s position hasn’t changed at all. It’s foreign policy is still the same. Saudi Arabia and it’s disgusting role in repressing the Bahraini protests as well as supporting all the dictators that are being forced out, didn’t get a single mention. Israel, which regularly shoots at peaceful protesters and on Sunday acted exactly like all the arab regimes got 28 mentions, all of them supportive. Basically the US’s policy is still israel and oil. Obama’s speech, which was supposed to clarify his administration’s position did just that. The problem is that he thought he could hoodwink us and make us think that this was a change for the better. Unfortunately for him, Arabs aren’t stupid, no matter what people around him tell him. What this speech has done is that it has made sure that no one will take the US seriously in the region anymore. When the dust of revolution settles and the new MENA emerges the US will be completely and utterly irrelevant. There is much more to say but it would just make me angry and I need to sleep.

63 Years Since the Nakba

Posted in Me, Palestine, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 15/05/2011 by arabrhizome

So today is the day we remember the Nakba. I have already written a post about it on here, in fact it was my second post on this blog. I am not going to go into the history of the Nakba again. If you want to read what I have to say about that here’s a link to the post I wrote almost a year ago. I’m sure some of you will have fun comparing how different my style of writing has become (maybe it’s still just as bad. Who knows?). I thought that rather than write about the history of the Nakba I would write about the extraordinary events of today.

If you follow me on twitter you would have followed my frantic tweeting all day. If not let me summarise the events for you. It all started early this morning with some excitement. This particular Nakba day comes at a time of seismic changes in the region and it would have been naive to think that they wouldn’t affect the commemoration events across the Arab World. Many very interesting events were taking place. Palestinian refugees and Lebanese people were planing to hold a rally in Maroun Al Ras, a border village with israel that has some history of resistance, especially during the 2006 war. There were rumours of a simillar rally in Syria at the border with the occupied Golan Heights, but the recent events in Syria meant that we didn’t expect much. Jordan and Egypt were also set to have protests at the border. Of course Palestine was going to be the centre of it all.

It is interesting to note a couple of things about the commemorations in Palestine. Israel has passed the Nakba law which makes it illegal, more or less, for people to commemorate the Nakba inside Israel. Also, the fact that the Palestinian factions have signed an agreement meant that the Palestinians in the occupied territories would be able to concentrate on the Nakba without worrying about internal divisions. Finally the arab revolutions have energised the Arab populations and most see the Palestinian cause as the central arab struggle. The right of return of the forcibly displaced Palestinians in 1947-48 is the central demand of the Palestinian cause and Nakba Day is when it is made most forcibly.

As the day started a meme emerged on twitter it took the form of “I am israel and…” followed by atweet that exposes israel’s unacceptable practices and policies. Let me give you a few examples to explain it. “I am israel and my imaginary friend told me in his book that this land is mine. Therefore it is.” “I am israel & the Palestinians & Lebanese & Arabs make me kill them. I swear I’m a victim I’m always the victim”. “I am Israel and I brag about making the desert bloom, even though most of the land is fertile and green.” “I am Israel & I force my young impressionable 18 yr olds into a 2-3 yrs military service that dehumanises Palestinians.” And so on. You get the idea. That passed the time until the protests started. What was funny was seeing zionist twitter users try to highjack the meme but giving up very quickly and failing miserably.

Anyway, soon the protests started. I was following people who were on their way down to the South of Lebanon from refugee camps in Beirut. Soon they were at the border and Palestinians were starting to protest all over historic Palestine. It was interesting that Tel Aviv had a huge demo with Palestinian flags demanding the fulfilment of the internationally recognised right of return of Palestinians to their land and homes. The majority of the protests inside israel went without any violence. Most of the Egyptians were unable to make it to Rafah as the army didn’t allow them to get there. Jordan seemed to be going well but since they are at peace with israel no one thought anything would happen.

Then things went crazy very quickly and pretty much all hell broke loose. First, news from Gaza started filtering that people in Bait Hanoune were protesting and got too close to the Eretz crossing with israel for the israli army’s comfort so the IDF (remember they call themselves the most moral army in the world in an almost beautiful Orwellian move) shot 4 tank shells at them as well as live sniper fire. Very quickly around 30 or 50 people, mainly children and teenagers, because it was an unarmed peaceful protest, were injured and sent to hospital. This led to a rise in tensions. For the rest of the day, and as I far as I know still now, Palestinians protested using rocks and the IDF shot live rounds at them. So far over 100 are injured including one journalist and one teenager is dead.

But that’s not all. In Qualandya in the West Bank there was a peaceful protest as well that was met with unimaginable amounts of tear gas and rubber coated bullets, later in the day those were traded for live ammunition. Of course this made the protests more intense and soon Palestinians started throwing stones at the israelis while they shot at them with rubber coated bullets, live bullets, and tear gas. So far over 100 are injured and one is dead. What is interesting is that the Palestinian numbers kept swelling and they were swelling with young men and young women. Clearly something very important was happening there. I know that East Jerusalem saw some violence as well but I didn’t get much info on it.

But in the middle of all that we got some very strange news. The border between Syria and the occupied Golan Heights had witnessed some very fierce clashes and 4 people had died and at least 20 people were injured. It turns out that around 20000 Syrians and Palestinian refugees had made their way to that border and an unspecified number of them walked across a mine field cut the border fence and crossed into the occupied Golan. This is huge! The Syrian regime has made sure not to allow any protests on its southern borders. However they are clearly too busy killing their own people to have noticed what was going on. Basically, a number of Palestinian refugees had exercised their right of return and were refusing to go back to Syria.

The israeli army sent a whole bunch of reinforcements to try and round them up, or kill them, and move them back to Syria. However the people of the town they went into Majdal Shams protected them and started contacting the israeli army in order to try not to get them killed. But their exact number was unclear, even now we still don’t know how many made it through reports varied between 68 and over a thousand. Eventually, many were able to return without being injured because the citizens of Majdal Shams protected them and got them to the border. However, many who got in had said that they aren’t planning to go back to israel but to go back to their land. Are some of them still there? no one knows. This episode clearly rattled the zionist state. Israeli Kneset members were calling for the IDF to use severe force and to kill all those who crossed the border. They described the episode as a grave intelligence and security failure. The reason is that no one expected it to happen in Syria.

Finally, let’s talk about the events in Lebanon because they are by far the most dangerous in their significance. The commemorations were set to take place on a hill that overlooks a field that meets the border fence between south Lebanon and Northern israel. However a group of a few dozen at first and then a few hundred protesters made their way towards the border fence. They didn’t attack it or try to cross it but were very close to it. They were waving their flags and chanting to demand the fulfilment of the right of return. It was all rather jolly but then the israelis started shooting in the air one bullet fell over the border and injured a woman in her left shoulder. This was bad but it could very easily be described as an accident, although why they needed to shoot in the air in the first place is not completely clear.

But then something very dangerous happened. They started shooting across the border at the unarmed civilians. Over a few hours 10 people were killed and over 100 injured. Eventually the Lebanese army forced the protesters to move back from the fence. But this is a major breech of Lebanon’s sovereignty, not that this ever stopped them before, but this is also a clear breech of resolution 1701. It is incredible that the IDF thinks that it can simply flaunt the border and shoot across it killing 10 and injuring over a hundred. I really hope that Lebanon doesn’t stay silent about it, although I imagine they will crawl and grovel and do nothing.

The point though is that all these events add up to some very important facts. The Arab people have set a marker, there will be no peace without the recognition and fulfilment of the right of return of the Palestinian refugees that were forcibly evicted from their lands and homes in 1947-48. We know that the PA was ready to give up that right, the Palestinians and the Arabs have said today that this is unacceptable it is an unalienable and unnegotiable right. Also, israel continues on its self destructive path. They are showing themselves as a racist and violent state that is willing to kill and maim anyone who oppose them, including unarmed and peaceful protesters. The problem for them is that cameras were all over the place and we could see everything that happened so the usual talking points are not going to be enough to get them off this time. I hope that this turns out to be a turning point in the struggle for the rights of Palestinians. Until Palestine is free stay safe. Love you bye.

Language About Israel and Zionism

Posted in about the blog, Me, Palestine, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 14/05/2011 by arabrhizome

Right as I promised a few posts ago I am going to explain why I use a certain type of language when I speak about israel and zionism. This post is a result of a comment I got on my “Palestinians didn’t exist before 1948” post a few days ago. Weirdly, I didn’t plan this I promise, but most of my posts have been about Palestine lately. I say weirdly because tomorrow is Nakba day, one of my first posts was about it, and I have somehow built up towards tomorrow without really meaning to. So I do think that it is important to have this post today and then talk about the Nakba again tomorrow.

So as I said I got a comment on my earlier post from a reader called Tim Sullivan. I’ve already replied to him but I think that it might be a good idea to expand on my initial response and give a bit more context and flesh to that response. I think that his comment was meant in the spirit of constructive criticism and I am happy to have it. I know that internet comments and subsequent responses can devolve very quickly into arguments and insults and I am very keen to avoid that here. Anyway, here’s his original comment: “You make some forceful arguments but stop using hot button and un needed terms like proto-fascist. It is rather a cliche and unseemly considering countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran exist in that area of the world.”

I think that Tim is making two distinct, but related, points in his comment. Here’s my oiginal response for those who didn’t read it: “Thanks for your comment. I don’t think that the term proto-fascist is unneeded here. When you have state sponsored rabies saying that jewish women should be protected from arab men, and saying that jewish landlords shouldn’t rent to arabs. I also reject the idea that because there are horrible theocratic regimes like saudi and iran in the region, it is a cliché to call israel what it is. I understand that this term, as well as others, carry a certain historical weight with them, especially when it comes to the global jewish community and their suffering. However, I am calling it like I see it. Israel is sliding quickly onto fascism and the worshipping of the state and racial and ethnic purity. By any stretch of the imagination that is proto-fascism.
I hope that clarifies why I think the use of those terms is justified.
Thanks again for reading and commenting.”

As you can see my response looks at two different points. First the use of the term proto-fascist when referring to israel and zionism. I do not use this term lightly. I know that it is a term that has been over-used and thrown around in contexts where it isn’t exactly warranted. I also understand that the European Jewish community has been the major part of the population that has suffered from fascism in the twentieth century. My use of the term is not at all intended to trivialise or belittle that historic suffering. It is also not a term that I am using lightly. I use it because I think that it is completely justified to use it in the context of contemporary zionism and israel.

As I pointed out in my original response israel is quickly sliding towards a fascist state. Let’s stop and think about what fascism is. My laptop’s dictionary says “Fascism tends to include a belief in the supremacy of one national or ethnic group, a contempt for democracy, an insistence on obedience to a powerful leader, and a strong demagogic approach”. Let’s look at everyone of these statements and decide whether they apply to israel and modern zionism. If they all apply without any caveat or qualification then it would be justifiable to use the term fascist to describe israel. However if they mostly apply but need some qualification then the term quasi fascist would work. If through our analysis we see that there is a movement towards fascism from a quasi-fascist position then proto-fascist would be the right term, as it connots a movement towards fascism without being quite there yet.

First, “Fascism tends to include a belief in the supremacy of one national or ethnic group”. Well that applies strictly to israel and zionism today. israel is a state for the “chosen” people. Israel thinks of itself as the country of Jewish people and the native people of the land are either treated as second class citizens by the laws of the state, or ethnically cleansed (1948 more on that tomorrow, or Jerusalem and the Negev desert today), or occupied and subjected to military rule. The zionist narrative, from making the desert bloom to the dehumanisation of Palestinians (like mr. Jeffery Wiesenfeld who said in an interview with the New York Times about Palestinians: “People who worship death for their children are not human. They have developed a culture which is unprecedented in human history”), contains within it the idea that Jewish people are superior to Arabs and that they are better.

We can also talk here about the number of discriminatory laws that have been passed, or are in the process of being passed, by the Knesset. First, there’s the Nakba law which makes any commemoration of the Nakba an offence that can lead to the loss of state funding. The reason given is that these celebrations “deny the Jewish and democratic character of the State”. In other words arab schools and municipalities are not allowed to commemorate their own history. Basically it’s a move to deny the Nakba. Second, a law that allows villages to refuse admitting new members by citing a failure “to meet the fundamental views of the community”. In other words, Arabs can be denied moving into all Jewish villages. Finally, a law has been passed to punish anyone who calls for or supports a call for the boycott of israeli or settlement goods. This is a law clearly aimed at crushing descent. There are a few more laws but I’m not going to run through all of them. This is a great article about them.

Now these laws are important for my second point. So the second statement is that Fascism includes “a contempt for democracy”. Well that’s a bit of a complicated one. Israel likes to see itself as the only democracy in the Middle East. While that statement was taken at face value by many pro-zionist commentators it has always been complicated and not entirely accurate. Firstly the current events around the region make this statement utterly meaningless. But more importantly many see it, including myself, as completely untrue. Countries like Lebanon and Turkey for example can easily be characterised as democratic, also the fact that Arabs in israel don’t have the same rights as Jewish israelis is an issue for the democratic characterisation.

But more importantly we can see that israel is sliding more and more towards an undemocratic system. With the laws discussed above we see that a whole set of the population is being disenfranchised more and more. There is a definite move towards a completely undemocratic system, because a whole set of the population does not have the same democratic rights as another. Also, the revival of the old idea of the transfer of the Arab population away from israel is highly undemocratic. So as we see this is a qualified statement, however there is a clear move towards fascism here.

Third, “an insistence on obedience to a powerful leader”. This is not there yet. Although, as the laws are showing. There is a move towards the obedience to a state and the idea that whatever that state choses to do is right. We can see this in the outlandish justifications used for crimes in international law like the attack on and murder of civilians in international waters, or the unlawful targeting of schools, homes and places of worship in the wars on Lebanon and Gaza, or the continued efforts to ethnically cleanse Jerusalem and the West Bank of the native population (here’s an article about this effort in the West Bank).

Finally, “a strong demagogic approach”. This one is probably the hardest one to prove because of the disagreement over whether something is demagogic or not. I would argue that the current israeli refusal to give the PA the tax money it is owed because of the unity agreement between Hamas and Fatah is an example of demagogy. The constant demonisation of the Palestinians who live in israel by avigdor lieberman, and many israeli MKs, is another example of demagogy. I know that not everyone would agree, but I think they’re wrong. The point is that the modern zionist movement and israeli officials as well as religious figures use demagogic arguments against Palestinians.

Anyway, as we have seen it would be inaccurate to say that israel is a fascist state. However, it clearly is quasi-fascist and as I think I have shown on a slippery slope towards fascism. Thus I feel that the term proto-fascist is completely justified when describing israel. I don’t think that it is a red button term or and unneeded one. I think that it is important to call out this trend in israeli politics and to call it what it is. By failing to do so, I feel that we are allowing proto-fascist practices to go on. Some people might be turned off by the use of this term, but that’s their problem. It would be wrong to try to appease these people. Something very ugly is happening and to not call it what it is is just as ugly.

The second point raised by Tim is about the use of such terms in the context of the region. The fact that the Middle East has such horrible regimes as Saudi or Iran makes characterising israel as proto-fascist somehow “unseemly”. Again, I understand where Tim is coming from. However, I completely reject that line of thought. It is true that the Saudi and Iranian regimes are completely and utterly disgusting. We can also add many other regimes in the region, including Syria, Bahrain, KSA, Jordan, well to be honest pretty much all of them. Having said that though, I don’t understand how that has any bearing on the characterisation of israel. The fact that there are horrible and disgusting regimes, that are much closer to fascism in some aspects than israel, doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t call out israel on it’s fascistic and proto-fascistic practices. The argument of comparison is a flawed one because it seems to justify the excesses of one state by comparing them to the excess of another.

Anyway, that’s my much longer and more rounded response. There are many other terms that I use to talk about israel, those include colonial, apartheid, racist, imperial, violent, and others. I have thought about each and every term that I use and I do not use them lightly. I think that every single one of those terms is valid and justified. I might in the future explain why I use each and every one of them, but I think that’s enough for now. Anyway, tomorrow is Nakba day and we shall all remember the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1947-48. We shall all continue, in anyway we can, to struggle for the liberation of Palestine and the return of those who were forcibly removed from their ancestral homes. Until then, stay safe. Love you bye.