An exchange with the local Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Posted in Pete's blog on Thu, 12/10/2006 - 19:41,

An attempt by AWL and Committee for 2 states to explore possibilities for joint work between the PSC and the Comm for 2 States are rebuffed. Why? Well read on.

This is the letter of reply by myself to the local PSC answering their reasons for not wishing to explore joint work. The PSC's letter is attached. PSC's comments are italicised.

Hello again Steve

I am not sure whether you wanted the debate I proposed to Pauline. As you don’t mention it I suspect that the answer is ‘no’. So I will respond to this email fully.

I will respond to some items in your email point-by-point but before I do I would point out one general difference we appear to have.

You repeatedly ignore the divisions between peoples, parties and states. The crime of a party becomes the crime of a nation state becomes the crime of all the people.

That is a nationalist viewpoint and I am not a nationalist. I am a democrat and a socialist. I believe that there are political divisions amongst all peoples. There are divisions between those who oppose all national oppression and see it as the only base for democracy and socialism and those who don’t. I draw lines within peoples, you draw lines between them.

So for you my criticisms of the majority political party in the Palestinian elections, Hamas, is in your eye an attack on the Palestinian nation state and then you further present it is as an attack on all Palestinians.

Likewise your, in the main, correct criticisms of Israeli governments become a criticism of all Israelis and for others in PSC (although you don’t say this) it becomes a criticism of Israel’s right to exist.

Indeed you talk about

1. 'Israeli's long term agenda of creating a Bantustan' and
2. 'Israeli's have already left ...Palestinians that of prisoners in an open-air jail'.

Now the punctuation is unclear and in common parlance I recognize that people often refer to a government by the name of the nation. But you didn't say 'Israel's long term agenda...' or 'Israel has already left...' you say 'Israelis' holding the people collectively responsible for the crimes of their government.

This approach - which is common - effectively breaks the world down into good and bad 'peoples'. The ‘good peoples’ either the minority or the majority are generally immune from criticism, whilst with the ‘bad peoples’ we forsake the methods of political argument and persuasion.

You think it is wrong to comment on the political divisions amongst Palestinians. You say for example, 'We don't feel that any of us has a right to determine what the Palestinians might, in a democratic choice, be ready to accept'. On the other hand you nowhere acknowledge that Israelis, even Israeli supporters of Palestinian rights, have any right to be consulted about what they would accept (or think good for Palestinian-Israeli co-existence).

Well quite obviously neither I, nor you, have the 'right to determine', but we do have a responsibility to say whatever we believe will help Palestinians achieve a viable nation state with the minimum of violence and the maximum of peace between the peoples at the end of the day.

Isn't it the PSC's responsibility to argue its case as clearly as it can?

Scenario: someone comes up to your stall appalled at the mass civilian casualties of the Israeli government actions but they are also distressed at the mass civilian bombings by Hamas, as well as their stated intent to destroy Israel and put over it an Islamic state? What do you say?

There are 2 possibilities

1. Either you can go on about the need to take sides between the oppressed and oppressor, portray it as a war between peoples and say ‘we back Palestinians against Israel’ whilst shrugging your soldiers at Hamas’s victims and saying that wars are unfortunately nasty business.

2. Alternatively as democrats, as I am sure you are, you could argue that a democratic solution, of some sort, is possible; that the Israeli policy is predatory and expansionist; that the majority of Palestinians, unlike Hamas, do NOT want to destroy Israel (opinion polls demonstrate that quite clearly); that Israel’s war on the Palestinians feeds the Hamas and Hezbollah militias but does not justify it; that there has been a powerful peace movement in Israel recognizing the need for a just settlement of Palestinian national rights. That both Palestinians and Israelis who want peace between their peoples and full national rights have to be supported.

It is a cop out to pretend that you, or PSC, have no view. Along with this cop out comes a desire to hide behind ambiguous slogans such as ‘Freedom for Palestine’ which means what? Slogans such as this, used by Stop the War and the PSC, are the result of Palestinian organisations breaking with their politics nearly 20 years ago. PSC and SWP leaders have never been keen to draw attention to this matter.

The political Islamists have resuscitated the 'abolish Israel' demand but many of them don't even advocate a Palestinian state. Azzam Tamimi, leader of the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) and frequent speaker at StW/PSC events has made public on occasions his opposition to a Palestinian state. Many Islamists argue for no solution short of the restoration of the Caliphate and the creation of a grand Islamic State based on Sharia Law.

Having for decades been vitriolic against those who argued for a 2-state solution so called lefts in PSC and the SWP, think that this is an opportunity to resurrect their call for a single secular Palestinian state. But if they ever articulated that demand they would immediately be shown to be isolated. Palestinian Hamas and Hezbollah do not see things that way at all. So the alliance created particularly in this country between Islamist and so-called ‘left’ demands ambiguous slogans. So that Islamists chanting ‘death to the Jews’(I’d be pleased to document that further if you wish) can feel welcome on demonstrations and nice liberals can be soothed into believing that everyone wants a democratic Palestine in which Jews would be welcome.

Some minor points

> With regard to "two distinct people being forced to live within a single
> state", are you proposing that the (Palestinian) Arabs who live in the
> state of Israel and make up about 20% of the population, should be
> forcibly expelled as many in the Israel Knesset openly campaign for?

I can’t believe you are serious when implying above that my advocacy of 2-states implies that I believe Israeli Arabs should be expelled from Israel! The recognition of the right of nationality to a state is not a license for persecution of minorities within that state. Those who recognized the restoration of Poland after WW2 were not guilty of advocating the expulsion of Poles from Germany or the mass expulsion of German Poles from Poland. So I’ll ignore that one.

> PSC generally ignores the Israeli peace movement
> Based on what evidence? If you took the time to read PSC's website or
> publications you would find many articles concerning the Refuseniks and
> Gush Shalom along with many other Israeli pro-peace organisations. All
> receive warm support from PSC.

Well I have seen quite a bit of PSC material and I would hold to my claim.

> We believe that Israel is not behaving as a normal state should. Many
> of their actions and policies are openly racist and flagrantly breach UN
> rules and the Geneva conventions. Therefore it is perfectly reasonable
> that Israel should be treated as a pariah state and suffers a boycott of
> any connection that serves to "normalise" relations with an abnormal
> state.

But how many other states are treated like that? ‘Reasonable’ in whose eyes? I am not interested in abstract morality. If I were I would ask what other states were generally boycotted. The crimes of the Israeli state are pretty foul but is it the worst state in the world? Unfortunately not.

But this is a practical problem. How will a generalized boycott of all Israelis support the Israeli pro-Palestinian left? How much pressure will it bring on the pro-occupation right? My view is that a generalised boycott is effectively shooting the pro-Palestinian movement in the foot.

> Hamas is the democratically elected government of the Palestinian people
> in the West Bank and Gaza. The elections succeeded despite Israeli
> intransigence and were a model of democratic expression. You appear to
> share the highly undemocratic view of the US that the Palestinian's
> right to be treated as human beings is conditional upon them electing a
> government that you approve of.

The election of many Western governments, the election of the Israeli government were pretty democratic. I don’t have to blow kisses to the odious characters they bring to power. Why do we need to do so in Palestine? The Hamas government are the (de facto) Palestinian government. Where do I even imply that ‘the Palestinian's right to be treated as human beings is conditional upon them electing a government that you (I) approve of’. Would you think fair that your criticisms of the US government imply that ‘Americans right to be treated as human beings is conditional upon them electing a government that you approve of’?

> Both organisations would be amused by your assertion that they against
> Semites.

I use anti-Semitism as it is generally used, i.e. anti-Jewish. I may not be using the phrase in a precise historical way but this interpretation is common. Hitler’s policy to the Jews was considered to be anti-Semitic although he feted the undemocratic (and Semite) Palestinian (mis)leader, the Mufti of Jerusalem. There is an interesting video here, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LqTWhOP2-mA, on him.

> How would you expect peoples who have been subjected to decades of
> military and political oppression to feel for their tormentors? Their
> hatred of Israel's acts has nothing to do with an in-built prejudice
> against Jews as you try to assert. If the Russians had occupied
> Palestine, what derogatory term would you apply to their dissent?

I understand the reaction to brutal oppression. But you excuse the behaviour of such people as the Mufti (seen above) and well positioned, well thought through, well organised and wealthy racists, by your ‘they have no choice’ argument above.

> * Hezbollah leader, Nasrallah, follows Iranian policy in calling
> for Israel to be liquidated and presumably also Jewish people as in his
> statement welcoming Jews being concentrated in Israel (the state he
> wishes to liquidate) 'if they [Jews] all gather in Israel, it will save
> us the trouble of going after them worldwide'.
> Breath taking prejudice......

If you think that is breath-taking, I can either lend you my inhaler or suggest you look at the relationship between Iran and Nasrallah and some recent anti-Semitic (anti-Jewish) statements from Iran. There is a lot of translated Iranian TV footage at http://www.memritv.org/Search.asp?ACT=S5&P1=15

I hope that you will recognize that opposition to the attacks on Palestinians, the recognition of their right to a nation state should be the focus. But the undemocratic and reactionary nature of Hamas, Hezbollah and the forces of political Islam cannot be denied but they should not be used as an excuse to refuse to support Palestinians. A 2-state solution is the only rational, realistic or sane solution.

A solidarity movement with an oppressed nationality that ignores not only the democratic rights of those people but also realistic solutions to their liberation must raise the question why does it exist?

Regards

Pete

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