Break the fear barrier and speak up for Palestine

Palestine uprising - May 2021

Palestine uprising – May 2021

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Break the fear barrier and speak up for Palestine

Today (15th May, 2021) marks the 73rd anniversary of the Nabka (The Catastrophe) – the name given by Palestinians to the day that the state of Israel was established on their land. Even before that date the Israeli fascists, represented by the terrorist groups Irgun and the Stern Gang, had started a terror campaign and what has been become to be known worldwide as ‘ethnic cleansing’ against the civilian Palestinian population. One of the most notorious of those events was the massacre at the village of Deir Yassin on 9th April 1948 – when at least 107 men, women and children were murdered, with many more being injured.

But these attacks on the Palestinians didn’t stop with the (criminally) international recognition of the Zionist settler state. The intervening years have seen countless abuses perpetrated against the Palestinian people and even though there has been condemnation of such actions (and even resolutions in the United Nations) nothing has interrupted the aim of the Zionists to establish a greater Israel which stretches ‘from the Nile to the Euphrates’.

The reason Israel has been able to follow this aggressive, racist and fascist programme for three generations is due to the fact that Israel is merely a subservient, client state of imperialism (mainly the United States) and acts as the toady of capitalist interests in a economically and politically strategic part of the globe. Without such support the Zionists would not be able to act with such impunity as they have for so long.

It is only recently that the state of Israel has officially been recognised as an ‘apartheid’ state – although it has been following those norms established in racist South Africa for most of its existence. This was obvious in the years before the fall of the white supremacist regime in South Africa as the two countries were the closest of diplomatic and military allies – Israel being the biggest supplier of military equipment to the white dominated South African regime.

But Israel has not confined itself to the persecution of the Palestinian people on a daily basis – including the theft of their land. It is quite happy to act as the local gangster and carries out sabotage and murder at the behest of the American imperialists on the soil of those countries the US considers to be a threat to their dominance in the region. At the moment that is manifested in attacks upon individuals in and the infrastructure of Iran.

Neither has Israel forgotten the importance of propaganda – apart from the destruction of villages and the dehumanising of the indigenous population – which they learnt from the Nazis. Cynically using the murder of millions of Jews during the Second World War to establish sympathy for a people who were targetted by the Hitlerites (although only one of many groups that were singled out by the German fascists – which included Communists, Socialists, the Romany, disabled and homosexuals) they have succeeded in creating a climate where criticism of the actions of the state of Israel have been conflated into anti-Semitism.

However, the necessity to speak out against the fascist, apartheid regime in Israel is even more important as we arrive at the 73rd anniversary of the Nabka – when the Israeli ‘Defence’ Forces (IDF) are using hugely powerful bombs, guided missiles and artillery to attack targets within Gaza with a total disregard to the ‘collateral damage’ this is causing. To the Israelis this is common place, the death of one Israeli Jewish citizen (Arab-Israelis don’t count) has to be countered by a factor of at least 25 Palestinians – the statistic that came out of the last major shooting war in 2014.

The disproportionate response of the IDF, following years of provocation and increasing encroachment on the small amount of land still in the hands of Palestinians, gets the response from capitalist governments and the so-called ‘impartial’ media of the likes of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) for ‘both sides’ to come to an agreement to cease hostilities. This attitude perpetuates the idea that there is equal responsibility in outbreaks of violence in Palestine.

Just to give a small example. On 13th May 2021, the BBC website had the following headline; Israel-Gaza: Rockets pound Israel after militants killed. Whatever else might follow, in the body of the text, the reader will always be left with the impression that it is Israel that is being attacked – an approach in the British mainstream media which has existed for decades. At the time of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War the impression being peddled in Britain was that it was plucky, alone Israel that was being attacked by the evil Arab nations – without a scintilla of analysis of the actual situation.

Below is reproduced an article that addresses this idea of ‘self-censorship’ by many throughout the world when it comes to criticising the activities of the Zionist state and the consequences that are becoming the norm in an effort to silence any and all criticism. It was published just as the present conflict in Palestine was starting to escalate but think it has enough points for consideration to be reproduced here.

In the present circumstances it is even more important for people to speak up in support of the Palestinians who are facing yet another attempt to expel them totally from their own land. Those who say they are fighting against oppression and exploitation cannot remain silent when it comes to Palestine for if Palestine is not free no other country be able to call itself a civilised state.

(This article first appeared on the Aljazeera website and this particular version on portside.org.)

Break the fear barrier and speak up for Palestine

by Mark Muhannad Ayyash

Scholars of social movements, civil disobedience, liberation struggles, and revolutions have long known that fear is one of the greatest barriers to overcome. For the oppressed to move from inaction to action, they must break this fear barrier.

In extreme cases, such as Palestinians living under Israeli settler colonialism, the fear is based on lived experiences of torture, imprisonment, maiming and killing, daily humiliations and dehumanisation, loss of income, livelihoods, homes, dignity, freedom, and rights.

These last few days, the Palestinian people across colonised Palestine have shown the world, not for the first time and not for the last, their deep and awe-inspiring courage in the face of this fear.

For decades, the Israeli garrison state, as Hamid Dabashi accurately describes it, with its massive apparatus of settler-colonial violence as well as its armed civilians have been creating and building this state of fear in the everyday lives of Palestinians.

I had a relatively privileged childhood in Palestine, but still, I am acquainted with this fear, which you learn, not just by witnessing or experiencing violence, but in the course of seemingly non-eventful and ordinary days.

As a child in the early 1990s, I attended the Freres School within the old city of al-Quds (Jerusalem). During recess, we would see armed soldiers patrol the top of the city walls, looking down on us the way that self-perceived superior beings look down upon a caged animal. And when we would leave school and walk down the roads of el-Balad el-Qadeemeh (the old city), we would regularly be confronted with armed Israeli civilians walking around with their guns out in the open, asserting their supremacy, reminding us that we ought not to look at them the wrong way or else.

On many of these walks, conversations between us children would turn to stories we heard about torture methods that the Israelis use, the beating a friend or relative took at the hands of Israeli soldiers, an armed Israeli civilian cursing and spitting on a Palestinian, the long imprisonment and suffering of relatives and friends. This is merely the background picture – and a relatively benign one at that, relative to Palestinian standards, and certainly things seem worse today than they were in those days.

Nevertheless, those days and stories pile up one on top of the other, along with experiences of violent acts and events, building and instilling in Palestinians a state of fear that we carry with us everywhere we go and move.

That fear barrier was instilled inside me from the moment I became conscious of the world as a child. And despite overcoming it now and again, it never disappears. Even after immigrating to Canada, after tasting some freedom, holding citizenship for the first time in my life, feeling somewhat protected by a state structure (very much a false sense of protection), that fear never leaves you. It did not take long for me to realise that in these Euro-American spaces, I had to be afraid of even speaking about Palestine.

The fear in Euro-America has a different basis though. Fear in those spaces is based on lived experiences of being censored, fired, disciplined, not hired or promoted, dragged through frivolous legal cases, defunded, harassed, intimidated, and silenced.

This fear has become so naturalised, so ubiquitous, that some people in Euro-American spaces seem to genuinely think now that they do not actually fear this fear!

Let me, first, be very clear: this fear is not the main barrier standing in the way of states like Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, etc, placing pressure on Israel. These states and their political, academic, economic, and media institutions are on the whole strategically aligned with the Israeli state. These states and their institutions are actively participating in and driving the colonisation, exploitation, oppression, and settler colonisation of much of the world, as they have been for centuries.

But I want to speak here to people working within these institutions who genuinely want to transform them, to decolonise them, but yet are always quick to evade the question of Palestine and true decolonial liberation. From privileged politicians to academics to journalists to civil society organisers to artists, a litany of excuses other than fear is often proclaimed as to why they will not touch Palestine. A main feature of these excuses is the claim that the issue is “complex and controversial”.

Of course, it is perfectly normal to not know enough about a particular topic, issue, or question. There is nothing wrong with wanting to learn more before commenting or taking a position. Asking questions is a healthy exercise when you do not know.

But every topic is complex and controversial. How your food ends up on your dinner table is complex. But that does not stop the majority of people from talking about food production, distribution, how they want to shop ethically, and so on. The economics of sports is also controversial. But that does not stop millions of people from spending countless hours talking about player salaries, advertisement money, revenue sharing among the clubs, and so on.

Palestine-Israel is not unique in its complexity or controversy. And while most topics and issues are framed as complex and controversial for the sake of commencing a deepened entry into the topic, exploring its many dimensions, the statement that the issue of Palestine and Israel “is complex and controversial” serves instead as an end to the conversation. When it comes to Palestine, this statement is almost never the beginning of a quest for more knowledge and better learning. Rather, this statement is the extent of the learning process. It puts a stop to it. It ends the conversation by declaring a non-position on the matter.

When politicians, executives, journalists, academics, etc, proclaim this statement, their intended goal is for the question of Palestine to go away, to be removed off their desk. Why? In many cases, because they are afraid of the consequences that I have outlined above. This is what everyone admits and knows in private conversations, but almost never openly acknowledges. Therefore, what actually drives this non-positionality is the very fear that most people deny having.

The non-positionality of the statement, “it is complex and controversial”, is far from neutral. This statement indeed maintains the status quo by ensuring the continued toxification of Palestine and Palestinians in Euro-American public discourse.

Israeli propagandists are the only beneficiaries of a statement that posits for itself a non-position. Because non-positions are always ultimately concealment of reality. When you declare that you will not take a position, when you end the conversation because something is controversial and complex, you are declaring that the reality of the situation is hopelessly and infinitely indecipherable. You are declaring that you do not know what position to take because nobody knows the reality of the situation.

This statement thus declares that the reality of Palestine-Israel is unknowable, which is precisely the conclusion that Israeli propaganda is entirely comfortable with. Only the oppressed and colonised Palestinians and their supporters are attempting to communicate the reality of settler colonialism and apartheid to the world. Only they are making it knowable.

Israeli and Zionist propaganda in Euro-America and elsewhere is designed to conceal and hide that reality because it does not serve the Zionist political project. Therefore, a declared non-position that clouds reality and conceals it is in fact a statement of support for Israeli propaganda.

This does not mean that Zionism does not understand its own reality. In fact, within some Zionist discursive spaces, a space where, for example, Zionist settlers speak freely, as we saw in the most recent viral video, you will find a basic description of the brutality of that settler colonial and apartheid reality: “If I don’t steal your home, someone else will steal it.” They know that they are stealing, that they are there to eliminate and replace the native Palestinians.

Palestinians have broken a fear barrier the likes of which the privileged in Euro-America will never know or experience. The lived experiences of fear in Palestine are far more violent and coercive than the lived experiences of fear in Euro-America. I am not discounting the burden of the Euro-American based experiences of job precarity, defunding, harassment and so on. These are real fears, and they are deeply consequential for their victims, especially for Palestinians and other racialised people, who face the most severe consequences.

But those consequences are already a reality for those who speak up for Palestinian rights. And for change to happen, there must be a collective will and action to break the fear barrier and to face the consequences for it together. And here is the good news: as we have seen in many other cases, when action is collectively undertaken, those consequences are neither strong nor do they last.

It is time to say, enough: enough of this imprisonment, occupation, colonisation; enough of evading the issue; enough of this fear. Palestinians continue to break their fear barrier. If you have not yet done so, then, my dear reader, if you genuinely want to transform the world, then you will have to.

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15th May – Nabka Day – a day of shame for the world

Deir Yassin 1948

Deir Yassin 1948

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15th May – Nabka Day – a day of shame for the world

The 15th May in Palestine, and for Palestinians in the diaspora, is Nabka Day, the day following the unilateral declaration of independence by the State of Israel (on 14th May 1948) and the start of, now, 72 years of; persecution; murder; imprisonment; repression; theft of their land; denigration of their dignity; subjection to racist laws; ethnic cleansing; military occupation; and now, especially in Gaza, starvation.

The word ‘nabka’ can be translated as ‘disaster’, ‘catastrophe’ or ‘cataclysm’ – in the sense of 15 May all of them.

In fact, if you take all the sufferings of various peoples throughout the world, all the assaults that have been condemned by international bodies – principally the United Nations Organisation (UNO) – in those 72 years the cause of which, in the main, has been the attempts of the various imperialist powers to maintain or regain control in various parts of the world, and dump them on one nation, one group of people, then those people are the Palestinians.

This struggle between the imperialist powers didn’t start in 1948. In the modern era this issue was being played out before the fighting in the First World War was over and the guns on the Western Front went quiet. To keep the various Arab tribes on side in the war against the Ottoman Empire (an ally of Germany in the war and on the periphery initially but an important aspect of the main war nonetheless) promises were made but never kept.

Whilst to their faces the Arab forces were being told one thing behind their backs the British were making the promise of a Jewish State, with undefined borders, in the area which was known as Palestine and where the vast majority of the population were Arabs (90%). Although the British Government had been talking to Zionist representatives during much of the course of the war there was no consultation whatsoever with the Arab people’s who already lived in a thriving community on the land being given away.

In the same way the land that later became known as the United States of America wasn’t empty of people before the arrival of the European immigrants neither was the land of Palestine.

The Balfour Declaration

It might be worthwhile to briefly have a look at the wording of this short document, a mere 67 words but which has caused so much suffering and injustice to so many people for so many years.

His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

The main question to ask is; what right did the British have to assign someone’s land to another group of people – even if it was for the short term interests of the imperialist power – that is, Zionist/Jewish support and encouragement for United States involvement on the Western Front. Obviously the question is rhetorical – the British did because they could and as was their wont, the consequences of their decision on the local populace were not even considered.

For the Zionists then, and the State of Israel now, there’s nothing in the Declaration of any import after the second comma. They had achieved what they were after, the capitulation of a major imperialist power which various Zionist groups and organisations were able to play with in the years between 1917 and 1948.

Throughout the 1920s and 1930s (and into the 1940s) there were constant conflicts between the Jewish ‘settlers’ and the indigenous population – from the very beginning the settlers assuming they had all the rights. At times the morally weak British forces were in the middle but after 1945 they also became the target of Zionist terrorist attacks, especially those organised by the Irgun and the Stern Gang – both organisations providing future Prime Ministers to the State of Israel.

On 29th November 1947 the plan for the partition of Palestine was taken to a vote in the General Assembly of the United Nations (which had been formed two and a half years earlier with the UN Charter, which includes fine words such as peace, security and human rights) and passed by 33 votes to 13 (with 10 abstentions and one member absent). To give a flavour of the ‘new world order’ after the defeat of Fascism the people most effected by this partition, the Palestinians, weren’t even consulted – let alone invited to argue their case.

For reasons I have been unable to discover the Soviet Union both voted for the partition and two days after Israel declared independence recognised the new ‘state’.

Immediately following the vote in favour of the State of Israel the armed Zionist gangs began to make sure circumstances were the most favourable for themselves in the event of an uprising of the Palestinians that would certainly follow the proposed declaration on 14th May – this included a systematic recording of any military material the British would leave behind and identifying those points of conflict which would be most crucial in the coming battle.

This included the process of ‘ethnic cleansing’ even before the term was even coined. One notorious example was the expulsion and massacre of the inhabitants of the village of Deir Yassin, a small Palestinian village a few kilometres to the west of Jerusalem, on 9th April 1948. The Zionist terrorist organisation, Irgun, boasted they had killed, in cold blood, 256 villagers, and far from being ashamed of this broadcast the fact far and wide and in so doing helped create the climate of fear that resulted in a mass exodus of Palestinians from their homes and land.

By March 1949 more than 750,000 Palestinians, who had once had reasonably secure livelihoods were made refugees by the Jewish settlers and invaders. Most of those who were forced to leave never returned home as has been the fate of the 3 generations (to date) of their descendants.

Deir Yassin wasn’t the only village to suffer massacre and destruction in 1948-49 or later, as at the time of the so-called ‘Six Day War’, of 1967, the villages of Zeita, Beit Nuba and Yalu suffered a similar fate.

This activity of the Jewish terrorist groups is reminiscent of the activities of the Nazis during the Second World War. There are examples where activities of Partisan groups fighting the fascist invaders led to retaliations, massacres and the razing of villages such as Lidice, in Czechoslovakia; Oradour-sur-Glane in France; Borovë in Albania and the hundreds of villages the SS wiped out in the eastern Soviet Union when they invaded in 1942.

It also reminds us of the destruction of the villages of My Lai, in Vietnam, on 16th March 1968, by the Americans. Coincidentally the numbers massacred in Deir Yassin and My Lai are very similar, 250 dead, including 30-50 babies.

It could be said the Zionists were even worse than the Nazis (and the American imperialists in Vietnam) as the Germans and the Americans carried out their slaughter as retaliation and revenge, the Zionists did it because they could and enjoyed it.

If it talks like a Fascist, if it acts like a Fascist, if it kills like a Fascist – then it’s a Fascist.

But it has to be said the Zionists have played it well in the intervening years since the establishment of their illegal state. In 1967 they were able to convince many they were the victim in the war against the neighbouring Arab countries. By being a willing tool of American imperialism they have proven their worth by destabilising the region and being a force which benefits the major oil companies and their various state sponsors. Whereas the Apartheid state of South Africa (with which Israel was on friendly military and trading terms prior to 1992) became an international pariah Israel gets away with following exactly the same policies. They’ve also been able to use the rantings of Holocaust deniers to use anti-Semitism to their own advantage and now criticism of the State of Israel has been classified as an act of anti-Semitism – the only state in the world which has been able to equate race to statehood.

Events subsequent to the Nabka of 1948-49, have only gone to prove that what the Zionist State of Israel learnt from the Hitlerite Nazis is to kill and oppress anyone you see as an enemy, that racism is the way forward, that ethnic cleansing is progress, that war is peace.

It is a stain upon the reputation of the world’s working class, and especially the International Communist Movement, the situation the Palestinians live under was allowed to last 72 days let alone 72 years.

Marx once said the British working class would never achieve freedom if the Irish remained enslaved. The same can be said about the Palestinians.

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