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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A threshold crossed – Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution

Dawn queue for Palestinians at Israeli checkpoint

Dawn queue for Palestinians at Israeli checkpoint

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A threshold crossed – Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution

On 27th April 2021 Human Rights Watch published a report entitled A threshold crossed – Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution. This documents many examples of where the policies followed by successive Israeli governments over the years merit the definition of Israel as an ‘Apartheid State’.

From it’s inception the State of Israel has been an artificial creation, it’s only legitimacy coming from it being sanctioned by an imperialist power (Britain, through the Balfour Declaration of 1917) where the state was created on land already occupied by another people.

From its earliest days (even before the official declaration of the formation of the State on 14th May 1948) Zionist invaders of the territory of Palestine sought to maintain their control of the area by the use of force and terror. An example (but only one of many) of this is the massacre of Palestinians at the village of Deir Yassin which took place on 9th April 1948 where at least 107 Palestinian men, women and children were slaughtered by members of the Israeli terrorist groups Irgun and the Stern Gang – with the total complicity of the ‘official’ Israeli armed forces.

The word ‘apartheid’ is normally associated with the institutionalised racism against the indigenous population of the regime that existed in South Africa from 1948 until 1994. (It’s a strange quirk of history that the ‘official’ beginning of apartheid – racism had been endemic in South Africa since the arrival of the first settlers in the 17th century – coincided with the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.) However, the separate development that occurred in Palestine in the 1950s and 60s was an apartheid policy in all but name. The process has only been accelerated in recent years, especially after years when whatever the Israelis inflict upon the Palestinian population results in no repercussions from the so-called ‘international community’ and any, and all, resolutions of the United Nations are just ignored with equal impunity.

It is as this arrogance and entitlement grew that Israel’s original attitude to the South African Apartheid regime changed. After initially being a ‘supporter’ of the Black African population when both countries became international social pariahs (apart from their imperialist friends) their relationships became closer. By the early 1980s Israel was South Africa’s closest military ally and the Apartheid regime’s most important foreign arms supplier. Against whom those arms were going to be used if not the Black population of South Africa itself or in support of those opposing the national liberation movements in Southern Africa then where?

By the time the regime in South Africa had changed in the early 1990s Israel was well on the road to replacing South Africa as the world’s most blatant ‘apartheid’ regime.

What is surprising about this report is that it has taken so long to be produced and disseminated. Even the most casual observer of the situation of the Palestinians in those small parts of Palestine they are being forced to live in could have told you that decades ago.

For an online version of the report, which includes a short but concise video, click here.

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9th April 1948 – Deir Yassin Massacre

Deir Yassin

Deir Yassin

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9th April 1948 – Deir Yassin Massacre 

On the 9th of April 1948 the village of Deir Yassin ceased to exist as a Palestinian village. For it was on that day when members of various right-wing Zionist gangs attacked the village and killed at least 107 people, injuring many more. 

The Zionist terrorist groups involved were principally the Irgun and the Stern gangs but almost certainly supported by other military factions within the Jewish community and the ‘official’ Israeli armed forces, the Haganah. 

There are various arguments as to why the village was attacked but really what these boil down to is an effort to seek a justification for the action of the terrorists. 

Yes, there was a war going on, but that doesn’t mean to say that a heavily armed militia force has the right to go into a village and basically kill any anybody they find at the location.  

It has been argued that Palestinian fighters had attacked Zionist forces from the vicinity of the village but then you come across the sticky justification that was used by the German Fascists when they destroyed the village of Lidice, in Czechoslovakia, killing all adult males and sending the women and children to concentration camps, after the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich. This took place only 6 years earlier in June 1942. 

(It is well worth mentioning here that there are many ‘Deir Yassin’s’ in 20th century history. The village of Oradour-sur-Glane, near Limoges in France was similarly attacked by the Nazis in June 1944. The Albanian village of Borovë suffered a similar fate in July 1943 after Partisans had attacked a Nazi convoy in the nearby mountains only days before. And we should not forget the United States atrocity of the massacre of My Lai on March 16th, 1968 during the Vietnam War.) 

Unfortunately, all that the Jews who were fighting for the establishment of the State of Israel had learnt from their experience under the Nazis, from the 1930s to the end of the Second World War, were the terrorist tactics of those very same people who had persecuted Jewish and other people throughout Europe and their thirst for other peoples’ lands. 

Invaders, fascists and imperialists will often justify their actions by saying that it was the other side that made the first move. However, it has to be remembered that the Palestinians were fighting for their homeland. It was the Zionists who were the usurpers, taking land that didn’t belong to them (whatever justification they sought from the 2,000-year-old religious texts).  

The majority of the members of the Zionist terrorist groups were very recent immigrants to the country and sought to establish the legitimacy of the Jewish claim to the territory by the use of force and terror. 

I have no intention of going through the claims and counterclaims here as they really are not relevant. Nothing justifies the indiscriminate slaughter of men, women and children simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

Whether it was part of the original plan or not what the massacre did achieve was the terrorising of the local Palestinian population, in neighbouring villages as well as the village of Deir Yassin itself. Many of the Palestinians in the vicinity sought to get as far as possible away from these various Zionist, terrorist groups. 

Those not killed or injured at Deir Yassin left with whatever they could carry with them. And it was the creation of this climate of fear which was probably the biggest achievement for the Zionists in the attack upon the village. 

Killing Palestinians was good, frightening the rest away was even better. 

But the massacre at Deir Yassin in 1948 was not unique in Palestine and there were a number of similar attacks on other villages in the subsequent years (Zeita, Beit Nuba and Yalu in 1967, for example). 

Perhaps in 2021 there are not the same sort of atacks on Palestinian villages as happened at Deir Yassin but the Israeli Armed Forces continue to maintain a regime of terror and a total disruption of the daily lives of Palestinians with checkpoints and forced searches, etc. 

Even the reaction of the Israeli government (which was given control over huge swathes of Palestinian land by the imperialist powers on 14th May 1948) to the massacre is similar to what is commonplace nowadays. 

Although there was no ‘official’ Jewish representation in the attack upon Deir Yassin such an action would not have happened without some sort of sanction from those waiting to take political power. There was no condemnation of the attack and certainly no punishment of those who perpetrated the massacre. Quite the opposite. If only privately the attack would have been seen as part of the ‘ethnic cleansing’ that was part of Zionist philosophy from the earliest days and resulted in the removal of potential ‘trouble-makers’.   

And the fate of the actual buildings of Deir Yassin is being replicated today. 

Within two or three years of the massacre the buildings had been taken over as part of a Jewish hospital. Later, other buildings were demolished and Palestinian cemetery was cleared for the construction of a major rod. 

Since the massacre Deir Yassin has been erased from the map of Palestine as a Palestinian village and has become absorbed into the Jewish state. 

This is exactly the same as is happening now throughout many parts of Palestine where Zionist settlers are taking over Palestinian land, making villages unsustainable and making the life of the people intolerable. This is in an effort to force the people to leave the land, leave the country and leave the territory to Israel so the state can establish its own racist, apartheid society where the only people who are welcomed are Jewish. 

In remembering the events of 9th April 1948 we should make sure we realise that the same terrorist tactics are being used 73 years later and for basically the same ends – that is, Israel for the Jews only. 

(Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day in Israel) in 2021 was commemorated on 7th/8th April, only a day before the anniversary of the Deir Yassin massacre. Few Israeli citizens, I imagine, considered that the juxtaposition of these dates should have been cause for a time of reflexion.) 

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