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Resistance and Western Domination: “If you don’t struggle, you surrender.”

Saturday, January 24, 2009
A Hamas rally.

A Hamas rally.

I’ve already blogged about the moral ambiguity of talking about terrorism especially when terrorism is only used within certain instances of public discourse.  Especially when there is essentially a fluidity between Hamas’ terrorism and the terrorism of the Haganah and the Irgun in the founding of Israel (not to mention IDF terrorism post-1948).

What I want to write about right now is the trap of talking about terrorism, resistance, and what many in the West consider to be “legitimate” resistance movements and “illegitimate” resistance movements.

Many intellectuals, bloggers, and organizations, especially bloggers and fellow Marxists whom I respect and agree with most of the time have fallen into the trap of essentially telling the Palestinian how to resist occupation.  There are many problems behind this assertion that I want to briefly go over as it tends to fall in line with the meta-narrative of the White Western intellectual thinking she or he knows best when it comes to resistance.  Ultimately this means the subjugation of the Palestinian people.

To say to the Palestinian people they cannot choose Hamas to resist Israel essentially brings up some uncomfortable questions.

Essentially, resistance means the rejection of the oppressor.  This means a rejection of the oppressor’s:

  • Law: the the mechanisms which are considered to uphold a “lawful” society yet in reality are used as non-military means to subjugate a people and to justify further justification and violent action against a people.
  • Military: to use all methods possible to break the back of the spear of the oppressor.
  • Warfare: rejecting the rule of warfare of the oppressor as the “rule” of warfare is set by the oppressor and then routinely broken by the oppressor.
  • Morality: destroying the “morality” which allows the oppressor to assume their superiority, their place on the moral high-ground which allows them to feel that they are in the right while they grind the people they are subjugating into dust.
  • Etc.
PFLP fighters march to commemorate PFLP leader Abu Ali Mustafa.

PFLP fighters march to commemorate PFLP leader Abu Ali Mustafa.

To tell the Palestinian people how to resist means imposing onto the entire population ones world view of “acceptable” resistance while at the same time doing nothing to actively fight against Israel which is slaughtering the Palestinian people and slowly choking them from their land.  To tell the Palestinian people to resist in a certain way essentially defeats the purpose of resistance as resistance is that form which the Palestinians choose to fight against the absolute and utter genocidal policies of Israel.  To tell the Palestinian people to “resist” in a certain way that is “better” than what they are doing now is to tell them to subjugate themselves to Israel; it is telling them to stop resisting.

The moral superiority and bigotry that white Western intellectuals impose on the Palestinian people, as if they are in a morally better place than the brown Palestinians, is an utterly appalling line of thinking rooted in Western White Male heterosexual hegemonic racist thought.  It is the pinnacle of thought that is deeply rooted in a history of telling the Third World how to “cope” with Western imperialism; that the Third World should accept the “civilizing” mission of the oppressor nations; that they can’t resist the oppressor nations as it violates international “law,” “human rights,” “morality,” the “rule of warfare,” etc.  This can be seen by reading the histories of the ANC to the Zulu resistance.

To tell the Palestinian people not to use Hamas to resist is to assume they all have a unilateral way of thinking and that they fully accept everything Hamas stands for as supposed to accepting certain aspects, rejecting others, being critical of some, and readjusting weak positions.  It assumes their acceptance of Hamas means blind adherence to all of their policies as supposed to the approval of their resistance to Israel as they see no other way.  It assumes only the Westerner can see the intricacies while the Arab can only see absolutes as if the Arab cannot comprehend complex thought.

Hamas fighters.

Hamas fighters.

To tell them to not resist in a certain way is to apply the rule of the oppressor onto the oppressed, it implies subjugation to the oppressor.  The rule of the oppressor is “international law” and the “rule of warfare.”  What have those two concepts (let alone the many others that Israel uses to justify obliterating Gaza and that certain intellectuals use to criticize Palestinians for supporting Hamas) done for the Palestinian people?  It has led to their massacre.  What has law and morality done to stop the Israeli genocide on Gazans and its continual ethnic cleansing of the West Bank?  Nothing, it has continued to blow hot air with no action.

We need to think hard about resistance, we need to ask tough question, we need to look at the whole spectrum of history, we need to look at how the word terrorism is used as a political tactic and how other forms of terrorism are fully ignored by the very same people and powers that are now decrying Hamas terrorism.

Terrorism, what is it?

PFLP fighters march.

PFLP fighters march.

In a recent Crossing the Line podcast, Seth Porcello interviewed Juliano Mer-Khamis, a director of the Freedom Theater in the Jenin refugee camp, a theater for children. Mer-Khamis gives us these solemn words of wisdom:

The Palestinian people are going to be cut into fragments, which has already been done.  They are gonna be surrounded by walls and fences, electric ones, with tanks around, and a lot of missiles from Apaches, like happening in Gaza.  There are gonna be massacres in the future because people are not going to sit quit, they are going to march to the fence and try to break down the checkpoints…I see no future, I see no hope, I see no even bits of light in the coming, I believe, three, four, five years.  What I see is bloodshed of suicide bombers and massacres like happening in Gaza and much worse.

There’s two ways to deal with this conflict: either you surrender or you struggle.  Struggling is not something that you can discuss upon the results or make speculation how it will come out, you just struggle.  Because if you don’t struggle you surrender…I think, the Palestinians, one of the main phenomena, they are still struggling and not surrendering and I want to be part of this struggle, in my tools.  There struggle is my struggle.  I’m not a good person who is going to help the “poor Arabs” or the “poor kids.”  I’m joining them hand by hand, because Zionism is also my enemy, my dream is to live together, Arab, Jews, in one free democratic country and Zionism is exactly the opposite.  Zionism is all about ghettoing people into walls, it is about separation, it is about ethnic racism.

What happen in Jenin, in Palestine, which does not happen elsewhere is a culture of death which is growing.  And what is culture of death?  Because of the imbalance of powers between the Israelis and the Palestinians the main tool of the Palestinians against the Israelis…is their ability to die.  Now this is a very dangerous thing, to build a resistance on the ability to die creates a very hopeless perspective…We have a whole generation who wants to be shahids, not because they are incited or because they are brainwashed, no, no, no, this is the Western interpretation.  Because they know that if they want to resist the occupation they will face death.  And this imbalance between the Israelis and the Palestinians everyone who will resist the occupation will die and either he suicide inside Israel or either he suicide outside Israel.

Any kind of resistance, today, the name of the game in this region; as long as the Palestinian puts a gun on his neck, hangs a gun, even if this gun doesn’t shoot, the Israelis have the OK to kill him.  This is the concerns within Israel, this is the concerns within the world.  They call it “militants, armed people were killed.”  Once you are armed you are a terrorist once you are a terrorist it is OK to kill you.

I do believe in guerrilla fighting.  I don’t think the pen and the camera and the stage can replace the gun.  They are both legitimate tools against the occupation…Guns has no value against Apaches and tanks.  Guns has value when they shoot at the right targets and this can be only where those fighters and where those guns are backed withe knowledge, with culture, with discourse, with free discourse, with theater, with music, with revolutionary songs as we saw in different places in the world.  And Israel knows that and Israel is working very hard to eliminate any kind of different resistance: destroying networks, computers, libraries, has one purpose, one purpose, to push those people into only the guns and the mosques because it is very easy to fight this kind of enemy…And that’s why I think the culture resistance or the struggle for culture for basic human elements of life are very important today.

Photography by Zoriah

Photography by Zoriah

  1. Monday, January 26, 2009 2:51 am

    Your argument seems to be based on a false dichotomy between Palestinians on the one side and critics of specific forms of resistance taken undertaken by certain Palestinian groups on the other. But the Palestinian movement is not a homogeneous bloc. And neither are the critics. Some groups advocate armed actions, some – like the Palestinian National Initiative – propose non-violent resistance. This was also the position of Edward Said, who rejected terrorist means of resistance. Was he just repeating ‘Western White Male heterosexual hegemonic racist thought’? No, he was making a political argument about which forms of resistance are effective and which are not in a specific situation.

    You write ‘we need to think hard about resistance, we need to ask tough question’, but what is easier than saying ‘I’m not a Palestinian living in occupied territory, so I’ll stay out of the discussion’? Rejecting – for example – attacks on civilians does not mean rejecting the right of Palestinians to resist, including armed resistance. And it need not be based on mistaken trust in international law. The suggestion that it does is irritating. The Palestinians need solidarity, not the uncritical pity. Exactly because their is no ‘unilateral way of thinking’ inside the Palestinian movement, we should listen to and engage in those discussions.

    You write ‘To tell them to not resist in a certain way is to apply the rule of the oppressor onto the oppressed, it implies subjugation to the oppressor.’
    This is nonsense. First of all, if people in the Palestine solidarity movement criticize Hamas, for example, they’re are in no way ordering or manipulating Palestinians – they are in no position to do that, even if they wanted to. Second, there are more forms of resistance.

    A true solidarity movement should not limit itself to pitying the oppressed but engage with them in debate, including criticizing positions and tactics that seem to be counter-productive. That has nothing to do with telling Palestinians what to do, but with recognizing the Palestinian movement as a political force that has debates and engages in discussions on strategy and tactics.

  2. Monday, January 26, 2009 8:38 pm

    I agree with your partially, but I’m only addressing those outside of Palestine completely rejecting forms of certain resistance and of violent resistance. I don’t agree with full non-violent passive resistance but those within Palestine have a complete choice to resist however they want, I’m not addressing that. But, obviously, Hamas cannot exist without strong grass-root support from at least a large section of the populace and I am essentially defending the certain specific choice of using Hamas to resist but I am not agreeing with their specific policies; only pointing out the mistake of many academics and Marxist outside of Palestine, especially in the West, who totally reject that form of resistance out of some stupid and fucked up belief that there must be some type of “Palestinian Gandhi.”

  3. Tuesday, January 27, 2009 2:09 pm

    I guess we more or less agree then. I just have some problems with the notion of the Palestinians ‘using Hamas to resist’. I agree that a large part of the Palestinians who support Hamas do this because they see Hamas as the most effective resistance force. But this choice for Hamas is not based solely on the criteria of resistance. Why don’t they for exapmle support the PFLP then?
    As As’ad AbuKhalil points out in the article on Habash, Palestinian politics has become Islamicized and this is not something leftists should accept as a given – if we have criticisms of the kind of politics of Hamas and the tactics that it derives from their beliefs we should say so.

  4. Tuesday, January 27, 2009 5:17 pm

    I agree that a large part of the Palestinians who support Hamas do this because they see Hamas as the most effective resistance force. But this choice for Hamas is not based solely on the criteria of resistance. Why don’t they for exapmle support the PFLP then?

    Yes, I agree. I myself am a huge supporter of the PFLP and support their cause whole heartedly. The PFLP also teams up with Hamas from time to time as they are the most effective fighting force there. I do disagree with Hamas certain right-wing religious beliefs, but again, they are also moderate in a certain sense as they are pragmatic enough to team up with an ML resistance force and agree to a two-state solution and are only seeking 22% of original Palestine’s land, I’m more of a one-stater myself though.

    To bad the PFLP isn’t able to take advantage of the situation of the roe between Fatah and Hamas to show a better third way of resistance.

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