Anti-Zionism in the 21st Century
|By Tariq Shadid
The essence of the Palestinian struggle is the battle against Zionism. It is a battle against its racism, against its murderous war crimes, against its insatiable territorial hunger, against its disdain for non-Jewish human rights, and against its devoted attempts to destroy Palestinian national identity. As voices of normalization are on the rise, and social media is invaded by paid pro-Zionist bloggers, there is an increased need for anti-Zionists to draw attention to the crimes committed by ‘Israel’, and to speak up against the ongoing media silence and the apologist activities of those misleadingly portraying themselves as ‘peace doves’. Let us first look briefly at the history of the anti-Zionist struggle, and then see where we stand today.
The Ideology of Zionism
Years before the creation of the state of ‘Israel’, there was already a full-blown battle going on against Zionism. On one side, the Palestinians were resisting against the usurpation of their land, having grown aware of the far-stretching implications of the Balfour declaration of 1917, which laid the foundation for the mass-immigration of European Jews into Palestine. In those same decades, there was also an ongoing struggle within the Jewish communities in Europe, where many were opposed to the tenets of Zionism either on a religious basis, or on the realization that colonizing an inhabited land would inevitably cause an injustice that would continue to reverberate for many years to come. A famous example of this in that period of time was the famous genius Albert Einstein, who in 1938 already expressed his opposition to the creation of a ‘Jewish state’, and in a letter to the New York Times that he wrote together with a number of prominent Jews in 1948, strongly denounced the horrendous Deir Yassin massacre.
The ongoing struggle of the Palestinians against Zionism and the continuing expropriation of their land is well-known, but not everyone is aware that within Jewish ranks, true ideological opposition against Zionism still exists. The most well-known group among these is Neturei Karta (‘Guardians of the City’), an organization of international Jews united against Zionism. On another note, within the current framework of the Zionist state, a coalition of groups that call themselves ‘Campus Watchdogs’ recently went as far as labeling 10 % of Israeli academics as ‘anti-Zionist’. It is likely that this number is highly overrated, since this McCarthyism-like approach can be expected to have lumped together a wide variety of people who expressed criticism at their government’s actions. In a similar way that outside criticism of ‘Israel’ quickly gets labeled as ‘anti-Semitism’, many of the one thousand mentioned academics, publicists and journalists are likely to have received the label of ‘anti-Zionist’ despite adhering to many of Zionism’s principles.
Tribal, Religious, or Ideological?
For some, the ongoing misery is a war between two peoples, basically a ‘tribal war’. Others prefer seeing it as a war between religions, with Judaism on one side and Muslims on the other side. Those who adopt this view are ignoring the pluralistic ethnic and religious composition of the Palestinian people, and are for instance ignoring the fact that many Palestinians are Christians, who have not been spared the gruesome fate of their Muslim compatriots. Thirdly, there are those who view the struggle as a battle between ideologies: Zionism on one side, and anti-Zionism on the other.
As the original PLO manifesto (28 May 1964) stated, the organization declared that “Palestine with its boundaries that existed at the time of the British mandate is an integral regional unit” and that it sought to “prohibit the existence and activity of Zionism”. It also contained statements calling for a right of return and self-determination for the Palestinians. When reading the manifesto, it becomes clear that the PLO, the first more officially organized Palestinian movement against the land theft and expulsion committed by the Zionist terrorist organizations that later declared the Zionist state, was an explicitly anti-Zionist movement. The PLO incorporated the various existing political movements in one body, and was declared to be the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. This was widely accepted by an overwhelming majority of Palestinians.
The Oslo Disaster
As illustrated above, the foundations of the Palestinian struggle were based on the territorial integrity of Palestine (i.e. the one state solution) and the right of return of all expelled Palestinians. These original foundations became embedded in an entire generation of Palestinians worldwide. In 1993, the leadership under Yaser Arafat adopted the two-state solution instead, which largely happened in a top-down manner and led to the Oslo accords, However, it soon became clear to all that the Oslo accords were only accepted by ‘Israel’ as a deceptive method to hypnotize the Palestinians as well as the masses of the world into an illusion of Israeli willingness for territorial concessions, while in truth confiscating huge swathes of land, building a separation wall and almost tripling the settler population (from 250,000 to 700,000). It should be no surprise that even early on, as the scam became blatantly clear to all except seemingly to the leadership of the newly created Palestinian Authority, the original tenets of the struggle were yet again embraced by many Palestinians inside of Palestine as well as in the diaspora.
Return to the Struggle
As the state of confusion created by the Oslo accords lingered on, some defeatist voices however also turned to normalization, instead of returning to the basics of the struggle. It is not to be wondered at that disillusion and opportunism play their role in such a complex situation, wherein many lose hope when faced with the overwhelming military, economical and strategic dominance of the Zionist state. Nevertheless, youth movements that are currently active in keeping the struggle for Palestinian rights alive, predominantly see anti-normalization as one of their main strategic goals. They adhere to the above-mentioned basic tenets of the struggle, and reject the failed formula of negotiations that is still pursued by the Palestinian Authority, despite its lack of popular mandate for it. For most Palestinians it is blatantly clear, that the so-called ‘Peace Process’ has only caused damage to their cause and has not brought even the slightest prospects of a better future, let alone of self-determination or independence.
Internationally, pro-Palestinian activists also largely adhere to the basic tenets of the Palestinian struggle, namely the one-state solution and the right of return of the Palestinian refugees. There are other issues as well that are deemed non-negotiable to the majority of Palestinians, such as strong opposition against the Judaization of Jerusalem (Al Quds) which is projected as the future capital of liberated Palestine, and the release of all thousands of Palestinian political prisoners.
There is definitely also a group of ‘two-staters’, but their numbers are dwindling fast, and they rarely engage in activism since their views are largely represented by the Palestinian Authority. The strongest cure for the fallacy of the two-state solution was seeing the Palestinian side of that solution being gobbled up by the Zionist state over the years, faster than one could issue statements of protest against them.
New Shape of the Struggle: Back to Anti-Zionism
It is clear nowadays that the Palestinian Authority is not a useful apparatus for waging any form of struggle, but an administrative body that functions mainly as an extension of the Israeli security apparatus, in a framework inherited directly from the Oslo agreements. This does not mean that the people have stopped struggling. The modern Palestinian struggle has moved towards preferring popular resistance over armed struggle, and employing BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) as a main strategy of generating pressure against the Zionist state. What has also changed, is that this struggle has gained large numbers of international supporters all over the world, who support the Palestinians in their pursuit of freedom from Zionist oppression.
These changes have also brought anti-Zionism back to the forefront, and this has far-reaching implications. Whereas a two-state solution almost automatically implies the undertaking of steps towards normalization, since it implies an acceptance of Zionism and relinquishing the claim of 78 % of Palestinian territory to it, a one-state solution which aims to create a state for all of its inhabitants that does not discriminate on the basis of race of religion, requires a strong and uncompromising return to anti-Zionism as a unifying strategy.
Anti-Zionism versus Normalization
In a struggle that aims to achieve this, normalization is an extremely damaging concession that can never be combined with the dismantling of Zionism, which is the ultimate goal of its strategy. After all, a struggle against racism cannot be successful if the inherently racist tenets of Zionism are accepted. The ‘Oslo-period’ has however sown its sorrowful seeds in more places than may directly become apparent. The vast majority of the Arab masses have not accepted Zionism in their midst, but there are stubborn strands of normalization that seem to be enjoying an increasing momentum within ‘progressive’ ranks of various Arab communities.
Two Egyptian examples can be mentioned in this context. One is Mona Eltahawy, who seems to consider ‘Israel’ to be a civilized state and refused to condemn the genocidal massacre in Gaza that claimed the lives of 1,400 Palestinians (including at least 300 children) by massive attacks from drones, tanks, Apaches and F-16’s – on a population that possesses no bombing shelters or anti-aircraft artillery. Another even more mind-blowing example is Maikel Nabil, an Egyptian blogger who enjoyed wide campaigns for his release when he was arrested for criticizing the SCAF military junta of post-Mubarak Egypt. He expressed his love for Israel on his blog and in Israeli media with an enthusiasm rarely ever seen before in the Arab world. There are other examples too, such as Arab-American comedian Ray Hanania of Palestinian origin, who proclaimed himself a candidate for Palestinian presidency in a video that he posted on Youtube, wherein he called for an acceptance of Israeli settlements, and an end to the Right of Return.
The Only Ziocracy in the Middle East
It is true that these examples do not represent the sentiments of the majority of Palestinians and other Arabs, whether in the Arab world or outside of it, but these voices cannot be ignored either. The main reason for this is that voices of normalization like the ones mentioned above often receive disproportionate attention in Western-dominated mass-media, and thereby have a number of insidious destructive effects upon the struggle.
First of all, they make those who are true to the anti-racist struggle against Zionism seem extremist, by offering alternatives that at first sight strike the general public as being more inspired by peaceful motives. This is a distortion of reality: support for ‘Israel’, the most belligerent state in the Middle East, the only state in the region in possession of (over 300) nuclear arms, and the only ‘Ziocracy’ where ones ethnic background automatically categorizes one as having less rights than others, can never be truthfully designated as ‘peace-loving’.
Secondly, the apparently human inclination of the masses to flock around the famous without delving deeply into their philosophies, brings multitudes of people close to positive truth-distorting evaluations of the Zionist state. For example, progressive Arabs who embrace Mona Eltahawy’s feminist activities, are inclined to also automatically defend their idol’s views on ‘Israel’, simply because they are already in a state of adoration of her person. Another example involves Maikel Nabil: when progressive activists rallied for him due to his unjust incarceration by SCAF, his shocking pro-Israel views seemed to be lumped together with his anti-SCAF views under the label of ‘freedom of speech’, effectively paving the way for the perceived ‘right’ of Egyptians to view ‘Israel’ in an undeservingly positive and gruesomely distorted loving manner.
The Struggle Goes on
The true and original struggle of the Palestinians is a struggle against Zionism, and this is entirely incompatible with the views mentioned above. Normalization must therefore be opposed, vocally, directly, loudly and clearly. There is definitely a need for increased activity on this front, since anti-normalization and BDS do not enjoy the support of mass media, unlike the voices of normalization.
If this means that these voices need to be confronted even on a personal level, then so be it. It may not be a pleasant thing to do, and some might argue that it distracts from calling attention to the continuing atrocities that the Zionist state is inflicting on a daily basis upon the defenseless Palestinians living under Israeli occupation. However, as has been argued in the article “Anti-normalization: an necessary part of BDS campaigning”, calling attention to these injustices will remain highly ineffective if the public is simultaneously exposed by mass media to Arab voices that aim to paint a misleading image of ‘Israel’ as if it were a beacon of civilization, and a saviour for mankind.
In other words: if you value BDS and wish it to be effective, and if you believe in opposing the racist ideology of Zionism, one of your tasks is also to confront those who suck up to power for their own personal gain. And since their number is increasing, it looks like you have work to do.
– Tariq Shadid is a Palestinian surgeon living in the Middle East, and has written numerous essays about the Palestinian issue over the years. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.
(palestinechronicle.com / 30.03.2012)