Israel and the Palestinian Authority unite against Palestinians

One of the great lies of our time is the idea that a person’s national identity is, and should be, their major defining feature. The nationalist myth comes in many forms, from the friendly, progressive rhetoric of Scottish nationalism through the ocean of kitsch, flag-draped crap that’s been everywhere in Britain this summer through to the terrifying violence of the Golden Dawn in Greece, but all varieties of nationalism have one thing in common: the desire to try and cover up any internal conflicts that might shatter the unity of the national community. This means that, for anyone who wants to see radical social change, and believes that change can only come about through a heightening of the tensions, contradictions and conflicts that exist in every society, nationalism is always going to be a problem.
Sometimes this is relatively obvious: no matter how many patriotic distractions the media pumps out, it’s not hard for those of us in the UK who are worrying about attacks on our pay, pensions or benefits to realise that we don’t have much in common with that charming old family who are currently offering us the opportunity to have a look at their diamond collection, and all for only £18 a ticket. But in other places, nationalist explanations seem to make a lot more sense: looking at the situation in Israel and Palestine, and the horrific violence the Israeli state deals out to Palestinians on a regular basis, it can seem like madness to insist that ordinary Palestinians and Israelis could have shared interests, and that the nationalist ambitions of most of the Palestinian resistance are a dead end.
When thinking about this situation, it’s worth being clear about what the prospects for an independent Palestinian state might actually look like. Any kind of real independence for Palestine is a long way off, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible; perhaps, one day, probably after a long and bloody conflict, a functional Palestinian state could emerge. Of course, given the military dominance of the US over the region, it would either have to take its orders from America or side with another powerful state for protection, which’d probably mean being subordinate to Iran in regional terms, and Russia or China in global ones. And, just like any other state, it would have very limited freedom to determine its own economic policies, since they’d largely be written by international financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the major banks. But, these limitations aside, it’s possible that one day the areas that are now the Occupied Territories could end up as liberated as South Africa, with the current brutal massacres carried out by Israeli forces replaced by brutal massacres carried out by the forces of the new independent state.
Personally, I don’t think that solution would be good enough, and so I’m always interested to see any development that points to a way out of the nationalist trap on either side. This is what makes the current wave of militant protests in Palestine so exciting: rather than an external enemy, they’re attacking the Palestinian Authority, and they’re angry about the cost of living. Just like people anywhere else in the world, Palestinians are being asked to make sacrifices for the economy, and they’re not happy about it. What makes this story even more interesting is that, while Israel and the PA usually pose as rivals, the Israeli government have recognised that an outbreak of class conflict in Palestine would be against their interests, and have rushed to prop up Prime Minister Fayyad’s government with a huge cash injection; as Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu says, “we are making efforts to help the Palestinian Authority survive this crisis. I hope that they will succeed in doing so; this is our in our common interest.”
So far, protests have mainly taken place in the Fatah-controlled West Bank, but it’s clear that economic conditions are equally dire in Hamas-controlled Gaza, where an unemployed young man named Mohamed Abu Nada recently set himself alight in order to protest the lack of jobs. Abu Nada’s desperation recalls that of Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian fruit vendor who set himself on fire and helped inspire the Arab Spring, but it also recalls the man who set himself on fire in a jobcentre in Birmingham this summer, and, perhaps most importantly, Moshe Silman, who set himself alight at a protest in Tel Aviv. Tragic though it is, the misery and anger shared by Mohamed and Moshe points to a potential source of hope in the region: that, just as Israel and Palestine’s rulers have recognised their common interest in preserving the status quo, the hungry, angry Palestinians currently taking to the streets against Fayyad could make common cause with hungry, angry Israelis like the wildcat strikers at Ben Gurion airport, the media workers going on strike and burning tyres to fight back against redundancy, or the thousands who’ve taken to the streets as part of the J14 social justice movement. Some brave sections of the J14 movement have already recognised the need for unity among Jewish, Arab and migrant workers; it remains to be seen whether they can turn that slogan into reality.
Of course, it’s too soon to celebrate just yet. It’s possible that Fayyad could step down and be replaced by a more popular and populist politician, who’d do a better job of channeling Palestinian anger towards Israel, or the Israeli state could fall back on the time-honoured option of starting another war: whether they decided to bombard Gaza or start a larger and riskier confrontation with Iran, the results would probably be dramatic and bloody enough to distract both Israelis and Palestinians from internal social conflicts. Still, right now the ruling elites in Israel and Palestine are looking worried, and that has to be good news for anyone interested in a truly human, rather than national, religious or ethnic, solution to the region’s problems. In Israel and Palestine, as everywhere else, the old slogan still holds true:

No war between nations, no peace between classes

About nothingiseverlost

"The impulse to fight against work and management is immediately collective. As we fight against the conditions of our own lives, we see that other people are doing the same. To get anywhere we have to fight side by side. We begin to break down the divisions between us and prejudices, hierarchies, and nationalisms begin to be undermined. As we build trust and solidarity, we grow more daring and combative. More becomes possible. We get more organized, more confident, more disruptive and more powerful."
This entry was posted in Internationalism, Protests, Stuff that I think is pretty awesome and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Israel and the Palestinian Authority unite against Palestinians

  1. Pingback: IWW Cleaners win at John Lewis | Cautiously pessimistic

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