Statement against Israeli and Palestinian nationalisms; what's in a flag?

Statement against Israeli and Palestinian nationalisms; what's in a flag?

An attempt to present an internationalist perspective on the current situation in the West Bank, following Israel's attack on the Gaza Strip.

Most people in Israel will remember one thing about the protest later today (Sat 3/1/2009): that the organizers went to the Supreme Court in order to make sure they are allowed to present a Palestinian flag.

Now, I am in favor of anyone being able to present any kind of flag or no flag at any time. But one should ask what purpose a Palestinian (former PLO) flag would serve.

This protest is allegedly aimed at stopping the attack on Gaza. What does the Palestinian flag have to do with that? One would reply: "well, it represents support for the Palestinian resistance." To that I would have to further ask: what Palestinian resistance? Most sensible Palestinians in Gaza would like to get the hell out of the bombing area, not resist being bombed. What does it even mean to resist being bombed? Wave your hand against the incoming fighters?

This flag represents Palestinian nationalism, in the same way that the Israeli flag represents Israeli nationalism. Now, most readers of this website would probably associate Israeli nationalism with violence, oppression, and a thin veil covering up the rule of capitalists over our country. Why doesn't the same apply to Palestinian nationalism?

As we speak, Palestinians in the West Bank are being brutally oppressed and restrained, Palestinians who wish to protest against this same war. Why? Because the Palestinian Authority will not hear criticism, and will not step away from its only raison d'etre, being a subcontractor of Israeli control over the Occupied Territories.

Just months ago, these same Hamas leaders who are now hiding in bunkers and safehouses and recording messages of resistance to "their" people were refusing pay to teachers, wrecking Palestinian trade unions, killing innocent Palestinians in the streets as they fought their Fatah competitors, and shooting rockets at random civilian targets, in lieu of actual attempts at bettering the lives of hard-working and unemployed Palestinians.

While we are protesting the brutal bombing of Gaza by Israeli nationalism, we have to remember that Palestinian nationalism is merely less powerful, not less brutal. Unfortunately, this flag incident just plays into the hand of nationalism as an ideal, making it easier to dismiss dissent against the government as automatic support for "the enemy".

Of course, to be cynical, there is a very good reason why this fiasco came about. This protest, organized by the Israeli Communist Party's front Hadash, comes a day before the official launching of this party's election campaign. And Hadash needs to pander to its Palestinian nationalist base inside the Green Line in order to maintain its electoral power in the next elections against the Secular Nationalists (Al-Tajmua3) and the Muslim Movement. And this, again, plays into nationalism's hand, and ultimately, into the capitalists` hand.

This will only result in repeating cycles of violence, that will not end until it is realized that these nationalisms are there to cloud our judgment and to prevent us from focusing on the real issue, namely, that we are being sent to kill and die, and compete in the service of people who do not serve our interests, but their own. And that goes for both Israelis and Palestinians. Untie the Gordian knot of nationalism, and we will be on our way to have better lives for all.

Article written by a Libcom user in Israel and originally posted to Israel indymedia.

Posted By

Red Marriott
Jan 3 2009 13:09

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barog
Jan 3 2009 15:25

Natioanlism is the reason that killing in the Middle East has not stop, both are claiming that their fighting for the survival of their nation but when you really think of it, both nations (Israel and Palestine) are product of Imperialist war. The people of Israel and Palestine was not involve in this project they were pushed into this mess by the imperialist powers with the collaboration of the capitalist class of both nations, so you see, this nation thing is just a ruse to cloud the real issue on Israel and Palestine that is, they are both sold by their own bourgeoisie. Here is a question for the bourgeoisie of Israel and Palestine. if you really want to have peace why not share the same country under one nation? any way both of you are claiming the same land.

skeletor
Jan 3 2009 21:04

While I ultimately agree with what you are saying, there is something to be said for resistance to the Israeli occupation of Gaza. Flag can represent many things, and while the Palestinian flag may be a representation of a nationality, it still has some power as a symbol of defiance to Israel and the West (W. Europe and the U.S). This is similar to the Irish Flag in the Ulster provinces or in Free Derry. Southern Ireland is by no means a benevolent or liberatory force, however flying the Irish flag in Ulster is a symbol of defiance to the crown. (Interestingly enough they also fly Palestinian flags...)

So yes, I agree with the general thrust of this argument, but I think its a little more complicated than just flag or no flag.

davidbroder
Jan 4 2009 01:04

Brief report and photos of Jan 3rd demo:
http://thecommune.wordpress.com/2009/01/04/photo-report-of-3rd-january-palestine-demo-london/
The left was not out in force quite as much as you'd expect (although more than at the weekday demos)
British Muslim Initiative's placards were most in evidence. There were not many Hamas flags at all but plenty of Hezbollah and some Islamic Republic of Iran supporters.

Caiman del Barrio
Jan 4 2009 00:40

Clicked a couple of links from thecommune blog and found this:

http://antiisgood.wordpress.com/2009/01/02/anarchists-block-entrance-to-iaf-base-in-protest-of-gaza-strikes-we-who-resist-are-everywhere/

TOJ what's your critique of AATW? They aren't internationalist?

angrywhitekid
Jan 4 2009 00:50

Are you kidding? Gaza is being massacred and instead of writing about that or taking action, you're blathering about a flag? That's rich. Reminds me of the clowns who spent Israel's destruction of Lebanon in 2006 trying to argue Israel is bad but Hezbollah is too. As if that's was a really pertinent issue at the moment.

Angelus Novus
Jan 4 2009 01:33

angrywhitekid,

sorry, you must have mistaken this website for Znet, where spluttering liberals like yourself can vent their impotent rage.

This is a communist website, a forum for people who advocate the abolition of the commodity-form of human labor and the state.

Angelus Novus
Jan 4 2009 01:35

P.S. I like the statement.

MT
Jan 4 2009 01:59

As far as I know, there are several people in AATW who support creation of independent state, but it is hard to say if AATW openly declare themselves internationalists or not.

internasyonalista
Jan 4 2009 05:14
Quote:
Here is a question for the bourgeoisie of Israel and Palestine. if you really want to have peace why not share the same country under one nation? any way both of you are claiming the same land.

why not ask the proletariat in Israel and Palestine instead of the capitalist class?

nationalism and nationalist wars only bring chaos and destruction.... only an internationalist consciousness within the vast majority of the working people of all countries could end wars...unfortunately that consciousness is almost absent in both Israel and Palestine except perhaps for one or two people there???

internasyonalista
Jan 4 2009 05:19
Quote:
Flag can represent many things, and while the Palestinian flag may be a representation of a nationality, it still has some power as a symbol of defiance to Israel and the West (W. Europe and the U.S).

flags like Ret Marut posted is a symbol of a country, thus nationalism/patriotism; nothing more...

Duval
Jan 4 2009 07:21

I agree with you when you talk about nationalism in general. But do you think tha EZLN Flag has the same meaning as the Mexican State flag?

«Most sensible Palestinians in Gaza would like to get the hell out of the bombing area, not resist being bombed»

- Does this mean they shouldn't resist Israel State opression?

«lieu of actual attempts at bettering the lives of hard-working and unemployed Palestinians.»

- How is this possible with the Israel State economic blockade, and militar occupancy?

The way you put your words, you dismissed the fact that this is a colonialist war, from the ultra-nationalist State of Israel against the Palestinian people.

There is a good article abou thtis war from communist comrades:
http://anarkismo.net/article/11133

tsi
Jan 4 2009 08:37
Duval wrote:
There is a good article abou thtis war from communist comrades:
http://anarkismo.net/article/11133

I tried to ignore this

Quote:
sacrificed on the altar of Zionist expansionism and fundamentalism

and ultimately just stopped reading when I made it to

Quote:
Apart from the important strategic and territorial alliance that Israel represents for American imperialism in the Middle East, it also has to deal with the powerful US Jewish economic lobby, which is strong enough to bring about a stong influence on US foreign policy

I keep thinking that Angelus Novus must have some sort of a complex, but then I'm reminded of the stupidity that really does exist within the left.

Anyways, I too love ToJ's statement, and will be sharing it with others. Hope you don't mind.

angrywhitekid
Jan 4 2009 09:08
Quote:
angrywhitekid,

sorry, you must have mistaken this website for Znet, where spluttering liberals like yourself can vent their impotent rage.

This is a communist website, a forum for people who advocate the abolition of the commodity-form of human labor and the state.

All I'm saying is that it's cute for an Israeli to be spluttering on about flags, front groups and the working class - at the same time recycling state propaganda about Hamas - while Israel slaughters Gaza, likely within 50 miles of their home.

I'm honestly not clear what Znet, liberals or libcom's supposed mission have to do with this. Unless thinking that spluttering on about inane shit while mass murder is occurring is not that relevant makes me one of those.

internasyonalista
Jan 4 2009 09:39
Quote:
The way you put your words, you dismissed the fact that this is a colonialist war, from the ultra-nationalist State of Israel against the Palestinian people.

The colonialist war by Israel imperialism is as destructive as the nationalist war wage by Hamas or whatever nationalist movements. Both of them derail the class struggle of the proletariat in both camps against their common enemy -- the bourgeoisies of both countries.

The essence of the post which I agree (despite the fact that it "focuses" on the issue of flags) is to expose that nationalism as an ideology is being used by rival imperialist powers not only in the Middle East but also in many third world countries.

barog
Jan 4 2009 10:30

quote:
why not ask the proletariat in Israel and Palestine instead of the capitalist class?

nationalism and nationalist wars only bring chaos and destruction.... only an internationalist consciousness within the vast majority of the working people of all countries could end wars...unfortunately that consciousness is almost absent in both Israel and Palestine except perhaps for one or two people there???

any tyrant will use nationalism and patriotism as an excuse not only to wage war on other nations but to it's own people too, palestinians and israelis have been used by their own tyrants that the only enemy they see is their neighbor,even to develop an internastionalist consciousness is out of their minds at this moment coz of the bombs and rockets that fall on their roofs.

quote:
The colonialist war by Israel imperialism is as destructive as the nationalist war wage by Hamas or whatever nationalist movements. Both of them derail the class struggle of the proletariat in both camps against their common enemy -- the bourgeoisies of both countries.

all colonialist war is destructive and all colonialist war is wage in the name of some vogue nationalism/patriotism slogan. war and terrorism not only derails class struggle but it also blunts class consciousness.

madashell
Jan 4 2009 10:50

angrywhitekid, it's not just about the flag, it's about leftists lending support to nationalist forces in spats between two national ruling classes. Neither the Israeli nor the Palestinian working class have any material interest in continuing the conflict in Gaza.

What part of the statement do you think is "state propaganda" by the way? Were you under the impression that the Palestinian government is some kind of benevolant, progressive force in Gaza or something?

Escarabajo
Jan 4 2009 11:49

It seems to me that despite their grand class analysis, many people on here are unable to draw a dividing line between the people of Gaza and Hamas. Surely anyone with any sense of solidarity with the working class people of Gaza would come out and support them. If anyone here thinks that equals support for Hamas then it obviosuly shows the limits of their analysis. Seems a lot of people are equating the people of Gaza with the power structure there in order to justify doing F*CK ALL.

Are the Israeli anarchos who mobilise against the invasion and occupation tait supporters of Hamas or Palestinian nationalism? I think not. For the people that it applies to, and i don't say its everyone. Stop finding excuses to hide behind, act in solidarity with the people of Gaza. If you're worried about giving tacit support to Hamas, make it clear what you're supporting and what you're not.

And about the flags. Whoever it is that thinks that they stand for nationalsim/patriotism and nothing more are frankly arrogant*****. They quite obviosuly mean lots of different things to different people and unless you think your analysis is the only one worthy of any consideration (quite likely, thinking about it) i'd advise you to **** about things of which you have no understanding. Personally I agree and would never use a state flag for anything other than burning or maybe wiping my arse but I respect the fact that I have many dedicated anarchist/libertarian comrades to whom the flag of their country does mean somethng very important. I disagree with it but can't deny its importance to them and to many others. We give attach value and meaning to things, therefore they can change. get over it.

admin abusive language and personal abuse deleted. Abusive language and personal abuse are not tolerated on article comments. Swear words on article comments cause sections of the site to be blocked for some users. Please desist.

Joseph Kay
Jan 4 2009 11:58

angrywhitekid, there's nothing abstract about denouncing nationalism of all kinds when it's being used to mobilise workers for mutual slaughter, pretty one-sidedly mutual in gaza as is the norm in asymmetric conflicts, but mutual nonetheless. the matter of the flag is just a means of saying this. If i were to burn an israeli flag on a lefty demo i'd be cheered. If i were to burn a palestinian one i'd be jeered or even physically confronted. The ideology of the 'nationalism of the oppressed' is deeply embedded in the left, and ToJ is right to point out that palestinian nationalism is merely less militarily powerful, not less brutal than its israeli counterpart. The difference is quantitative not qualitative; hamas and hezbollah are as part of the problem as the IDF - and it is not state propaganda but basic internationalism to say so. in fact to an extent these enemies need one another. As to duval's idea that workers shouldn't flee but 'resist', this just seems like macho posturing from a safe distance. If you're encouraging palestinians to join up to martyr themselves for hamas, i suggest you at least be consistent and encourage israelis to join the IDF to 'resist' rocket attacks. We should never cheerlead workers lining up to die for one section of the ruling class or other, it is precisely this urgent call to national defence in the face of massacres which sustains the very nationalism which makes such massacres possible in the first place.

Ed
Jan 4 2009 12:01

Angrywhitekid, supposing Hamas did defeat Israel and set up their own state, how good do you reckon that would be for ordinary working class Palestinians?

Also, here's a few bits from libcom about repression of Palestinian workers' organisations by both Hamas and Fatah, for breaking 'national unity'.
Palestinian union hit on all sides
Interview with Rasem Al Bayari, Palestinian trade unionist
Armed gunmen attack Palestine Workers' Radio

Joseph Kay
Jan 4 2009 12:06

escarabajo, nobody's equating opposing the attacks with supporting hamas. It's the calls for 'resistance' and claims that criticising hamas equals state propaganda which stray into this territory. And in any case hamas are not the only palestinian nationalists. There's nothing arrogant about calling national flags what they are; symbols of nationalism. Yes they mean a lot to some people, but so does ethnicity or religion. it's not the job of communists to patronisingly indulge such reactionary ideas, but to oppose them.

MT
Jan 4 2009 12:08

Escarabajo:

Solidarity appeal of one czech anarchist organisation has this headline: "Solidarity with palestinian people". Yes, I can get over it because I rather look into the content of the appeal. The content cliams "... (we) strictly deny state terrorism of Isreal and express our solidarity with both Palestinians and Israelis who want to live in Peace". Yes, I can get over it as well. But the point is that I think this is something that some people want to critisize and I think it is correct to critisize this. And if one does so, then I see no point in saying fuck you to this criticism because the attitude which is I think similar to the "flag attitude" is something worth addressing.
But perhaps i didn't get the point of your "fuck you back" here.

Escarabajo
Jan 4 2009 12:29

To the two replies to my post, well I actually largely agree with you both.
although:
Joseph K. i agree that we should call national flag symbols of nationalism, but my point was that they often mean something different i.e. not nationalism. and i think its arrogant to deny that symbols can have different meanings. for example is the red n black flag an anarchi syndicalist flag, anarcho-communist, the CNT flag or just plain anarchist. Or is it all of them and more.
My poitn was not about the dpeth of feeling (in that sense of meaning a lot to people) but that there can be a multiplicity of ideas attached to symbols and the ideas they can represent. Like I said, personally I agree but realise that i don't have a monopoly of interpretation. that's all.
And ethnicity is important, in many senses such as culture, language etc. when it becomes nationalist its a problem but i don't think its intrinsically so.

MT:
All I ws trying to do was criticise what I think is a blindly dogmatic reading of symbols such as flags and whatever actions or lack thereof associated with them. I really agree with angrywhitekid that this disucssion about flags etc. is hardly the most pertinent question at this time. and its not really an issue is it? if we don't support a national(ist) symbol then dont use it. but i don't think it should be an excuse not to act.
sorry if this doesn't explain mu point properly but i don't have any more time to sit here typing. i don't think i actually said' fuck you' to anyone though i huess is may have been implicit in a few comments i made

Django
Jan 4 2009 12:43

Word to ToJ for writing this.

It seems that the conflating of the people in Gaza with their ruling class is only happening in the minds of those posters who are taking issue with this statement. No-one is denying that what is happening in that part of the world is horrific, but the point is to express solidarity with actual human beings rather than some abstract national collective, which inevitably means those who rule it.

Maybe Escarbarjo could expand on how love for nationalist symbolism can be compatible with a anarchism or libertarian communism, because I'm stumped at how they could be, for reasons expressed above. Just calling internationalists 'arrogant fuckwits' isnt that convincing.

Edit - cross post

Django
Jan 4 2009 12:49

Escarabajo: The red and black flag is a very poor analogy. Its never been used as the flag of a national group with national aspirations.

How could the Palestinian flag represent anything but a national entity- i.e., a cross-class grouping which requires a state in order to have its national 'rights' realised and defended? I could understand that a union jack could mean different things to a BNP supporter, Billy Bragg and the Liberal Democrats, but they're all nationalists of different stripes (fascist, leftist, liberal), and their politics are all incompatible with libertarian communist ones.

Caiman del Barrio
Jan 4 2009 12:59
Duval wrote:
I agree with you when you talk about nationalism in general. But do you think tha EZLN Flag has the same meaning as the Mexican State flag?

Er...don't the EZLN mostly use the Mexican tricolour actually?

Quote:
«Most sensible Palestinians in Gaza would like to get the hell out of the bombing area, not resist being bombed»

- Does this mean they shouldn't resist Israel State opression?

But what does resisting mean? The Hamas leadership calls for "more suicide bomb attacks", is that valid? Or do you support the rocket attacks, which I would also define as terrorism since they're fired at random and hit overwhelmingly civilian targets.

Angrywhitekid's conduct on this thread has been scandalous, ditto Escabarajo when he arrived....although at least he calmed down and realised he was pretty much on the same page as us. Libcom isn't so pie in the sky and impractical after all, you're the ones calling on an imprisoned, disenfranchised, utterly unequipped social grouping to abstractly 'resist' a first world army which you believe controls the US government and the planets' allignment!! And then when everyone dies, you'll wring all your hands and organise another fucking demo.

Escarabajo - right so maybe some Mexican anarchos you know still have vestiges of pride in their national flag, I guess you're talking about the concept of "patria" which doesn't translate very well into Anglophone parlance. But do you think this is positive? I don't really see what gains there are in eulogising the Mexican state, in fact I'd call it a stumbling block on pretty much every revolutionary struggle in Mexico thus far and part of the reason the Mexican anarchist movt remains so marginal and theoretically lacking.

Finally, TOJ, I sent your statement to some pro-Palestinian anarchists I know...

MT
Jan 4 2009 13:02

I think Escarabajo just wants to say that it is good to choose decent way of argueing against people who understand the symbol of national flag in their own ways. The one that would come to further common grounds easier than if we choose the styl that implicitly says "how can you be so dumb not to understand what the flag REALLY means". I guess...

Steven.
Jan 4 2009 13:11

Angry white kid - actually, talking about the nature of the Palestinian leadership is important.

Hamas is calling for Palestinian working people to go, fight, kill Israeli working people, and die.

Yes, obviously the Israeli military has just murdered hundreds of Palestinians, and this is terrible.

However, ordinary Palestinians entering a war against a far superior military force which they cannot win would cause much more suffering. And if they would have nothing to gain from this war anyway, then it's very important to state this.

Many Americans felt the same way as you after the September 11th attacks - that American workers should go and fight in Afghanistan, and that criticising the American government at that time "while mass murder was occurring" shouldn't happen.

But of course, it was right to point out that ordinary Americans and "the nation" or the government have nothing in common.

It is also right to do that now to try to prevent more ordinary Palestinians being dragged into this conflict and butchered for the benefit of their own barbaric leaders.

Check out Ed's links for examples of how Palestinian authorities treat their own citizens.

IlanS
Jan 4 2009 13:12

Some people have very "abstract" one dimention approach to the struggle. There is no symetry between the Palestinians and Israelis. It is not just the Israeli capitalists at war with the Palestinian capitalists.... It is settler colonialist Zionist Israel that are gradually transferring the Palestinian out holding high the flag of solidarity of thieves in the long struggle with the Palestinians. The Palestinian flag is maily the popular flag against transferring out and suppressing along the way by Israel.

The national leadership of the Palestinian is of course compromising with Israel but as Israelis do not bribe them enough they still take part in the resistance to Israel.

The big Saturday demonstration was called by the general coalition against the war on Gasa the Anarchists Against the Wall initiative is part. Like the previous Saturday demonstration of hours after the beginning of present war activity.

For sure the Communist Party want to gain electoral profit from the demonstration as they always do when they are not afride. (The first 4-5 years after the 1967 war they were afraid and only the antiauthoritarian anticapitalist left - Matzpen had the "monopol" on the demonstrations.)

The Palestinian activists in the Bil'in and Ni'ilin struggle against the expansionist separation fence do hold the Palestinian flag as a symbol of defiance of Israel and not as promoting nationalism.

(AAtW is a direct action initiative that include anarchist and nonanarchists. Most of them are anti Zionists antiauthoritarian anticapitalists.)

MT
Jan 4 2009 13:24

"(AAtW is a direct action initiative that include anarchist and nonanarchists. Most of them are anti Zionists antiauthoritarian anticapitalists.)"

If this sentence was meant to explain what the stand for (or if they support creation of independent state), then it needs to be more specific.

Ed
Jan 4 2009 13:54
IlanS wrote:
Some people have very "abstract" one dimention approach to the struggle. There is no symetry between the Palestinians and Israelis. It is not just the Israeli capitalists at war with the Palestinian capitalists.... It is settler colonialist Zionist Israel that are gradually transferring the Palestinian out holding high the flag of solidarity of thieves in the long struggle with the Palestinians.

Ilan, no one said that this is just Israeli capitalists fighting Palestinian ones (if it was it wouldn't be so tragic).. the point is that working class Israelis and Palestinians are killing each other for the benefit of their own ruling classes. No one is claiming symmetry either, there is definitely one team that is stronger and better equipped than the other. But this doesn't make the resistance of Hamas or Fatah any more noble in nature, it just means that more Palestinian workers get killed fighting for something which will just turn around and kick them in the arse anyway. Palestinian nationalism is not anti-imperialist, it is a rival imperialist (albeit a much weaker one).

IlanS wrote:
The Palestinian flag is maily the popular flag against transferring out and suppressing along the way by Israel.

Who is against it? The Palestinian working class? Or 'Palestine' as a whole, bosses and workers, together? Since 1948 the workers of Israel and Palestine have been following these flags and all its led us too is more war, more death and more destruction, all for the benefit of our respective elites. Isn't it about time we tried to break people away from these flags (and the elites they represent)?

Also, supposing Hamas did defeat Israel and set up their own state, how good do you reckon that would be for ordinary working class Palestinians? Here's a few bits from libcom about repression of Palestinian workers' organisations by both Hamas and Fatah. I feel they show what all the support for Palestinian nationalists' political aims mean in reality:
Palestinian union hit on all sides
Interview with Rasem Al Bayari, Palestinian trade unionist
Armed gunmen attack Palestine Workers' Radio