revista fevereiro - "política, teoria, cultura"

   POLÍTICATEORIACULTURA                                                                                                     ISSN 2236-2037

Daniel Golovaty CURSINO 1

anatomy of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: the (un)reasons of the block


Translated by Renata Massami HIROTA, Ana Eliza Assumpção PINHO and Tiago AGUIAR.


With the sole exception of the election of Barack Obama to the White House, the current state of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict incarnates a real nightmare for all of those who advocate the end of this long and painful war through a negotiated peace that is fair and long lasting. In February 2009 the Israeli people elected the most right-wing government in the history of their country, whose coalition is headed by a party that traditionally rejects the Palestinian right to have a State* – the same right fairly recognised to the Jewish by the UN in 1948 – and another party which has as one of its main causes the virtual cancellation of the citizenship of Israel's Arab minority. That was after two avoidable and unnecessary wars (Lebanon, 2006 and Gaza, 2009) which resulted in the death of a great number of Lebanese and Palestinian civilians and which have not improved at all the strategic safety of Israel. Instead, the latest offensive against Gaza had among its political effects the further increase of the international isolation of the country – keeping away the two regional moderate powers (Egypt and Turkey) that could act politically towards peace agreements– as well as invigorate, with the blood of innocents, the jihadist speech that preaches a war of extermination against the Jews and that has, in recent years, been led and boosted by a regional power in the process of nuclearization.

Israeli democracy persists, but withers up under the general perception of a landscape of permanent war and an exasperating context of the return of a destruction spectrum, no longer embodied by pan-Arabism with their conventional armies, but by the gloomy conjunction of the Iranian bomb and the irregular warfare that terrorist groups like the Hezbollah and the Hamas run from the north and south. Against such threats, the power of deterrence on which has always been built the Israeli policy towards Arab countries, the “Iron Wall”2, has proven to be of little efficiency. In fact, Israel no longer has enemies established as nation-states driven by nationalist, military and modernizing ideologies as it had in the past, but as fundamentalist groups organized into precarious“sub-states” or Islamic regimes that have no credible prospect of social and economic inclusion to offer its people, which is then replaced by the apocalyptic ideology of jihad and martyrdom.

If we add to this the fact (demagogically exploited by the right-wing) that the major Israeli-Arab minority has, since the outbreak of the Second Intifada in September 2000, adopted ever more extreme positions, alienating itself from Israel and sympathizing with the above-mentioned Islamic groups that openly advocate the destruction of the country in which they live, then we have the terrifying picture, experienced by many, of a small nation of descendants of refugees and survivors that finds itself internally beset by a potential fifth column of 20% of its own population and externally trapped by an enemy so great as it is irreducible, willing to sacrifice entire portions of the “Islamic nation” (Umma) in order to achieve its goals of destroying the “Zionist entity” and rescuing the “Islamic land”3. It is in this swamp of paranoia and fear that grow the rotten fruits of intolerance, racism and national-religious fanaticism, and that democratic values begin to be seen by a growing share of the population of Israel as a luxury that the country, if it wishes to survive, cannot afford. As an advanced frontier on the war against the “global jihad”, Israel should resign to live by the sword, and therefore in an almost permanent state of exception.4

Of course, this bleak picture is not (yet) true, as those who don't have their minds dulled by the ideology of “war of civilizations”5 know, whereas it results from a selective manipulation of facts, as well as the omission of the active policy of successive Israeli governments since Ariel Sharon, the freezing of the peace process and the colonization and annexation of Palestinian land in the West Bank – a policy that, for itself, also owns an acute suicidal and self-destructive character, since it already threatens to make impossible the solution of two states which constitutes, outside of a very long, hypothetical term, the only solution able to establish a lasting peace in the region. But if it isn't true, the objective picture is believable and convincing enough for most of the Israelians that elected B. Netaniahu and A. Liberman, as well as to a significative part of the Diaspora Jews.

Thus, the question put forward is this: how was it possible to go from a situation of broad support of the peace process and of the resolution of both States, in the early 1990s, to a panorama of apparently boundless ascension of fundamentalism and rejectionism from both sides of the conflict, to which the “war of civilizations” discourse can be compared with a high degree of similarity?6 There are several circumstantial and conjectural answers to this question, which, as V. Safatle pinpoints in an important article on the subject, "have long ago ceased to be a regional problem" to acquire "a greater role in foreign (and not only foreign) world policy"7. The existence of large rejectionist minorities in both sides (which account for over 30% of the population) which are very well organized politically; the loss of Israeli public confidence on the true Palestinian intentions after the failure of Camp David negociations and the advent of the Second Intifada, with its terrorist attacks and its characteristic Islamization; inversely, the loss of Palestinian confidence on the true Israeli intentions, which not only kept on expanding but also accelerated the rate of settlements in the Palestinian West Bank and East of Jerusalem amidst a peace process; the influence of Iran through Hizbollah and Hamas; the weight of the American right-wing "pro-Israel" lobby; all of these (and there are others) are indispensable elements through which one can comprehend the failure of the peace process and they deserve a close analysis. However, in this article I intend to comment on just the questions I consider to be structural to this conflict, upon which a theoretical analysis and correct political path depends the possibility, despite of far off, of a future peace in the region.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict constitutes itself historically as the structurally symmetric conflict between two national movements for the same territory, comprehended between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan river, correspondent to the old, British-rule Palestine. Such structural symmetry involved, however, a set of asymmetrical relations between the two contenders. In favor of the jews is the fact that, after World War I, England, heightened by the League of Nations to the post of that region's power, began endorsing, although ambiguously, the Zionist enterprise, protecting it until the end of the 1930s, in a time when its forces were still not strong enough to guarantee its self-defense. In those years, the Zionist movement leaders transformed the Jewish Agency (Sochnut Hayehudit) into a true proto-state, with a political-organizational structure that would capacitate the ishuv8 to face successfully the immense difficulties related to the creation of a Israel state.

Besides having a superior organization, the Jews constituted a people that could mobilize an extremely rooted national conscience, since it didn't look centuries but milleniums back. On the other side, the national identity of the Arab-Palestinians was still in its infancy, barely differentiating itself from the neighbouring Arab countries. With a political organization centered on the leadership of traditional clans, the "Palestinians"9 could do little to avoid the zionist enterprise's prosperity, since an uprising against Jewish presence was only made clear with the Arab Rebellion (1936-39), under the leadership of Haj Amin al-Husseini, Jerusalem's mufti, inside a context of its alliance both political and ideological with a Nazi Germany.10

On the other hand, in relation to the demographic factor there was a brutal lack of balance between contenders. In the 1930s, the ishuv counted a few hundred thousands of people facing the immensity of the Arab surroundings that, in case of a war, was clearly on the side of its Palestinian brothers against the "Zionist invader". The Zionist movement's leaders thought its demographic density would grow by what they hoped would be a great flux of European Jews that would have, in Palestine, its only refugee against the rising anti-semitism. Unfortunately, before the beginning of World War II, few could imagine the terrifying dimension of Nazi extermination. Thus, with its demographic basis drastically reduced, the Zionist project acquired an aspect as implausible as inexorable. Implausible because even in the case of victory in the approaching war, Jews were condemned before-hand by both geography and demography to constitute a small enclave fixedly besieged by a hostile environment. Inexorable because the ishuv and the European survivors of the Shoah didn't have any other option besides moving towards the creation of the much dreamed Jewish state11. Besides, after public acknowledgment of the Shoah's dimension, more than ever were the Jews convicted of the justice of their cause, afterall wasn't it true that Herzl's premonition that "the class battle will be made at our expense" (The Jewish State) became real in an unimaginable scale to the political zionism's own idealizer?

Following victory in the War of 1948, the State of Israel settled over 78% of the British Palestinian territory, while the current regions of the West Bank and Gaza were claimed by Jordan and Egypt, respectively. The solid majority of the population of the conquered area was constituted of Jewish people, at the expense of the expulsion of over 700 thousand Arabs to the adjacent countries, where they went on to live as refugees12. An extremely violent war was fought, which, to the Palestinian Arabs, whose leaderships had bet all their chips in “throwing the Jews over to the see”13, resulted in a national catastrophe, the Nakba. For the Jews, as well, much more was at stake than the definition of boundaries, for there was a general perception that an eventual defeat by the Arab armies would mean the complete obliteration of the ishuv, that is, possibly a second genocide of Jews only three years after the end of the Second World War. Notwithstanding the victory in the War of 1948, the frontiers of the new State remained extremely precarious defense-wise, due to the fact that Ben Gurion had refused, clashing with the opinion of his generals, to set forth an advance of the Israeli army over to the West Bank and Gaza in November 1949, when that had become a military possibility14. If we take into account the fact that the political elites and Israeli militaries believed that making peace with the Arabs would only be possible when they were convinced of the impossibility of destroying Israel, then we can comprehend the meaning of the sentence that Ygal Allon, one of the legendary Israeli generals of the time, proffered at the end of the military confrontations: “Israel has won the war, but has lost the peace.”

At this point emerges one of the essential elements of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and, in a broader view, of the Arab-Israeli conflict: the fact that we are not dealing with a classically made territorial conflict, meaning a conflict in which two or more nations dispute among them territories and frontiers<15. That's that for a few basic reasons. One of them is set upon the constatation that, from both sides of the conflict, there were narratives build into a properly existential dimension. For Arab-Palestinians, it's their national identity itself that was build upon the idea of an ancestral land invaded and profaned by a particularly awful sort of Occidental imperialists, the "Zionists", for who there was no historical bind between the region they had travelled to, aiming just to explore and dominate.16

In similar although not symmetrical fashion, for the Jews the war with Arab nations always had an existential dimension, that is, it always endangered the most elementary right to life and collective existence of the Israeli nation. One of the factors that explain Israel's victory in the three great wars with Arab countries (1948, 1967 and 1973) is the presence of a general conviction between the people that, if they want to live, there just wasn't anyway they could go out defeated. If the Iron Wall doctrine was always false, given it blends in space and time the diverse Arab world17, it has so far been politically victorious because it's set upon one undeniable truth: the radical Arab refusal in recognizing Israel's right to exist.18

An irony in this story is that the exceptional circumstance of a nation fighting for its right to exist can be seen against the background of a political Zionism that historically took a paradoxical shape of "normalizing revolution". Given the fact that dispersion and thinning of the national ties of the Jewish people tended to rise by the action of blending and leveling trends of a modern age that wanted emancipation, there was nothing like an "inexorable" or "progressive" historical current that assured the continuing existence of Jews as a nation. Once verified the reality that the existence of the Jewish people -- people persecuted and scattered for almost two thousand years -- didn't just happen through history but also despite of it, it became, according to David Ben-Gurion, a matter of beginning the "Jewish revolution" (zionism) as a revolution against history19, meaning an affirmation of national rebel will against anti-semitism as well as against what was seen as a resignation from those who no longer wanted to sustain the memory debt that they were Israel's sons20. A revolution then doubly sui generis, because besides opposing an historical current it had as its main goal to assure Jews the universally recognized right for all people to organize themselves nationally inside territorial frontiers of a state that assured them safety and self-determination. A revolution, then, that transformed Jews into "normal" people, a nation living and acting amongst other nations...

In Israel's building process, however, it became clear early for Zionists that reuniting a scattered folk to a new nation wouldn't be a result of natural, spontaneous processes of immigration induced by liberal, market-oriented societies but it had to be necessarily the product of a plan, meaning of a political elite that, like a Bolshevik guard created the economical, political and institutional infra-structure of what the new Israeli nation should be21. The force of this constatation was such that it achieved, for example, the transformation of a liberal such as Theodor Herzl into a strange type of utopic socialist of the 20th century22. So much that at the base of the Zionist project there were institutions such as Histadrut (a syndicate center) with its companies complex, with its own education and health system; the kibutzim and moshavim; the pioneering youth movements and, of course, the Army itself as instruments to build ties of solidarity and organizing political projects capable of giving a quite diverse set of Jewish emigrants and refugees the positive political content and a sense of common destiny autonomously given, meaning they were to go beyond fear in the face of global anti-semitism and enemy Arab nations.

After the Six-Day War, the conflict acquired a new and decisive dimension. The Israeli occupation in Gaza and the West Bank, territories densely inhabited by Arabs, produced the extremely structureless effect of reopening the internal Israeli debate about the country's frontiers, a fundamental debate that should have been over with Israel's political defeat after its military victory over Egypt in the Suez campaign, in 195623. Well, a frontier isn't made of only an imaginary line that establishes quantity of land that belongs to a state, but a limit that retroactively determines the essential contours of a certain nation, contours not only physical but also political and institutional. It's about nothing less than the way a people builds its political identity as a nation in the face of the Other, as well as a social bind that establishes itself between the citizens. An undefined frontier, over which there's no consensus, internal or external, acts inevitably as an open wound in the nation's body, dangerously pending towards "creating organic ties between nation, state and people", instead of the democratic notion of a social contract.24

Shlomo Ben-Ami25, answering the recurring namecalling by the Israeli right-wing, that dubs the left as "unpatriotic", "defeatist" and even "traitor", affirmed that "the right-wing doesn't hold the monopoly on patriotism" and remembered that "in this country (Israel), patriotism was invented by the left and not by the right"26. Indeed, there might not be a monopoly, but it's impossible not to verify that since Camp David failed and the Second Intifada burst, it has been obtaining a crushing hegemony . The most impressive result of past Israeli elections was not the Likud victory, but the humiliating defeat of the workers' party, the party that practically founded Israel and that did not feature even amongst the three most voted parties. Such a fact can only be really understood if one takes into account the corrosive effects produced by the murderous combination of a sort of "state of exception" (the Occupation) that has perpetuated with the rolling of political and institutional structures through which Zioniosm has gained an historical consistency, like socialization and social security devices that were dismounted by neoliberal politics in the last decades, that transformed Israel from a successful model of social-democracy into a peripheral nation, the second most unequal country in the developed world, below the USA only.

It was after June 1967 that the National Religious Party, at the time politically inexpressive and that used to support workers, began developing an aggressive political theology, centered around an Eretz Israel mystic that little had to do with traditional Jewish religious orthodoxy27. And already in 1977, only 10 years after the Occupation began, it became possible for a right-wing Israeli party, with Menachen Begin leading the way, to win national elections based on a nationalist speech about the integrity of Eretz Israel and turned to the electoral populist capitalization of a social integration deficit that could be already verified in communities of sefaradim Jews. Besides, one of the most pernicious effects for the Zionist project of national construction produces by the above mentioned combination between undetermined frontiers and neoliberal politics is the impressive internal fragmentation of Israel, by which the country has been transforming into a conglomerate of "subcommunities" whose interlocution, given the precarious state of political camp (that is, of a common space for legitimate disagreement), becomes progressively more problematic, with its unit depending more and more of fear of the enemy.

So the nationalist and xenophobe wave that has been taking over Israel, despite appearances, should not be understood as a radicalization of Zionism but, on the contrary, as a result of its disaggregation and possible failure as an historical project of national normalization, because the right in power wouldn't have any consistent national project and doesn't have anything to propose if not "conflict administration", meaning the perpetuation of a state of exception that can only be maintained through fear, fanaticism and populist demagogy and that, if it's not politically defeated, will fataly end up transforming Israel -- for the immense joy of tyrannies and anti-semite movements that have, in "anti-Zionism" their main flags -- into a true pariah state, in which "apartheid" will not be just a propaganda piece from its enemies.28

The national Palestinian movement has also been suffering a similar process of decomposition. The national Arab-Palestinian identity, which began with the Nakba trauma and was ironically consolidated by the Israeli victory in the Six-Day War (when Gaza and West Bank territories were united by the Occupation), achieved its historical high with the emergence of the first Intifada, in 1987, an occasion that, under the influx of popular uprising, the civil society organized itself as a political community gifted with its own identity and national project. From this perspective, comparison between the two Intifadas becomes clarifying. The first Intifada can be justly characterized as an authentic popular uprising for national liberty because, through the organization of civil disobedience, it structured the Palestinian society in the fight for universally acknowledged rights. Violence was not absent, but it was majorly due to Israeli soldiers in occupied territories, a fact that made it be considered (even for not so few Israelis) as a legitimate counter-violence. In the middle term, its political effect in Israel was to demoralize the nationalist, manicheaist and victimizing rhetoric of the right, moving the public opinion towards the left, on the direction of a two states solution.29

The second Intifada, that emerged in September 2000, although it initially counted some popular participation quickly narrowed down to not much more than a wave of terrorism against Israeli civilians, perpetrated mostly by Hamas, an Islamic radical group that in the Oslo period had already promoted a killer sequence of terrorist attacks inside Israel, aiming (successfully) to bomb peace negotiations. Contrary to what the forgetful and incapable of learning with history left-wing repeats over and over, Hamas does not constitute itself as a national liberation movement. Firstly, in its political horizon there's no liberation, but the building of a clerical-military dictatorship through an anti-semite program with a genocidal stroke. Secondly, and that is a point I want to highlight, neither should Hamas be considered a national Palestinian movement, because if it's true it is composed of Palestinians and aims for "Palestin's liberation" (the destruction of Israel) it's not less true that it incarnates an arm of the Muslin Brotherhood inside the Palestinian territory, having as a bigger reference not the Palestinians as a nation but as Islamic land and Umma.

Therefore, the rise of irrational and (self) destructive ideologies from both sides is not due to a merely psychological incompetence for dialogue from the contenders, neither due to the incapacity of most Israeli and Palestinians to imagine themselves in each other's shoes, as a well-intentioned but unfortunately pacifist mantra keeps repeating. With an affirmation such as that, it's not intended at all to devalue or minimize the importance of dialogue and political imagination, but to claim attention to the fact that, at the root of both the impossibility of one and impoverishment of the other, there's a peculiar frontier indetermination that produces and reproduces tirelessly the conflict's ugliness. It's in the indistinction between people and land; people and nation; politics and religion; defense battle and conquer war that dialogue is poisoned beforehand and that words like "peace", "justice", "liberty" and "democracy" can mean at once themselves and their opposites.

Besides that, and as if the regional imbroglio wasn't enough, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is affected by a second order of indetermination, of a global dimension since it happens to be grounded in a region that configures itself a frontier of two civilizations that, under the hegemonic narrative, would be at war. Thus, ideology of the "war of civilizations" -- a mystified formula of the global social conflict that, in the impossibility of expressing itself as such is dislocated to the "culture" sphere -- condenses itself in the "Palestinian issue" that is then inflated and gains, with that, an archetypal type of conflict of Good versus Evil.30

But the crisis of a political form of nation-state is general, as well as the mental extinction to which it's associated31, and manicheaism isn't only on the right and a similar process of mystification also occurs with the ideology of certain lefts or extreme-lefts that, through a sort of anti-imperialist gnosis, translates to the new language of anti-Zionism all of the most virulent stereotypes of classic anti-semitism. That's how Zionism stops being a national liberation movement, propelled by a people universally repressed and massacred -- and that should be historically contextualized, analysed in its diverse aspects and strokes and, evidently, criticized -- to become the evil product of an Western or imperialist setup that has as its goal to submiss Arab people. "Inherently racist", therefore, and that would possess presence all over the place: the "Jewish control of the press" transforms to "Zionist lobby in the media". Israel, son of an impure wish, brings colonialism in its DNA. The incarnation of the essence of the "Jew war provoker" is absolutely to blame for all the belic confronts in which it took part, since it promoted a "permanent war against the people"32. It doesn't have a dignified story to be told; a people with traditions, conflicts and diversity; social and cultural conquests to be recognized or any merit-worthy institutions. Reducing it to the most perfidious plasmation of power and money from the imperialist West, it would constitute an "artificial state"33 or a "Zionist entity" that, being a "strange body" or a "parasite" in the Middle East, it would embody a mortal danger to all people in the region, and for that it should be swept out at any cost. As a new figure of the Jewish crime's cosmical character, Israel is at "the root of all evil"34: its original sin was to be born.35

In this minefield of Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the question put forth for socialist-democrats and, more broadly, to the democratic left is how to untangle knots that have barred a conflict of social and national roots to be treated as such, in the political field, as to avoid its mystifing dislocation to the spheres of religion and culture with its inherent racist, Islamophobic and anti-semite consequences. At this point, it is needed to agree plainly with V.Safatle's central argument36, although we disagree here, at least partly, with its historical context and political path. That's for three basic reasons. The first is that, although Safatle justly highlights the role West had historically played and keeps playing in the political field block37 in the Middle East, he forgets to point out the equally important role carried by internal factors to Arab and Muslim societies. It wasn't the American policy the responsible for the failure of Nassarist pan-Arabism, but its congenital authoritarism and patent warmongering that brought defeat in 1967.

In the same fashion, although the US have supported radical Islamic movements during the Cold War, they didn't invent and it wouldn't be correct to exclusively blame their policy for the current growth and scary popularity of these movements. With that, what was meant is that the democratic left it's elementary to make a ruthless critic of third-world and anti-imperialist mythology whose drops are abundant in "pro-Palestinian" movements that, while not headed by a certain adept left, are embodied by it. Thus, when critic resumes itself to Western politics, at best it leaves intact today's ideology, the main responsible for the poisoning of the possible and necessary dialogue between truly pacifist and internationalist Jews and Arabs.

Such one-sidedness from V. Safatle is correlative, for itself, of fatal underestimation that seems to pour from the text both in depth and in amplitude of intellectual and moral degradation of the left sectors mentioned by R. Kurz, with whom Safatle debates and to who he denounces for what would be imprecision and confusion in an analysis he (Kurz) makes of the ideological compromise of this left with its totalitarian and anti-semite movements such as Hamas and Hizbollah, not to mention the Iranian regime. I think such critics do not procede for the simple fact that confusion is not, at least not on that point, in Kurz's head, but precisely in the movements and ideologies to which he refers, justly characterizing the mix of (neo)bolshevism, anti-imperialism, third-world mythology and post-modern culturalism as an "ideological penury".38

It's quite true that Safatle admits the hypothesis of the existence (but wouldn't admit just one hypothesis be enough, in current circumstances?) of some ideological complacency from the left with fundamentalist and anti-semite groups such as Hamas, to which he responds that "there is no compromise possible between the left and a group clearly anti-semite and reactionary. On the contrary, it represents everything against which we fight, since it was the left that elevated anti-semitism to the post of one of the most unacceptable crimes (think of Adorno's bigger role, in that direction)".

In a context in which many left-wing intellectuals are quiet or shuffle over the question, such declaration of principles by an intellectual of V. Safatle's post is certainly welcome. However, it's impossible not to note there's something confusing and criticizable in his formulation as it is set upon a "we" ("the left") that, after totalitarian experiences in the 20th century, I think are just unsustainable. Otherwise, let's see. Could it be that the fact that Adorno put, in a central role, the accusation of anti-semite violence authorizes us to credit it to "left", generically speaking? As to Adornian analysis and critics to anti-semitism, were they really incorporated and assimilated into current left movements' politics? Is it unkown that the tragedy Adorno considered central to the 20th century, the Shoah, has been trivialized systematicaly by numerous left-wing groups that have no scruples in comparing Israel to a "Nazi state"?39 Or has negationism sprouted inside the left? Or event that the order for the destruction of Israel has become an acceptable and current "opinion" in the extreme-left movements, in the same way of conspiratorial theories with anti-semite motifs about 9/11?

To prove such facts, a quick reading of documents and texts published in such movements' websites would suffice, or even the participation in just one of numerous manifestations "against the Occupation" that have happened during the last decade all over the world. I quote as an example an excerpt of a document from a well-known trotskists Brazilian party and that enjoys a good penetration in student movements. The document talks about the last war in Lebanon, that opposed the Israeli army and Hizbollah:

"The world left organizations should answer clearly to the following questions: are we in favor to the current war's development until the complete defeat of the Zionist army the state of Israel? Are we in favor that actions against people of the Israeli colonial enclave -- by the Hizbollah, Hammas and Islamic Jihad -- rise and become more effective? Are we in favor or not of demanding that Arab governments, whatever their characteristics may be, intervene in this war to facilitate the defeat of the state of Israel?

Those who answer those questions with a 'no' have stopped being revolutionaries to be, in Lenin's words, transformed into 'mere small-burgeoisie pacifists'. From our part, we reinforce the affirmative answer to each of these questions. We are one with Palestinian, Lebanese and Arab masses in the defense of the destruction of the state of Israel. However, differently from Islamic fundamentalist currents, we make this defense inside the same perspective that existence at the root of the Palestine Liberation Organization: the creation of a secular Palestine, democratic and non-racist."40

Could we include a group that defends such monstrosity -- and to which it obviously can't be denied the "left" attribute -- in this "we" that Safatle mentions? From the democratic left perspective, that understands that the enemies of a free, just and emancipated Humanity are both from left and right, no. It's precisely that crucial distinction between a democratic left and a totalitarian or authoritarian left that makes it politically urgent, especially to what concerns the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since after years of millitance in movements that ask for peace between Israel and Palestine it becomes hard to avoid the strong conviction that today the biggest enemy of Jewish pacifism, be it Israeli or not, is not Israel's right41 but this violent left-wing that acts in the direction of stopping the construction of a broad international front supported by the majority of both people, in favor of a just and negotiated Peace for the conflict.

At this point, one cannot not talk about the binational solution. As it could perhaps be clear, it is impregnated with the same general indetermination that is responsible for the continuing existence of this conflict, because if we pay attention we can perceive that the above mentioned document from the trotstkist party also defends a "binational solution" through which would be formed one democratic, post-Armagedon state, to be made of the supposed Arab winners -- well supported by the region's dictatorships and fundamentalist movements -- along with hypothetical Jewish survivors... It's clear that, in this case, such "solution" is just an euphemism for the genocidal program of Israel's destruction.

It's true however that there are also defenders of an authentically democratic and universal binational state, like the late Palestinian intellectual Edward Said and, no doubt, Vladimir Safatle. It happens that the defense of that position, although legitimate, in reality ends up blocking any possible solution for the conflict. That's not just for the practical-political difficulty that it would inevitably associate itself with such "binational" farse, but mainly for its latent incapacity of answering to the fact that, in that region, Jewish are a small minority that, with no state of their own would not possess any kind of self-defense. Only in a completely pacified and unmilitarized Middle East, where it'd be impossible to even publicly declare "death to the Jews", would it be plausible a radical situation of dissociation between state, people and nation, "an elementary impetus*** of the modern state", as Safatle wants. Well, as the most elementary common sense makes us recognize, we are, at best, very far from such situation, that would demand time that people in that region just don't have.

Although there should no be any doubt about the political position taken here in relation to the bolshevism as to its referred mixture with third-world mythology -- its critic is one of the most urgent necessities for the unblocking of the peace path -- at this point it's tempting to remind, against many Leninists eyes, one of the (few) democratic lessons from Lenin, the one that speaks precisely about the question of nationalities and cautions us to the fact that the abstract defense of the union between conflicting nations always ends up intervening in the crushing of the minority, thus the need to validate the right of people's self-determination.42

The obtainance of a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians goes first through recognizing the great difficulties that involve this conflict and single it out in relation to any other type of national conflict. The necessary restauration of the political field makes us oblige to an ulterior** compromise with recuperating words, in their capacity to index and give meaning to determined realities. Only that way will they stop working as verbal guns to become seeds of an authentic addressing to the other, in its concrete painful reality but also its life-valuing bet, hopeful of a reconciliation.

To face the general indetermination that blocks communication and perpetuates the barbarity, we need to first retrieve the elementary capacity to discern, stroking clear ethical and political frontiers capable of delimitating a common program for the majorities of both people that still want to live in peace and in a dignified manner43. Such program has to include, morally, the unconditional rejection of terrorism, one-sided forceful solutions, anti-Arab racism, Islamophobia and anti-semitism -- even, or in spite of when the latter comes shaded in anti-Zionism; in the political field, the recognizing of national rights of both people, what implies in current circumstances in a solution of two states; and in the intellectual plan, a rigorous and intransigent demystification of ideologies and mythologies responsible for the inflation of this conflict and that threaten to throw the entire region into catastrophe. Only from there can it be possible that "two people equally victimised by exile, banishment, persecution and humiliation" share, through true dialogue, this common experience that they can transform into a "master spring of a new moment of creative politics".44 Oxalá!

fevereiro #


1 The original text can be found on the first edition of the magazine at (translated into englisch by Renata Massami HIROTA, Ana Eliza Assumpção PINHO and Tiago AGUIAR.

2 Cf. Shlaim, Avi. The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World. W. W. Norton & Company. 2001.

3 Cf. Morris, Beny. “Um muro se fecha sobre Israel”. In: O Estado de São Paulo. 01/01/2009.

4 This view is dramatically expressed by B. Morris in the anthological interview he granted to Ari Shavit, published in the Israeli newspaper Ha´aretz on 08/01/04.

5 Unfortunately, this is the case of Benny Morris. Once a bold activist against Israeli occupation and a lucid critic of Israel's history, his conversion to the doctrine of the "war of civilizations" gave the characteristic exasperating and apocalyptic tone to his writings, which often justify any Israeli policy as "self-defense ".

6 It is also worth remembering that in 2004 the "Geneva Initiative", an unofficial initiative articulated by political leaders on both sides, that proposes a concrete solution to all issues of the conflict (borders, Jerusalem, refugees and security), reached 40% support within Israel, in the middle of the Ariel Sharon government, which, according to Dov Weiglass, friend and political confidant of the former prime minister, would have been one of the main reasons he released his plan for unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, a political distraction to consolidate Israeli positions in the West Bank and freeze the peace process "until the Palestinians behave like Finns". Cf. Wiglass, D. Haaretz. 08/10/2004.

7 Safatle, V. “O verdadeiro alvo”, published in the online magazine Trópico. See<>/3051,1.shl
The great merit of this article is exposing in a very lucid and clear way some of the central issues regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In this paper, I disagree with some of the theses of V. Safatle.

8 Jewish community of Palestine, pre-state of Israel.

9 This name to refer only to the Arabs of Palestine is obviously anachronistic for this period, hence the quotes.

10 As we all know, after the defeat of the Arab Revolt against the British, Al-Husseini was warmly welcomed in Germany by Hitler, who gave him the command of Muslim SS in Bosnia-Herzegovina, with which he carried out notorious massacres and war crimes. For the participation of the Palestinian Arab leadership in the "Nazi final solution", see Alan M. Dershowitz - Hudson New York, 21/08/09.

11 The possibility of a binational state was defended before the creation of Israel by the called "Zionism classist", which is Marxist-oriented and, at the time, had a great political weight. Also, Jewish intellectuals related to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, belonging to the group Brit Shalom, campaigned for this solution, which, however, was frustrated almost from the beginning by lack of Arab groups that supported such a solution. For the overwhelming majority of Palestinian-Arab leadership of the time, Jewish should not have any kind of sovereignty over any part of the land in dispute.

12 The Jewish majority in the State of Israel would later be reinforced by the successive expulsions of Jews from Arab countries following the 1948 war. A vast majority of the refugees fled to Israel and were absorbed as citizens in the new state thanks to a collective effort on the part of Israelis and substantive personal sacrifices of their own.

13 This fact, undeniable by itself, does not exempt Israel from its share of responsibility for the Nakba.

14 An error to be regretted for generations, "Ben-Gurion reportedly said later. The reasons for not performing a military offensive on Gaza and the West Bank in 1949 was probably, in addition to the fear of British intervention in favor of the Arabs, Ben Gurion’s conviction that a rout of the Arab population would not happen in these areas. Cf. Shlaim, Avi. "The Iron Wall", pp. 67-93

15 Contrary to the assertions V. Safatle in the mentioned article. He does it, however, for a good reason to criticize the hypostasis of this conflict through large and demonized Manichean narratives produced by both sides. It is worth quoting him. "Better take the conflict for what it is: not a clash of civilizations, a cross or a rematch of the fight of good against evil radical, but a territorial dispute that has assumed proportions that should never have taken (my emphasis). I could sign on, but the basic question remains: why this conflict, and just this in the midst of so many others alike (some even more violent), acquired such apocalyptic proportions? To this crucial issue, only through which, in my view, we can understand why, to quote the author again, "there is today no other subject more urgent and more blocked than the Palestinian conflict," V. Safatle does not provide us in article a satisfactory answer.

16 The fact that the Palestinian's identity historically defined itself in opposition to "Zionism" (suitably demonized) has hampered an effective recognition beyond tactical or pragmatic territorial concessions of historical legitimacy of the rights of the Israeli nation. Some analysts attribute the refusal of Arafat at Camp David to the fact that he would have been hostage to a national mythology of which he was at once one of the leading builders and symbols. See Bem-Ami, S. “Qual és el futuro de Israel”, and Demant, P., “O fracasso das negociações de paz Israel-Palestina”, In: “Israel-Palestin: a construção de paz de uma perspectiva global”,orgs. Gilberto Dupas e Tullo Vigevani.

17 As Moshe Sharret correctly argued against Ben-Gurion in the 1950s. Cf. Shlaim,A., op., cit., p.p. 139-190.

18 In this context, the Oslo Accords acquire an enduring symbolic importance beyond its momentary failure, for they consisted on the first time that representatives of both nations officially recognized the legitimacy of the national rights of their opponents. However, it would be a great mistake to think that this official recognition, by itself, is able to close the question of the symbolic point of view, as it is an agreement between political leaders who alone is unable to change the basic narrative that both nations have about the "other", as it would be evident in the fateful years to come.

19 Contrary to what was thought at the time about the socialist revolution which, however, in view of the Zionist left, were both convergent and inseparable at the same time. Cf., Ben~Gurion, D., “Os imperativos da Revolução Judaica”, In:“O judeu e a modernidade”, organizado por Jacob Guinsburg, Editor Perspectiva.

20 Note that the religious Jewish communities, mostly non-Zionist, were seen by the vast majority of the Zionist movement as remnants of the past, that is, forms of community life faded by History to disappearace...

21 It is well known the great interest of the Ben-Gurion Bolshevism. For an analysis of this issue see Shlomo Avneri., “The Making of Modern Zionism”, p.p. 198-216.

22 It is only in this genre - the utopia - that belongs his book “New-Old Land”. See Avneri, S., idem, p.p. 88-100.

23 Cf. Shlaim, A.,“The Iron Wall”.

24 Safatle, V., op., cit.

25 Former Foreign Minister of Israel under Ehud Barak, historian and politician linked to the Labour Party.

26 Bem-Ami, S., “Cual es el futuro de Israel”, p. 79.

27 According to the historian Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin, "(...) when religious Zionist thinkers such as Rabbi Kook, gave a religious formulation of this historical approach (Zionism), their work did not derive from 'religion' as such, but interpretation and articulation of Jewish myth with the Zionist secular thought". Cf. interview of Raz-Krakotzkin in “Israel, Terra em Transe”, p. 188.

28 Avraham Burg, former president of the Israeli parliament (Knesset) and former president of World Jewish Agency, published a few years ago, a brave and impressive article on this subject called “A Failed Israeli Society Collapses While Its Leaders Remain Silent”, I quote: “The Zionist revolution has always rested on two pillars: a just path and an ethical leadership. Neither of these is operative any longer. The Israeli nation today rests on a scaffolding of corruption, and on foundations of oppression and injustice. As such, the end of the Zionist enterprise is already on our doorstep. There is a real chance that ours will be the last Zionist generation. There may yet be a Jewish state here, but it will be a different sort, strange and ugly.” Forward newspaper article on 29/08/03 and translated by Peace Now/BR. Available at

29 It is remarkable how a spontaneous popular and relatively little violent movement have done infinitely more for the Palestinian national cause than all the terrorism of the PLO added. Just remember that without the first Intifada, the Oslo accords would be unthinkable.

30 This point is properly pointed out by Robert Kurz in “A guerra contra os judeus” [The war against the Jewish] (Folha de São Paulo newspaper, 11/01/09).

31 Cf. “Nação e Reflexão”, P.A. Arantes, In: “0 à esquerda”.<

32 This gem of anti-Zionism in its “permanent” version belongs to the texto of O. Coggiola named “Chega de Mentiras” [No More Lies] (itself a collage of them ...) designed as a political attack to those who criticized, including the Peace Now/BR, clearly the character of some anti-Semitic groups that participated in a demonstration "for peace" held at USP [University of Sao Paulo], whose author was one of the main organizers. During the“peaceful" demonstration concerned, enthusiastic support to Hezbollah and openly advocated the destruction of Israel abounded. One of the organizers, the SINTUSP [workers' union at the University of sao paulo], has even accused, in its journal, the "genocide Jews" to want to restrict democracy in the university ...

33 Racist formula that assumes the legitimacy of the state in the "naturalness" of blood and soil, of which the "cosmopolitan Jew" would be excluded ...

34 To remember the famous expression applied to the Jews by the notorious Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

35 For some analysis of the phenomenon of anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism of the left see Poliakov,L.,“Do antissionismo ao antissemitismo”; Wistrich, R., Left agaisnt Zion; Taguief, P.A., “La Nouvelle Judeophobie”. All of them are historical-sociological studies. There is still a lack of a theoretical analysis of this phenomenon in depth, such as those made ​​about anti-Semitism in general, Sartre, on the one hand, and Adorno and Horkheimer on the other, whose relations between Manichaeism, atrophy of experience and anti-Semitism remain current. In this context, it is worth quoting them in full: “Only a strong sentimental prevention can give a dazzling certainty, only it can keep thinking on the sidelines, only it can remain impervious to experience and persist for a lifetime. The anti-Semite has chosen hate because hate is a faith originally; he chose to devalue the words and the reasons. (...) He does not refer to Manichaeism as a secondary principle of explanation. But the original choice of Manichaeism is what explains and and conditions the anti-Semitism. "(Jean Paul Sartre, “Reflections on the Jewish Question”). Adorno and Horkheimer come to reflect the occurrence of this phenomenon on the left:“It is true that individuals who are psychologically more human are attracted to progressist ticket, but the progressive loss of the experience ends up turning the enthusiasts into enemies of the difference. Not only is the ticket that is anti-Semitic anti-Semitic, but the mentality of ticket in general”(Theodor Adorno e Max Horkheimer, “Dialectic of Enlightenment”).

36 See article above.

37 But this field has a name: democracy.

38 Kurz, R., op., cit. On the other hand, what seems reprehensible in Kurz’s text is its gross one-sidedness to summarize the Gaza War only to the anti-Semitism of Hamas, which, in turn, would place the embodiment of anti-Semitism structural capitalist crisis, as if we were not dealing with a territory that is under a suffocating and unjustifiable siege for long. Not to mention that observers such as former U.S. president D. Carter alerted to the fact that Hamas would accept a new truce, if they could negotiate directly with Israel.

39 The association between the State of Israel and the Nazis is not only, as stated by V. Safatle, a form of not wanting to discuss it, but consists in part of a larger strategy to delegitimize Israel's program of its violent destruction. As mentioned above, it is a speech that translates the core clichés of classic anti-Semitism into a more palatable language to the left, since it does not come directly into racial categories. It is still missing an in-depth analysis of this type of anti-Semitism that keeps (but fakes) the reference to the universal.

40 “Pela destruição do‘Estado Policial’ de Israel”, 02/08/2006. Ver site:éria.asp?id=5404&ida=0.
The highlights are mine.

41 Contrary to the assertions V. Safatle in his article.

42 Slavoj Zizek, despite the huge differences that any democratic left should have about this author -as, indeed, for Lenin - is one of the few in the far left who highlights the importance of this democratic lesson of the Bolshevik leader to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which logically leads him to defend the continuation of Israel as Jewish state. Cf. “Bem vindo ao deserto do Real”, p. 144 e p. 151. In addition, binacionalists also forget - what connoisseurs of Adorno such as V. Safatle should not do – that the Jewish are not a minority either, given that historically they have occupied a position that projected on themselves the general resentment of the "dominated of the domination of nature” ( Adorno and Horkheimer, op. cit. ), so that from the "anti-race" of the extreme right to the "elite racist," "Zionist" and "imperialist" of "cosmopolitan bankers" of certain left, anti-Semitism, across the political spectrum from end to end, is the realization of the oxymoron of a "universal racism" which, therefore, may even be in the form of anti-racist speech. Obviously this makes the position of Israeli Jews much more fragile, making a one-state solution to the conflict even more difficult, and once again giving reason to Hegel, for whom - as appropriately quotes V. Safatle - "the worst disasters are usually made with the best reasons" ...

43 Would it be a coincidence that the movement against Israeli occupation of greater symbolic impact, namely, the soldiers of conscientious objectors (refusiniks), is called "Iesh Gvul", ie, "There is a limit", with the double sense of boundary that should not be trespass and of an ethical line which a soldier has the right and the duty to refuse to transgress?

44 V. Safatle, op., cit.